Early History of Boston by Josiah Quincy Jr. “The Patriot” President of Harvard University

Josiah Quincy Jr. "The Patriot" Concerning Human Happiness & Freedom

Josiah Quincy Jr. “The Patriot” Concerning Human Happiness & Freedom (Click to enlarge)

[A brief sketch of the leading events in the early history of Boston had been prepared for this little volume: but the following remarks were finally considered more appropriate, to precede views of Boston as it is in 1851. They form part of “An address to the citizens of Boston, on the 17th of September, 1830, the close of the second century from the first settlement of the city.” By Josiah Quincy, LL.D., then President of Harvard University.]

Speech given at a ceremony to celebrate the addition of Dane Law College, made possible by Nathan Dane’s contribution to the university.

Cities and empires, not leas than individuals, are chiefly indebted for their fortunes to circumstances and influences independent of the labors and wisdom of the passing generation. Is our lot cast in a happy soil, beneath a favored sky, and under the shelter of free institutions? How few of all these blessings do we owe to our own power, or our own prudence! How few, on which we cannot discern the impress of long past generations!

It is natural that reflections of this kind should awaken curiosity concerning the men of past ages. It is suitable, and characteristic of noble natures, to love to trace in venerated institutions the evidences of ancestral worth and wisdom; and to cherish that mingled sentiment of awe and admiration which takes possession of the soul in the presence of ancient, deep-laid, and massy monuments of intellectual and moral power.

Standing, after the lapse of two centuries, on the very spot selected for us by our fathers, and surrounded by social, moral, and religious blessings greater than paternal love, in its fondest visions, ever dared to fancy, we naturally turn our eyes backward, on the descending current of years; seeking the causes of that prosperity which has given this city so distinguished a name and rank among similar associations of men.

Happily its foundations were not laid in dark ages, nor is its origin to be sought among loose and obscure traditions. The age of our early ancestors was, in many respects, eminent for learning and civilization. Our ancestors themselves were deeply versed in the knowledge and attainments of their period. Not only their motives and acts appear in the general histories of their time, but they are unfolded in their own writings, with a simplicity and boldness, at once commanding admiration and not permitting mistake. If this condition of things restrict the imagination in its natural tendency to exaggerate, it assists the judgment rightly to analyze, and justly to appreciate. If it deny the power, enjoyed by ancient cities and states, to elevate our ancestors above the condition of humanity, it confers a much more precious privilege, that of estimating by unequivocal standards the intellectual and moral greatness of the early, intervening, and passing periods; and thus of judging concerning comparative attainment and progress in those qualities which constitute the dignity of our species.

Instead of looking back, as antiquity was accustomed to do, on fabling legends of giants and heroes, — of men exceeding in size, in strength, and in labor, all experience and history, and, consequently, being obliged to contemplate the races of men dwindling with time, and growing less amid increasing stimulants and advantages; we are thus enabled to view things in lights more conformed to the natural suggestions of reason, and actual results of observation;— to witness improvement in its slow but sure progress; in a general advance, constant and unquestionable; — to pay due honors to the greatness and virtues of our early ancestors, and be, at the same time, just to the not inferior greatness and virtues of succeeding generations of men, their descendents and our progenitors.

Thus we substantiate the cheering conviction, that the virtues of ancient times have not been lost, or debased, in the course of their descent, but, in many respects, have been refined and elevated; and so, standing faithful to the generations which are past, and fearless in the presence of the generations to come, we accumulate on our own times the responsibility that an inheritance, which has descended to us enlarged and improved, shall not be transmitted by us diminished or deteriorated.

What then, in conclusion of this great topic, are the elements of the liberty, prosperity, and safety, which the inhabitants of New England at this day enjoy? In what language, and concerning what comprehensive truths, does the wisdom of former times address the inexperience of the future?

Those elements are simple, obvious, and familiar.

Every civil and religious blessing of New England, all that here gives happiness to human life, or security to human virtue, is alone to be perpetuated in the forms and under the auspices of a free commonwealth. The commonwealth itself has no other strength or hope, than the intelligence and virtue of the individuals that compose it. For the intelligence and virtue of individuals, there is no other human assurance than laws providing for the education of the whole people.

These laws themselves have no strength, or efficient sanction, except in the moral and accountable nature of man, disclosed in the records of the Christian’s faith; the right to read, to construe, and to judge concerning which, belongs to no class or cast of men, but exclusively to the individual, who must stand or fall by his own acts and his own faith, and not by those of another.

The great comprehensive truths, written in letters of living light on every page of our history, — the language addressed by every past age of New England to all future ages is this; — Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom!freedom none but virtue;virtue none but knowledge; and neither freedom, nor virtue, nor knowledge has any vigor, or immortal hope, except in the principles of the Christian faith and in the sanctions of the Christian religion.

As our thoughts course along the events of past times, from the hour of the first settlement of Boston to that in which we are now assembled, they trace the strong features of its character, indelibly impressed upon its acts and in its history; — clear conceptions of duty; bold vindications of right; readiness to incur dangers and meet sacrifices, in the maintenance of liberty, civil and religious. Early selected as the place of the chief settlement of New England, it has, through every subsequent period, maintained its relative ascendancy. In the arts of peace and in the energies of war, in the virtues of prosperity and adversity, in wisdom to plan and vigor to execute, in extensiveness of enterprise, success in accumulating wealth, and liberality in its distribution, its inhabitants, if not unrivalled, have not been surpassed, by any similar society of men. Through good report and evil report, its influence has, at all times, been so distinctly seen and acknowledged in events, and been so decisive on the destinies of the region of which it was the head, that the inhabitants of the adjoining colonies of a foreign nation early gave the name of this place to the whole country; and at this day, among their descendents, the people of the whole United States are distinguished by the name of “Bostonians.’

Amidst perils and obstructions, on the bleak side of the mountain on which it was first cast, the seedling oak, self-rooted, shot upward with a determined vigor. Now slighted and now assailed; amidst alternating sunshine and storm; with the axe of a native foe at its root, and the lightning of a foreign power, at times, scathing its top, or withering its branches, it grew, it flourished, it stands, —may it forever stand! — the honor of the field.

Our ancestors have left no Corinthian temples on our hills, no Gothic cathedrals on our plains, no proud pyramid, no storied obelisk, in our cities. But mind is there. Sagacious enterprise is there. An active, vigorous, intelligent, moral population throng our cities, and predominate in our fields; men patient of labor, submissive to law, respectful to authority, regardful of right, faithful to liberty. These are the monuments of our ancestors. They stand immutable and immortal, in the social, moral, and intellectual condition of their descendants. They exist, in the spirit which their precepts instilled, and their example implanted. Let no man think that to analyze, and place in a just light, the virtues of the first settlers of New England, is a departure from the purpose of this celebration; or deem so meanly of our duties, as to conceive that merely local relations, the circumstances which have given celebrity and character to this single city, are the only, or the most appropriate topics for the occasion. It was to this spot, during twelve successive years, that the great body of those first settlers emigrated. In this place, they either fixed permanently their abode, or took their departure from it for the coast, or the interior.

Whatever honor devolves on this metropolis from the events connected with its first settlement, is not solitary or exclusive; it is shared with Massachusetts; with New England; in some sense with the whole United States. For what part of this wide empire, be it sea or shore, lake or river, mountain or valley, have the descendants of the first settlers of New England not traversed? What depth of forest not penetrated? what danger of nature or man not defied? Where is the cultivated field, in redeeming which from the wilderness, their vigor has not been displayed? Where amid unsubdued nature, by the side of the first log-hut of the settler, does the school-house stand and the church-spire rise, unless the sons of New England are there? Where does improvement advance, under the active energy of willing hearts and ready hands, prostrating the moss-covered monarchs of the wood, and from their ashes, amid their charred roots, bidding the greensward and the waving harvest to upspring, and the spirit of the fathers of New England is not seen, hovering and shedding around the benign influences of sound social, moral, and religious institutions, stronger and more enduring than knotted oak or tempered steel? The swelling tide of their descendants has spread upon our coasts; ascended our rivers; taken possession of our plains. Already it encircles our lakes. At this hour the rushing noise of the advancing wave startles the wild beast in his lair among the prairies of the West. Soon it shall be seen climbing the Rocky mountains, and, as it dashes over their cliffs, shall be hailed by the dwellers on the Pacific,[Note:*] as the harbinger of the coming blessings of safety, liberty, and truth.

Note:* This, it will be recollected, was written some years before the gold discoveries in California.

 

The glory, which belongs to the virtues of our ancestors, is seen radiating from the nature of their design; —from the spirit in which it was executed; — and from the character of their institutions.

That emigration of Englishmen, which, two centuries ago, resulted in the settlement of this metropolis, was distinguished by the comparative greatness of the means employed, and the number, rank, fortune, and intellectual endowments of those engaged in it, as leaders or associates. Twelve ships, transporting somewhat less than nine hundred souls, constituted the physical strength of the first enterprise. In the course of the twelve succeeding years, twenty-two thousand souls emigrated in one hundred and ninety-two ships, at a cost, including the private expenses of the adventurers, which cannot be estimated, in our currency, at less than one million of dollars. At that time the tide of emigration was stayed. Intelligent writers of the last century assert that more persons had subsequently gone from New England to Europe, than had come to it during the same period from that quarter of the globe. A contemporary historian represents the leaders of the first emigration as ” gentlemen of good estate and reputation, descended from, or connected by marriage with, noble families ; having large means, and great yearly revenue, sufficient in all reason to content; their tables abundant in food, their coffers in coin; possessing beautiful houses, filled with rich furniture; gainful in their business, and growing rich daily; well provided for themselves, and having a sure competence for their children; wanting nothing of a worldly nature to complete the prospects of ease and enjoyment, or which could contribute to the pleasures, the prospects, or the splendors of life.”

The question forces itself on the mind. Why did such men emigrate? Why did men of their condition exchange a pleasant and prosperous home for a repulsive and cheerless wilderness? a civilized for a barbarous vicinity? why, quitting peaceful and happy dwellings, dare the dangers of tempestuous and unexplored seas, the rigors of untried and severe climates the difficulties of a hard soil, and the inhuman warfare of a savage foe? An answer must be sought in the character of the times; and in the spirit which the condition of their native country and age had a direct tendency to excite and cherish. The general civil and religious aspect of the English nation, in the age of our ancestors, and in that immediately preceding their emigration, was singularly hateful and repulsive A foreign hierarchy contending with a domestic despotism for infallibility and supremacy in matters of faith. Confiscation, imprisonment the axe and the stake, approved and customary means of making proselytes and promoting uniformity. The fires of Smithfield, now lighted by the corrupt and selfish Zeal of Roman pontiffs; and now rekindled by the no less corrupt and selfish zeal of English sovereigns. All men clamorous for the rights of conscience, when in subjection; all actively persecuting when in authority. Everywhere religion considered as a state entity, and having apparently no real existence, except in associations in support of established power, or in opposition to it.

The moral aspect of the age was not less odious than its civil. Every benign and characteristic virtue of Christianity was publicly conjoined, in close alliance, with its most offensive opposite. Humility wearing the tiara, and brandishing the keys, in the excess of the pride of temporal and spiritual power. The Roman pontiff, under the title of “the servant of servants,” with his foot on the neck of every monarch in Christendom; and under the seal of the fisherman of Galilee, dethroning kings and giving away kingdoms. Purity, content, and self-denial preached by men who held the wealth of Europe tributary to their luxury sensuality and spiritual pride. Brotherly love in the mouth, while the hand applied the instrument of torture. Charity, mutual forbearance and forgiveness chanted in unison with clanking chains and crackling fagots.

Nor was the intellectual aspect of the ageless repulsive than its civil and moral. The native charm of the religious feeling lost or disfigured amidst forms, and ceremonies, and disciplines. By one class, piety was identified with copes, and crosiers, and tippets, and genuflexions. By another class, all these are abhorred as the tricks and conjuring garments of popery, or, at best, in the language of Calvin, as tolerable fooleries ; while they, on their part, identified piety with looks, and language, and gestures extracted or typified from Scripture, and fashioned according to the newest “pattern of the mount.” By none were the rights of private judgment acknowledged. By all, creeds, and dogmas, and confessions and catechisms, collected from Scripture with metaphysical skill, arranged with reference to temporal power and influence, and erected into standards of faith, were made the flags and rallying points of the spiritual swordsmen of the church militant. .

The first emotion which this view of that period excites, at the present day, is contempt or disgust. But the men of that age are no more responsible for the mistakes into which they fell, under the circumstances in which the intellectual eye was then placed, than we, at this day, for those optical illusions to which the natural eye is subject, before time and experience have corrected the judgment and instructed it in the true laws of nature and vision. It was their fate to live in the crepuscular state of the intellectual day, and by the law of their nature they were compelled to see things darkly, through false and shifting mediums, and in lights at once dubious and deceptive. For centuries, a night of Egyptian darkness had overspread Europe, in the “palpable obscure” of which, priests and monarchs and nobles had not only found means to enthrall the minds of the multitude, but absolutely to loose and bewilder their own.

When the light of learning began to dawn, the first rays of the rising splendor dazzled and confused, rather than directed, the mind. As the coming light penetrated the thick darkness, the ancient cumulative cloud severed into new forms. Its broken masses became tinged with an uncertain and shifting radiance. Shadows assumed the aspect of substances; the evenescent suggestions of fancy, the look of fixed realities. The wise were at a loss what to believe, or what to discredit; how to quit and where to hold. On all sides sprang up sects and parties, infinite in number, incomprehensible in doctrine; often imperceptible in difference; yet each claiming for itself infallibility, and, in the sphere it affected to influence, supremacy; each violent and hostile to the others, haughty and hating its non-adhering brother, in a spirit wholly repugnant to the humility and love inculcated by that religion, by which each pretended to be actuated; and ready to resort, when it had power, to corporeal penalties, even to death itself, as allowed modes of self-defence and proselytism.

It was the fate of the ancestors of New England to have their lot cast in a state of society thus unprecedented. They were of that class of the English nation, in whom the systematic persecutions of a concentrated civil and ecclesiastical despotism had enkindled an intense interest concerning man’s social and religious rights. Their sufferings had created in their minds a vivid and inextinguishable love of civil and religious liberty; a fixed resolve, at every peril, to assert and maintain their natural rights. Among the boldest and most intelligent of this class of men, chiefly known by the name of Puritans, were the founders of this metropolis. To a superficial view, their zeal seems directed to forms and ceremonies and disciplines which have become, at this day, obsolete or modified, and so seems mistaken or misplaced. But the wisdom of zeal for any object is not to be measured by the particular nature of that object, but by the nature of the principle which the circumstances of the times, or of society, have identified with such object.

Liberty, whether civil or religious, is among the noblest objects of human regard. Yet, to a being constituted like man, abstract liberty has no existence, and over him no practical influence. To be for him an efficient principle of action, it must be embodied in some sensible object. Thus the form of a cap, the color of a surplice, ship-money, a tax on tea, or on stamped paper, objects in themselves indifferent, have been so inseparably identified with the principle temporarily connected with them, that martyrs have died at the stake, and patriots have fallen in the field, and this wisely and nobly, for the sake of the principle, made by the circumstances of the time to inhere in them.

Now in the age of our fathers, the principle of civil and religious liberty became identified with forms, disciplines, and modes of worship. The zeal of our fathers was graduated by the importance of the inhering principle. This gave elevation to that zeal. This creates interest in their sufferings. This entitles them to rank among patriots and martyrs, who have voluntarily sacrificed themselves to the cause of conscience and their country. Indignant at being denied the enjoyment of the rights of conscience, which were in that age identified with those sensible objects, and resolute to vindicate them, they quitted country and home, crossed the Atlantic, and, without other auspices than their own strength and their confidence in Heaven, they proceeded to lay the foundation of a commonwealth, under the principles and by the stamina of which, their posterity have established an actual and uncontroverted independence, not less happy than glorious. To their enthusiastic vision, all the comforts of life and all the pleasures of society were light and worthless in comparison with the liberty they sought. The tempestuous sea was less dreadful than the troubled waves of civil discord; the quicksands, the unknown shoals, and unexplored shores of a savage coast, less fearful than the metaphysical abysses and perpetually shifting whirlpools of despotic ambition and ecclesiastical policy and intrigue; the bow and the tomahawk of the transatlantic barbarian, less terrible than the flame and faggot of the civilized European. In the calm of our present peace and prosperity, it is difficult for us to realize or appreciate their sorrows and sacrifices. They sought a new world, lying far off in space, destitute of all the attractions which make home and native land dear and venerable. Instead of cultivated fields and a civilized neighborhood, the prospect before them presented nothing but dreary wastes, cheerless climates, and repulsive wildernesses, possessed by wild beasts and savages; the intervening ocean unexplored and intersected by the fleets of a hostile nation ; its usual dangers multiplied to the fancy, and in fact, by ignorance of real hazards, and natural fears of such as the event proved to be imaginary.

“Pass on” exclaims one of these adventurers, “and attend, while these soldiers of faith ship for this western world; while they and their wives and their little ones take an eternal leave of their country and kindred. With what heart-breaking affection did they press loved friends to their bosoms, whom they were never to see again! their voices broken by grief, till tears streaming eased their hearts to recovered speech again; natural affections clamorous as they take a perpetual banishment from their native soil; their enterprise scorned; their motives derided; and they counted but madmen and fools. But time shall discover the wisdom with which they were endued, and the sequel shall show how their policy overtopped all the human policy of this world.”

Winthrop, their leader and historian, in his simple narrative of the voyage, exhibits them, when in severe sufferings, resigned; in instant expectation of battle, fearless; amid storm, sickness, and death, calm, confident, and undismayed. “Our trust,” says he, “was in the Lord of hosts.” For years, Winthrop, the leader of the first great enterprise, was the chief magistrate of the infant metropolis. His prudence guided its councils. His valor directed its strength. His life and fortune were spent in fixing its character, or in improving its destinies. A bolder spirit never dwelt, a truer heart never beat, in any bosom. Had Boston, like Rome, a consecrated calendar, there is no name better entitled than that of Winthrop to be registered as its “patron saint.”

From Salem and Charlestown, the places of their first landing, they ranged the bay of Massachusetts, to fix the head of the settlement. After much deliberation, and not without opposition, they selected this spot; known to the natives by the name of Shawmut, and to the adjoining settlers by that of Trimountain; the former indicating the abundance and sweetness of its waters; the latter the peculiar character of its hills.

Accustomed as we are to the beauties of the place and its vicinity, and in the daily perception of the charms of its almost unrivalled scenery, — in the centre of a natural amphitheatre, whose sloping descents the riches of a laborious and intellectual cultivation adorn, — where hill and vale, river and ocean, island and continent, simple nature and unobtrusive art, with contrasted and interchanging harmonies, form a rich and gorgeous landscape, we are little able to realize the almost repulsive aspect of its original state. We wonder at the blindness of those, who, at one time, constituted the majority, and had well nigh fixed elsewhere the chief seat of the settlement. Nor are we easily just to Winthrop, Johnson, and their associates, whose skill and judgment selected this spot, and whose firmness settled the wavering minds of the multitude upon it, as the place for their metropolis; a decision, which the experience of two centuries has irrevocably justified, and which there is no reason to apprehend that the events or opinions of any century to come will reverse.

To the eyes of the first emigrants, however, where now exists a dense and aggregated mass of living beings and material things, amid all the accommodations of life, the splendors of wealth, the delights of taste, and whatever can gratify the cultivated intellect, there were then only a few hills, which, when the ocean receded, were intersected by wide marshes, and when its tide returned, appeared a group of lofty islands, abruptly rising from the surrounding waters. Thick forests concealed the neighboring hills, and the deep silence of nature was broken only by the voice of the wild beast or bird, and the war whoop of the savage.

The advantages of the place were, however, clearly marked by the hand of nature; combining at once present convenience, future security, and an ample basis for permanent growth and prosperity. Towards the continent it possessed but a single avenue, and that easily fortified. Its hills then commanded, not only its own waters, but the hills of the vicinity. At the bottom of a deep bay, its harbor was capable of containing the .proudest navy of Europe; yet, locked by islands and guarded by winding channels, it presented great difficulty of access to strangers, and, to the inhabitants, great facility of protection against maritime invasion; while to those acquainted with its waters, it was both easy and accessible. To these advantages were added goodness and plenteousness of water, and the security afforded by that once commanding height, now, alas! obliterated and almost forgotten, since art and industry have levelled the predominating mountain of the place; from whose lofty and imposing top the beacon-fire was accustomed to rally the neighboring population, on any threatened danger to the metropolis. A single cottage, from which ascended the smoke of the hospitable hearth of Blackstone, who had occupied the peninsula several years, was the sole civilized mansion in the solitude; the kind master of which, at first, welcomed the coming emigrants; but soon, disliking the sternness of their manners and the severity of their discipline, abandoned the settlement. His rights as first occupant were recognized by our ancestors; and in November, 1634, Edmund Quincy, Samuel Wildbore, and others were authorized to assess a rate of thirty pounds for Mr. Blackstone, on the payment of which all local rights in the peninsula became vested in its inhabitants.

The same bold spirit which thus led our ancestors across the Atlantic, and made them prefer a wilderness where liberty might be enjoyed to civilized Europe where it was denied, will be found characterizing all their institutions. Of these the limits of the time permit me to speak only in general terms. The scope of their policy has been usually regarded as though it were restricted to the acquisition of religious liberty in the relation of colonial dependence. No man, however, can truly understand their institutions and the policy on which they were founded, without taking as the basis of all reasonings concerning them, that civil independence was as truly their object as religious liberty; in other words, that the possession of the former was, in their opinion, the essential means, indispensable to the secure enjoyment of the latter, which was their great end.

The master passion of our early ancestors was dread of the English hierarchy. To place themselves, locally, beyond the reach of its power, they resolved to emigrate. To secure themselves after their emigration, from the arm of this their ancient oppressor, they devised a plan, which, as they thought, would enable them to establish, under a nominal subjection, an actual independence. The bold and original conception, which they had the spirit to form and successfully to execute, was the attainment and perpetuation of religious liberty, under the auspices of a free commonwealth. This is the master-key to all their policy, — this the glorious spirit which breathes in all their institutions. Whatever in them is stern, exclusive, or at this day seems questionable, may be accounted for, if not justified, by its connection with this great purpose.

The question has often been raised, when and by whom the idea of independence of the parent state was first conceived, and by whose act a settled purpose to effect it was first indicated. History does not permit the people of Massachusetts to make a question of this kind. The honor of that thought, and of as efficient a declaration of it as in their circumstances was possible, belongs to Winthrop, and Dudley, and Saltonstall, and their associates, and was included in the declaration, that ” THE ONLY CONDITION ON WHICH THEY WITH THEIR FAMILIES WOULD REMOVE TO THIS COUNTRY, WAS, THAT THE PATENT AND CHARTER SHOULD REMOVE WITH THEM.”

This simple declaration and resolve included, as they had the sagacity to perceive, all the consequences of an effectual independence, under a nominal subjection. For protection against foreign powers, a charter from the parent state was necessary. Its transfer to New England vested, effectually, independence. Those wise leaders foresaw, that, among the troubles in Europe, incident to the age, and then obviously impending over their parent state, their settlement, from its distance and early insignificance, would probably escape notice. They trusted to events, and doubtless anticipated, that, with its increasing strength, even nominal subjection would be abrogated. They knew that weakness was the law of nature in the relation between parent states and their distant and detached colonies. Nothing else can be inferred, not only from their making the transfer of the charter the essential condition of their emigration, thereby saving themselves from all responsibility to persons abroad, but also from their instant and undeviating course of policy after their emigration; in boldly assuming whatever powers were necessary to their condition, or suitable to their ends, whether attributes of sovereignty or not, without regard to the nature of the consequences resulting from the exercise of those powers,

Nor was this assumption limited to powers which might be deduced from the charter, but was extended to such as no act of incorporation, like that which they possessed, could, by any possibility of legal construction, be deemed to include. By the magic of their daring, a private act of incorporation was transmuted into a civil constitution of state ; under the authority of which they made peace and declared war; erected judicatures; coined money; raised armies; built fleets; laid taxes and imposts; inflicted fines, penalties, and death; and in imitation of the British constitution, by the consent of all its own branches, without asking leave of any other, their legislature modified its own powers and relations, prescribed the qualifications of those who should conduct its authority, and enjoy or be excluded from its privileges.

The administration of the civil affairs of Massachusetts, for the sixty years next succeeding the settlement of this metropolis, was a phenomenon in the history of civil government. Under a theoretic colonial relation, an efficient and independent Commonwealth was erected, claiming and exercising attributes of sovereignty, higher and far more extensive than, at the present day, in consequence of its connection with the general government, Massachusetts pretends either to exercise or possess. Well might Chalmers asserts, as in his Political Annals of the Colonies he does, that “Massachusetts, with a peculiar dexterity, abolished her charter “; that she was always “fruitful in projects of independence, the principles of which, at all times, governed her actions.” In this point of view, it is glory enough for our early ancestors, that, under manifold disadvantages, in the midst of internal discontent and external violence and intrigue, of wars with the savages and with the neighboring colonies of France, they effected their purpose, and for two generations of men, from 1630 to 1692, enjoyed liberty of conscience, according to their view of that subject, under the auspices of a free commonwealth.

The three objects, which our ancestors proposed to attain and perpetuate by all their institutions, were the noblest within the grasp of the human mind, and those on which, more than on any other, depend human happiness and hope; — religious liberty, civil liberty, and, as essential to the attainment and maintenance of both, intellectual power.

On the subject of religious liberty, their intolerance of other sects has been reprobated as an inconsistency, and as violating the very rights of conscience for which they emigrated. The inconsistency, if it exist, is altogether constructive, and the charge proceeds on a false assumption. The necessity of the policy, considered in connection with their great design of independence, is apparent. They had abandoned house and home, had sacrificed the comforts of kindred and cultivated life, had dared the dangers of the sea, and were then braving the still more appalling terrors of the wilderness; for what? —to acquire liberty for all sorts of consciences? Not so; but to vindicate and maintain the liberty of their own consciences. They did not cross the Atlantic on a crusade in behalf of the rights of mankind in general, but in support of their own rights and liberties. Tolerate! Tolerate whom? The legate of the Roman Pontiff, or the emissary of Charles the First and Archbishop Laud? How consummate would have been their folly and madness, to have fled into the wilderness to escape the horrible persecutions of those hierarchies, and at once have admitted into the bosom of their society, men brandishing, and ready to apply, the very flames and fetters from which they had fled! Those who are disposed to condemn them on this account, neither realize the necessities of their condition, nor the prevailing character of the times. Under the stern discipline of Elizabeth and James, the stupid bigotry of the First Charles, and the spiritual pride of Archbishop Laud, the spirit of the English hierarchy was very different from that which it assumed, when, after having been tamed and humanized under the wholesome discipline of Cromwell and his Commonwealth, it yielded itself to the mild influence of the principles of 1688, and to the liberal spirit of Tillotson.

But, it is said, if they did not tolerate their ancient persecutors, they might, at least, have tolerated rival sects. That is, they ought to have tolerated sects imbued with the same principles of intolerance as the transatlantic hierarchies; sects, whose first use of power would have been to endeavor to uproot the liberty of our fathers, and persecute them, according to the known principles of sectarian action, with a virulence in the inverse ratio of their reciprocal likeness and proximity. Those who thus reason and thus condemn, have considered but very superficially the nature of the human mind and its actual condition in the time of our ancestors.

The great doctrine, now so universally recognized, that liberty of conscience is the right of the individual, — a concern between every man and his Maker, with which the civil magistrate is not authorized to interfere, — was scarcely, in their day, known, except in private theory and solitary speculation ; as a practical truth, to be acted upon by the civil power, it was absolutely and universally rejected by all men, all parties, and all sects, as totally subversive, not only of the peace of the church, but of the peace of society. That great truth, now deemed so simple and plain, was so far from being an easy discovery of the human intellect, that it may be doubted whether it would ever have been discovered by human reason at all. had it not been for the miseries in which man was involved in consequence of his ignorance of it. That truth was not evolved by the calm exertion of the human faculties, but was stricken out by the collision of the human passions. It was not the result of philosophic research, but was a hard lesson, taught under the lash of a severe discipline, provided for the gradual instruction of a being like man, not easily brought into subjection to virtue, and with natural propensities to pride, ambition, avarice, and selfishness.

Previously to that time, in all modifications of society, ancient or modern, religion had been seen only in close connection with the State. It was the universal instrument by which worldly ambition shaped and molded the multitude to its ends. To have attempted the establishment of a state on the basis of a perfect freedom of religious opinion, and the perfect right of every man to express his opinion, would then have been considered as much a solecism, and an experiment quite as wild and visionary, as it would be, at this day, to attempt the establishment of a state on the principle of a perfect liberty of individual action, and the perfect right of every man to conduct himself according to his private will. Had our early ancestors adopted the course we, at this day, are apt to deem so easy and obvious, and placed their government on the basis of liberty for all sorts of consciences, it would have been, in that age, a certain introduction of anarchy. It cannot be questioned, that all the fond hopes they had cherished from emigration would have been lost. The agents of Charles and James would have planted here the standard of the transatlantic monarchy and hierarchy. Divided and broken, without practical energy, subject to court influences and court favorites, New England at this day would have been a colony of the parent state, her character yet to be formed and her independence yet to be vindicated. Lest the consequences of an opposite policy, had it been adopted by our ancestors, may seem to be exaggerated, as here represented, it is proper to state, that upon the strength and united spirit of New England mainly depended (under Heaven) the success of our revolutionary struggle. Had New England been divided, or even less unanimous, independence would have scarcely been attempted, or, if attempted, acquired. It will give additional strength to this argument to observe, that the number of troops, regular and militia, furnished by all the States during the war of the revolution, was . . . . . . 288,134

Of these New England furnished more than half, viz. . . 147,674

And Massachusetts alone furnished nearly one third, viz. . [Note:*] 83,162

Note:* See “Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society,” Vol. I.

The non-toleration which characterized our early ancestors, from whatever source it may have originated, had undoubtedly the effect they intended and wished. It excluded from influence in their infant settlement all the friends and adherents of the ancient monarchy and hierarchy; all who, from any motive, ecclesiastical or civil, were disposed to disturb their peace or their churches. They considered it a measure of “self-defence,” And it is unquestionable, that it was chiefly instrumental in forming the homogeneous and exclusively republican character, for which the people of New-England have, in all times, been distinguished; and, above all, that it fixed irrevocably in the country that noble security for religious liberty, the independent system of church government.

The principle of the independence of the churches, including the right of every individual to unite with what church he pleases, under whatever sectarian auspices it may have been fostered, has through the influence of time and experience, lost altogether its exclusive character. It has become the universal guaranty of religious liberty to all sects without discrimination, and is as much the protector of the Roman Catholic, the Episcopalian, and the Presbyterian, as of the Independent form of worship. The security, which results from this principle, does not depend upon charters and constitutions, but on what is stronger than either, the nature of the principle in connection with the nature of man. So long as this intellectual, moral, and religious being, man, is constituted as he is, the unrestricted liberty of associating for public worship, and the independence of those associations of external control, will necessarily lead to a most happy number and variety of them. In the principle of the independence of each, the liberty of individual conscience is safe under the panoply of the common interest of all. No other perfect security for liberty of conscience was ever devised by man, except this independence of the churches. This possessed, liberty of conscience has no danger. This denied, it has no safety. There can be no greater human security than common right, placed under the protection of common interest. It is the excellence and beauty of this simple principle, that, while it secures all, it restricts none. They, who delight in lofty and splendid monuments of ecclesiastical architecture, may raise the pyramid of church power, with its aspiring steps and gradations, until it terminate in the despotism of one, or a few; the humble dwellers at the base of the proud edifice may wonder, and admire the ingenuity of the contrivance and the splendor of its massive dimensions, but it is without envy and without fear. Safe in the principle of independence, they worship, be it in tent, or tabernacle, or in the open air, as securely as though standing on the topmost pinnacle of the loftiest fabric ambition ever devised.

The glory of discovering and putting this principle to the test, on a scale capable of trying its efficacy, belongs to the fathers of Massachusetts, who are entitled to a full share of that acknowledgment made by Hume, when he asserts, ” that for all the liberty of the English constitution, that nation is indebted to the Puritans.”

The glory of our ancestors radiates from no point more strongly than from their institutions of learning. The people of New England are the first known to history, who provided, in the original constitution of their society, for the education of the whole population out of the general fund. In other countries, provisions have been made of this character in favor of certain particular classes, or for the poor by way of charity. But here first were the children of the whole community invested with the right of being educated at the expense of the whole society; and not only this, — the obligation to take advantage of that right was enforced by severe supervision and penalties. By simple laws they founded their commonwealth on the only basis on which a republic has any hope of happiness or continuance, the general information, of the people. They denominated it barbarism not to be able “perfectly to read the English tongue and to know the general laws.” In soliciting a general contribution for the support of the neighboring University, they declare that “skill in the tongues and liberal arts is not only laudable, but necessary for the well-being of the commonwealth.” And in requiring every town having one hundred householders, to set up a Grammar School, provided with a master able to fit youth for the University, the object avowed is, “to enable men to obtain a knowledge of the Scriptures, and by acquaintance with the ancient tongues to qualify them to discern the true sense and meaning of the original, however corrupted by false glosses.” Thus liberal and thus elevated, in respect of learning, were the views of our ancestors.

To the same master passion, dread of the English hierarchy, and the same main purpose, civil independence, may be attributed in a great degree, the nature of the government which the principal civil and spiritual influences of the time established, and, notwithstanding its many objectionable features, the willing submission to it of the people.

It cannot be questioned that the constitution of the State, as sketched in the first laws of our ancestors, was a skillful combination of both civil and ecclesiastical powers. Church and state were very curiously and efficiently interwoven with each other. It is usual to attribute to religious bigotry the submission of the mass of the people to a system thus stern and exclusive. It may, however, with quite as much justice, be resolved into love and independence and political sagacity.

The great body of the first emigrants doubtless coincided in general religious views with those whose influence predominated in their church and state. They had consequently no personal objection to the stern discipline their political system established. They had also the sagacity to foresee that a system which by its rigor should exclude from power all who did not concur with their religious views, would have a direct tendency to deter those in other countries from emigrating to their settlement, who did not agree with the general plan of policy they had adopted, and of consequence to increase the probability of their escape from the interference of their ancient oppressors, and the chance of success in laying the foundation of the free commonwealth they contemplated. They also doubtless perceived, that with the unqualified possession of the elective franchise, they had little reason to apprehend that they could not easily control or annihilate any ill effect upon their political system, arising from the union of church and state, should it become insupportable.

There is abundant evidence that the submission of the people to this new form of church and state combination was not owing to ignorance, or to indifference to the true principles of civil and religious liberty. Notwithstanding the strong attachment of the early emigrants to their civil, and their almost blind devotion lo their ecclesiastical leaders, when either, presuming on their influence. attempted any thing inconsistent with general liberty, a corrective is seen almost immediately applied by the spirit and intelligence of the people.

In this respect, the character of the people of Boston has been at all times distinguished. In every period of our history, they have been second to none in quickness to discern or in readiness to meet every exigency, fearlessly hazarding life and fortune in support of the liberties of the commonwealth. It would be easy to maintain these positions by a recurrence to the annals of each successive age, and particularly to facts connected with our revolutionary struggle. A few instances only will be noticed, and those selected from the earliest times.

A natural jealousy soon sprung up in the metropolis as to the intentions of their civil and ecclesiastical leaders. In 1634 the people began to fear, lest, by reelecting Winthrop, they “should make way for a Governor for life.” They accordingly gave some indications of a design to elect another person. Upon which John Cotton, their great ecclesiastical head, then at the height of his popularity, preached a discourse to the General Court, and delivered this doctrine: “that a magistrate ought not to be turned out, without just cause, no more than a magistrate might turn out a private man from his freehold, without trial.” To show their dislike of the doctrine by the most practical of evidences, our ancestors gave the political divine and his adherents a succession of lessons, for which they were probably the wiser all the rest of their lives. They turned out Winthrop at the very same election, and put in Dudley. The year after, they turned out Dudley and put in Haynes. The year after, they turned out Haynes and put in Vane. So much for the first broaching, in Boston, of the doctrine that public office is of the nature of freehold.

In 1635, an attempt was made by the General Court to elect a certain number of magistrates as councillors for life. Although Cotton was the author also of this project, and notwithstanding his influence, yet such was the spirit displayed by our ancestors on the occasion, that within three years the General Court was compelled to pass a vote, denying any such intent, and declaring that the persons so chosen should not be accounted magistrates or have any authority in consequence of such election. *

In 1636, the great Antinomian controversy divided the country. Boston was for the covenant of grace; the General Court for the covenant of works. Under pretence of the apprehension of a riot, the General Court adjourned to Newtown, and expelled the Boston deputies for daring to remonstrate. Boston, indignant at this infringement of its liberties, was about electing the same deputies a second time. At the earnest solicitation of Cotton, however, they chose others. One of these was also expelled by the Court; and a writ having issued to the town ordering a new election, they refused making any return to the warrant, – a contempt which the General Court did not think it wise to resent.

In 1639, there being vacancies in the Board of Assistants, the governor and magistrates met and nominated three persons, “not with intent,” as they said, “to lead the people’s choice of these, nor to divert them from any other, but only to propound for consideration (which any freeman may do), and so leave the people to use their liberties according to their consciences.” The result was, that the people did use their liberties according to their consciences. They chose not a man of them. So much for the first legislative caucus in our history. It probably would have been happy for their posterity, if the people had always treated like nominations with as little ceremony.

About this time also the General Court took exception at the length of the “lectures,” then the great delight of the people, and at the ill effects resulting from their frequency; whereby poor people were led greatly to neglect their affairs; to the great hazard also of their health, owing to their long continuance in the night . Boston expressed strong dislike at this interference, “fearing that the precedent might enthrall them to the civil power, and, besides, be a blemish upon them with their posterity, as though they needed to be regulated by the civil magistrate, and raise an ill-savor of their coldness, as if it were possible for the people of Boston to complain of too much preaching.”

The magistrates, fearful lest the people should break their bonds, were content to apologize, to abandon the scheme of shortening lectures or diminishing their number, and to rest satisfied with a general understanding that assemblies should break up in such season as that people, dwelling a mile or two off, might get home by daylight. Winthrop, on this occasion, passes the following eulogium on the people of Boston, which every period of their history amply confirms: — “They were generally of that understanding and moderation, as that they would be easily guided in their way by any rule from Scripture or sound reason.”

It is curious and instructive to trace the principles of our constitution, as they were successively suggested by circumstances, and gradually gained by the intelligence and daring spirit of the people. For the first four years after their emigration, the freemen, like other corporations, met and transacted business in a body. At this time the people attained a representation under the name of deputies, who sat in the same room with the magistrates, to whose negative all their proceedings were subjected. Next arose the struggle about the negative, which lasted for ten years, and eventuated in the separation of the General Court into two branches, with each a negative on the other. Then came the jealousy of the deputies concerning the magistrates, as proceeding too much by their discretion for want of positive laws, and-the demand by the deputies that persons should be appointed to frame a body of fundamental laws in resemblance of the English Magna Charta.

After this occurred the controversy relative to the powers of the magistrates, during the recess of the General Court; concerning which, when the deputies found that no compromise could be made, and the magistrates declared that, ” if occasion required, they should act according to the power and trust committed to them,” the speaker of the House in his place replied, — ” Then, Gentlemen, You Will Not Re Obeyed.”

In every period of our early history, the friends of the ancient hierarchy and monarchy were assiduous in their endeavors to introduce a form of government on the principle of an efficient colonial relation. Our ancestors were no less vigilant to avail themselves of their local situation and of the difficulties of the parent state to defeat those attempts; — or, in their language, ” to avoid and protract.” They lived, however, under a perpetual apprehension that a royal governor would be imposed upon them by the law of force. Their resolution never faltered on the point of resistance, to the extent of their power. Notwithstanding Boston would have been the scene of the struggle, and the first victim to it, yet its inhabitants never shrunk from their duty through fear of danger, and were always among the foremost to prepare for every exigency. Castle Island was fortified chiefly, and the battery at the north end of the town, and that called the ” Sconce,” wholly, by the voluntary contributions of its inhabitants. After the restoration of Charles the Second, their instructions to their representatives in the General Court breathe one uniform spirit, — “not to recede from their just rights and privileges as secured by the patent.” When, in 1662, the king’s commissioners came to Boston, the inhabitants, to show their spirit in support of their own laws, took measures to have them all. arrested for a breach of the Saturday evening law; and actually brought them before the magistrate for riotous and abusive carriage. When Randolph, in 1684, came with his quo warranto against their charter, on the question being taken in town meeting, ” whether the freemen were, minded that the General Court should make full submission and entire resignation of their charter, and of the privileges therein granted, to his Majesty’s pleasure,” — Boston resolved in the negative, without a dissentient.

In 1689, the tyranny of Andros, the governor appointed by James the Second, having become insupportable to the whole country, Boston rose, like one man; took the battery on Fort Hill by assault in open day; made prisoners of the king’s governor, and the captain of the king’s frigate, then lying in the harbor; and restored, with the concurrence of the country, the authority of the old charter leaders.

By accepting the charter of William and Mary, in 1692, the people of Massachusetts first yielded their claims of independence to the crown. It is only requisite to read the official account of the agents of the colony, to perceive both the resistance they made to that charter, and the necessity which compelled their acceptance of it. Those agents were told by the king’s ministers, that they “must take that or none “; — that ” their consent to it was not asked “; —that if “they would not submit to the king’s pleasure, they must take what would follow.” “The opinion of our lawyers,” says the agents, “was, that a passive submission to the new, was not a surrender of the old charter; and that their taking up with this did not make the people of Massachusetts, in law, uncapable of obtaining all their old privileges, whenever a favorable opportunity should present itself ” In the year 1776, nearly a century afterwards, that ” favorable opportunity did present itself,” and the people of Massachusetts, in conformity with the opinion of their learned counsel and faithful agents, did vindicate and obtain all their “old privileges” of self-government.

Under the new colonial government, thus authoritatively imposed upon them, arose new parties and new struggles;—prerogative men, earnest for a permanent salary for the king’s governor; — patriots, resisting such an establishment, and indignant at the negative exercised by that officer.

At the end of the first century after the settlement, three generations of men had passed away. For vigor, boldness, enterprise, and a self-sacrificing spirit, Massachusetts stood unrivalled. She had added wealth and extensive dominion to the English crown. She had turned a barren wilderness into a cultivated field, and instead of barbarous tribes had planted civilized communities. She had prevented France from taking possession of the whole of North America; conquered Port Royal and Acadia; and attempted the conquest of Canada with a fleet of thirty-two sail and two thousand men. At one time a fifth of her whole effective male population was in arms. When Nevis was plundered by Iberville, she voluntarily transmitted two thousand pounds sterling for the relief of the inhabitants of that island. By these exertions her resources were exhausted, her treasury was impoverished, and she stood bereft, and “alone with her glory.”

Boston shared in the embarrassments of the commonwealth. Her commerce was crippled by severe revenue laws, and by a depreciated currency. Her population did not exceed .fifteen thousand. In September, 1730, she was prevented from all notice of this anniversary by the desolations of the small-pox.

Notwithstanding the darkness of these’ clouds which overhung Massachusetts and its metropolis at the close of the first century, in other aspects the dawn of a brighter day may be discerned. The exclusive policy in matters of religion, to which the state had been subjected, began gradually to give place to a more perfect liberty. Literature was exchanging subtile metaphysics, quaint conceits, and unwieldy lore, for inartificial reasoning, simple taste, and natural thought. Dummer defended the colony in language polished in the society of Pope and of Bolingbroke. Coleman, Cooper, Chauncy, Bowdoin, and others of that constellation, were on the horizon. By their side shone the star of Franklin; its early brightness giving promise of its meridian splendors. Even now began to appear signs of revolution. Voices of complaint and murmur were heard in the air. “Spirits- finely touched and to fine issues,” — willing and fearless, — breathing unutterable things, flashed along the darkness. In the sky were seen streaming lights, indicating the approach of luminaries yet below the horizon; Adams, Hancock, Otis, Warren; leaders of a glorious host; —precursors of eventful times; “with fear of- change perplexing monarchs.”

It would be appropriate, did space permit, to speak of these luminaries, in connection. with our. revolution; to trace the principles, which dictated the first emigration of the founders of this metropolis, through the several stages of their development; and to show that the Declaration of Independence, in 1776, itself, and all the struggles which preceded it, and all the voluntary sacrifices, the self-devotion, and the sufferings to which the people of that day submitted, for the attainment of independence, were, so far as-respects Massachusetts, but the natural and inevitable consequences of the terms of that noble engagement, made by our ancestors, in August, 1629, the year before their emigration; — which may well be denominated, from its early and later results, the first and original declaration of independence by Massachusetts.

“By God’s assistance, ice will be ready in our persons, and with such of our families as are to go with us, to embark for the said plantation by the first of March next, to pass the seas (under God’s protection) to inhabit and continue in New England. Provided always, that before the last of September next, THE WHOLE GOVERNMENT, TOGETHER WITH THE PATENT, BE FIRST LEGALLY TRANSFERRED AND ESTABLISHED, TO REMAIN WITH US AND OTHERS, WHICH SHALL INHABIT THE SAID PLANTATION.” — Generous resolution! Noble foresight! Sublime self-devotion; chastened and directed by a wisdom, faithful and prospective of distant consequences! Well may we exclaim,— ” This policy overtopped all the policy of this world.”

For the advancement of the three great objects which were the scope of the policy of our ancestors, — intellectual power, religious liberty, and civil liberty, — Boston has in no period been surpassed, either in readiness to incur, or in energy to make useful, personal or pecuniary sacrifices. She provided for the education of her citizens out of the general fund, antecedently to the law of the Commonwealth making such provision imperative. Nor can it be questioned that her example and influence had a decisive effect in producing that law. An intelligent generosity has been conspicuous among her inhabitants on this subject, from the day when, in 1635, they “entreated our brother Philemon Pormont to become school master, for the teaching and nurturing children with us,” to this hour, when what is equivalent to a capital of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is invested in school-houses, eighty schools are maintained, and seven thousand and five hundred children educated at an expense exceeding annually sixty-five thousand dollars.

No city in the world, in proportion to its means and population, ever gave more uniform and unequivocal evidences of its desire to diffuse intellectual power and moral culture through the whole mass of the community. The result is every day witnessed, at home and abroad, in private intercourse and in the public assembly; in a quiet and orderly demeanor, in the self-respect and mutual harmony prevalent among its citizens; in the general comfort which characterizes their condition; in their submission to the laws; and in that wonderful capacity for self government which postponed, for almost two centuries, a city organization;—and this, even then, was adopted more with reference to anticipated, than from experience of existing, evils. During the whole of that period, and even after its population exceeded fifty thousand, its financial, economical, and municipal interests were managed, either by general vote, or by men appointed by the whole multitude; and with a regularity, wisdom, and success, which it will be happy if future administrations shall equal, and which certainly they will find it difficult to exceed. The influence of the institutions of our fathers is also apparent in that munificence towards objects of public interest or charity, for which, in every period of its history, the citizens of Boston have been distinguished, and which, by universal consent, is recognized to be a prominent feature in their character. To no city has Boston ever been second in its spirit of liberality. From the first settlement of the country to this day, it has been a point to which have tended applications for assistance or relief, on account of suffering or misfortune; for the patronage of colleges, the endowment of schools, the erection of churches, and the spreading of learning and religion,— from almost every section of the United States. Seldom have the hopes of any worthy applicant been disappointed. The benevolent and public spirit of its inhabitants is also evidenced by its hospitals, its asylums, public libraries, alms-houses, charitable associations, — in its patronage of the neighboring University, and in its subscriptions for general charities.

It is obviously impracticable to give any just idea of the amount of these charities. They flow from virtues which seek the shade and shun record. They are silent and secret out-wellings of grateful hearts, desirous unostentatiously to acknowledge the bounty of Heaven in their prosperity and abundance. The result of inquiries, necessarily imperfect, however, authorize the statement, that, in the records of societies having for their objects either learning or some public charity, or in documents in the hands of individuals relative to contributions for the relief of suffering, or the patronage of distinguished merit or talent, there exists evidence of the liberality of the citizens of this metropolis, and that chiefly within the last thirty years, of an amount, by voluntary donation or bequest, exceeding one million and eight hundred thousand dollars. Far short as this sum falls of the real amount obtained within that period from the liberality of our citizens, it is yet enough to make evident that the best spirit of the institutions of our ancestors survives in the hearts, and is exhibited in the lives, of the citizens of Boston; inspiring love of country and duty; stimulating to the active virtues of benevolence and charity; exciting wealth and power to their best exercises; counteracting what is selfish in our nature; and elevating the moral and social virtues to wise sacrifices and noble energies.

With respect to religious liberty, where does it exist in a more perfect state than in this metropolis? Or where has it ever been enjoyed in. a purer spirit, or with happier consequences? In what city of equal population are all classes of society more distinguished for obedience to the institutions of religion, for regular attendance on its worship, for more happy intercourse with its ministers, or more uniformly honorable support of them? In all struggles connected with religious liberty, and these are inseparable from its possession, it may be said of the inhabitants of this city, as truly as of any similar association of men, that they have ever maintained the freedom of the Gospel in the spirit of Christianity. Divided into various sects, their mutual intercourse has, almost without exception, been harmonious and respectful. The labors of intemperate zealots, with which, occasionally, every age has been troubled, have seldom, in this metropolis, been attended with their natural and usual consequences. Its sects have never been made to fear or hate one another. The genius of its inhabitants, through the influence of the intellectual power which pervades their mass, has ever been quick to detect “close ambition varnished o’er with zeal.” The modes, the forms, the discipline, the opinions which our ancestors held to be essential, have, in many respects, been changed or obliterated with the progress of time, or been countervailed or superseded by rival forms and opinions.

But veneration for the sacred Scriptures and attachment to the right of free inquiry, which were the substantial motives of their emigration and of all their institutions, remain, and are maintained in a Christian spirit (judging by life and language), certainly not exceeded in the times of any of our ancestors. The right to read those Scriptures is universally recognized. The means to acquire the possession and to attain the knowledge of them are multiplied by the intelligence and liberality of the age, and extended to every class of society. All men are invited to search for themselves concerning the grounds of their hopes of future happiness and acceptance. All are permitted to hear from the lips of our Saviour himself, that “the meek,” “the merciful,” “the pure in heart,” “the persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” are those who shall receive the blessing, and be admitted to the presence, of the Eternal Father; and to be assured from those sacred records, that, ” in every nation, he who feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.” Elevated by the power of these sublime assurances, as conformable to reason as to revelation, man’s intellectual principle rises “above the smoke and stir of this dim spot,” and, like an eagle soaring above the Andes, looks down on the cloudy cliffs, the narrow, separating points, and flaming craters, which divide and terrify men below.

It is scarcely necessary to speak of civil liberty, or tell of our constitutions of government; of the freedom they maintain and are calculated to preserve; of the equality they establish; the self-respect they encourage ; the private and domestic virtues they cherish; the love of country they inspire; the self-devotion and self-sacrifice they enjoin ; —all these are but the filling up of the great outline sketched by our fathers, the parts in which, through the darkness and perversity of their times, they were defective, being corrected; all are but endeavors, conformed to their great, original conception, to group together the strength of society and the religious and civil rights of the individual, in a living and breathing spirit of efficient power, by forms of civil government, adapted to our condition, and adjusted to social relations of unexampled greatness and extent, unparalleled in their results, and connected by principles elevated as the nature of man, and immortal as his destinies.

It is not, however, from local position, nor from general circumstances of life and fortune, that the peculiar felicity of this metropolis is to be deduced. Her enviable distinction is, that she is among the chiefest of that happy New England family, which claims descent from the early emigrants. If we take a survey of that family, and, excluding from our view the unnumbered multitudes of its members who have occupied the vacant wilderness of other states, we restrict our thoughts to the local sphere of New England, what scenes open upon our sight! How wild and visionary would seem our prospects, did we indulge only natural anticipations of the future! Already, on an area of seventy thousand square miles, a population of two millions; all, but comparatively a few, descendants of the early emigrants! Six independent Commonwealths, with constitutions varying in the relations and proportions of power, yet uniform in all their general principles; diverse in their political arrangements, yet each sufficient for its own necessities; all harmonious with those without, and peaceful within; embracing under the denomination, of towns, upwards of twelve hundred effective republics, with qualified powers, indeed, but possessing potent influences; subject themselves to the respective state sovereignties, yet directing all their operations, and shaping their policy by constitutional agencies ; swayed, no less than the greater republics, by passions, interests, and affections; like them, exciting competitions which rouse, into action the latent energies of mind, and infuse into the mass of each society a knowledge of the nature of its interests, and a capacity to understand and share in the defence of those of the Commonwealth. The effect of these minor republics is daily seen in the existence of practical talents, and in the readiness with which those talents can be called into the public service of the state.

If, after this general survey of the surface of New England, we cast our eyes on its cities and great towns, with what wonder should we behold, did not familiarity render the phenomenon almost unnoticed, men, combined in great multitudes, possessing freedom and the consciousness of strength, —the comparative physical power of the ruler less than that of a cobweb across a lion’s path, —yet orderly, obedient, and respectful to authority; a people, but no populace ; every class in reality existing, which the general law of society acknowledges, except one, — and this exception characterizing the whole country. The soil of New England is trodden by no slave. In our streets, in our assemblies, in the halls of election and legislation, men of every rank and condition meet, and unite or divide on other principles, and are actuated by other motives, than those growing out of such distinctions. The fears and jealousies, which in other countries separate classes of men and make them hostile to each other, have here no influence, or a very limited one. Each individual, of whatever condition, has the consciousness of living under known laws, which secure equal rights, and guarantee to each whatever portion of the goods of life, be it great or small, chance, or talent, or industry may have bestowed. All perceive that the honors and rewards of society are open equally to the fair competition of all; that the distinctions of wealth, or of power, are not fixed in families; that whatever of this nature exists to-day, may be changed to-morrow, or, in a coming generation be absolutely reversed. Common principles, interests, hopes, and affections, are the result of universal education. Such are the consequences of the equality of rights, and of the provisions for the general diffusion of knowledge and the distribution of intestate estates, established by the laws framed by the earliest emigrants to New England.

If from our cities we turn to survey the wide expanse of the interior, how do the effects of the institutions and example of our early ancestors appear, in all the local comfort and accommodation which mark the general condition of the whole country ; —unobtrusive, indeed, but substantial ; in nothing splendid, but in everything sufficient and satisfactory. Indications of active talent and practical energy exist everywhere. With a soil comparatively little luxuriant, and in great proportion either rock, or hill, or sand, the skill and industry of man are seen triumphing over the obstacles of nature; making the rock the guardian of the field; molding the granite, as though it were clay; leading cultivation to the hill-top, and spreading over the arid plain, hitherto unknown and unanticipated harvests. The lofty mansion of the prosperous adjoins the lowly dwelling of the husbandman; their respective inmates are in the daily interchange of civility, sympathy, and respect. Enterprise and skill, which once held chief affinity with the ocean or the sea-board, now .begin to delight the interior, haunting our rivers, where the music of the water-, fall, with powers more attractive than those of the fabled harp of Orpheus, collects around it intellectual man and material nature. Towns and cities, civilized and happy communities, rise, like exhalations, on rocks and in forests, till the deep and far-resounding voice of the neighbouring torrent is itself lost and unheard, amid the predominating noise of successful and rejoicing labor.

What lessons has New England, in every period of her history, given to the world! What lessons do her condition and example still give! How unprecedented; yet how practical! How simple; yet how powerful! She has proved, that all the variety of Christian sects may live together in harmony, under a government which allows equal privileges to all, — exclusive preeminence to none. She has proved, that ignorance among the multitude is not necessary to order, but that the surest basis of perfect order is the information of the people. She has proved the old maxim, that “No government, except a despotism with a standing army, can subsist where the people have arms,” is false. Ever since the first settlement of the country, arms have been required to be in the hands of the whole multitude of New England; yet the use of them in a private quarrel, if it have ever happened, is so rare, that a late writer, of great intelligence, who had passed his whole life in New England, and possessed extensive means of information, declares, “I know not a single instance of it.” She has proved, that a people, of a character essentially military, may subsist without dueling. New England has, at all times, been distinguished, both on the land and on the ocean, for a daring, fearless, and enterprising spirit; yet the same writer asserts, that during the whole period of her existence, her soil has been disgraced but by five duels, and that only two of these were fought by her native inhabitants! Perhaps this assertion is not minutely correct. There can, however, be no question, that it is sufficiently near the truth to justify the position for which it is here adduced, and which the history of New England, as well as the experience of her inhabitants, abundantly confirms; that, in the present and in every past age, the spirit of our institutions has, to every important practical purpose, annihilated the spirit of dueling.

Such are the true glories of the institutions of our fathers! Such the natural fruits of that patience in toil, that frugality of disposition, that temperance of habit, that general diffusion of knowledge, and that sense of religious responsibility, inculcated by the precepts, and exhibited in the example of every generation of our ancestors!

What then, in conclusion of this great topic, are the elements of the liberty, prosperity, and safety, which the inhabitants of New England at this day enjoy? In what language, and concerning what comprehensive truths, does the wisdom of former times address the inexperience of the future?

Those elements are simple, obvious, and familiar.

Every civil and religious blessing of New England, all that here gives happiness to human life, or security to human virtue, is alone to be perpetuated in the forms and under the auspices of a free commonwealth.

The commonwealth itself has no other strength or hope, than the intelligence and virtue of the individuals that compose it.

For the intelligence and virtue of individuals, there is no other human assurance than laws providing for the education of the whole people.

These laws themselves have no strength, or efficient sanction, except in the moral and accountable nature of man, disclosed in the records of the Christian’s faith; the right to read, to construe, and to judge concerning which, belongs to no class or cast of men, but exclusively to the individual, who must stand or fall by his own acts and his own faith, and not by those of another.

The great comprehensive truths, written in letters of living light on every page of our history, — the language addressed by every past age of New England to all future ages is this; — Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom!freedom none but virtue;virtue none but knowledge; and neither freedom, nor virtue, nor knowledge has any vigor, or immortal hope, except in the principles of the Christian faith and in the sanctions of the Christian religion.

Men of Massachusetts! Citizens of Boston! Descendants of the early emigrants! Consider your blessings; consider your duties. You have an inheritance acquired by the labors and sufferings of six successive generations of ancestors. They founded the fabric of your prosperity, in a severe and masculine morality; having intelligence for its cement, and religion for its groundwork.. Continue to build on the same foundation, and by the same principles; let the extending temple of your country’s freedom rise, in the spirit of ancient times, in proportions of intellectual and moral architecture,—just, simple, and sublime.. As from the first to this day, let New England continue to be an example to the world, of the blessings of a free government, and of the means and capacity of man to maintain it. And, in all times to come, as in all times past, may Boston be among the foremost and the boldest to exemplify and uphold whatever constitutes the prosperity, the happiness, and the glory of New England.

Copyright © 2010 – 2015 TeaPartyEdu http://teapartyedu.net Foundation Truths http://captainjamesdavis.net The Patriot Brotherhood @CaptainJDavis ™

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