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146. Bunker Hill Monument.
We know that the record of illustrious actions is mos safely deposited in the universal remembrance of mankind We know that, if we could cause this structure to ascend, not only till it reached the skies, but till it pierced them, its broad surface could still contain but part of that, which, in an age of knowledge, hath already been spread over the earth, and which History charges herself with making known to all future times.. We know that no inscription, on entablatures less broad than the earth itself, can carry information of the events we commemorate where it has not already gone; and that no structure which shall not outlive the duration of letters and knowledge among men, can prolong the memorial.
But our object is, by this edifice, to show our deep sense of the value and importance of the achievements of our ancestors; and by presenting this work of gratitude to the eye, to keep alive similar sentiments, and to foster a similar regard to the principles of the revolution. Human beings are composed not of reason only, but of imagination also, and sentiment; and that is neither wasted nor misapplied, which is appropriated to the purpose of giving right direction to sentiments, and opening proper springs of feeling in the heart.
Let it not be supposed that our object is to perpetuate -national hostility, or even to cherish a mere military spirit. It is higher, purer, nobler. We consecrate our work to the spirit of national independence, and we wish that the light of peace may rest upon it forever. We rear a memorial of our conviction of the unmeasured benefit which has been conferred on our land, and of the happy influences which have been produced, by the same events, on the general interests of mankind.
We come, as Americans, to mark a spot - which must be forever dear to us and our posterity. We wish that whobuever, in all coming time, shall turn his eyes hither, may behold that the place is not undistinguished where the first great battle of the revolution was fought. We wish that this structure may proclaim the magnitude and importance of that event to every class and every age. We wish that infancy may learn the purpose of its erection from maternal lips, and that weary and withered age may behold it, and be solaced by the recollections which it suggests. We wish that labor may look up here, and be proud in the midst of its toil. We wish that, in those days of disaster, which, as they come upon all nations, must be expected to come on us also, desponding patriotism may turn its eyes hither, and be assured that the foundations of our national power still stand strong.
We wish that this column, rising towards heaven among the pointed spires of so many temples dedicated to God, may contribute also to produce, in all minds, a pious feeling of dependence and gratitude. We wish, finally, that the la object on the sight of him who leaves his native shore, an the first to gladden him who revisits it, may be something which shall remind him of the liberty and glory of his coun try. Let it rise till it meet the sun in his coming; let the earliest light of morning gild it, and parting day linger and play upon its summit.
The Puritans were the most remarkable body of men, perhaps, that the world has ever produced. They who roused the people to resistance — who directed their measures through a long series of eventful years — who formed, out of the most unpromising materials, the finest army that Europe had ever seen -- who trampled down king, church, and aristocracywho, in the short intervals of domestic sedition and rebellion, made the name of England terrible to every nation on the face of the earth, were no vulgar fanatics.
They were men whose minds had derived a peculiar character from the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not content with acknowledging, in general terms, an overruling Providence, they habitually ascribed every event to the will of the Great Being, for whose power nothing was too vast, for whose inspection nothing was too minute.
To know him, to serve him, to enjoy him, was with them the great end of existence. Instead of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, they aspired to gaze full on the intolerable brightness, and to commune with him face to face. Hence originated their contempt for terrestrial distinctions.
The difference between the greatest and meanest of mankind seemed to vanish, when compared with the boundless interval which separated the whole race from him on whoin their own eyes were constantly fixed. They recognized no title to superiority but his favor ; and, confident of that favor, they despised all the accomplishments and all the dignities of the world,
If they were unacquainted with the works of philosophers and poets, they were deeply read in the oracles of God. If their names were not found in the registers of heralds, they felt assured that they were recorded in the Book of Life. If their steps were not accompanied by a splendid train of menials, legions of ministering angels had charge over them.
Their palaces were houses not made with hands; their diadems crowns of glory which should never fade away!
On the rich and the eloquent, on nobles and priests, they looked down with contempt; for they esteemed themselves rich in a more precious treasure, and eloquent in a more sublime language; nobies by the right of an earlier creation, and priests by the imposition of a mightier hand. The very mennest of them was a being to whose fate a mysterious and terrible importance belonged; on whose slightest action the spirits of light and darkness looked with anxious interest, who had been destined, before heaven and earth were created, to enjoy a felicity which should continue when heaven and earth should have passed away. Events, which shortsighted politicians ascribed to earthly causes, had been ordained on his account.
For his sake empires had risen, and flourished, and decayed. For his sake the Almighty had proclaimed his will by the pen of the evangelist and the harp of the prophet. He had been rescued by no common deliverer from the grasp of no common foe. He had been ransomed by the sweat of no vulgar agony, by the blood of no earthly sacrifice. It was for him that the sun had been darkened, that the rocks had been rent, that the dead had arisen, that all nature had shuddered at the sufferings of her expiring God.
Thus the Puritan was made up of two different men, the one all self-abasement, penitence, gratitude, passion ; the other proud, calm, inflexible, sagacious. He prostrated himself in the dust before his Maker ; but he set his foot on the neck of his king. In his devotional retirement, he prayed with convulsions, and groans, and tears. He was half maddened by glorious or terrible illusions. He heard the lyres of angels, or the tempting whispers of fiends. He caught a gleam of the beatific vision, or woke screaming from dreams of everlasting fire.
Like Vane, he thought himself intrusted with the sceptre of the millennial year. Like Fleetwood, he cried, in the bitterness of his soul, that God had hid his face from him. But, when he took his seat in the council, or girt on his sword for war, these tempestuous workings of the soul had left no perceptible trace behind them. People who saw nothing of the Puritans but their uncouth visages, and heard nothing from them but their groans and their hymns, might laugh at them. But those had little reason to laugh, who encountered them in the hall of debate, or in the field of battle.
The Puritans brought to civil and military affairs a cool ness of judgment and an immutability of purpose, which some writers have thought inconsistent with their religious zeal, but which were, in fact, the necessary effects of it. The intensity of their feelings on one subject made them tranquil on every other. One overpowering sentiment had subjected to itself pity and hatred, ambition and fear. Death had lost its terrors, and pleasure its charms. They had their smiles and their tears, their raptures and their sorrows, but not for the things of this world. Enthusiasm had inade them stoics, had cleared their minds from every vulgar passion and prejudice, and raised them above the influence of danger and of corruption. It sometimes might lead them to pursue unwise ends, but never to choose unwise means. They went through the world like the iron man with his fail, crushing and trampling down oppressors; mingling with human beings, but having neither part nor lot in human infirmities; insensible to fatigue, to pleasure, and to pain, not to be pierced by any weapon, not to be withstood by any barrier.
Such we believe to have been the character of the Purie tans. We perceive the absurdity of their manners; we dislike the gloom of their domestic habits; we acknowledge that the tone of their minds was often injured by straining after things too high for mortal reach; and we know that, espousing the cause of civil liberty mainly because it was the cause of religion, they too often fell into the vices of intolerance and extravagant austerity. Yet, when all circumstances are taken into consideration, we do not hesitate to pronounce them a brave, a wise, an honest, and a useful body. We regret that they, to whose courage and talents mankind has owed inestimable obligations, had not the lofty elegance which distinguished some of the adherents of Charles I., or the easy good breeding for which the court of Charles II. was celebrated. But, if we must make our choice, we shall, like Bassanio in the play, turn from the specious caskets