« PreviousContinue »
rules the universe, whose existence they had denied in a solemn act of legislation, whose perfections they had made the butt of . public scorn and private insult, whose Son they had crucified afresh, and whose word they had burnt by the hands of the common hangman ; swept them all by the hand of violence into an untimely grave. The tale made every ear which heard it tingle, and every heart chill with horror. It was, in the language of Ossian," the song of death.” It was like the reign of the plague in a populous city. Knell tolled upon knell ; hearse followed hearse; and coffin rumbled after coffin ; without a mourner to shed a tear upon the corpse, or a solitary attendant to mark the place of the grave. From one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, the world went forth and looked after the carcasses of the men, who transgressed against God; and they were an abhorring unto all flesh.
Among all who have labored in the great cause of man, none has acted a more benevolent, consistent, and illustrious part, than he who left a brilliant destiny in Europe, to espouse the wrongs of these states.
As if every thing conspired to prove his sincere convictions, and his noble disinterestedness, the moment of his embracing our cause was one of overwhelming gloom. So discouraging did our prospects seem, (Washington being then on his retreat through Jersey, with a handful of defeated followers,) that the American commissioners deemed themselves bound in conscience and honor, to dissuade a highly-connected youth from so unpromising an enterprise. His answer to their candid remonstrance embodies the spirit of his whole life.
Hitherto,” said young La Fayette, “I have done no more than wish success to your cause. I now go to serve it. The more it has fallen in public opinion, the greater will be the effect of my departure. Since you cannot procure a vessel, I will purchase and fit one out at my own expense; and I will also undertake to transmit your despatches to the congress.” He purchased a vessel, eluded his pursuers, embarked, and made a successful winter passage over seas beset with British cruisers, He presented the despatches of our commissioners to the American congress, and, with them, made an offer of himself, Here, my countrymen, let us pause.—Point me,
if able, to a parallel, -for my own recollections do not supply it,' He was no needy adventurer pushing his fortunes in the new world; no disgraced profligate seeking to cover his branded front with a military chaplet; no reckless misanthrope, embittered by disappointment, till perils had become grateful; he was no follower of vulgar glory, no lover of the trade of murder. Adorned with talents and virtue, possessor of a princely revenue, basking in the royal favor, blessed with connubial happiness,—with hopes thick clustering round his noble head, " as blossoms on a bough in May,”—he forsook all, came to us from beyond the ocean, asked leave to pay his own expenses, and fight, as a volunteer, in our naked and barefoot regiments !
“We were but warriors for the working day:
What names stand out in history as virtuous heroes,-patriots-self-devoted ? Does Alfred occur to you ?-A prince by birth, he was reduced by the invaders of his country to the condition of an outlaw-obliged to refuge in dens, and caves, while his kingdom was pillaged before his eyes, and portioned out by barbarians. His incentive to heroic daring was personal degradation, a present foe, aggravated injury, his recompense, his own rescued country and a throne. -Similar wrongs, similar incentives, nerved the virtuous and valiant heart of Gustavus. Himself imprisoned by Christiern, his country enthraled, injury on injury heaped on Sweden,--he, at last, broke loose, and poured the deluge from the hills of Dalecarlia.-Leonidas ! Cato !
-Phocion !—Tell! One peculiarity marks them all: they dared and suffered for their native land. Who else has ever gone forth, alone, to a distant shore, to combat for human rights in the cause of a weak, despised, and unknown people ? The pilgrim fathers, the men of the revolution must yield, in this last touch of disinterestedness, to the stranger.
THE BIRTHDAY OF WASHINGTON. --Webster.
The name of Washington is intimately blended with whatever belongs most essentially to the prosperity, the liberty, the free institutions, and the renown of our country. That name was of power to rally a nation, in the hour of thick-thronging public disasters and calamities; that name shone, amid the
storm of war, a beacon light, to cheer and guide the country's friends; it flamed, too, like a meteor, to repel her foes. That name, in the days of peace, was a loadstone, attracting to itself a whole people's confidence, a whole people's love, and the whole world's respect; that name, descending with all time, spreading over the whole earth, and uttered in all the languages belonging to the tribes and races of men, will for ever be pronounced with affectionate gratitude by every one, in whose breast there shall arise an aspiration for human rights and human liberty
All experience evinces, that human sentiments are strongly influenced by associations. The recurrence of anniversaries, or of longer periods of time, naturally freshens the recollection, and deepens the impression, of events with which they are historically connected. Renowned places, also, have a power 10 awaken feeling, which all acknowledge. No American can pass by the fields of Bunker Hill, Monmouth, or Camden, as if they were ordinary spots on the earth's surface. Whoever visits them feels the sentiment of love of country kindling anew, as if the spirit that belonged to the transactions which have rendered these places distinguished, still hovered round, with power to move and excite all who in future time may approach them.
But neither of these sources of emotion equals the power with which great moral examples affect the mind. When sublime virtues cease to be abstractions, when they become imbodied in human character, and exemplified in human conduct, we should be false to our own nature, if we did not indulge in the spontaneous effusions of our gratitude and our admiration. A true lover of the virtue of patriotism delights to contemplate its purest models; and that love of country may be well suspected, which affects to soar so high into the regions of sentiment, as to be lost and absorbed in the abstract feeling, and becomes too elevated, or too refined, to glow with fervor in the commendation or the love of individual benefactors. All this is unnatural. It is as if one should be so enthusiastic a lover of poetry, as to care nothing for Homer or Milton ; so passionately attached to eloquence, as to be indifferent to Tully and Chatham ; or such a devotee to the arts, in such an ecstacy with the elements of beauty, proportion, and expression, as to regard the masterpieces of Raphael and Michael Angelo with coldness or contempt. We may be assured, gentlemen, that he who really loves the thing itself, loves its finest exhibitions. A true friend of his country loves her friends and benefactors, and thinks it no degradation to commend and commemorate them.
The voluntary outpouring of the public feeling, made to-day, from the north to the south, and from the east to the west, proves this sentiment to be both just and natural. In the cities and in the villages, in the public temples and in the family circles, among all ages and sexes, gladdened voices, to-day, bespeak grateful hearts, and a freshened recollection of the virtues of the father of his country. And it will be so, in all time to come, so long as public virtue is itself an object of regard. The ingenuous youth of America will hold up to themselves the bright model of Washington's example, and study to be what they behold ; they will contemplate his character, till all its virtues spread out and display themselves to their delighted vision ; as the earliest astronomers, the shepherds on the plains of Babylon, gazed at the stars till they saw them form into clusters and constellations, overpowering at length the eyes of the beholders with the united blaze of a thousand lights.
56. IN FAVOR OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.-Lee.
The Americans may become faithful friends to the English, but subjects, never. And even though union could be restored without rancor, it could not without danger. There are some who seem to dread the effects of the resolution. But will England, or can she manifest against us greater rigor and rage than she has already displayed ? She deems resistance against oppression no less rebellion than independence itself. And where are those formidable troops that are to subdue the Americans ? What the English could not do, can it be done by Germans ? Are they more brave, or better disciplined? The number of our enemies is increased; but our own is not diminished, and the battles we have sustained have given us the practice of arms and the experience of war.
America has arrived at a degree of power, which assigns her a place among independent nations : we are not less entitled to it than the English themselves. If they have wealth, so also have
we; if they are brave, so are we; if they are more numerous, our population will soon equal theirs ; if they have men of renown as well in peace as in war, we likewise have such; political revolutions produce great, brave, and generous spirits. From what we have already achieved in these painful beginnings, it is easy to presume what we shall hereafter
accomplish; for experience is the source of sage counsels, and liberty is the mother of great men.
Have you not seen the enemy driven from Lexington by thirty thousand citizens, armed and assembled in one day? Already their most celebrated generals have yielded, in Boston, to the skill of ours; already their seamen, repulsed from our coasts, wander over the ocean, where they are the sport of tempests, and the prey of famine. Let us hail the favorable omen, and fight, not for the sake of knowing on what terms we are to be the slaves of England, but to secure ourselves a free existence,—to found a just and independent government. Animated by liberty, the Greeks repulsed the innumerable army of Persians ; sustained by the love of independence, the Swiss and the Dutch humbled the power of Austria by memorable defeats, and conquered a rank among nations. The sun of America also shines upon the heads of the brave; the point of our weapons is no less formidable than theirs ; here also the same union prevails, the same contempt of dangers and of death, in asserting the cause of our country.
Why then do we longer delay, why still deliberate ? Let this most happy day give birth to the American republic. Let her arise, not to devastate and conquer, but to re-establish the reign of
peace and of the laws. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us; she demands of us a living example of freedom, that may contrast, by the felicity of the citizens, with the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum, where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repose. She entreats us to cultivate a propitious soil, where that generous plant which first sprung up and grew in England, but is now withered by the poisonous blasts of Scottish tyranny, may revive and flourish, sheltering, under its salubrious and interminable shade, all the unfortunate of the
This is the end presaged by so many omens; by our first victories, by the present ardor and union, by the flight of Howe, and the pestilence which broke out amongst Dunmore's people,
very winds which baffled the enemy's fleets and transports, and that terrible tempest which ingulphed seven hundred vessels upon the coast of Newfoundland. If we are not this day wanting in our duty to our country, the names of the American legislators will be placed, by posterity, at the side of those of Theseus, of Lycurgus, of Romulus, of Numa, of the three Williams of Nassau, and of all those whose memory has been, and will be for ever dear to virtuous men and good citizens.