Joseph Story (1779-1845) graduated from Harvard in 1798. He was admitted to the bar in 1801. Story served in the Massachusetts Legislature (1805), and was later elected to the United States House of Representatives (1808). Story was the youngest person ever appointed to the Supreme Court (1812) and served in the Supreme Court until 1845.
O R A T I O N,
PRONOUNED AT SALEM,
THE FOURTH DAY OF JULY, 1804,
By JOSEPH STORY, ESQ.
Salem, 5th July 1804.
The Committee of Arrangements return you thanks for your truly elegant Oration, delivered yesterday in commemoration of American Independence; and request a copy of the same for the press.
We are, Dear Sir,
Your Friends, and
Committee of Arrangements
JOHN HATHORNE, jun.
JOSEPH WHITE, jun.
Salem, July 6, 1804.
Your polite attention has my most grateful return. If the part which I had the honor to perform, in commemoration of our Independence gave satisfaction to my friends, I am amply repaid. I submit the Oration to your disposal; and I trust that it will not be considered an unmeaning apology to claim the candor of criticism for a composition which has been hastily written, under the pressure of business and ill health.
With the highest respect,
I have the honor to be,
Your friend and humble servant,
Committee of Arrangements.
JOHN HATHORNE, jun.
JOSEPH WHITE, jun.
O R A T I O N.
The celebration of national achievements adds luster to national character. It cherishes the spirit of emulation, and exalts the ardor of patriotism. It quickens into action every latent principle, and imbues the foul with the deepest coloring of national sentiment…Why has the Minstrel attuned his lyre to the toils of ancient heroism? His flowing eloquence, his varied paths, and his rich expression, have entranced the attention of ages, and drawn tears of delight from the savage and the sage. Greece has not alone sung the battles of her warriors and the splendor of her art. Rome has not alone touched the sympathies, by unfolding the enterprises of her patriots. On the banks of the Danube the voice of victory has swelled the festivity of the Vandal; and the music of the chiefs of other times yet echoes through the highlands of Caledonia. The tide of gratitude has flowed from sire to son; and the spirit enkindled by valor has defended with the memory of its gallant deeds.
What more august occasion could have convened us together! Other nations have celebrated the birth of a hero, or the apotheosis of a saint. We have a nobler cause for exultation…the triumph of Liberty. This day our country has reached the twenty-ninth year of her sovereignty and independence. It is worthy of the dignity of freemen to record in their annals the time of such admirable attainments. It is worthy of generous enthusiasm to immortalize the spirit which purchased the invaluable inheritance. If it were not due to the honorable wounds of our patriots, it were the prudence of civil polity to embalm the narrative of events which fixed the fluctuating destiny of ages, and established the rights of mankind on an imperishable basis…Deep in disgrace must they be sunk, who behold, unmoved, the monuments of their same decay, and suffer the rank weeds of neglect to feed on the moldering trophies of their valor. Such unalterable infamy belongs not to human nature but in its lowest degradation.
Should the time ever arrive when the solemn appeal, which this day once witnessed, shall be viewed with indifference of disdain…when the sublime declaration, that America was free and sovereign, shall be deprecated as a paroxysm of political madness…well may we weep over the ruins of our country…well may we exclaim, in the holiness of classic lamentation, Hic Troja Fuit. The forms of Liberty may remain, but the spirit will be lost forever. The Ghost of its departed excellence may moan and wander through our deserted capitol; but it will be an unreal mockery, “without a local habitation or a name.”
Let no fear of such prophetic evils fully the pleasure of this assembly. The joy, with which we celebrate this national jubilee, is an earnest of our future consistency. It pronounces to our fathers, that what their honor acquired, our intrepidity shall preserve; what their blood purchased, our gratitude shall redeem; what their wisdom reared as the temple of liberty, we will ornament and protect as the perfection of political architecture.
The causes which influenced, the principles, which guided, and the spirit, which executed the exploit, present glorious examples of virtue and perseverance. They accomplished a change, at once unexpected and perplexing to the cabinets of Europe. They displayed the novel spectacle of a province shaking from its feet the chains of foreign domination, and assuming the imperial purple; of a nation, rising in the majesty of youth, to encounter, confound, and enervate the counsels and the arms of organized authority. But this spirit, these principles, and these causes were not of momentary impulse. The experience of centuries had given them a maturity, which nothing could advance, and an energy, which nothing could resist. Persecution had stimulated virtue; and virtue secured the triumph of valor.
Our ancestors were truly the sons of enterprise. Having fled from the tyranny of religious intolerance, they fought in the uncultured wilds of America an asylum from oppression, and a heritage for their children. Nursed in an adversity the most trying, at a time when the rights of conscience were established by inquisitorial edicts; when religious apostasy was decided by trials more absurd than Gothic ordeals; when heretical convictions were enforced at the stake and the scaffold, with cruelties which might appeal the heart of a Caligula, and arrest the purpose of a Suwarrow…nursed in such an adversity, they knew the full value of liberty, and liberally paid for the purchase. They esteemed conscience more than life; and unfettered poverty more than luxurious dependence. The pampered indulgence of sloth was in their view no equivalent for inglorious servitude. It was the bells and trinkets of the African, with amuse his fancy, while they found his disgrace and fester his sinews. The land which they explored was indeed no Canaan flowing with milk and honey, to sweeten the repose of wearied pilgrimage. The yell of the savage swept frightful on the blasts of night; and the day star sickened the desolation of the pestilence. Whom the tomahawk saved from its fury, the famine smote with disease; whom the merciless winter spared from destruction, sunk under the hectic of summer.
But a courage; which like the principles which inspired it, knew no ruler but heaven, added perseverance to zeal, and success to perseverance. The intrepid exiles gloried in their toils and secured the transporting triumph of liberty. They established rights, not on the prescription of ancient usage; they established authorities, not merely on the chartered bounty of royal munificence; they established a nation, not by the gradual usurpation of aspiring vassals on feudal seignories…but they established the whole on the legitimate basis of popular consent. No, Fellow Citizens, we were not like the convicts of Botany Bay, the planted colonies of domestic humanity; nor like Ireland, the fraudulent conquest of the crafty enemy. We were not like feudal Villains, attached to the demesnes of a Lord; nor descended, like an heirloom, the heavy appendage of an imperial crown. We grew by the strength of native vigor; we rose by the force of internal regularity, unfostered by foreign smiles and unaided by maternal protection until we became an object of jealous ambition. Like the oak of our own forests we were born and nurtured in the sky, which never knew the blight of oppression, or the engraftment of despotism. The soil cultivated by the labor, and the rights advocated by the voice of our fathers, were equally our allodial and unencumbered inheritance. They mortgaged no services to prerogative, and they claimed no equity from regal justice. Whatever Britain gained over our sovereignty was the mere right of power over infant weakness; the silent though irresistible ties of a common sympathy. We submitted to her encroachments, because we were unable to resist them; we wore her swathing bands, because we wanted strength to burst them.
These circumstances ought to be well recollected in order to ascertain the nature of our revolutionary contest; and vindicate it to those who have not ascended to first principles. Without these considerations we might be unjustly branded with the ignominy of a rebellion against the salutary discipline of parental authority. Miserable indeed would be the sophistry, and worthy of the dissoluteness of eastern servility. ---The ties of the political compact have an analogy with natural affinity. The remorseless parricide under every pretext is indignantly banished from society. But the opinion, that no infringement of national right, no exercise of despotic vengeance, no oppressions of plundering cruelty, can justify a renunciation of sovereignty, is too absurd, too monstrous, and too destructive, for the adoption of reason or honor. The furious zeal of an Empress who could murder her husband, and the bloated ignorance of a Pope, who could anathematize a world, would shrink from a vindication of such atrocious doctrines. The gross obeisance of the Russ, and the indiscriminate appetite of the Ecclesiastic, would loath the unseemly poison. They might swallow the dogma of transubstantiation; but no Jesuistry could win from their consciences, that political infallibility supercedes the laws of nature.
To the honor of Britain let it be remembered, that in her worst days this doctrine was never seriously assumed as the basis of her dominion over us. It can be found only in the black lettered rubrics of monkish folly, or the debasing catechisms of modern policy, more wicked in purpose, than contemptible in character. To make way for the grand promulgation of it, conspiracies of political demoralization have been conjured up; prophecies of impending ruin industriously circulated, the misshapen notions of a few fanatics organized into the principles of a new philosophy; and in fine, the mangled skeleton of Illuminatism, dug from the bowels of Germany, to fill up the cauldron of sorcery and brew the ominous witchcraft…But I pause from the pursuit. The doctrine of political infallibility is now quietly buried in the same grave with papal supremacy. Should any unholy charm raise it once more to “revisit the glimpses of the moon,” we trust the genius of liberty will exorcise the fiend, and lay it forever in the Red Sea of oblivion.
A half century has nearly elapsed since the pride of Britain, unveiled and undisputed, first disclosed to our fathers, the extent of her arbitrary pretentions. It had been the prescriptive rule of her constitutional policy, confirmed by the charter of one monarch and ratified by parliamentary wisdom on the abdication of another, that the right of Representation was extensive with the right of taxation…that life, liberty, and property were controllable only by juries in the Courts of Law, or by peers in the Courts of Legislation. This was the darling birthright of Englishmen; fostered with unequalled solicitude; felt and inculcated with catholic enthusiasm. It was bought by heroes worthy of acquisition, and defended to a posterity worthy to preserve it. It was the unalienable privilege for which Hampden bled, and Sidney suffered on the Scaffold. If we were the subjects of England, this right was also our unquestionable inheritance; if we were not, we possessed it from the bounty of nature. Yet in defiance of all principle, in opposition to all authority, she boldly advanced the doctrine, which subjected us to the dependence of a province, and the assumptions of a conquest.
The spirit of America kindled at the insolent pretensions. She was governed by a mild, but inflexible policy. ---In Tranquility, like the Christian charity, pure, holy, gentle, easey of access, without partiality and without hypocrisy. But roused to indignation, like Hercules, she rose in the freshened energy of youth, and strangled the serpents that usurped her cradle. To a mild petition for redress, an ambitious answer…to a modest statement of wrongs, they replied with compulsory edicts, poisoned with the bitterness of sarcasm…to a definitive remonstrance of reason, they retorted menacing accusations, which converted the bitterness of sarcasm into the lustfulness of vengeance. The cup of reconciliation was drained to its very dregs…Our fathers saw that they must sink into the tameness of slavery, or assert the dignity of freedom by the sword and the bayonet. The habits, the sympathies, and the affections of life, forced on their minds the former alternative. On one side they beheld a nation, gigantic in power, abundant in revenue, and elate with recent victory; with troops of hereditary valor, gallant in enterprise, and steady in discipline…On the other side they beheld a country divided in councils, distracted by jealousies, and limited in resource; undisciplined for war, but unused to submission.---The situation was fraught with perils. But life was the boon, and they exclaimed, with the generous Roman, “a day, an hour of virtuous Liberty, is worth a whole eternity of bondage.”
The awakening ardor electrized every heart; and surmounted every obstacle. The genius of our Country waved his banners in protection; and the 4th of July, 1776, witnessed the solemn appeal to the God of Armies, that America would be free, or perish in the effort. Sublime Determination! Glorious Resolve! It will remain an eternal monument of honor to the Heroes who conceived it…it will remain a splendid example to latest posterity of what a handful of brave men can effect, when supported by the energy of independence. The character of human nature never approaches so near to divinity, as when struggling to preserve the rights, and accomplish the salvation of mankind. Our Fathers merited success and they obtained it. They fought; they bled; they triumphed. ---From the perilous enterprises of an eight years’ war, they rose to the full possession of the best gifts of heaven, civil and religious liberty.
Fain would I drop a veil over the conduct of Britain during this momentous contest of the spirit of reason against the spirit of domination. Would it were possible to blot her mercenary cruelties from the annals of our history. But they must and will descend to future ages the disgraceful mementos of civilized barbarity. Let no one imagine that I think meanly of the British Character. I honor a people, whose Constitution has been for ages a solitary instance of jurisprudence, founded on the acknowledged rights of man. I honor a people whose munificence has patronized the arts, and given the sciences a liberal refuge from papal oppressions. I honor a people who, in their laws and manners, in their valor and enterprise, have discovered a perseverance and illumination, which have blended speculative wisdom with practical grandeur. I wish it were possible to honor the humanity of their martial achievements, or the rectitude of their ambitious projects. Their lust for dominion has for centuries deluged the plains of Europe with blood, and disgraced the ocean with oppressive plunders. National justice has perished on the altar of pride, and even the sanctity of religion been prostituted to the support of ministerial crusades.
Moderation in resentment is not only the refinement of philosophy, but the dictate of nature. The polluted jealousies of national rivalry have too often sharpened the retaliations of cruelty, and stimulated the fury of the passions. The fatal projects of an Edward have unfortunately settled an hereditary hatred in the Inhabitants on either side of the English channel, which neither time, nor reason, nor generosity can subdue. But though as men we disdain to consult the indignation of accumulated wrongs; through as Christians, we forgive the brutal revenge of our revolutionary foes, “we must remember such things were,” and pass the wholesome lesson to posterity. Can we forget the time when, to glut this odious passion, our cities were wrapped in flames? Our widows and children impaled on the bayonet? Our wives and mothers exposed to the merciless ravisher, or lost in the fury of contending elements?
Happy, thrice happy had it been, if but one Creusa had perished in the tempests! Can we forget that the tomahawk and the scalping knife were not beneath the research of martial policy? That the Indian war whoop was the signal for the execution of deeds, “which freeze the young blood and harrow up the soul?” Can we forget, that prison ships, more sure in their purpose, though less rapid in their fatality, than the black hole of Calcutta, were the loathsome abodes of thousands of our injured uncomplaining countrymen, who lingered for months in the agonies of corrupted horror? Death had been sweet to them; but it came not to relieve till emaciated pestilence had exhausted every severity of torture. The affrighted Hudson “heard nightly plunged beneath his sullen wave the frequent course,” till his waters thickened with the shining pollution. To this very hour the shrieks of the unburied dead roll on the blast of midnight, and accuse the ungrateful neglect of their country. Can we forget these things? No…We will forgive them; but posterity shall learn, that civilized nation in an enlightened age has not been ashamed to record her infamy by such sanguinary stratagems.
While we mourn over these unfortunate victims, whose silent fortitude was denied its reward in the death of honor, let it fix in our hearts the mighty price of our political salvation. Shades of departed heroes! Ye who fell in the fury of the battle, and ye who perished in the poison of the prison…yet have not died in vain! Sweet is the voice of your fame…The blessings of nations have swelled your requiems…the laurels of glory thicken on your sepulchers…the gratitude of Liberty immortalizes your memories. Your children shall triumph in your deeds; and by perpetuating the rights which you purchased, shall elevate the dignity of your achievements, and brighten the splendor of your renown!
Less grateful is the task to trace the history of later times, and mark the aberrations from revolutionary principles. Deeply is it to be regretted that any can be found, who, subservient to foreign influence, or subtle in insidious purpose, depreciate the rights which they enjoy, and stain their ancestry by apostacy and ingratitude. After fifteen years, in which commerce has guided to our shores the treasures of the east and west, and the arts and sciences been cultivated with an enterprise unequalled in success, it would seem hardly possible that any could be found so lost to human dignity, as voluntarily to renounce these blessings, and ask an asylum under the dangerous protection of royalty. But Americans are to learn that ambition, like Meffalina, thinks no prostitution beneath its boast, and no corruption beneath its communion. ---Laffata, neodum fatiata, receffit; wearied, but never satisfied, it retires for a moment only to re-act its iniquities with renewed vigor. Terror and persecution after exhausting Europe, have been destined to cross the Atlantic, and roam from Altamaha to St. Croix. The rich and the powerful have been dazzled with the magnificence of courts, and the blushing ensigns of nobility. The prudent and the good have been alarmed with the dangers of experiments, which seeming to set everything afloat, might overwhelm them in their progress. The veil of the temple of Liberty has been rent in twain, and the very altars devoted to sanguinary accusations.
On every side Republican institutions have been attacked. The quarrels and dissentions of revolutionary zeal have been artfully fomented and exaggerated. The order of despotism, a bloated carcass of unwieldy disease, calm only from want of life, has been dressed in the robes of an Apega, though, like her, concealing in the ornaments of its bosom a poisoned dagger, it folds to corrupt, and embraces to destroy…These events are not here recited to awaken indignation or extenuate error: they are recalled to your minds merely to show that even innocence and virtue may become the deluded apologists of intolerance and crime.
Far be it from me to vindicate the atrocities which have sometimes disgraced the best of causes. The accusations, the banishments, and the savage perfidies which have crimsoned the Gallic annals, are deeply to be regretted by every friend of humanity and reason. They have left a stain on the altar of Liberty, which her vestal worshippers have scarcely washed away. But let those who have added the torch to the faggot, as well as confounded the principle with the action, let those respond to their consciences for the unholy horrors. Let them weigh against revolutionary woes, the massacres of Charles, the Siberia of Catharine, the cremations of Mary, and bloody persecutions of Philip. Let them decide if the oppressions and cruelties of ten centuries could be too fiercely retaliated. Let them decide if these accumulated wrongs could be redressed, but by the awful sacrifice of the innocent with the guilty. ---Alas! The best cause cannot decompose the corrupt elements of ambition; the worst cannot extinguish every gleam of virtuous glory. But doubly guilty are those, who, to subserve the purposes of party, willfully confound accidental evils with necessary results; and depreciate the principles of freedom, by examples drawn from the violence of a moment.
Why are the American People at this very moment arranged under adverse banners by the vehemence of party? Why are names made the rallying points of divisions, when there is a real harmony of sentiment? We believe in the emphatic language of our illustrious father, that the great majority are, in a noble sense, “all federalists, all republicans.” But their characters and sentiments and friendships have been hazarded in the jeopardy of words. Why are the splendor and tranquility of monarchies blazoned in all the pomp of eloquence; and the miseries and oppressions and frauds of hereditary prerogative forgotten or concealed? ”What would offend the eye in a good picture the painter casts discreetly in the shades.” Why is the alarm bell forever ringing changes against innovation, reform, and philosophy? Are the crude abortions of a few distempered brains to be assumed as the principles of Legislation? Moderation and prudence should guide the hand of experiment with a controlling coolness; but surely improvement is not forever to be stifled by the fear of disaster…Why are projects darkly hinted which tends to dissolve the Union, and restore us again to anarchy and confusion? These are evils which all good men should unite to repress; for all are interested in the preservation of their country. Yet party spirit has so far blurred the public vision, that though they disturb the glare of day, they seem buried in Cimmerian darkness.
I am deeply sensible that the ashes, on which I read, are living embers. Respecting men and measures, no vehemence of declamation, no acerbity of invective, shall on this occasion invade these walls. That talk is left to those, whose modesty has usurped all talents and virtue, and whose candor has measured all political honesty by the scale of faction…No such pre-eminence is claimed here. We are proud to confess that many are found in the opposition, whose powers transcend the timid ken of republicanism, and whose honor has never been sullied by suspicion. But respecting principles, no one advanced beyond the rattle and leading strings should disgrace himself by hesitation. ---If our seven lustres of liberty had been, like the Roman Saturnalia, a short interval of equality, only granted to rivet more firmly the fetters of slavery, we might well reason ourselves into a patient belief of the blessings of oppression. ---The gauzy sophistry would at least cover our shame, and blunt our sensibility. But if one particle of revolutionary spirit yet remains, it must flame with indignation at the terrible import of monarchical maxims. Yes, Fellow-Citizens, whatever forms they assume, whether they denounce, or weep, or entreat, the crafty Sinons who would exchange republican simplicity for royal trappings, are the deadliest enemies of our national greatness. It requires not the prophetic powers of a Cassandra to foresee, when such men bear sway, that the wooden horse of despotism will soon be within the walls of the Constitution. It will then be too late to save…The womb is fertile in arms; the gates are surrendered to the foe!
What in truth are the boasted advantages of monarchy? Are civil liberty and personal protection secured? These are the transcendent rights of mankind, without which life itself were a heavy burthen. Look over the annals of ages, and mark the melancholy pictures---Wherever we turn; nothing appears but a gloomy succession of tempests, lighted at distant intervals by a transient sunshine, which renders the surrounding darkness more terrific. Oppression and cruelty, murder and war, describe the progress of dominion. The whims of a courtier, the intrigues of a mistress, or the anger of a prince, have desolated kingdoms, and sacrificed the felicity of millions. The lives of subjects have been too mean for the confederation of those, who are born for empire. If the security of property be the object of government, where is the monarch whose rapacity has not trampled on the laws, and wrested from industry its scanty pittance? What has been spared from the grasp of the excise has been plundered under the sanction of requisition. Even in that country, which boasts a limited constitution, scarcely have her own historians, through a series of one thousand years, traced a single reign untarnished by arbitrary exactions, and unclouded by unnecessary wars. ---National honor has been the vulgar pretence of dictatorial authority, and national calamity the undeviating result. Need I advert to ancient times? Examples yet live, and crowd around me on every side. The valleys of Erin echo with the shrieks of murder and rapine; and the streams of the Indus are choked with the blood of its children.
No, fellow citizens…though under a mild sovereign the subjects of hereditary sway may enjoy civil happiness; yet it is but the dream of a moment. There is no security for the future. Wherever public responsibility ceases, injustice will prevail. No character is too sublime for error, when the force of public influence is destroyed. Kings have not assumed the robes of angels to dispense peace and justice: they have not been clothed with divinity to resist the assaults of ambition, and the allurements of vice. Corruption and crime have not fled the imperial purple. Debauchery and murder have too often usurped the palace; and stifled the voice of complaint, before it reached the throne. The energy of a monarchy is the mere result of the absolute control of one will over many; of an individual opinion, unchecked but by the suggestions of ambition or revenge. This very energy, so much admired from its promptitude of action; becomes the source of innumerable errors; and one executive error frequently involves in it a deadly catastrophe. This very energy is purchased by the miseries of millions, whose properties are devoured and whose lives are crushed by its licentiousness. It is the very nature of justice to be deliberate. Rapidity of decision, though it may sometimes achieve an important enterprise, is generally in national affairs the worst of political delusions. The mighty interests of State are not to be moved like the wires of a puppet show. The fiery spirit of ambition would overleap at once the ordinary calculations of reason, and hurry into measures, which nothing but despair can authorize.
If this be energy, if this be glory, I trust we shall long be strangers to them. It is the boast of a representative government that the voice of the people is distinctly heard: that deliberation precedes action: that the interests of the whole are not abandoned to the mercenary projects of a few. Yet when national faith is violated, or national liberty invaded, the public zeal waits not in tardy indifference for the nod of a prince or the approval of a minister. It concentrates itself for action, and bursts with instantaneous vengeance on the daring aggressor. Away then with these shallow declamations against republican governments. They possess all the strength requisite for national union in a noble cause; more they ought not to possess. The soldier is not led to the field a deluded vassal: he feels the public wrong, and glories to avenge his country. That the petty intrigues of a chief, or the fury of a faction, cannot in such a government awaken the popular zeal, is a proof of its admirable polity. War is the scourge of the human race, and should be the last resort of insulted virtue. The sufferings, which it entails, even in defense of justice, require that its cause should be manifest, and its object national. Freemen can never be insensible to martial ardor, but they disdain to prostitute it to the caprice of a courtesan, or the wiles of a traitor.
Let it be our duty then on this glorious anniversary to inculcate the love of Constitution, and cherish with rapt devotion the Institutes of Freedom. We have passed the perils of war, but we are not yet beyond the reach of political Catalines. Dangers of a most powerful, though secret influence impend over our heads. The voice of indignant virtue has crushed the open traitor; but who can seize the Senator in his wiles, and assassin in his cell? In every community, however blest with privileges, or adorned with glory, there will always be found restless spirits, who are ever watchful to fan the flame of faction, and organize the machinations of sedition. Urged by uncontrollable impulses, they riot in tumult, and build their greatness on the ruin of their country. At every favorable moment the secret insinuations of intrigue, the loud denunciations of conspiracy, and the crafty cantings of hypocrisy will be employed to shake our principles, and sap the foundations of national union. Every engine which ingenuity can devise will be forced into action to accomplish the bold design. Ambition, who never slumbers nor sleeps, can assume ten thousand forms to awe, to persuade, and to intoxicate. It knows how to win the ear of curiosity by surprise, and force conviction on the unwary by the point of ridicule.
At one time its voice in the music of a siren pours the captivating strains of eloquence; at another it wins sweetly in the tones of flattery and candor; at another it denounces in all the thunder of accusation. Daring, intrepid, insatiable, it advances with a hardihood of assertion commensurate with the falsity of its statements. It prostrates at its feet, with unhesitating cruelty, everything however sacred, however venerable. Youth, beauty, genius, age, are unrelentingly led to execution; and the exulting demon laughs in the agonies of its victims.
Do I paint the perturbed images of a dream? Do I paint the distorted fictions of fancy? Would to heaven it were all a delusion! But no age or country has been exempt from its fury. France has not alone wept over the massacres of ROBESPIERRE; Britain has not alone been clothed in sackcloth by the wars of her HENRIES. Civil dissension has everywhere opened the way to slaughter; and unprincipled faction made a carnal house of the earth. From the tombs where our revolutionary patriots interred the relics of ancient aristocracy the gigantic SPECTRE has arisen. His voice has howled round our dwellings in the silence of midnight, and visited the precincts of day with ominous predictions. His breath has been the breath of war, destruction, and carnage…Deaf to the groans of misery, the murdered infant, the distracted. Mother, the burning city, have not checked his impetuous career. His griffin wings have flapped in horrid triumph round us...At one moment all seemed in ruin…but thanks to the wisdom of our councils, the Mississippi has not rolled in blood. LOUISIANA has leaped from her fetters, and like her sister States, smiles in the full possession of peace, liberty, and virtue…The long of the peasant echoes joyfully through her mountains; and the choral hymn of freedom swells the matins of her vestals.---It shall not be my part on this occasion to weaken by a transient eulogy the admiration of this bright achievement of political philosophy. The fame of our illustrious administration is not left to the perishable breath of man. It is recorded in deeds which shall descend to posterity, and give immortality to national gratitude. JEFFERSON has not lived for his own age. The hand, which traced the Declaration of Independence, may crumble in the dust; but the labors of thirty years devoted to the public service have ensured a title to a glorious perpetuity.
What then, Fellow Citizens, should the recollections of this day inspire? A holy devotion to liberty; a jealousy of power; and a detestation of despotism. We should be vigilant to mark the first inroads on republican principles; we should nourish in our children an attachment to our national union; and open our arms to receive the good and the honest of all political denominations. We should embrace in the communion of private life all whose characters merit confidence; but never suffer our councils to be invaded by men, however exalted in talents, or sublime in virtues, who loathe the simplicity of republican governments.
Far be it from us to encourage an ungenerous suspicion of the designs of the great and honorable. It is most ardently to be hoped that civil wisdom will no longer be the watchword for persecution; nor superior learning the step stone to the guillotine. A spirit of political intolerance has gone forth, more destructive “than the pestilence that walks in darkness, or the famine that wastes at noon of day.” More rapid in its progress, than the fabled RUMOR, it has swept away with indiscriminate fury the hoary reputation of the sage, the accomplished eloquence of the scholar, and the well earned laurels of the statesman. It has opened the flood gates of calumny, and spread a mighty deluge over the moral world. No character has been too high for its detraction; no glory too ancient for its sullying; no virtues too sure for its ravages. By a reverse of affinities, it has controlled the desiderate of philosophy, and transmuted the purest gold into the basest metal.---We are indeed told, and from high authority, that this is the rank and indigenous offspring of republicanism, which, like the Upas, changes everything, which approaches it, into inhospitable barrenness. But let those, whose artifices have willfully fomented our domestic dissensions, answer this by an appeal to their consciences. The flimsy pretext is too tenuous even to support a sunbeam. Through its gossomary folds no eye is too dim to perceive the chrysalis of royalty. It is a mere stalking puppet, to delude us of our liberties; a pantomimic ghost, “which frets its hour upon the stage,” to beguile us into hereditary government. Calumny is the promiscuous growth of every age and clime. Nothing but the purity of a well regulated public opinion, and the energy of a generous and corrective sympathy can crush its baleful progeny.
To attain this important end should be the first ambition of freemen. If private character cannot be secure; if individual enjoyment cannot be protected; if a life of consistent devotion to the public good cannot redeem reputation from insidious aspersion…in vain shall we account the blessings of liberty…in vain shall we allure to the charms of republicanism. Mankind will seek a silent oblivion under a yoke of bondage, rather than submit to such unequal contests. Let it therefore be our darling object to preserve the freedom of the press, unadulterated and unsuspected. While the vigor if its frame is unimpaired, and the sources of its nourishment unpolluted, we may bid defiance to the shocks of aristocracy and the pestilence of anarchy. The immortality of our Constitution, like the divine Calypso, will freshen and bloom through an eternity of youthful loveliness. The activity of its powers may sometimes produce a rapidity of motion to alarm and perplex; but it will only show that the springs of its life are elastic, and the harmony of its balances uninterrupted. Disastrous indeed would be the moment of its slumber. It would portend a lethargy, “whence there is no return.”
Let us then insure this glorious perpetuity by a generous confidence, coextensive with the legal requisitions of government. This confidence, too sacred for abuse, and too formidable for competition, will add temperance of action to honesty of design, and private honor to public felicity. Under the auspices of a candor, kind, yet watchful…serene, yet inflexible, union of sentiment will give an impulse to our national character ore uniform and irresistible than ever invigorated the usurpation of CESAR, or corrected the ambition of the BOURBONS.
Much might be done to allay our unnatural jealousies, if the good sense of the community were united in the effort. I well know that moderation is too often mistaken for timidity, and prudence for weakness. The fluctuating indecision of the wary and the subtle is truly detestable. It serves all times, and suits all seasons. It is a political Proteus; the moment it is within your grasp, its form is changed, and its powers annihilated. But the silent majesty of a mind, which unmoved by applause, and unawed by censure, steadily pursues the path of honorable patriotism, is the glory of human nature, because it is the glory of philosophy. Its moderation is the coolness of resolve; its prudence the active control of intellect; its decision the impressive maturity of judgment. Amid the storms of contention, it preserves its retired character; but roused by political sorcery, it comes forth, like Samuel, in the awfulness of prophesy, to direct, to denounce, and to subdue. Such were the minds of the venerable sages who conducted us to independence; and such are the minds destined to hush the temporary discords and harmonize the jarring elements of local prejudice. Public opinion will soon seek its natural level; and public jealousy melt away in the general happiness.
Let then the creed of our political faith be, inviolability to our constitutional rights and constitutional authorities. Removed from the turmoil’s of Europe, let us preserve the rights and assert the dignity of neutrality. Let us banish from our hearts the petty prejudices of States, and unite in a bold vindication of our national character. Let us cultivate peace and friendship with all mankind; but disown all foreign partialities, not founded on commerce and virtue. So may the blessings we possess descend to a grateful posterity; and in the patriotic language of the Venetian sage, our last prayers breathe for the Republic…cfto perpetua…may it be immortal.
SONG, composed by Mr. Story, and sung at the close of the performances in the Meeting House.
ALL hail to the day, when assembled as one,
Our gallant forefathers proclaimed us a nation;
When Liberty rose, as from chaos the Sun,
And illumined our realm with the rays of salvation;
Mid the tempest her voice
Bade her children rejoice,
And protect by their valor the laws of their choice;
Wake, sons of the brave; ere to tyrants ye bow,
Let your bones blanch the plains, where your fires urged the plough,
From Georgia to Maine on the wide wings of fame
Spread the zeal which inspired the sublime declaration,
Like lightening diffused, the bright patriot flame
Swept wild its career, and electrized the Nation:
Say, tyrants, the wind
With chains can ye bind,
As well might ye fetter the freeborn of mind:
Let the slave bite the dust, who to power bends the knee,
The Gods shall protect those, who dare to be free.
Enrolled by high heaven on the records of fate,
Stands the lofty decree, that through time shall endure:
All mortals are free, and their sacred estate
No prescription can bar, and no fiction obscure;
Their rights to maintain,
None shall struggle in vain,
No barter can change them, no edict restain;
Then perish the coward, who shrinks to a slave,
Heaven gives its rich blessings to nourish the brave,
Mid the perils of war, mid the darkness of death,
Led by wisdom our fires the drear wilds tracked laborious;
In vain famine and sickness shed pestilent breath,
They grew by defeat, and their zeal was victorious;
Lo, Liberty’s light
Through the tempest shone bright,
‘Twas their pillar by day, and their cloud by the night;
Let the brave ne’er despair, for though myriads oppose,
The arm nerved by freedom shall conquer all foes.
Immortal design! When the conquerors of old
Led their vassals to battle for plunder or glory.
How high beat the pulse when the victory was told,
Rehearsed by the bard in the grandeur of story;
While the paeans ascend,
Their sorrows they blend,
And pour o’er the fallen the tears of the friend:
How rich are the tears o’er the heroes we shed!
They cherish the virtues---they hallow the dead.
And shall Freemen be dumb, when in Liberty’s cause;
Her patriots have perished with holy devotion,
Unappalled in the dungeon, unswayed from the laws,
Though murder steamed hot from the pests of the ocean:
Or their country to save
Mid the battle’s dire rave
Have bled---and their laurels have covered their grave?---
While we mourn their sad doom---not unblest be the sigh,
‘Tis sweet---‘ tis sublime, for our country to die.
Shades of Heroes departed!---the perils ye bore,
The fame of your deeds to your offspring descending,
Shall swell through each vale and enkindle each shore,
From the spring of the morn to the day’s western ending:
Aroused by the sound
From his prison profound
The captive shall leap, and his chains feel unbound:
While true to your glory, the daring behest
“To die or be free” shall inspire every breast.
Where Liberty dwells, lo! What beauties arise,
Art, science and virtue enjoy her protection---
Even the soil feels fresh nurture distil from the skies,
And wooes to its bosom the fruits of perfection;
Beneath her mild reign
Commerce freights the free main,
And the Loves and the Graces disport on the plain.
Then crowd to her temples ye sons of the Brave---
‘Tis yours to preserve, what your forefathers gave.
While the bright Sun of empire ascends in the West,
And courts its young genius with smiles and caressings,
Be our realm an asylum, where Freedom may rest.
And the mild arts of peace diffuse wide their blessings,
So through ages untold
Shall our children behold
Pure seasons of glory and rapture unrolled;
Till time his last cycle through nature shall sweep,
And chaos return o’er the face of the deep.