Charles Sprague (1791-1875) was the son of a participant in the Boston Tea party. He worked in a mercantile (1804-1820), as a bank teller (1820-1824), and as a cashier (1824-1865). Sprague was most known for being a poet. The following oration was given by Sprague on July 4, 1825 in Boston.
ON MONDAY, FOURTH OF JULY, 1825, IN COMMENORATION
SUPREME EXECUTIVE OF THE COMMONWEALTH,
CITY COUNCIL AND INHABITANTS
THE CITY OF BOSTON.
BY CHARLES SPRAGUE.
Printed by Order of the City Council
Why, on this day, lingers along these sacred walls, the spirit-kindling anthem? Why, on this day, waits the herald of God at the altar, to utter forth his holy prayer? Why, on this day, congregate here the wise, and the good, and the beautiful of the land?---Fathers! Friends! It is the Sabbath Day of Freedom! The race of the ransomed, with grateful hearts and exulting voices, have again come up, in the sunlight of peace, to the Jubilee of their Independence!
The story of our country’s sufferings, our country’s triumphs, though often and eloquently told, is still a story that cannot tire, and must not be forgotten. You will listen to its recital, however unadorned; and I shall not fear, therefore, even from the place where your chosen ones have so long stood, to delight and enlighten, I shall not fear to address you. Though I tell you no new thing, I speak of that, which can never fall coldly on your ears. You will listen, for you are the sons and daughters of the heroic men, who lighted the beacon of “rebellion,” and unfurled, by its blaze, the triumphant banner of liberty; your own blood will speak for me. A feeble few of that intrepid band are now among you, yet spared by the grave for your veneration; they will speak for me. Undaunted men! How must their dim eyes brighten, and their old hearts grow young with rapture, as they look round on the happiness of their own creation. Long may they remain, our glad and grateful gaze, to teach us all, that we may treasure all, of the hour of doubt and danger; and when their God shall summon them to a glorious rest, may they bear to their departed comrades the confirmation of their country’s renown, and their children’s felicity.
We meet to indulge in pleasing reminiscences. One happy household, we have come round the table of memory, to banquet on the good deeds of others, and to grow good ourselves, by that on which we feed. Our hope for remembrance, our desire to remember friends and benefactors, are among the warmest and purest sentiments of our nature. To the former we cling stronger, as life itself grows weaker. We know that we shall forget, but the thought of being forgotten, is the death-knell to the spirit. Though our bodies moulder, we would have our memories live. When we are gone, we shall not hear the murmuring voice of affection, the grateful tribute of praise; still, we love to believe that voice will be raised, and that tribute paid. Few so humble, that they sink below, none so exalted, that they rise above, this common feeling of humanity. The shipwrecked sailor, thrown on a shore where human eye never lightened, before he scoops in the burning sand his last, sad resting-place, scratches on a fragment of his shattered bark the record of his fate, in the melancholy hope that is may someday be repeated to the dear ones, who have long looked out in vain for his coming. The laurelled warrior, whose foot has trodden on crowns, whose hand has divided empires, when he sinks on victory’s red field, and life flies hunted from each quivering vein, turns his last mortal thought on that life to come, his country’s brightest page.
The remembrance we so ardently desire, we render unto others. To those who are dear, we pay our dearest tribute. It is exhibited in the most simple, in the most sublime forms. We behold it in the child, digging a little grave for its dead favorite, and marking the spot with a willow twig and a tear. We behold it in the congregated nation, setting up on high its monumental pile to the mighty. We beheld it, lately, on that green plain, dyed with freedom’s first blood; on that proud hill, ennobled as freedom’s first fortress; when the tongues of the Eloquent, touched with creative fire, seemed to bid the dust beneath them live, and the long-buried come forth. We behold it now, here in this consecrated temple, where we have assembled to pay our annual debt of gratitude, to talk of the bold deeds of our ancestors, from the day of peril, when they wrestled with the savage for his birthright, to the day of glory, when they proclaimed a new charter to man, and gave a new nation to the world.
Roll back the tide of time: how powerfully to us applies the promise: “I will give thee the heathen for an inheritance.” Not many generations ago, where you now sit, circled with all that exalts and embellishes civilized life, the rank thistle nodded in the wind, and the wild fox dug his hole un-scared. Here lived and loved another race of beings. Beneath the same sun that rolls over your heads, the Indian hunter pursued the panting deer; gazing on the same moon that smiles for you, the Indian lover wooed his dusky mate. Here the wigwam blaze beamed on the tender and helpless, the council fire glared on the wise and daring. Now they dipped their noble limbs in your sedgy lakes, and now they paddled the light canoe along your rocky shores. Here they warred; the echoing whoop, the bloody grapple, the defying death-song, all were here; and when the tiger strife was over, here curled the smoke of peace. Here, too, they worshipped; and from many a dark bosom went up a pure prayer to the Great Spirit. He had not written His laws for them on tables of stone, but He had traced them on the tables of their hearts. The poor child of nature knew not the God of revelation, but the God of the universe he acknowledged in everything around. He beheld him in the star that sunk in beauty behind his lonely dwelling, in the sacred orb that flamed on him from his mid-day throne; in the flower that snapped in the morning breeze, in the lofty pine, that defied a thousand whirlwinds; in the timid warbler, that never left its native grove, in the fearless eagle, whose un-tired pinion was wet in clouds; in the worm that crawled at his foot, and in his own matchless form, glowing with a speak of that light, to whose mysterious source he bent, in humble, though blind adoration.
And all this has passed away. Across the ocean came a pilgrim bark, bearing the seeds of life and death. The former were sown for you, the latter sprang up in the path of the simple native. Two hundred years have changed the character of a great continent, and blotted forever from its face a whole, peculiar people. Art has usurped the bowers of nature, and the anointed children of education have been too powerful for the tribes of the ignorant. Here and there, a stricken few remain, but how unlike their bold, untamed, untamable progenitors! The Indian, of falcon glance, and lion bearing, the theme of the touching ballad, the hero of the pathetic tale, is gone! And his degraded offspring crawl upon the soil where he walked in majesty, to remind us how miserable is man, when the foot of the conqueror is on his neck.
As a race, they have withered from the land. Their arrows are broken, their springs are dried up, their cabins are in the dust. Their council fire has long since gone out on the shore, and their war-cry is fast dying to the un-trodden west. Slowly and sadly they climb the distant mountains, and read their doom in the setting sun. They are shrinking before the mighty tide which is pressing them away; they must soon hear the roar of the last wave, which will settle over them forever. Ages hence, the inquisitive white man, as he stands by some growing city, will ponder on the structure of their disturbed remains, and wonder to what manner of person they belonged. They will live only in the songs and chronicles of their exterminators. Let these be faithful to their rude virtues as men, and pay due tribute to their unhappy fate as a people.
To the Pious, who, in this desert region built a city of refuge, little less than to the Brave, who round that city reared an impregnable wall of safety, we owe the blessings of this day. To enjoy, and to perpetuate religious freedom, the sacred herald of civil liberty, they deserted their native land, where the foul spirit of persecution was up in its fury, and where mercy had long wept at the enormities perpetrated in the abused names of Jehovah and Jesus. “Resist unto blood!” blind zealots had found in the Bible, and lamentably indeed, did they fulfill the command. With “Thus says the Lord,” the engines of cruelty were set in motion, and many a martyr spirit, like the ascending prophet from Jordan’s bank, escaped in fire to heaven.
It was in this night of time, when the incubus of bigotry sat heavy on the human soul:
When crown and crosier ruled a coward world,
And mental darkness o’er the nations curled,
When, wrapped in sleep, earth’s torpid children lay,
Hugged their vile chains, and dreamed their age away,
“Twas then, by faith impelled, by freedom fired,
By hope supported, and by God inspired,
“Twas then the Pilgrims left their fathers’ graves,
To seek a Home beyond the waste of waves;
And where it rose, all rough and wintry, here,
They swelled devotion’s song, and dropped devotion’s tear.
Can we sufficiently admire the firmness of this little brotherhood, thus self-banished from their country? Unkind and cruel, it was true, but still their country? There they were born, and there, where the lamp of life was lighted, they had hoped it would go out. There a father’s hand had led them, a mother’s smile had warmed them. There were the haunts of their boyish days, their kinsfolk, their friends, their recollections, their all. Yet all was left; even while their heartstrings bled at the parting, all was left; and a stormy sea, a savage waste, and a fearful destiny, were encountered for Heaven, and for You.
It is easy enough to praise, when success has sanctified the act; and to fancy that we, too, could endure a heavy trial, which is to be followed by a rich reward. But before the deed is crowned, while the doers are yet about us, bearing like ourselves the common infirmities of the flesh, we stand aloof, and are not always ready to discern the spirit that sustains and exalts them. When centuries of experience have rolled away, we laud the exploit on which we might have frowned, if we had lived with those, who left their age behind to achieve it. We read of empires founded, and people redeemed, of actions embalmed by time, and hallowed by romance; and our hearts leap at the lofty recital: we feel it would be a glorious thing to snatch the laurels of immortal fame. But it is in the day of doubt, when the result is hidden in clouds, when danger stands in every path, and death is lurking in every corner; it is then, that the men who are born for great occasions, start boldly from the world’s trembling multitude, and swear to “do, or die!”
Such men were they who peopled; such men, too, were they who preserved these shores. Of these latter giant spirits, who battled for independence, we are to remember, that destruction awaited defeat. They were “rebels,” obnoxious to the fate of “rebels.” They were tearing asunder the ties of loyalty, and hazarding all the sweet endearments of social and domestic life. They were un-friended, weak, and wanting. Going thus forth, against a powerful and vindictive foe, what could they dare to hope? What had they not to dread? They could not tell, but that vengeance would hunt them down, and infamy hang its black scutcheon over their graves. They did not know that the angel of the Lord would go forth with them, and smite the invaders of their sanctuary. They did not know that generation after generation would, on this day, rise up and call them blessed; that the sleeping quarry would leap forth to pay them voiceless homage; that their names would be handed down, from father to son, the penman’s theme, and the poet’s inspiration; challenging, through countless years, the jubilant praises of an emancipated people, and the plaudits of an admiring world! No! They knew, only that the arm which should protect, was oppressing them, and they shook it off; that the chalice presented to their lips was a poisoned one, and they dashed it away. They knew only, that a rod was stretched over them for their audacity; and beneath this they vowed never to bend, while a single pulse could beat the larum to “rebellion.” That rod must be broken, or they must bleed! And it was broken! Led on by their Washington, the heroes went forth. Clothed in the panoply of a righteous cause, they went forth boldly. Guarded by a good providence, hey went forth triumphantly. The labored, that we might find rest: they fought, that we might enjoy peace; they conquered, that we might inherit freedom!
You will not now expect a detail of the actions of that eventful struggle. To the annalists of your country belongs the pleasing task of tracing the progress of a revolution, the purest in its origin, and the most stupendous in its consequences, that ever gladdened the world. To their fidelity we commit he wisdom which planned, and the valor which accomplished it. The dust of every contested mound, of every rescued plain, will whisper to them their duty, for it is dust that breathed and bled; the hallowed dust of men who would be free, or nothing.
There, in the sweet hour of eventide, the child of sentiment will linger, and conjure up their martyr forms. Heroes, with their garments rolled in blood, will marshal round him. The thrilling fife-note, the drum’s heart-kindling beat, will again run down the shadowy ranks; the short, commanding word, the fatal volley, the dull death-groan, the glad hurrah! Again will break on his cheated ear. The battle that sealed his country’s fate, his country’s freedom, will rage before him in all its dreadful splendor. And when the airy pageant of his fancy fades in the gathering mists, he will turn his footsteps from the sacred field, with a warmer gratitude, and a deeper reverence for the gallant spirits who resigned dear life, in defense of life’s dear blessing.
The “feelings, manners, and principles” which led to the declaration of the fourth of July, ’76, shine forth in the memorable language of its great author. He and his bold brethren proclaimed that all men were created equal, and endowed by their Creator with the right of liberty; that for the security of this right government was instituted, and that, when it violated its trust, the governed might abolish it. That crisis, they declared, had arrived; and the injuries and usurpations of the parent country were no longer to be endured. Recounting the dark catalogue of abuses which they had suffered, and appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of their intentions; in the name, and by the authority of the people, he only fountain of legitimate power, they shook off forever their allegiance to the British crown, and pronounced the united colonies an Independent Nation!
What their “feelings, manners and principles” led them to publish, their wisdom, valor, and perseverance enabled them to establish. The blessings secured by the Pilgrims and the Patriots, have descended to us. In the virtue and intelligence of the inheritors we confide for their duration. They who attained them have left us their example, and bequeathed us their blood. We shall never forget the one, unless we prove recreant to the other. On the Dorick columns of religious and civil liberty, a majestic temple has been reared, and they who dwell within its walls, will never bow in bondage to man, till they forget to bend in reverence to God.
The achievement of American Independence was not merely the separation of a few obscure colonies from their parent realm; it was the practical annunciation to created man, that he was created free! And it will stand in history, the epoch from which to compute the real duration of political liberty. Intolerance and tyranny had for ages leagued to keep their victim down. While the former could remain the pious guardian of his conscience, the latter knew it had nothing to fear from his courage. He was theirs, soul and body. His intellectual energies were paralyzed, that he might not behold the corruptions of the church; and his physical powers were fettered, that he could not rise up against the abuses of the state. Thus centuries of darkness rolled away. Light broke, from time to time, but it only served to show the surrounding clouds; bright stars, here and there, looked out, but they were the stars of a gloomy night. At length, the morning dawned, when one generation of your ancestors willed that none but their Maker should guide them in their duty as Christians; and the perfect day shone forth, when another declared that from none but their Maker would they derive their immunities as men. The world had seen the former secure a privilege, whose original denial would have left their faith asleep in its founder’s sepulcher; and they now beheld the latter in the enjoyment of rights, without which, their freedom would have been palsied at the footstool of a monarch’s throne.
If, in remembering the oppressed, you think the oppressors ought not to be forgotten, I might urge that the splendid result of the great struggle should fully reconcile us to the madness of those, who rendered that struggle necessary. I can almost forgive the presumption which “declared” its right “to bind the American colonies,” for it was woefully expiated by the humiliation which “acknowledged” those same “American colonies” to be “Sovereign and Independent States.” The immediate workers, too of that political iniquity have passed away. The mildew of shame will forever feed upon their memories, and a brand has been set upon their deeds, that even time’s all gnawing tooth can never destroy. But they have passed away; and of all the millions they misruled, the millions they would have misruled, how few remain! Another race is there to lament the folly, another here to magnify the wisdom, that cut the knot of empire. Shall these inherit and entail everlasting enmity? Like the Carthagenian Hamilear, shall we come up hither with our children, and on this holy altar swear the pagan oath of undying hate? Even our goaded fathers disdained this. Let us fulfill their words, and prove to the people of England, that, “in peace,” we know how to treat them “as friends.” They have been twice told that, “in war,” we know how to meet them “as enemies;” and they will hardly ask another lesson, for it may be, that when the third trumpet shall sound, a voice will echo along their sea-girt cliffs: “The Glory has departed!”
Some few of their degenerate ones, tainting the bowers where they sit, decry the growing greatness of a land they will not love; and others, after eating from our basket, and drinking from our cup, go home to pour forth the senseless libel against a people, at whose firesides they were warmed. But a few pens, dipped in gall, will not retard our progress; let not a few tongues, festering in falsehood, disturb our repose. We have those among us, who are able both to pare the talons of the kite, and pull out the fangs of the viper; who can lay bare, for the disgust of all good men, the gangrene of the insolent reviewer, and inflict such a cruel mark on the back of the mortified runaway, as will long take from him the blessed privilege of being forgotten.
These high and low detractors speak not, we trust, the feelings of their nation. Time, the great corrector, is there fast enlightening both ruler and ruled. They are treading in our steps, and gradually, though slowly, pulling up their ancient religious and political landmarks. Yielding to the liberal spirit of the age, a spirit born and fostered here, they are not only loosening their own long riveted shackles, but are raising the voice of encouragement, and extending the hand of assistance, to the “rebels” of other climes.
In spite of all that has passed, we owe England much; and even on this occasion, standing in the midst of my generous-minded countrymen, I may fearlessly, willingly, acknowledge the debt. We owe England much. Nothing for her martyrdoms, nothing for her proscriptions; nothing for the innocent blood with which she has stained the white robes of religion and liberty. These claims our Fathers cancelled, and her monarch rendered them and theirs a full acquittal forever. But for the living treasures of her mind, garnered up and spread abroad for centuries, by her great and gifted; who that has drank at the sparkling streams of her poetry, who that has drawn from the deep fountains of her wisdom; who that speaks, and reads, and thinks her language, will be slow to own his obligation? One of your purest, ascended patriots, 1 he, who compassed sea and land for liberty, whose early voice for her echoed round yonder consecrated hall, who dying accents for her went up in solitude and suffering from the ocean; when he sat down to bless with the last token of a father’s remembrance, the Son, who wears his mantle with his name, bequeathed him the recorded lessons of England’s best and wisest, and sealed the legacy of love with a prayer, whose full accomplishment we live to witness: “that the spirit of Liberty might rest upon him.”
While we bring our offerings for the mighty of our own land, shall we not remember the chivalrous spirits of other shores, who shared with them the hour of weakness and woe? Pile to the clouds the majestic columns of glory, let the lips of those who can speak well, hallow each spot where the bones of your Bold repose; but forget not those who with your Bold went out to battle.
Among these men of noble daring, there was One, a young and gallant stranger, who left the blushing vine-hills of his delightful France. The people whom he came to succor, were not his people; he knew them only in the wicked story of their wrongs. He was no mercenary wretch, striving for the spoil of the vanquished; the palace acknowledged him for its lord, and the valley yielded him its increase. He was no nameless man, staking life for reputation; he ranked among nobles, and looked un-awed upon kings. He was no friendless outcast, seeking for a grave to hide his cold heart; he was girdled by the companions of his childhood, his kinsmen were about him, his wife was before him.
Yet from all these he turned away, and came. Like a lofty tree, that shakes down its green glories, to battle with the winter storm, he flung aside the trappings of place and pride, to crusade for freedom, in freedom’s holy land. He came; but not in the day of successful rebellion, not when the new-risen sun of independence had burst the cloud of time, and careered to its place in the heavens. He came when darkness curtained the hills, and the tempest was abroad in its anger; when the plough stood still in the field of promise, and briars cumbered the garden of beauty; when fathers were dying, and mothers were weeping over them; when the wife was binding up the gashed bosom of her husband, and the maiden was wiping the death-damp from the brow of her lover. He came when the brave began to fear the power of man, and the pious to doubt the favor of God.
It was then, that this One joined the ranks of a revolted people. Freedom’s little phalanx bade him a grateful welcome. With them he courted the battle’s rage, with theirs his arm was lifted, with theirs his blood was shed. Long and doubtful was the conflict. At length, kind heaven smiled on the good cause, and the beaten invaders fled. The profane were driven from the temple of liberty, and, at her pure shrine, the pilgrim warrior, with his adored Commander, knelt and worshipped. Leaving there his offering, the incense of an uncorrupted spirit, he at length rose up, and crowned with benedictions, turned his happy feet towards his long deserted home.
After nearly fifty years, that One has come again. Can mortal tongue tell, can mortal heart feel, the sublimity of that coming? Exulting millions rejoice in it, and their loud, long, transporting shout, like the mingling of many winds, rolls on, undying, to freedom’s farthest mountains. A congregated nation comes round him. The lovely come out to look upon him, the learned deck their halls to greet him, the rulers of the land rise up to do him homage. How his full heart labors! He views the rusting trophies of departed days, he treads the high places where his brethren moulder, he bends before the tomb of his “Father:” his words are tears; the speech of sad remembrance. But he looks round upon a ransomed land, and a joyous race, he beholds the blessings those trophies secured, for which those brethren died, for which that “Father” lived; and again his words are tears; the eloquence of gratitude and joy.
Spread forth creation like a map; bid earth’s dead multitudes revive; and of all the pageant splendors that ever glittered to the sun, when looked his burning eye on a sight like this? Of all the myriads that have come and gone, what cherished minion ever ruled an hour like this? Many have struck the redeeming blow for their own freedom, but who, like this man, has bared his bosom in the cause of strangers? Others have lived in the love of their own people, but who, like this man, has drank his sweetest cup of welcome with another? Matchless chief! Of glory’s immortal tablets, there is one for him, for him alone! Oblivion shall never shroud its splendor; the everlasting flame of liberty shall guard it, that the generations of men may repeat the name recorded there, the beloved name of Lafayette!
They who endured the burden of the conflict, are fast going to their rest. Every passing gale sighs over another veteran’s grave, and ere long, the last sage, and the last old soldier of the revolution, will be seen no more. Soon, too soon, will you seek in vain for even one, who can tell you of that day of stout hearts and strong hands. You lately beheld, on yonder glorious hill, a group of ancient men, baring their grey heads beneath the blaze of heaven; but never more at such a sight will your grateful hearts grow soft. These will never again assemble on earth. They have stood together in war, they have congregated in peace, their next meeting will be in the fields of eternity. They must shortly sleep in the bosom of the land they redeemed, and in that land’s renown will alone be their remembrance.
Let us cherish those who remain to link the living with the dead. Of these, let one thought, today, rest on him, whose pen and fame this day has rendered immortal. With him, too, now that the bitter feuds of a bitter hour are forgotten, we may associate another, the venerable successor of our Washington . Here broke his morning radiance, and here yet linger his evening beams.
“Sure the last end of the good man is peace!
“Night dews fall not more gently to the ground,
“Nor weary, worn-out winds expire so soft.
“Behold him, in the eventide of life,
“A life, well spent!
“By unperceived degrees he wears away,
“Yet, like the sun, seems larger at his setting!”
I look round in vain for two of your exalted patriots, who, on your last festival-day, sat here in the midst of you; for him, who then worthily wore the highest honors you could bestow, who in your name greeted your Nation’s Guest, and took him by the hand and wept: for him, too, who devoted to your service a youth of courage, and an age of counsel; who long ruled over you in purity and wisdom, and then, gently shaking off his dignities, retired to his native shades, laden with your love. They have both passed away, and the tongues that bade the “Apostle of Liberty” welcome, will never bid him farewell.
In the place of the Fathers shall be the children. To the seat which Eustis and Brooks adorned, the people of this state have united to elevate one, whom they have often delighted to honor. He sits where they sat, who were laboring in the vineyard before he was born. His name adds another bright stud to the golden scutcheon of the Commonwealth. While his heart warms with honest pride at the confidence so flatteringly reposed in him, he will wisely remember what that confidence expects from him, in the discharge of his high trust. Chosen by all, he will govern for all; and thus sustaining his well-earned reputation, may he live long in the affection of a generous people.
I shall not omit, on this occasion, to congratulate you on the result of an election, which has recently raised to the highest station in your republic, one of your most distinguished citizens. While, however, the ardent wishes of so many have been crowned by this gratifying event, it is not to be forgotten, that there are those among us, men of pure and patriotic minds, who responded not Amen, to the general voice. I should be ashamed of the feelings which would insult theirs, by an unworthy exultation. The illustrious individual whom the representatives of the nation have pronounced “most worthy,” would be the first to frown upon it, as he has ever been among the first to acknowledge the merits of his exalted competitors. To the high minded friends of these, in common with us all, this day and its rites belong; and I cannot violate the trust confided to me, I will not subject myself to a pang of regret, by the indulgence of language, which should send a single being from this place, with a less joyous spirit than he entered it. It is safer to be dull than bitter, and I had rather you would all be willing to forget the labor of this hour in charity, than that one among you should feel compelled to remember it in unkindness.
I have alluded to this event, not merely for the purpose of obtruding upon you the expression of personal gratification, but because it offers another striking proof of the stability of our free institutions. Since the strife of 1800, we have not witnessed so violent a contest as this, through which we have lately passed; yet now, how quiet are become the elements of discord. With a praiseworthy forbearance, all, or nearly all, have bowed to the expression of the public will, and seem determined, in the words of one of his accomplished rivals, to judge the ruler of the nation “by his measures.”
While this spirit triumphs, we have nothing to dread from the animosities of party. However turbulent, they will be harmless. Like the commotions of the physical world, they will be necessary. Far distant be the day, when it must be said of this country, that it has no parties, for it must be also said, if anyone be bold enough to say it, that it has no liberties. Let hawk-eyed jealousy be forever on the alert, to watch the footsteps of power. Let it be courteous in language, but stern and unbending in principle. Whoever he may be, wherever he may be, that would strike at the people’s rights, let him hear the people’s voice, proclaiming that “whom it will, it can set up, and whom it will, it can set down.”
Fear not party zeal, it is the salt of your existence. There are no parties under a despotism. There, no man lingers round a ballot-box; no man drinks the poison of a licentious press; no man plots treason at a debating society; no man distracts his head about the science of government. All there, is a calm, unruffled sea; even a dead sea of black and bitter waters. But we move upon a living stream, forever pure, forever rolling. Its mighty tide sometimes flows higher, and rushes faster, than its want, and as it bounds, and foams, and dashes along in sparkling violence, it now and then throws up its fleecy cloud; but this rises only to disappear, and as it fades away before the sunbeams of intelligence and patriotism, you behold upon its bosom the rainbow signal of returning peace, arching up to declare that there is no danger.
And now, it is no vain speech, to say, the eyes of the world have been long upon us. For nearly fifty years we have run the glorious race of empire. Friends have gazed in fear, and foes in scorn; but fear is lost in joy, and scorn is turning to wonder. The great experiment has succeeded. Mankind behold the spectacle of a land, whose crown is wisdom, whose miter is purity, whose heraldry is talent; a land, where public sentiment is supreme, and where every man may erect the pyramid of his own fair fame. They behold, they believe, and they will imitate. The day is coming, when thrones can no longer be supported by parchment rolls. It is not a leaf of writing, signed and sealed by three frail, mortal men, that can forever keep down suffering millions; these will rise! They will point to another scroll; to that, of whose bold signers our Three 2 remain; our Three, whose “alliance” was, indeed, a “holy” one, for it met the approving smile of a Holy God!
And to this young land will belong the praise. The struggling nations point to our example, and in their own tongues repeat the cheering language of our sympathy. Already, when a master-spirit towers among them, they call him---their Washington. Along the foot of the Andes, they breathe in gratitude the name of Clay; by the ivy-buried ruins of the Parthenon, they bless the eloquence of Webster!
Fellow Citizens, my imperfect task is ended. I have told you an old tale, but you will forgive that, for it is one of your country’s glory. You will forgive me that I have spoken of the simple creatures who were here from the beginning, for it was to tell you how much had been wrought for you by Piety: you will forgive me that I have lingered round the green raves of the dead, for it was to remind you how much had been achieved for you by Patriotism. Forgive me, did I say? Would you have forgiven me, if I had not done this? Could I, ought I, to have wasted this happy hour in cold and doubtful speculation, while your bosoms were bounding with the holy throb of gratitude.? Oh! No; it was not for that you can up hither. The groves of learning, the halls of wisdom, you have deserted; the crowded mart, the chambers of beauty, you have made solitary---that here, with free, exulting voices, before the only throne at which the free can bend, your hearts might pour forth their full, gushing tribute to the benefactors of your country.
On that country heaven’s highest blessings are descending. I would not, for I need not, use the language of inflation; but the decree has gone forth; and as sure as the blue arch of creation is in beauty above us, so sure will it span the mightiest dominion that ever shook the earth. Imagination cannot outstrip reality, when it contemplates our destinies as a people. Where nature slept in her solitary loveliness, villages, and cities, and states, have smiled into being. A gigantic nation has been born. Labor and art are adorning, and science is exalting, the land that religion sanctified, and liberty redeemed. From the shores to the mountains, from the regions of frost to the valleys of eternal spring, myriads of bold and understanding men are uniting to strengthen a government of their own choice, and perpetuate the institutions of their own creation.
The germe wafted over the ocean, has struck its deep root in the earth, and raised its high head to the clouds.
Man looked in scorn, but Heaven beheld, and blessed
Its branchy glories spreading o’er the West.
No summer gaude, the wonder of a day,
Born but to bloom, and then to fade away,
A giant oak, it lifts its lofty form,
Greens in the sun, and strengthens in the storm.
Long in its shade shall children’s children come,
And welcome earth’s poor wanderers to a home.
Long shall it live, and every blast defy,
Till time’s last whirlwind sweep the vaulted sky.
1. See Life of Josiah Quincy, Jr., by his Son, Josiah Quincy, Mayor of Boston. (Return)
2. John Adams, Charles Carroll, Thomas Jefferson—the surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence.(Return)