This oration was given by Ira Barton on July 4, 1822 at Oxford.
DELIVERED AT OXFORD,
BY IRA BARTON.
As the following oration was delivered memoriter, it is probable that those who heard it, will discover that there are some slight variations from what it was as originally pronounced. It was written, principally, for an audience of intelligent, republican farmers. Its object is what ought to be the object of all our fourth of July orations, to inculcate the republican principles, and to cherish the patriotic spirit of ’76, and not the party spirit of 1814, which brought our country to the verge of destruction. If it shall have a tendency to elevate the sentiments of our youth above contracted, political prejudices, and to give them a correct sense of the means necessary to support and perpetuate our free institutions, the author will not regret any sacrifices he may make by giving it publication.
God said, let America be free; and America was free. The sentence of our emancipation was pronounced, and from injured provinces of Great Britain, we became these independent, United States of America. This, my Friends and Fellow citizens, is the great and joyous event we are assembled to commemorate. It is our nation’s jubilee. The birthday of our Republic. That August anniversary, which will continue to be honored and celebrated by grateful millions, when all who are now full of life, and joy, and gladness, shall have travelled to the land of silence. On this sublime occasion, let every sentiment of our heart be pure and elevated. Let age, venerable for virtue and valor, dignify our assemblies. Let youth assume the firmness and sobriety of manhood. Let the war-worn veteran, leaning upon his staff, cast a retrospective glance through the long vista of departed years, and rehearse the heroic deeds of our Revolution. And, when he shall have finished his proud story, when, in the joy and exultation of his soul, he shall have forgotten that his head is whitened by the snows of four-score winters, let him exclaim, in the language of the Trojan hero,
“All that I’ve seen, and part of which I was;
Not e’en the hardest of our foes could hear,
Nor stern Ulysses tell without a tear.”
Listening youth shall hang upon his accents, and catch the inspiration of patriotism. True, we did not witness those feats of Spartan valor and republican virtue. We do not remember that portentous era, when our country’s existence depended upon the energy of her arms; when the heavens seemed shrouded in darkness, and every breeze sighed death; when the infamous Pitcairn first dared pronounce the opprobrious mandate, “Disperse, rebels!” and the life-blood of our best citizens crimsoned the green fields of Lexington. We did not hear the appalling cry of “War!” which, with the rapidity of lightening, was echoed from every hamlet in America. And O we did not see our fathers, when, leaving their teams afield, they in frantic rage girded on their rude habiliments of war, and, tearing themselves from all the sacred endearments of home, hastened to meet death and immortality on the ensanguined heights of Charlestown. These are things, which the youth of our country never saw, and never can see. But we have taught them from the glowing narrative of tradition; we have read them on the deathless page of history. We deeply sympathize in those ardent sentiments of liberty, which nerved and supported the fathers of our Revolution. And, like the youthful Hannibal, we have this day come up to the altar of our country, to swear eternal hostility to the enemies of our freedom, and to pledge in its defense “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Among the numerous subjects of congratulation, which crowd upon the attention on this joyous occasion, it is difficult to fix upon any single topic for regular and logical discussion. The mind, warmed and elevated by the glowing sentiments of freedom, delights to expatiate free as the air we breathe. It delights, especially, to glance upon those brilliant points in our history, that mark the way through which we have ascended, to the sublime eminence we at present occupy amongst the nations of the earth. We are almost involuntarily led to notice that memorable era, when the immortal Columbus announced the existence of a new world. Nor content with this, the imagination delights to wander back still farther into the untold ages of antiquity. We inquire with an ardent curiosity, who then tenanted this immense continent of America? Who then inhabited the banks of our majestic rivers? Who roamed over the summits of our stupendous mountains? Who, for centuries and centuries, had gazed upon the beautiful and magnificent scenery, which nature here exhibited. “Our fathers,” is the reply of the proud chieftain of the wilderness. “Our fathers, whom you robbed of their rightful inheritance---Our fathers, who descended from heaven with the thunderbolt---Our Fathers, who were fostered on the mountain by the Great Spirit.” Alas! All the pride of philosophy and history, can furnish us answers no more satisfactory, than those of the unlettered, enthusiastic Indian. We never can know the origin and history of that warlike and mysterious race of men, who once sported on our hills, and whose rude wigwams are supplanted by our domestic altars.
The consequences resulting to the world from the discovery of America, were in the highest degree important. Europe, at that period, was sunk to the lowest point of moral and political degradation. Ever since her warlike hordes had trampled upon the glories of imperial Rome, and gorged themselves with the blood of the ancient civilized world, they had either slept quietly under the Upas shades of despotism, or exhausted their energies, in the civil wars and domestic feuds of their princes. If we except the Asiatic Crusades, those everlasting monuments of the ignorance and barbarity of the ages in which they originated, not a single foreign enterprise was prosecuted, till that of Columbus. The darkness of midnight had, for centuries, overspread the whole European continent. From the Frozen ocean, in the north, to the Mediterranean in the south; from the mountains of Ural and the Black sea to the Atlantic, all presented one broad, dreary waste. There was not a spot, upon which the eye could fix with pleasure. There was not a single region, where Liberty had erected her altar, or Science consecrated her temples. If a murmur of liberty arose, it was instantly drowned by the thunders of the Vatican. Or if a ray of science shot forth, it was extinguished as dangerous to religion. Such was the degraded situation of Europe, when Columbus, the immortal benefactor of man, announced the discovery of America. The intelligence, like an electric shock, first gave a spring to the dormant energies of Europe. Her partial emancipation from the thralldom of Popery, and the Revival of Letters, followed in quick succession. And from these great events, we might trace the progress of that spirit of enterprise, and those high sentiments of civil and religious liberty, which have meliorated the condition of Europe, and which finally burst forth in all their beauty and excellence, in the glorious war of our Independence. Had it not been for the prevalence of those high sentiments, your forefathers would have remained the willing subjects of the arbitrary Stuarts. They never would have left the shores of their native England. America would now have been one immense wilderness. And you, my fellow citizens, instead of being the independent yeomanry of New England, would now be the abject peasantry of Great Britain. Thanks to God, who inspired our forefathers with the love of liberty, and hardened the heart of the British Pharaohs to drive them to this promised Canaan.
It is our duty, on this anniversary, to offer the sacrifice of gratitude, to the memory of those intrepid adventurers, who first settled our country. And, while we forgive them the crime of religious intolerance, which, astonishing as it may now appear, was in their age considered as a cardinal virtue, let us pay them that tribute of respect, which their heroic magnanimity deserves. It is curious to observe, how similar was their character to that of their posterity, who achieved our Independence. That same free-born spirit, which impelled them to fly their native country, and to seek an asylum from oppression in the haunts of savages, prompted their more powerful descendants to repel the encroachments of tyranny, and to view undismayed the approaching storm of the Revolution. That intrepid band of sufferers, who first stepped upon the Plymouth rock, had they been contemporaries of Washington, would have been found fighting under his standard, with the firmness of a Warrren, and the determined bravery of a Putnam. Our whole colonial history is a standing evidence, of the high military character of the colonists. Who, by their valor, awed the innumerable hordes of warlike savages, that claimed this country as their exclusive inheritance? Who dragged the tyrant Andros from his palace, and imprisoned him in the castle at Boston? Who seized upon the strong hold of Louisburg? Who repeatedly chastised the armies of France, which hunt upon our frontiers? It was your forefathers, while they were yet British subjects. These exiled children of the woods, had already attained to the strength and stature of manhood. And, by their deeds of warlike enterprise, were forewarning their unnatural stepmother, of the approaching scenes of the Revolution.
The colonies of Greece and Rome were protected by the arms, and governed by the laws of their parent countries. But the British colonies in America, were almost wholly neglected by the parent country, till their power and wealth had become objects of her fear and ambition. Then it was that England, with the kindest solicitude, proffered her parental protection. But it was that protection, which is death to the protected. It was exercised by oppressing us with Stamp Acts, and Tea Acts, and Boston Port Acts. By filling our towns with British regulars, and murdering our citizens in time of peace. If a murmur of discontent arose on the part of the colonies, it was hushed by the soothing admonition of England, that “we were her children, and had contracted a large debt of filial gratitude.” The spirit of the colonies was aroused at these accumulated injuries and insults. They, contracted a debt of filial gratitude?” They, the children of England?” No! They were a deserted foundling. They were left upon a rock in the wilderness. They were fanned by the northern blasts. Like Romulus and Remus, they were fostered by savages and wild beasts. They had no father but Heaven that protected, no mother but the Earth that sustained them. Yet these were the men, whose rights, a stupid British ministry thought they might violate with impunity. Men, who had long been disciplined in the school of virtue and heroic enterprise. Men, who by experience had acquired all the arts of self-government, and whose spirits were unbending as the oaks on their native mountains. But nothing could divert England, from her mad scheme of subjugating her colonies. The immortal Chatham, in accents solemn as the responses of an oracle, told her infatuated ministry,---“You cannot conquer America.” The thunder of Bunker echoed across the Atlantic, in accents still more audible,---“You cannot conquer America.” But all in vain. Injury was added to injury, and insult to insult. Our country was plundered. Our towns were laid in ashes. Our coasts were covered with hostile fleets, filled with British regulars and foreign mercenaries. Everything portended destruction to America. At this momentous crisis, a voice was heard, terrible as that which spoke from cloud-capt Sinai,---“You shall not conquer America.” It was the united voice of millions, who had sworn to live free or die. Its echo rolled along the Allegany from St. Mary’s to the Lakes,---“You shall not conquer America.” It was the united voice of millions, who had sworn to live free or die. Its echo rolled along the Allegany from St. Mary’s to the Lakes,---“You shall not conquer America.” The American Eagle, armed with his own thunders, now soared to his native regions, never to rest from his proud flight, till the establishment of American Independence. The British Lion lost his generosity, and assumed the desperate ferocity of the Tiger. War, always horrible, put on its most appalling aspect, and our beloved country became one vast Aceldama. It was during these times, that Washington, like a Michael sent from Heaven, appeared in all his majestic greatness. His mighty soul was equal to every exigency. It rose superior to every embarrassment. Aided by his brave compeers, he triumphed over the enemies of his country; he gave her Independence; he enjoys his reward with the blessed benefactors of man.
While the heroes of our Revolution were fighting the battles of liberty, the immortal Congress of ’76 were laying the foundation for our political existence, and future prosperity. It is grateful to turn from the terrific scenes of war, and to contemplate this great, national council, which united the wisdom of the Grecian Legislators, to the dignity of the Roman Senate. What a scene must this August body have presented, on that memorable fourth of July, when they asserted our Independence, and hurled defiance to the gigantic power of the British throne. A scene solemn as death, momentous as eternity. Imagine yourselves for a moment as present. Mark the deep and godlike awe, which pervaded every countenance; the fixed and stern resolution, that beamed from every eye. Observe the inflexible firmness of the presiding genius, Hancock; the invincible ardour of the Adamses; the sublime dignity of the immortal sage, who had vanquished the artillery of heaven. In the midst, see the great Jefferson, holding in his hand the sacred parchment, the declaration of our Independence. Hear the decisive question. Shall we set our hands to this declaration, which must prove either the charter of our liberties, or he warrant for our execution? A universal murmur is heard,---We will. They breathe a prayer to God for support; it is heard in Heaven’s Chancery, and the recording Angel smiled approbation.
It is not my intention, on the present occasion, to pronounce an eulogium on the heroes and sages, to whom we are indebted for our Independence. It would be futile. Their fame is established. Envy cannot blacken it; admiration cannot increase its luster. They were not like the meteor, which, for a moment blazes, astonishes, and is forgotten; but they are like a celestial Constellation. They will continue to shine with all their beauty and brilliancy, till that dread day, when all shall be involved in the general “crush of worlds.”
The period, which has elapsed since our Revolution, has been marked by events the most important and astonishing. We have seen the world lit up by one general flame of war. New nations have sprung into existence; others have been annihilated. Kings have been made beggars, and beggars have been made kings. Ancient institutions have been subverted. Anarchy has reared her thousand gorgon heads, and military despots have triumphed in the general confusion. All together, exhibiting a scene of horror and desolation, which the world never before witnessed. But, like the earthquake in the natural world, this general convulsion has had its beneficial effects. It has aroused the lower ranks of society in Europe, to a sense of their importance in the great political machine. They have made an almost universal effort, to recover those natural and unalienable rights, which, for centuries, had been sacrificed at the shrine of feudal aristocracy. Monarchs have been compelled to listen to the complaints of their subjects. The Cortes of Spain and Portugal have been assembled. The principles of our free constitution, have been adopted by several of the States of Germany. And even France, notwithstanding all she has suffered at the hands of a succession of oppressors, at present enjoys a far greater degree of civil liberty, than she did before her Revolution. She has a republican code 1 of laws in full operation. Her landed aristocracies 2 are broken down. And her peasantry, instead of being bought and sold, as formerly, with the land upon which they live, have become independent freeholders. Add to these, the consideration, that the principal European Universities 3 have become so many literary Republics, and we shall be authorized to conjecture, that the time is not far distant, when Europe will become essentially republican. I am aware, that the allied Sovereigns are making a desperate effort, to repress the growing spirit of liberty. The melancholy fate of Naples evinces this fact. The northern Xerxes stands ready, with his hosts, to frown the boldest spirits into submission. His gigantic power is extremely dangerous to the liberties of Europe. “England’s fast anchored isle,” has reason to tremble in view of it. England, infatuated England, that exhausted her energies in prostrating the power of France, seemed ambitious to throw open a highway, by which the Cossacks of Russia might approach and conquer her. But the cause of rational liberty, is the cause of humanity. What! That child of despotism, the “Holy Alliance,” arrest its progress? As well might they attempt to assume the prerogative of Joshua, and command the sun and moon to stand still. Or when nature is arraying herself in the beauty and richness of spring, as well might they command the withering Siroc to sweep the Earth, and spread the wide desolation of winter. THE CAUSE OF RATIONAL LIBERTY, IS THE CAUSE OF GOD. THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT.
It was not to be supposed, that our country would remain unaffected, by the tremendous wars that convulsed all the European world. Our political relations were numerous, and our commerce extensive. Our situation, therefore, as neutrals, became in the last degree difficult. The two great Belligerents, England and France, in their contest for ascendency, nearly adopting the maxim, that all who were not for them, were against them, treated neutral commerce with little more respect, than that of an avowed enemy. The sacred laws of nations were disregarded. And, whatever may have been the suggestions of the feelings of party upon this subject, it is now agreed by all candid politicians, and even acknowledged from the bench of the English Admiralty, that nothing could justify their measures toward neutrals, but the inflexible law of necessity. The same inflexible law required that we should defend our most important rights. And the memory of our Perrys, and our Jacksons, will be a good guaranty for their security in future, against lawless attacks under the plea of necessity. As to the policy of the late war, it is one of those great political questions, upon which those are likely to be the most positively decided, who know the least about the difficult and abstract science of politics, and the great concerns of government. It is a question, upon which honest and intelligent men may disagree. But all must acknowledge, that its result was highly honorable to the American character. Our naval heroes wrested from their arrogant enemy, the Trident of the ocean, and bore the American flag triumphant on the British Channel. Our armies reacted the feats of the Revolution. At Baltimore, Plattsburg, and Niagara, they emulated the glories of York, Trenton, and Monmouth. And at the close of the contest, as if to leave an eternal monument, upon which the future enemies of our country may read their destiny, our arms thundered death and dismay to the British invincible, at the memorable victory of New Orleans.
Fellow citizens, by an almost uninterrupted prosperity, added to our peculiar natural advantages, our country has attained to an eminence that is at once happy and commanding. We have a territory boundless in extent. Nature has lavished upon it everything that can conduce to our security or happiness. We have all the means of self-defense. Our arsenals are filled with the materials of war, produced in our own country. We have oaks on our hills to bear the thunders of our victorious navy, and intrepid millions, “whose home is on the deep,” to direct them against the enemies of our liberty. Agriculture, the parent of national virtue, is converting our forests into rich fields, and our marshes into beautiful intervals. Our manufactures already vie with those of the old world. We are no longer under the necessity of sending to England and Holland, for our broadcloths and cambrics; they are furnished us in our own villages. Our free institutions have attracted enterprising foreigners, who have taught us all the arts of Europe. We bid them welcome to our happy country. Welcome, to the riches of our soil, and the improvement of our waterfalls. Welcome, to the high enjoyment of our civil liberty and equal laws. We ask but one return; be good citizens. Our commerce gives evidence of our national enterprise, on every sea. The surplus produce of our soil, is exchanged for the productions of every climate. That friendly intercourse is maintained with foreign nations, which in all ages, has eminently conduced to the improvement and happiness of mankind. But beware, my fellow citizens, of the commerce of European luxury. It will ruin our Republic, and prostrate the fair fabric of our Independence. Rather than this, may our commerce be annihilated, and the Atlantic roll in billows of fire. The recent acknowledgment of the independence of South America, is an event, that will materially promote our commercial interests. Congress, by this timely act of justice and generosity, will more effectually have secured the trade and friendship of those rising Republics, than by ten thousand parchment treaties of alliance. But this important event is not only interesting to us in a commercial point of view, it is interesting to us as freemen, and as the friends of injured humanity. We rejoice, that the Genius of Liberty has planted her standard upon the Andes, and is shedding her cheering influence, over the other half of America. We rejoice, that the land of Montezuma and the Incas, is to be avenged of the barbarities of a Cortez and Pizarro. We consider the free States rising on the banks of the La Plata, the Paraguay, and the Amazon, almost as accessions to our own territory. For “where liberty dwells, there is country.” We would bid them go on in the glorious cause of enlightening and liberating mankind. Be mighty as your rivers; be lasting as your mountains.
In connection with the independence of South America, I advert with peculiar satisfaction to the present revolutionary struggle of Greece. That delightful country, consecrated in the mind of every patriot and scholar, as the former seat of liberty and science, has awoke from the slumber of ages. The spirits of her ancient heroes, indignant at the abuses their beloved country has long suffered, from barbarians and Ottoman despots, have descended upon their native mountains, and are inspiring their posterity to emulate the deeds of Marathon and Thermopylae. Their children have felt the sacred inspiration. They have swept the bloody Crescent from the verdant fields of Greece. The savage Turk no longer brandishes his scimitar on the tomb of Leonidas. Athens shall rise in all her former beauty and magnificence; and Sparta become terrible to modern Xerxes.
Fellow Citizens, while you rejoice at the general progress of rational liberty, it is your duty to watch over our own free institutions, with a jealous care. You are to exercise the high prerogative of the Roman Consuls: “TO SEE THAT THE REPUBLIC RECEIVES NO DETRIMENT.” The most dangerous enemies you have to guard against, are vice, luxury, and corruption. Our country has little to fear from foreign enemies. We are separated from the ambitious and warlike powers of Europe, by a barrier broad and eternal as the Atlantic. No nation will ever wage a war of conquest in America. Our armies and navy will be a wall of fire around about us, which no enemy will ever be so desperate as to attempt to break through. But remember, fellow citizens, that all free governments are exposed to peculiar dangers from within. Luxury enervates, and corruption paralyzes. The majestic oak, which has withstood the storms and tempests of an hundred winters, falls a victim to the insidious worm that gnaws at its core. The pride of its foliage withers, and all its mighty branches fall lifeless to the ground. A corrupt Republic is a solecism in terms. Virtue and knowledge are the very ailments which sustain this species of government. Withhold them, and the life-blood of Liberty ceases to circulate; the general frame decays and dies; and despots, in the shape of demagogues, prey upon the putrid ruins. In proof of this, the history of all the Republics, that ever existed, might be adduced. But I will merely allude to one of modern times, which is fresh in the recollection of you all. I mean that of France. Here was a Republic unsupported by those pillars of society, public virtue and intelligence. A Republic, which dethroned their God, and worshipped a Sans Culotte. 4 Read her history. See her Dantons and Robespierres, like so many fiends of darkness, rioting in the blood of their fellow citizens. See virtue bleeding under the Guillotine. See everything prostrate and ruined, in the tempestuous whirlwind of anarchy. But, behold! A baleful meteor glances across their hemisphere. It glares consternation and dismay. It is Napoleon. He seizes upon the destinies of France;---she seeks tranquility in the abyss of a military despotism. Such must be the fate of every Republic, where admission is given to anarchy and corruption.
The decline of public morals and religion is, with some, a favorite topic of declamation. With the aged, everything that is contrary to their early prejudices, and with youth, everything that thwarts their ardent desires, is considered as an incontrovertible evidence, of the decline and perversion of the moral sentiment of the community. But notwithstanding all that has been said upon this subject, our country undoubtedly stands upon a moral elevation, far above that of any other nation on the Globe. In New England, especially, our habits of industry, our temperate climate, our excellent religious and literary institutions, are all eminently calculated to give a high tone to the public moral sentiment. But yet we are not out of reach of the deadly influence of luxury and vice. In a country favored like ours, where every citizen can command wealth from stern, republican virtue. Cast your eye, fellow citizens, over your own beloved country. Have you never seen luxury, rolling in all the pomp, and pride, and pageantry of Courts? Have you not observed in your army jackdaw officers, who were more ambitious to plume themselves in the dazzling habiliments of war than to entwine their brow with the laurels of victory? And seeing this, did you not cast “a longing look behind,” to those days of Roman virtue, when a Cincinnatus could alternately hold his plough, and lead to victory the legions of his country? Turn to your country villages; those retreats of peace, and purity, and happiness. Even here, have you not seen intemperance, with more than brutish debasement, staggering through your streets? Have you not heard profanity raise her blasphemous voice, in accents shocking humanity, and insulting the forbearance of Heaven? Have you not observed, scattered through your community, those moral pest-houses, those polluted spots dedicated to vice, those shrines of Moloch, where your youth are immolated, and virtue and sobriety derided? I anticipate your reply. And I adjure you, by your love of virtue, by your attachment to your families, by your regard for your posterity, by your reverence for your religion, and by your hopes of immortality, I adjure you, arrest the progress of vice and luxury, and save your country from degradation and ruin.
Such is the tranquil state of our country, that it is unnecessary to caution you against another dangerous enemy of Republican governments,---party spirit. At present, there seem to be but two great parties in the world,---the friends of Republics and rational liberty, and the supporters of absolute Monarchies and despotic authority. Republicans, you belong to that great party, whose object is the emancipation of the world, and the happiness of mankind. Your brethren are of every age and every country. It was your brethren that hurled the impious Tarquin from his throne. It was your brethren that defended the liberties of Greece against the servile hosts of Persia. It was your brethren that freed Rome from the tyranny of a Caesar. It was your brethren, who bled and died in defense of unfortunate Poland. And it is your brethren, who are now fighting the battles of freedom on the mountains of South America, and on the plains of Greece. This, Republicans, is the August party to which you belong. Greet all as your brethren, who are engaged in the same glorious cause. Away, away with those puny, political haberdashers, who would divert you from your great object, and embroil you in their senseless, commonplace altercations. They are the mere scum of society; mere insects of the night, that buzz, for a time, in midnight darkness, and “straight are heard no more.” Let the honor and happiness of your country, be the polestar, to regulate your conduct. Should any be so presumptuous as to attempt to tarnish its glory, by sowing the seeds of discord, or severing our union, these are your enemies; and verily they shall have their reward,---THE FROWNS OF THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS, AND HE EXECRATIONS OF ALL HONEST MEN.
We should remember, fellow citizens, that we are celebrating a religious, as well as a civil festival. Let us rejoice in our religious liberty. On this occasion, we ought to recollect, with sentiments of deep regret, that persecution, armed with civil authority, once staked terribly through our land. That same fiend of darkness which lit up the flames of Smithfield, which plied the rack of the Inquisition, and which has filled the world with terror and consternation. But the dawn of our Independence was the signal for its destruction in America. The wise framers of our federal constitution forever abolished the unnatural alliance between civil and ecclesiastical authority. They left religion free and pure as the heavens, from which it descended. It has, notwithstanding, continued to exert over our country all its grateful influences, producing individual happiness and public order. May its snowy mantle never again be spotted, by the profane touch of temporal power? Like an Angel of light and of love, may it continue to hover over us, never stooping to this polluted earth, but to point the way to brighter, and better, and purer worlds.
Fellow citizens, if we are true to the high trust reposed in us, if we transmit to posterity our republican institutions pure and uncorrupted, the future destinies of our Country are inconceivably grand and happy. Nearly three thousand years have elapsed since Empire, quitting the plains of Assyria, commenced her march towards the setting sun. In her course, she touched at republican Greece, and for a time made her residence with imperial Rome, whose brazen Eagles waved triumphant over the whole civilized world. Passing the Alps, she successively settled upon the country of Charlemagne, and the “Sea-girt Isle,” of England. Till now, crossing the Atlantic, she seems fixing an everlasting abode on the mountains of America. Here may her reign, be equally glorious to our own country, and happy to the nations of the Earth. What a sublime exercise for the imagination, to raise the veil that separates us from unborn ages, and to contemplate the future grandeur of this Western World. What myriads shall then swarm in one dense population, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico! What millions and millions on the morn of this Anniversary, shall then rend the vaulted sky, with their acclamations of joy, and anthems of praise! But we are lost in the splendid magnificence of he prospect. We commit the destiny of our country to the God of America.
GENTLEMEN OF THE MILITARY,I address you with sentiments of peculiar respect. Your country’s soldiery, I congratulate you on the return of another Anniversary of your country’s Independence. It is associated with that high feeling of honor, which is the life and soul of the military character. Honor, that pure and brilliant star which should always blaze on the soldier’s helmet. Preserve its luster, or sacrifice your lives,---IN DEFENSE OF YOUR COUNTRY. As a Republican militia, your character is peculiarly elevated. You are the standing army of your Republic. True, you do not perpetually hover around the person of royalty, to protect it from the resentment of injured subjects. In peace, you are your country’s ornament; you perform the high and honorable duties of the citizen. But when the cry of war is heard, when our fields are ravaged, our towns burned, and our temples polluted, then every eye is turned to you for support. Beauty begs you to preserve her purity; age implores you to protect its infirmities. You assume the armor of war; you oppose an unbroken phalanx to the enemies of your Country. It is a remarkable historical fact that the greatest generals and best soldiers of the world have gone from the plough to the camp. Who were a Cincinnatus, a Washington, a Brown? Farmers. Who dealt destruction to the British Regulars on the heights of Charlestown? Who taught Burgoyne the danger of invading a country of freemen? The tenants of the soil of New England. Who, again, were that invincible band whom nothing could overcome, but the concentrated volcanoes of Europe, bursting upon them in torrents of burning lava, on the plains of Waterloo? The Swiss guards of Napoleon: intrepid yeomanry, who had been bred upon the mountains and glaciers of Switzerland. Soldiers, imitate their valor, but in defending your liberties.
The melancholy fate of free governments is sufficient to stimulate your activity in guarding your own Republic. Caesars and Alexander’s may make their appearance in America. Those scourges of the world are common to every age, and every country. At present, they form a holy triumvirate, 5 and appear enlisted under the banner of the Peace Society. Yes, members of the Peace Society, because they maintain a peace establishment of a million men. Soldiers, never let your security depend upon the justice or generosity of foreign nations. Cherish peace with all, but still keep your armor bright, and ready for war. You know not in what form, nor in what hour the enemy cometh. ‘Tis death to sleep at your posts. America “expects every man to do his duty.” Should an enemy presume to invade your country, tell them, in a voice of thunder, the story of New Orleans. Let your ensign of freedom, be the talisman of victory. And rather than surrender that soil, which is consecrated by the ashes of your fathers, your brothers, and your comrades.
Let every soul beneath your feet,
Become a soldier’s sepulcher.”
1. The “Code Napoleon.” This celebrated Code of laws was the production of the united talent of all France. It is essentially republican in its principles, especially in that provision, by which the feudal doctrine of primogeniture is abolished, and estates, both real and personal, made to descend equally to all the children of the same parent. This provision has led a distinguished politician of our Commonwealth to predict, that “if the French government does not change this law, the law, in half a century, will change the government.” The Code Napoleon is now in operation in several of the countries of Europe, formerly subject to the French Empire. It was promulgated in the territory of Louisiana, previous to its cession to the United States, and, with some slight alteration, has been formally recognized as the law of the land in the State of Louisiana. The ready and extensive adoption of this Code of laws, sufficiently evinces the fact, that society, in its present advanced state, is prepared to exchange the barbarous laws and institutions of feudal ages, for laws and institutions of feudal ages, for laws and institutions dictated by reason and humanity. (Return)
2. At the commencement of the French Revolution, the immense estates of the nobility, who left France, were seized, confiscated, and disposed of among the peasantry. Since the restoration of Louis XVIII, the nobility have made, and are still making, strenuous efforts to procure a restitution of them. But government dare not comply with their wishes. The discontent, that would be produced among the lower classes of society by such a measure would, undoubtedly, result in another Revolution. (Return)
3. The Universities of Prussia and Germany, are here more particularly alluded to. The principles of reform and free government, were taught in them with so much force and boldness, that they attracted the attention of the Congress of allied sovereigns at Aix-la-Chapelle, and, agreeably to the advice of Alexander, a kind of diplomatic agent was appointed to reside at each University, for the purpose of preserving order, and suppressing improper publications. This puerile effort to arrest the progress of intellect and liberal principles brings forcibly to mind the conduct of the Persian Monarch, who attempted to chain the Ocean. The light of truth and knowledge is rapidly illuminating Europe. It will eventually penetrate the benighted regions of the Czar. And when that shall happen, the Emperor of all the Russia’s will, undoubtedly, have revolutions enough to attend to at home, without intermeddling so much with the internal and revolutionary concerns of other nations. (Return)
4. An allusion to their impious decree, that “there was no God in the universe,” and to the conduct of the mob in Paris, who directed a prostitute Sans Culotte, to be placed in a chariot and drawn through the streets, whom they worshipped as the goddess of nature and liberty. These excesses, however, are rather chargeable to a few desperate demagogues, than to the French nation generally. Robespierre had the merit of reversing the above decree, and of solemnly promulgating, that “there was a God in the universe!” (Return)
5. At the time of the Holy Alliance was formed, in 1815, it was acceded to by most of the sovereigns of Europe. But the only existing members of it are the Emperors of Russia and Austria, and the King of Prussia. (Return)