« AnteriorContinuar »
they do warn us, if we need the warning, to seek our great practical lessons of patriotism at home; out of the exploits and sacrifices of which our own country is the theatre; out of the characters of our own fathers. Them we know,—the high-souled, natural, unaffected, the citizen heroes. We know what happy firesides they left before the cheerless camp. We know with what pacific habits they dared the perils of the field. There is no mystery, no romance, no madness, under the name of chivalry about them. It is all resolute, manly resistance for conscience and liberty's sake, not merely of an overwhelming power, but of all the force of long-rooted habits and native love of order and peace.
Above all, their blood calls to us from the soil which we tread; it beats in our veins; it cries to us not merely in the thrilling words of one of the first victims in this cause, My sons, scorn to be slaves !”—but it cries with a still more moving eloquence“ My sons, forget not your fathers !"
HAPPY CONSEQUENCES OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE.
In a full persuasion of the excellency of our government, let us shun those vices which tend to its subversion, and cultivate those virtues which will render it permanent, and transmit it in full vigor to all succeeding ages. Let not the haggard forms of intemperance and luxury ever lift up their destroying visages in this happy country. Let economy, frugality, moderation, and justice at home and abroad, mark the conduct of all our citizens. Let it be our constant care to diffuse knowledge and goodness through all ranks of society. The people of this country will never be uneasy under its present form of government, provided they have sufficient information to judge of its excellency. No nation under heaven enjoys so much happiness as the Americans. Convince them of this, and will they not shudder at the thought of subverting their political constitution, of suffering it to degenerate into aristocracy or monarchy ? Let a sense of our happy situation awaken in us the warmest sensations of gratitude to the Supreme Being. Let us consider him as the author of all our blessings, acknowledging him as our beneficent parent, protector, and friend. The predominant tendency of his providences towards us as a nation, evinces his benevolent designs. Every part of his conduct speaks in a language plain and intelligible. Let us open our ears, let us attend, let us be wise.
While we celebrate the anniversary of our independence, let us not pass over in silence the defenders of our country. Where are those brave Americans whose lives were cloven down in the tempest of battle ? Are they not bending from the bright abodes? A voice from the altar cries, “these are they who loved their country, these are they who died for liberty.” We now reap the fruit of their agony and toil. Let their memories be eternally embalmed in our bosoms. Let the infants of all posterity prattle their fame, and drop tears of courage for their fate.
The consequences of American independence will soon reach to the extremities of the world. The shining car of freedom will soon roll over the necks of kings, and bear off the oppressed to scenes of liberty and peace. The clamors of war will cease under the whole heaven. The tree of liberty will shoot its top up to the sun. Its boughs will hang over the ends of the whole world, and wearied nations will lie down and rest under its shade.
Here in America stands the asylum for the distressed and persecuted of all nations. The vast temple of freedom rises majestically fair. Founded on a rock, it will remain unshaken by the force of tyrants, undiminished by the flight of time. Long streams of light emanate through its portals, and chase the darkness from distant nations. Its turrets will swell into the heavens, rising above every tempest: and the pillar of divine glory, descending from God, will rest for ever on its summit.
OBLIGATIONS OF MASSACHUSETTS TO STAND BY THE
Mr. President,—The people of the United States, by a vast and countless majority, are attached to the constitution. If they shall be convinced that it is in danger, they will come to its rescue and save it. It cannot be destroyed, even now, if they will undertake its guardianship and protection.
But suppose, sir, there was less hope than there is, would that consideration weaken the force of our obligations ? Are we at a post which we are at liberty to abandon, when it becomes difficult to hold it? May we fly at the approach of dan ger? Does our fidelity to the constitution require no more of us than to enjoy its blessings, to bask in the prosperity which it has shed around us and our fathers; and are we at liberty to abandon it, in the hour of its peril, or to make for it but a faint and heartless struggle, for the want of encouragement, and the want of hope? Sir, if no state comes to our succor, if elsewhere the contest should be given up, here let it be protracted to the last moment. Here, where the first blood of the revolution was shed, let the last effort, for that which is the greatest blessing obtained by it, a free and united government, be made. Sir, in our endeavors to maintain our existing forms of government, we are acting not for ourselves alone, but for the great cause of constitutional liberty all over the globe. We are trustees, holding a sacred treasure, in which all the lovers of freedom have a stake. Not only in revolutionized France, where there are no longer subjects, where the monarch can no longer say, he is the state; not only in reformed England, where our principles, our institutions, our practice of free government are now daily quoted and commended; but in the depths of Germany, and among the desolate fields, and the still smoking ashes of Poland, prayers are uttered for the preservation of our union and happiness. We are surrounded, sir, by a cloud of witnesses. The gaze of the sons of liberty, every where, is upon us, anxiously, intently, upon us. It may see us fall' in the struggle for our constitution and government, but heaven forbid that it should see us recreant.
At least, sir, let the star of Massachusetts be the last which shall be seen to fall from heaven, and to plunge into the utter darkness of disunion. Let her shrink back, let her hold others back, if she can; at any rate let her keep herself back, from this gulf, full, at once, of fire and of blackness; yes, sir, as far as human foresight can scan, or human imagination fathom, full of the fire, and the blood of civil war, and of the thick darkness of general political disgrace, ignominy, and ruin. Though the worst happen that can happen, and though we be not able to prevent the catastrophe, yet, let her maintain her own integrity, her own high honor, her own unwavering fidelity, so that with respect and decency, though with a broken and a bleeding heart, she may pay the last tribute to a glorious, departed, free constitution.
THE OBLIGATIONS OF AMERICA TO LA FAYETTE.—Hayne. I had hoped, Mr. President, that this bill would have met with no opposition. I had hoped that the world would see, that against a proposition for showing our gratitude, as a nation, in something more than mere words to general La Fayette, not a voice would be raised. But, sir, I am disappointed; and it is therefore the irksome task of this committee to go into detail, and to show how much we are absolutely indebted to this great man.
It appears from some documents, sir, in possession of the committee, that the general, during six years of our revolutionary war, sacrificed one hundred and forty thousand dollars of his private fortune, in the service of this country. And how sir, was this sacrifice made ? Under what circumstances ? Was he one of our own citizens—one of those whose lives and fortunes were necessarily exposed during the vicissitudes of a contest for the right of self-government ? No, sir, no such thing. He tore himself away from his country and his home, to fight the battles of freedom in a foreign land, and to make common cause with a people to whom he owed no duty. Nor was he satisfied with the devotion of his personal services. It is a matter of record on the pages of your history, that he armed a regiment for you: that he sent a vessel laden with arms and munitions of war for you: that he put shoes on the feet of your barefoot and suffering soldiers. For all these services he asked no recompense—he received none. He spent his fortune for you; he shed his blood for you; and without acquiring any thing but a claim upon your gratitude, he impoverished himself.
And now, sir, what would be thought of us in Europe, if, after all that has passed, we should fail to make a generous and liberal provision for our venerable guest ? We have, under circumstances calculated to give to the event great celebrity, invited him to our shores. We have received him with the utmost enthusiasm. The people have every where greeted him in the warmest terms of gratitude and affection. Now what will be thought of us in Europe, and, what is much more important, how shall we deserve to be thought of, if we send back our venerable guest without any more substantial proof of our gratitude, than vague expressions of regard? You have made him a spectacle for the world to gaze on. He cannot go back to France and become the private citizen he was when he left it. You have, by the universal homage of your
hearts and tongues, made his house a shrine, to which every pilgrim of liberty, from every quarter of the world, will repair. At least, let him not, after this, want the means of giving welcome to the Americans, who, whenever they visit the shores of France, will repair in crowds to his hospitable mansion, to testify their veņ. eration to the illustrious compatriot of their fathers. I regret, sir, that I have been compelled to say thus much upon the subject. But, sir, I have full confidence that there cannot in this house, there cannot in this nation, be but one universal feeling of gratitude and affection for La Fayette.
BATTLE THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE.—Henry.
Mr. President, I have but one lamp by which my guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I have no way of judging the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the house? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received ? Trust it not, sir ; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation ? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation—the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission ? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain an enemy in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies ? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us : they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains, which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument ? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we any thing new to offer upon the subject ? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable ; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted ? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer. Sir, we have done every thing that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on.
We have petitioned—we have remonstrated—we have supplicated—we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry