Sunday, December 22, 2002
Delivered at Plymouth Mass. December 22, 1802
in Commemoration of the Landing of the Pilgrims
By John Quincy Adams
the sentiments of most powerful operation upon the human heart,
and most highly honorable to the human character, are those of veneration
for our forefathers, and of love for our posterity.
They form the connecting links between the selfish
and the social passions. By the fundamental principle of Christianity,
the happiness of the individual is interwoven, by innumerable and
imperceptible ties, with that of his contemporaries.
By power of filial reverence and parental
affection, individual existence is extended beyond the limits of
individual life, and the happiness of every age is chained in mutual
dependence upon that of every other. Respect for his ancestors excites,
in the breast of man, interest in their history, attachment to their
characters, concern for their errors, involuntary pride in their
Love for his posterity spurs him to exertion
for their support, stimulates him to virtue for their example, and
fills him with the tenderest solicitude for their welfare. Man,
therefore, was not made for himself alone.
No, he was made for his country, by the
obligations of the social compact; he was made for his species,
by the Christian duties of universal charity; he was made for all
ages past, by the sentiment of reverence for his forefathers; and
he was made for all future times, by the impulse of affection for
Under the influence of these principles,
"Existence sees him spurn her bounded reign." They redeem
his nature from the subjection of time and space; he is no longer
a "puny insect shivering at a breeze"; he is the glory
of creation, formed to occupy all time and all extent; bounded,
during his residence upon earth, only to the boundaries of the world,
and destined to life and immortality in brighter regions, when the
fabric of nature itself shall dissolve and perish.
The voice of history has not, in all its
compass, a note but answers in unison with these sentiments. The
barbarian chieftain, who defended his country against the Roman
invasion, driven to the remotest extremity of Britain, and stimulating
his followers to battle by all that has power of persuasion upon
the human heart, concluded his persuasion by an appeal to these
irresistible feelings: "Think of your forefathers and of your
The Romans themselves, at the pinnacle
of civilization, were actuated by the same impressions, and celebrated,
in anniversary festivals, every great event which had signalized
the annals of their forefathers.
To multiply instances where it were impossible
to adduce an exception would be to waste your time and abuse your
patience; but in the sacred volume, which contains the substances
of our firmest faith and of our most precious hopes, these passions
not only maintain their highest efficacy, but are sanctioned by
the express injunctions of the Divine Legislator to his chosen people.
The revolutions of time furnish no previous
example of a nation shooting up to maturity and expanding into greatness
with the rapidity which has characterized the growth of the American
In the luxuriance of youth, and in the
vigor of manhood, it is pleasing and instructive to look backward
upon the helpless days of infancy; but in the continual and essential
changes of a growing subject, the transactions of that early period
would be soon obliterated from the memory but for some periodical
call of attention to aid the silent records of the historian.
Such celebrations arouse and gratify the
kindliest emotions of the bosom. They are faithful pledges of the
respect we bear to the memory of our ancestors and of the tenderness
with which we cherish the rising generation. They introduce the
sages and heroes of ages past to the notice and emulation of succeeding
times; they are at once testimonials of our gratitude, and schools
of virtue to our children.
These sentiments are wise; they are honorable;
they are virtuous; their cultivation is not merely innocent pleasure,
it is incumbent duty. Obedient to their dictates, you, my fellow-citizens,
have instituted and paid frequent observance to this annual solemnity.
and what event of weightier intrinsic importance, or of more extensive
consequences, was ever selected for this honorary distinction?
In reverting to the period of our origin,
other nations have generally been compelled to plunge into the chaos
of impenetrable antiquity, or to trace a lawless ancestry into the
caverns of ravishers and robbers.
It is your peculiar privilege to commemorate,
in this birthday of your nation, an event ascertained in its minutest
details; an event of which the principal actors are known to you
familiarly, as if belonging to your own age; an event of a magnitude
before which imagination shrinks at the imperfection of her powers.
It is your further happiness to behold,
in those eminent characters, who were most conspicuous in accomplishing
the settlement of your country, men upon whose virtue you can dwell
with honest exultation.
The founders of your race are not handed
down to you, like the fathers of the Roman people, as the sucklings
of a wolf. You are not descended from a nauseous compound of fanaticism
and sensuality, whose only argument was the sword, and whose only
paradise was a brothel.
No Gothic scourge of God, no Vandal pest
of nations, no fabled fugitive from the flames of Troy, no bastard
Norman tyrant, appears among the list of worthies who first landed
on the rock, which your veneration has preserved as a lasting monument
of their achievement.
The great actors of the day we now solemnize
were illustrious by their intrepid valor no less than by their Christian
graces, but the clarion of conquest has not blazoned forth their
names to all the winds of heaven.
Their glory has not been wafted over oceans
of blood to the remotest regions of the earth. They have not erected
to themselves colossal statues upon pedestals of human bones, to
provoke and insult the tardy hand of heavenly retribution.
But theirs was "the better fortitude
of patience and heroic martyrdom." Theirs was the gentle temper
of Christian kindness; the rigorous observance of reciprocal justice;
the unconquerable soul of conscious integrity.
Worldly fame has been parsimonious of her
favor to the memory of those generous companions. Their numbers
were small; their stations in life obscure; the object of their
enterprise unostentatious; the theatre of their exploits remote;
how could they possibly be favorites of worldly Fame--that common
crier, whose existence is only known by the assemblage of multitudes;
that pander of wealth and greatness, so eager to haunt the palaces
of fortune, and so fastidious to the houseless dignity of virtue;
that parasite of pride, ever scornful to meekness, and ever obsequious
to insolent power; that heedless trumpeter, whose ears are deaf
to modest merit, and whose eyes are blind to bloodless, distant
When the persecuted companions of Robinson,
exiles from their native land, anxiously sued for the privilege
of removing a thousand leagues more distant to an untried soil,
a rigorous climate, and a savage wilderness, for the sake of reconciling
their sense of religious duty with their affections for their country,
few, perhaps none of them, formed a conception of what would be,
within two centuries, the result of their undertaking.
When the jealous and niggardly policy of
their British sovereign denied them even that humblest of requests,
and instead of liberty would barely consent to promise connivance,
neither he nor they might be aware that they were laying the foundations
of a power, and that he was sowing the seeds of a spirit, which,
in less than two hundred years, would stagger the throne of his
descendants, and shake his united kingdoms to the centre.
So far is it from the ordinary habits of
mankind to calculate the import of events in their elementary principles,
that had the first colonists of our country ever intimated as a
part of their designs the project of founding a great and mighty
nation, the finger of scorn would have pointed them to the cells
of Bedlam as an abode more suitable for hatching vain empires than
the solitude of a transatlantic desert.
These consequences, then so little foreseen,
have unfolded themselves, in all their grandeur, to the eyes of
the present age. It is a common amusement of speculative minds to
contrast the magnitude of the most important events with the minuteness
of their primeval causes, and the records of mankind are full of
examples for such contemplations.
It is, however, a more profitable employment
to trace the constituent principles of future greatness in their
kernel; to detect in the acorn at our feet the germ of that majestic
oak, whose roots shoot down to the centre, and whose branches aspire
to the skies.
Let it be, then, our present occupation
to inquire and endeavor to ascertain the causes first put in operation
at the period of our commemoration, and already productive of such
magnificent effects; to examine with reiterated care and minute
attention the characters of those men who gave the first impulse
to a new series of events in the history of the world; to applaud
and emulate those qualities of their minds which we shall find deserving
of our admiration; to recognize with candor those features which
forbid approbation or even require censure, and, finally, to lay
alike their frailties and their perfections to our own hearts, either
as warning or as example.
Of the various European settlements upon
this continent, which have finally merged in one independent nation,
the first establishments were made at various times, by several
nations, and under the influence of different motives. In many instances,
the conviction of religious obligation formed one and a powerful
inducement of the adventures; but in none, excepting the settlement
at Plymouth, did they constitute the sole and exclusive actuating
Worldly interest and commercial speculation
entered largely into the views of other settlers, but the commands
of conscience were the only stimulus to the emigrants from Leyden.
Previous to their expedition hither, they had endured a long banishment
from their native country.
Under every species of discouragement,
they undertook the voyage; they performed it in spite of numerous
and almost insuperable obstacles; they arrived upon a wilderness
bound with frost and hoary with snow, without the boundaries of
their charter, outcasts from all human society, and coasted five
weeks together, in the dead of winter, on this tempestuous shore,
exposed at once to the fury of the elements, to the arrows of the
native savage, and to the impending horrors of famine.
Courage and perseverance have a magical
talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish
into air. These qualities have ever been displayed in their mightiest
perfection, as attendants in the retinue of strong passions.
From the first discovery of the Western
Hemisphere by Columbus until the settlement of Virginia which immediately
preceded that of Plymouth, the various adventurers from the ancient
world had exhibited upon innumerable occasions that ardor of enterprise
and that stubbornness of pursuit which set all danger at defiance,
and chained the violence of nature at their feet. But they were
all instigated by personal interests.
Avarice and ambition had tuned their souls
to that pitch of exaltation. Selfish passions were the parents of
their heroism. It was reserved for the first settlers of new England
to perform achievements equally arduous, to trample down obstructions
equally formidable, to dispel dangers equally terrific, under the
single inspiration of conscience.
To them even liberty herself was but a
subordinate and secondary consideration. They claimed exemption
from the mandates of human authority, as militating with their subjection
to a superior power. Before the voice of Heaven they silenced even
the calls of their country.
Yet, while so deeply impressed with the
sense of religious obligation, they felt, in all its energy, the
force of that tender tie which binds the heart of every virtuous
man to his native land.
It was to renew that connection with their
country which had been severed by their compulsory expatriation,
that they resolved to face all the hazards of a perilous navigation
and all the labors of a toilsome distant settlement.
Under the mild protection of the Batavian
Government, they enjoyed already that freedom of religious worship,
for which they had resigned so many comforts and enjoyments at home;
but their hearts panted for a restoration to the bosom of their
Invited and urged by the open-hearted and
truly benevolent people who had given them an asylum from the persecution
of their own kindred to form their settlement within the territories
then under their jurisdiction, the love of their country predominated
over every influence save that of conscience alone, and they preferred
the precarious chance of relaxation from the bigoted rigor of the
English Government to the certain liberality and alluring offers
of the Hollanders.
Observe, my countrymen, the generous patriotism,
the cordial union of soul, the conscious yet unaffected vigor which
beam in their application to the British monarch: "They were
well weaned from the delicate milk of their mother country, and
inured to the difficulties of a strange land.
They were knit together in a strict and
sacred bond, to take care of the good of each other and of the whole.
It was not with them as with other men, whom small things could
discourage, or small discontents cause to wish themselves again
Children of these exalted Pilgrims! Is
there one among you ho can hear the simple and pathetic energy of
these expressions without tenderness and admiration?
Venerated shades of our forefathers! No,
ye were, indeed, not ordinary men! That country which had ejected
you so cruelly from her bosom you still delighted to contemplate
in the character of an affectionate and beloved mother. The sacred
bond which knit you together was indissoluble while you lived; and
oh, may it be to your descendants the example and the pledge of
harmony to the latest period of time!
The difficulties and dangers, which so
often had defeated attempts of similar establishments, were unable
to subdue souls tempered like yours. You heard the rigid interdictions;
you saw the menacing forms of toil and danger, forbidding your access
to this land of promise; but you heard without dismay; you saw and
Firm and undaunted in the confidence
of that sacred bond; conscious of the purity, and convinced of the
importance of your motives, you put your trust in the protecting
shield of Providence, and smiled defiance at the combining terrors
of human malice and of elemental strife.
These, in the accomplishment of your undertaking,
you were summoned to encounter in their most hideous forms; these
you met with that fortitude, and combated with that perseverance,
which you had promised in their anticipation; these you completely
vanquished in establishing the foundations of New England, and the
day which we now commemorate is the perpetual memorial of your triumph.
It were an occupation peculiarly pleasing
to cull from our early historians, and exhibit before you every
detail of this transaction; to carry you in imagination on board
their bark at the first moment of her arrival in the bay; to accompany
Carver, Winslow, Bradford, and Standish, in all their excursions
upon the desolate coast; to follow them into every rivulet and creek
where they endeavored to find a firm footing, and to fix, with a
pause of delight and exultation, the instant when the first of these
heroic adventurers alighted on the spot where you, their descendants,
now enjoy the glorious and happy reward of their labors.
But in this grateful task, your former
orators, on this anniversary, have anticipated all that the most
ardent industry could collect, and gratified all that the most inquisitive
curiosity could desire.
To you, my friends, every occurrence of
that momentous period is already familiar. A transient allusion
to a few characteristic instances, which mark the peculiar history
of the Plymouth settlers, may properly supply the place of a narrative,
which, to this auditory, must be superfluous.
One of these remarkable incidents is the
execution of that instrument of government by which they formed
themselves into a body politic, the day after their arrival upon
the coast, and previous to their first landing.
That is, perhaps, the only instance in
human history of that positive, original social compact, which speculative
philosophers have imagined as the only legitimate source of government.
Here was a unanimous and personal assent,
by all the individuals of the community, to the association by which
they became a nation. It was the result of circumstances and discussions
which had occurred during their passage from Europe, and is a full
demonstration that the nature of civil government, abstracted from
the political institutions of their native country, had been an
object of their serious meditation.
The settlers of all the former European
colonies had contented themselves with the powers conferred upon
them by their respective charters, without looking beyond the seal
of the royal parchment for the measure of their rights and the rule
of their duties.
The founders of Plymouth had been impelled
by the peculiarities of their situation to examine the subject with
deeper and more comprehensive research. After twelve years of banishment
from the land of their first allegiance, during which they had been
under an adoptive and temporary subjection to another sovereign,
they must naturally have been led to reflect upon the relative rights
and duties of allegiance and subjection.
They had resided in a city, the seat of
a university, where the polemical and political controversies of
the time were pursued with uncommon fervor. In this period they
had witnessed the deadly struggle between the two parties, into
which the people of the United Provinces, after their separation
from the crown of Spain, had divided themselves.
The contest embraced within its compass
not only theological doctrines, but political principles, and Maurice
and Barnevelt were the temporal leaders of the same rival factions,
of which Episcopius and Polyander were the ecclesiastical champions.
That the investigation of the fundamental
principles of government was deeply implicated in these dissensions
is evident from the immortal work of Grotius, upon the rights of
war and peace, which undoubtedly originated from them.
Grotius himself had been a most distinguished
actor and sufferer in those important scenes of internal convulsion,
and his work was first published very shortly after the departure
of our forefathers from Leyden.
It is well known that in the course of
the contest Mr. Robinson more than once appeared, with credit to
himself, as a public disputant against Episcopius; and from the
manner in which the fact is related by Governor Bradford, it is
apparent that the whole English Church at Leyden took a zealous
interest in the religious part of the controversy.
As strangers in the land, it is presumable
that they wisely and honorably avoided entangling themselves in
the political contentions involved with it.
Yet the theoretic principles, as they were
drawn into discussion, could not fail to arrest their attention,
and must have assisted them to form accurate ideas concerning the
origin and extent of authority among men, independent of positive
The importance of these circumstances will
not be duly weighed without taking into consideration the state
of opinion then prevalent in England. The general principles of
government were there little understood and less examined. The whole
substance of human authority was centred in the simple doctrine
of royal prerogative, the origin of which was always traced in theory
to divine institution.
Twenty years later, the subject was more
industriously sifted, and for half a century became one of the principal
topics of controversy between the ablest and most enlightened men
in the nation. The instrument of voluntary association executed
on board the "Mayflower" testifies that the parties to
it had anticipated the improvement of their nation.
Another incident, from which we may derive
occasion for important reflections, was the attempt of these original
settlers to establish among them that community of goods and of
labor, which fanciful politicians, from the days of Plato
to those of Rousseau, have recommended as the fundamental
law of a perfect republic.
This theory results, it must be acknowledged,
from principles of reasoning most flattering to the human character.
If industry, frugality, and disinterested integrity were alike the
virtues of all, there would, apparently, be more of the social spirit,
in making all property a common stock, and giving to each individual
a proportional title to the wealth of the whole. Such is the basis
upon which Plato forbids, in his Republic, the division of property.
Such is the system upon which Rousseau
pronounces the first man who inclosed a field with a fence, and
said, "This is mine," a traitor to the human species.
A wiser and more useful philosophy, however, directs us to consider
man according to the nature in which he was formed; subject to infirmities,
which no wisdom can remedy; to weaknesses, which no institution
can strengthen; to vices, which no legislation can correct.
Hence, it becomes obvious that separate
property is the natural and indisputable right of separate exertion;
that community of goods without community of toil is oppressive
and unjust; that it counteracts the laws of nature, which prescribe
that he only who sows the seed shall reap the harvest; that it discourages
all energy, by destroying its rewards; and makes the most virtuous
and active members of society the slaves and drudges of the worst.
Such was the issue of this experiment among
our forefathers, and the same event demonstrated the error of the
system in the elder settlement of Virginia. Let us cherish that
spirit of harmony which prompted our forefathers to make the attempt,
under circumstances more favorable to its success than, perhaps,
ever occurred upon earth.
Let us no less admire the candor with which
they relinquished it, upon discovering its irremediable inefficacy.
To found principles of government upon too advantageous an estimate
of the human character is an error of inexperience, the source of
which is so amiable that it is impossible to censure it with severity.
We have seen the same mistake committed
in our own age, and upon a larger theatre. Happily for our ancestors,
their situation allowed them to repair it before its effects had
proved destructive. They had no pride of vain philosophy to support,
no perfidious rage of faction to glut, by persevering in their mistakes
until they should be extinguished in torrents of blood.
As the attempt to establish among themselves
the community of goods was a seal of that sacred bond which knit
them so closely together, so the conduct they observed toward the
natives of the country displays their steadfast adherence to the
rules of justice and their faithful attachment to those of benevolence
No European settlement ever formed upon
this continent has been more distinguished for undeviating kindness
and equity toward the savages. There are, indeed, moralists who
have questioned the right of the Europeans to intrude upon the possessions
of the aboriginals in any case, and under any limitations whatsoever.
But have they maturely considered the whole
subject? The Indian right of possession itself stands, with regard
to the greater part of the country, upon a questionable foundation.
Their cultivated fields; their constructed
habitations; a space of ample sufficiency for their subsistence,
and whatever they had annexed to themselves by personal labor, was
undoubtedly, by the laws of nature, theirs.
But what is the right of a huntsman to
the forest of a thousand miles over which he has accidentally ranged
in quest of prey?
Shall the liberal bounties of Providence
to the race of man be monopolized by one of ten thousand for whom
they were created?
Shall the exuberant bosom of the common
mother, amply adequate to the nourishment of millions, be claimed
exclusively by a few hundreds of her offspring?
Shall the lordly savage not only disdain
the virtues and enjoyments of civilization himself, but shall he
control the civilization of a world?
Shall he forbid the wilderness to blossom
like a rose?
Shall he forbid the oaks of the forest
to fall before the axe of industry, and to rise again, transformed
into the habitations of ease and elegance?
Shall he doom an immense region of the
globe to perpetual desolation, and to hear the howlings of the tiger
and the wolf silence forever the voice of human gladness?
Shall the fields and the valleys, which
a beneficent God has formed to teem with the life of innumerable
multitudes, be condemned to everlasting barrenness?
Shall the mighty rivers, poured out by
the hand of nature, as channels of communication between numerous
nations, roll their waters in sullen silence and eternal solitude
of the deep?
Have hundreds of commodious harbors, a
thousand leagues of coast, and a boundless ocean, been spread in
the front of this land, and shall every purpose of utility to which
they could apply be prohibited by the tenant of the woods?
No, generous philanthropists!
Heaven has not been thus inconsistent in
the works of its hands. Heaven has not thus placed at irreconcilable
strife its moral laws with its physical creation.
The Pilgrims of Plymouth obtained their
right of possession to the territory on which they settled, by titles
as fair and unequivocal as any human property can be held.
By their voluntary association they recognized
their allegiance to the government of Britain, and in process of
time received whatever powers and authorities could be conferred
upon them by a charter from their sovereign.
The spot on which they fixed had belonged
to an Indian tribe, totally extirpated by that devouring pestilence
which had swept the country shortly before their arrival. The territory,
thus free from all exclusive possession, they might have taken by
the natural right of occupancy.
Desirous, however, of giving amply satisfaction
to every pretence of prior right, by formal and solemn conventions
with the chiefs of the neighboring tribes, they acquired the further
security of a purchase. At their hands the children of the desert
had no cause of complaint.
On the great day of retribution, what thousands,
what millions of the American race will appear at the bar of judgment
to arraign their European invading conquerors! Let us humbly hope
that the fathers of the Plymouth Colony will then appear in the
whiteness of innocence.
Let us indulge in the belief that they
will not only be free from all accusation of injustice to these
unfortunate sons of nature, but that the testimonials of their acts
of kindness and benevolence toward them will plead the cause of
their virtues, as they are now authenticated by the record of history
Religious discord has lost her sting; the
cumbrous weapons of theological warfare are antiquated; the field
of politics supplies the alchemists of our times with materials
of more fatal explosion, and the butchers of mankind no longer travel
to another world for instruments of cruelty and destruction.
Our age is too enlightened to contend upon
topics which concern only the interests of eternity; the men who
hold in proper contempt all controversies about trifles, except
such as inflame their own passions, have made it a commonplace censure
against your ancestors, that their zeal was enkindled by subjects
of trivial importance; and that however aggrieved by the intolerance
of others, they were alike intolerant themselves.
Against these objections, your candid judgment
will not require an unqualified justification; but your respect
and gratitude for the founders of the State may boldly claim an
The original grounds of their separation
from the Church of England were not objects of a magnitude to dissolve
the bonds of communion, much less those of charity, between Christian
brethren of the same essential principles. Some of them, however,
were not inconsiderable, and numerous inducements concurred to give
them an extraordinary interest in their eyes.
When that portentous system of abuses,
the Papal dominion, was overturned, a great variety of religious
sects arose in its stead in the several countries, which for many
centuries before had been screwed beneath its subjection.
The fabric of the Reformation, first undertaken
in England upon a contracted basis, by a capricious and sanguinary
tyrant, had been successively overthrown and restored, renewed and
altered, according to the varying humors and principles of four
To ascertain the precise point of division
between the genuine institutions of Christianity and the corruptions
accumulated upon them in the progress of fifteen centuries, was
found a task of extreme difficulty throughout the Christian world.
Men of the profoundest learning,
of the sublimest genius, and of the purest integrity, after devoting
their lives to the research, finally differed in their ideas upon
many great points, both of doctrine and discipline.
The main question, it was admitted on all
hands, most intimately concerned the highest interests of man, both
temporal and eternal.
Can we wonder that men who felt their happiness
here and their hopes of hereafter, their worldly welfare and the
kingdom of heaven at stake, should sometimes attach an importance
beyond their intrinsic weight to collateral points of controversy,
connected with the all- involving object of the Reformation?
The changes in the forms and principles
of religious worship were introduced and regulated in England by
the hand of public authority. But that hand had not been uniform
or steady in its operations.
During the persecutions inflicted in the
interval of Popish restoration under the reign of Mary, upon all
who favored the Reformation, many of the most zealous reformers
had been compelled to fly their country. While residing on the continent
of Europe, they had adopted the principles of the most complete
and rigorous reformation, as taught and established by Calvin.
On returning afterward to their native
country, they were dissatisfied with the partial reformation, at
which, as they conceived, the English establishment had rested;
and claiming the privilege of private conscience, upon which alone
any departure from the Church of Rome could be justified, they insisted
upon the right of adhering to the system of their own preference,
and, of course, upon that of non-conformity to the establishment
prescribed by the royal authority. The only means used to convince
them of error and reclaim them from dissent was force, and force
served but to confirm the opposition it was meant to suppress.
By driving the founders of the Plymouth
Colony into exile, it constrained them to absolute separation irreconcilable.
Viewing their religious liberties here, as held only by sufferance,
yet bound to them by all the ties of conviction, and by all their
sufferings for them, could they forbear to look upon every dissenter
among themselves with a jealous eye?
Within two years after their landing, they
beheld a rival settlement attempted in their immediate neighborhood;
and not long after, the laws of self- preservation compelled them
to break up a nest of revellers, who boasted of protection from
the mother country, and who had recurred to the easy but pernicious
resource of feeding their wanton idleness, by furnishing the savages
with the means, the skill, and the instruments of European destruction.
Toleration, in that instance, would have been self-murder, and many
other examples might be alleged, in which their necessary measures
of self-defence have been exaggerated into cruelty, and their most
indispensable precautions distorted into persecution. Yet shall
we not pretend that they were exempt from the common laws of mortality,
or entirely free from all the errors of their age. Their zeal might
sometimes be too ardent, but it was always sincere. At this day,
religious indulgence is one of our clearest duties, because it is
one of our undisputed rights. While we rejoice that the principles
of genuine Christianity have so far triumphed over the prejudices
of a former generation, let us fervently hope for the day when it
will prove equally victorious over the malignant passions of our
In thus calling your attention to some
of the peculiar features in the principles, the character, and the
history of our forefathers, it is as wide from my design, as I know
it would be from your approbation, to adorn their memory with a
chaplet plucked from the domain of others.
The occasion and the day are more peculiarly
devoted to them, and let it never be dishonored with a contracted
and exclusive spirit. Our affections as citizens embrace the whole
extent of the Union, and the names of Raleigh, Smith, Winthrop,
Calvert, Penn and Oglethorpe excite in our minds recollections equally
pleasing and gratitude equally fervent with those of Carver and
Two centuries have not yet elapsed
since the first European foot touched the soil which now constitutes
the American Union. Two centuries more and our numbers must exceed
those of Europe itself.
The destinies of their empire, as they
appear in prospect before us, disdain the powers of human calculation.
Yet, as the original founder of the Roman State is said once to
have lifted upon his shoulders the fame and fortunes of all his
posterity, so let us never forget that the glory and greatness of
all our descendants is in our hands.
Preserve in all their purity, refine, if
possible, from all their alloy, those virtues which we this day
commemorate as the ornament of our forefathers. Adhere to them with
inflexible resolution, as to the horns of the altar; instil them
with unwearied perseverance into the minds of your children; bind
your souls and theirs to the national Union as the chords of life
are centred in the heart, and you shall soar with rapid and steady
wing to the summit of human glory.
Nearly a century ago, one of those
rare minds to whom it is given to discern future greatness in its
seminal principles, upon contemplating the situation of this continent,
pronounced, in a vein of poetic inspiration, "Westward the
star of empire takes its way." Let us unite in ardent supplication
to the Founder of nations and the Builder of worlds, that what then
was prophecy may continue unfolding into history--that the dearest
hopes of the human race may not be extinguished in disappointment,
and that the last may prove the noblest empire of time.
1876-2002 Copyright, The Daily Republican Newspaper.
All rights reserved.