ed 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 by 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, concludes his exhortation by an appeal to these irresistible feelings*_* Think of your forefathers and of your posterity.” 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 substance 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 people. In the luxuriance of youth, and in the vigor of manhood, it is pleasing and instructive to look backwards 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.

* Proinde ituri in aciem, et majores vestros et posteros cogitate.

Galgacus in Vita Agricolac.

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 their 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 virtues you can dwell with honest exultation. The founders of your race are not handed down to you, like the father 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 champions. Their numbers were small; their stations in life obscure; the object of their enterprize 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 excellence.

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 importance 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 cen. sure, 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 adventurers; but in none, excepting the settlement at Plymouth, did they constitute the sole and exclusive actuating cause. 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 enterprize and that stubbornness of pursuit, which set all danger at defiance, and chain the

« 前へ次へ »