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maintenance of the cause of peace, when war with Great Britain was threatened by the claims of the United States to Oregon. This selection is from one of his speeches in the Senate on that subject.
THE FIRST SETTLEMENT OF NEW, ENGLAND
THE hours of this day are rapidly flying, and this occasion will soon be passed. Neither we nor our children can expect to behold its return. They are in the distant regions of futurity, they exist only in the all-creating power of God, who shall stand here, a hundred years hence, to trace, through us, their descent from the Pilgrims, and to survey, as we have now surveyed, the progress of their country during the lapse of a century. We would anticipate their concurrence with us in our sentiments of deep regard for our common ancestors. We would anticipate and partake of the pleasure with which they will then recount the steps of New England’s advancement. On the morning of that day, although it will not disturb us in our repose, the voice of acclamation and gratitude, commencing on the rock of Plymouth, shall be transmitted through millions of the sons of the Pilgrims, till it lose itself in the murmurs of the Pacific seas.
We would leave for the consideration of those who shall occupy our places, some proof that we hold the blessings transmitted from our fathers in just estimation; some proof of our attachment to the cause of good government, and ardent desire to promote everything which may enlarge the understandings and improve the hearts of men. And when, from the long distance of a hundred years, they shall look back upon us, they shall know, at least, that we possessed affections which, running backward and warming with gratitude for what our ancestors have done for our happiness, run forward also to our posterity, and meet them with cordial salutation, ere yet they have arrived on the shore of being.
Advance, then, ye future generations ! We would hail you, as you rise in your long succession, to fill the places which we now fill, and to taste the blessings of existence, where we are passing, and soon shall have passed, our human duration. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies and the verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great inheritance which we have enjoyed. We welcome you to the blessings of good government and religious liberty. We welcome you to the treasures of science and the delights of learning. We welcome you to the transcendent sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of kindred, and parents, and children. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational existence, the immortal hope of Christianity, and the light of everlasting truth!
Biographical and Historical: Daniel Webster stands out as America’s foremost orator. His eloquence, enhanced by the force of his personality, was equally great whether answering an opponent in the Senate, pleading a case as a lawyer, or in the more dispassionate orations of anniversary occasions. He was the champion of the national idea and of complete union, and therefore bitterly opposed Hayne and Calhoun. He supported Clay in the compromise measures of 1850. His supremacy in American statesmanship, as senator, and as secretary of state, makes him “the notablest of our notabilities.” These are the closing paragraphs from his oration delivered at Plymouth, December 22, 1820, on the two hundredth anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims.
SUPPOSED SPEECH OF JOHN ADAMS
SINK or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. It is true, indeed, that in the beginning we aimed not at independence. But there is a divinity which shapes our ends. The injustice of England has driven us to arms; and, blinded to her own interest, she has obstinately persisted, till
independence is now within our grasp. We have but to reach forth to it, and it is ours. Why, then, should we defer the declaration? If we postpone independence, do we mean to carry on or to give up the war? Do we mean to submit, and consent that we shall be ground to powder, and our country and its rights trodden down in the dust? I know we do not mean to submit. We never shall submit ! The war, then, must go on; we must fight it through. And if the war must go on, why put off the declaration of independence? That measure will strengthen us. It will give us character abroad. Nations will then treat with us, which they never can do while we acknowledge ourselves subjects in arms against our sovereign. If we fail, it can be no worse for us. But we shall not fail. The cause will raise up armies; the cause will create navies. The people—the people, if we are true to them, will carry us, and will carry themselves, gloriously through this struggle. I care not how fickle other people have been found. I know the people of these colonies; and I know that resistance to British aggression is deep and settled in their hearts, and cannot be eradicated. Sir, the declaration of independence will inspire the people with increased courage. Instead of a long and bloody war for the restoration of privileges, for redress of grievances, set before them the glorious object of entire independence, and it will breathe into them anew the spirit of life. Read this declaration at the head of the army; every sword will be drawn, and the solemn vow uttered to maintain it or perish on the bed of honor. Publish it from the pulpit; religion will approve it, and the love of religious liberty will cling around it, resolved to stand with it, or fall with it. Send it to the public halls; proclaim it there; let them see it, who saw their brothers and their sons fall on the field of Bunker Hill, and in the streets of Lexington and Concord, and the very walls will cry out in its
clearly through this day’s business. You and I, indeed, may rue it. We may not live to see the time this declaration shall be made good. We may die; die colonists; die slaves; die, it may be ignominiously, and on the scaffold. Be it so: be it so. If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country, and that a free country. But whatever may be our fate, be assured—be assured that this declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood; but it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both. Through the thick gloom of the present I see the brightness of the future, as the sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its annual return they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears; not of subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude, and of joy. Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves the measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I began, that, live or die, survive or perish, I am for the declaration. It is my living sentiment, and, by the blessing of God, it shall be my dying sentiment; independence now, and independence forever.
Historical: Boston was deeply moved, on July 4, 1826, by the news of the death of John Adams, just fifty years after the signing of the Teclaration of Independence. He was not only conscious of the significance of the day, but had spoken of his colleague, Thomas Jefferson, and the fact that Jefferson would survive him. A few days later, news came from Virginia that Jefferson had died on the same day, a few hours earlier than Adams. The whole country was deeply affected by this remarkable coincidence. On the second of August a public memorial meeting was held in Faneuil Hall, Boston, at which Daniel Webster delivered an oration on “Adams and Jefferson,” In this speech, merely
a part of the oration, Webster represents what Adams might have said at the time of the Declaration of Independence.
SOUTH CAROLINA AND THE UNION
I SHALL make no profession of zeal for the interests and honor of South Carolina. If there be one state in the Union that may challenge comparison with any other, for a uniform, zealous, ardent, and uncalculating devotion to the Union, that state is South Carolina. From the very commencement of the Revolution up to this hour, there is no sacrifice, however great, she has not cheerfully made, no service she has ever hesitated to perform. She has adhered to you in your prosperity; but in your adversity she has clung to you with more than filial affection. No matter what was the condition of her domestic affairs, though deprived of her resources, divided by parties, or surrounded with difficulties, the call of the country has been to her as the voice of God. Domestic discord ceased at the sound; every man became at once reconciled to his brethren, and the sons of Carolina were all seen crowding together to the temple, bringing gifts to the altar of their common country.
What was the conduct of the South during the Revolution? I
honor New England for her conduct in that glorious struggle.
But great as is the praise which belongs to her, I think at least equal honor is due the South. They espoused the quarrel of their brethren with a generous zeal which did not suffer them to stop to calculate their interest in the dispute. Favorites of the mother country, possessed of neither ships nor seamen to create a commercial rivalship, they might have found in their situation a guaranty that their trade would be forever fostered and protected by Great Britain. But, trampling on all considerations either of interest or of safety, they rushed into the conflict, and, fighting for principle, periled all in the sacred cause of freedom. Never were