Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

as he gazed, not with tears of anguish, but of rapture, not on some empty picture of Pilgrim sorrows and Pilgrim struggles, but upon the living realities of Pilgrim influence and Pilgrim achievement — “ Quis locus Quæ regio - What place, what region upon earth is there, which is not full of the products of our labors! Where, where has not some darkness been enlightened, some oppression alleviated, some yoke broken or chain loosened, some better views of God's worship or man's duty, of divine law or human rights, been imparted by our principles or inspired by our example!”

This country, Fellow-Citizens, has in no respect more entirely contravened all previous experience in human affairs, than in affording materials for the minutest details in the history of its earliest ages. I should rather say, of its earliest days, for it has had no ages, and days have done for it what ages have been demanded for elsewhere. But whatever the periods of its existence may be termed, they are all historical periods. Its whole birth, growth, being, are before us. We are not compelled to resort to cunningly devised fables to account either for its origin or advancement. We can trace back the current of its career to the very rock from which it first gushed.

Yet how like a fable does it seem, how even “stranger than fiction," to speak of the event which we this day commemorate, as having exerted any material influence on the destinies of our country, much more as having in any degree affected the existing condition of the world! This ever-memorable, ever-glorious landing of the Pilgrims, how, where, by what numbers, under what circumstances, was it made? From what invincible Armada did the Fathers of New England disembark? With what array of disciplined armies did they line the shore ? Warned by the fate which had so frequently befallen other colonists on the same coast, what batteries did they bring to defend them from the incursions of a merciless foe; what stores to preserve them from the invasions of a not more merciful famine?

In the whole history of colonization, ancient or modern, no feebler company either in point of numbers, armament, or supplies, can be found, than that which landed, on the day we commemorate, on these American shores. Forty-one men, — of whom two, at least, came over only in the capacity of servants to others, and who manifested their title to be counted among the Fathers of New England within a few weeks after their arrival, by fighting with sword and dagger the first duel which stands recorded on the annals of the New World, for which they were adjudged to be tied together neck and heels and so to lie for four-and-twenty hours without meat or drink; - forty-one men, - of whom one more, at least, had been shuffled into the ship’s company at London, nobody knew by whom, and who even more signally vindicated his claim, no long time after, to be enumerated among this pious Pilgrim band, by committing the first murder and gracing the first gallows of which there is any memorial in our colonial history; — forty-one men, all told, with about sixty women and children, one of whom had been born during the passage, and another in the harbor before they landed, — in a single ship, of only one hundred and eighty tons burden, whose upper works had proved so leaky, and whose middle beam had been so bowed and wracked by the cross winds and fierce storms which they encountered during the first half of the voyage, that but for “ a great iron screw” which one of the passengers had brought with him from Holland, and by which they were enabled to raise the beam into its place again, they must have turned back in despair, - conducted, after a four months' passage upon the ocean, either by the ignorance or the treachery of their pilot, to a coast widely different from that which they had themselves selected, and entirely out of the jurisdiction of the corporation from which they had obtained their charter;- and landing at last,- after a four weeks' search along the shore for a harbor in which they could land at all, — at one moment wearied out with wading above their knees in the icy surf, at another tired with travelling up and down the steep hills and valleys covered with snow, at a third, dashed upon the breakers in a foundering shallop whose sails, masts, rudder, had been successively carried away in a squall, with the spray of the sea frozen on them until their clothes looked as if they were glazed and felt like coats of iron, and having in all their search seen little else but graves, and received no other welcome but a shout of savages and a shower of arrows; — as he gazed, not with tears of anguish, but of rapture, not on some empty picture of Pilgrim sorrows and Pilgrim struggles, but upon the living realities of Pilgrim influence and Pilgrim achievement — “ Quis locus Quæ regio — What place, what region upon earth is there, which is not full of the products of our labors! Where, where has not some darkness been enlightened, some oppression alleviated, some yoke broken or chain loosened, some better views of God's worship or man's duty, of divine law or human rights, been imparted by our principles or inspired by our example!”

This country, Fellow-Citizens, has in no respect more entirely contravened all previous experience in human affairs, than in affording materials for the minutest details in the history of its earliest ages. I should rather say, of its earliest days, for it has had no ages, and days have done for it what ages have been demanded for elsewhere. But whatever the periods of its existence may be termed, they are all historical periods. Its whole birth, growth, being, are before us. We are not compelled to resort to cunningly devised fables to account either for its origin or advancement. We can trace back the current of its career to the very rock from which it first gushed.

Yet how like a fable does it seem, how even “stranger than fiction," to speak of the event which we this day commemorate, as having exerted any material influence on the destinies of our country, much more as having in any degree affected the existing condition of the world! This ever-memorable, ever-glorious landing of the Pilgrims, how, where, by what numbers, under what circumstances, was it made? From what invincible Armada did the Fathers of New England disembark? With what array of disciplined armies did they line the shore ? Warned by the fate which had so frequently befallen other colonists on the same coast, what batteries did they bring to defend them from the incursions of a merciless foe; what stores to preserve them from the invasions of a not more merciful famine ?

In the whole history of colonization, ancient or modern, no feebler company either in point of numbers, armament, or supplies, can be found, than that which landed, on the day we commemorate, on these American shores. Forty-one men, - of whom two, at least, came over only in the capacity of servants to others, and who manifested their title to be counted among the Fathers of New England within a few weeks after their arrival, by fighting with sword and dagger the first duel which stands recorded on the annals of the New World, for which they were adjudged to be tied together neck and heels and so to lie for four-and-twenty hours without meat or drink; — forty-one men,- of whom one more, at least, had been shuffled into the ship's company at London, nobody knew by whom, and who even more signally vindicated his claim, no long time after, to be enumerated among this pious Pilgrim band, by committing the first murder and gracing the first gallows of which there is any memorial in our colonial history ; - forty-one men, all told, with about sixty women and children, one of whom had been born during the passage, and another in the harbor before they landed, — in a single ship, of only one hundred and eighty tons burden, whose upper works had proved so leaky, and whose middle beam had been so bowed and wracked by the cross winds and fierce storms which they encountered during the first half of the voyage, that but for a great iron screw” which one of the passengers had brought with him from Holland, and by which they were enabled to raise the beam into its place again, they must have turned back in despair, - conducted, after a four months' passage upon the ocean, either by the ignorance or the treachery of their pilot, to a coast widely different from that which they had themselves selected, and entirely out of the jurisdiction of the corporation from which they had obtained their charter ;- and landing at last, after a four weeks' search along the shore for a harbor in which they could land at all, at one moment wearied out with wading above their knees in the icy surf, at another tired with travelling up and down the steep hills and valleys covered with snow, at a third, dashed upon the breakers in a foundering shallop whose sails, masts, rudder, had been successively carried away in a squall, with the spray of the sea frozen on them until their clothes looked as if they were glazed and felt like coats of iron, and having in all their search seen little else but graves, and received no other welcome but a shout of savages and a shower of arrows; —

landing at last, with a scanty supply of provisions for immediate use, and with ten bushels of corn for planting in the ensuing spring, which they had dug out of the sand-hills where the Indians had hidden it, and without which they would have been in danger of perishing, but for which, it is carefully recorded, they gave

the owners entire content about six months after; landing at last, in the depth of winter, with grievous colds and coughs, and the seeds of those illnesses which quickly proved the death of many,

upon a bleak and storm-beaten rock a fit emblem of most of the soil by which it was surrounded; this, this is a plain, unvarnished story of that day's transaction this was the triumphal entry of the New England Fathers upon the theatre of their glory!* What has saved it from being the theme of ridicule and contempt? What has rescued it from being handed down through all history, as a wretched effort to compass a mighty end by paltry and utterly inadequate means? What has screened it from being stigmatized forever as a Quixotic sally of wild and hare-brained enthusiasts?

Follow this feeble, devoted band, to the spot which they have at length selected for their habitation. See them felling a few trees, sawing and carrying the timber, and building the first New England house, of about twenty feet square, to receive them and their goods ; — and see that house, the earliest product of their exhausted energies, within a fortnight after it was finished, and on the very morning it was for the first time to have been the scene of their wilderness worship, burnt in an instant to the ground.

They have chosen a Governor - one whom of all others they respect and love — but his care and pains were so great for the common good, as therewith it is thought he oppressed himself, and shortened his days, and one morning, early in the spring, he came out of the cornfields, where he had been toiling with the rest, sick, and died. They have elected another; but who is there now to be governed? They have chosen a Captain, too,

* In this description, and in some other of the narrative portions of the Address, I have employed phrases and paragraphs gleaned here and there from the writings of Prince, Morton, and others, without deeming it necessary to disfigure the pages by too frequent a use of the inverted commas.

« AnteriorContinuar »