« AnteriorContinuar »
With solemnities suited to the occasion, 90 with prayers to Almighty God for his blessing, and in the midst of this cloud of witnesses, we have begun the work. We trust it will be prosecuted, and that, springing from a broad foundation, rising high in massive solidity and unadorned grandeur, it may remain 95 as long as Heaven permits the works of man to last, a fit emblem, both of the events in memory of which it is raised and of the gratitude of those who have reared it.
We know, indeed, that the record of illustrious ac- 100 tions is most safely deposited in the universal remembrance of mankind. We know that if we could cause this structure to ascend, not only till it reached the skies, but till it pierced them, its broad surfaces could still contain but-part of that which, in an age of knowl-105 edge, hath already been spread over the earth, and which history charges itself with making known to all future times. We know that no inscription on entablatures less broad than the earth itself can carry information of the events we commemorate where it has 110 not already gone ; and that no structure, which shall not outlive the duration of letters and knowledge among men, can prolong the memorial. But our object is, by this edifice, to show our own deep sense of the value and importance of the achievements of our 115 ancestors; and, by presenting this work of gratitude to the eye, to keep alive similar sentiments, and to foster a constant regard for the principles of the Revolution. Human beings are composed, not of reason only, but of imagination also, and sentiment; and that 120 is neither wasted nor misapplied which is appropriated to the purpose of giving right direction to senti
ments and opening proper springs of feeling in the heart. Let it not be supposed that our object is to perpetuate national hostility, or even to cherish a mere 125 military spirit. It is higher, purer, nobler.
We consecrate our work to the spirit of national independence, and we wish that the light of peace may rest upon it forever. We rear a memorial of our conviction of that unmeasured benefit which has been con- 130 ferred on our own land, and of the happy influences which have been produced, by the same events, on the general interests of mankind. We come, as Americans, to mark a spot which must forever be dear to us and our posterity. We wish that whosoever, in all 135 coming time, shall turn his eye thither, may behold that the place is not undistinguished where the first great battle of the Revolution was fought. We wish that this structure may proclaim the magnitude and importance of that event to every class and every age. 140 We wish that infancy may learn the purpose of its erection from maternal lips, and that weary and withered age may behold it, and be solaced by the recollections which it suggests. We wish that labor may look up here, and be proud, in the midst of its toil. 143 We wish that, in those days of disaster, which, as they come upon all nations, must be expected to come upon us also, desponding patriotism may turn its eyes hitherward, and be assured that the foundations of our national power are still strong. We wish that this 150 column, rising towards heaven among the pointed spires of so many temples dedicated to God, may contribute also to produce, in all minds, a pious feeling of dependence and gratitude. We wish, finally, that the last object to the sight of him who leaves his na- 155 tive shore, and the first to gladden him who visits it, may be something which shall remind him of the liberty and the glory of his country. Let it rise ! let it rise, till it meet the sun in his coming ; let the earliest light of the morning gild it, and parting day linger 160 and play on its summit.
We live in a most extraordinary age. Events So various and so important that they might crowd and distinguish centuries are, in our times, compressed within the compass of a single life.
a single life. When has it 165 happened that history has had so much to record, in the same term of years, as since the 17th of June, 1775 ? Our own Revolution, which, under other circumstances, might itself have been expected to occasion a war of half a century, has been achieved ; 170 twenty-four sovereign and independent states erected ; and a general government established over them, so safe, so wise, so free, so practical, that we might well wonder its establishment should have been accomplished so soon, were it not far the greater wonder 175 that it should have been established at all. Two or three millions of people have been augmented to twelve, the great forests of the West prostrated beneath the arm of successful industry, and the dwellers on the banks of the Ohio and the Mississippi become 180 the fellow-citizens and neighbors of those who cultivate the hills of New England. We have a commerce that leaves no sea unexplored ; navies which take no law from superior force ; revenues adequate to all the exigencies of government, almost without taxation ; 185 and peace with all nations, founded on equal rights and mutual respect.
Europe, within the same period, has been agitated
by a mighty revolution, which, while it has been felt in the individual condition and happiness of almost 190 every man, has shaken to the center her political fabric, and dashed against one another thrones which had stood tranquil for ages. On this, our continent, our own example has been followed, and colonies have sprung up to be nations. Unaccustomed sounds of 195 liberty and free government have reached us from beyond the track of the sun ; and at this moment the dominion of European power in this continent, from the place where we stand to the south pole, is annihilated forever.
In the meantime, both in Europe and America, such has been the general progress of knowledge, such the improvement in legislation, in commerce, in the arts, in letters, and, above all, in liberal ideas and the general spirit of the age, that the whole world seems 205 changed.
Yet, notwithstanding that this is but a faint abstract of the things which have happened since the day of the battle of Bunker Hill, we are but fifty years removed from it; and we now stand here to enjoy all the bless-210 ings of our own condition, and to look abroad on the brightened prospects of the world, while we still have among us some of those who were active agents in the scenes of 1775, and who are now here, from every quarter of New England, to visit once more, and under 215 circumstances so affecting, I had almost said so overwhelming, this renowned theater of their courage and patriotism.
VENERABLE MEN ! you have come down to us from a former generation. Heaven has bounteously length- 220 ened out your lives, that you might behold this joyous
day. You are now where you stood fifty years ago, this very hour, with your brothers and your neighbors, shoulder to shoulder, in the strife for your country. Behold, how altered ! The same heavens are indeed 225 over your heads; the same ocean rolls at your feet; but all else how changed ! You hear now no roar of hostile cannon, you see no mixed volumes of smoke and flame rising from burning Charlestown. The ground strewed with the dead and the dying; the 230 impetuous charge; the steady and successful repulse; the loud call to repeated assault; the summoning of all that is manly to repeated resistance: a thousand bosoms freely and fearlessly bared in an instant to whatever of terror there may be in war and death; all these you 235 have witnessed, but you witness them no more. All is peace. The heights of yonder metropolis, its towers and roofs, which you then saw filled with wives and children and countrymen in distress and terror, and looking with unutterable emotions for the issue of 240 the combat, have presented you to-day with the sight of its whole happy population, come out to welcome and greet you with a universal jubilee. Yonder proud ships, by a felicity of position appropriately lying at the foot of this mount, and seeming fondly to cling 245 around it, are not means of annoyance to you, but your country's own means of distinction and defense. All is peace; and God has granted you this sight of your country's happiness, ere you slumber in the grave. He has allowed you to behold and to partake the reward 250 of your patriotic toils; and he has allowed us, your sons and countrymen, to meet you here, and in the name of the present generation, in the name of your country, in the name of liberty, to thank you!