« AnteriorContinuar »
Extract from a Discourse delivered before a large body of Voltors in London, in 1804.
ONE circumstance, which much enhances the pleasure of life, is liberty. Without liberty the value of life is doubtful; to see oppression without interference, to suffer it without resistance, to consider that life and property are at the mercy of one, who has no more natural right to live or to enjoy than ourselves, is a source of the most bitter and unquiet feelings to elevated minds.
For liberty, many have ventured their lives, who knew liberty only by description. We have lived the life of freemen, we have heard the name of freedom when we were children, and in all the relations of life we have found it to be more than a name. The enjoyment of it is so wrought and tempered into our daily habits, that any internal attempt to destroy the constitution of this realm, could not succeed but by the most enormous waste of human life.
The name is too dear, the feeling too deep-the habit too inveterate. It would be easier to destroy this people, than to enslave them. And yet what are the sufferings of internal tyranny, in comparison with those of foreign subjugation? First, there would be burnings, and massacres, and plunders; a promiscuous carnage of the English race. A thousand flames would burst forth in this venerable city, and shed their horrid light upon the dying and the dead; and when the sword had drunk its full, and the flower of this race was perished away,-then think of the silence of a land, over which an avenging enemy had passed: no loom -no plough-no ship-no tolling of the bell to church,no cheerful noise of the artificer,- -a land spent and extinguished, a people apostate to their ancient spirit, and their ancient frame.
If you think life worth having after this, if you will live, when England does not live; if you will fawn at the feet of a foreign soldier, for a few years of existence; if you will put on the smiles of a slave, after you have worn the countenance of a free man-then live on, and may life be your punishment! You will remember, when it is too late, the cry of Maccabeus, that it is better to die in battle, than to behold the calamities of your people and your sanctuary.
SECOND EXTRACT FROM THE SAME.
THE happiness of life depends upon an unpolluted sanctuary, upon a pure state of religion. Without it, crimes multiply, laxity prevails in morals, society becomes a compound of fraud and voluptuousness; the motives for life are weakened; therefore Judas Maccabeus said well when he said, I will never see a polluted sanctuary.
Life becomes more valuable under a wise administration of good laws gradually elaborated by experience. It becomes more valuable in a cultivated state of the arts and sciences, more in a high state of commercial and agricultural prosperity of our country, more from its renown among the nations of the world; by all the wisdom that has been employed to make that country great and good; by all the lives that have been sacrificed to make it secure; by all the industry that has been exerted to make it opulent, by the deep tinge which it has received of the Christian character; by the number of those servants of God, who have left, in their lives and writings, a great example to the people; by the rich presents, which God has at any time made to it of men famous for their beautiful sayings and genius. By this measure of value the loss of a country is to be tried, and by this measure we must decide, whether it is better to die than to lose it. ****
Now let me apply it to you, and bring it home to the chambers of your hearts. Do you feel that you are free men? Have you good laws? Have you a pure religion? Is England cultivated? Is it rich? Is it powerful? Is it renowned? Did you ever hear it had done great deeds? Did you ever hear it had nourished great men? I know that, but for the sanctity of this place, you would answer with loud shouts and cries, that all these things are so. Why then, I say, in the hour of danger remember the hero of Israel, and think it better to die in battle, than to behold the calamities of such a people and such a land.
THIRD EXTRACT FROM THE SAME.
IN order to put on the spirit of self-devotion, we must feel that it will admit of no backsliding, no wavering, no computation. The resolution once taken, we must advance, or we perish; we must not imagine that the danger will not come, and believe we are playing at magnanimity and heroism. The danger is pressing on against us with rapid strides. In a little time, every man may be reminded of his threats, and his covenant of war, and courage exacted at his hands. The lintel post of every door may be smitten with blood, and the loud cries of the helpless, the sick, and the young, may pierce our hearts.
Be not deceived. There is no wall of adamant, no triple flaming sword, to drive off those lawless assassins that have murdered and pillaged in every other land. Heaven has made with us no covenant, that there should be joy and peace here, and wailing and lamentation in the world besides.
I would counsel you to put on a mind of patient suffering and noble acting. Whatever energies there are in the human mind, you will want them all. Every man will be tried to the very springs of his heart, and those times are at hand, which will show us all as we really are, with the genuine stamp and value, be it much or be it little, which nature has impressed upon each living soul.
A greater contest than that in which we are engaged, the world has never seen; for we are not fighting for our country alone, but we are fighting to decide the question, whether there shall be any more freedom upon the earth. If we are subdued, the great objects of life are vanished; all reason for living is at an end. There remains a barren, vacant earth, from which every good man would beg of Heaven that he might escape.
But I have better and brighter hopes. I trust in the watching providence of Heaven, in the manly sense and the native courage of this people. I believe they will act now, as they have ever acted before-with undaunted boldness. I have a boundless confidence in the English character, and from this prostituted nation of merchants, (as they are in derision called) I believe more heroes will
spring up in the hour of danger, than all the military nations of ancient and modern Europe have ever produced. Into the hands of God, then, and his ever-merciful Son, we cast ourselves, and wait in humble patience the result. -First, we ask for victory; but if that cannot be, we have only one other prayer- -we implore death.
SUPPOSED SPEECH OF AN OPPONENT OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.-Webster.
LET us pause! This step, once taken, cannot be retraced. This resolution, once passed, will cut off all hope of reconciliation. If success attend the arms of England, we shall then be no longer colonies, with charters, and with privileges; these will all be forfeited by this act; and we shall be in the condition of other conquered people-at the mercy of the conquerors. For ourselves, we may be ready to run the hazard; but are we ready to carry the country to that length? Is success so probable as to justify it? Where is the military, where the naval power, by which we are to resist the whole strength of the arm of England?for she will exert that strength to the utmost. Can we rely on the constancy and perseverance of the people? or will they not act, as the people of other countries have acted, and, wearied with a long war, submit, in the end, to a worse oppression? While we stand on our old ground, and insist on redress of grievance, we know we are right, and are not answerable for consequences. Nothing, then, can be imputable to us. But, if we now change our object, carry our pretensions farther, and set up for absolute independence, we shall lose the sympathy of mankind. We shall no longer be defending what we possess, but struggling for something which we never did possess, and which we have solemnly and uniformly disclaimed all intention of pursuing, from the very outset of the troubles. Abandoning thus our old ground, of resistance only to arbitrary acts of oppression, the nations will believe the whole to have been mere pretence, and they will look on us, not as injured, but as ambitious subjects. I shudder before this responsibility. It will be on us, if, relinquishing the ground we have stood on
so long, and stood on so safely, we now proclaim independence, and carry on the war for that object, while these cities burn, these pleasant fields whiten and bleach with the bones of their owners, and these streams run blood. It will be upon us, it will be upon us, if, failing to maintain this unseasonable and ill-judged declaration, a sterner despotism, maintained by military power, shall be established over our posterity, when we ourselves, given up by an exhausted, a harassed, a misled people, shall have expiated our rashness and atoned for our presumption, on the scaffold.
SUPPOSED SPEECH OF JOHN ADAMS IN FAVOUR OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.-Webster.
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's a Divinity which shapes our ends. The injustice of England has driven us to arms; and, blinded to her own interest, for our good 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?) Is any man so weak as now to hope for a reconciliation with England, which shall leave either safety to the country and its liberties, or safety to his own life, and his own honour? Are not you, sir, who sit in that chair,—is not he, our venerable colleague, near you,—are you not both already the proscribed and predestined objects of punishment and vengeance? Cut off from all hope of royal clemency, what are you, what can you be, while the power of England remains, but outlaws?
If we postpone independence, do we mean to carry on, or to give up, the war? Do we mean to submit to the measures of parliament, Boston port-bill and all? Do we mean to submit, and consent that we ourselves 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.
Do we intend to violate that most solemn obligation ever entered into by men, that plighting, before God, of our sa