Imágenes de páginas

discovered less than a century before by Christopher Columbus, and the Northern Continent of which had been brought within the reach of her own prerogative by the subsequent discovery of Sebastian Cabot. To that whole continent she gave the name of VIRGINIA; and at her death, after a reign of five-and-forty years, that whole continent, through all its yet unmeasured latitudes and longitudes, from the confines of Labrador to the Mexican Gulf, was known by no other title, than that which thus marked it as the dominion of a Maiden Queen.

But it was that Queen's dominion only in name. Four times, indeed, she had essayed to people it and plant her banners there. But in vain. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, to whom the first patent for this purpose was granted, being compelled to return prematurely to England by the disasters he had experienced on the coast of Newfoundland, was lost in a storm on the homeward passage, and all that survived of his gallant enterprise, was that sublime exclamation, as he sat in the stern of his sinking bark — " It is as near to Heaven by sea as by land.” By the resolute and undaunted efforts of his illustrious brotherin-law, Sir Walter Raleigh, however, three separate companies of colonists were afterwards conducted to the more southern parts of the continent, and each in succession commenced a settlement at Roanoke Bay. But two of them perished on the spot, without leaving behind them even so much as the means of ascertaining whether they had owed their destruction to force or to famine; — while the third, which, indeed, was the first in order, within a year from its departure, returned in disgust to its native land. And the whole result of Virginia colonization and Virginia commerce, upon which such unbounded hopes of glory and of gain had been hung by Raleigh, and cherished by the Queen, had hitherto consisted in the introduction into England, by this last named band of emigrants returning home in despair, of a few hundreds of tobacco, and in Queen Elizabeth herself becoming one of Raleigh's pupils in that most maidenly and most queenly accomplishment, — smoking a pipe. Not one subject did Elizabeth leave at her death in that wide spread continent, which she had thus destined to the honor of perpetuating the memory of her haughty and ambitious virginity.

Within a year or two past, a second Maiden Queen has ascended the throne which the first exchanged for a grave in 1603. And when she casts her eye back, as she can scarcely fail frequently to do, to the days of her illustrious prototype, and compares the sceptre which Elizabeth so boldly swayed for nearly half a century with that which trembles in her girlish hand, she may console herself with the reflection, that if the strength and potency of her own are greatly inferior, its reach and sweep are, practically at least, vastly more extended. She sees the imme. diate successor to Elizabeth, uniting the crowns of England and Scotland, and preparing the way for that perfect consolidation of the two countries which another century was destined to complete. Ireland, too, she finds no longer held by the tenure of an almost annual conquest, but included in the bonds of the same great union. While beyond the boundaries of the Imperial Homestead, she beholds her power bestriding the world like a Colossus, a foot on either hemisphere; in one, military posts and colonial possessions hailing her accession and acknowledg. ing her


which were without even a name or local habitation in the history of the world, as Raleigh wrote it; and in the other, a company of adventurers which Elizabeth chartered a few years before her death, to try the experiment of a trade with the East Indies by the newly discovered passage round the Cape of Good Hope, converted from a petty mercantile corporation into a vast military empire, and holding in her name and expending in her service territorial dominions and revenues equal to those of the most powerful independent monarchies.

But where is Virginia? Where is the ancient dominion” upon which her great Exemplar inscribed the substance of that “ maiden meditation ” which even now, mayhap, is mingled with the weightier cares of majesty in her own breast? Have all attempts to plant and colonize it proved still unsuccessful ? Is it still unreclaimed from original barbarism — still only the abode of wolves and wild men ? And why is it not found on the map of the British possessions — why not comprised in the catalogue of Her Majesty's Colonies? Two centuries and a third ago only, when Elizabeth quitted the throne, it was there, unsettled indeed, and with not a civilized soul upon its soil, but

opening its boundless territories to the adventure and enterprise of the British people, and destined, to all human appearances, to be one day counted among the brightest jewels in the crowns of the British princes. Why is it not now seen sparkling in that which encircles her own brow?

If we might imagine the youthful Victoria, led along by the train of reflections which we have thus suggested, and snatching a moment from the anxious contemplation of colonies which she is in immediate danger of losing, to search after those which have been lost to her already, - if we might imagine her turning back the page of History to the period of the first Stuart, to discover what became of the Virginia of Elizabeth after her death, how it was finally planted, and how it passed from beneath the sceptre of her successors, - if we might be indulged in a far less natural imagination, and fancy ourselves admitted at this moment to the royal presence, and, with something more even than the ordinary boldness of Yankee curiosity, peering over the royal shoulder, as, impatient at the remembrance of losses sustained, and still more so at the prospect of like losses impending, she hurries over the leaves on which the fortunes of that Virginia are recorded, and the fortunes of all other Virginias foreshadowed, what a scene should we find unfolding itself to her view!

She sees, at a glance, a permanent settlement effected there, and James the First, more fortunate than his mother's murderer, inscribing a name not on a mere empty territory only, but on an organized and inhabited town. A page onward, she perceives a second and entirely separate settlement accomplished in a widely distant quarter of the continent, and the cherished title of New ENGLAND is now presented to her view. Around these two original footholds of civilization, she sees a hardy, enterprising, and chivalrous people rapidly clustering, while other settlements are simultaneously established along the territory which divides them. Thousands of miles of coast, with their parallel ranges of interior country, are soon seen thickly studded over with populous and flourishing plantations. The population of them all, which had run up from 0 to 300,000 by the close of the seventeenth century, is found advanced to more than two millions by the close of the eighteenth. And another page displays to her kindling gaze thirteen as noble colonies as the sun ever shone upon, with nearly three millions of inhabitants, all acknowledging their allegiance to the British Crown, all contributing their unmatched energies to the support and extension of British commerce, and all claiming, as their most valued birthright, the liberties and immunities of the British Constitution. Ah! did the volume but end there! But she perceives, as she proceeds, that in a rash hour those liberties and immunities were denied them. Resistance, War, Independence, in letters of blood, now start up bewilderingly to her sight. And where the Virginia of Elizabeth was, two centuries and a third ago, a waste and howling wilderness upon which civilized man was as yet unable to maintain himself a moment, she next beholds an independent and united Nation of sixteen millions of freemen, with a commerce second only to her own, and with a country, a constitution, an entire condition of men and things, which from all previous experience in the growth of nations, ought to have been the fruit of at least a thousand years, and would have been regarded as the thrifty produce of a Millennium well employed !

Gentlemen of the New England Society and Fellow-Citizens of New York, of this wonderful rise and progress of our country, from the merely nominal and embryo existence which it had acquired at the dawn of the seventeenth century, to the mature growth, the substantial prosperity, the independent greatness and national grandeur in which it is now beheld, we this day commemorate a main, original spring. The twenty-second of December, 1620, was not the mere birthday of a town or a colony. Had it depended for its distinction upon events like these, it would have long ago ceased to be memorable. The town which it saw planted, is indeed still in existence, standing on the very site which the Pilgrims selected, and containing within its limits an honest, industrious, and virtuous people, not unworthy of the precious scenes and hallowed associations to whose enjoyment they have succeeded. But possessing, as it did originally, no peculiar advantages, either of soil, locality, or climate, and outstripped, as it naturally has been, in wealth, size, population, and importance, by thousands of other towns all over the continent, it would scarcely suffice to perpetuate beyond its own immediate precincts, the observance, or even the remembrance of a day, of whose doings it constituted the only monument; while the colony of whose establishment that day was also the commencement, has long since ceased to enjoy any separate political existence. As if to rescue its founders from the undeserved fortune of being only associated in the memory of posterity with the settlers of individual States, and to insure for them a name and a praise in all quarters of the country, the Colony of New Plymouth never reached the dignity of independent sovereignty to which almost all its sister colonies were destined, and is now known only as the fraction of a county of a Commonwealth which was founded by other hands.

Yes, the event which occurred two hundred and nineteen years ago yesterday, was of wider import than the confines of New Plymouth. The area of New England, greater than that of Old England, has yet proved far too contracted to comprehend all its influences. They have been coextensive with our country. They have pervaded our continent. They have passed the Isthmus. They have climbed the farthest Andes. They have crossed the ocean. The seeds of the Mayflower, wasted by the winds of Heaven, or borne in the Eagle's beak, have been scattered far and wide over the Old World as well as over the New. The suns of France or Italy have not scorched them. The frosts of Russia have not nipped them. The fogs of Germany have not blighted them. They have sprung up in every latitude, and borne fruit, some twenty, some fifty, and some an hundred fold. And though so often struck down and crushed beneath the iron tread of arbitrary power, they are still ineradicably imbedded in every soil, and their leaves are still destined to be for the healing of all nations. O, could only some one of the pious fathers, whose wanderings were this day brought to an end, be permitted to enter once more upon these earthly scenes; could he, like the pious father of ancient Rome, guided by some guardian spirit and covered with a cloud, be conducted, I care not to what spot beneath the sky, how might he exclaim,

« AnteriorContinuar »