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will smile, your ranks will be filled, and you will soon be in a condition to defy the powers of any adversary.
But Gentlemen object to any accession from Great Britain, and particularly to the return of the British refugees. Sir, I feel no objection to the return of those deluded people. They have, to be sure, mistaken their own interests most wofully; and most wofully have they suffered the punishment due to their offences. But the relations which we bear to them, and to their native country, are now changed. Their King hath acknowledged our independence; the quarrel is over, peace hath returned, and found us a free People. Let us have the magnanimity, Sir, to lay aside our antipathies and prejudices, and consider the subject in a political light. Those are an enterprising, moneyed people. They will be serviceable in taking off the surplus produce of our lands, and supplying us with necessaries, during the infant state of our manufactures. Even if they be inimical to us in point of feeling and principle, I can see no objection, in a political view, in making them tributary to our advantage. And, as I have no prejudices to prevent my making this use of them, so, Sir, I have no fear of any mischief that they can do us. Afraid of them! - What, Sir, shall we, who have laid the proud British lion at our feet, now be afraid of his whelps?
130. SUPPOSED SPEECH OF JAMES OTIS.*-Mrs. L. M. Child.
ENGLAND may as well dam up the waters of the Nile with bulrushes as fetter the step of Freedom, more proud and firm in this youthful land than where she treads the sequestered glens of Scotland, or couches herself among the magnificent mountains of Switzerland. Arbitrary principles, like those against which we now contend, have cost one King of England his life, - another, his crown, - and they may yet cost a third his most flourishing colonies.
We are two millions, one-fifth fighting men. We are bold and vigorous, and we call no man master. To the Nation from whom we are proud to derive our origin we ever were, and we ever will be, ready to yield unforced assistance; but it must not, and it never can be, extorted. Some have sneeringly asked, "Are the Americans too poor to pay a few pounds on stamped paper? No! America, thanks to God and herself, is rich. But the right to take ten pounds implies the right to take a thousand; and what must be the wealth that avarice, aided by power, cannot exhaust? True, the spectre is now small; but the shadow he casts before him is huge enough to darken all this fair land. Others, in sentimental style, talk of the immense debt of gratitude which we owe to England. And what is the amount of this debt? Why, truly, it is the same that the young lion owes to the dam, which has brought it forth on the solitude of the mountain, or left it amid the winds and storms of the desert.
We plunged into the wave, with the great charter of freedom in our
* Born, 1725; killed by a stroke of lightning, 1773.
teeth, because the fagot and torch were behind us. We have wakea this new world from its savage lethargy; forests have been prostrated in our path; towns and cities have grown up suddenly as the flowers of the tropics, and the fires in our autumnal woods are scarcely more rapid than the increase of our wealth and population. And do we owe all this to the kind succor of the mother country? No! we owe it to the tyranny that drove us from her, to the pelting storms which invigorated our helpless infancy.
But perhaps others will say, "We ask no money from your gratitude, we only demand that you should pay your own expenses." And who, I pray, is to judge of their necessity? Why, the King, and, with all due reverence to his sacred majesty, he understands the real wants of his distant subjects as little as he does the language of the Choctaws! Who is to judge concerning the frequency of these demands? The Ministry. Who is to judge whether the money is properly expended? The Cabinet behind the Throne. In every instance, those who take are to judge for those who pay. If this system is suffered to go into operation, we shall have reason to esteem it a great privilege that rain and dew do not depend upon Parliament; otherwise, they would soon be taxed and dried. But, thanks to God, there is freedom enough left upon earth to resist such monstrous injustice! The flame of liberty is extinguished in Greece and Rome; but the light of its glowing embers is still bright and strong on the shores of America. Actuated by its sacred influence, we will resist unto death. But we will not countenance anarchy and misrule. The wrongs that a desperate community have heaped upon their enemies shall be amply and speedily repaired. Still, it may be well for some proud men to remember, that a fire is lighted in these Colonies which one breath of their King may kindle into such fury that the blood of all England cannot extinguish it!
131. FOR INDEPENDENCE, 1776.
THE time will certainly come when the fated separation between the mother country and these Colonies must take place, whether you will or no; for so it is decreed by the very nature of things, — by the progressive increase of our population, the fertility of our soil, the extent of our territory, the industry of our countrymen, and the immensity of the ocean which separates the two countries. And, if this be true, as it is most true,- who does not see that the sooner it takes place, the better; that it would be the height of folly, not to seize the present occasion, when British injustice has filled all hearts with indignation, inspired all minds with courage, united all opinions in one, and put arms in every hand? And how long must we traverse three thousand miles of a stormy sea, to solicit of arrogant and insolent men either counsels or commands to regulate our domestic affairs? From what we have already achieved, it is easy to presume what we shall hereafter accom
- Richard Henry Lee. Born, 1732; died, 1794.
plish. Experience is the source of sage counsels, and liberty is the mother of great men. Have you not seen the enemy driven from Lexington by citizens armed and assembled in one day? Already their most celebrated generals have yielded in Boston to the skill of ours. Already their seamen, repulsed from our coasts, wander over the ocean, the sport of tempests, and the prey of famine. Let us hail the favorable omen, and fight, not for the sake of knowing on what terms we are to be the slaves of England, but to secure to ourselves a free existence, to found a just and independent Government.
Why do we longer delay, why still deliberate? Let this most happy day give birth to the American Republic. Let her arise, not to devastate and conquer, but to reestablish the reign of peace and of the laws. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us; she demands of us a living example of freedom, that may contrast, by the felicity of the citizens, with the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repose. She entreats us to cultivate a propitious soil, where that generous plant which first sprang up and grew in England, but is now withered by the poisonous blasts of Scottish tyranny, may revive and flourish, sheltering under its salubrious and interminable shade all the unfortunate of the human race. This is the end presaged by so many omens:-by our first victories; by the present ardor and union; by the flight of Howe, and the pestilence which broke out among Dunmore's people; by the very winds which baffled the enemy's fleets and transports, and that terrible tempest which engulfed seven hundred vessels upon the coasts of Newfoundland. If we are not this day wanting in our duty to country, the names of the American Legislators will be placed, by posterity, at the side of those of Theseus, of Lycurgus, of Romulus, of Numa, of the three Williams of Nassau, and of all those whose memory has been, and will be, forever dear to virtuous men and good citizens !
132. THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION, 1787.—Benjamin Franklin. Born, 1706; died, 1790. The following is strongly marked by the leading traits of Franklin's character,—his liberality, practical wisdom, and spirit of compromise.
SIR, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, -if they are such, because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the People, if well administered; and I believe, further, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution. For, when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish
views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It, therefore, astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our counsels are confounded, like those of the builders of Babel, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats.
Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution, because I expect no better. and because I am not sure that this is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us, in returning to his constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations, as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and efficacy of any Government, in procuring and securing happiness to the People, depends on opinion, -on the general opinion of the goodness of that Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope, therefore, that, for our own sakes, as a part of the People, and for the sake of our posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution, wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavors to the means of having it well administered.
133. GOD GOVERNS. — Benjamin Franklin, 1787, in Convention.
In this situation of this Assembly,-groping, as it were, in the dark, to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Light to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard,—and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this polit
ical building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Government by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest!
134. IN FAVOR OF A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. Supposed Speech of John Adams, in the Continental Congress, July, 1776.
The subjoined two extracts are from "A Discourse in commemoration of the Lives and Services of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, by Daniel Webster, delivered in Faneuil Hall, Boston, August 2, 1826." The sentiment and spirit of this "supposed" speech appear to be partially taken from a letter which John Adams wrote to a friend, the day after the Declaration, and in which he said: "Yesterday the greatest question was decided that was ever debated in America; and greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided by men. A resolution was passed, without one dissenting colony, that these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.' The day is passed. The Fourth of July, 1776, will be a memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward, forever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these States; yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which, I hope, we shall not."
By a felicitous coincidence, Adams and Jefferson died on the 4th of July, 1826, the anniversary of the occasion which they had done so much to render memorable.
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 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 honor? Are not you, Sir, who sit in that chair, is not he, our venerable colleague near you,—are not both already the proscribed and predestined objects of punishment and of 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 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 sacred honor to Washington, when, putting him forth to incur the dangers of war, as well as the political hazards of the times, we prom