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the clouds in the Heavens, the pillars that uphold the firmament, may disappear and fall away in the hour appointed by the will of God; but, until that day comes, or so long as our lives may last, no ruthless hand shall undermine that bright arch of Union and Liberty which spans the continent from Washington to California!
23. THE POWER OF PUBLIC OPINION, 1852. -Webster.
WE are too much inclined to underrate the power of moral influence, and the influence of public opinion, and the influence of principles to which great men, the lights of the world and of the age, have given their sanction. Who doubts that, in our own struggle for liberty and independence, the majestic eloquence of Chatham, the profound reasoning of Burke, the burning satire and irony of Col. Barré, had influences upon our fortunes here in America? They had influences both ways. They tended, in the first place, somewhat to diminish the confidence of the British Ministry in their hopes of success, in attempting to subjugate an injured People. They had influence another way, because, all along the coasts of the country,— and all our people in that day lived upon the coast, there was not a reading man who did not feel stronger, bolder, and more determined in the assertion of his rights, when these exhilarating accounts from the two Houses of Parliament reached him from beyond the seas. He felt that those who held and controlled public opinion elsewhere were with us; that their words of eloquence might produce an effect in the region where they were uttered; and, above all, they assured them that, in the judgment of the just, and the wise, and the impartial, their cause was just, and they were right; and therefore they said, We will fight it out to the last.
Now, Gentlemen, another great mistake is sometimes made. We think that nothing is powerful enough to stand before autocratic, monarchical, or despotic power. There is something strong enough, quite strong enough,— and, if properly exerted, will prove itself so, and that is the power of intelligent public opinion in all the Nations of the earth. There is not a monarch on earth whose throne is not liable to be shaken by the progress of opinion, and the sentiment of the just and intelligent part of the People. It becomes us, in the station which we hold, to let that public opinion, so far as we form it, have a free course. Let it go out; let it be pronounced in thunder tones; let it open the ears of the deaf; let it open the eyes of the blind; and let it everywhere be proclaimed what we of this great Republic think of the general principle of human liberty, and of that oppression which all abhor. Depend upon it, Gentlemen, that between these two rival powers, the autocratic power, maintained by arms and force, and the popular power, maintained by opinion, the former is constantly decreasing, and, thank God, the latter is constantly increas ing! Real human liberty and human rights are gaining the ascendant; and the part which we have to act, in all this great drama, is to
show ourselves in favor of those rights, to uphold our ascendency, and to carry it on until we shall see it culminate in the highest Heaven over our heads.
24. THE FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES. - President King.
I HAVE faith in the future, because I have confidence in the present. With our growth in wealth and in power, I see no abatement in those qualities, moral and physical, to which so much of our success is owing; and, while thus true to ourselves, true to the instincts of freedom, and to those other instincts which, with our race, seem to go hand in hand with Freedom, love of order and respect for law (as law, and not because it is upheld by force), we must continue to prosper.
The sun shines not upon, has never shone upon, a land where human happiness is so widely disseminated, where human government is so little abused, so free from oppression, so invisible, intangible, and yet so strong. Nowhere else do the institutions which constitute a State rest upon so broad a base as here; and nowhere are men so powerless, and institutions so strong. In the wilderness of free minds, dissensions will occur; and, in the unlimited discussion in writing and in speech, in town-meetings, newspapers, and legislative bodies, angry and menacing language will be used; irritations will arise and be aggravated; and those immediately concerned in the strife, or breathing its atmosphere, may fear, or feign to fear, that danger is in such hot breath and passionate resolves. But outside, and above, and beyond all this, is the People, steady, industrious, self-possessed, caring little for abstractions, and less for abstractionists, but, with one deep, common sentiment, and with the consciousness, calm, but quite sure and earnest, that, in the Constitution and the Union, as they received them from their fathers, and as they themselves have observed and maintained them, is the sheet-anchor of their hope, the pledge of their prosperity, the palladium of their liberty; and with this, is that other consciousness, not less calm and not less earnest, that, in their own keeping exclusively, and not in that of any party leaders, or party demagogues, or political hacks, or speculators, is the integrity of that Union and that Constitution. It is in the strong arms and honest hearts of the great masses, who are not members of Congress, nor holders of office, nor spouters at town-meetings, that resides the safety of the State; and these masses, though slow to move, are irresistible, when the time and the occasion for moving come.
I have faith, therefore, in the Future; and when, at the close of this half-century, which so comparatively few of us are to see, the account shall again be taken, and the question be asked, What has New York done since 1850? I have faith that the answer will be given in a City still advancing in population, wealth, morals, and knowledge, — in a City free, and deserving, by her virtues, her benevolent institutions, her schools, her courts and her temples, to continue free, and still part and parcel of this great and glorious Union, which may God preserve till Time shall be no more!
25. IMPORTANCE OF THE AGRICULTURAL INTEREST.-- Caleb Cushing.
THESE United States are, as a whole, and always have been, chiefly dependent, for their wealth and power, on the natural productions of the earth. It is the spontaneous products of our forests, our mines, and our seas, and the cultivated products of our soil, which have made, and continue to make, us what we are. Manufacture can but modify these, commerce only distribute or accumulate them, and exchange them for others, to gratify taste, or promote convenience. Land is the footstool of our power; land is the throne of our empire.
Generation after generation may give themselves up to slaughter, in civil or foreign war; dynasty follow dynasty, each with new varieties of oppression or misrule; the fratricidal rage of domestic factions rend the entrails of their common country; temples, and basilica, and capitols, crumble to dust; proud navies melt into the yeast of the sea; and all that Art fitfully does to perpetuate itself disappear like the phantasm of a troubled dream; - but Nature is everlasting; and, above the wreck and uproar of our vain devices and childish tumults, the tutelary stars continue to sparkle on us from their distant spheres; the sun to pour out his vivifying rays of light and heat over the earth; the elements to dissolve, in grateful rain; the majestic river to roll on his fertilizing waters unceasingly; and the ungrudging soil to yield up the plenteousness of its harvest, year after year, to the hand of the husbandman. He, the husbandman, is the servant of those divine elements of earth and air; he is the minister of that gracious, that benign, that bounteous, that fostering, that nourishing, that renovat ing, that inexhaustible, that adorable Nature; and, as such, the stewardship of our nationality is in him.
26. EUROPEAN STRUGGLES FOR FREEDOM, 1848.—Reverdy Johnson.
AMIDST the agitating throes of the Old World, amidst the fall of Thrones, the prostration of Dynasties, the flight of Kings, what American, native or naturalized, lives, who does not admire and love his Government, and is not prepared to die in its defence? Our power, and our unexampled private and public prosperity, are to be referred altogether to our Constitutional liberty. Can it be wondered at, that, with such an example before them, the Nations of Europe should be striking for freedom? Sooner or later, the blow was inevitable. Absolute individual liberty, secured by the power of all; private rights of person and property held sacred, and maintained by the will and power of all; perfect equality of all; absence of degrading inferiority; each standing on a common platform; no selected Lords nor Sovereigns, by election or by birth, but every honest man a Lord and a Sovereign, constitutes a proud and glorious contrast, challenging, and, sooner or later, certain to obtain, the applause, admiration, and adoption of the world.
Apparently sudden and unexpected as have been these great popu lar struggles, with which we are sympathizing, they were as certain
to occur as the revolution of the seasons. To be free, man needs only to know the value of freedom. To cast off the shackles of tyranny, he needs only to know his power. The result is inevitable. But the People of the Old World must also learn that liberty, unrestrained, is dangerous licentiousness. Of all conditions in which man may be placed, anarchy is the most direful. All history teaches that the tyranny of the many is more fatal than the tyranny of the few. The liberty suited to man's nature is liberty restrained by law. This, too, they may learn from our example. In sending, then, our sincere congratulations to the People of the Continent, we should advise them against every popular excess. In a fraternal spirit, we should invoke them to a reign of order, of their own creation, —a reign of just law, of their own enactment, a reign of Constitutional freedom, of their own granting. Then will their liberty be as our own, full and perfect, securing all the blessings of human life, and giving to every People everything of power and true glory which should belong to a civilized and Christian Nation.
27. THE BIRTH-DAY OF WASHINGTON.—Rufus Choate.
THE birth-day of the "Father of his Country"! May it ever be freshly remembered by American hearts! May it ever reawaken in them a filial veneration for his memory; ever rekindle the fires of patriotic regard to the country which he loved so well; to which he gave his youthful vigor and his youthful energy, during the perilous period of the early Indian warfare; to which he devoted his life, in the maturity of his powers, in the field; to which again he offered the counsels of his wisdom and his experience, as President of the Convention that framed our Constitution; which he guided and directed while in the Chair of State, and for which the last prayer of his earthly supplication was offered up, when it came the moment for him so well, and so grandly, and so calmly, to die. He was the first man of the time in which he grew. His memory is first and most sacred in our love; and ever hereafter, till the last drop of blood shall freeze in the last American heart, his name shall be a spell of power and might.
Yes, Gentlemen, there is one personal, one vast felicity, which no man can share with him. It was the daily beauty and towering and matchless glory of his life, which enabled him to create his country, and, at the same time, secure an undying love and regard from the whole American people. "The first in the hearts of his countrymen!" Yes, first! He has our first and most fervent love. Undoubtedly there were brave and wise and good men, before his day, in every colony. But the American Nation, as a Nation, I do not reckon to have begun before 1774. And the first love of that young America was Washington. The first word she lisped was his name. Her earliest breath spoke it. It still is her proud ejaculation; and it will be the last gasp of her expiring life!
Yes! Others of our great men have been appreciated, - many admired by all. But him we love. Him we all love. About and around him we call up no dissentient and discordant and dissatisfied elements, -no sectional prejudice nor bias, — no party, no creed, no dogma of politics. None of these shall assail him. Yes. When the storm of battle blows darkest and rages highest, the memory of Washington shall nerve every American arm, and cheer every American heart. It shall relume that Promethean fire, that sublime flame of patriotism, that devoted love of country, which his words have commended, which his example has consecrated.
"Where may the wearied eye repose,
one-the first, the last, the best,
Whom Envy dared not hate,
28. THE PROSPECTS OF CALIFORNIA, Nov. 2, 1850. - Nathaniel Bennett.
JUDGING from the past, what have we not a right to expect in the future. The world has never witnessed anything equal or similar to our career hitherto. Scarcely two years ago, California was almost an unoccupied wild. With the exception of a presidio, a mission, a pueblo, or a lonely ranch, scattered here and there, at tiresome distances, there was nothing to show that the uniform stillness had ever been broken by the footsteps of civilized man. The agricultural richness of her valleys remained unimproved; and the wealth of a world lay entombed in the bosom of her solitary mountains, and on the banks of her unexplored streams. Behold the contrast! The hand of agriculture is now busy in every fertile valley, and its toils are remunerated with rewards which in no other portion of the world can be credited. Enterprise has pierced every hill, for hidden treasure, and has heaped up enormous gains. Cities and villages dot the surface of the whole State. Steamers dart along our rivers, and innumerable vessels spread their white wings over our bays. Not Constantinople, upon which the wealth of imperial Rome was lavished, -not St. Petersburg, to found which the arbitrary Czar sacrificed thousands of his subjects, would rival, in rapidity of growth, the fair city which lies before me. Our State is a marvel to ourselves, and a miracle to the rest of the world. Nor is the influence of California confined within her own borders. Mexico, and the islands nestled in the embrace of the Pacific, have felt the quickening breath of her enterprise. With her golden wand, she has touched the prostrate corpse of South American industry, and it has sprung up in the freshness of life. She has caused the hum of busy life to be heard in the
* Lord Byron.