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CESSION OF THE NORTHWEST TERRITORY
AND THE ORDINANCE OF 1787.
Published at the Request of the Society of the Alumni.
This is an era of American Centennial Anniversaries. For the past ten years hardly a month, indeed hardly a week, has gone by that did not call to mind some striking incident of the eventful past. The period in the last century corresponding to these ten years was so full of great public event, so crowded with historic and heroic action, “no day without a day to crown it,” that we stand bewildered in the multitude of glorious recollections. The differences of the immediate past have been obliterated, have been like words written in the sand, as the great wave of revolutionary memory has swept over the land. Nor can any one allege that the American people have become one again, from having been drawn together by the bond of a common hate. This is by no means the true cause of our common rejoicings. We are on terms of the most perfect amity with England. With generous magnanimity she took a leading part in the congratulations of the world upon our hundredth anniversary of independence. What she wonders at is, not that we took up arms, but that she should have given us such cause to take
She can understand why Chatham and Burke and Camden thought and spoke as they did, but not how King George or Lord North, could suppose that children of her blood and name could consent for a moment to their galling demands. For us, with these inspiring memories, have come new and inspiring hopeshope that with a common destiny before us there will abide a fuller trust, that with the cause of difference removed thç ill-will engendered by it will be gone with it, hope that “the edge of war like an ill-sheathed knife no more shall cut his master,” hope that “no more the thirsty entrance of this soil shall daub her lips with her own children's blood” that "no more shall trenching war channel her fields, nor bruise her flowrets with the armed hoofs of hostile paces,” hope that indeed,
“ Is all the blood spilt on either part
Grown to a love-game and a bridal feast.” “The hour of the American revolution had come,” says Brancroft, writing of May, 1774. "The people of the continent obeyed one general impulse as the earth in spring listens to the command of nature, and without the appearance of effort bursts into life.”
In April of the next year we see the beacon in the North Church, and Paul Revere dashes by. The next morning, April 19th, a shot is heard at Lexington, heard 'round the world, its echoes reverberating through all time. Within two weeks, Dunmore is out in a proclamation denouncing “a certain Patrick Henry,” “a man of desperate circumstances who had been very active in exciting a spirit of revolt among the people for many years past.”
June 16th, George Washington accepts the command of the army. “As the Congress desires it," said he, “I will enter the momentuous duty and exert every power I possess in their service for the support of the glorious cause, but I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.” Seventeen years before, returning from the arduous campaign against Pittsburgh, he had settled down to a life that was to be as placid as the river upon whose banks he made his home. He adorned his room with the images of famous commanders and admitted only one among the living, the great Frederick. Little did he know how fate would match them in misfortune and in glory—that there would be a Valley Forge for a Kunersdorf and a Yorktown for a Rossbach.
The next year we see another son of this great Commonwealth writing the Declaration of Independence. Time would fail me to go over all these years—the contest in the field, in Congress, at foreign courts, everywhere was manly effort, full of self-sacrifice, abounding in generous devotion, and replete with that wisdom and courage with which a righteous cause seemed to inspire its defenders.
Peace came at last, and peace with independence. A new nation, or thirteen new nations, had taken rank among the governments of the earth. The treaty of Paris which brought the War of the Revolution to a close was concluded September 3rd, 1783. But it may be well doubted whether the strain upon the courage and patriotism of the American people for the years intervening between this event and the successful inauguration of our present government, was not even greater than during the period of actual warfare. Internal dissension and jealousy were overcome so long as each of the States knew that the safety of one was the safety of all, that failure meant treason and surrender submission to a yoke that was more galling because attempted to be imposed by a people having a common parentage, birthright and heritage of liberty. There were complaints, accusations of want of zcal, of violations of compact. Enterprises of moment were thwarted or greatly retarded by divided counsels. But after all, the fixed determination of the people, to accomplish an absolute severance from the British crown,