« AnteriorContinuar »
New world upon the Old is the great moral of the events of the day.
Mr. Jefferson's “ocean of fire” has, indeed, been almost realized. A tremendous enginery has covered the sea with smoke and flame. The fiery dragon has ceased to be a fable. The inspired description of Leviathan is fulfilled to the letter. “Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth. He maketh the deep to boil like a pot; he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.”
But the Saint George of modern civilization and science, instead of slaying the dragon, has subdued him to the yoke, and broken him in to the service of mankind. The ocean of fire has only facilitated the intercourse which it was invoked to destroy. And the result is before the world.
New modes of communication, regular and more rapid interchanges of information and opinion, freer and more frequent comparisons of principles, of institutions, and of conditions, have at length brought the political systems of the two continents into conflict; and prostrate thrones and reeling empires this day bear witness to the shock!
Yes, fellow-citizens, (if I may be allowed the figure,) the great upward and downward trains on the track of human freedom have at last come into collision! It is too early as yet for any one to pronounce upon the precise consequences of the encounter. But we can see at a glance what engines have been shattered, and what engineers have been dashed from their seats. We can see, too, that the great American built locomotive “ Liberty” still holds on its course, unimpeded and unimpaired; gathering strength as it goes; developing new energies to meet new exigencies; and bearing alo its imperial train of twenty millions of people with a speed which knows no parallel.
Nor can we fail to observe that men are everywhere beginning to examine the model of this mighty engine, and that not a few have already begun to copy its construction and to imitate its machinery. The great doctrine's of our own Revolution, that “all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness;” these fundamental maxims of the rights of man are proclaimed as emphatically this day in Paris, as they were seventy-two years ago this day in Philadelphia.
And not in Paris alone. The whole civilized world resounds with American opinions and American principles. Every vale is vocal with them. Every mountain has found a tongue for them.
Sonitum toto Germania cælo
Everywhere the people are heard calling their rulers to account and holding them to a just responsibility. Everywhere the cry is raised for the elective franchise, the trial by jury, the freedom of the press, written constitutions, representative systems, republican forms.
In some cases, most fortunately, the rulers themselves have not escaped some seasonable symptoms of the pervading fervor for freedom, and have nobly anticipated the demands of their subjects. To the sovereign Pontiff of the Roman States in particular, belongs the honor of having led the way in the great movement of the day, and no American will with hold from him a cordial tribute of respect and admiration for whatever he has done or designed for the regeneration of Italy. Glorious, indeed, on the page of history will be the name of Pius IX., if the rise of another Rome shall be traced to his wise and liberal policy. Yet not less truly glorious, if his own authority should date its decline to his noble refusal to lend his apostolical sanction to a war of conquest.
For Italy, however, and for France, and for the whole European world alike, a great work still remains. A rational, practical, enduring liberty cannot be acquired in a paroxysm, cannot be established by a proclamation. It is not,ếour own history proves that it is not
“ The hasty product of a day, But the well-ripened fruit of wise delay.”
The redress of a few crying grievances, the reform of
a few glaring abuses, the banishment of a minister, the burning of a throne, the overthrow of a dynasty, these are but scanty preparations for the mighty undertaking upon which they have entered. New systems are to be constructed; new forms to be established; new Governments to be instituted, organized, and administered, upon principles which shall reconcile the seeming conflict between liberty and law, and secure to every one the enjoyment of regulated constitutional freedom.
And it is at this moment, fellow-citizens, when this vast labor is about to be commenced, when the files of the Old World are searched in vain for precedents, and the file-leaders of the Old World are looked to in vain for pioneers, and when all eyes are strained to find the men, to find the man, who is sufficient for these things, it is at such a moment that we are assembled on this pinnacle of the American Republic-I might almost say by some Divine impulse and direction to hold up afresh to the admiration and imitation of mankind the character and example of George Washington.
Let us contemplate that character and that example for a moment, and see whether there be anything in all the treasures of our country's fame, I do not say merely of equal intrinsic value, but of such eminent adaptation to the exigencies of the time and the immediate wants of the world.
I will enter into no details of his personal history. Washington's birthday is a National Festival. His whole life, boyhood and manhood, has been learned by heart by us all. Who knows not that he was a selfmade man? Who knows not that the only education which he enjoyed was that of the common schools of Virginia, which, at that day, were of the very commonest sort? Who remembers not those extraordinary youthful adventures, by which he was trained up to the great work of his destiny? Who remembers not the labors and exposures which he encountered as a land surveyor at the early age of sixteen years? Who has forgotten the perils of his journey of forty-one days, and five hundred and sixty miles, from Williamsburg to French Creek, when sent, at the age of only twenty-one, as commissioner from Gov. Dinwiddie, to demand of the French forces their authority for invading the king's dominions? Who has not followed him a hundred times, with breathless anxiety, as he threads his way through that pathless wilderness, at one moment fired at by Indians at fifteen paces, at the next wrecked upon a raft amid snow•and ice, and subjected throughout to every danger, which treacherous elements or still more treacherous cnemies could involve? Who has forgotten his hardly less miraculous escape, a few years later, on the banks of the Monongahela, when, foremost in that fearful fight, he was the only mounted officer of the British troops who was not either killed or desperately wounded?
Let me not speak of Washington as a merely self-made man. There were influences employed in moulding and making him, far, far above his own control. Bereft of his father at the tender age of eleven years, he had a mother left, to whom the world can never over-estimate its debt. And higher, holier still, was the guardianship