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Fellow-Citizens, our fathers have been faithful to them before us. When the little band of their Delegates, ” with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, for the support of this declaration, mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor,” from every dwelling, street, and square, of your populous cities, it was re-echoed with shouts of joy and gratulation ! And if the silent language of the heart could have been heard, every hill upon the surface of this continent which had been trodden by the foot of civilized man, every valley in which the toil of your fathers had opened a paradise upon the wild, would have rung, with one accordant voice, louder than the thunders, sweeter than the harmonies of the heavens, with the solemn and responsive words, ” We swear.” The pledge has been redeemed.
Through six years of devastating but heroic war, through forty years of more heroic peace, the principles of this declaration have been supported by the toils, by the vigils, by the blood of your lathers, and of yourselves. The conflict of war had be- gun with fearful odds of apparent human power on the part of the oppressor. He wielded at will the collective force of the mightiest nation in Europe* He with more than poetic truth asserted the dominion of the waves. The power to whose unjust usurpation your fathers hurled the gauntlet of defiance, baffled and vanquished by them, has even since, stripped of all the energies of this continent, been found adequate to give the law to its own quarter of the globe, and to mould the destinies of the European world. It was with a sling and a stone, that your fathers went forth to encounter the massive vigor of this Goliath. They slung the heaven-directed stone, and “With beariest sound, the giant monster fell.” Amid the shouts of victory, your cause soon found friends and allies in the rivals of your enemies. France recognised your Independence as existing in fact, and made common cause with you for its support. Spain and the Netherlands, without adopting your principles, successively flung their weight into your scale. The Semiramis of the North, no convert to your doctrines, still conjured all the maritime neutrality of Europe in array against the usurpations of your antagonist upon the seas. While some of the fairest of your fields were ravaged ; while your towns and villages were consumed with fire ; while the harvests of your summers were blasted ; while the purity of virgin innocence, and the chastity of matronly virtue, were violated ; while the living remnants of the field of battle were reserved for the gibbet, by the fraternal sympathies of Britons throughout your land, the waters of the Atlantic ocean, and those that wash the shores of either India, were dyed with the mingled blood of combatants in the cause of North American Independence.
The Declaration of Independence pronounced the irrevocable decree of political separation, between the United States and their People on the one part, and the British King, Government and Nation on the other. It proclaimed the first principles on which civil government is founded, and derived from them the justification before Earth and Heaven, of this act of sovereignty : but it left the people of this Union collective and individual without organized Government. In contemplating this state of things, one of the profoundest of British statesmen, in an ecstacy of astonishment, exclaimed ” Anarchy is found tolerable!” But there was no Anarchy. From the day of the Declaration, the people of the North American Union and of its constituent States, were associated bodies of civilized men and Christians, in a state of nature ; but not of Anarchy. They were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct. They were bound by all those tender and endearing sympathies, the absence of which in the British Government and Nation towards them was the primary cause of the distressing conflict into which they had been precipitated. They Were bound by all the beneficent laws and institutions which their forefathers had brought with them from their mother Country, not as servitudes, but as rights. They were bound by habits of hardy industry, by frugal and hospitable manners, by the general sentiments of social equality, by pure and virtuous morals, and lastly they were bound by the grappling hooks of common suffering under the scourge of oppression. Where then, among such a people, were the materials for Anarchy? Had there been among them no Bother Law, they would have been a law unto themselves. They had before them in their new. position, besides the maintenance of the Independence which they had declared, three great objects to attain : the first, to cement and prepare for perpetuity, their common union, and that of their Posterity ; the second, to erect and organize civil and municipal Governments in their respective States ; and the third, to form connexions of friendship and of commerce with foreign Nations. For all these objects, the same Congress which issued the Declaration, and at the same time with it, had provided. They recommended to the several States to form civil governments for themselves. With guarded and cautious deliberation they matured a confederation for the whole Union ; and they prepared treaties of commerce, to be offered to the principal maritime nations of the world. All these objects were in a great degree accomplished, amid the din of arms, and while every quarter of our country was ransacked by the fury of invasion. The states organized their governments, all in republican forms ; all on the principles of the Declaration. The confederation was unanimously adopted by the thirteen States, and treaties of commerce were concluded with France and the Netherlands, in which, for the first time, the same just and magnanimous principles, consigned in the Declaration of Independence, were, so far as they could be applicable to the intercourse between nation and nation, solemnly recognised.
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