An Address delivered at the request of a committee of the citizens of Washington: on the occasion of reading the Declaration of Independence, on the Fourth of July, 1821
Continued from the previous post:
Fellow-citizens, I am speaking of days long past. Ever faithful to the sentiment proclaimed in the paper [The Declaration of Independence] which I am about to present once more to your memory of the past and to your forecast of the future ; you will hold the people of Britain, as you hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in war; in peace Friends. The conflict for Independence is now itself but a record of history. The resentments of that age may be buried in oblivion. The stoutest hearts which then supported the tug of war are cold under the clod of the valley. My purpose is to rekindle no angry passion from its embers : but this annual solemn perusal of the instrument which proclaimed to the world the causes of your existence as a nation, is not without its just and useful purpose.
It is not by the yearly reiteration of the wrongs endured by your fathers, to evoke from the Sepulchre of Time, the shades of departed Tyranny ; it is not to draw from their dread abode the frailties of an unfortunate monarch who now sleeps with his fathers, and the suffering of whose latter days may have atoned at the bar of Divine Mercy, for the sins which the accusing Angel will read from this scroll to his charge ; it is not to exult in the great moral triumph by which the Supreme Governor of the world crowned the cause of your country with success. No, the purpose for which you listen with renewed and never-languishing delight to the reading of this paper is of a purer and more exalted cast. It is sullied with no vindictive recollection. It is degraded
by no rankling resentment. It is inflated with no vain and idle exultation of victory. The Declaration of Independence in its primary purport was merely an occasional state paper. It was a solemn exposition to the World, of the causes which had compelled the people of a small portion of the British empire to cast off the allegiance and renounce the protection of the British king; and to dissolve their social connexion with the British people. In the annals of the human race, the separation of one people into two, is an event of no uncommon occurrence. The successful resistance of a people against oppression, to the downfall of the tyrant and of tyranny itself, is the lesson of many an age, and of almost every clime. It lives in the venerable records of Holy Writ. It beams in the brightest pages of profane history. The names of Pharaoh and Moses, of Tarquin and Junius Brutus, of Geisler and Tell, of Christiern and Gustavus Vasa, of Philip of Austria and William of Orange, stand in long array through the vista of Time, like the Spirit of Evil and the Spirit of Good, in embattled opposition to each other, from the mouldering ages of antiquity, to the recent memory of our fathers, and from the burning plains of Palestine, to the polar frost of Scandinavia. For the Independence of North America, there were ample and sufficient causes in the laws of moral and physical nature.
The tie of colonial subjection, is compatible with the essential purposes of civil government, only when the condition of the subordinate state is from its weakness incompetent to its own protection. Is the greatest moral purpose of civil government the administration of justice? And if justice has been truly defined the constant and perpetual will of securing to every one his right, how absurd and impracticable is that form of polity, in which the dispenser of justice is in one quarter of the globe, and he to whom justice is to be dispensed is in another ; where ” moons revolve and oceans roll between the order and its execution ;” where time and space must be annihilated to secure to every one his right.
The tie of colonial subjection may suit the relations between a great naval power, and the settlers of a small and remote Island in the incipient stages of society : but was it possible for British intelligence to imagine, or British sense of justice to desire, that through the boundless ages of time, the swarming myriads of freemen, who were to civilize the wilderness, and fill with human life the solitudes of this immense continent, should receive the mandates of their earthly destinies from a council chamber at St. James’s, or bow forever in submission to the omnipotence of St. Stephen’s Chapel? Are the essential purposes of civil government, to administer to the wants, and to fortify the infirmities of solitary man? To unite the sinews of numberless arms, and combine the councils of multitudes of minds, for the promotion of the well-being of all?
The first moral element then of this composition is sympathy between the members of which it consists ; the second is sympathy between the giver and the receiver of the Law.
The sympathies of men begin with the affections of domestic life. They are rooted in the natural relations of husband and wife, of parent and child, of brother and sister; thence they spread through the social and moral propinquities of the neighbor and friend, to the broader and more complicated relations of countryman and fellow-citizen ; terminating only with the circumference of the globe which we inhabit, in the co-extensive charities incident to the common nature of man. To each of these relations, different degrees of sympathy are allotted by the ordinances of nature. The sympathies of domestic life are not more sacred and obligatory, but closer and more powerful, than those of neighborhood and friendship. The tie which binds us to our country, is not more holy in the sight of God, but it is more deeply seated in our nature, more tender and endearing, than that looser link which merely connects us with our fellow mortal man.