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
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It is a common Government that constitutes our Country. But in THAT association, all the sympathies of domestic life and kindred blood, all the moral ligatures of friendship and of neighborhood, are combined with that instinctive and mysterious connexion between man and physical nature, which binds the first perceptions of childhood in a chain of sympathy with the last gasp of expiring age, to the spot of our nativity, and the natural objects by which it is surrounded. These sympathies belong and are indispensable to the relations ordained by nature between the individual and his country. They dwell in the memory and are indelible in the hearts of the first settlers of a distant colony. These are the feelings under which the Children of Israel ” sat down by the rivers of Babylon, and wept when they remembered Zion.” These are the sympathies under which they ” hung their harps upon the willows,” and instead of songs of mirth, exclaimed, ” If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.”
But these sympathies can never exist for a country, which we have never seen. They are transferred in the breasts of the succeeding generations, from the country of human institution, to the country of their birth ; from the land of which they have only heard, to the land where their eyes first opened to the day. The ties of neighborhood are broken up, those of friendship can never be formed, with an intervening ocean ; and the natural ties of domestic life, the all-subduing sympathies of love, the indissoluble bonds of marriage, the heart-riveted kindliness of consanguinity, gradually wither and perish in the lapse of a few generations. All the elements which form the basis of that sympathy between the individual and his country are dissolved.
Long before the Declaration of Independence the great mass of the People of America and of the People of Britain, had become total strangers to each other. The people of America were known to the people of Britain only by the transactions of trade; by shipments of lumber and flaxseed, indigo and tobacco. They were known to the government only by half a dozen colonial agents, humble, and often spurned suitors at the feet of power, and by royal governors, minions of patronage, sent, from the footstool of a throne beyond the seas, to rule a people of whom they knew nothing; as if an inhabitant of the moon should descend to give laws to the dwellers upon earth. Here and there, a man of letters and a statesman, conversant with all history, knew something of the colonies, as he knew something of Cochin-China and Japan. Yet even the prime minister of England, urging upon his omnipotent Parliament laws for grinding the colonies to submission, could talk, without amazing or diverting his hearers, of the Island of Virginia : even Edmund Burke, a man of more ethereal mind, apologizing to the people of Bristol for the offence of sympathizing with the distresses of our country, ravaged by the fire and sword of Britons, asked indulgence for his feelings on the score of general humanity, and expressly declared that the Americans were a nation utter strangers to him, and among whom he was riot sure of having a single acquaintance. The sympathies therefore most essential to the communion of country were, between the British and American people, extinct. Those most indispensable to the just relation between sovereign and subject, had never existed and could not exist between the British Government and the American People. The connexion was unnatural ; and it was in the moral order, no less than in the positive decrees, of Providence, that it should be dissolved.