President John Quincy Adams’s 4th of July address, 1821, Part 1

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

WASHINGTON, 5 July, 1821.
GENTLEMEN:

In placing at your disposal a copy of the Address yesterday delivered in compliance with your invitation, I avail myself of the occasion of expressing through you, to my Fellow-Citizens, the assurance of my gratitude for the indulgence with which it was received.

I have the honor to be,

With great respect, Gentlemen,

Your very obedient servant,

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.

Until within a few days preceding that which we have again assembled to commemorate, our Fathers, the people of this Union, had constituted a portion of the British nation ; a nation renowned in Arts and Arms, who, from a small Island in the Atlantic Ocean, had extended their dominion over considerable parts of every quarter of the Globe. Governed themselves by a race of kings, whose title to sovereignty had originally been founded in conquest, spell-bound for a succession of ages under that portentous system of despotism and of superstition which in the name of the meek arid humble Jesus had been spread over the Christian world, the history of this nation had, for a period of seven hundred years, from the days of the conquest till our own, exhibited a Conflict almost continual, between the oppressions of power and the claims of right. In the theories of the Crown and the Mitre man had no rights. Neither the body nor the soul of the individual was his own. From the impenetrable gloom of this intellectual darkness, and the deep degradation of this servitude, the British nation had partially emerged. The martyrs of religious freedom had consumed to ashes at the stake : the champions of temporal liberty had bowed their heads upon the scaffold ; and the spirits of many a bloody day had left their earthly vesture upon the field of battle, and soared to plead the cause of Liberty before the throne of Heaven. The people of Britain, through long ages of civil war, had extorted from their tyrants not acknowledgements, but grants, of right. With this concession they had been content to stop in the progress of human improvement. They received their freedom as a donation from their sovereigns ; they appealed for their privileges to a sign manual and a seal ; they held their title to liberty, like their title to lands, from the bounty of a man ; and in their moral and political chronology, the great charter of Runny Mead was the beginning of the world.