The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 3 out of 25

[Footnote 7: 3 Burr. 1661, and King v. Pasmore, _ubi supra_.]

[Footnote 8: Ellis v. Marshall, 2 Mass. Rep. 277; 1 Kyd on Corporations,
65, 66.]

[Footnote 9: 1 Wooddeson, 474; 1 Black. 467.]

[Footnote 10: 1 Black. 471.]

[Footnote 11: Ves. 537.]

[Footnote 12: 9 Ves. Jun. 405.]

[Footnote 13: 1 Wood. 474.]

[Footnote 14: 1 Black. 471.]

[Footnote 15: 2 Term Rep. 350, 351.]

[Footnote 16: 1 Black. 480.]

[Footnote 17: 1 Lord Raymond, 5; Comb. 265; Holt, 715; 1 Shower. 360; 4
Mod. 106; Skinn. 447.]

[Footnote 18: 1 Lord Raymond, 9.]

[Footnote 19: 1 Burn's Eccles. Law, 443, Appendix No. 3]

[Footnote 20: 2 Forb. 205, 206.]

[Footnote 21: Green v. Rutherforth, 1 Ves. 472, per Lord Hardwicke.]

[Footnote 22: Attorney-General v. Foundling Hospital, 2 Ves. Jun. 47.
See also 2 Kyd on Corporations, 195; Cooper's Equity Pleading, 292.]

[Footnote 23: St. John's College, Cambridge, v. Todington, 1 Burr. 200.]

[Footnote 24: Attorney-General v. Middleton, 2 Ves. 328.]

[Footnote 25: Green v. Rutherforth, _ubi supra_; St. John's College v.
Todington, _ubi supra_.]

[Footnote 26: 4 Term Rep. 233.]

[Footnote 27: Black., _ubi supra_.]

[Footnote 28: 2 Black. Com. 37.]

[Footnote 29: Sull. 41st Lect.]

[Footnote 30: Phillips v. Bury, and Green v. Rutherforth, _ubi supra_.
See also 2 Black. 21.]

[Footnote 31: Ashby v. White, 2 Lord Raymond, 938.]

[Footnote 32: Attorney-General v. Pearce, 2 Atk. 87.]

[Footnote 33: 2 Haywood's Rep.]

[Footnote 34: 9 Cranch, 43.]

[Footnote 35: 9 Cranch. 292.]

[Footnote 36: 3 Dallas, 394.]

[Footnote 37: Society v. Wheeler, 2 Gal. 103.]

[Footnote 38: 7 Johnson's Rep. 477.]

[Footnote 39: Bracton, Lib. 4, fol. 228. 2 Inst. 292.]

[Footnote 40: Dig. 50. 17. 75.]

[Footnote 41: Elements of the Civil Law, p. 168.]

[Footnote 42: Cod. 1. 14. 7.]

[Footnote 43: Perezii Praelect. h. t.]

[Footnote 44: Praelect. Juris. Civ., Vol. II. p. 545.]

[Footnote 45: 1 Black. Com. 44.]

[Footnote 46: Coke, 2 Inst. 46.]

[Footnote 47: Lord Raymond, 952.]

[Footnote 48: History of his own Times, Vol. III. p. 119.]

[Footnote 49: See a full account of this case in State Trials, 4th ed.,
Vol. IV. p. 262.]

[Footnote 50: The Federalist, No. 44, by Mr. Madison.]

[Footnote 51: 6 Cranch, 87.]

[Footnote 52: New Jersey v. Wilson, 7 Cranch, 164.]

[Footnote 53: 3 Burr. 1656.]

[Footnote 54: 3 Term Rep. 240.]

[Footnote 55: See also 1 Kyd on Corp. 65.]

[Footnote 56: 4 Burr. 2200.]

[Footnote 57: 2 Mass. Rep. 269.]

[Footnote 58: 6 Term Rep. 277.]

[Footnote 59: See also Ex parte Bolton School, 2 Brown's Ch. Rep. 662.]



[The first public anniversary celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims
at Plymouth took place under the auspices of the "Old Colony Club," of
whose formation an account may be found in the interesting little work
of William S. Russell, Esq., entitled "Guide to Plymouth and
Recollections of the Pilgrims."

This club was formed for general purposes of social intercourse, in
1769; but its members determined, by a vote passed on Monday, the 18th
of December, of that year, "to keep" Friday, the 22d, in commemoration
of the landing of the fathers. A particular account of the simple
festivities of this first public celebration of the landing of the
Pilgrims will be found at page 220 of Mr. Russell's work.

The following year, the anniversary was celebrated much in the same
manner as in 1769, with the addition of a short address, pronounced
"with modest and decent firmness, by a member of the club, Edward
Winslow, Jr., Esq.," being the first address ever delivered on this

In 1771, it was suggested by Rev. Chandler Robbins, pastor of the First
Church at Plymouth, in a letter addressed to the club, "whether it would
not be agreeable, for the entertainment and instruction of the rising
generation on these anniversaries, to have a sermon in public, some part
of the day, peculiarly adapted to the occasion." This recommendation
prevailed, and an appropriate discourse was delivered the following year
by the Rev. Dr. Robbins.

In 1773 the Old Colony Club was dissolved, in consequence of the
conflicting opinions of its members on the great political questions
then agitated. Notwithstanding this event, the anniversary celebrations
of the 22d of December continued without interruption till 1780, when
they were suspended. After an interval of fourteen years, a public
discourse was again delivered by the Rev. Dr. Robbins. Private
celebrations took place the four following years, and from that time
till the year 1819, with one or two exceptions, the day was annually
commemorated, and public addresses were delivered by distinguished
clergymen and laymen of Massachusetts.

In 1820 the "Pilgrim Society" was formed by the citizens of Plymouth and
the descendants of the Pilgrims in other places, desirous of uniting "to
commemorate the landing, and to honor the memory of the intrepid men who
first set foot on Plymouth rock." The foundation of this society gave a
new impulse to the anniversary celebrations of this great event. The
Hon. Daniel Webster was requested to deliver the public address on the
22d of December of that year, and the following discourse was pronounced
by him on the ever-memorable occasion. Great public expectation was
awakened by the fame of the orator; an immense concourse assembled at
Plymouth to unite in the celebration; and it may be safely anticipated,
that some portion of the powerful effect of the following address on the
minds of those who were so fortunate as to hear it, will be perpetuated
by the press to the latest posterity.

From 1820 to the present day, with occasional interruptions, the 22d of
December has been celebrated by the Pilgrim Society. A list of all those
by whom anniversary discourses have been delivered since the first
organization of the Old Colony Club, in 1769, may be found in Mr.
Russell's work.

Nor has the notice of the day been confined to New England. Public
celebrations of the landing of the Pilgrims have been frequent in other
parts of the country, particularly in New York. The New England Society
of that city has rarely permitted the day to pass without appropriate
honors. Similar societies have been formed at Philadelphia, Charleston,
S.C., and Cincinnati, and the day has been publicly commemorated in
several other parts of the country.]

Let us rejoice that we behold this day. Let us be thankful that we have
lived to see the bright and happy breaking of the auspicious morn, which
commences the third century of the history of New England. Auspicious,
indeed,--bringing a happiness beyond the common allotment of Providence
to men,--full of present joy, and gilding with bright beams the prospect
of futurity, is the dawn that awakens us to the commemoration of the
landing of the Pilgrims.

Living at an epoch which naturally marks the progress of the history of
our native land, we have come hither to celebrate the great event with
which that history commenced. For ever honored be this, the place of our
fathers' refuge! For ever remembered the day which saw them, weary and
distressed, broken in every thing but spirit, poor in all but faith and
courage, at last secure from the dangers of wintry seas, and impressing
this shore with the first footsteps of civilized man!

It is a noble faculty of our nature which enables us to connect our
thoughts, our sympathies, and our happiness with what is distant in
place or time; and, looking before and after, to hold communion at once
with our ancestors and our posterity. Human and mortal although we are,
we are nevertheless not mere insulated beings, without relation to the
past or the future. Neither the point of time, nor the spot of earth, in
which we physically live, bounds our rational and intellectual
enjoyments. We live in the past by a knowledge of its history; and in
the future, by hope and anticipation. By ascending to an association
with our ancestors; by contemplating their example and studying their
character; by partaking their sentiments, and imbibing their spirit; by
accompanying them in their toils, by sympathizing in their sufferings,
and rejoicing in their successes and their triumphs; we seem to belong
to their age, and to mingle our own existence with theirs. We become
their contemporaries, live the lives which they lived, endure what they
endured, and partake in the rewards which they enjoyed. And in like
manner, by running along the line of future time, by contemplating the
probable fortunes of those who are coming after us, by attempting
something which may promote their happiness, and leave some not
dishonorable memorial of ourselves for their regard, when we shall sleep
with the fathers, we protract our own earthly being, and seem to crowd
whatever is future, as well as all that is past, into the narrow compass
of our earthly existence. As it is not a vain and false, but an exalted
and religious imagination, which leads us to raise our thoughts from the
orb, which, amidst this universe of worlds, the Creator has given us to
inhabit, and to send them with something of the feeling which nature
prompts, and teaches to be proper among children of the same Eternal
Parent, to the contemplation of the myriads of fellow-beings with which
his goodness has peopled the infinite of space; so neither is it false
or vain to consider ourselves as interested and connected with our whole
race, through all time; allied to our ancestors; allied to our
posterity; closely compacted on all sides with others; ourselves being
but links in the great chain of being, which begins with the origin of
our race, runs onward through its successive generations, binding
together the past, the present, and the future, and terminating at last,
with the consummation of all things earthly, at the throne of God.

There may be, and there often is, indeed, a regard for ancestry, which
nourishes only a weak pride; as there is also a care for posterity,
which only disguises an habitual avarice, or hides the workings of a low
and grovelling vanity. But there is also a moral and philosophical
respect for our ancestors, which elevates the character and improves the
heart. Next to the sense of religious duty and moral feeling, I hardly
know what should bear with stronger obligation on a liberal and
enlightened mind, than a consciousness of alliance with excellence which
is departed; and a consciousness, too, that in its acts and conduct, and
even in its sentiments and thoughts, it may be actively operating on the
happiness of those who come after it. Poetry is found to have few
stronger conceptions, by which it would affect or overwhelm the mind,
than those in which it presents the moving and speaking image of the
departed dead to the senses of the living. This belongs to poetry, only
because it is congenial to our nature. Poetry is, in this respect, but
the handmaid of true philosophy and morality; it deals with us as human
beings, naturally reverencing those whose visible connection with this
state of existence is severed, and who may yet exercise we know not what
sympathy with ourselves; and when it carries us forward, also, and shows
us the long continued result of all the good we do, in the prosperity of
those who follow us, till it bears us from ourselves, and absorbs us in
an intense interest for what shall happen to the generations after us,
it speaks only in the language of our nature, and affects us with
sentiments which belong to us as human beings.

Standing in this relation to our ancestors and our posterity, we are
assembled on this memorable spot, to perform the duties which that
relation and the present occasion impose upon us. We have come to this
Rock, to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in
their sufferings; our gratitude for their labors; our admiration of
their virtues; our veneration for their piety; and our attachment to
those principles of civil and religious liberty, which they encountered
the dangers of the ocean, the storms of heaven, the violence of savages,
disease, exile, and famine, to enjoy and to establish. And we would
leave here, also, for the generations which are rising up rapidly to
fill our places, some proof that we have endeavored to transmit the
great inheritance unimpaired; that in our estimate of public principles
and private virtue, in our veneration of religion and piety, in our
devotion to civil and religious liberty, in our regard for whatever
advances human knowledge or improves human happiness, we are not
altogether unworthy of our origin.

There is a local feeling connected with this occasion, too strong to be
resisted; a sort of _genius of the place_, which inspires and awes us.
We feel that we are on the spot where the first scene of our history was
laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were first placed;
where Christianity, and civilization, and letters made their first
lodgement, in a vast extent of country, covered with a wilderness, and
peopled by roving barbarians. We are here, at the season of the year at
which the event took place. The imagination irresistibly and rapidly
draws around us the principal features and the leading characters in the
original scene. We cast our eyes abroad on the ocean, and we see where
the little bark, with the interesting group upon its deck, made its slow
progress to the shore. We look around us, and behold the hills and
promontories where the anxious eyes of our fathers first saw the places
of habitation and of rest. We feel the cold which benumbed, and listen
to the winds which pierced them. Beneath us is the Rock,[1] on which New
England received the feet of the Pilgrims. We seem even to behold them,
as they struggle with the elements, and, with toilsome efforts, gain the
shore. We listen to the chiefs in council; we see the unexampled
exhibition of female fortitude and resignation; we hear the whisperings
of youthful impatience, and we see, what a painter of our own has also
represented by his pencil,[2] chilled and shivering childhood,
houseless, but for a mother's arms, couchless, but for a mother's
breast, till our own blood almost freezes. The mild dignity of Carver
and of Bradford; the decisive and soldier-like air and manner of
Standish; the devout Brewster; the enterprising Allerton;[3] the general
firmness and thoughtfulness of the whole band; their conscious joy for
dangers escaped; their deep solicitude about dangers to come; their
trust in Heaven; their high religious faith, full of confidence and
anticipation; all of these seem to belong to this place, and to be
present upon this occasion, to fill us with reverence and admiration.

The settlement of New England by the colony which landed here[4] on the
twenty-second[5] of December, sixteen hundred and twenty, although not
the first European establishment in what now constitutes the United
States, was yet so peculiar in its causes and character, and has been
followed and must still be followed by such consequences, as to give it
a high claim to lasting commemoration. On these causes and consequences,
more than on its immediately attendant circumstances, its importance, as
an historical event, depends. Great actions and striking occurrences,
having excited a temporary admiration, often pass away and are
forgotten, because they leave no lasting results, affecting the
prosperity and happiness of communities. Such is frequently the fortune
of the most brilliant military achievements. Of the ten thousand battles
which have been fought, of all the fields fertilized with carnage, of
the banners which have been bathed in blood, of the warriors who have
hoped that they had risen from the field of conquest to a glory as
bright and as durable as the stars, how few that continue long to
interest mankind! The victory of yesterday is reversed by the defeat of
to-day; the star of military glory, rising like a meteor, like a meteor
has fallen; disgrace and disaster hang on the heels of conquest and
renown; victor and vanquished presently pass away to oblivion, and the
world goes on in its course, with the loss only of so many lives and so
much treasure.

But if this be frequently, or generally, the fortune of military
achievements, it is not always so. There are enterprises, military as
well as civil, which sometimes check the current of events, give a new
turn to human affairs, and transmit their consequences through ages. We
see their importance in their results, and call them great, because
great things follow. There have been battles which have fixed the fate
of nations. These come down to us in history with a solid and permanent
interest, not created by a display of glittering armor, the rush of
adverse battalions, the sinking and rising of pennons, the flight, the
pursuit, and the victory; but by their effect in advancing or retarding
human knowledge, in overthrowing or establishing despotism, in extending
or destroying human happiness. When the traveller pauses on the plain of
Marathon, what are the emotions which most strongly agitate his breast?
What is that glorious recollection, which thrills through his frame, and
suffuses his eyes? Not, I imagine, that Grecian skill and Grecian valor
were here most signally displayed; but that Greece herself was saved. It
is because to this spot, and to the event which has rendered it
immortal, he refers all the succeeding glories of the republic. It is
because, if that day had gone otherwise, Greece had perished. It is
because he perceives that her philosophers and orators, her poets and
painters, her sculptors and architects, her governments and free
institutions, point backward to Marathon, and that their future
existence seems to have been suspended on the contingency, whether the
Persian or the Grecian banner should wave victorious in the beams of
that day's setting sun. And, as his imagination kindles at the
retrospect, he is transported back to the interesting moment; he counts
the fearful odds of the contending hosts; his interest for the result
overwhelms him; he trembles, as if it were still uncertain, and seems to
doubt whether he may consider Socrates and Plato, Demosthenes,
Sophocles, and Phidias, as secure, yet, to himself and to the world.

"If we conquer," said the Athenian commander on the approach of that
decisive day, "if we conquer, we shall make Athens the greatest city of
Greece."[6] A prophecy how well fulfilled! "If God prosper us," might
have been the more appropriate language of our fathers, when they landed
upon this Rock, "if God prosper us, we shall here begin a work which
shall last for ages; we shall plant here a new society, in the
principles of the fullest liberty and the purest religion; we shall
subdue this wilderness which is before us; we shall fill this region of
the great continent, which stretches almost from pole to pole, with
civilization and Christianity; the temples of the true God shall rise,
where now ascends the smoke of idolatrous sacrifice; fields and gardens,
the flowers of summer, and the waving and golden harvest of autumn,
shall spread over a thousand hills, and stretch along a thousand
valleys, never yet, since the creation, reclaimed to the use of
civilized man. We shall whiten this coast with the canvas of a
prosperous commerce; we shall stud the long and winding shore with a
hundred cities. That which we sow in weakness shall be raised in
strength. From our sincere, but houseless worship, there shall spring
splendid temples to record God's goodness; from the simplicity of our
social union, there shall arise wise and politic constitutions of
government, full of the liberty which we ourselves bring and breathe;
from our zeal for learning, institutions shall spring which shall
scatter the light of knowledge throughout the land, and, in time, paying
back where they have borrowed, shall contribute their part to the great
aggregate of human knowledge; and our descendants, through all
generations, shall look back to this spot, and to this hour, with
unabated affection and regard."

A brief remembrance of the causes which led to the settlement of this
place; some account of the peculiarities and characteristic qualities of
that settlement, as distinguished from other instances of colonization;
a short notice of the progress of New England in the great interests of
society, during the century which is now elapsed; with a few
observations on the principles upon which society and government are
established in this country; comprise all that can be attempted, and
much more than can be satisfactorily performed, on the present occasion.

Of the motives which influenced the first settlers to a voluntary exile,
induced them to relinquish their native country, and to seek an asylum
in this then unexplored wilderness, the first and principal, no doubt,
were connected with religion. They sought to enjoy a higher degree of
religious freedom, and what they esteemed a purer form of religious
worship, than was allowed to their choice, or presented to their
imitation, in the Old World. The love of religious liberty is a stronger
sentiment, when fully excited, than an attachment to civil or political
freedom. That freedom which the conscience demands, and which men feel
bound by their hope of salvation to contend for, can hardly fail to be
attained. Conscience, in the cause of religion and the worship of the
Deity, prepares the mind to act and to suffer beyond almost all other
causes. It sometimes gives an impulse so irresistible, that no fetters
of power or of opinion can withstand it. History instructs us that this
love of religious liberty, a compound sentiment in the breast of man,
made up of the clearest sense of right and the highest conviction of
duty, is able to look the sternest despotism in the face, and, with
means apparently most inadequate, to shake principalities and powers.
There is a boldness, a spirit of daring, in religious reformers, not to
be measured by the general rules which control men's purposes and
actions. If the hand of power be laid upon it, this only seems to
augment its force and its elasticity, and to cause its action to be more
formidable and violent. Human invention has devised nothing, human
power has compassed nothing, that can forcibly restrain it, when it
breaks forth. Nothing can stop it, but to give way to it; nothing can
check it, but indulgence. It loses its power only when it has gained its
object. The principle of toleration, to which the world has come so
slowly, is at once the most just and the most wise of all principles.
Even when religious feeling takes a character of extravagance and
enthusiasm, and seems to threaten the order of society and shake the
columns of the social edifice, its principal danger is in its restraint.
If it be allowed indulgence and expansion, like the elemental fires, it
only agitates, and perhaps purifies, the atmosphere; while its efforts
to throw off restraint would burst the world asunder.

It is certain, that, although many of them were republicans in
principle, we have no evidence that our New England ancestors would have
emigrated, as they did, from their own native country, would have become
wanderers in Europe, and finally would have undertaken the establishment
of a colony here, merely from their dislike of the political systems of
Europe. They fled not so much from the civil government, as from the
hierarchy, and the laws which enforced conformity to the church
establishment. Mr. Robinson had left England as early as 1608, on
account of the persecutions for non-conformity, and had retired to
Holland. He left England from no disappointed ambition in affairs of
state, from no regrets at the want of preferment in the church, nor from
any motive of distinction or of gain. Uniformity in matters of religion
was pressed with such extreme rigor, that a voluntary exile seemed the
most eligible mode of escaping from the penalties of non-compliance. The
accession of Elizabeth had, it is true, quenched the fires of
Smithfield, and put an end to the easy acquisition of the crown of
martyrdom. Her long reign had established the Reformation, but
toleration was a virtue beyond her conception, and beyond the age. She
left no example of it to her successor; and he was not of a character
which rendered a sentiment either so wise or so liberal would originate
with him. At the present period it seems incredible that the learned,
accomplished, unassuming, and inoffensive Robinson should neither be
tolerated in his peaceable mode of worship in his own country, nor
suffered quietly to depart from it. Yet such was the fact. He left his
country by stealth, that he might elsewhere enjoy those rights which
ought to belong to men in all countries. The departure of the Pilgrims
for Holland is deeply interesting, from its circumstances, and also as
it marks the character of the times, independently of its connection
with names now incorporated with the history of empire. The embarkation
was intended to be made in such a manner that it might escape the notice
of the officers of government. Great pains had been taken to secure
boats, which should come undiscovered to the shore, and receive the
fugitives; and frequent disappointments had been experienced in this

At length the appointed time came, bringing with it unusual severity of
cold and rain. An unfrequented and barren heath, on the shores of
Lincolnshire, was the selected spot, where the feet of the Pilgrims were
to tread, for the last time, the land of their fathers. The vessel which
was to receive them did not come until the next day, and in the mean
time the little band was collected, and men and women and children and
baggage were crowded together, in melancholy and distressed confusion.
The sea was rough, and the women and children were already sick, from
their passage down the river to the place of embarkation on the sea. At
length the wished-for boat silently and fearfully approaches the shore,
and men and women and children, shaking with fear and with cold, as many
as the small vessel could bear, venture off on a dangerous sea.
Immediately the advance of horses is heard from behind, armed men
appear, and those not yet embarked are seized and taken into custody. In
the hurry of the moment, the first parties had been sent on board
without any attempt to keep members of the same family together, and on
account of the appearance of the horsemen, the boat never returned for
the residue. Those who had got away, and those who had not, were in
equal distress. A storm, of great violence and long duration, arose at
sea, which not only protracted the voyage, rendered distressing by the
want of all those accommodations which the interruption of the
embarkation had occasioned, but also forced the vessel out of her
course, and menaced immediate shipwreck; while those on shore, when they
were dismissed from the custody of the officers of justice, having no
longer homes or houses to retire to, and their friends and protectors
being already gone, became objects of necessary charity, as well as of
deep commiseration.

As this scene passes before us, we can hardly forbear asking whether
this be a band of malefactors and felons flying from justice. What are
their crimes, that they hide themselves in darkness? To what punishment
are they exposed, that, to avoid it, men, and women, and children, thus
encounter the surf of the North Sea and the terrors of a night storm?
What induces this armed pursuit, and this arrest of fugitives, of all
ages and both sexes? Truth does not allow us to answer these inquiries
in a manner that does credit to the wisdom or the justice of the times.
This was not the flight of guilt, but of virtue. It was an humble and
peaceable religion, flying from causeless oppression. It was conscience,
attempting to escape from the arbitrary rule of the Stuarts. It was
Robinson and Brewster, leading off their little band from their native
soil, at first to find shelter on the shore of the neighboring
continent, but ultimately to come hither; and having surmounted all
difficulties and braved a thousand dangers, to find here a place of
refuge and of rest. Thanks be to God, that this spot was honored as the
asylum of religious liberty! May its standard, reared here, remain for
ever! May it rise up as high as heaven, till its banner shall fan the
air of both continents, and wave as a glorious ensign of peace and
security to the nations!

The peculiar character, condition, and circumstances of the colonies
which introduced civilization and an English race into New England,
afford a most interesting and extensive topic of discussion. On these,
much of our subsequent character and fortune has depended. Their
influence has essentially affected our whole history, through the two
centuries which have elapsed; and as they have become intimately
connected with government, laws, and property, as well as with our
opinions on the subjects of religion and civil liberty, that influence
is likely to continue to be felt through the centuries which shall
succeed. Emigration from one region to another, and the emission of
colonies to people countries more or less distant from the residence of
the parent stock, are common incidents in the history of mankind; but it
has not often, perhaps never, happened, that the establishment of
colonies should be attempted under circumstances, however beset with
present difficulties and dangers, yet so favorable to ultimate success,
and so conducive to magnificent results, as those which attended the
first settlements on this part of the American continent. In other
instances, emigration has proceeded from a less exalted purpose, in
periods of less general intelligence, or more without plan and by
accident; or under circumstances, physical and moral, less favorable to
the expectation of laying a foundation for great public prosperity and
future empire.

A great resemblance exists, obviously, between all the English colonies
established within the present limits of the United States; but the
occasion attracts our attention more immediately to those which took
possession of New England, and the peculiarities of these furnish a
strong contrast with most other instances of colonization.

Among the ancient nations, the Greeks, no doubt, sent forth from their
territories the greatest number of colonies. So numerous, indeed, were
they, and so great the extent of space over which they were spread, that
the parent country fondly and naturally persuaded herself, that by
means of them she had laid a sure foundation for the universal
civilization of the world. These establishments, from obvious causes,
were most numerous in places most contiguous; yet they were found on the
coasts of France, on the shores of the Euxine Sea, in Africa, and even,
as is alleged, on the borders of India. These emigrations appear to have
been sometimes voluntary and sometimes compulsory; arising from the
spontaneous enterprise of individuals, or the order and regulation of
government. It was a common opinion with ancient writers, that they were
undertaken in religious obedience to the commands of oracles, and it is
probable that impressions of this sort might have had more or less
influence; but it is probable, also, that on these occasions the oracles
did not speak a language dissonant from the views and purposes of the

Political science among the Greeks seems never to have extended to the
comprehension of a system, which should be adequate to the government of
a great nation upon principles of liberty. They were accustomed only to
the contemplation of small republics, and were led to consider an
augmented population as incompatible with free institutions. The desire
of a remedy for this supposed evil, and the wish to establish marts for
trade, led the governments often to undertake the establishment of
colonies as an affair of state expediency. Colonization and commerce,
indeed, would naturally become objects of interest to an ingenious and
enterprising people, inhabiting a territory closely circumscribed in its
limits, and in no small part mountainous and sterile; while the islands
of the adjacent seas, and the promontories and coasts of the neighboring
continents, by their mere proximity, strongly solicited the excited
spirit of emigration. Such was this proximity, in many instances, that
the new settlements appeared rather to be the mere extension of
population over contiguous territory, than the establishment of distant
colonies. In proportion as they were near to the parent state, they
would be under its authority, and partake of its fortunes. The colony at
Marseilles might perceive lightly, or not at all, the sway of Phocis;
while the islands in the Aegean Sea could hardly attain to independence
of their Athenian origin. Many of these establishments took place at an
early age; and if there were defects in the governments of the parent
states, the colonists did not possess philosophy or experience
sufficient to correct such evils in their own institutions, even if they
had not been, by other causes, deprived of the power. An immediate
necessity, connected with the support of life, was the main and direct
inducement to these undertakings, and there could hardly exist more than
the hope of a successful imitation of institutions with which they were
already acquainted, and of holding an equality with their neighbors in
the course of improvement. The laws and customs, both political and
municipal, as well as the religious worship of the parent city, were
transferred to the colony; and the parent city herself, with all such of
her colonies as were not too far remote for frequent intercourse and
common sentiments, would appear like a family of cities, more or less
dependent, and more or less connected. We know how imperfect this system
was, as a system of general politics, and what scope it gave to those
mutual dissensions and conflicts which proved so fatal to Greece.

But it is more pertinent to our present purpose to observe, that nothing
existed in the character of Grecian emigrations, or in the spirit and
intelligence of the emigrants, likely to give a new and important
direction to human affairs, or a new impulse to the human mind. Their
motives were not high enough, their views were not sufficiently large
and prospective. They went not forth, like our ancestors, to erect
systems of more perfect civil liberty, or to enjoy a higher degree of
religious freedom. Above all, there was nothing in the religion and
learning of the age, that could either inspire high purposes, or give
the ability to execute them. Whatever restraints on civil liberty, or
whatever abuses in religious worship, existed at the time of our
fathers' emigration, yet even then all was light in the moral and mental
world, in comparison with its condition in most periods of the ancient
states. The settlement of a new continent, in an age of progressive
knowledge and improvement, could not but do more than merely enlarge the
natural boundaries of the habitable world. It could not but do much more
even than extend commerce and increase wealth among the human race. We
see how this event has acted, how it must have acted, and wonder only
why it did not act sooner, in the production of moral effects, on the
state of human knowledge, the general tone of human sentiments, and the
prospects of human happiness. It gave to civilized man not only a new
continent to be inhabited and cultivated, and new seas to be explored;
but it gave him also a new range for his thoughts, new objects for
curiosity, and new excitements to knowledge and improvement.

Roman colonization resembled, far less than that of the Greeks, the
original settlements of this country. Power and dominion were the
objects of Rome, even in her colonial establishments. Her whole exterior
aspect was for centuries hostile and terrific. She grasped at dominion,
from India to Britain, and her measures of colonization partook of the
character of her general system. Her policy was military, because her
objects were power, ascendency, and subjugation. Detachments of
emigrants from Rome incorporated themselves with, and governed, the
original inhabitants of conquered countries. She sent citizens where she
had first sent soldiers; her law followed her sword. Her colonies were a
sort of military establishment; so many advanced posts in the career of
her dominion. A governor from Rome ruled the new colony with absolute
sway, and often with unbounded rapacity. In Sicily, in Gaul, in Spain,
and in Asia, the power of Rome prevailed, not nominally only, but really
and effectually. Those who immediately exercised it were Roman; the tone
and tendency of its administration, Roman. Rome herself continued to be
the heart and centre of the great system which she had established.
Extortion and rapacity, finding a wide and often rich field of action in
the provinces, looked nevertheless to the banks of the Tiber, as the
scene in which their ill-gotten treasures should be displayed; or, if a
spirit of more honest acquisition prevailed, the object, nevertheless,
was ultimate enjoyment in Rome itself. If our own history and our own
times did not sufficiently expose the inherent and incurable evils of
provincial government, we might see them portrayed, to our amazement, in
the desolated and ruined provinces of the Roman empire. We might hear
them, in a voice that terrifies us, in those strains of complaint and
accusation, which the advocates of the provinces poured forth in the
Roman Forum:--"Quas res luxuries in flagitiis, crudelitas in suppliciis,
avaritia in rapinis, superbia in contumeliis, efficere potuisset, eas
omnes sese pertulisse."

As was to be expected, the Roman Provinces partook of the fortunes, as
well as of the sentiments and general character, of the seat of empire.
They lived together with her, they flourished with her, and fell with
her. The branches were lopped away even before the vast and venerable
trunk itself fell prostrate to the earth. Nothing had proceeded from her
which could support itself, and bear up the name of its origin, when her
own sustaining arm should be enfeebled or withdrawn. It was not given to
Rome to see, either at her zenith or in her decline, a child of her own,
distant, indeed, and independent of her control, yet speaking her
language and inheriting her blood, springing forward to a competition
with her own power, and a comparison with her own great renown. She saw
not a vast region of the earth peopled from her stock, full of states
and political communities, improving upon the models of her
institutions, and breathing in fuller measure the spirit which she had
breathed in the best periods of her existence; enjoying and extending
her arts and her literature; rising rapidly from political childhood to
manly strength and independence; her offspring, yet now her equal;
unconnected with the causes which might affect the duration of her own
power and greatness; of common origin, but not linked to a common fate;
giving ample pledge, that her name should not be forgotten, that her
language should not cease to be used among men; that whatsoever she had
done for human knowledge and human happiness should be treasured up and
preserved; that the record of her existence and her achievements should
not be obscured, although, in the inscrutable purposes of Providence, it
might be her destiny to fall from opulence and splendor; although the
time might come, when darkness should settle on all her hills; when
foreign or domestic violence should overturn her altars and her temples;
when ignorance and despotism should fill the places where Laws, and
Arts, and Liberty had flourished; when the feet of barbarism should
trample on the tombs of her consuls, and the walls of her senate-house
and forum echo only to the voice of savage triumph. She saw not this
glorious vision, to inspire and fortify her against the possible decay
or downfall of her power. Happy are they who in our day may behold it,
if they shall contemplate it with the sentiments which it ought to

The New England Colonies differ quite as widely from the Asiatic
establishments of the modern European nations, as from the models of the
ancient states. The sole object of those establishments was originally
trade; although we have seen, in one of them, the anomaly of a mere
trading company attaining a political character, disbursing revenues,
and maintaining armies and fortresses, until it has extended its control
over seventy millions of people. Differing from these, and still more
from the New England and North American Colonies, are the European
settlements in the West India Islands. It is not strange, that, when
men's minds were turned to the settlement of America, different objects
should be proposed by those who emigrated to the different regions of so
vast a country. Climate, soil, and condition were not all equally
favorable to all pursuits. In the West Indies, the purpose of those who
went thither was to engage in that species of agriculture, suited to the
soil and climate, which seems to bear more resemblance to commerce than
to the hard and plain tillage of New England. The great staples of these
countries, being partly an agricultural and partly a manufactured
product, and not being of the necessaries of life, become the object of
calculation, with respect to a profitable investment of capital, like
any other enterprise of trade or manufacture. The more especially, as,
requiring, by necessity or habit, slave labor for their production, the
capital necessary to carry on the work of this production is very
considerable. The West Indies are resorted to, therefore, rather for the
investment of capital than for the purpose of sustaining life by
personal labor. Such as possess a considerable amount of capital, or
such as choose to adventure in commercial speculations without capital,
can alone be fitted to be emigrants to the islands. The agriculture of
these regions, as before observed, is a sort of commerce; and it is a
species of employment in which labor seems to form an inconsiderable
ingredient in the productive causes, since the portion of white labor is
exceedingly small, and slave labor is rather more like profit on stock
or capital than _labor_ properly so called. The individual who
undertakes an establishment of this kind takes into the account the cost
of the necessary number of slaves, in the same manner as he calculates
the cost of the land. The uncertainty, too, of this species of
employment, affords another ground of resemblance to commerce. Although
gainful on the whole, and in a series of years, it is often very
disastrous for a single year, and, as the capital is not readily
invested in other pursuits, bad crops or bad markets not only affect the
profits, but the capital itself. Hence the sudden depressions which take
place in the value of such estates.

But the great and leading observation, relative to these establishments,
remains to be made. It is, that the owners of the soil and of the
capital seldom consider themselves _at home_ in the colony. A very
great portion of the soil itself is usually owned in the mother country;
a still greater is mortgaged for capital obtained there; and, in
general, those who are to derive an interest from the products look to
the parent country as the place for enjoyment of their wealth. The
population is therefore constantly fluctuating. Nobody comes but to
return. A constant succession of owners, agents, and factors takes
place. Whatsoever the soil, forced by the unmitigated toil of slavery,
can yield, is sent home to defray rents, and interest, and agencies, or
to give the means of living in a better society. In such a state, it is
evident that no spirit of permanent improvement is likely to spring up.
Profits will not be invested with a distant view of benefiting
posterity. Roads and canals will hardly be built; schools will not be
founded; colleges will not be endowed. There will be few fixtures in
society; no principles of utility or of elegance, planted now, with the
hope of being developed and expanded hereafter. Profit, immediate
profit, must be the principal active spring in the social system. There
may be many particular exceptions to these general remarks, but the
outline of the whole is such as is here drawn.

Another most important consequence of such a state of things is, that no
idea of independence of the parent country is likely to arise; unless,
indeed, it should spring up in a form that would threaten universal
desolation. The inhabitants have no strong attachment to the place which
they inhabit. The hope of a great portion of them is to leave it; and
their great desire, to leave it soon. However useful they may be to the
parent state, how much soever they may add to the conveniences and
luxuries of life, these colonies are not favored spots for the expansion
of the human mind, for the progress of permanent improvement, or for
sowing the seeds of future independent empire.

Different, indeed, most widely different, from all these instances of
emigration and plantation, were the condition, the purposes, and the
prospects of our fathers, when they established their infant colony upon
this spot. They came hither to a land from which they were never to
return. Hither they had brought, and here they were to fix, their hopes,
their attachments, and their objects in life. Some natural tears they
shed, as they left the pleasant abodes of their fathers, and some
emotions they suppressed, when the white cliffs of their native country,
now seen for the last time, grew dim to their sight. They were acting,
however, upon a resolution not to be daunted. With whatever stifled
regrets, with whatever occasional hesitation, with whatever appalling
apprehensions, which might sometimes arise with force to shake the
firmest purpose, they had yet committed themselves to Heaven and the
elements; and a thousand leagues of water soon interposed to separate
them for ever from the region which gave them birth. A new existence
awaited them here; and when they saw these shores, rough, cold,
barbarous, and barren, as then they were, they beheld their country.
That mixed and strong feeling, which we call love of country, and which
is, in general, never extinguished in the heart of man, grasped and
embraced its proper object here. Whatever constitutes _country_, except
the earth and the sun, all the moral causes of affection and attachment
which operate upon the heart, they had brought with them to their new
abode. Here were now their families and friends, their homes, and their
property. Before they reached the shore, they had established the
elements of a social system,[7] and at a much earlier period had settled
their forms of religious worship. At the moment of their landing,
therefore, they possessed institutions of government, and institutions
of religion: and friends and families, and social and religious
institutions, framed by consent, founded on choice and preference, how
nearly do these fill up our whole idea of country! The morning that
beamed on the first night of their repose saw the Pilgrims already _at
home_ in their country. There were political institutions, and civil
liberty, and religious worship. Poetry has fancied nothing, in the
wanderings of heroes, so distinct and characteristic. Here was man,
indeed, unprotected, and unprovided for, on the shore of a rude and
fearful wilderness; but it was politic, intelligent, and educated man.
Every thing was civilized but the physical world. Institutions,
containing in substance all that ages had done for human government,
were organized in a forest. Cultivated mind was to act on uncultivated
nature; and, more than all, a government and a country were to commence,
with the very first foundations laid under the divine light of the
Christian religion. Happy auspices of a happy futurity! Who would wish
that his country's existence had otherwise begun? Who would desire the
power of going back to the ages of fable? Who would wish for an origin
obscured in the darkness of antiquity? Who would wish for other
emblazoning of his country's heraldry, or other ornaments of her
genealogy, than to be able to say, that her first existence was with
intelligence, her first breath the inspiration of liberty, her first
principle the truth of divine religion?

Local attachments and sympathies would ere long spring up in the breasts
of our ancestors, endearing to them the place of their refuge. Whatever
natural objects are associated with interesting scenes and high efforts
obtain a hold on human feeling, and demand from the heart a sort of
recognition and regard. This Rock soon became hallowed in the esteem of
the Pilgrims,[8] and these hills grateful to their sight. Neither they
nor their children were again to till the soil of England, nor again to
traverse the seas which surround her.[9] But here was a new sea, now
open to their enterprise, and a new soil, which had not failed to
respond gratefully to their laborious industry, and which was already
assuming a robe of verdure. Hardly had they provided shelter for the
living, ere they were summoned to erect sepulchres for the dead. The
ground had become sacred, by enclosing the remains of some of their
companions and connections. A parent, a child, a husband, or a wife, had
gone the way of all flesh, and mingled with the dust of New England. We
naturally look with strong emotions to the spot, though it be a
wilderness, where the ashes of those we have loved repose. Where the
heart has laid down what it loved most, there it is desirous of laying
itself down. No sculptured marble, no enduring monument, no honorable
inscription, no ever-burning taper that would drive away the darkness of
the tomb, can soften our sense of the reality of death, and hallow to
our feelings the ground which is to cover us, like the consciousness
that we shall sleep, dust to dust, with the objects of our affections.

In a short time other causes sprung up to bind the Pilgrims with new
cords to their chosen land. Children were born, and the hopes of future
generations arose, in the spot of their new habitation. The second
generation found this the land of their nativity, and saw that they were
bound to its fortunes. They beheld their fathers' graves around them,
and while they read the memorials of their toils and labors, they
rejoiced in the inheritance which they found bequeathed to them.

Under the influence of these causes, it was to be expected that an
interest and a feeling should arise here, entirely different from the
interest and feeling of mere Englishmen; and all the subsequent history
of the Colonies proves this to have actually and gradually taken place.
With a general acknowledgment of the supremacy of the British crown,
there was, from the first, a repugnance to an entire submission to the
control of British legislation. The Colonies stood upon their charters,
which, as they contended, exempted them from the ordinary power of the
British Parliament, and authorized them to conduct their own concerns by
their own counsels. They utterly resisted the notion that they were to
be ruled by the mere authority of the government at home, and would not
endure even that their own charter governments should be established on
the other side of the Atlantic. It was not a controlling or protecting
board in England, but a government of their own, and existing
immediately within their limits, which could satisfy their wishes. It
was easy to foresee, what we know also to have happened, that the first
great cause of collision and jealousy would be, under the notion of
political economy then and still prevalent in Europe, an attempt on the
part of the mother country to monopolize the trade of the Colonies.
Whoever has looked deeply into the causes which produced our Revolution
has found, if I mistake not, the original principle far back in this
claim, on the part of England, to monopolize our trade, and a continued
effort on the part of the Colonies to resist or evade that monopoly; if,
indeed, it be not still more just and philosophical to go farther back,
and to consider it decided, that an independent government must arise
here, the moment it was ascertained that an English colony, such as
landed in this place, could sustain itself against the dangers which
surrounded it, and, with other similar establishments, overspread the
land with an English population. Accidental causes retarded at times,
and at times accelerated, the progress of the controversy. The Colonies
wanted strength, and time gave it to them. They required measures of
strong and palpable injustice, on the part of the mother country, to
justify resistance; the early part of the late king's reign furnished
them. They needed spirits of high order, of great daring, of long
foresight, and of commanding power, to seize the favoring occasion to
strike a blow, which should sever, for all time, the tie of colonial
dependence; and these spirits were found, in all the extent which that
or any crisis could demand, in Otis, Adams, Hancock, and the other
immediate authors of our independence.

Still, it is true that, for a century, causes had been in operation
tending to prepare things for this great result. In the year 1660 the
English Act of Navigation was passed; the first and grand object of
which seems to have been, to secure to England the whole trade with her
plantations.[10] It was provided by that act, that none but English
ships should transport American produce over the ocean, and that the
principal articles of that produce should be allowed to be sold only in
the markets of the mother country. Three years afterwards another law
was passed, which enacted, that such commodities as the Colonies might
wish to purchase should be bought only in the markets of the mother
country. Severe rules were prescribed to enforce the provisions of these
laws, and heavy penalties imposed on all who should violate them. In the
subsequent years of the same reign, other statutes were enacted to
re-enforce these statutes, and other rules prescribed to secure a
compliance with these rules. In this manner was the trade to and from
the Colonies restricted, almost to the exclusive advantage of the parent
country. But laws, which rendered the interest of a whole people
subordinate to that of another people, were not likely to execute
themselves, nor was it easy to find many on the spot, who could be
depended upon for carrying them into execution. In fact, these laws were
more or less evaded or resisted, in all the Colonies. To enforce them
was the constant endeavor of the government at home; to prevent or elude
their operation, the perpetual object here. "The laws of navigation,"
says a living British writer, "were nowhere so openly disobeyed and
contemned as in New England." "The people of Massachusetts Bay," he
adds, "were from the first disposed to act as if independent of the
mother country, and having a governor and magistrates of their own
choice, it was difficult to enforce any regulation which came from the
English Parliament, adverse to their interests." To provide more
effectually for the execution of these laws, we know that courts of
admiralty were afterwards established by the crown, with power to try
revenue causes, as questions of admiralty, upon the construction given
by the crown lawyers to an act of Parliament; a great departure from the
ordinary principles of English jurisprudence, but which has been
maintained, nevertheless, by the force of habit and precedent, and is
adopted in our own existing systems of government.

"There lie," says another English writer, whose connection with the
Board of Trade has enabled him to ascertain many facts connected with
Colonial history, "There lie among the documents in the board of trade
and state-paper office, the most satisfactory proofs, from the epoch of
the English Revolution in 1688, throughout every reign, and during every
administration, of the settled purpose of the Colonies to acquire direct
independence and positive sovereignty." Perhaps this may be stated
somewhat too strongly; but it cannot be denied, that, from the very
nature of the establishments here, and from the general character of the
measures respecting their concerns early adopted and steadily pursued by
the English government, a division of the empire was the natural and
necessary result to which every thing tended.[11]

I have dwelt on this topic, because it seems to me, that the peculiar
original character of the New England Colonies, and certain causes
coeval with their existence, have had a strong and decided influence on
all their subsequent history, and especially on the great event of the
Revolution. Whoever would write our history, and would understand and
explain early transactions, should comprehend the nature and force of
the feeling which I have endeavored to describe. As a son, leaving the
house of his father for his own, finds, by the order of nature, and the
very law of his being, nearer and dearer objects around which his
affections circle, while his attachment to the parental roof becomes
moderated, by degrees, to a composed regard and an affectionate
remembrance; so our ancestors, leaving their native land, not without
some violence to the feelings of nature and affection, yet, in time,
found here a new circle of engagements, interests, and affections; a
feeling, which more and more encroached upon the old, till an undivided
sentiment, _that this was their country_, occupied the heart; and
patriotism, shutting out from its embraces the parent realm, became
_local_ to America.

Some retrospect of the century which has now elapsed is among the duties
of the occasion. It must, however, necessarily be imperfect, to be
compressed within the limits of a single discourse. I shall content
myself, therefore, with taking notice of a few of the leading and most
important occurrences which have distinguished the period.

When the first century closed, the progress of the country appeared to
have been considerable; notwithstanding that, in comparison with its
subsequent advancement, it now seems otherwise. A broad and lasting
foundation had been laid; excellent institutions had been established;
many of the prejudices of former times had been removed; a more liberal
and catholic spirit on subjects of religious concern had begun to extend
itself, and many things conspired to give promise of increasing future
prosperity. Great men had arisen in public life, and the liberal
professions. The Mathers, father and son, were then sinking low in the
western horizon; Leverett, the learned, the accomplished, the excellent
Leverett, was about to withdraw his brilliant and useful light. In
Pemberton great hopes had been suddenly extinguished, but Prince and
Colman were in our sky; and along the east had begun to flash the
crepuscular light of a great luminary which was about to appear, and
which was to stamp the age with his own name, as the age of Franklin.

The bloody Indian wars, which harassed the people for a part of the
first century; the restrictions on the trade of the Colonies, added to
the discouragements inherently belonging to all forms of colonial
government; the distance from Europe, and the small hope of immediate
profit to adventurers, are among the causes which had contributed to
retard the progress of population. Perhaps it may be added, also, that
during the period of the civil wars in England, and the reign of
Cromwell, many persons, whose religious opinions and religious temper
might, under other circumstances, have induced them to join the New
England colonists, found reasons to remain in England; either on account
of active occupation in the scenes which were passing, or of an
anticipation of the enjoyment, in their own country, of a form of
government, civil and religious, accommodated to their views and
principles. The violent measures, too, pursued against the Colonies in
the reign of Charles the Second, the mockery of a trial, and the
forfeiture of the charters, were serious evils. And during the open
violences of the short reign of James the Second, and the tyranny of
Andros, as the venerable historian of Connecticut observes, "All the
motives to great actions, to industry, economy, enterprise, wealth, and
population, were in a manner annihilated. A general inactivity and
languishment pervaded the public body. Liberty, property, and every
thing which ought to be dear to men, every day grew more and more

With the Revolution in England, a better prospect had opened on this
country, as well as on that. The joy had been as great at that event,
and far more universal, in New than in Old England. A new charter had
been granted to Massachusetts, which, although it did not confirm to her
inhabitants all their former privileges, yet relieved them from great
evils and embarrassments, and promised future security. More than all,
perhaps, the Revolution in England had done good to the general cause of
liberty and justice. A blow had been struck in favor of the rights and
liberties, not of England alone, but of descendants and kinsmen of
England all over the world. Great political truths had been established.
The champions of liberty had been successful in a fearful and perilous
conflict. Somers, and Cavendish, and Jekyl, and Howard, had triumphed in
one of the most noble causes ever undertaken by men. A revolution had
been made upon principle. A monarch had been dethroned for violating the
original compact between king and people. The rights of the people to
partake in the government, and to limit the monarch by fundamental rules
of government, had been maintained; and however unjust the government of
England might afterwards be towards other governments or towards her
colonies, she had ceased to be governed herself by the arbitrary maxims
of the Stuarts.

New England had submitted to the violence of James the Second not longer
than Old England. Not only was it reserved to Massachusetts, that on her
soil should be acted the first scene of that great revolutionary drama,
which was to take place near a century afterwards, but the English
Revolution itself, as far as the Colonies were concerned, commenced in
Boston. The seizure and imprisonment of Andros, in April, 1689, were
acts of direct and forcible resistance to the authority of James the
Second. The pulse of liberty beat as high in the extremities as at the
heart. The vigorous feeling of the Colony burst out before it was known
how the parent country would finally conduct herself. The king's
representative, Sir Edmund Andros, was a prisoner in the castle at
Boston, before it was or could be known that the king himself had ceased
to exercise his full dominion on the English throne.

Before it was known here whether the invasion of the Prince of Orange
would or could prove successful, as soon as it was known that it had
been undertaken, the people of Massachusetts, at the imminent hazard of
their lives and fortunes, had accomplished the Revolution as far as
respected themselves. It is probable that, reasoning on general
principles and the known attachment of the English people to their
constitution and liberties, and their deep and fixed dislike of the
king's religion and politics, the people of New England expected a
catastrophe fatal to the power of the reigning prince. Yet it was
neither certain enough, nor near enough, to come to their aid against
the authority of the crown, in that crisis which had arrived, and in
which they trusted to put themselves, relying on God and their own
courage. There were spirits in Massachusetts congenial with the spirits
of the distinguished friends of the Revolution in England. There were
those who were fit to associate with the boldest asserters of civil
liberty; and Mather himself, then in England, was not unworthy to be
ranked with those sons of the Church, whose firmness and spirit in
resisting kingly encroachments in matters of religion, entitled them to
the gratitude of their own and succeeding ages.

The second century opened upon New England under circumstances which
evinced that much had already been accomplished, and that still better
prospects and brighter hopes were before her. She had laid, deep and
strong, the foundations of her society. Her religious principles were
firm, and her moral habits exemplary. Her public schools had begun to
diffuse widely the elements of knowledge; and the College, under the
excellent and acceptable administration of Leverett, had been raised to
a high degree of credit and usefulness.

The commercial character of the country, notwithstanding all
discouragements, had begun to display itself, and _five hundred
vessels_, then belonging to Massachusetts, placed her, in relation to
commerce, thus early at the head of the Colonies. An author who wrote
very near the close of the first century says:--"New England is almost
deserving that _noble name_, so mightily hath it increased; and from a
small settlement at first, is now become a _very populous_ and
_flourishing_ government. The _capital city_, Boston, is a place of
_great wealth and trade_; and by much the largest of any in the English
empire of America; and not exceeded but by few cities, perhaps two or
three, in all the American world."

But if our ancestors at the close of the first century could look back
with joy and even admiration, at the progress of the country, what
emotions must we not feel, when, from the point on which we stand, we
also look back and run along the events of the century which has now
closed! The country which then, as we have seen, was thought deserving
of a "noble name,"--which then had "mightily increased," and become
"very populous,"--what was it, in comparison with what our eyes behold
it? At that period, a very great proportion of its inhabitants lived in
the eastern section of Massachusetts proper, and in Plymouth Colony. In
Connecticut, there were towns along the coast, some of them respectable,
but in the interior all was a wilderness beyond Hartford. On Connecticut
River, settlements had proceeded as far up as Deerfield, and Fort Dummer
had been built near where is now the south line of New Hampshire. In New
Hampshire no settlement was then begun thirty miles from the mouth of
Piscataqua River, and in what is now Maine the inhabitants were confined
to the coast. The aggregate of the whole population of New England did
not exceed one hundred and sixty thousand. Its present amount (1820) is
probably one million seven hundred thousand. Instead of being confined
to its former limits, her population has rolled backward, and filled up
the spaces included within her actual local boundaries. Not this only,
but it has overflowed those boundaries, and the waves of emigration have
pressed farther and farther toward the West. The Alleghany has not
checked it; the banks of the Ohio have been covered with it. New England
farms, houses, villages, and churches spread over and adorn the immense
extent from the Ohio to Lake Erie, and stretch along from the Alleghany
onwards, beyond the Miamis, and toward the Falls of St. Anthony. Two
thousand miles westward from the rock where their fathers landed, may
now be found the sons of the Pilgrims, cultivating smiling fields,
rearing towns and villages, and cherishing, we trust, the patrimonial
blessings of wise institutions, of liberty, and religion. The world has
seen nothing like this. Regions large enough to be empires, and which,
half a century ago, were known only as remote and unexplored
wildernesses, are now teeming with population, and prosperous in all the
great concerns of life; in good governments, the means of subsistence,
and social happiness. It may be safely asserted, that there are now more
than a million of people, descendants of New England ancestry, living,
free and happy, in regions which scarce sixty years ago were tracts of
unpenetrated forest. Nor do rivers, or mountains, or seas resist the
progress of industry and enterprise. Erelong, the sons of the Pilgrims
will be on the shores of the Pacific.[12] The imagination hardly keeps
pace with the progress of population, improvement, and civilization.

It is now five-and-forty years since the growth and rising glory of
America were portrayed in the English Parliament, with inimitable
beauty, by the most consummate orator of modern times. Going back
somewhat more than half a century, and describing our progress as
foreseen from that point by his amiable friend Lord Bathurst, then
living, he spoke of the wonderful progress which America had made during
the period of a single human life. There is no American heart, I
imagine, that does not glow, both with conscious, patriotic pride, and
admiration for one of the happiest efforts of eloquence, so often as the
vision of "that little speck, scarce visible in the mass of national
interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body," and the
progress of its astonishing development and growth, are recalled to the
recollection. But a stronger feeling might be produced, if we were able
to take up this prophetic description where he left it, and, placing
ourselves at the point of time in which he was speaking, to set forth
with equal felicity the subsequent progress of the country. There is yet
among the living a most distinguished and venerable name, a descendant
of the Pilgrims; one who has been attended through life by a great and
fortunate genius; a man illustrious by his own great merits, and favored
of Heaven in the long continuation of his years.[13] The time when the
English orator was thus speaking of America preceded but by a few days
the actual opening of the revolutionary drama at Lexington. He to whom I
have alluded, then at the age of forty, was among the most zealous and
able defenders of the violated rights of his country. He seemed already
to have filled a full measure of public service, and attained an
honorable fame. The moment was full of difficulty and danger, and big
with events of immeasurable importance. The country was on the very
brink of a civil war, of which no man could foretell the duration or the
result. Something more than a courageous hope, or characteristic ardor,
would have been necessary to impress the glorious prospect on his
belief, if, at that moment, before the sound of the first shock of
actual war had reached his ears, some attendant spirit had opened to him
the vision of the future;--if it had said to him, "The blow is struck,
and America is severed from England for ever!"--if it had informed him,
that he himself, during the next annual revolution of the sun, should
put his own hand to the great instrument of independence, and write his
name where all nations should behold it and all time should not efface
it; that erelong he himself should maintain the interests and represent
the sovereignty of his newborn country in the proudest courts of Europe;
that he should one day exercise her supreme magistracy; that he should
yet live to behold ten millions of fellow-citizens paying him the homage
of their deepest gratitude and kindest affections; that he should see
distinguished talent and high public trust resting where his name
rested; that he should even see with his own unclouded eyes the close of
the second century of New England, who had begun life almost with its
commencement, and lived through nearly half the whole history of his
country; and that on the morning of this auspicious day he should be
found in the political councils of his native State, revising, by the
light of experience, that system of government which forty years before
he had assisted to frame and establish; and, great and happy as he
should then behold his country, there should be nothing in prospect to
cloud the scene, nothing to check the ardor of that confident and
patriotic hope which should glow in his bosom to the end of his long
protracted and happy life.

It would far exceed the limits of this discourse even to mention the
principal events in the civil and political history of New England
during the century; the more so, as for the last half of the period that
history has, most happily, been closely interwoven with the general
history of the United States. New England bore an honorable part in the
wars which took place between England and France. The capture of
Louisburg gave her a character for military achievement; and in the war
which terminated with the peace of 1763, her exertions on the frontiers
wore of most essential service, as well to the mother country as to all
the Colonies.

In New England the war of the Revolution commenced. I address those who
remember the memorable 19th of April, 1775; who shortly after saw the
burning spires of Charlestown; who beheld the deeds of Prescott, and
heard the voice of Putnam amidst the storm of war, and saw the generous
Warren fall, the first distinguished victim in the cause of liberty. It
would be superfluous to say, that no portion of the country did more
than the States of New England to bring the Revolutionary struggle to a
successful issue. It is scarcely less to her credit, that she saw early
the necessity of a closer union of the States, and gave an efficient and
indispensable aid to the establishment and organization of the Federal

Perhaps we might safely say, that a new spirit and a new excitement
began to exist here about the middle of the last century. To whatever
causes it may be imputed, there seems then to have commenced a more
rapid improvement. The Colonies had attracted more of the attention of
the mother country, and some renown in arms had been acquired. Lord
Chatham was the first English minister who attached high importance to
these possessions of the crown, and who foresaw any thing of their
future growth and extension. His opinion was, that the great rival of
England was chiefly to be feared as a maritime and commercial power, and
to drive her out of North America and deprive her of her West Indian
possessions was a leading object in his policy. He dwelt often on the
fisheries, as nurseries for British seamen, and the colonial trade, as
furnishing them employment. The war, conducted by him with so much
vigor, terminated in a peace, by which Canada was ceded to England. The
effect of this was immediately visible in the New England Colonies; for,
the fear of Indian hostilities on the frontiers being now happily
removed, settlements went on with an activity before that time
altogether unprecedented, and public affairs wore a new and encouraging
aspect. Shortly after this fortunate termination of the French war, the
interesting topics connected with the taxation of America by the British
Parliament began to be discussed, and the attention and all the
faculties of the people drawn towards them. There is perhaps no portion
of our history more full of interest than the period from 1760 to the
actual commencement of the war. The progress of opinion in this period,
though less known, is not less important than the progress of arms
afterwards. Nothing deserves more consideration than those events and
discussions which affected the public sentiment and settled the
Revolution in men's minds, before hostilities openly broke out.

Internal improvement followed the establishment and prosperous
commencement of the present government. More has been done for roads,
canals, and other public works, within the last thirty years, than in
all our former history. In the first of these particulars, few countries
excel the New England States. The astonishing increase of their
navigation and trade is known to every one, and now belongs to the
history of our national wealth.

We may flatter ourselves, too, that literature and taste have not been
stationary, and that some advancement has been made in the elegant, as
well as in the useful arts.

The nature and constitution of society and government in this country
are interesting topics, to which I would devote what remains of the time
allowed to this occasion. Of our system of government the first thing to
be said is, that it is really and practically a free system. It
originates entirely with the people, and rests on no other foundation
than their assent. To judge of its actual operation, it is not enough to
look merely at the form of its construction. The practical character of
government depends often on a variety of considerations, besides the
abstract frame of its constitutional organization. Among these are the
condition and tenure of property; the laws regulating its alienation and
descent; the presence or absence of a military power; an armed or
unarmed yeomanry; the spirit of the age, and the degree of general
intelligence. In these respects it cannot be denied that the
circumstances of this country are most favorable to the hope of
maintaining the government of a great nation on principles entirely
popular. In the absence of military power, the nature of government must
essentially depend on the manner in which property is holden and
distributed. There is a natural influence belonging to property, whether
it exists in many hands or few; and it is on the rights of property that
both despotism and unrestrained popular violence ordinarily commence
their attacks. Our ancestors began their system of government here under
a condition of comparative equality in regard to wealth, and their early
laws were of a nature to favor and continue this equality.

A republican form of government rests not more on political
constitutions, than on those laws which regulate the descent and
transmission of property. Governments like ours could not have been
maintained, where property was holden according to the principles of the
feudal system; nor, on the other hand, could the feudal constitution
possibly exist with us. Our New England ancestors brought hither no
great capitals from Europe; and if they had, there was nothing
productive in which they could have been invested. They left behind them
the whole feudal policy of the other continent. They broke away at once
from the system of military service established in the Dark Ages, and
which continues, down even to the present time, more or less to affect
the condition of property all over Europe. They came to a new country.
There were, as yet, no lands yielding rent, and no tenants rendering
service. The whole soil was unreclaimed from barbarism. They were
themselves, either from their original condition, or from the necessity
of their common interest, nearly on a general level in respect to
property. Their situation demanded a parcelling out and division of the
lands, and it may be fairly said, that this necessary act _fixed the
future frame and form of their government_. The character of their
political institutions was determined by the fundamental laws respecting
property. The laws rendered estates divisible among sons and daughters.
The right of primogeniture, at first limited and curtailed, was
afterwards abolished. The property was all freehold. The entailment of
estates, long trusts, and the other processes for fettering and tying up
inheritances, were not applicable to the condition of society, and
seldom made use of. On the contrary, alienation of the land was every
way facilitated, even to the subjecting of it to every species of debt.
The establishment of public registries, and the simplicity of our forms
of conveyance, have greatly facilitated the change of real estate from
one proprietor to another. The consequence of all these causes has been
a great subdivision of the soil, and a great equality of condition; the
true basis, most certainly, of a popular government. "If the people,"
says Harrington, "hold three parts in four of the territory, it is plain
there can neither be any single person nor nobility able to dispute the
government with them; in this case, therefore, _except force be
interposed_, they govern themselves."

The history of other nations may teach us how favorable to public
liberty are the division of the soil into small freeholds, and a system
of laws, of which the tendency is, without violence or injustice, to
produce and to preserve a degree of equality of property. It has been
estimated, if I mistake not, that about the time of Henry the Seventh
four fifths of the land in England was holden by the great barons and
ecclesiastics. The effects of a growing commerce soon afterwards began
to break in on this state of things, and before the Revolution, in 1688,
a vast change had been wrought. It may be thought probable, that, for
the last half-century, the process of subdivision in England has been
retarded, if not reversed; that the great weight of taxation has
compelled many of the lesser freeholders to dispose of their estates,
and to seek employment in the army and navy, in the professions of civil
life, in commerce, or in the colonies. The effect of this on the British
constitution cannot but be most unfavorable. A few large estates grow
larger; but the number of those who have no estates also increases; and
there may be danger, lest the inequality of property become so great,
that those who possess it may be dispossessed by force; in other words,
that the government may be overturned.

A most interesting experiment of the effect of a subdivision of property
on government is now making in France. It is understood, that the law
regulating the transmission of property in that country, now divides it,
real and personal, among all the children equally, both sons and
daughters; and that there is, also, a very great restraint on the power
of making dispositions of property by will. It has been supposed, that
the effects of this might probably be, in time, to break up the soil
into such small subdivisions, that the proprietors would be too poor to
resist the encroachments of executive power. I think far otherwise. What
is lost in individual wealth will be more than gained in numbers, in
intelligence, and in a sympathy of sentiment. If, indeed, only one or a
few landholders were to resist the crown, like the barons of England,
they must, of course, be great and powerful landholders, with multitudes
of retainers, to promise success. But if the proprietors of a given
extent of territory are summoned to resistance, there is no reason to
believe that such resistance would be less forcible, or less successful,
because the number of such proprietors happened to be great. Each would
perceive his own importance, and his own interest, and would feel that
natural elevation of character which the consciousness of property
inspires. A common sentiment would unite all, and numbers would not only
add strength, but excite enthusiasm. It is true, that France possesses
a vast military force, under the direction of an hereditary executive
government; and military power, it is possible, may overthrow any
government. It is in vain, however, in this period of the world, to look
for security against military power to the arm of the great landholders.
That notion is derived from a state of things long since past; a state
in which a feudal baron, with his retainers, might stand against the
sovereign and his retainers, himself but the greatest baron. But at
present, what could the richest landholder do, against one regiment of
disciplined troops? Other securities, therefore, against the prevalence
of military power must be provided. Happily for us, we are not so
situated as that any purpose of national defence requires, ordinarily
and constantly, such a military force as might seriously endanger our

In respect, however, to the recent law of succession in France, to which
I have alluded, I would, presumptuously perhaps, hazard a conjecture,
that, if the government do not change the law, the law in half a century
will change the government; and that this change will be, not in favor
of the power of the crown, as some European writers have supposed, but
against it. Those writers only reason upon what they think correct
general principles, in relation to this subject. They acknowledge a want
of experience. Here we have had that experience; and we know that a
multitude of small proprietors, acting with intelligence, and that
enthusiasm which a common cause inspires, constitute not only a
formidable, but an invincible power.[14]

The true principle of a free and popular government would seem to be, so
to construct it as to give to all, or at least to a very great majority,
an interest in its preservation; to found it, as other things are
founded, on men's interest. The stability of government demands that
those who desire its continuance should be more powerful than those who
desire its dissolution. This power, of course, is not always to be
measured by mere numbers. Education, wealth, talents, are all parts and
elements of the general aggregate of power; but numbers, nevertheless,
constitute ordinarily the most important consideration, unless, indeed,
there be _a military force_ in the hands of the few, by which they can
control the many. In this country we have actually existing systems of
government, in the maintenance of which, it should seem, a great
majority, both in numbers and in other means of power and influence,
must see their interest. But this state of things is not brought about
solely by written political constitutions, or the mere manner of
organizing the government; but also by the laws which regulate the
descent and transmission of property. The freest government, if it could
exist, would not be long acceptable, if the tendency of the laws were to
create a rapid accumulation of property in few hands, and to render the
great mass of the population dependent and penniless. In such a case,
the popular power would be likely to break in upon the rights of
property, or else the influence of property to limit and control the
exercise of popular power. Universal suffrage, for example, could not
long exist in a community where there was great inequality of property.
The holders of estates would be obliged, in such case, in some way to
restrain the right of suffrage, or else such right of suffrage would,
before long, divide the property. In the nature of things, those who
have not property, and see their neighbors possess much more than they
think them to need, cannot be favorable to laws made for the protection
of property. When this class becomes numerous, it grows clamorous. It
looks on property as its prey and plunder, and is naturally ready, at
all times, for violence and revolution.

It would seem, then, to be the part of political wisdom to found
government on property; and to establish such distribution of property,
by the laws which regulate its transmission and alienation, as to
interest the great majority of society in the support of the government.
This is, I imagine, the true theory and the actual practice of our
republican institutions. With property divided as we have it, no other
government than that of a republic could be maintained, even were we
foolish enough to desire it. There is reason, therefore, to expect a
long continuance of our system. Party and passion, doubtless, may
prevail at times, and much temporary mischief be done. Even modes and
forms may be changed, and perhaps for the worse. But a great revolution
in regard to property must take place, before our governments can be
moved from their republican basis, unless they be violently struck off
by military power. The people possess the property, more emphatically
than it could ever be said of the people of any other country, and they
can have no interest to overturn a government which protects that
property by equal laws.

Let it not be supposed, that this state of things possesses too strong
tendencies towards the production of a dead and uninteresting level in
society. Such tendencies are sufficiently counteracted by the infinite
diversities in the characters and fortunes of individuals. Talent,
activity, industry, and enterprise tend at all times to produce
inequality and distinction; and there is room still for the accumulation
of wealth, with its great advantages, to all reasonable and useful
extent. It has been often urged against the state of society in America,
that it furnishes no class of men of fortune and leisure. This may be
partly true, but it is not entirely so, and the evil, if it be one,
would affect rather the progress of taste and literature, than the
general prosperity of the people. But the promotion of taste and
literature cannot be primary objects of political institutions; and if
they could, it might be doubted whether, in the long course of things,
as much is not gained by a wide diffusion of general knowledge, as is
lost by diminishing the number of those who are enabled by fortune and
leisure to devote themselves exclusively to scientific and literary
pursuits. However this may be, it is to be considered that it is the
spirit of our system to be equal and general, and if there be particular
disadvantages incident to this, they are far more than counterbalanced
by the benefits which weigh against them. The important concerns of
society are generally conducted, in all countries, by the men of
business and practical ability; and even in matters of taste and
literature, the advantages of mere leisure are liable to be overrated.
If there exist adequate means of education and a love of letters be
excited, that love will find its way to the object of its desire,
through the crowd and pressure of the most busy society.

Connected with this division of property, and the consequent
participation of the great mass of people in its possession and
enjoyments, is the system of representation, which is admirably
accommodated to our condition, better understood among us, and more
familiarly and extensively practised, in the higher and in the lower
departments of government, than it has been by any other people. Great
facility has been given to this in New England by the early division of
the country into townships or small districts, in which all concerns of
local police are regulated, and in which representatives to the
legislature are elected. Nothing can exceed the utility of these little
bodies. They are so many councils or parliaments, in which common
interests are discussed, and useful knowledge acquired and communicated.

The division of governments into departments, and the division, again,
of the legislative department into two chambers, are essential
provisions in our system. This last, although not new in itself, yet
seems to be new in its application to governments wholly popular. The
Grecian republics, it is plain, knew nothing of it; and in Rome, the
check and balance of legislative power, such as it was, lay between the
people and the senate. Indeed, few things are more difficult than to
ascertain accurately the true nature and construction of the Roman
commonwealth. The relative power of the senate and the people, of the
consuls and the tribunes, appears not to have been at all times the
same, nor at any time accurately defined or strictly observed. Cicero,
indeed, describes to us an admirable arrangement of political power, and
a balance of the constitution, in that beautiful passage, in which he
compares the democracies of Greece with the Roman commonwealth. "O morem
preclarum, disciplinamque, quam a majoribus accepimus, si quidem
teneremus! sed nescio quo pacto jam de manibus elabitur. Nullam enim
illi nostri sapientissimi et sanctissimi viri vim concionis esse
voluerunt, quae scisseret plebs, aut quae populus juberet; summota
concione, distributis partibus, tributim et centuriatim descriptis
ordinibus, classibus, aetatibus, auditis auctoribus, re multos dies
promulgata et cognita, juberi vetarique voluerunt. Graecorum autem totae
respublicae sedentis concionis temeritate administrantur."[15]

But at what time this wise system existed in this perfection at Rome, no
proofs remain to show. Her constitution, originally framed for a
monarchy, never seemed to be adjusted in its several parts after the
expulsion of the kings. Liberty there was, but it was a disputatious, an
uncertain, an ill-secured liberty. The patrician and plebeian orders,
instead of being matched and joined, each in its just place and
proportion, to sustain the fabric of the state, were rather like hostile
powers, in perpetual conflict. With us, an attempt has been made, and so
far not without success, to divide representation into chambers, and, by
difference of age, character, qualification, or mode of election, to
establish salutary checks, in governments altogether elective.

Having detained you so long with these observations, I must yet advert
to another most interesting topic,--the Free Schools. In this
particular, New England may be allowed to claim, I think, a merit of a
peculiar character. She early adopted, and has constantly maintained the
principle, that it is the undoubted right and the bounden duty of
government to provide for the instruction of all youth. That which is
elsewhere left to chance or to charity, we secure by law.[16] For the
purpose of public instruction, we hold every man subject to taxation in
proportion to his property, and we look not to the question, whether he
himself have, or have not, children to be benefited by the education for
which he pays. We regard it as a wise and liberal system of police, by
which property, and life, and the peace of society are secured. We seek
to prevent in some measure the extension of the penal code, by inspiring
a salutary and conservative principle of virtue and of knowledge in an
early age. We strive to excite a feeling of respectability, and a sense
of character, by enlarging the capacity and increasing the sphere of
intellectual enjoyment. By general instruction, we seek, as far as
possible, to purify the whole moral atmosphere; to keep good sentiments
uppermost, and to turn the strong current of feeling and opinion, as
well as the censures of the law and the denunciations of religion,
against immorality and crime. We hope for a security beyond the law, and
above the law, in the prevalence of an enlightened and well-principled
moral sentiment. We hope to continue and prolong the time, when, in the
villages and farm-houses of New England, there may be undisturbed sleep
within unbarred doors. And knowing that our government rests directly on
the public will, in order that we may preserve it we endeavor to give a
safe and proper direction to that public will. We do not, indeed,
expect all men to be philosophers or statesmen; but we confidently
trust, and our expectation of the duration of our system of government
rests on that trust, that, by the diffusion of general knowledge and
good and virtuous sentiments, the political fabric may be secure, as
well against open violence and overthrow, as against the slow, but sure,
undermining of licentiousness.

We know that, at the present time, an attempt is making in the English
Parliament to provide by law for the education of the poor, and that a
gentleman of distinguished character (Mr. Brougham) has taken the lead
in presenting a plan to government for carrying that purpose into
effect. And yet, although the representatives of the three kingdoms
listened to him with astonishment as well as delight, we hear no
principles with which we ourselves have not been familiar from youth; we
see nothing in the plan but an approach towards that system which has
been established in New England for more than a century and a half. It
is said that in England not more than _one child in fifteen_ possesses
the means of being taught to read and write; in Wales, _one in twenty_;
in France, until lately, when some improvement was made, not more than
_one in thirty-five_. Now, it is hardly too strong to say, that in New
England _every child possesses_ such means. It would be difficult to
find an instance to the contrary, unless where it should be owing to the
negligence of the parent; and, in truth, the means are actually used and
enjoyed by nearly every one. A youth of fifteen, of either sex, who
cannot both read and write, is very seldom to be found. Who can make
this comparison, or contemplate this spectacle, without delight and a
feeling of just pride? Does any history show property more beneficently
applied? Did any government ever subject the property of those who have
estates to a burden, for a purpose more favorable to the poor, or more
useful to the whole community?

A conviction of the importance of public instruction was one of the
earliest sentiments of our ancestors. No lawgiver of ancient or modern
times has expressed more just opinions, or adopted wiser measures, than
the early records of the Colony of Plymouth show to have prevailed here.
Assembled on this very spot, a hundred and fifty-three years ago, the
legislature of this Colony declared, "Forasmuch as the maintenance of
good literature doth much tend to the advancement of the weal and
flourishing state of societies and republics, this Court doth therefore
order, that in whatever township in this government, consisting of fifty
families or upwards, any meet man shall be obtained to teach a grammar
school, such township shall allow at least twelve pounds, to be raised
by rate on all the inhabitants."

Having provided that all youth should be instructed in the elements of
learning by the institution of free schools, our ancestors had yet
another duty to perform. Men were to be educated for the professions and
the public. For this purpose they founded the University, and with
incredible zeal and perseverance they cherished and supported it,
through all trials and discouragements.[17] On the subject of the
University, it is not possible for a son of New England to think without
pleasure, or to speak without emotion. Nothing confers more honor on the
State where it is established, or more utility on the country at large.
A respectable university is an establishment which must be the work of
time. If pecuniary means were not wanting, no new institution could
possess character and respectability at once. We owe deep obligation to
our ancestors, who began, almost on the moment of their arrival, the
work of building up this institution.

Although established in a different government, the Colony of Plymouth
manifested warm friendship for Harvard College. At an early period, its
government took measures to promote a general subscription throughout
all the towns in this Colony, in aid of its small funds. Other colleges
were subsequently founded and endowed, in other places, as the ability
of the people allowed; and we may flatter ourselves, that the means of
education at present enjoyed in New England are not only adequate to the
diffusion of the elements of knowledge among all classes, but sufficient
also for respectable attainments in literature and the sciences.

Lastly, our ancestors established their system of government on morality
and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be
trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any
government be secure which is not supported by moral habits. Living
under the heavenly light of revelation, they hoped to find all the
social dispositions, all the duties which men owe to each other and to
society, enforced and performed. Whatever makes men good Christians,
makes them good citizens. Our fathers came here to enjoy their religion
free and unmolested; and, at the end of two centuries, there is nothing
upon which we can pronounce more confidently, nothing of which we can
express a more deep and earnest conviction, than of the inestimable
importance of that religion to man, both in regard to this life and that
which is to come.

If the blessings of our political and social condition have not been too
highly estimated, we cannot well overrate the responsibility and duty
which they impose upon us. We hold these institutions of government,
religion, and learning, to be transmitted, as well as enjoyed. We are in
the line of conveyance, through which whatever has been obtained by the
spirit and efforts of our ancestors is to be communicated to our

We are bound to maintain public liberty, and, by the example of our own
systems, to convince the world that order and law, religion and
morality, the rights of conscience, the rights of persons, and the
rights of property, may all be preserved and secured, in the most
perfect manner, by a government entirely and purely elective. If we fail
in this, our disaster will be signal, and will furnish an argument,
stronger than has yet been found, in support of those opinions which
maintain that government can rest safely on nothing but power and
coercion. As far as experience may show errors in our establishments, we
are bound to correct them; and if any practices exist contrary to the
principles of justice and humanity within the reach of our laws or our
influence, we are inexcusable if we do not exert ourselves to restrain
and abolish them.

I deem it my duty on this occasion to suggest, that the land is not yet
wholly free from the contamination of a traffic, at which every feeling
of humanity must for ever revolt,--I mean the African slave-trade.[18]
Neither public sentiment, nor the law, has hitherto been able entirely
to put an end to this odious and abominable trade. At the moment when
God in his mercy has blessed the Christian world with a universal peace,
there is reason to fear, that, to the disgrace of the Christian name and
character, new efforts are making for the extension of this trade by
subjects and citizens of Christian states, in whose hearts there dwell
no sentiments of humanity or of justice, and over whom neither the fear
of God nor the fear of man exercises a control. In the sight of our law,
the African slave-trader is a pirate and a felon; and in the sight of
Heaven, an offender far beyond the ordinary depth of human guilt. There
is no brighter page of our history, than that which records the measures
which have been adopted by the government at an early day, and at
different times since, for the suppression of this traffic; and I would
call on all the true sons of New England to co-operate with the laws of
man, and the justice of Heaven. If there be, within the extent of our
knowledge or influence, any participation in this traffic, let us
pledge ourselves here, upon the rock of Plymouth, to extirpate and
destroy it. It is not fit that the land of the Pilgrims should bear the
shame longer. I hear the sound of the hammer, I see the smoke of the
furnaces where manacles and fetters are still forged for human limbs. I
see the visages of those who by stealth and at midnight labor in this
work of hell, foul and dark, as may become the artificers of such
instruments of misery and torture. Let that spot be purified, or let it
cease to be of New England. Let it be purified, or let it be set aside
from the Christian world; let it be put out of the circle of human
sympathies and human regards, and let civilized man henceforth have no
communion with it.

I would invoke those who fill the seats of justice, and all who minister
at her altar, that they execute the wholesome and necessary severity of
the law. I invoke the ministers of our religion, that they proclaim its
denunciation of these crimes, and add its solemn sanctions to the
authority of human laws. If the pulpit be silent whenever or wherever
there may be a sinner bloody with this guilt within the hearing of its
voice, the pulpit is false to its trust. I call on the fair merchant,
who has reaped his harvest upon the seas, that he assist in scourging
from those seas the worst pirates that ever infested them. That ocean,
which seems to wave with a gentle magnificence to waft the burden of an
honest commerce, and to roll along its treasures with a conscious
pride,--that ocean, which hardy industry regards, even when the winds
have ruffled its surface, as a field of grateful toil,--what is it to
the victim of this oppression, when he is brought to its shores, and
looks forth upon it, for the first time, loaded with chains, and
bleeding with stripes? What is it to him but a wide-spread prospect of
suffering, anguish, and death? Nor do the skies smile longer, nor is the
air longer fragrant to him. The sun is cast down from heaven. An inhuman
and accursed traffic has cut him off in his manhood, or in his youth,
from every enjoyment belonging to his being, and every blessing which
his Creator intended for him.

The Christian communities send forth their emissaries of religion and
letters, who stop, here and there, along the coast of the vast continent
of Africa, and with painful and tedious efforts make some almost
imperceptible progress in the communication of knowledge, and in the
general improvement of the natives who are immediately about them. Not
thus slow and imperceptible is the transmission of the vices and bad
passions which the subjects of Christian states carry to the land. The
slave-trade having touched the coast, its influence and its evils
spread, like a pestilence, over the whole continent, making savage wars
more savage and more frequent, and adding new and fierce passions to the
contests of barbarians.

I pursue this topic no further, except again to say, that all
Christendom, being now blessed with peace, is bound by every thing which
belongs to its character, and to the character of the present age, to
put a stop to this inhuman and disgraceful traffic.

We are bound, not only to maintain the general principles of public
liberty, but to support also those existing forms of government which
have so well secured its enjoyment, and so highly promoted the public
prosperity. It is now more than thirty years that these States have been
united under the Federal Constitution, and whatever fortune may await
them hereafter, it is impossible that this period of their history
should not be regarded as distinguished by signal prosperity and
success. They must be sanguine indeed, who can hope for benefit from
change. Whatever division of the public judgment may have existed in
relation to particular measures of the government, all must agree, one
should think, in the opinion, that in its general course it has been
eminently productive of public happiness. Its most ardent friends could
not well have hoped from it more than it has accomplished; and those who
disbelieved or doubted ought to feel less concern about predictions
which the event has not verified, than pleasure in the good which has
been obtained. Whoever shall hereafter write this part of our history,
although he may see occasional errors or defects, will be able to record
no great failure in the ends and objects of government. Still less will
he be able to record any series of lawless and despotic acts, or any
successful usurpation. His page will contain no exhibition of provinces
depopulated, of civil authority habitually trampled down by military
power, or of a community crushed by the burden of taxation. He will
speak, rather, of public liberty protected, and public happiness
advanced; of increased revenue, and population augmented beyond all
example; of the growth of commerce, manufactures, and the arts; and of
that happy condition, in which the restraint and coercion of government
are almost invisible and imperceptible, and its influence felt only in
the benefits which it confers. We can entertain no better wish for our
country, than that this government may be preserved; nor have a clearer
duty than to maintain and support it in the full exercise of all its
just constitutional powers.

The cause of science and literature also imposes upon us an important
and delicate trust. The wealth and population of the country are now so
far advanced, as to authorize the expectation of a correct literature
and a well formed taste, as well as respectable progress in the abstruse
sciences. The country has risen from a state of colonial subjection; it
has established an independent government, and is now in the undisturbed
enjoyment of peace and political security. The elements of knowledge are
universally diffused, and the reading portion of the community is large.
Let us hope that the present may be an auspicious era of literature. If,
almost on the day of their landing, our ancestors founded schools and
endowed colleges, what obligations do not rest upon us, living under
circumstances so much more favorable both for providing and for using
the means of education? Literature becomes free institutions. It is the
graceful ornament of civil liberty, and a happy restraint on the
asperities which political controversies sometimes occasion. Just taste
is not only an embellishment of society, but it rises almost to the rank
of the virtues, and diffuses positive good throughout the whole extent
of its influence. There is a connection between right feeling and right
principles, and truth in taste is allied with truth in morality. With
nothing in our past history to discourage us, and with something in our
present condition and prospects to animate us, let us hope, that, as it
is our fortune to live in an age when we may behold a wonderful
advancement of the country in all its other great interests, we may see
also equal progress and success attend the cause of letters.

Finally, let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our
fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian
religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They
sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society,
and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil,
political, or literary. Let us cherish these sentiments, and extend this
influence still more widely; in the full conviction, that that is the
happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and
peaceful spirit of Christianity.

The hours of this day are rapidly flying, and this occasion will soon be
passed. Neither we nor our children can expect to behold its return.
They are in the distant regions of futurity, they exist only in the
all-creating power of God, who shall stand here a hundred years hence,
to trace, through us, their descent from the Pilgrims, and to survey, as
we have now surveyed, the progress of their country, during the lapse of
a century. We would anticipate their concurrence with us in our
sentiments of deep regard for our common ancestors. We would anticipate
and partake the pleasure with which they will then recount the steps of
New England's advancement. On the morning of that day, although it will
not disturb us in our repose, the voice of acclamation and gratitude,
commencing on the Rock of Plymouth, shall be transmitted through
millions of the sons of the Pilgrims, till it lose itself in the murmurs
of the Pacific seas.

We would leave for the consideration of those who shall then occupy our
places, some proof that we hold the blessings transmitted from our
fathers in just estimation; some proof of our attachment to the cause of
good government, and of civil and religious liberty; some proof of a
sincere and ardent desire to promote every thing which may enlarge the
understandings and improve the hearts of men. And when, from the long
distance of a hundred years, they shall look back upon us, they shall
know, at least, that we possessed affections, which, running backward
and warming with gratitude for what our ancestors have done for our
happiness, run forward also to our posterity, and meet them with cordial
salutation, ere yet they have arrived on the shore of being.

Advance, then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as you rise in
your long succession, to fill the places which we now fill, and to taste
the blessings of existence where we are passing, and soon shall have
passed, our own human duration. We bid you welcome to this pleasant land
of the fathers. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies and the
verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great
inheritance which we have enjoyed. We welcome you to the blessings of
good government and religious liberty. We welcome you to the treasures
of science and the delights of learning. We welcome you to the
transcendent sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of kindred, and
parents, and children. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of
rational existence, the immortal hope of Christianity, and the light of
everlasting truth!

* * * * *



The allusion in the Discourse is to the large historical painting of the
Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, executed by Henry Sargent, Esq., of
Boston, and, with great liberality, presented by him to the Pilgrim
Society. It appeared in their hall (of which it forms the chief
ornament) for the first time at the celebration of 1824. It represents
the principal personages of the company at the moment of landing, with
the Indian Samoset, who approaches them with a friendly welcome. A very
competent judge, himself a distinguished artist, the late venerable
Colonel Trumbull, has pronounced that this painting has great merit. An
interesting account of it will be found in Dr. Thacher's History of
Plymouth, pp. 249 and 257.

An historical painting, by Robert N. Weir, Esq., of the largest size,
representing the embarkation of the Pilgrims from Delft-Haven, in
Holland, and executed by order of Congress, fills one of the panels of
the Rotunda of the Capitol at Washington. The moment chosen by the
artist for the action of the picture is that in which the venerable
pastor Robinson, with tears, and benedictions, and prayers to Heaven,
dismisses the beloved members of his little flock to the perils and the
hopes of their great enterprise. The characters of the personages
introduced are indicated with discrimination and power, and the
accessories of the work marked with much taste and skill. It is a
painting of distinguished historical interest and of great artistic

The "Landing of the Pilgrims" has also been made the subject of a very
interesting painting by Mr. Flagg, intended to represent the deep
religious feeling which so strikingly characterized the first settlers
of New England. With this object in view, the central figure is that of
Elder Brewster. It is a picture of cabinet size, and is in possession of
a gentleman of New Haven, descended from Elder Brewster, and of that


As the opinion of contemporaneous thinkers on this important subject
cannot fail to interest the general reader, it is deemed proper to
insert here the following extract from a letter, written in 1849, to
show how powerfully the truths uttered in 1820, in the spirit of
prophecy, as it were, impressed themselves upon certain minds, and how
closely the verification of the prediction has been watched.

"I do not remember any political prophecy, founded on the spirit of
a wide and far-reaching statesmanship, that has been so remarkably
fulfilled as the one made by Mr. Webster, in his Discourse
delivered at Plymouth in 1820, on the effect which the laws of
succession to property in France, then in operation, would be
likely to produce on the forms and working of the French
government. But to understand what he said, and what he foresaw, I
must explain a little what had been the course of legislation in
France on which his predictions were founded.

"Before the Revolution of 1789, there had been a great accumulation
of the landed property of the country, and, indeed, of all its
property,--by means of laws of entail, _majorats_, and other legal
contrivances,--in the hands of the privileged classes; chiefly in
those of the nobility and the clergy. The injury and injustice done
by long continued legislation in this direction were obviously
great; and it was not, perhaps, unnatural, that the opposite course
to that which had brought on the mischief should be deemed the best
one to cure it. At any rate, such was the course taken.

"In 1791 a law was passed, preventing any man from having any
interest beyond the period of his own life in any of his property,
real, personal, or mixed, and distributing all his possessions for
him, immediately after his death, among his children, in equal
shares, or if he left no children, then among his next of kin, on
the same principle. This law, with a slight modification, made
under the influence of Robespierre, was in force till 1800. But the
period was entirely revolutionary, and probably quite as much
property changed hands from violence and the consequences of
violence, during the nine years it continued, as was transmitted by
the laws that directly controlled its succession.

"With the coming in of Bonaparte, however, there was established a
new order of things, which has continued, with little modification,
ever since, and has had its full share in working out the great
changes in French society which we now witness. A few experiments
were first made, and then the great Civil Code, often called the
_Code Napoleon_, was adopted. This was in 1804. By this remarkable
code, which is still in force, a man, if he has but one child, can
give away by his last will, as he pleases, half of his
property,--the law insuring the other half to the child; if he has
two children, then he can so give away only one third,--the law
requiring the other two thirds to be given equally to the two
children; if three, then only one fourth under similar conditions;
but if he has a greater number, it restricts the rights of the
parent more and more, and makes it more and more difficult for him
to distribute his property according to his own judgment; the
restrictions embarrassing him even in his lifetime.

"The consequences of such laws are, from their nature, very slowly
developed. When Mr. Webster spoke in 1820, the French code had been
in operation sixteen years, and similar principles had prevailed
for nearly a generation. But still its wide results were not even
suspected. Those who had treated the subject at all supposed that
the tendency was to break up the great estates in France, and make
the larger number of the holders of small estates more accessible
to the influence of the government, then a limited monarchy, and so
render it stronger and more despotic.

"Mr. Webster held a different opinion. He said, 'In respect,
however, to the recent law of succession in France, to which I have
alluded, _I would, presumptuously perhaps, hazard a conjecture,
that, if the government do not change the law, the law in half a
century will change the government; and that this change will be,
not in favor of the power of the crown, as some European writers
have supposed, but against it_. Those writers only reason upon what
they think correct general principles, in relation to this subject.
They acknowledge a want of experience. Here we have had that
experience; and we know that a multitude of small proprietors,
acting with intelligence, and that enthusiasm which a common cause
inspires, constitute not only a formidable, but an invincible

"In less than six years after Mr. Webster uttered this remarkable
prediction, the king of France himself, at the opening of the
Legislative Chambers, thus strangely echoed it:--'Legislation ought
to provide, by successive improvements, for all the wants of
society. The progressive partitioning of landed estates,
essentially contrary to the spirit of a monarchical government,
would enfeeble the guaranties which the charter has given to my
throne and to my subjects. Measures will be proposed to you,
gentlemen, to establish the consistency which ought to exist
between the political law and the civil law, and to preserve the
patrimony of families, without restricting the liberty of disposing
of one's property. The preservation of families is connected with,
and affords a guaranty to, political stability, which is the first
want of states, and which is especially that of France, after so
many vicissitudes.'

"Still, the results to which such subdivision and comminution of
property tended were not foreseen even in France. The Revolution of
1830 came, and revealed a part of them; for that revolution was
made by the influence of men possessing very moderate estates, who
believed that the guaranties of a government like that of the elder
branch of the Bourbons were not sufficient for their safety. But
when the revolution was made, and the younger branch of the
Bourbons reigned instead of the elder, the laws for the descent of
property continued to be the same, and the subdivision went on as
if it were an admitted benefit to society.

"In consequence of this, in 1844 it was found that there were in
France at least five millions and a half of families, or about
twenty-seven millions of souls, who were proprietary families, and
that of these about four millions of families had each less than
nine English acres to the family on the average. Of course, a vast
majority of these twenty-seven millions of persons, though they
might be interested in some small portion of the soil, were really
poor, and multitudes of them were dependent.

"Now, therefore, the results began to appear in a practical form.
One third of all the rental of France was discovered to be
absolutely mortgaged, and another third was swallowed up by other
encumbrances, leaving but one third free for the use and benefit of
its owners. In other words, a great proportion of the people of
France were embarrassed and poor, and a great proportion of the
remainder were fast becoming so.

"Such a state of things produced, of course, a wide-spread social
uneasiness. Part of this uneasiness was directed against the
existing government; another and more formidable portion was
directed against _all_ government, and against the very institution
of property. The convulsion of 1848 followed; France is still
unsettled; and Mr. Webster's prophecy seems still to be in the
course of a portentous fulfilment."

In the London Quarterly Review for 1846 there is an interesting
discussion on so much of the matter as relates to the subdivision of
real estate for agricultural purposes in France, as far as it had then
advanced, and from which many of the facts here alluded to are taken.

[Footnote 1: An interesting account of the Rock may be found in Dr.
Thacher's History of the Town of Plymouth, pp. 29, 198, 199.]

[Footnote 2: See Note A, at the end of the Discourse.]

[Footnote 3: For notices of Carver, Bradford, Standish, Brewster, and
Allerton, see Young's Chronicles of Plymouth and Massachusetts; Morton's


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