The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 6 out of 25

Congress should pass other laws controlling them, or inconsistent with
them, and that then the State laws must yield. What sort of concurrent
powers are these, which cannot exist together? Indeed, the very reading
of the clause in the Constitution must put to flight this notion of a
general concurrent power. The Constitution was formed for all the
States; and Congress was to have power to regulate commerce. Now, what
is the import of this, but that Congress is to give the rule, to
establish the system, to exercise the control over the subject? And can
more than one power, in cases of this sort, give the rule, establish the
system, or exercise the control? As it is not contended that the power
of Congress is to be exercised by a supervision of State legislation,
and as it is clear that Congress is to give the general rule, I contend
that this power of giving the general rule is transferred, by the
Constitution, from the States to Congress, to be exercised as that body
may see fit; and consequently, that all those high exercises of power,
which might be considered as giving the rule, or establishing the
system, in regard to great commercial interests, are necessarily left
with Congress alone. Of this character I consider monopolies of trade or
navigation; embargoes; the system of navigation laws; the countervailing
laws, as against foreign states; and other important enactments
respecting our connection with such states. It appears to me a most
reasonable construction to say, that in these respects the power of
Congress is exclusive, from the nature of the power. If it be not so,
where is the limit, or who shall fix a boundary for the exercise of the
power of the States? Can a State grant a monopoly of trade? Can New York
shut her ports to all but her own citizens? Can she refuse admission to
ships of particular nations? The argument on the other side is, and must
be, that she might do all these things, until Congress should revoke her
enactments. And this is called _concurrent_ legislation! What confusion
such notions lead to is obvious enough. A power in the States to do any
thing, and every thing, in regard to commerce, till Congress shall undo
it, would suppose a state of things at least as bad as that which
existed before the present Constitution. It is the true wisdom of these
governments to keep their action as distinct as possible. The general
government should not seek to operate where the States can operate with
more advantage to the community; nor should the States encroach on
ground which the public good, as well as the Constitution, refers to the
exclusive control of Congress.

If the present state of things, these laws of New York, the laws of
Connecticut, and the laws of New Jersey, had been all presented, in the
convention of New York, to the eminent person whose name is on this
record, and who acted on that occasion so important a part; if he had
been told, that, after all he had said in favor of the new government,
and of its salutary effects on commercial regulations, the time would
yet come when the North River would be shut up by a monopoly from New
York, the Sound interdicted by a penal law of Connecticut, reprisals
authorized by New Jersey against citizens of New York, and when one
could not cross a ferry without transshipment, does any one suppose he
would have admitted all this as compatible with the government which he
was recommending?

This doctrine of a general concurrent power in the States is insidious
and dangerous. If it be admitted, no one can say where it will stop. The
States may legislate, it is said, wherever Congress has not made a
plenary exercise of its power. But who is to judge whether Congress has
made this plenary exercise of power? Congress has acted on this power;
it has done all that it deemed wise; and are the States now to do
whatever Congress has left undone? Congress makes such rules as, in its
judgment, the case requires; and those rules, whatever they are,
constitute the system.

All useful regulation does not consist in restraint; and that which
Congress sees fit to leave free is a part of its regulation, as much as
the rest.

The practice under the Constitution sufficiently evinces, that this
portion of the commercial power is exclusive in Congress. When, before
this instance, have the States granted monopolies? When, until now, have
they interfered with the navigation of the country? The pilot laws, the
health laws, or quarantine laws, and various regulations of that class,
which have been recognized by Congress, are no arguments to prove, even
if they are to be called commercial regulations (which they are not),
that other regulations, more directly and strictly commercial, are not
solely within the power of Congress. There is a singular fallacy, as I
venture to think, in the argument of very learned and most respectable
persons on this subject. That argument alleges, that the States have a
concurrent power with Congress of regulating commerce; and the proof of
this position is, that the States have, without any question of their
right, passed acts respecting turnpike roads, toll-bridges, and ferries.
These are declared to be acts of commercial regulation, affecting not
only the interior commerce of the State itself, but also commerce
between different States. Therefore, as all these are commercial
regulations, and are yet acknowledged to be rightfully established by
the States, it follows, as is supposed, that the States must have a
concurrent power to regulate commerce.

Now, what is the inevitable consequence of this mode of reasoning? Does
it not admit the power of Congress, at once, upon all these minor
objects of legislation? If all these be regulations of commerce, within
the meaning of the Constitution, then certainly Congress, having a
concurrent power to regulate commerce, may establish ferries,
turnpike-roads, and bridges, and provide for all this detail of interior
legislation. To sustain the interference of the State in a high concern
of maritime commerce, the argument adopts a principle which acknowledges
the right of Congress over a vast scope of internal legislation, which
no one has heretofore supposed to be within its powers. But this is not
all; for it is admitted that, when Congress and the States have power to
legislate over the same subject, the power of Congress, when exercised,
controls or extinguishes the State power; and therefore the consequence
would seem to follow, from the argument, that all State legislation over
such subjects as have been mentioned is, at all times, liable to the
superior power of Congress; a consequence which no one would admit for a
moment. The truth is, in my judgment, that all these things are, in
their general character, rather regulations of police than of commerce,
in the constitutional understanding of that term. A road, indeed, may be
a matter of great commercial concern. In many cases it is so; and when
it is so, there is no doubt of the power of Congress to make it. But,
generally speaking, roads, and bridges, and ferries, though of course
they affect commerce and intercourse, do not possess such importance and
elevation as to be deemed commercial regulations. A reasonable
construction must be given to the Constitution; and such construction is
as necessary to the just power of the States, as to the authority of
Congress. Quarantine laws, for example, may be considered as affecting
commerce; yet they are, in their nature, health laws. In England, we
speak of the power of regulating commerce as in Parliament, or the king,
as arbiter of commerce; yet the city of London enacts health laws. Would
any one infer from that circumstance, that the city of London had
concurrent power with Parliament or the crown to regulate commerce? or
that it might grant a monopoly of the navigation of the Thames? While a
health law is reasonable, it is a health law; but if, under color of it,
enactments should be made for other purposes, such enactments might be

In the discussion in the New York courts, no small reliance was placed
on the law of that State prohibiting the importation of slaves, as an
example of a commercial regulation enacted by State authority. That law
may or may not be constitutional and valid. It has been referred to
generally, but its particular provisions have not been stated. When they
are more clearly seen, its character may be better determined.

It might further be argued, that the power of Congress over these high
branches of commerce is exclusive, from the consideration that Congress
possesses an exclusive admiralty jurisdiction. That it does possess such
exclusive jurisdiction will hardly be contested. No State pretends to
exercise any jurisdiction of that kind. The States abolished their
courts of admiralty, when the Constitution went into operation. Over
these waters, therefore, or at least some of them, which are the subject
of this monopoly, New York has no jurisdiction whatever. They are a part
of the high seas, and not within the body of any county. The authorities
of that State could not punish for a murder, committed on board one of
these boats, in some places within the range of this exclusive grant.
This restraining of the States from all jurisdiction out of the body of
their own counties, shows plainly enough that navigation on the high
seas was understood to be a matter to be regulated only by Congress. It
is not unreasonable to say, that what are called the waters of New York
are, for purposes of navigation and commercial regulation, the waters of
the United States. There is no cession, indeed, of the waters
themselves, but their use for those purposes seems to be intrusted to
the exclusive power of Congress. Several States have enacted laws which
would appear to imply their conviction of the power of Congress over
navigable waters to a greater extent.

If there be a concurrent power of regulating commerce on the high seas,
there must be a concurrent admiralty jurisdiction, and a concurrent
control of the waters. It is a common principle, that arms of the sea,
including navigable rivers, belong to the sovereign, so far as
navigation is concerned. Their use is navigation. The United States
possess the general power over navigation, and, of course, ought to
control, in general, the use of navigable waters. If it be admitted
that, for purposes of trade and navigation, the North River and its bay
are the river and bay of New York and the Chesapeake the bay of
Virginia, very great inconveniences and much confusion might be the

It may now be well to take a nearer view of these laws, to see more
exactly what their provisions are, what consequences have followed from
them, and what would and might follow from other similar laws.

The first grant to John Fitch gave him the sole and exclusive right of
making, employing, and navigating all boats impelled by fire or steam,
"in all creeks, rivers, bays, and waters within the territory and
jurisdiction of the State." Any other person navigating such boat, was
to forfeit it, and to pay a penalty of a hundred pounds. The subsequent
acts repeal this, and grant similar privileges to Livingston and Fulton;
and the act of 1811 provides the extraordinary and summary remedy which
has been already stated. The river, the bay, and the marine league along
the shore, are all within the scope of this grant. Any vessel,
therefore, of this description, coming into any of those waters, without
a license, whether from another State or from abroad, whether it be a
public or private vessel, is instantly forfeited to the grantees of the

Now it must be remembered that this grant is made as an exercise of
sovereign political power. It is not an inspection law, nor a health
law, nor passed by any derivative authority; it is professedly an act of
sovereign power. Of course, there is no limit to the power, to be
derived from the purpose for which it is exercised. If exercised for one
purpose, it may be also for another. No one can inquire into the motives
which influence sovereign authority. It is enough that such power
manifests its will. The motive alleged in this case is, to remunerate
the grantees for a benefit conferred by them on the public. But there is
no necessary connection between that benefit and this mode of rewarding
it; and if the State could grant this monopoly for that purpose, it
could also grant it for any other purpose. It could make the grant for
money; and so make the monopoly of navigation over those waters a direct
source of revenue. When this monopoly shall expire, in 1838, the State
may continue it, for any pecuniary consideration which the holders may
see fit to offer, and the State to receive.

If the State may grant this monopoly, it may also grant another, for
other descriptions of vessels; for instance, for all sloops.

If it can grant these exclusive privileges to a few, it may grant them
to many; that is, it may grant them to all its own citizens, to the
exclusion of everybody else.

But the waters of New York are no more the subject of exclusive grants
by that State, than the waters of other States are subjects of such
grants by those other States. Virginia may well exercise, over the
entrance of the Chesapeake, all the power that New York can exercise
over the bay of New York, and the waters on her shores. The Chesapeake,
therefore, upon the principle of these laws, may be the subject of State
monopoly; and so may the bay of Massachusetts. But this is not all. It
requires no greater power to grant a monopoly of trade, than a monopoly
of navigation. Of course, New York, if these acts can be maintained, may
give an exclusive right of entry of vessels into her ports; and the
other States may do the same. These are not extreme cases. We have only
to suppose that other States should do what New York has already done,
and that the power should be carried to its full extent.

To all this, no answer is to be given but one, that the concurrent power
of the States, concurrent though it be, is yet subordinate to the
legislation of Congress; and that therefore Congress may, whenever it
pleases, annul the State legislation; but until it does so annul it, the
State legislation is valid and effectual. What is there to recommend a
construction which leads to a result like this? Here would be a
perpetual hostility; one legislature enacting laws, till another
legislature should repeal them; one sovereign power giving the rule,
till another sovereign power should abrogate it; and all this under the
idea of concurrent legislation!

But, further, under this concurrent power, the State does that which
Congress cannot do; that is, it gives preferences to the citizens of
some States over those of others. I do not mean here the advantages
conferred by the grant on the grantees; but the disadvantages to which
it subjects all the other citizens of New York. To impose an
extraordinary tax on steam navigation visiting the ports of New York,
and leaving it free everywhere else, is giving a preference to the
citizens of other States over those of New York. This Congress could not
do; and yet the State does it; so that this power, at first subordinate,
then concurrent, now becomes paramount.

The people of New York have a right to be protected against this
monopoly. It is one of the objects for which they agreed to this
Constitution, that they should stand on an equality in commercial
regulations; and if the government should not insure them that, the
promises made to them in its behalf would not be performed.

I contend, therefore, in conclusion on this point, that the power of
Congress over these high branches of commercial regulation is shown to
be exclusive, by considering what was wished and intended to be done,
when the convention for forming the Constitution was called; by what was
understood, in the State conventions, to have been accomplished by the
instrument; by the prohibitions on the States, and the express exception
relative to inspection laws; by the nature of the power itself; by the
terms used, as connected with the nature of the power; by the subsequent
understanding and practice, both of Congress and the States; by the
grant of exclusive admiralty jurisdiction to the federal government; by
the manifest danger of the opposite doctrine, and the ruinous
consequences to which it directly leads.

Little is now required to be said, to prove that this exclusive grant is
a law regulating commerce; although, in some of the discussions
elsewhere, it has been called a law of police. If it be not a regulation
of commerce, then it follows, against the constant admission on the
other side, that Congress, even by an express act, cannot annul or
control it. For if it be not a regulation of commerce, Congress has no
concern with it. But the granting of monopolies of this kind is always
referred to the power over commerce. It was as arbiter of commerce that
the king formerly granted such monopolies.[4] This is a law regulating
commerce, inasmuch as it imposes new conditions and terms on the
coasting trade, on foreign trade generally, and on foreign trade as
regulated by treaties; and inasmuch as it interferes with the free
navigation of navigable waters.

If, then, the power of commercial regulation possessed by Congress be,
in regard to the great branches of it, exclusive; and if this grant of
New York be a commercial regulation, affecting commerce in respect to
these great branches, then the grant is void, whether any case of actual
collision has happened or not.

But I contend, in the second place, that whether the grant were to be
regarded as wholly void or not, it must, at least, be inoperative, when
the rights claimed under it come in collision with other rights, enjoyed
and secured under the laws of the United States; and such collision, I
maintain, clearly exists in this case. It will not be denied that the
law of Congress is paramount. The Constitution has expressly provided
for that. So that the only question in this part of the case is, whether
the two rights be inconsistent with each other. The appellant has a
right to go from New Jersey to New York, in a vessel owned by himself,
of the proper legal description, and enrolled and licensed according to
law. This right belongs to him as a citizen of the United States. It is
derived under the laws of the United States, and no act of the
legislature of New York can deprive him of it, any more than such act
could deprive him of the right of holding lands in that State, or of
suing in its courts. It appears from the record, that the boat in
question was regularly enrolled at Perth Amboy, and properly licensed
for carrying on the coasting trade. Under this enrolment, and with this
license, she was proceeding to New York, when she was stopped by the
injunction of the Chancellor, on the application of the New York
grantees. There can be no doubt that here is a collision, in fact; that
which the appellant claimed as a right, the respondent resisted; and
there remains nothing now but to determine whether the appellant had, as
he contends, a right to navigate these waters; because, if he had such
right, it must prevail.

Now, this right is expressly conferred by the laws of the United States.
The first section of the act of February, 1793, ch. 8, regulating the
coasting trade and fisheries, declares, that all ships and vessels,
enrolled and licensed as that act provides, "and no others, shall be
deemed ships or vessels of the United States, entitled to the privileges
of ships or vessels employed in the coasting trade or fisheries." The
fourth section of the same act declares, "that, in order to the
licensing of any ship or vessel, for carrying on the coasting trade or
fisheries," bond shall be given, according to the provisions of the act.
And the same section declares, that, the owner having complied with the
requisites of the law, "it shall be the duty of the collector to grant a
license for carrying on the coasting trade"; and the act proceeds to
give the form and words of the license, which is, therefore, of course,
to be received as a part of the act; and the words of the license, after
the necessary recitals, are, "License is hereby granted for the said
vessel to be employed in carrying on the coasting trade." Words could
not make this authority more express.

The court below seems to me, with great deference, to have mistaken the
object and nature of the license. It seems to have been of opinion, that
the license has no other intent or effect than to ascertain the
ownership and character of the vessel. But this is the peculiar office
and object of the enrolment. That document ascertains that the regular
proof of ownership and character has been given; and the license is
given to confer the right to which the party has shown himself entitled.
It is the authority which the master carries with him, to prove his
right to navigate freely the waters of the United States, and to carry
on the coasting trade.

In some of the discussions which have been had on this question, it has
been said, that Congress has only provided for ascertaining the
ownership and property of vessels, but has not prescribed to what use
they may be applied. But this is an obvious error. The whole object of
the act regulating the coasting trade is to declare what vessels shall
enjoy the benefit of being employed in that trade. To secure this use to
certain vessels, and to deny it to others, is precisely the purpose for
which the act was passed. The error, or what I humbly suppose to be the
error, in the judgment of the court below, consists in that court's
having thought, that, although Congress might act, it had not yet acted,
in such a way as to confer a right on the appellant; whereas, if a right
was not given by this law, it never could be given. No law can be more
express. It has been admitted, that, supposing there is a provision in
the act of Congress, that all vessels duly licensed shall be at liberty
to navigate, for the purpose of trade and commerce, all the navigable
harbors, bays, rivers, and lakes within the several States, any law of
the States creating particular privileges as to any particular class of
vessels to the contrary notwithstanding, the only question that could
arise, in such a case, would be, whether the law was constitutional; and
that, if that was to be granted or decided, it would certainly, in all
courts and places, overrule and set aside the State grant.

Now, I do not see that such supposed case could be distinguished from
the present. We show a provision in an act of Congress, that all
vessels, duly licensed, may carry on the coasting trade; nobody doubts
the constitutional validity of that law; and we show that this vessel
was duly licensed according to its provisions. This is all that is
essential in the case supposed. The presence or absence of a _non
obstante_ clause cannot affect the extent or operation of the act of
Congress. Congress has no power of revoking State laws, as a distinct
power. It legislates over subjects; and over those subjects which are
within its power, its legislation is supreme, and necessarily overrules
all inconsistent or repugnant State legislation. If Congress were to
pass an act expressly revoking or annulling, in whole or in part, this
New York grant, such an act would be wholly useless and inoperative. If
the New York grant be opposed to, or inconsistent with, any
constitutional power which Congress has exercised, then, so far as the
incompatibility exists, the grant is nugatory and void, necessarily, and
by reason of the supremacy of the law of Congress. But if the grant be
not inconsistent with any exercise of the powers of Congress, then,
certainly, Congress has no authority to revoke or annul it. Such an act
of Congress, therefore, would be either unconstitutional or
supererogatory. The laws of Congress need no _non obstante_ clause. The
Constitution makes them supreme, when State laws come into opposition to
them. So that in these cases there is no question except this; whether
there be, or be not, a repugnancy or hostility between the law of
Congress and the law of the State. Nor is it at all material, in this
view, whether the law of the State be a law regulating commerce, or a
law of police, nor by what other name or character it may be designated.
If its provisions be inconsistent with an act of Congress, they are
void, so far as that inconsistency extends. The whole argument,
therefore, is substantially and effectually given up, when it is
admitted that Congress might, by express terms, abrogate the State
grant, or declare that it should not stand in the way of its own
legislation; because such express terms would add nothing to the effect
and operation of an act of Congress.

I contend, therefore, upon the whole of this point, that a case of
actual collision has been made out between the State grant and the act
of Congress; and as the act of Congress is entirely unexceptionable, and
clearly in pursuance of its constitutional powers, the State grant must

There are other provisions of the Constitution of the United States,
which have more or less bearing on this question. "No State shall,
without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage." Under color
of grants like this, that prohibition might be wholly evaded. This grant
authorizes Messrs. Livingston and Fulton to license navigation in the
waters of New York. They, of course, license it on their own terms. They
may require a pecuniary consideration, ascertained by the tonnage of the
vessel, or in any other manner. Probably, in fact, they govern
themselves, in this respect, by the size or tonnage of the vessels to
which they grant licenses. Now, what is this but substantially a tonnage
duty, under the law of the State? Or does it make any difference,
whether the receipts go directly into her own treasury, or into the
hands of those to whom she has made the grant?

There is, lastly, that provision of the Constitution which gives
Congress power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts,
by securing to authors and inventors, for a limited time, an exclusive
right to their own writings and discoveries. Congress has exercised this
power, and made all the provisions which it deemed useful or necessary.
The States may, indeed, like munificent individuals, exercise their own
bounty towards authors and inventors, at their own discretion. But to
confer reward by exclusive grants, even if it were but a part of the use
of the writing or invention, is not supposed to be a power properly to
be exercised by the States. Much less can they, under the notion of
conferring rewards in such cases, grant monopolies, the enjoyment of
which is essentially incompatible with the exercise of rights possessed
under the laws of the United States. I shall insist, however, the less
on these points, as they are open to counsel who will come after me on
the same side, and as I have said so much upon what appears to me the
more important and interesting part of the argument.

[Footnote 1: 1 Laws U.S., p. 28, Bioren and Duane's ed.]

[Footnote 2: 1 Laws U.S., p. 50.]

[Footnote 3: Chancellor Livingston.]

[Footnote 4: 1 Black. Com. 273; 4 Black. Com. 160.]



[As early as 1776, some steps were taken toward the commemoration of the
battle of Bunker Hill and the fall of General Warren, who was buried
upon the hill the day after the action. The Massachusetts Lodge of
Masons, over which he presided, applied to the provisional government of
Massachusetts, for permission to take up his remains and to bury them
with the usual solemnities. The Council granted this request, on
condition that it should be carried into effect in such a manner that
the government of _the Colony_ might have an opportunity to erect a
monument to his memory. A funeral procession was had, and a Eulogy on
General Warren was delivered by Perez Morton, but no measures were taken
toward building a monument.

A resolution was adopted by the Congress of the United States on the 8th
of April, 1777, directing that monuments should be erected to the memory
of General Warren, in Boston, and of General Mercer, at Fredericksburg;
but this resolution has remained to the present time unexecuted.

On the 11th of November, 1794, a committee was appointed by King
Solomon's Lodge, at Charlestown,[1] to take measures for the erection of
a monument to the memory of General Joseph Warren at the expense of the
Lodge. This resolution was promptly carried into effect. The land for
this purpose was presented to the Lodge by the Hon. James Russell, of
Charlestown, and it was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on the 2d
of December, 1794. It was a wooden pillar of the Tuscan order, eighteen
feet in height, raised on a pedestal eight feet square, and of an
elevation of ten feet from the ground. The pillar was surmounted by a
gilt urn. An appropriate inscription was placed on the south side of the

In February, 1818, a committee of the legislature of Massachusetts was
appointed to consider the expediency of building a monument of American
marble of the memory of General Warren, but this proposal was not
carried into effect.

As the half-century from the date of the battle drew toward a close, a
stronger feeling of the duty of commemorating it began to be awakened in
the community. Among those who from the first manifested the greatest
interest in the subject, was the late William Tudor, Esq. He expressed
the wish, in a letter still preserved, to see upon the battle-ground
"the noblest monument in the world," and he was so ardent and
persevering in urging the project, that it has been stated that he first
conceived the idea of it. The steps taken in execution of the project,
from the earliest private conferences among the gentlemen first engaged
in it to its final completion, are accurately sketched by Mr. Richard
Frothingham, Jr., in his valuable History of the Siege of Boston. All
the material facts contained in this note are derived from his chapter
on the Bunker Hill Monument. After giving an account of the organization
of the society, the measures adopted for the collection of funds, and
the deliberations on the form of the monument, Mr. Frothingham proceeds
as follows:--

"It was at this stage of the enterprise that the directors proposed
to lay the corner-stone of the monument, and ground was broken
(June 7th) for this purpose. As a mark of respect to the liberality
and patriotism of King Solomon's Lodge, they invited the Grand
Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to perform the ceremony.
They also invited General Lafayette to accompany the President of
the Association, Hon. Daniel Webster, and assist in it.

"This celebration was unequalled in magnificence by any thing of
the kind that had been seen in New England. The morning proved
propitious. The air was cool, the sky was clear, and timely showers
the previous day had brightened the vesture of nature into its
loveliest hue. Delighted thousands flocked into Boston to bear a
part in the proceedings, or to witness the spectacle. At about ten
o'clock a procession moved from the State House towards Bunker
Hill. The military, in their fine uniforms, formed the van. About
two hundred veterans of the Revolution, of whom forty were
survivors of the battle, rode in barouches next to the escort.
These venerable men, the relics of a past generation, with
emaciated frames, tottering limbs, and trembling voices,
constituted a touching spectacle. Some wore, as honorable
decorations, their old fighting equipments, and some bore the scars
of still more honorable wounds. Glistening eyes constituted their
answer to the enthusiastic cheers of the grateful multitudes who
lined their pathway and cheered their progress. To this patriot
band succeeded the Bunker Hill Monument Association. Then the
Masonic fraternity, in their splendid regalia, thousands in number.
Then Lafayette, continually welcomed by tokens of love and
gratitude, and the invited guests. Then a long array of societies,
with their various badges and banners. It was a splendid
procession, and of such length that the front nearly reached
Charlestown Bridge ere the rear had left Boston Common. It
proceeded to Breed's Hill, where the Grand Master of the
Freemasons, the President of the Monument Association, and General
Lafayette, performed the ceremony of laying the corner-stone, in
the presence of a vast concourse of people."

The procession then moved to a spacious amphitheatre on the northern
declivity of the hill, when the following address was delivered by Mr.
Webster, in the presence of as great a multitude as was ever perhaps
assembled within the sound of a human voice.]

This uncounted multitude before me and around me proves the feeling
which the occasion has excited. These thousands of human faces, glowing
with sympathy and joy, and from the impulses of a common gratitude
turned reverently to heaven in this spacious temple of the firmament,
proclaim that the day, the place, and the purpose of our assembling have
made a deep impression on our hearts.

If, indeed, there be any thing in local association fit to affect the
mind of man, we need not strive to repress the emotions which agitate us
here. We are among the sepulchres of our fathers. We are on ground,
distinguished by their valor, their constancy, and the shedding of their
blood. We are here, not to fix an uncertain date in our annals, nor to
draw into notice an obscure and unknown spot. If our humble purpose had
never been conceived, if we ourselves had never been born, the 17th of
June, 1775, would have been a day on which all subsequent history would
have poured its light, and the eminence where we stand a point of
attraction to the eyes of successive generations. But we are Americans.
We live in what may be called the early age of this great continent; and
we know that our posterity, through all time, are here to enjoy and
suffer the allotments of humanity. We see before us a probable train of
great events; we know that our own fortunes have been happily cast; and
it is natural, therefore, that we should be moved by the contemplation
of occurrences which have guided our destiny before many of us were
born, and settled the condition in which we should pass that portion of
our existence which God allows to men on earth.

We do not read even of the discovery of this continent, without feeling
something of a personal interest in the event; without being reminded
how much it has affected our own fortunes and our own existence. It
would be still more unnatural for us, therefore, than for others, to
contemplate with unaffected minds that interesting, I may say that most
touching and pathetic scene, when the great discoverer of America stood
on the deck of his shattered bark, the shades of night falling on the
sea, yet no man sleeping; tossed on the billows of an unknown ocean, yet
the stronger billows of alternate hope and despair tossing his own
troubled thoughts; extending forward his harassed frame, straining
westward his anxious and eager eyes, till Heaven at last granted him a
moment of rapture and ecstasy, in blessing his vision with the sight of
the unknown world.

Nearer to our times, more closely connected with our fates, and
therefore still more interesting to our feelings and affections, is the
settlement of our own country by colonists from England. We cherish
every memorial of these worthy ancestors; we celebrate their patience
and fortitude; we admire their daring enterprise; we teach our children
to venerate their piety; and we are justly proud of being descended from
men who have set the world an example of founding civil institutions on
the great and united principles of human freedom and human knowledge. To
us, their children, the story of their labors and sufferings can never
be without its interest. We shall not stand unmoved on the shore of
Plymouth, while the sea continues to wash it; nor will our brethren in
another early and ancient Colony forget the place of its first
establishment, till their river shall cease to flow by it.[2] No vigor
of youth, no maturity of manhood, will lead the nation to forget the
spots where its infancy was cradled and defended.

But the great event in the history of the continent, which we are now
met here to commemorate, that prodigy of modern times, at once the
wonder and the blessing of the world, is the American Revolution. In a
day of extraordinary prosperity and happiness, of high national honor,
distinction, and power, we are brought together, in this place, by our
love of country, by our admiration of exalted character, by our
gratitude for signal services and patriotic devotion.

The Society whose organ I am[3] was formed for the purpose of rearing
some honorable and durable monument to the memory of the early friends
of American Independence. They have thought, that for this object no
time could be more propitious than the present prosperous and peaceful
period; that no place could claim preference over this memorable spot;
and that no day could be more auspicious to the undertaking, than the
anniversary of the battle which was here fought. The foundation of that
monument we have now laid. With solemnities suited to the occasion, with
prayers to Almighty God for his blessing, and in the midst of this cloud
of witnesses, we have begun the work. We trust it will be prosecuted,
and that, springing from a broad foundation, rising high in massive
solidity and unadorned grandeur, it may remain as long as Heaven permits
the works of man to last, a fit emblem, both of the events in memory of
which it is raised, and of the gratitude of those who have reared it.

We know, indeed, that the record of illustrious actions is most safely
deposited in the universal remembrance of mankind. We know, that if we
could cause this structure to ascend, not only till it reached the
skies, but till it pierced them, its broad surfaces could still contain
but part of that which, in an age of knowledge, hath already been spread
over the earth, and which history charges itself with making known to
all future times. We know that no inscription on entablatures less broad
than the earth itself can carry information of the events we commemorate
where it has not already gone; and that no structure, which shall not
outlive the duration of letters and knowledge among men, can prolong the
memorial. But our object is, by this edifice, to show our own deep sense
of the value and importance of the achievements of our ancestors; and,
by presenting this work of gratitude to the eye, to keep alive similar
sentiments, and to foster a constant regard for the principles of the
Revolution. Human beings are composed, not of reason only, but of
imagination also, and sentiment; and that is neither wasted nor
misapplied which is appropriated to the purpose of giving right
direction to sentiments, and opening proper springs of feeling in the
heart. Let it not be supposed that our object is to perpetuate national
hostility, or even to cherish a mere military spirit. It is higher,
purer, nobler. We consecrate our work to the spirit of national
independence, and we wish that the light of peace may rest upon it for
ever. We rear a memorial of our conviction of that unmeasured benefit
which has been conferred on our own land, and of the happy influences
which have been produced, by the same events, on the general interests
of mankind. We come, as Americans, to mark a spot which must for ever be
dear to us and our posterity. We wish that whosoever, in all coming
time, shall turn his eye hither, may behold that the place is not
undistinguished where the first great battle of the Revolution was
fought. We wish that this structure may proclaim the magnitude and
importance of that event to every class and every age. We wish that
infancy may learn the purpose of its erection from maternal lips, and
that weary and withered age may behold it, and be solaced by the
recollections which it suggests. We wish that labor may look up here,
and be proud, in the midst of its toil. We wish that, in those days of
disaster, which, as they come upon all nations, must be expected to come
upon us also, desponding patriotism may turn its eyes hitherward, and be
assured that the foundations of our national power are still strong. We
wish that this column, rising towards heaven among the pointed spires of
so many temples dedicated to God, may contribute also to produce, in all
minds, a pious feeling of dependence and gratitude. We wish, finally,
that the last object to the sight of him who leaves his native shore,
and the first to gladden his who revisits it, may be something which
shall remind him of the liberty and the glory of his country. Let it
rise! let it rise, till it meet the sun in his coming; let the earliest
light of the morning gild it, and parting day linger and play on its

We live in a most extraordinary age. Events so various and so important
that they might crowd and distinguish centuries are, in our times,
compressed within the compass of a single life. When has it happened
that history has had so much to record, in the same term of years, as
since the 17th of June, 1775? Our own Revolution, which, under other
circumstances, might itself have been expected to occasion a war of half
a century, has been achieved; twenty-four sovereign and independent
States erected; and a general government established over them, so safe,
so wise, so free, so practical, that we might well wonder its
establishment should have been accomplished so soon, were it not for the
greater wonder that it should have been established at all. Two or three
millions of people have been augmented to twelve, the great forests of
the West prostrated beneath the arm of successful industry, and the
dwellers on the banks of the Ohio and the Mississippi become the
fellow-citizens and neighbors of those who cultivate the hills of New
England.[4] We have a commerce, that leaves no sea unexplored; navies,
which take no law from superior force; revenues, adequate to all the
exigencies of government, almost without taxation; and peace with all
nations, founded on equal rights and mutual respect.

Europe, within the same period, has been agitated by a mighty
revolution, which, while it has been felt in the individual condition
and happiness of almost every man, has shaken to the centre her
political fabric, and dashed against one another thrones which had stood
tranquil for ages. On this, our continent, our own example has been
followed, and colonies have sprung up to be nations.[5] Unaccustomed
sounds of liberty and free government have reached us from beyond the
track of the sun; and at this moment the dominion of European power in
this continent, from the place where we stand to the south pole, is
annihilated for ever.

In the mean time, both in Europe and America, such has been the general
progress of knowledge, such the improvement in legislation, in commerce,
in the arts, in letters, and, above all, in liberal ideas and the
general spirit of the age, that the whole world seems changed.

Yet, notwithstanding that this is but a faint abstract of the things
which have happened since the day of the battle of Bunker Hill, we are
but fifty years removed from it; and we now stand here to enjoy all the
blessings of our own condition, and to look abroad on the brightened
prospects of the world, while we still have among us some of those who
were active agents in the scenes of 1775, and who are now here, from
every quarter of New England, to visit once more, and under
circumstances so affecting, I had almost said so overwhelming, this
renowned theatre of their courage and patriotism.

VENERABLE MEN! you have come down to us from a former generation. Heaven
has bounteously lengthened out your lives, that you might behold this
joyous day. You are now where you stood fifty years ago, this very hour,
with your brothers and your neighbors, shoulder to shoulder, in the
strife for your country. Behold, how altered! The same heavens are
indeed over your heads; the same ocean rolls at your feet; but all else
how changed! You hear now no roar of hostile cannon, you see no mixed
volumes of smoke and flame rising from burning Charlestown. The ground
strewed with the dead and the dying; the impetuous charge; the steady
and successful repulse; the loud call to repeated assault; the summoning
of all that is manly to repeated resistance; a thousand bosoms freely
and fearlessly bared in an instant to whatever of terror there may be in
war and death;--all these you have witnessed, but you witness them no
more. All is peace. The heights of yonder metropolis, its towers and
roofs, which you then saw filled with wives and children and countrymen
in distress and terror, and looking with unutterable emotions for the
issue of the combat, have presented you to-day with the sight of its
whole happy population, come out to welcome and greet you with a
universal jubilee. Yonder proud ships, by a felicity of position
appropriately lying at the foot of this mount, and seeming fondly to
cling around it, are not means of annoyance to you, but your country's
own means of distinction and defence.[6] All is peace; and God has
granted you this sight of your country's happiness, ere you slumber in
the grave. He has allowed you to behold and to partake the reward of
your patriotic toils; and he has allowed us, your sons and countrymen,
to meet you here, and in the name of the present generation, in the name
of your country, in the name of liberty, to thank you!

But, alas! you are not all here! Time and the sword have thinned your
ranks. Prescott, Putnam, Stark, Brooks, Read, Pomeroy, Bridge! our eyes
seek for you in vain amid this broken band. You are gathered to your
fathers, and live only to your country in her grateful remembrance and
your own bright example. But let us not too much grieve, that you have
met the common fate of men. You lived at least long enough to know that
your work had been nobly and successfully accomplished. You lived to see
your country's independence established, and to sheathe your swords from
war. On the light of Liberty you saw arise the light of Peace, like

"another morn,
Risen on mid-noon";

and the sky on which you closed your eyes was cloudless.

But ah! Him! the first great martyr in this great cause! Him! the
premature victim of his own self-devoting heart! Him! the head of our
civil councils, and the destined leader of our military bands, whom
nothing brought hither but the unquenchable fire of his own spirit! Him!
cut off by Providence in the hour of overwhelming anxiety and thick
gloom; falling ere he saw the star of his country rise; pouring out his
generous blood like water, before he knew whether it would fertilize a
land of freedom or of bondage!--how shall I struggle with the emotions
that stifle the utterance of thy name![7] Our poor work may perish; but
thine shall endure! This monument may moulder away; the solid ground it
rests upon may sink down to a level with the sea; but thy memory shall
not fail! Wheresoever among men a heart shall be found that beats to the
transports of patriotism and liberty, its aspirations shall be to claim
kindred with thy spirit!

But the scene amidst which we stand does not permit us to confine our
thoughts or our sympathies to those fearless spirits who hazarded or
lost their lives on this consecrated spot. We have the happiness to
rejoice here in the presence of a most worthy representation of the
survivors of the whole Revolutionary army.

VETERANS! you are the remnant of many a well-fought field. You bring
with you marks of honor from Trenton and Monmouth, from Yorktown,
Camden, Bennington, and Saratoga. VETERANS OF HALF A CENTURY! when in
your youthful days you put every thing at hazard in your country's
cause, good as that cause was, and sanguine as youth is, still your
fondest hopes did not stretch onward to an hour like this! At a period
to which you could not reasonably have expected to arrive, at a moment
of national prosperity such as you could never have foreseen, you are
now met here to enjoy the fellowship of old soldiers, and to receive the
overflowings of a universal gratitude.

But your agitated countenances and your heaving breasts inform me that
even this is not an unmixed joy. I perceive that a tumult of contending
feelings rushes upon you. The images of the dead, as well as the persons
of the living, present themselves before you. The scene overwhelms you,
and I turn from it. May the Father of all mercies smile upon your
declining years, and bless them! And when you shall here have exchanged
your embraces, when you shall once more have pressed the hands which
have been so often extended to give succor in adversity, or grasped in
the exultation of victory, then look abroad upon this lovely land which
your young valor defended, and mark the happiness with which it is
filled; yea, look abroad upon the whole earth, and see what a name you
have contributed to give to your country, and what a praise you have
added to freedom, and then rejoice in the sympathy and gratitude which
beam upon your last days from the improved condition of mankind!

The occasion does not require of me any particular account of the battle
of the 17th of June, 1775, nor any detailed narrative of the events
which immediately preceded it. These are familiarly known to all. In the
progress of the great and interesting controversy, Massachusetts and the
town of Boston had become early and marked objects of the displeasure of
the British Parliament. This had been manifested in the act for altering
the government of the Province, and in that for shutting up the port of
Boston. Nothing sheds more honor on our early history, and nothing
better shows how little the feelings and sentiments of the Colonies were
known or regarded in England, than the impression which these measures
everywhere produced in America. It had been anticipated, that, while the
Colonies in general would be terrified by the severity of the punishment
inflicted on Massachusetts, the other sea-ports would be governed by a
mere spirit of gain; and that, as Boston was now cut off from all
commerce, the unexpected advantage which this blow on her was calculated
to confer on other towns would be greedily enjoyed. How miserably such
reasoners deceived themselves! How little they knew of the depth, and
the strength, and the intenseness of that feeling of resistance to
illegal acts of power, which possessed the whole American people!
Everywhere the unworthy boon was rejected with scorn. The fortunate
occasion was seized, everywhere, to show to the whole world that the
Colonies were swayed by no local interest, no partial interest, no
selfish interest. The temptation to profit by the punishment of Boston
was strongest to our neighbors of Salem. Yet Salem was precisely the
place where this miserable proffer was spurned, in a tone of the most
lofty self-respect and the most indignant patriotism. "We are deeply
affected," said its inhabitants, "with the sense of our public
calamities; but the miseries that are now rapidly hastening on our
brethren in the capital of the Province greatly excite our
commiseration. By shutting up the port of Boston, some imagine that the
course of trade might be turned hither and to our benefit; but we must
be dead to every idea of justice, lost to all feelings of humanity,
could we indulge a thought to seize on wealth and raise our fortunes on
the ruin of our suffering neighbors." These noble sentiments were not
confined to our immediate vicinity. In that day of general affection and
brotherhood, the blow given to Boston smote on every patriotic heart
from one end of the country to the other. Virginia and the Carolinas, as
well as Connecticut and New Hampshire, felt and proclaimed the cause to
be their own. The Continental Congress, then holding its first session
in Philadelphia, expressed its sympathy for the suffering inhabitants of
Boston, and addresses were received from all quarters, assuring them
that the cause was a common one, and should be met by common efforts and
common sacrifices. The Congress of Massachusetts responded to these
assurances; and in an address to the Congress at Philadelphia, bearing
the official signature, perhaps among the last, of the immortal Warren,
notwithstanding the severity of its suffering and the magnitude of the
dangers which threatened it, it was declared, that this Colony "is
ready, at all times, to spend and to be spent in the cause of America."

But the hour drew nigh which was to put professions to the proof, and to
determine whether the authors of these mutual pledges were ready to seal
them in blood. The tidings of Lexington and Concord had no sooner
spread, than it was universally felt that the time was at last come for
action. A spirit pervaded all ranks, not transient, not boisterous, but
deep, solemn, determined,

"totamque infusa per artus
Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet."

War, on their own soil and at their own doors, was, indeed, a strange
work to the yeomanry of New England; but their consciences were
convinced of its necessity, their country called them to it, and they
did not withhold themselves from the perilous trial. The ordinary
occupations of life were abandoned; the plough was staid in the
unfinished furrow; wives gave up their husbands, and mothers gave up
their sons, to the battles of a civil war. Death might come, in honor,
on the field; it might come, in disgrace, on the scaffold. For either
and for both they were prepared. The sentiment of Quincy was full in
their hearts. "Blandishments," said that distinguished son of genius and
patriotism, "will not fascinate us, nor will threats of a halter
intimidate; for, under God, we are determined that, wheresoever,
whensoever, or howsoever we shall be called to make our exit, we will
die free men."

The 17th of June saw the four New England Colonies standing here, side
by side, to triumph or to fall together; and there was with them from
that moment to the end of the war, what I hope will remain with them for
ever, one cause, one country, one heart.

The battle of Bunker Hill was attended with the most important effects
beyond its immediate results as a military engagement. It created at
once a state of open, public war. There could now be no longer a
question of proceeding against individuals, as guilty of treason or
rebellion. That fearful crisis was past. The appeal lay to the sword,
and the only question was, whether the spirit and the resources of the
people would hold out, till the object should be accomplished. Nor were
its general consequences confined to our own country. The previous
proceedings of the Colonies, their appeals, resolutions, and addresses,
had made their cause known to Europe. Without boasting, we may say, that
in no age or country has the public cause been maintained with more
force of argument, more power of illustration, or more of that
persuasion which excited feeling and elevated principle can alone
bestow, than the Revolutionary state papers exhibit. These papers will
for ever deserve to be studied, not only for the spirit which they
breathe, but for the ability with which they were written.

To this able vindication of their cause, the Colonies had now added a
practical and severe proof of their own true devotion to it, and given
evidence also of the power which they could bring to its support. All
now saw, that, if America fell, she would not fall without a struggle.
Men felt sympathy and regard, as well as surprise, when they beheld
these infant states, remote, unknown, unaided, encounter the power of
England, and, in the first considerable battle, leave more of their
enemies dead on the field, in proportion to the number of combatants,
than had been recently known to fall in the wars of Europe.

Information of these events, circulating throughout the world, at length
reached the ears of one who now hears me.[8] He has not forgotten the
emotion which the fame of Bunker Hill, and the name of Warren, excited
in his youthful breast.

SIR, we are assembled to commemorate the establishment of great public
principles of liberty, and to do honor to the distinguished dead. The
occasion is too severe for eulogy of the living. But, Sir, your
interesting relation to this country, the peculiar circumstances which
surround you and surround us, call on me to express the happiness which
we derive from your presence and aid in this solemn commemoration.

Fortunate, fortunate man! with what measure of devotion will you not
thank God for the circumstances of your extraordinary life! You are
connected with both hemispheres and with two generations. Heaven saw fit
to ordain, that the electric spark of liberty should be conducted,
through you, from the New World to the Old; and we, who are now here to
perform this duty of patriotism, have all of us long ago received it in
charge from our fathers to cherish your name and your virtues. You will
account it an instance of your good fortune, Sir, that you crossed the
seas to visit us at a time which enables you to be present at this
solemnity. You now behold the field, the renown of which reached you in
the heart of France, and caused a thrill in your ardent bosom. You see
the lines of the little redoubt thrown up by the incredible diligence of
Prescott; defended, to the last extremity, by his lion-hearted valor;
and within which the corner-stone of our monument has now taken its
position. You see where Warren fell, and where Parker, Gardner,
McCleary, Moore, and other early patriots, fell with him. Those who
survived that day, and whose lives have been prolonged to the present
hour, are now around you. Some of them you have known in the trying
scenes of the war. Behold! they now stretch forth their feeble arms to
embrace you. Behold! they raise their trembling voices to invoke the
blessing of God on you and yours for ever.

Sir, you have assisted us in laying the foundation of this structure.
You have heard us rehearse, with our feeble commendation, the names of
departed patriots. Monuments and eulogy belong to the dead. We give them
this day to Warren and his associates. On other occasions they have been
given to your more immediate companions in arms, to Washington, to
Greene, to Gates, to Sullivan, and to Lincoln. We have become reluctant
to grant these, our highest and last honors, further. We would gladly
hold them yet back from the little remnant of that immortal band. _Serus
in coelum redeas._ Illustrious as are your merits, yet far, O very far
distant be the day, when any inscription shall bear your name, or any
tongue pronounce its eulogy!

The leading reflection to which this occasion seems to invite us,
respects the great changes which have happened in the fifty years since
the battle of Bunker Hill was fought. And it peculiarly marks the
character of the present age, that, in looking at these changes, and in
estimating their effect on our condition, we are obliged to consider,
not what has been done in our own country only, but in others also. In
these interesting times, while nations are making separate and
individual advances in improvement, they make, too, a common progress;
like vessels on a common tide, propelled by the gales at different
rates, according to their several structure and management, but all
moved forward by one mighty current, strong enough to bear onward
whatever does not sink beneath it.

A chief distinction of the present day is a community of opinions and
knowledge amongst men in different nations, existing in a degree
heretofore unknown. Knowledge has, in our time, triumphed, and is
triumphing, over distance, over difference of languages, over diversity
of habits, over prejudice, and over bigotry. The civilized and Christian
world is fast learning the great lesson, that difference of nation does
not imply necessary hostility, and that all contact need not be war. The
whole world is becoming a common field for intellect to act in. Energy
of mind, genius, power, wheresoever it exists, may speak out in any
tongue, and the _world_ will hear it. A great chord of sentiment and
feeling runs through two continents, and vibrates over both. Every
breeze wafts intelligence from country to country; every wave rolls it;
all give it forth, and all in turn receive it. There is a vast commerce
of ideas; there are marts and exchanges for intellectual discoveries,
and a wonderful fellowship of those individual intelligences which make
up the mind and opinion of the age. Mind is the great lever of all
things; human thought is the process by which human ends are ultimately
answered; and the diffusion of knowledge, so astonishing in the last
half-century, has rendered innumerable minds, variously gifted by
nature, competent to be competitors or fellow-workers on the theatre of
intellectual operation.

From these causes important improvements have taken place in the
personal condition of individuals. Generally speaking, mankind are not
only better fed and better clothed, but they are able also to enjoy more
leisure; they possess more refinement and more self-respect. A superior
tone of education, manners, and habits prevails. This remark, most true
in its application to our own country, is also partly true when applied
elsewhere. It is proved by the vastly augmented consumption of those
articles of manufacture and of commerce which contribute to the comforts
and the decencies of life; an augmentation which has far outrun the
progress of population. And while the unexampled and almost incredible
use of machinery would seem to supply the place of labor, labor still
finds its occupation and its reward; so wisely has Providence adjusted
men's wants and desires to their condition and their capacity.

Any adequate survey, however, of the progress made during the last
half-century in the polite and the mechanic arts, in machinery and
manufactures, in commerce and agriculture, in letters and in science,
would require volumes. I must abstain wholly from these subjects, and
turn for a moment to the contemplation of what has been done on the
great question of politics and government. This is the master topic of
the age; and during the whole fifty years it has intensely occupied the
thoughts of men. The nature of civil government, its ends and uses, have
been canvassed and investigated; ancient opinions attacked and defended;
new ideas recommended and resisted, by whatever power the mind of man
could bring to the controversy. From the closet and the public halls the
debate has been transferred to the field; and the world has been shaken
by wars of unexampled magnitude, and the greatest variety of fortune. A
day of peace has at length succeeded; and now that the strife has
subsided, and the smoke cleared away, we may begin to see what has
actually been done, permanently changing the state and condition of
human society. And, without dwelling on particular circumstances, it is
most apparent, that, from the before-mentioned causes of augmented
knowledge and improved individual condition, a real, substantial, and
important change has taken place, and is taking place, highly favorable,
on the whole, to human liberty and human happiness.

The great wheel of political revolution began to move in America. Here
its rotation was guarded, regular, and safe. Transferred to the other
continent, from unfortunate but natural causes, it received an irregular
and violent impulse; it whirled along with a fearful celerity; till at
length, like the chariot-wheels in the races of antiquity, it took fire
from the rapidity of its own motion, and blazed onward, spreading
conflagration and terror around.

We learn from the result of this experiment, how fortunate was our own
condition, and how admirably the character of our people was calculated
for setting the great example of popular governments. The possession of
power did not turn the heads of the American people, for they had long
been in the habit of exercising a great degree of self-control. Although
the paramount authority of the parent state existed over them, yet a
large field of legislation had always been open to our Colonial
assemblies. They were accustomed to representative bodies and the forms
of free government; they understood the doctrine of the division of
power among different branches, and the necessity of checks on each. The
character of our countrymen, moreover, was sober, moral, and religious;
and there was little in the change to shock their feelings of justice
and humanity, or even to disturb an honest prejudice. We had no domestic
throne to overturn, no privileged orders to cast down, no violent
changes of property to encounter. In the American Revolution, no man
sought or wished for more than to defend and enjoy his own. None hoped
for plunder or for spoil. Rapacity was unknown to it; the axe was not
among the instruments of its accomplishment; and we all know that it
could not have lived a single day under any well-founded imputation of
possessing a tendency adverse to the Christian religion.

It need not surprise us, that, under circumstances less auspicious,
political revolutions elsewhere, even when well intended, have
terminated differently. It is, indeed, a great achievement, it is the
master-work of the world, to establish governments entirely popular on
lasting foundations; nor is it easy, indeed, to introduce the popular
principle at all into governments to which it has been altogether a
stranger. It cannot be doubted, however, that Europe has come out of the
contest, in which she has been so long engaged, with greatly superior
knowledge, and, in many respects, in a highly improved condition.
Whatever benefit has been acquired is likely to be retained, for it
consists mainly in the acquisition of more enlightened ideas. And
although kingdoms and provinces may be wrested from the hands that hold
them, in the same manner they were obtained; although ordinary and
vulgar power may, in human affairs, be lost as it has been won; yet it
is the glorious prerogative of the empire of knowledge, that what it
gains it never loses. On the contrary, it increases by the multiple of
its own power; all its ends become means; all its attainments, helps to
new conquests. Its whole abundant harvest is but so much seed wheat, and
nothing has limited, and nothing can limit, the amount of ultimate

Under the influence of this rapidly increasing knowledge, the people
have begun, in all forms of government, to think and to reason, on
affairs of state. Regarding government as an institution for the public
good, they demand a knowledge of its operations, and a participation in
its exercise. A call for the representative system, wherever it is not
enjoyed, and where there is already intelligence enough to estimate its
value, is perseveringly made. Where men may speak out, they demand it;
where the bayonet is at their throats, they pray for it.

When Louis the Fourteenth said, "I am the state," he expressed the
essence of the doctrine of unlimited power. By the rules of that system,
the people are disconnected from the state; they are its subjects; it is
their lord. These ideas, founded in the love of power, and long
supported by the excess and the abuse of it, are yielding, in our age,
to other opinions; and the civilized world seems at last to be
proceeding to the conviction of that fundamental and manifest truth,
that the powers of government are but a trust, and that they cannot be
lawfully exercised but for the good of the community. As knowledge is
more and more extended, this conviction becomes more and more general.
Knowledge, in truth, is the great sun in the firmament. Life and power
are scattered with all its beams. The prayer of the Grecian champion,
when enveloped in unnatural clouds and darkness, is the appropriate
political supplication for the people of every country not yet blessed
with free institutions:--

"Dispel this cloud, the light of heaven restore,
Give me TO SEE,--and Ajax asks no more."

We may hope that the growing influence of enlightened sentiment will
promote the permanent peace of the world. Wars to mantain family
alliances, to uphold or to cast down dynasties, and to regulate
successions to thrones, which have occupied so much room in the history
of modern times, if not less likely to happen at all, will be less
likely to become general and involve many nations, as the great
principle shall be more and more established, that the interest of the
world is peace, and its first great statute, that every nation possesses
the power of establishing a government for itself. But public opinion
has attained also an influence over governments which do not admit the
popular principle into their organization. A necessary respect for the
judgment of the world operates, in some measure, as a control over the
most unlimited forms of authority. It is owing, perhaps, to this truth,
that the interesting struggle of the Greeks has been suffered to go on
so long, without a direct interference, either to wrest that country
from its present masters, or to execute the system of pacification by
force, and, with united strength, lay the neck of Christian and
civilized Greek at the foot of the barbarian Turk. Let us thank God that
we live in an age when something has influence besides the bayonet, and
when the sternest authority does not venture to encounter the scorching
power of public reproach. Any attempt of the kind I have mentioned
should be met by one universal burst of indignation; the air of the
civilized world ought to be made too warm to be comfortably breathed by
any one who would hazard it.

It is, indeed, a touching reflection, that, while, in the fulness of our
country's happiness, we rear this monument to her honor, we look for
instruction in our undertaking to a country which is now in fearful
contest, not for works of art or memorials of glory, but for her own
existence. Let her be assured, that she is not forgotten in the world;
that her efforts are applauded, and that constant prayers ascend for her
success. And let us cherish a confident hope for her final triumph. If
the true spark of religious and civil liberty be kindled, it will burn.
Human agency cannot extinguish it. Like the earth's central fire, it
may be smothered for a time; the ocean may overwhelm it; mountains may
press it down; but its inherent and unconquerable force will heave both
the ocean and the land, and at some time or other, in some place or
other, the volcano will break out and flame up to heaven.

Among the great events of the half-century, we must reckon, certainly,
the revolution of South America; and we are not likely to overrate the
importance of that revolution, either to the people of the country
itself or to the rest of the world. The late Spanish colonies, now
independent states, under circumstances less favorable, doubtless, than
attended our own revolution, have yet successfully commenced their
national existence. They have accomplished the great object of
establishing their independence; they are known and acknowledged in the
world; and although in regard to their systems of government, their
sentiments on religious toleration, and their provisions for public
instruction, they may have yet much to learn, it must be admitted that
they have risen to the condition of settled and established states more
rapidly than could have been reasonably anticipated. They already
furnish an exhilarating example of the difference between free
governments and despotic misrule. Their commerce, at this moment,
creates a new activity in all the great marts of the world. They show
themselves able, by an exchange of commodities, to bear a useful part in
the intercourse of nations.

A new spirit of enterprise and industry begins to prevail; all the great
interests of society receive a salutary impulse; and the progress of
information not only testifies to an improved condition, but itself
constitutes the highest and most essential improvement.

When the battle of Bunker Hill was fought, the existence of South
America was scarcely felt in the civilized world. The thirteen little
Colonies of North America habitually called themselves the "Continent."
Borne down by colonial subjugation, monopoly, and bigotry, these vast
regions of the South were hardly visible above the horizon. But in our
day there has been, as it were, a new creation. The southern hemisphere
emerges from the sea. Its lofty mountains begin to lift themselves into
the light of heaven; its broad and fertile plains stretch out, in
beauty, to the eye of civilized man, and at the mighty bidding of the
voice of political liberty the waters of darkness retire.

And, now, let us indulge an honest exultation in the conviction of the
benefit which the example of our country has produced, and is likely to
produce, on human freedom and human happiness. Let us endeavor to
comprehend in all its magnitude, and to feel in all its importance, the
part assigned to us in the great drama of human affairs. We are placed
at the head of the system of representative and popular governments.
Thus far our example shows that such governments are compatible, not
only with respectability and power, but with repose, with peace, with
security of personal rights, with good laws, and a just administration.

We are not propagandists. Wherever other systems are preferred, either
as being thought better in themselves, or as better suited to existing
condition, we leave the preference to be enjoyed. Our history hitherto
proves, however, that the popular form is practicable, and that with
wisdom and knowledge men may govern themselves; and the duty incumbent
on us is, to preserve the consistency of this cheering example, and take
care that nothing may weaken its authority with the world. If, in our
case, the representative system ultimately fail, popular governments
must be pronounced impossible. No combination of circumstances more
favorable to the experiment can ever be expected to occur. The last
hopes of mankind, therefore, rest with us; and if it should be
proclaimed, that our example had become an argument against the
experiment, the knell of popular liberty would be sounded throughout the

These are excitements to duty; but they are not suggestions of doubt.
Our history and our condition, all that is gone before us, and all that
surrounds us, authorize the belief, that popular governments, though
subject to occasional variations, in form perhaps not always for the
better, may yet, in their general character, be as durable and permanent
as other systems. We know, indeed, that in our country any other is
impossible. The _principle_ of free governments adheres to the American
soil. It is bedded in it, immovable as its mountains.

And let the sacred obligations which have devolved on this generation,
and on us, sink deep into our hearts. Those who established our liberty
and our government are daily dropping from among us. The great trust now
descends to new hands. Let us apply ourselves to that which is presented
to us, as our appropriate object. We can win no laurels in a war for
independence. Earlier and worthier hands have gathered them all. Nor are
there places for us by the side of Solon, and Alfred, and other founders
of states. Our fathers have filled them. But there remains to us a great
duty of defence and preservation; and there is opened to us, also, a
noble pursuit, to which the spirit of the times strongly invites us. Our
proper business is improvement. Let our age be the age of improvement.
In a day of peace, let us advance the arts of peace and the works of
peace. Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers,
build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see
whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something
worthy to be remembered. Let us cultivate a true spirit of union and
harmony. In pursuing the great objects which our condition points out to
us, let us act under a settled conviction, and an habitual feeling, that
these twenty-four States are one country. Let our conceptions be
enlarged to the circle of our duties. Let us extend our ideas over the
whole of the vast field in which we are called to act. Let our object
the blessing of God, may that country itself become a vast and splendid
monument, not of oppression and terror, but of Wisdom, of Peace, and of
Liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration for ever!

[Footnote 1: General Warren, at the time of his decease, was Grand
Master of the Masonic Lodges in America.]

[Footnote 2: An interesting account of the voyage of the early emigrants
to the Maryland Colony, and of its settlement, is given in the official
report of Father White, written probably within the first month after
the landing at St. Mary's. The original Latin manuscript is still
preserved among the archives of the Jesuits at Rome. The "Ark" and the
"Dove" are remembered with scarcely less interest by the descendants of
the sister colony, than is the "Mayflower" in New England, which
thirteen years earlier, at the same season of the year, bore thither the
Pilgrim Fathers.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Webster was at this time President of the Bunker Hill
Monument Association, chosen on the decease of Governor John Brooks, the
first President.]

[Footnote 4: That which was spoken of figuratively in 1825 has, in the
lapse of a quarter of a century, by the introduction of railroads and
telegraphic lines, become a reality. It is an interesting circumstance,
that the first railroad on the Western Continent was constructed for the
purpose of accelerating the erection of this monument.]

[Footnote 5: See President Monroe's Message to Congress in 1823, and Mr.
Webster's speech on the Panama Mission, in 1826.]

[Footnote 6: It is necessary to inform those only who are unacquainted
with the localities, that the United States Navy Yard at Charlestown is
situated at the base of Bunker Hill.]

[Footnote 7: See the North American Review, Vol. XIII. p. 242.]

[Footnote 8: Among the earliest of the arrangements for the celebration
of the 17th of June, 1825, was the invitation to General Lafayette to
be present; and he had so timed his progress through the other States as
to return to Massachusetts in season for the great occasion.]



[In the introductory note to the preceding Address, a brief account is
given of the origin and progress of the measures adopted for the
erection of the Bunker Hill Monument, down to the time of laying the
corner-stone, compiled from Mr. Frothingham's History of the Siege of
Boston. The same valuable work (pp. 345-352) relates the obstacles which
presented themselves to the rapid execution of the design, and the means
by which they were overcome. In this narrative, Mr. Frothingham has done
justice to the efforts and exertions of the successive boards of
direction and officers of the Association, to the skill and
disinterestedness of the architect, to the liberality of distinguished
individuals, to the public spirit of the Massachusetts Charitable
Mechanic Association, in promoting a renewed subscription, and to the
patriotic zeal of the ladies of Boston and the vicinity, in holding a
most successful fair. As it would be difficult farther to condense the
information contained in this interesting summary, we must refer the
reader to Mr. Frothingham's work for an adequate account of the causes
which delayed the completion of the monument for nearly seventeen years,
and of the resources and exertions by which the desired end was finally
attained. The last stone was raised to its place on the morning of the
23d of July, 1842.

It was determined by the directors of the Association, that the
completion of the work should be celebrated in a manner not less
imposing than that in which the laying of the corner-stone had been
celebrated, seventeen years before. The co-operation of Mr. Webster was
again invited, and, notwithstanding the pressure of his engagements as
Secretary of State at Washington, was again patriotically yielded. Many
circumstances conspired to increase the interest of the occasion. The
completion of the monument had been long delayed, but in the interval
the subject had been kept much before the public mind. Mr. Webster's
address on the 17th of June, 1825, had obtained the widest circulation
throughout the country; passages from it had passed into household words
throughout the Union. Wherever they were repeated, they made the Bunker
Hill Monument a familiar thought with the people. Meantime, Boston and
Charlestown had doubled their population, and the multiplication of rail
roads in every direction enabled a person, in almost any part of New
England, to reach the metropolis in a day. The President of the United
States and his Cabinet had accepted invitations to be present;
delegations of the descendants of New England were present from the
remotest parts of the Union; one hundred and eight surviving veterans of
the Revolution, among whom were some who were in the battle of Bunker
Hill, imparted a touching interest to the scene.

Every thing conspired to promote the success of the ceremonial. The day
was uncommonly fine; cool for the season, and clear. A large volunteer
force from various parts of the country had assembled for the occasion,
and formed a brilliant escort to an immense procession, as it moved from
Boston to the battle-ground on the hill. The bank which slopes down from
the obelisk on the eastern side of Monument Square was covered with
seats, rising in the form of an amphitheatre, under the open sky. These
had been prepared for ladies, who had assembled in great numbers,
awaiting the arrival of the procession. When it arrived, it was received
into a large open area in front of these seats. Mr. Webster was
stationed upon an elevated platform, in front of the audience and of the
monument towering in the background. According to Mr. Frothingham's
estimate, a hundred thousand persons were gathered about the spot, and
nearly half that number are supposed to have been within the reach of
the orator's voice. The ground rises slightly between the platform and
the Monument Square, so that the whole of this immense concourse,
compactly crowded together, breathless with attention, swayed by one
sentiment of admiration and delight, was within the full view of the
speaker. The position and the occasion were the height of the moral
sublime. "When, after saying, 'It is not from my lips, it could not be
from any human lips, that that strain of eloquence is this day to flow
most competent to move and excite the vast multitude around me,--the
powerful speaker stands motionless before us,'--he paused, and pointed
in silent admiration to the sublime structure, the audience burst into
long and loud applause. It was some moments before the speaker could go
on with the address."]

A duty has been performed. A work of gratitude and patriotism is
completed. This structure, having its foundations in soil which drank
deep of early Revolutionary blood, has at length reached its destined
height, and now lifts its summit to the skies.

We have assembled to celebrate the accomplishment of this undertaking,
and to indulge afresh in the recollection of the great event which it is
designed to commemorate. Eighteen years, more than half the ordinary
duration of a generation of mankind, have elapsed since the corner-stone
of this monument was laid. The hopes of its projectors rested on
voluntary contributions, private munificence, and the general favor of
the public. These hopes have not been disappointed. Donations have been
made by individuals, in some cases of large amount, and smaller sums
have been contributed by thousands. All who regard the object itself as
important, and its accomplishment, therefore, as a good attained, will
entertain sincere respect and gratitude for the unwearied efforts of the
successive presidents, boards of directors, and committees of the
Association which has had the general control of the work. The
architect, equally entitled to our thanks and commendation, will find
other reward, also, for his labor and skill, in the beauty and elegance
of the obelisk itself, and the distinction which, as a work of art, it
confers upon him.

At a period when the prospects of further progress in the undertaking
were gloomy and discouraging, the Mechanic Association, by a most
praiseworthy and vigorous effort, raised new funds for carrying it
forward, and saw them applied with fidelity, economy, and skill. It is a
grateful duty to make public acknowledgments of such timely and
efficient aid.

The last effort and the last contribution were from a different source.
Garlands of grace and elegance were destined to crown a work which had
its commencement in manly patriotism. The winning power of the sex
addressed itself to the public, and all that was needed to carry the
monument to its proposed height, and to give to it its finish, was
promptly supplied. The mothers and the daughters of the land contributed
thus, most successfully, to whatever there is of beauty in the monument
itself, or whatever of utility and public benefit and gratification
there is in its completion.

Of those with whom the plan originated of erecting on this spot a
monument worthy of the event to be commemorated, many are now present;
but others, alas! have themselves become subjects of monumental
inscription. William Tudor, an accomplished scholar, a distinguished
writer, a most amiable man, allied both by birth and sentiment to the
patriots of the Revolution, died while on public service abroad, and now
lies buried in a foreign land.[1] William Sullivan, a name fragrant of
Revolutionary merit, and of public service and public virtue, who
himself partook in a high degree of the respect and confidence of the
community, and yet was always most loved where best known, has also been
gathered to his fathers. And last, George Blake, a lawyer of learning
and eloquence, a man of wit and of talent, of social qualities the most
agreeable and fascinating, and of gifts which enabled him to exercise
large sway over public assemblies, has closed his human career.[2] I
know that in the crowds before me there are those from whose eyes tears
will flow at the mention of these names. But such mention is due to
their general character, their public and private virtues, and
especially, on this occasion, to the spirit and zeal with which they
entered into the undertaking which is now completed.

I have spoken only of those who are no longer numbered with the living.
But a long life, now drawing towards its close, always distinguished by
acts of public spirit, humanity, and charity, forming a character which
has already become historical, and sanctified by public regard and the
affection of friends, may confer even on the living the proper immunity
of the dead, and be the fit subject of honorable mention and warm
commendation. Of the early projectors of the design of this monument,
one of the most prominent, the most zealous, and the most efficient, is
Thomas H. Perkins. It was beneath his ever-hospitable roof that those
whom I have mentioned, and others yet living and now present, having
assembled for the purpose, adopted the first step towards erecting a
monument on Bunker Hill. Long may he remain, with unimpaired faculties,
in the wide field of his usefulness! His charities have distilled, like
the dews of heaven; he has fed the hungry, and clothed the naked; he has
given sight to the blind; and for such virtues there is a reward on
high, of which all human memorials, all language of brass and stone, are
but humble types and attempted imitations.

Time and nature have had their course, in diminishing the number of
those whom we met here on the 17th of June, 1825. Most of the
Revolutionary characters then present have since deceased; and Lafayette
sleeps in his native land. Yet the name and blood of Warren are with us;
the kindred of Putnam are also here; and near me, universally beloved
for his character and his virtues, and now venerable for his years, sits
the son of the noble-hearted and daring Prescott.[3] Gideon Foster of
Danvers, Enos Reynolds of Boxford, Phineas Johnson, Robert Andrews,
Elijah Dresser, Josiah Cleaveland, Jesse Smith, Philip Bagley, Needham
Maynard, Roger Plaisted, Joseph Stephens, Nehemiah Porter, and James
Harvey, who bore arms for their country either at Concord and Lexington,
on the 19th of April, or on Bunker Hill, all now far advanced in age,
have come here to-day, to look once more on the field where their valor
was proved, and to receive a hearty outpouring of our respect.

They have long outlived the troubles and dangers of the Revolution; they
have outlived the evils arising from the want of a united and efficient
government; they have outlived the menace of imminent dangers to the
public liberty; they have outlived nearly all their contemporaries;--but
they have not outlived, they cannot outlive, the affectionate gratitude
of their country. Heaven has not allotted to this generation an
opportunity of rendering high services, and manifesting strong personal
devotion, such as they rendered and manifested, and in such a cause as
that which roused the patriotic fires of their youthful breasts, and
nerved the strength of their arms. But we may praise what we cannot
equal, and celebrate actions which we were not born to perform.
_Pulchrum est benefacere reipublica, etiam bene dicere haud absurdum

The Bunker Hill Monument is finished. Here it stands. Fortunate in the
high natural eminence on which it is placed, higher, infinitely higher
in its objects and purpose, it rises over the land and over the sea;
and, visible, at their homes, to three hundred thousand of the people of
Massachusetts, it stands a memorial of the last, and a monitor to the
present, and to all succeeding generations. I have spoken of the
loftiness of its purpose. If it had been without any other design than
the creation of a work of art, the granite of which it is composed would
have slept in its native bed. It has a purpose, and that purpose gives
it its character. That purpose enrobes it with dignity and moral
grandeur. That well-known purpose it is which causes us to look up to it
with a feeling of awe. It is itself the orator of this occasion. It is
not from my lips, it could not be from any human lips, that that strain
of eloquence is this day to flow most competent to move and excite the
vast multitudes around me. The powerful speaker stands motionless before
us. It is a plain shaft. It bears no inscriptions, fronting to the
rising sun, from which the future antiquary shall wipe the dust. Nor
does the rising sun cause tones of music to issue from its summit. But
at the rising of the sun, and at the setting of the sun; in the blaze of
noonday, and beneath the milder effulgence of lunar light; it looks, it
speaks, it acts, to the full comprehension of every American mind, and
the awakening of glowing enthusiasm in every American heart. Its silent,
but awful utterance; its deep pathos, as it brings to our contemplation
the 17th of June, 1775, and the consequences which have resulted to us,
to our country, and to the world, from the events of that day, and which
we know must continue to rain influence on the destinies of mankind to
the end of time; the elevation with which it raises us high above the
ordinary feelings of life,--surpass all that the study of the closet, or
even the inspiration of genius, can produce. To-day it speaks to us. Its
future auditories will be the successive generations of men, as they
rise up before it and gather around it. Its speech will be of patriotism
and courage; of civil and religious liberty; of free government; of the
moral improvement and elevation of mankind; and of the immortal memory
of those who, with heroic devotion, have sacrificed their lives for
their country.[4]

In the older world, numerous fabrics still exist, reared by human hands,
but whose object has been lost in the darkness of ages. They are now
monuments of nothing but the labor and skill which constructed them.

The mighty pyramid itself, half buried in the sands of Africa, has
nothing to bring down and report to us, but the power of kings and the
servitude of the people. If it had any purpose beyond that of a
mausoleum, such purpose has perished from history and from tradition. If
asked for its moral object, its admonition, its sentiment, its
instruction to mankind, or any high end in its erection, it is silent;
silent as the millions which lie in the dust at its base, and in the
catacombs which surround it. Without a just moral object, therefore,
made known to man, though raised against the skies, it excites only
conviction of power, mixed with strange wonder. But if the civilization
of the present race of men, founded, as it is, in solid science, the
true knowledge of nature, and vast discoveries in art, and which is
elevated and purified by moral sentiment and by the truths of
Christianity, be not destined to destruction before the final
termination of human existence on earth, the object and purpose of this
edifice will be known till that hour shall come. And even if
civilization should be subverted, and the truths of the Christian
religion obscured by a new deluge of barbarism, the memory of Bunker
Hill and the American Revolution will still be elements and parts of the
knowledge which shall be possessed by the last man to whom the light of
civilization and Christianity shall be extended.

This celebration is honored by the presence of the chief executive
magistrate of the Union. An occasion so national in its object and
character, and so much connected with that Revolution from which the
government sprang at the head of which he is placed, may well receive
from him this mark of attention and respect. Well acquainted with
Yorktown, the scene of the last great military struggle of the
Revolution, his eye now surveys the field of Bunker Hill, the theatre
of the first of those important conflicts. He sees where Warren fell,
where Putnam, and Prescott, and Stark, and Knowlton, and Brooks fought.
He beholds the spot where a thousand trained soldiers of England were
smitten to the earth, in the first effort of revolutionary war, by the
arm of a bold and determined yeomanry, contending for liberty and their
country. And while all assembled here entertain towards him sincere
personal good wishes and the high respect due to his elevated office and
station, it is not to be doubted that he enters, with true American
feeling, into the patriotic enthusiasm kindled by the occasion which
animates the multitudes that surround him.

His Excellency, the Governor of the Commonwealth, the Governor of Rhode
Island, and the other distinguished public men whom we have the honor to
receive as visitors and guests to-day, will cordially unite in a
celebration connected with the great event of the Revolutionary war.

No name in the history of 1775 and 1776 is more distinguished than that
borne by an ex-President of the United States, whom we expected to see
here, but whose ill health prevents his attendance. Whenever popular
rights were to be asserted, an Adams was present; and when the time came
for the formal Declaration of Independence, it was the voice of an Adams
that shook the halls of Congress. We wish we could have welcomed to us
this day the inheritor of Revolutionary blood, and the just and worthy
representative of high Revolutionary names, merit, and services.

Banners and badges, processions and flags, announce to us, that amidst
this uncounted throng are thousands of natives of New England now
residents in other States. Welcome, ye kindred names, with kindred
blood! From the broad savannas of the South, from the newer regions of
the West, from amidst the hundreds of thousands of men of Eastern origin
who cultivate the rich valley of the Genesee or live along the chain of
the Lakes, from the mountains of Pennsylvania, and from the thronged
cities of the coast, welcome, welcome! Wherever else you may be
strangers, here you are all at home. You assemble at this shrine of
liberty, near the family altars at which your earliest devotions were
paid to Heaven, near to the temples of worship first entered by you, and
near to the schools and colleges in which your education was received.
You come hither with a glorious ancestry of liberty. You bring names
which are on the rolls of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. You come,
some of you, once more to be embraced by an aged Revolutionary father,
or to receive another, perhaps a last, blessing, bestowed in love and
tears, by a mother, yet surviving to witness and to enjoy your
prosperity and happiness.

But if family associations and the recollections of the past bring you
hither with greater alacrity, and mingle with your greeting much of
local attachment and private affection, greeting also be given, free and
hearty greeting, to every American citizen who treads this sacred soil
with patriotic feeling, and respires with pleasure in an atmosphere
perfumed with the recollections of 1775! This occasion is respectable,
nay, it is grand, it is sublime, by the nationality of its sentiment.
Among the seventeen millions of happy people who form the American
community, there is not one who has not an interest in this monument, as
there is not one that has not a deep and abiding interest in that which
it commemorates.

Woe betide the man who brings to this day's worship feeling less than
wholly American! Woe betide the man who can stand here with the fires of
local resentments burning, or the purpose of fomenting local jealousies
and the strifes of local interests festering and rankling in his heart!
Union, established in justice, in patriotism, and the most plain and
obvious common interest,--union, founded on the same love of liberty,
cemented by blood shed in the same common cause,--union has been the
source of all our glory and greatness thus far, and is the ground of
all our highest hopes. This column stands on Union. I know not that it
might not keep its position, if the American Union, in the mad conflict
of human passions, and in the strife of parties and factions, should be
broken up and destroyed. I know not that it would totter and fall to the
earth, and mingle its fragments with the fragments of Liberty and the
Constitution, when State should be separated from State, and faction and
dismemberment obliterate for ever all the hopes of the founders of our
republic, and the great inheritance of their children. It might stand.
But who, from beneath the weight of mortification and shame that would
oppress him, could look up to behold it? Whose eyeballs would not be
seared by such a spectacle? For my part, should I live to such a time, I
shall avert my eyes from it for ever.

It is not as a mere military encounter of hostile armies that the battle
of Bunker Hill presents its principal claim to attention. Yet, even as a
mere battle, there were circumstances attending it extraordinary in
character, and entitling it to peculiar distinction. It was fought on
this eminence; in the neighborhood of yonder city; in the presence of
many more spectators than there were combatants in the conflict. Men,
women, and children, from every commanding position, were gazing at the
battle, and looking for its results with all the eagerness natural to
those who knew that the issue was fraught with the deepest consequences
to themselves, personally, as well as to their country. Yet, on the 16th
of June, 1775, there was nothing around this hill but verdure and
culture. There was, indeed, the note of awful preparation in Boston.
There was the Provincial army at Cambridge, with its right flank resting
on Dorchester, and its left on Chelsea. But here all was peace.
Tranquillity reigned around. On the 17th, every thing was changed. On
this eminence had arisen, in the night, a redoubt, built by Prescott,
and in which he held command. Perceived by the enemy at dawn, it was
immediately cannonaded from the floating batteries in the river, and
from the opposite shore. And then ensued the hurried movement in Boston,
and soon the troops of Britain embarked in the attempt to dislodge the
Colonists. In an hour every thing indicated an immediate and bloody
conflict. Love of liberty on one side, proud defiance of rebellion on
the other, hopes and fears, and courage and daring, on both sides,
animated the hearts of the combatants as they hung on the edge of

I suppose it would be difficult, in a military point of view, to ascribe
to the leaders on either side any just motive for the engagement which
followed. On the one hand, it could not have been very important to the
Americans to attempt to hem the British within the town, by advancing
one single post a quarter of a mile; while, on the other hand, if the
British found it essential to dislodge the American troops, they had it
in their power at no expense of life. By moving up their ships and
batteries, they could have completely cut off all communication with the
mainland over the Neck, and the forces in the redoubt would have been
reduced to a state of famine in forty-eight hours.

But that was not the day for any such consideration on either side! Both
parties were anxious to try the strength of their arms. The pride of
England would not permit the rebels, as she termed them, to defy her to
the teeth; and, without for a moment calculating the cost, the British
general determined to destroy the fort immediately. On the other side,
Prescott and his gallant followers longed and thirsted for a decisive
trial of strength and of courage. They wished a battle, and wished it at
once. And this is the true secret of the movements on this hill.

I will not attempt to describe that battle. The cannonading; the landing
of the British; their advance; the coolness with which the charge was
met; the repulse; the second attack; the second repulse; the burning of
Charlestown; and, finally, the closing assault, and the slow retreat of
the Americans,--the history of all these is familiar.

But the consequences of the battle of Bunker Hill were greater than
those of any ordinary conflict, although between armies of far greater
force, and terminating with more immediate advantage on the one side or
the other. It was the first great battle of the Revolution; and not only
the first blow, but the blow which determined the contest. It did not,
indeed, put an end to the war, but in the then existing hostile state of
feeling, the difficulties could only be referred to the arbitration of
the sword. And one thing is certain: that after the New England troops
had shown themselves able to face and repulse the regulars, it was
decided that peace never could be established, but upon the basis of the
independence of the Colonies. When the sun of that day went down, the
event of Independence was no longer doubtful. In a few days Washington
heard of the battle, and he inquired if the militia had stood the fire
of the regulars. When told that they had not only stood that fire, but
reserved their own till the enemy was within eight rods, and then poured
it in with tremendous effect, "Then," exclaimed he, "the liberties of
the country are safe!"

The consequences of this battle were just of the same importance as the
Revolution itself.

If there was nothing of value in the principles of the American
Revolution, then there is nothing valuable in the battle of Bunker Hill
and its consequences. But if the Revolution was an era in the history of
man favorable to human happiness, if it was an event which marked the
progress of man all over the world from despotism to liberty, then this
monument is not raised without cause. Then the battle of Bunker Hill is
not an event undeserving; celebrations, commemorations, and rejoicings,
now and in all coming times.

What, then, is the true and peculiar principle of the American
Revolution, and of the systems of government which it has confirmed and
established? The truth is, that the American Revolution was not caused
by the instantaneous discovery of principles of government before
unheard of, or the practical adoption of political ideas such as had
never before entered into the minds of men. It was but the full
development of principles of government, forms of society, and political
sentiments, the origin of all which lay back two centuries in English
and American history.

The discovery of America, its colonization by the nations of Europe, the
history and progress of the colonies, from their establishment to the
time when the principal of them threw off their allegiance to the
respective states by which they had been planted, and founded
governments of their own, constitute one of the most interesting
portions of the annals of man. These events occupied three hundred
years; during which period civilization and knowledge made steady
progress in the Old World; so that Europe, at the commencement of the
nineteenth century, had become greatly changed from that Europe which
began the colonization of America at the close of the fifteenth, or the
commencement of the sixteenth. And what is most material to my present
purpose is, that in the progress of the first of these centuries, that
is to say, from the discovery of America to the settlements of Virginia
and Massachusetts, political and religious events took place, which most
materially affected the state of society and the sentiments of mankind,
especially in England and in parts of Continental Europe. After a few
feeble and unsuccessful efforts by England, under Henry the Seventh, to
plant colonies in America, no designs of that kind were prosecuted for a
long period, either by the English government or any of its subjects.
Without inquiring into the causes of this delay, its consequences are
sufficiently clear and striking. England, in this lapse of a century,
unknown to herself, but under the providence of God and the influence of
events, was fitting herself for the work of colonizing North America, on
such principles, and by such men, as should spread the English name and
English blood, in time, over a great portion of the Western hemisphere.
The commercial spirit was greatly fostered by several laws passed in
the reign of Henry the Seventh; and in the same reign encouragement was
given to arts and manufactures in the eastern counties, and some not
unimportant modifications of the feudal system took place, by allowing
the breaking of entails. These and other measures, and other
occurrences, were making way for a new class of society to emerge, and
show itself, in a military and feudal age; a middle class, between the
barons or great landholders and the retainers of the crown, on the one
side, and the tenants of the crown and barons, and agricultural and
other laborers, on the other side. With the rise and growth of this new
class of society, not only did commerce and the arts increase, but
better education, a greater degree of knowledge, juster notions of the
true ends of government, and sentiments favorable to civil liberty,
began to spread abroad, and become more and more common. But the plants
springing from these seeds were of slow growth. The character of English
society had indeed begun to undergo a change; but changes of national
character are ordinarily the work of time. Operative causes were,
however, evidently in existence, and sure to produce, ultimately, their
proper effect. From the accession of Henry the Seventh to the breaking
out of the civil wars, England enjoyed much greater exemption from war,
foreign and domestic, than for a long period before, and during the
controversy between the houses of York and Lancaster. These years of
peace were favorable to commerce and the arts. Commerce and the arts
augmented general and individual knowledge; and knowledge is the only
fountain, both of the love and the principles of human liberty.

Other powerful causes soon came into active play. The Reformation of
Luther broke out, kindling up the minds of men afresh, leading to new
habits of thought, and awakening in individuals energies before unknown
even to themselves. The religious controversies of this period changed
society, as well as religion; indeed, it would be easy to prove, if this
occasion were proper for it, that they changed society to a considerable
extent, where they did not change the religion of the state. They
changed man himself, in his modes of thought, his consciousness of his
own powers, and his desire of intellectual attainment. The spirit of
commercial and foreign adventure, therefore, on the one hand, which had
gained so much strength and influence since the time of the discovery of
America, and, on the other, the assertion and maintenance of religious
liberty, having their source indeed in the Reformation, but continued,
diversified, and constantly strengthened by the subsequent divisions of
sentiment and opinion among the Reformers themselves, and this love of
religious liberty drawing after it, or bringing along with it, as it
always does, an ardent devotion to the principle of civil liberty also,
were the powerful influences under which character was formed, and men
trained, for the great work of introducing English civilization, English
law, and, what is more than all, Anglo-Saxon blood, into the wilderness
of North America. Raleigh and his companions may be considered as the
creatures, principally, of the first of these causes. High-spirited,
full of the love of personal adventure, excited, too, in some degree, by
the hopes of sudden riches from the discovery of mines of the precious
metals, and not unwilling to diversify the labors of settling a colony
with occasional cruising against the Spaniards in the West Indian seas,
they crossed and recrossed the ocean, with a frequency which surprises
us, when we consider the state of navigation, and which evinces a most
daring spirit.

The other cause peopled New England. The Mayflower sought our shores
under no high-wrought spirit of commercial adventure, no love of gold,
no mixture of purpose warlike or hostile to any human being. Like the
dove from the ark, she had put forth only to find rest. Solemn
supplications on the shore of the sea, in Holland, had invoked for her,
at her departure, the blessings of Providence. The stars which guided
her were the unobscured constellations of civil and religious liberty.
Her deck was the altar of the living God. Fervent prayers on bended
knees mingled, morning and evening, with the voices of ocean, and the
sighing of the wind in her shrouds. Every prosperous breeze, which,
gently swelling her sails, helped the Pilgrims onward in their course,
awoke new anthems of praise; and when the elements were wrought into
fury, neither the tempest, tossing their fragile bark like a feather,
nor the darkness and howling of the midnight storm, ever disturbed, in
man or woman, the firm and settled purpose of their souls, to undergo
all, and to do all, that the meekest patience, the boldest resolution,
and the highest trust in God, could enable human beings to suffer or to

Some differences may, doubtless, be traced at this day between the
descendants of the early colonists of Virginia and those of New England,
owing to the different influences and different circumstances under
which the respective settlements were made; but only enough to create a
pleasing variety in the midst of a general family resemblance.

"Facies, non omnibus una,
Nec diversa tamen, qualem decet esse sororum."

But the habits, sentiments, and objects of both soon became modified by
local causes, growing out of their condition in the New World; and as
this condition was essentially alike in both, and as both at once
adopted the same general rules and principles of English jurisprudence,
and became accustomed to the authority of representative bodies, these
differences gradually diminished. They disappeared by the progress of
time, and the influence of intercourse. The necessity of some degree of
union and co-operation to defend themselves against the savage tribes,
tended to excite in them mutual respect and regard. They fought together
in the wars against France. The great and common cause of the Revolution
bound them to one another by new links of brotherhood; and at length the
present constitution of government united them happily and gloriously,
to form the great republic of the world, and bound up their interests
and fortunes, till the whole earth sees that there is now for them, in
present possession as well as in future hope, but "One Country, One
Constitution, and One Destiny."

The colonization of the tropical region, and the whole of the southern
parts of the continent, by Spain and Portugal, was conducted on other
principles, under the influence of other motives, and followed by far
different consequences. From the time of its discovery, the Spanish
government pushed forward its settlements in America, not only with
vigor, but with eagerness; so that long before the first permanent
English settlement had been accomplished in what is now the United
States, Spain had conquered Mexico, Peru, and Chili, and stretched her
power over nearly all the territory she ever acquired on this continent.
The rapidity of these conquests is to be ascribed in a great degree to
the eagerness, not to say the rapacity, of those numerous bands of
adventurers, who were stimulated by individual interests and private
hopes to subdue immense regions, and take possession of them in the name
of the crown of Spain. The mines of gold and silver were the incitements
to these efforts, and accordingly settlements were generally made, and
Spanish authority established immediately on the subjugation of
territory, that the native population might be set to work by their new
Spanish masters in the mines. From these facts, the love of gold--gold,
not produced by industry, nor accumulated by commerce, but gold dug from
its native bed in the bowels of the earth, and that earth ravished from
its rightful possessors by every possible degree of enormity, cruelty,
and crime--was long the governing passion in Spanish wars and Spanish
settlements in America. Even Columbus himself did not wholly escape the
influence of this base motive. In his early voyages we find him passing
from island to island, inquiring everywhere for gold; as if God had
opened the New World to the knowledge of the Old, only to gratify a
passion equally senseless and sordid, and to offer up millions of an
unoffending race of men to the destruction of the sword, sharpened both
by cruelty and rapacity. And yet Columbus was far above his age and
country. Enthusiastic, indeed, but sober, religious, and magnanimous;
born to great things and capable of high sentiments, as his noble
discourse before Ferdinand and Isabella, as well as the whole history of
his life, shows. Probably he sacrificed much to the known sentiments of
others, and addressed to his followers motives likely to influence them.
At the same time, it is evident that he himself looked upon the world
which he discovered as a world of wealth, all ready to be seized and

The conquerors and the European settlers of Spanish America were mainly
military commanders and common soldiers. The monarchy of Spain was not
transferred to this hemisphere, but it acted in it, as it acted at home,
through its ordinary means, and its true representative, military force.
The robbery and destruction of the native race was the achievement of
standing armies, in the right of the king, and by his authority,
fighting in his name, for the aggrandizement of his power and the
extension of his prerogatives, with military ideas under arbitrary
maxims,--a portion of that dreadful instrumentality by which a perfect
despotism governs a people. As there was no liberty in Spain, how could
liberty be transmitted to Spanish colonies?

The colonists of English America were of the people, and a people
already free. They were of the middle, industrious, and already
prosperous class, the inhabitants of commercial and manufacturing
cities, among whom liberty first revived and respired, after a sleep of
a thousand years in the bosom of the Dark Ages. Spain descended on the
New World in the armed and terrible image of her monarchy and her
soldiery; England approached it in the winning and popular garb of
personal rights, public protection, and civil freedom. England
transplanted liberty to America; Spain transplanted power. England,
through the agency of private companies and the efforts of individuals,
colonized this part of North America by industrious individuals, making
their own way in the wilderness, defending themselves against the
savages, recognizing their right to the soil, and with a general honest
purpose of introducing knowledge as well as Christianity among them.
Spain stooped on South America, like a vulture on its prey. Every thing
was force. Territories were acquired by fire and sword. Cities were
destroyed by fire and sword. Hundreds of thousands of human beings fell
by fire and sword. Even conversion to Christianity was attempted by fire
and sword.

Behold, then, fellow-citizens, the difference resulting from the
operation of the two principles! Here, to-day, on the summit of Bunker
Hill, and at the foot of this monument, behold the difference! I would
that the fifty thousand voices present could proclaim it with a shout
which should be heard over the globe. Our inheritance was of liberty,
secured and regulated by law, and enlightened by religion and knowledge;
that of South America was of power, stern, unrelenting, tyrannical,
military power. And now look to the consequences of the two principles
on the general and aggregate happiness of the human race. Behold the
results, in all the regions conquered by Cortez and Pizarro, and the
contrasted results here. I suppose the territory of the United States
may amount to one eighth, or one tenth, of that colonized by Spain on
this continent; and yet in all that vast region there are but between
one and two millions of people of European color and European blood,
while in the United States there are fourteen millions who rejoice in
their descent from the people of the more northern part of Europe.

But we may follow the difference in the original principle of
colonization, and in its character and objects, still further. We must
look to moral and intellectual results; we must consider consequences,
not only as they show themselves in hastening or retarding the increase
of population and the supply of physical wants, but in their
civilization, improvement, and happiness. We must inquire what progress
has been made in the true science of liberty, in the knowledge of the
great principles of self-government, and in the progress of man, as a
social, moral, and religious being.

I would not willingly say any thing on this occasion discourteous to the
new governments founded on the demolition of the power of the Spanish
monarchy. They are yet on their trial, and I hope for a favorable
result. But truth, sacred truth, and fidelity to the cause of civil
liberty, compel me to say, that hitherto they have discovered quite too
much of the spirit of that monarchy from which they separated
themselves. Quite too frequent resort is made to military force; and
quite too much of the substance of the people is consumed in maintaining
armies, not for defence against foreign aggression, but for enforcing
obedience to domestic authority. Standing armies are the oppressive
instruments for governing the people, in the hands of hereditary and
arbitrary monarchs. A military republic, a government founded on mock
elections and supported only by the sword, is a movement indeed, but a
retrograde and disastrous movement, from the regular and old-fashioned
monarchical systems. If men would enjoy the blessings of republican
government, they must govern themselves by reason, by mutual counsel and
consultation, by a sense and feeling of general interest, and by the
acquiescence of the minority in the will of the majority, properly
expressed; and, above all, the military must be kept, according to the
language of our Bill of Rights, in strict subordination to the civil
authority. Wherever this lesson is not both learned and practised, there
can be no political freedom. Absurd, preposterous is it, a scoff and a
satire on free forms of constitutional liberty, for frames of government
to be prescribed by military leaders, and the right of suffrage to be
exercised at the point of the sword.

Making all allowance for situation and climate, it cannot be doubted by
intelligent minds, that the difference now existing between North and
South America is justly attributable, in a great degree, to political
institutions in the Old World and in the New. And how broad that
difference is! Suppose an assembly, in one of the valleys or on the side
of one of the mountains of the southern half of the hemisphere, to be
held, this day, in the neighborhood of a large city;--what would be the
scene presented? Yonder is a volcano, flaming and smoking, but shedding
no light, moral or intellectual. At its foot is the mine, sometimes
yielding, perhaps, large gains to capital, but in which labor is
destined to eternal and unrequited toil, and followed only by penury and
beggary. The city is filled with armed men; not a free people, armed and
coming forth voluntarily to rejoice in a public festivity, but hireling
troops, supported by forced loans, excessive impositions on commerce, or
taxes wrung from a half-fed and a half-clothed population. For the great
there are palaces covered with gold; for the poor there are hovels of
the meanest sort. There is an ecclesiastical hierarchy, enjoying the
wealth of princes; but there are no means of education for the people.
Do public improvements favor intercourse between place and place? So far
from this, the traveller cannot pass from town to town, without danger,
every mile, of robbery and assassination. I would not overcharge or
exaggerate this picture; but its principal features are all too truly

And how does it contrast with the scene now actually before us? Look
round upon these fields; they are verdant and beautiful, well
cultivated, and at this moment loaded with the riches of the early
harvest. The hands which till them are those of the free owners of the
soil, enjoying equal rights, and protected by law from oppression and
tyranny. Look to the thousand vessels in our sight, filling the harbor,
or covering the neighboring sea. They are the vehicles of a profitable
commerce, carried on by men who know that the profits of their hardy
enterprise, when they make them, are their own; and this commerce is
encouraged and regulated by wise laws, and defended, when need be, by
the valor and patriotism of the country. Look to that fair city, the
abode of so much diffused wealth, so much general happiness and comfort,
so much personal independence, and so much general knowledge, and not
undistinguished, I may be permitted to add, for hospitality and social
refinement. She fears no forced contributions, no siege or sacking from
military leaders of rival factions. The hundred temples in which her
citizens worship God are in no danger of sacrilege. The regular
administration of the laws encounters no obstacle. The long processions
of children and youth, which you see this day, issuing by thousands from
her free schools, prove the care and anxiety with which a popular
government provides for the education and morals of the people.
Everywhere there is order; everywhere there is security. Everywhere the
law reaches to the highest and reaches to the lowest, to protect all in
their rights, and to restrain all from wrong; and over all hovers
liberty,--that liberty for which our fathers fought and fell on this
very spot, with her eye ever watchful, and her eagle wing ever wide


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