The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 7 out of 25


The colonies of Spain, from their origin to their end, were subject to
the sovereign authority of the mother country. Their government, as well
as their commerce, was a strict home monopoly. If we add to this the
established usage of filling important posts in the administration of
the colonies exclusively by natives of Old Spain, thus cutting off for
ever all hopes of honorable preferment from every man born in the
Western hemisphere, causes enough rise up before us at once to account
fully for the subsequent history and character of these provinces. The
viceroys and provincial governors of Spain were never at home in their
governments in America. They did not feel that they were of the people
whom they governed. Their official character and employment have a good
deal of resemblance to those of the proconsuls of Rome, in Asia, Sicily,
and Gaul; but obviously no resemblance to those of Carver and Winthrop,
and very little to those of the governors of Virginia after that Colony
had established a popular House of Burgesses.

The English colonists in America, generally speaking, were men who were
seeking new homes in a new world. They brought with them their families
and all that was most dear to them. This was especially the case with
the colonists of Plymouth and Massachusetts. Many of them were educated
men, and all possessed their full share, according to their social
condition, of the knowledge and attainments of that age. The distinctive
characteristic of their settlement is the introduction of the
civilization of Europe into a wilderness, without bringing with it the
political institutions of Europe. The arts, sciences, and literature of
England came over with the settlers. That great portion of the common
law which regulates the social and personal relations and conduct of
men, came also. The jury came; the _habeas corpus_ came; the
testamentary power came; and the law of inheritance and descent came
also, except that part of it which recognizes the rights of
primogeniture, which either did not come at all, or soon gave way to the
rule of equal partition of estates among children. But the monarchy did
not come, nor the aristocracy, nor the church, as an estate of the
realm. Political institutions were to be framed anew, such as should be
adapted to the state of things. But it could not be doubtful what should
be the nature and character of these institutions. A general social
equality prevailed among the settlers, and an equality of political
rights seemed the natural, if not the necessary consequence. After forty
years of revolution, violence, and war, the people of France have placed
at the head of the fundamental instrument of their government, as the
great boon obtained by all their sufferings and sacrifices, the
declaration that all Frenchmen are equal before the law. What France
has reached only by the expenditure of so much blood and treasure, and
the perpetration of so much crime, the English colonists obtained by
simply changing their place, carrying with them the intellectual and
moral culture of Europe, and the personal and social relations to which
they were accustomed, but leaving behind their political institutions.
It has been said with much vivacity, that the felicity of the American
colonists consisted in their escape from the past. This is true so far
as respects political establishments, but no further. They brought with
them a full portion of all the riches of the past, in science, in art,
in morals, religion, and literature. The Bible came with them. And it is
not to be doubted, that to the free and universal reading of the Bible,
in that age, men were much indebted for right views of civil liberty.
The Bible is a book of faith, and a book of doctrine, and a book of
morals, and a book of religion, of especial revelation from God; but it
is also a book which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his
own dignity, and his equality with his fellow-man.

Bacon and Locke, and Shakspeare and Milton, also came with the
colonists. It was the object of the first settlers to form new political
systems, but all that belonged to cultivated man, to family, to
neighborhood, to social relations, accompanied them. In the Doric phrase
of one of our own historians, "they came to settle on bare creation";
but their settlement in the wilderness, nevertheless, was not a
lodgement of nomadic tribes, a mere resting-place of roaming savages. It
was the beginning of a permanent community, the fixed residence of
cultivated men. Not only was English literature read, but English, good
English, was spoken and written, before the axe had made way to let in
the sun upon the habitations and fields of Plymouth and Massachusetts.
And whatever may be said to the contrary, a correct use of the English
language is, at this day, more general throughout the United States,
than it is throughout England herself.

But another grand characteristic is, that, in the English colonies,
political affairs were left to be managed by the colonists themselves.
This is another fact wholly distinguishing them in character, as it has
distinguished them in fortune, from the colonists of Spain. Here lies
the foundation of that experience in self-government, which has
preserved order, and security, and regularity, amidst the play of
popular institutions. Home government was the secret of the prosperity
of the North American settlements. The more distinguished of the New
England colonists, with a most remarkable sagacity and a long-sighted
reach into futurity, refused to come to America unless they could bring
with them charters providing for the administration of their affairs in
this country.[5] They saw from the first the evils of being governed in
the New World by a power fixed in the Old. Acknowledging the general
superiority of the crown, they still insisted on the right of passing
local laws, and of local administration. And history teaches us the
justice and the value of this determination in the example of Virginia.
The early attempts to settle that Colony failed, sometimes with the most
melancholy and fatal consequences, from want of knowledge, care, and
attention on the part of those who had the charge of their affairs in
England; and it was only after the issuing of the third charter, that
its prosperity fairly commenced. The cause was, that by that third
charter the people of Virginia, for by this time they deserved to be so
called, were allowed to constitute and establish the first popular
representative assembly which ever convened on this continent, the
Virginia House of Burgesses.

The great elements, then, of the American system of government,
originally introduced by the colonists, and which were early in
operation, and ready to be developed, more and more, as the progress of
events should justify or demand, were,--

Escape from the existing political systems of Europe, including its
religious hierarchies, but the continued possession and enjoyment of its
science and arts, its literature, and its manners;

Home government, or the power of making in the colony the municipal laws
which were to govern it;

Equality of rights;

Representative assemblies, or forms of government founded on popular

Few topics are more inviting, or more fit for philosophical discussion,
than the effect on the happiness of mankind of institutions founded upon
these principles; or, in other words, the influence of the New World
upon the Old.

Her obligations to Europe for science and art, laws, literature, and
manners, America acknowledges as she ought, with respect and gratitude.
The people of the United States, descendants of the English stock,
grateful for the treasures of knowledge derived from their English
ancestors, admit also, with thanks and filial regard, that among those
ancestors, under the culture of Hampden and Sydney and other assiduous
friends, that seed of popular liberty first germinated, which on our
soil has shot up to its full height, until its branches overshadow all
the land.

But America has not failed to make returns. If she has not wholly
cancelled the obligation, or equalled it by others of like weight, she
has, at least, made respectable advances towards repaying the debt. And
she admits, that, standing in the midst of civilized nations, and in a
civilized age, a nation among nations, there is a high part which she is
expected to act, for the general advancement of human interests and
human welfare.

American mines have filled the mints of Europe with the precious metals.
The productions of the American soil and climate have poured out their
abundance of luxuries for the tables of the rich, and of necessaries for
the sustenance of the poor. Birds and animals of beauty and value have
been added to the European stocks; and transplantations from the
unequalled riches of our forests have mingled themselves profusely with
the elms, and ashes, and Druidical oaks of England.

America has made contributions to Europe far more important. Who can
estimate the amount, or the value, of the augmentation of the commerce
of the world that has resulted from America? Who can imagine to himself
what would now be the shock to the Eastern Continent, if the Atlantic
were no longer traversable, or if there were no longer American
productions, or American markets?

But America exercises influences, or holds out examples, for the
consideration of the Old World, of a much higher, because they are of a
moral and political character.

America has furnished to Europe proof of the fact, that popular
institutions, founded on equality and the principle of representation,
are capable of maintaining governments, able to secure the rights of
person, property, and reputation.

America has proved that it is practicable to elevate the mass of
mankind,--that portion which in Europe is called the laboring, or lower
class,--to raise them to self-respect, to make them competent to act a
part in the great right and great duty of self-government; and she has
proved that this may be done by education and the diffusion of
knowledge. She holds out an example, a thousand times more encouraging
than ever was presented before, to those nine tenths of the human race
who are born without hereditary fortune or hereditary rank.

America has furnished to the world the character of Washington! And if
our American institutions had done nothing else, that alone would have
entitled them to the respect of mankind.

Washington! "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of
his countrymen!" Washington is all our own! The enthusiastic veneration
and regard in which the people of the United States hold him, prove
them to be worthy of such a countryman; while his reputation abroad
reflects the highest honor on his country. I would cheerfully put the
question to-day to the intelligence of Europe and the world, what
character of the century, upon the whole, stands out in the relief of
history, most pure, most respectable, most sublime; and I doubt not,
that, by a suffrage approaching to unanimity, the answer would be

The structure now standing before us, by its uprightness, its solidity,
its durability, is no unfit emblem of his character. His public virtues
and public principles were as firm as the earth on which it stands; his
personal motives, as pure as the serene heaven in which its summit is
lost. But, indeed, though a fit, it is an inadequate emblem. Towering
high above the column which our hands have builded, beheld, not by the
inhabitants of a single city or a single State, but by all the families
of man, ascends the colossal grandeur of the character and life of
Washington. In all the constituents of the one, in all the acts of the
other, in all its titles to immortal love, admiration, and renown, it is
an American production. It is the embodiment and vindication of our
Transatlantic liberty. Born upon our soil, of parents also born upon it;
never for a moment having had sight of the Old World; instructed,
according to the modes of his time, only in the spare, plain, but
wholesome elementary knowledge which our institutions provide for the
children of the people; growing up beneath and penetrated by the genuine
influences of American society; living from infancy to manhood and age
amidst our expanding, but not luxurious civilization; partaking in our
great destiny of labor, our long contest with unreclaimed nature and
uncivilized man, our agony of glory, the war of Independence, our great
victory of peace, the formation of the Union, and the establishment of
the Constitution,--he is all, all our own! Washington is ours. That
crowded and glorious life,

"Where multitudes of virtues passed along,
Each pressing foremost, in the mighty throng
Ambitious to be seen, then making room
For greater multitudes that were to come,"--

that life was the life of an American citizen.

I claim him for America. In all the perils, in every darkened moment of
the state, in the midst of the reproaches of enemies and the misgiving
of friends, I turn to that transcendent name for courage and for
consolation. To him who denies or doubts whether our fervid liberty can
be combined with law, with order, with the security of property, with
the pursuits and advancement of happiness; to him who denies that our
forms of government are capable of producing exaltation of soul, and the
passion of true glory; to him who denies that we have contributed any
thing to the stock of great lessons and great examples;--to all these I
reply by pointing to Washington!

And now, friends and fellow-citizens, it is time to bring this discourse
to a close.

We have indulged in gratifying recollections of the past, in the
prosperity and pleasures of the present, and in high hopes for the
future. But let us remember that we have duties and obligations to
perform, corresponding to the blessings which we enjoy. Let us remember
the trust, the sacred trust, attaching to the rich inheritance which we
have received from our fathers. Let us feel our personal responsibility,
to the full extent of our power and influence, for the preservation of
the principles of civil and religious liberty. And let us remember that
it is only religion, and morals, and knowledge, that can make men
respectable and happy, under any form of government. Let us hold fast
the great truth, that communities are responsible, as well as
individuals; that no government is respectable, which is not just; that
without unspotted purity of public faith, without sacred public
principle, fidelity, and honor, no mere forms of government, no
machinery of laws, can give dignity to political society. In our day
and generation let us seek to raise and improve the moral sentiment, so
that we may look, not for a degraded, but for an elevated and improved
future. And when both we and our children shall have been consigned to
the house appointed for all living, may love of country and pride of
country glow with equal fervor among those to whom our names and our
blood shall have descended! And then, when honored and decrepit age
shall lean against the base of this monument, and troops of ingenuous
youth shall be gathered round it, and when the one shall speak to the
other of its objects, the purposes of its construction, and the great
and glorious events with which it is connected, there shall rise from
every youthful breast the ejaculation, "Thank God, I--I also--AM AN

* * * * *


Page 139.

The following description of the Bunker Hill Monument and Square is from
Mr. Frothingham's History of the Siege of Boston, pp. 355, 356.

"Monument Square is four hundred and seventeen feet from north to
south, and four hundred feet from east to west, and contains nearly
six acres. It embraces the whole site of the redoubt, and a part of
the site of the breastwork. According to the most accurate plan of
the town and the battle (Page's), the monument stands where the
southwest angle of the redoubt was, and the whole of the redoubt
was between the monument and the street that bounds it on the west.
The small mound in the northeast corner of the square is supposed
to be the remains of the breastwork. Warren fell about two hundred
feet west of the monument. An iron fence encloses the square, and
another surrounds the monument. The square has entrances on each of
its sides, and at each of its corners, and is surrounded by a walk
and rows of trees.

"The obelisk is thirty feet in diameter at the base, about fifteen
feet at the top of the truncated part, and was designed to be two
hundred and twenty feet high; but the mortar and the seams between
the stones make the precise height two hundred and twenty-one feet.
Within the shaft is a hollow cone, with a spiral stairway winding
round it to its summit, which enters a circular chamber at the top.
There are ninety courses of stone in the shaft,--six of them below
the ground, and eighty-four above the ground. The capstone, or
apex, is a single stone four feet square at the base, and three
feet six inches in height, weighing two and half tons."

[Footnote 1: William Tudor died at Rio de Janeiro, as Charge d'Affaires
of the United States, in 1830.]

[Footnote 2: William Sullivan died in Boston in 1839, George Blake in
1841, both gentlemen of great political and legal eminence.]

[Footnote 3: William Prescott (since deceased, in 1844), son of Colonel
William Prescott, who commanded on the 17th of June, 1775, and father of
William H. Prescott, the historian.]

[Footnote 4: See the Note at the end of the Address.]

[Footnote 5: See the "Records of the Company of the Massachusetts Bay in
New England," as published in the third volume of the Transactions of
the American Antiquarian Society, pp. 47-50.]



It has been affirmed, that this measure, and the sentiments expressed by
the Executive relative to its objects, are an acknowledged departure
from the neutral policy of the United States. Sir, I deny that there is
an acknowledged departure, or any departure at all, from the neutral
policy of the country. What do we mean by our neutral policy? Not, I
suppose, a blind and stupid indifference to whatever is passing around
us; not a total disregard to approaching events, or approaching evils,
till they meet us full in the face. Nor do we mean, by our neutral
policy, that we intend never to assert our rights by force. No, Sir. We
mean by our policy of neutrality, that the great objects of national
pursuit with us are connected with peace. We covet no provinces; we
desire no conquests; we entertain no ambitious projects of
aggrandizement by war. This is our policy. But it does not follow from
this, that we rely less than other nations on our own power to vindicate
our own rights. We know that the last logic of kings is also our last
logic; that our own interests must be defended and maintained by our own
arm; and that peace or war may not always be of our own choosing. Our
neutral policy, therefore, not only justifies, but requires, our anxious
attention to the political events which take place in the world, a
skilful perception of their relation to our own concerns, and an early
anticipation of their consequences, and firm and timely assertion of
what we hold to be our own rights and our own interests. Our neutrality
is not a predetermined abstinence, either from remonstrances, or from
force. Our neutral policy is a policy that protects neutrality, that
defends neutrality, that takes up arms, if need be, for neutrality. When
it is said, therefore, that this measure departs from our neutral
policy, either that policy, or the measure itself, is misunderstood. It
implies either that the object or the tendency of the measure is to
involve us in the war of other states, which I think cannot be shown, or
that the assertion of our own sentiments, on points affecting deeply our
own interests, may place us in a hostile attitude toward other states,
and that therefore we depart from neutrality; whereas the truth is, that
the decisive assertion and the firm support of these sentiments may be
most essential to the maintenance of neutrality.

An honorable member from Pennsylvania thinks this congress will bring a
dark day over the United States. Doubtless, Sir, it is an interesting
moment in our history; but I see no great proofs of thick-coming
darkness. But the object of the remark seemed to be to show that the
President himself saw difficulties on all sides, and, making a choice of
evils, preferred rather to send ministers to this congress, than to run
the risk of exciting the hostility of the states by refusing to send. In
other words, the gentleman wished to prove that the President intended
an alliance; although such intention is expressly disclaimed.

Much commentary has been bestowed on the letters of invitation from the
ministers. I shall not go through with verbal criticisms on these
letters. Their general import is plain enough. I shall not gather
together small and minute quotations, taking a sentence here, a word
there, and a syllable in a third place, dovetailing them into the course
of remark, till the printed discourse bristles in every line with
inverted commas. I look to the general tenor of the invitations, and I
find that we are asked to take part only in such things as concern
ourselves. I look still more carefully to the answers, and I see every
proper caution and proper guard. I look to the message, and I see that
nothing is there contemplated likely to involve us in other men's
quarrels, or that may justly give offence to any foreign state. With
this I am satisfied.

I must now ask the indulgence of the committee to an important point in
the discussion, I mean the declaration of the President in 1823.[1] Not
only as a member of the House, but as a citizen of the country, I have
an anxious desire that this part of our public history should stand in
its proper light. The country has, in my judgment, a very high honor
connected with that occurrence, which we may maintain, or which we may
sacrifice. I look upon it as a part of its treasures of reputation; and,
for one, I intend to guard it.

Sir, let us recur to the important political events which led to that
declaration, or accompanied it. In the fall of 1822, the allied
sovereigns held their congress at Verona. The great subject of
consideration was the condition of Spain, that country then being under
the government of the Cortes. The question was, whether Ferdinand should
be reinstated in all his authority, by the intervention of foreign
force. Russia, Prussia, France, and Austria were inclined to that
measure; England dissented and protested; but the course was agreed on,
and France, with the consent of these other Continental powers, took the
conduct of the operation into her own hands. In the spring of 1823, a
French army was sent into Spain. Its success was complete. The popular
government was overthrown, and Ferdinand re-established in all his
power. This invasion, Sir, was determined on, and undertaken, precisely
on the doctrines which the allied monarchs had proclaimed the year
before, at Laybach; that is, that they had a right to interfere in the
concerns of another state, and reform its government, in order to
prevent the effects of its bad example; this bad example, be it
remembered, always being the example of free government. Now, Sir,
acting on this principle of supposed dangerous example, and having put
down the example of the Cortes in Spain, it was natural to inquire with
what eyes they would look on the colonies of Spain, that were following
still worse examples. Would King Ferdinand and his allies be content
with what had been done in Spain itself, or would he solicit their aid,
and was it likely they would grant it, to subdue his rebellious American

Sir, it was in this posture of affairs, on an occasion which has already
been alluded to, that I ventured to say, early in the session of
December, 1823, that these allied monarchs might possibly turn their
attention to America; that America came within their avowed doctrine,
and that her examples might very possibly attract their notice. The
doctrines of Laybach were not limited to any continent. Spain had
colonies in America, and having reformed Spain herself to the true
standard, it was not impossible that they might see fit to complete the
work by reconciling, in their way, the colonies to the mother country.
Now, Sir, it did so happen, that, as soon as the Spanish king was
completely re-established, he invited the co-operation of his allies in
regard to South America. In the same month of December, of 1823, a
formal invitation was addressed by Spain to the courts of St.
Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, proposing to establish a
conference at Paris, in order that the plenipotentiaries there assembled
might aid Spain in adjusting the affairs of her revolted provinces.
These affairs were proposed to be adjusted in such manner as should
retain the sovereignty of Spain over them; and though the co-operation
of the allies by force of arms was not directly solicited, such was
evidently the object aimed at. The king of Spain, in making this request
to the members of the Holy Alliance, argued as it has been seen he might
argue. He quoted their own doctrines of Laybach; he pointed out the
pernicious example of America; and he reminded them that their success
in Spain itself had paved the way for successful operations against the
spirit of liberty on this side of the Atlantic.

The proposed meeting, however, did not take place. England had already
taken a decided course; for as early as October, Mr. Canning, in a
conference with the French minister in London, informed him distinctly
and expressly, that England would consider any foreign interference, by
force or by menace, in the dispute between Spain and the colonies, as a
motive for recognizing the latter without delay. It is probable this
determination of the English government was known here at the
commencement of the session of Congress; and it was under these
circumstances, it was in this crisis, that Mr. Monroe's declaration was
made. It was not then ascertained whether a meeting of the Allies would
or would not take place, to concert with Spain the means of
re-establishing her power; but it was plain enough they would be pressed
by Spain to aid her operations; and it was plain enough, also, that they
had no particular liking to what was taking place on this side of the
Atlantic, nor any great disinclination to interfere. This was the
posture of affairs; and, Sir, I concur entirely in the sentiment
expressed in the resolution of a gentleman from Pennsylvania,[2] that
this declaration of Mr. Monroe was wise, seasonable, and patriotic.

It has been said, in the course of this debate, to have been a loose and
vague declaration. It was, I believe, sufficiently studied. I have
understood, from good authority, that it was considered, weighed, and
distinctly and decidedly approved, by every one of the President's
advisers at that time. Our government could not adopt on that occasion
precisely the course which England had taken. England threatened the
immediate recognition of the provinces, if the Allies should take part
with Spain against them. We had already recognized them. It remained,
therefore, only for our government to say how we should consider a
combination of the Allied Powers, to effect objects in America, as
affecting ourselves; and the message was intended to say, what it does
say, that we should regard such combination as dangerous to us. Sir, I
agree with those who maintain the proposition, and I contend against
those who deny it, that the message did mean something; that it meant
much; and I maintain, against both, that the declaration effected much
good, answered the end designed by it, did great honor to the foresight
and the spirit of the government, and that it cannot now be taken back,
retracted, or annulled, without disgrace. It met, Sir, with the entire
concurrence and the hearty approbation of the country. The tone which it
uttered found a corresponding response in the breasts of the free people
of the United States. That people saw, and they rejoiced to see, that,
on a fit occasion, our weight had been thrown into the right scale, and
that, without departing from our duty, we had done something useful, and
something effectual, for the cause of civil liberty. One general glow of
exultation, one universal feeling of the gratified love of liberty, one
conscious and proud perception of the consideration which the country
possessed, and of the respect and honor which belonged to it, pervaded
all bosoms. Possibly the public enthusiasm went too far; it certainly
did go far. But, Sir, the sentiment which this declaration inspired was
not confined to ourselves. Its force was felt everywhere, by all those
who could understand its object and foresee its effect. In that very
House of Commons of which the gentleman from South Carolina has spoken
with such commendation, how was it received? Not only, Sir, with
approbation, but, I may say, with no little enthusiasm. While the
leading minister[3] expressed his entire concurrence in the sentiments
and opinions of the American President, his distinguished competitor[4]
in that popular body, less restrained by official decorum, and more at
liberty to give utterance to all the feeling of the occasion, declared
that no event had ever created greater joy, exultation, and gratitude
among all the free men in Europe; that he felt pride in being connected
by blood and language with the people of the United States; that the
policy disclosed by the message became a great, a free, and an
independent nation; and that he hoped his own country would be prevented
by no mean pride, or paltry jealousy, from following so noble and
glorious an example.

It is doubtless true, as I took occasion to observe the other day, that
this declaration must be considered as founded on our rights, and to
spring mainly from a regard to their preservation. It did not commit us,
at all events, to take up arms on any indication of hostile feeling by
the powers of Europe towards South America. If, for example, all the
states of Europe had refused to trade with South America until her
states should return to their former allegiance, that would have
furnished no cause of interference to us. Or if an armament had been
furnished by the Allies to act against provinces the most remote from
us, as Chili or Buenos Ayres, the distance of the scene of action
diminishing our apprehension of danger, and diminishing also our means
of effectual interposition, might still have left us to content
ourselves with remonstrance. But a very different case would have
arisen, if an army, equipped and maintained by these powers, had been
landed on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, and commenced the war in our
own immediate neighborhood. Such an event might justly be regarded as
dangerous to ourselves, and, on that ground, call for decided and
immediate interference by us. The sentiments and the policy announced by
the declaration, thus understood, were, therefore, in strict conformity
to our duties and our interest.

Sir, I look on the message of December, 1823, as forming a bright page
in our history. I will help neither to erase it nor tear it out; nor
shall it be, by any act of mine, blurred or blotted. It did honor to the
sagacity of the government, and I will not diminish that honor. It
elevated the hopes, and gratified the patriotism, of the people. Over
those hopes I will not bring a mildew; nor will I put that gratified
patriotism to shame.

[Footnote 1: In the message of President Monroe to Congress at the
commencement of the session of 1823-24, the following passage
occurs:--"In the wars of the European powers, in matters relating to
themselves, we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our
policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded, or seriously
menaced, that we resent injuries or make preparations for defence. With
the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately
connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and
impartial observers. The political system of the Allied Powers is
essentially different, in this respect, from that of America. This
difference proceeds from that which exists in their respective
governments. And to the defence of our own, which has been achieved by
the loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of
their most enlightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed such
unexampled felicity, this whole nation is devoted. We owe it, therefore,
to candor, and to the amicable relations existing between the United
States and those powers, to declare that we should consider any attempt
on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere
as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or
dependencies of any European power, we have not interfered, and shall
not interfere. But with the governments who have declared their
independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have on great
consideration and on just principles acknowledged, we could not view any
interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any
other manner their destiny, in any other light than as the manifestation
of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States."]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Markley.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Canning.]

[Footnote 4: Mr. Brougham.]


AUGUST, 1826.

[Since the decease of General Washington, on the 14th of December, 1799,
the public mind has never been so powerfully affected in this part of
the country by any similar event, as by the death of John Adams, on the
4th of July, 1826. The news reached Boston in the evening of that day.
The decease of this venerable fellow-citizen must at all times have
appealed with much force to the patriotic sympathies of the people of
Massachusetts. It acquired a singular interest from the year and the day
on which it took place;--the 4th of July of the year completing the
half-century from that ever memorable era in the history of this country
and the world, the Declaration of Independence; a measure in which Mr.
Adams himself had taken so distinguished a part. The emotions of the
public were greatly increased by the indications given by Mr. Adams in
his last hours, that he was fully aware that the day was the anniversary
of Independence, and by his dying allusion to the supposed fact that his
colleague, Jefferson, survived him. When, in the course of a few days,
the news arrived from Virginia, that he also had departed this life, on
the same day and a few hours before Mr. Adams, the sensibility of the
community, as of the country at large, was touched beyond all example.
The occurrence was justly deemed without a parallel in history. The
various circumstances of association and coincidence which marked the
characters and careers of these great men, and especially those of their
simultaneous decease on the 4th of July, were dwelt upon with melancholy
but untiring interest. The circles of private life, the press, public
bodies, and the pulpit, were for some time almost engrossed with the
topic; and solemn rites of commemoration were performed throughout the

An early day was appointed for this purpose by the City Council of
Boston. The whole community manifested its sympathy in the extraordinary
event; and on the 2d of August, 1826, at the request of the municipal
authorities, and in the presence of an immense audience, the following
Discourse was delivered in Faneuil Hall.]

This is an unaccustomed spectacle. For the first time, fellow-citizens,
badges of mourning shroud the columns and overhang the arches of this
hall. These walls, which were consecrated, so long ago, to the cause of
American liberty, which witnessed her infant struggles, and rung with
the shouts of her earliest victories, proclaim, now, that distinguished
friends and champions of that great cause have fallen. It is right that
it should be thus. The tears which flow, and the honors that are paid,
when the founders of the republic die, give hope that the republic
itself may be immortal. It is fit that, by public assembly and solemn
observance, by anthem and by eulogy, we commemorate the services of
national benefactors, extol their virtues, and render thanks to God for
eminent blessings, early given and long continued, through their agency,
to our favored country.

ADAMS and JEFFERSON are no more; and we are assembled, fellow-citizens,
the aged, the middle-aged, and the young, by the spontaneous impulse of
all, under the authority of the municipal government, with the presence
of the chief magistrate of the Commonwealth, and others its official
representatives, the University, and the learned societies, to bear our
part in those manifestations of respect and gratitude which pervade the
whole land. ADAMS and JEFFERSON are no more. On our fiftieth
anniversary, the great day of national jubilee, in the very hour of
public rejoicing, in the midst of echoing and re-echoing voices of
thanksgiving, while their own names were on all tongues, they took their
flight together to the world of spirits.

If it be true that no one can safely be pronounced happy while he lives,
if that event which terminates life can alone crown its honors and its
glory, what felicity is here! The great epic of their lives, how happily
concluded! Poetry itself has hardly terminated illustrious lives, and
finished the career of earthly renown, by such a consummation. If we had
the power, we could not wish to reverse this dispensation of the Divine
Providence. The great objects of life were accomplished, the drama was
ready to be closed. It has closed; our patriots have fallen; but so
fallen, at such age, with such coincidence, on such a day, that we
cannot rationally lament that that end has come, which we knew could not
be long deferred.

Neither of these great men, fellow-citizens, could have died, at any
time, without leaving an immense void in our American society. They have
been so intimately, and for so long a time, blended with the history of
the country, and especially so united, in our thoughts and
recollections, with the events of the Revolution, that the death of
either would have touched the chords of public sympathy. We should have
felt that one great link, connecting us with former times, was broken;
that we had lost something more, as it were, of the presence of the
Revolution itself, and of the act of independence, and were driven on,
by another great remove from the days of our country's early
distinction, to meet posterity, and to mix with the future. Like the
mariner, whom the currents of the ocean and the winds carry along, till
he sees the stars which have directed his course and lighted his
pathless way descend, one by one, beneath the rising horizon, we should
have felt that the stream of time had borne us onward till another great
luminary, whose light had cheered us and whose guidance we had followed,
had sunk away from our sight.

But the concurrence of their death on the anniversary of Independence
has naturally awakened stronger emotions. Both had been Presidents, both
had lived to great age, both were early patriots, and both were
distinguished and ever honored by their immediate agency in the act of
independence. It cannot but seem striking and extraordinary, that these
two should live to see the fiftieth year from the date of that act; that
they should complete that year; and that then, on the day which had fast
linked for ever their own fame with their country's glory, the heavens
should open to receive them both at once. As their lives themselves were
the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy
termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our
country and its benefactors are objects of His care?

ADAMS and JEFFERSON, I have said, are no more. As human beings, indeed,
they are no more. They are no more, as in 1776, bold and fearless
advocates of independence; no more, as at subsequent periods, the head
of the government; no more, as we have recently seen them, aged and
venerable objects of admiration and regard. They are no more. They are
dead. But how little is there of the great and good which can die! To
their country they yet live, and live for ever. They live in all that
perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth; in the recorded proofs of
their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the
deep-engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage
of mankind. They live in their example; and they live, emphatically, and
will live, in the influence which their lives and efforts, their
principles and opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on
the affairs of men, not only in their own country, but throughout the
civilized world. A superior and commanding human intellect, a truly
great man, when Heaven vouchsafes so rare a gift, is not a temporary
flame, burning brightly for a while, and then giving place to returning
darkness. It is rather a spark of fervent heat, as well as radiant
light, with power to enkindle the common mass of human mind; so that
when it glimmers in its own decay, and finally goes out in death, no
night follows, but it leaves the world all light, all on fire, from the
potent contact of its own spirit. Bacon died; but the human
understanding, roused by the touch of his miraculous wand to a
perception of the true philosophy and the just mode of inquiring after
truth, has kept on its course successfully and gloriously. Newton died;
yet the courses of the spheres are still known, and they yet move on by
the laws which he discovered, and in the orbits which he saw, and
described for them, in the infinity of space.

No two men now live, fellow-citizens, perhaps it may be doubted whether
any two men have ever lived in one age, who, more than those we now
commemorate, have impressed on mankind their own sentiments in regard to
politics and government, infused their own opinions more deeply into the
opinions of others, or given a more lasting direction to the current of
human thought. Their work doth not perish with them. The tree which they
assisted to plant will flourish, although they water it and protect it
no longer; for it has struck its roots deep, it has sent them to the
very centre; no storm, not of force to burst the orb, can overturn it;
its branches spread wide; they stretch their protecting arms broader and
broader, and its top is destined to reach the heavens. We are not
deceived. There is no delusion here. No age will come in which the
American Revolution will appear less than it is, one of the greatest
events in human history. No age will come in which it shall cease to be
seen and felt, on either continent, that a mighty step, a great advance,
not only in American affairs, but in human affairs, was made on the 4th
of July, 1776. And no age will come, we trust, so ignorant or so unjust
as not to see and acknowledge the efficient agency of those we now honor
in producing that momentous event.

We are not assembled, therefore, fellow-citizens, as men overwhelmed
with calamity by the sudden disruption of the ties of friendship or
affection, or as in despair for the republic by the untimely blighting
of its hopes. Death has not surprised us by an unseasonable blow. We
have, indeed, seen the tomb close, but it has closed only over mature
years, over long-protracted public service, over the weakness of age,
and over life itself only when the ends of living had been fulfilled.
These suns, as they rose slowly and steadily, amidst clouds and storms,
in their ascendant, so they have not rushed from their meridian to sink
suddenly in the west. Like the mildness, the serenity, the continuing
benignity of a summer's day, they have gone down with slow-descending,
grateful, long-lingering light; and now that they are beyond the visible
margin of the world, good omens cheer us from "the bright track of their
fiery car"!

There were many points of similarity in the lives and fortunes of these
great men. They belonged to the same profession, and had pursued its
studies and its practice, for unequal lengths of time indeed, but with
diligence and effect. Both were learned and able lawyers. They were
natives and inhabitants, respectively, of those two of the Colonies
which at the Revolution were the largest and most powerful, and which
naturally had a lead in the political affairs of the times. When the
Colonies became in some degree united, by the assembling of a general
Congress, they were brought to act together in its deliberations, not
indeed at the same time, but both at early periods. Each had already
manifested his attachment to the cause of the country, as well as his
ability to maintain it, by printed addresses, public speeches,
extensive correspondence, and whatever other mode could be adopted for
the purpose of exposing the encroachments of the British Parliament and
animating the people to a manly resistance. Both were not only decided,
but early, friends of Independence. While others yet doubted, they were
resolved; where others hesitated, they pressed forward. They were both
members of the committee for preparing the Declaration of Independence,
and they constituted the sub-committee appointed by the other members to
make the draft. They left their seats in Congress, being called to other
public employments, at periods not remote from each other, although one
of them returned to it afterwards for a short time. Neither of them was
of the assembly of great men which formed the present Constitution, and
neither was at any time a member of Congress under its provisions. Both
have been public ministers abroad, both Vice-Presidents and both
Presidents of the United States. These coincidences are now singularly
crowned and completed. They have died together; and they died on the
anniversary of liberty.

When many of us were last in this place, fellow-citizens, it was on the
day of that anniversary. We were met to enjoy the festivities belonging
to the occasion, and to manifest our grateful homage to our political
fathers. We did not, we could not here, forget our venerable neighbor of
Quincy. We knew that we were standing, at a time of high and palmy
prosperity, where he had stood in the hour of utmost peril; that we saw
nothing but liberty and security, where he had met the frown of power;
that we were enjoying every thing, where he had hazarded every thing;
and just and sincere plaudits rose to his name, from the crowds which
filled this area, and hung over these galleries. He whose grateful duty
it was to speak to us,[1] on that day, of the virtues of our fathers,
had, indeed, admonished us that time and years were about to level his
venerable frame with the dust. But he bade us hope that "the sound of a
nation's joy, rushing from our cities, ringing from our valleys, echoing
from our hills, might yet break the silence of his aged ear; that the
rising blessings of grateful millions might yet visit with glad light
his decaying vision." Alas! that vision was then closing for ever. Alas!
the silence which was then settling on that aged ear was an everlasting
silence! For, lo! in the very moment of our festivities, his freed
spirit ascended to God who gave it! Human aid and human solace terminate
at the grave; or we would gladly have borne him upward, on a nation's
outspread hands; we would have accompanied him, and with the blessings
of millions and the prayers of millions, commended him to the Divine

While still indulging our thoughts, on the coincidence of the death of
this venerable man with the anniversary of Independence, we learn that
Jefferson, too, has fallen; and that these aged patriots, these
illustrious fellow-laborers, have left our world together. May not such
events raise the suggestion that they are not undesigned, and that
Heaven does so order things, as sometimes to attract strongly the
attention and excite the thoughts of men? The occurrence has added new
interest to our anniversary, and will be remembered in all time to come.

The occasion, fellow-citizens, requires some account of the lives and
services of JOHN ADAMS and THOMAS JEFFERSON. This duty must necessarily
be performed with great brevity, and in the discharge of it I shall be
obliged to confine myself, principally, to those parts of their history
and character which belonged to them as public men.

JOHN ADAMS was born at Quincy, then part of the ancient town of
Braintree, on the 19th day of October (old style), 1735. He was a
descendant of the Puritans, his ancestors having early emigrated from
England, and settled in Massachusetts. Discovering in childhood a strong
love of reading and of knowledge, together with marks of great strength
and activity of mind, proper care was taken by his worthy father to
provide for his education. He pursued his youthful studies in Braintree,
under Mr. Marsh, a teacher whose fortune it was that Josiah Quincy, Jr.,
as well as the subject of these remarks, should receive from him his
instruction in the rudiments of classical literature. Having been
admitted, in 1751, a member of Harvard College, Mr. Adams was graduated,
in course, in 1755; and on the catalogue of that institution, his name,
at the time of his death, was second among the living Alumni, being
preceded only by that of the venerable Holyoke. With what degree of
reputation he left the University is not now precisely known. We know
only that he was distinguished in a class which numbered Locke and
Hemmenway among its members. Choosing the law for his profession, he
commenced and prosecuted its studies at Worcester, under the direction
of Samuel Putnam, a gentleman whom he has himself described as an acute
man, an able and learned lawyer, and as being in large professional
practice at that time. In 1758 he was admitted to the bar, and entered
upon the practice of the law in Braintree. He is understood to have made
his first considerable effort, or to have attained his first signal
success, at Plymouth, on one of those occasions which furnish the
earliest opportunity for distinction to many young men of the
profession, a jury trial, and a criminal cause. His business naturally
grew with his reputation, and his residence in the vicinity afforded the
opportunity, as his growing eminence gave the power, of entering on a
larger field of practice in the capital. In 1766 he removed his
residence to Boston, still continuing his attendance on the neighboring
circuits, and not unfrequently called to remote parts of the Province.
In 1770 his professional firmness was brought to a test of some
severity, on the application of the British officers and soldiers to
undertake their defence, on the trial of the indictments found against
them on account of the transactions of the memorable 5th of March. He
seems to have thought, on this occasion, that a man can no more abandon
the proper duties of his profession, than he can abandon other duties.
The event proved, that, as he judged well for his own reputation, so,
too, he judged well for the interest and permanent fame of his country.
The result of that trial proved, that, notwithstanding the high degree
of excitement then existing in consequence of the measures of the
British government, a jury of Massachusetts would not deprive the most
reckless enemies, even the officers of that standing army quartered
among them, which they so perfectly abhorred, of any part of that
protection which the law, in its mildest and most indulgent
interpretation, affords to persons accused of crimes.

Without following Mr. Adams's professional course further, suffice it to
say, that on the first establishment of the judicial tribunals under the
authority of the State, in 1776, he received an offer of the high and
responsible station of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of
Massachusetts. But he was destined for another and a different career.
From early life the bent of his mind was toward politics; a propensity
which the state of the times, if it did not create, doubtless very much
strengthened. Public subjects must have occupied the thoughts and filled
up the conversation in the circles in which he then moved; and the
interesting questions at that time just arising could not but seize on a
mind like his, ardent, sanguine, and patriotic. A letter, fortunately
preserved, written by him at Worcester, so early as the 12th of October,
1755, is a proof of very comprehensive views, and uncommon depth of
reflection, in a young man not yet quite twenty. In this letter he
predicted the transfer of power, and the establishment of a new seat of
empire in America; he predicted, also, the increase of population in the
Colonies; and anticipated their naval distinction, and foretold that all
Europe combined could not subdue them. All this is said, not on a public
occasion or for effect, but in the style of sober and friendly
correspondence, as the result of his own thoughts. "I sometimes retire,"
said he, at the close of the letter, "and, laying things together, form
some reflections pleasing to myself. The produce of one of these
reveries you have read above." This prognostication so early in his own
life, so early in the history of the country, of independence, of vast
increase of numbers, of naval force, of such augmented power as might
defy all Europe, is remarkable. It is more remarkable that its author
should live to see fulfilled to the letter what could have seemed to
others, at the time, but the extravagance of youthful fancy. His
earliest political feelings were thus strongly American, and from this
ardent attachment to his native soil he never departed.

While still living at Quincy, and at the age of twenty-four, Mr. Adams
was present, in this town, at the argument before the Supreme Court
respecting _Writs of Assistance_, and heard the celebrated and patriotic
speech of JAMES OTIS. Unquestionably, that was a masterly performance.
No flighty declamation about liberty, no superficial discussion of
popular topics, it was a learned, penetrating, convincing,
constitutional argument, expressed in a strain of high and resolute
patriotism. He grasped the question then pending between England and her
Colonies with the strength of a lion; and if he sometimes sported, it
was only because the lion himself is sometimes playful. Its success
appears to have been as great as its merits, and its impression was
widely felt. Mr. Adams himself seems never to have lost the feeling it
produced, and to have entertained constantly the fullest conviction of
its important effects. "I do say," he observes, "in the most solemn
manner, that Mr. Otis's Oration against Writs of Assistance breathed
into this nation the breath of life."[2]

In 1765 Mr. Adams laid before the public, anonymously, a series of
essays, afterwards collected in a volume in London, under the title of
"A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law."[3] The object of this work
was to show that our New England ancestors, in consenting to exile
themselves from their native land, were actuated mainly by the desire of
delivering themselves from the power of the hierarchy, and from the
monarchical and aristocratical systems of the other continent; and to
make this truth bear with effect on the politics of the times. Its tone
is uncommonly bold and animated for that period. He calls on the people,
not only to defend, but to study and understand, their rights and
privileges; urges earnestly the necessity of diffusing general
knowledge; invokes the clergy and the bar, the colleges and academies,
and all others who have the ability and the means to expose the
insidious designs of arbitrary power, to resist its approaches, and to
be persuaded that there is a settled design on foot to enslave all
America. "Be it remembered," says the author, "that liberty must, at all
hazards, be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.
But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the
expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.
And liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the
people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge,
as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them
understandings and a desire to know. But, besides this, they have a
right, an indisputable unalienable, indefeasible, divine right, to that
most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and
conduct of their rulers. Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and
trustees for the people; and if the cause, the interest and trust, is
insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right
to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to
constitute abler and better agents, attorneys, and trustees."

The citizens of this town conferred on Mr. Adams his first political
distinction, and clothed him with his first political trust, by electing
him one of their representatives, in 1770. Before this time he had
become extensively known throughout the Province, as well by the part he
had acted in relation to public affairs, as by the exercise of his
professional ability. He was among those who took the deepest interest
in the controversy with England, and, whether in or out of the
legislature, his time and talents were alike devoted to the cause. In
the years 1773 and 1774 he was chosen a Councillor by the members of the
General Court, but rejected by Governor Hutchinson in the former of
those years, and by Governor Gage in the latter.

The time was now at hand, however, when the affairs of the Colonies
urgently demanded united counsels throughout the country. An open
rupture with the parent state appeared inevitable, and it was but the
dictate of prudence that those who were united by a common interest and
a common danger should protect that interest and guard against that
danger by united efforts. A general Congress of Delegates from all the
Colonies having been proposed and agreed to, the House of
Representatives, on the 17th of June, 1774, elected James Bowdoin,
Thomas Cushing, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Robert Treat Paine,
delegates from Massachusetts. This appointment was made at Salem, where
the General Court had been convened by Governor Gage, in the last hour
of the existence of a House of Representatives under the Provincial
Charter. While engaged in this important business, the Governor, having
been informed of what was passing, sent his secretary with a message
dissolving the General Court. The secretary, finding the door locked,
directed the messenger to go in and inform the Speaker that the
secretary was at the door with a message from the Governor. The
messenger returned, and informed the secretary that the orders of the
House were that the doors should be kept fast; whereupon the secretary
soon after read upon the stairs a proclamation dissolving the General
Court. Thus terminated, for ever, the actual exercise of the political
power of England in or over Massachusetts. The four last-named delegates
accepted their appointments, and took their seats in Congress the first
day of its meeting, the 5th of September, 1774, in Philadelphia.

The proceedings of the first Congress are well known, and have been
universally admired. It is in vain that we would look for superior
proofs of wisdom, talent, and patriotism. Lord Chatham said, that, for
himself, he must declare that he had studied and admired the free states
of antiquity, the master states of the world, but that for solidity of
reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, no body of men
could stand in preference to this Congress. It is hardly inferior praise
to say, that no production of that great man himself can be pronounced
superior to several of the papers published as the proceedings of this
most able, most firm, most patriotic assembly. There is, indeed, nothing
superior to them in the range of political disquisition. They not only
embrace, illustrate, and enforce every thing which political philosophy,
the love of liberty, and the spirit of free inquiry had antecedently
produced, but they add new and striking views of their own, and apply
the whole, with irresistible force, in support of the cause which had
drawn them together.

Mr. Adams was a constant attendant on the deliberations of this body,
and bore an active part in its important measures. He was of the
committee to state the rights of the Colonies, and of that also which
reported the Address to the King.

As it was in the Continental Congress, fellow-citizens, that those whose
deaths have given rise to this occasion were first brought together, and
called upon to unite their industry and their ability in the service of
the country, let us now turn to the other of these distinguished men,
and take a brief notice of his life up to the period when he appeared
within the walls of Congress.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, descended from ancestors who had been settled in
Virginia for some generations, was born near the spot on which he died,
in the county of Albemarle, on the 2d of April (old style), 1743. His
youthful studies were pursued in the neighborhood of his father's
residence until he was removed to the College of William and Mary, the
highest honors of which he in due time received. Having left the College
with reputation, he applied himself to the study of the law under the
tuition of George Wythe, one of the highest judicial names of which that
State can boast. At an early age he was elected a member of the
legislature, in which he had no sooner appeared than he distinguished
himself by knowledge, capacity, and promptitude.

Mr. Jefferson appears to have been imbued with an early love of letters
and science, and to have cherished a strong disposition to pursue these
objects. To the physical sciences, especially, and to ancient classic
literature, he is understood to have had a warm attachment, and never
entirely to have lost sight of them in the midst of the busiest
occupations. But the times were times for action, rather than for
contemplation. The country was to be defended, and to be saved, before
it could be enjoyed. Philosophic leisure and literary pursuits, and even
the objects of professional attention, were all necessarily postponed to
the urgent calls of the public service. The exigency of the country made
the same demand on Mr. Jefferson that it made on others who had the
ability and the disposition to serve it; and he obeyed the call;
thinking and feeling in this respect with the great Roman orator: "Quis
enim est tam cupidus in perspicienda cognoscendaque rerum natura, ut, si
ei tractanti contemplantique res cognitione dignissimas subito sit
allatum periculum discrimenque patriae, cui subvenire opitularique
possit, non illa omnia relinquat atque abjiciat, etiam si dinumerare se
stellas, aut metiri mundi magnitudinem posse arbitretur?"[4]

Entering with all his heart into the cause of liberty, his ability,
patriotism, and power with the pen naturally drew upon him a large
participation in the most important concerns. Wherever he was, there was
found a soul devoted to the cause, power to defend and maintain it, and
willingness to incur all its hazards. In 1774 he published a "Summary
View of the Rights of British America," a valuable production among
those intended to show the dangers which threatened the liberties of the
country, and to encourage the people in their defence. In June, 1775, he
was elected a member of the Continental Congress, as successor to Peyton
Randolph, who had resigned his place on account of ill health, and took
his seat in that body on the 21st of the same month.

And now, fellow-citizens, without pursuing the biography of these
illustrious men further, for the present, let us turn our attention to
the most prominent act of their lives, their participation in the

Preparatory to the introduction of that important measure, a committee,
at the head of which was Mr. Adams, had reported a resolution, which
Congress adopted on the 10th of May, recommending, in substance, to all
the Colonies which had not already established governments suited to the
exigencies of their affairs, _to adopt such government as would, in the
opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the
happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in

This significant vote was soon followed by the direct proposition which
Richard Henry Lee had the honor to submit to Congress, by resolution,
on the 7th day of June. The published journal does not expressly state
it, but there is no doubt, I suppose, that this resolution was in the
same words, when originally submitted by Mr. Lee, as when finally
passed. Having been discussed on Saturday, the 8th, and Monday, the 10th
of June, this resolution was on the last-mentioned day postponed for
further consideration to the first day of July; and at the same time it
was voted, that a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration to the
effect of the resolution. This committee was elected by ballot, on the
following day, and consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin
Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston.

It is usual, when committees are elected by ballot, that their members
should be arranged in order, according to the number of votes which each
has received. Mr. Jefferson, therefore, had received the highest, and
Mr. Adams the next highest number of votes. The difference is said to
have been but of a single vote. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Adams, standing
thus at the head of the committee, were requested by the other members
to act as a subcommittee to prepare the draft; and Mr. Jefferson drew up
the paper. The original draft, as brought by him from his study, and
submitted to the other members of the committee, with interlineations in
the handwriting of Dr. Franklin, and others in that of Mr. Adams, was in
Mr. Jefferson's possession at the time of his death.[5] The merit of
this paper is Mr. Jefferson's. Some changes were made in it at the
suggestion of other members of the committee, and others by Congress
while it was under discussion. But none of them altered the tone, the
frame, the arrangement, or the general character of the instrument. As a
composition, the Declaration is Mr. Jefferson's. It is the production of
his mind, and the high honor of it belongs to him, clearly and

It has sometimes been said, as if it were a derogation from the merits
of this paper, that it contains nothing new; that it only states grounds
of proceeding, and presses topics of argument, which had often been
stated and pressed before. But it was not the object of the Declaration
to produce any thing new. It was not to invent reasons for independence,
but to state those which governed the Congress. For great and sufficient
causes, it was proposed to declare independence; and the proper business
of the paper to be drawn was to set forth those causes, and justify the
authors of the measure, in any event of fortune, to the country and to
posterity. The cause of American independence, moreover, was now to be
presented to the world in such manner, if it might so be, as to engage
its sympathy, to command its respect, to attract its admiration; and in
an assembly of most able and distinguished men, THOMAS JEFFERSON had the
high honor of being the selected advocate of this cause. To say that he
performed his great work well, would be doing him injustice. To say that
he did excellently well, admirably well, would be inadequate and halting
praise. Let us rather say, that he so discharged the duty assigned him,
that all Americans may well rejoice that the work of drawing the
title-deed of their liberties devolved upon him.

With all its merits, there are those who have thought that there was one
thing in the Declaration to be regretted; and that is, the asperity and
apparent anger with which it speaks of the person of the king; the
industrious ability with which it accumulates and charges upon him all
the injuries which the Colonies had suffered from the mother country.
Possibly some degree of injustice, now or hereafter, at home or abroad,
may be done to the character of Mr. Jefferson, if this part of the
Declaration be not placed in its proper light. Anger or resentment,
certainly much less personal reproach and invective, could not properly
find place in a composition of such high dignity, and of such lofty and
permanent character.

A single reflection on the original ground of dispute between England
and the Colonies is sufficient to remove any unfavorable impression in
this respect.

The inhabitants of all the Colonies, while Colonies, admitted themselves
bound by their allegiance to the king; but they disclaimed altogether
the authority of Parliament; holding themselves, in this respect, to
resemble the condition of Scotland and Ireland before the respective
unions of those kingdoms with England, when they acknowledged allegiance
to the same king, but had each its separate legislature. The tie,
therefore, which our Revolution was to break did not subsist between us
and the British Parliament, or between us and the British government in
the aggregate, but directly between us and the king himself. The
Colonies had never admitted themselves subject to Parliament. That was
precisely the point of the original controversy. They had uniformly
denied that Parliament had authority to make laws for them. There was,
therefore, no subjection to Parliament to be thrown off.[6] But
allegiance to the king did exist, and had been uniformly acknowledged;
and down to 1775 the most solemn assurances had been given that it was
not intended to break that allegiance, or to throw it off. Therefore, as
the direct object and only effect of the Declaration, according to the
principles on which the controversy had been maintained on our part,
were to sever the tie of allegiance which bound us to the king, it was
properly and necessarily founded on acts of the crown itself, as its
justifying causes. Parliament is not so much as mentioned in the whole
instrument. When odious and oppressive acts are referred to, it is done
by charging the king with confederating with others "in pretended acts
of legislation"; the object being constantly to hold the king himself
directly responsible for those measures which were the grounds of
separation. Even the precedent of the English Revolution was not
overlooked, and in this case, as well as in that, occasion was found to
say that the king had _abdicated_ the government. Consistency with the
principles upon which resistance began, and with all the previous state
papers issued by Congress, required that the Declaration should be
bottomed on the misgovernment of the king; and therefore it was properly
framed with that aim and to that end. The king was known, indeed, to
have acted, as in other cases, by his ministers, and with his
Parliament; but as our ancestors had never admitted themselves subject
either to ministers or to Parliament, there were no reasons to be given
for now refusing obedience to their authority. This clear and obvious
necessity of founding the Declaration on the misconduct of the king
himself, gives to that instrument its personal application, and its
character of direct and pointed accusation.

The Declaration having been reported to Congress by the committee, the
resolution itself was taken up and debated on the first day of July, and
again on the second, on which last day it was agreed to and adopted, in
these words:--

"_Resolved_, That these united Colonies are, and of right ought to be,
free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance
to the British crown, and that all political connection between them
and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

Having thus passed the main resolution, Congress proceeded to consider
the reported draught of the Declaration. It was discussed on the second,
and third, and FOURTH days of the month, in committee of the whole; and
on the last of those days, being reported from that committee, it
received the final approbation and sanction of Congress. It was ordered,
at the same time, that copies be sent to the several States, and that it
be proclaimed at the head of the army. The Declaration thus published
did not bear the names of the members, for as yet it had not been signed
by them. It was authenticated, like other papers of the Congress, by the
signatures of the President and Secretary. On the 19th of July, as
appears by the secret journal, Congress "_Resolved_, That the
Declaration, passed on the fourth, be fairly engrossed on parchment,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA'; and that the same, when engrossed, be signed
by every member of Congress." And on the SECOND DAY OF AUGUST following,
"the Declaration, being engrossed and compared at the table, was signed
by the members." So that it happens, fellow-citizens, that we pay these
honors to their memory on the anniversary of that day (2d of August) on
which these great men actually signed their names to the Declaration.
The Declaration was thus made, that is, it passed and was adopted as an
act of Congress, on the fourth of July; it was then signed, and
certified by the President and Secretary, like other acts. The FOURTH OF
signatures of the members present were made to it, being then engrossed
on parchment, on the second day of August. Absent members afterwards
signed, as they came in; and indeed it bears the names of some who were
not chosen members of Congress until after the fourth of July. The
interest belonging to the subject will be sufficient, I hope, to justify
these details.[7]

The Congress of the Revolution, fellow-citizens, sat with closed doors,
and no report of its debates was ever made. The discussion, therefore,
which accompanied this great measure, has never been preserved, except
in memory and by tradition. But it is, I believe, doing no injustice to
others to say, that the general opinion was, and uniformly has been,
that in debate, on the side of independence, JOHN ADAMS had no equal.
The great author of the Declaration himself has expressed that opinion
uniformly and strongly. "JOHN ADAMS," said he, in the hearing of him who
has now the honor to address you, "JOHN ADAMS was our colossus on the
floor. Not graceful, not elegant, not always fluent, in his public
addresses, he yet came out with a power, both of thought and of
expression, which moved us from our seats."

For the part which he was here to perform, Mr. Adams doubtless was
eminently fitted. He possessed a bold spirit, which disregarded danger,
and a sanguine reliance on the goodness of the cause, and the virtues of
the people, which led him to overlook all obstacles. His character, too,
had been formed in troubled times. He had been rocked in the early
storms of the controversy, and had acquired a decision and a hardihood
proportioned to the severity of the discipline which he had undergone.

He not only loved the American cause devoutly, but had studied and
understood it. It was all familiar to him. He had tried his powers on
the questions which it involved, often and in various ways; and had
brought to their consideration whatever of argument or illustration the
history of his own country, the history of England, or the stores of
ancient or of legal learning, could furnish. Every grievance enumerated
in the long catalogue of the Declaration had been the subject of his
discussion, and the object of his remonstrance and reprobation. From
1760, the Colonies, the rights of the Colonies, the liberties of the
Colonies, and the wrongs inflicted on the Colonies, had engaged his
constant attention; and it has surprised those who have had the
opportunity of witnessing it, with what full remembrance and with what
prompt recollection he could refer, in his extreme old age, to every act
of Parliament affecting the Colonies, distinguishing and stating their
respective titles, sections, and provisions; and to all the Colonial
memorials, remonstrances, and petitions, with whatever else belonged to
the intimate and exact history of the times from that year to 1775. It
was, in his own judgment, between these years that the American people
came to a full understanding and thorough knowledge of their rights, and
to a fixed resolution of maintaining them; and bearing himself an active
part in all important transactions, the controversy with England being
then in effect the business of his life, facts, dates, and particulars
made an impression which was never effaced. He was prepared, therefore,
by education and discipline, as well as by natural talent and natural
temperament, for the part which he was now to act.

The eloquence of Mr. Adams resembled his general character, and formed,
indeed, a part of it. It was bold, manly, and energetic; and such the
crisis required. When public bodies are to be addressed on momentous
occasions, when great interests are at stake, and strong passions
excited, nothing is valuable in speech farther than as it is connected
with high intellectual and moral endowments. Clearness, force, and
earnestness are the qualities which produce conviction. True eloquence,
indeed, does not consist in speech. It cannot be brought from far. Labor
and learning may toil for it, but they will toil in vain. Words and
phrases may be marshalled in every way, but they cannot compass it. It
must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the occasion. Affected
passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire to
it; they cannot reach it. It comes, if it come at all, like the
outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth of
volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force. The graces
taught in the schools, the costly ornaments and studied contrivances of
speech, shock and disgust men, when their own lives, and the fate of
their wives, their children, and their country, hang on the decision of
the hour. Then words have lost their power, rhetoric is vain, and all
elaborate oratory contemptible. Even genius itself then feels rebuked
and subdued, as in the presence of higher qualities. Then patriotism is
eloquent; then self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception,
outrunning the deductions of logic, the high purpose, the firm resolve,
the dauntless spirit, speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye,
informing every feature, and urging the whole man onward, right onward
to his object,--this, this is eloquence; or rather, it is something
greater and higher than all eloquence,--it is action, noble, sublime,
godlike action.

In July, 1776, the controversy had passed the stage of argument. An
appeal had been made to force, and opposing armies were in the field.
Congress, then, was to decide whether the tie which had so long bound us
to the parent state was to be severed at once, and severed for ever. All
the Colonies had signified their resolution to abide by this decision,
and the people looked for it with the most intense anxiety. And surely,
fellow-citizens, never, never were men called to a more important
political deliberation. If we contemplate it from the point where they
then stood, no question could be more full of interest; if we look at it
now, and judge of its importance by its effects, it appears of still
greater magnitude.

Let us, then, bring before us the assembly, which was about to decide a
question thus big with the fate of empire. Let us open their doors and
look in upon their deliberations. Let us survey the anxious and careworn
countenances, let us hear the firm-toned voices, of this band of

HANCOCK presides over the solemn sitting; and one of those not yet
prepared to pronounce for absolute independence is on the floor, and is
urging his reasons for dissenting from the Declaration.

"Let us pause! This step, once taken, cannot be retraced. This
resolution, once passed, will cut off all hope of reconciliation. If
success attend the arms of England, we shall then be no longer Colonies,
with charters and with privileges; these will all be forfeited by this
act; and we shall be in the condition of other conquered people, at the
mercy of the conquerors. For ourselves, we may be ready to run the
hazard; but are we ready to carry the country to that length? Is success
so probable as to justify it? Where is the military, where the naval
power, by which we are to resist the whole strength of the arm of
England,--for she will exert that strength to the utmost? Can we rely on
the constancy and perseverance of the people? or will they not act as
the people of other countries have acted, and, wearied with a long war,
submit, in the end, to a worse oppression? While we stand on our old
ground, and insist on redress of grievances, we know we are right, and
are not answerable for consequences. Nothing, then, can be imputed to
us. But if we now change our object, carry our pretensions farther, and
set up for absolute independence, we shall lose the sympathy of mankind.
We shall no longer be defending what we possess, but struggling for
something which we never did possess, and which we have solemnly and
uniformly disclaimed all intention of pursuing, from the very outset of
the troubles. Abandoning thus our old ground, of resistance only to
arbitrary acts of oppression, the nations will believe the whole to have
been mere pretence, and they will look on us, not as injured, but as
ambitious subjects. I shudder before this responsibility. It will be on
us, if, relinquishing the ground on which we have stood so long, and
stood so safely, we now proclaim independence, and carry on the war for
that object, while these cities burn, these pleasant fields whiten and
bleach with the bones of their owners, and these streams run blood. It
will be upon us, it will be upon us, if, failing to maintain this
unseasonable and ill-judged declaration, a sterner despotism, maintained
by military power, shall be established over our posterity, when we
ourselves, given up by an exhausted, a harassed, a misled people, shall
have expiated our rashness and atoned for our presumption on the

It was for Mr. Adams to reply to arguments like these. We know his
opinions, and we know his character. He would commence with his
accustomed directness and earnestness.

"Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my
heart to this vote. It is true, indeed, that in the beginning we aimed
not at independence. But there's a Divinity which shapes our ends. The
injustice of England has driven us to arms; and, blinded to her own
interest for our good, she has obstinately persisted, till independence
is now within our grasp. We have but to reach forth to it, and it is
ours. Why, then, should we defer the Declaration? Is any man so weak as
now to hope for a reconciliation with England, which shall leave either
safety to the country and its liberties, or safety to his own life and
his own honor? Are not you, Sir, who sit in that chair,--is not he, our
venerable colleague near you,--are you not both already the proscribed
and predestined objects of punishment and of vengeance? Cut off from all
hope of royal clemency, what are you, what can you be, while the power
of England remains, but outlaws? If we postpone independence, do we mean
to carry on, or to give up, the war? Do we mean to submit to the
measures of Parliament, Boston Port Bill and all? Do we mean to submit,
and consent that we ourselves shall be ground to powder, and our country
and its rights trodden down in the dust? I know we do not mean to
submit. We never shall submit. Do we intend to violate that most solemn
obligation ever entered into by men, that plighting, before God, of our
sacred honor to Washington, when, putting him forth to incur the dangers
of war, as well as the political hazards of the times, we promised to
adhere to him, in every extremity, with our fortunes and our lives? I
know there is not a man here, who would not rather see a general
conflagration sweep over the land, or an earthquake sink it, than one
jot or tittle of that plighted faith fall to the ground. For myself,
having, twelve months ago, in this place, moved you, that George
Washington be appointed commander of the forces raised, or to be raised,
for defence of American liberty,[8] may my right hand forget her
cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I hesitate or
waver in the support I give him.

"The war, then, must go on. We must fight it through. And if the war
must go on, why put off longer the Declaration of Independence? That
measure will strengthen us. It will give us character abroad. The
nations will then treat with us, which they never can do while we
acknowledge ourselves subjects, in arms against our sovereign. Nay, I
maintain that England herself will sooner treat for peace with us on the
footing of independence, than consent, by repealing her acts, to
acknowledge that her whole conduct towards us has been a course of
injustice and oppression. Her pride will be less wounded by submitting
to that course of things which now predestinates our independence, than
by yielding the points in controversy to her rebellious subjects. The
former she would regard as the result of fortune; the latter she would
feel as her own deep disgrace. Why, then, why then, Sir, do we not as
soon as possible change this from a civil to a national war? And since
we must fight it through, why not put ourselves in a state to enjoy all
the benefits of victory, if we gain the victory?

"If we fail, it can be no worse for us. But we shall not fail. The cause
will raise up armies; the cause will create navies. The people, the
people, if we are true to them, will carry us, and will carry
themselves, gloriously, through this struggle. I care not how fickle
other people have been found. I know the people of these Colonies, and I
know that resistance to British aggression is deep and settled in their
hearts and cannot be eradicated. Every Colony, indeed, has expressed its
willingness to follow, if we but take the lead. Sir, the Declaration
will inspire the people with increased courage. Instead of a long and
bloody war for the restoration of privileges, for redress of grievances,
for chartered immunities, held under a British king, set before them the
glorious object of entire independeuce, and it will breathe into them
anew the breath of life. Read this Declaration at the head of the army;
every sword will be drawn from its scabbard, and the solemn vow uttered,
to maintain it, or to perish on the bed of honor. Publish it from the
pulpit; religion will approve it, and the love of religious liberty will
cling round it, resolved to stand with it, or fall with it. Send it to
the public halls; proclaim it there; let them hear it who heard the
first roar of the enemy's cannon; let them see it who saw their brothers
and their sons fall on the field of Bunker Hill, and in the streets of
Lexington and Concord, and the very walls will cry out in its support.

"Sir, I know the uncertainty of human affairs, but I see, I see clearly,
through this day's business. You and I, indeed, may rue it. We may not
live to the time when this Declaration shall be made good. We may die;
die colonists; die slaves; die, it may be, ignominiously and on the
scaffold. Be it so. Be it so. If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my
country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be
ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But
while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a
country, and that a free country.

"But whatever may be our fate, be assured, be assured that this
Declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood; but
it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both. Through the thick
gloom of the present, I see the brightness of the future, as the sun in
heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in
our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with
thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its
annual return they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears, not of
subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of
gratitude, and of joy. Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My
judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I
have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now
ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I begun, that live or
die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living
sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment,
Independence _now_, and INDEPENDENCE FOR EVER."[9]

And so that day shall be honored, illustrious prophet and patriot! so
that day shall be honored, and as often as it returns, thy renown shall
come along with it, and the glory of thy life, like the day of thy
death, shall not fail from the remembrance of men.

It would be unjust, fellow-citizens, on this occasion, while we express
our veneration for him who is the immediate subject of these remarks,
were we to omit a most respectful, affectionate, and grateful mention of
those other great men, his colleagues, who stood with him, and with the
same spirit, the same devotion, took part in the interesting
transaction. HANCOCK, the proscribed HANCOCK, exiled from his home by a
military governor, cut off by proclamation from the mercy of the
crown,--Heaven reserved for him the distinguished honor of putting this
great question to the vote, and of writing his own name first, and most
conspicuously, on that parchment which spoke defiance to the power of
the crown of England. There, too, is the name of that other proscribed
patriot, SAMUEL ADAMS, a man who hungered and thirsted for the
independence of his country, who thought the Declaration halted and
lingered, being himself not only ready, but eager, for it, long before
it was proposed; a man of the deepest sagacity, the clearest foresight,
and the profoundest judgment in men. And there is GERRY, himself among
the earliest and the foremost of the patriots, found, when the battle of
Lexington summoned them to common counsels, by the side of WARREN; a man
who lived to serve his country at home and abroad, and to die in the
second place in the government. There, too, is the inflexible, the
upright, the Spartan character, ROBERT TREAT PAINE. He also lived to
serve his country through the struggle, and then withdrew from her
councils, only that he might give his labors and his life to his native
State, in another relation. These names, fellow-citizens, are the
treasures of the Commonwealth; and they are treasures which grow
brighter by time.

It is now necessary to resume the narrative, and to finish with great
brevity the notice of the lives of those whose virtues and services we
have met to commemorate.

Mr. Adams remained in Congress from its first meeting till November,
1777, when he was appointed Minister to France. He proceeded on that
service in the February following, embarking in the frigate Boston, from
the shore of his native town, at the foot of Mount Wollaston. The year
following, he was appointed commissioner to treat of peace with England.
Returning to the United States, he was a delegate from Braintree in the
Convention for framing the Constitution of this Commonwealth, in
1780.[10] At the latter end of the same year, he again went abroad in
the diplomatic service of the country, and was employed at various
courts, and occupied with various negotiations, until 1788. The
particulars of these interesting and important services this occasion
does not allow time to relate. In 1782 he concluded our first treaty
with Holland. His negotiations with that republic, his efforts to
persuade the States-General to recognize our independence, his incessant
and indefatigable exertions to represent the American cause favorably on
the Continent, and to counteract the designs of its enemies, open and
secret, and his successful undertaking to obtain loans on the credit of
a nation yet new and unknown, are among his most arduous, most useful,
most honorable services. It was his fortune to bear a part in the
negotiation for peace with England, and in something more than six years
from the Declaration which he had so strenuously supported, he had the
satisfaction of seeing the minister plenipotentiary of the crown
subscribe his name to the instrument which declared that his "Britannic
Majesty acknowledged the United States to be free, sovereign, and
independent." In these important transactions, Mr. Adams's conduct
received the marked approbation of Congress and of the country.

While abroad, in 1787, he published his "Defence of the American
Constitutions"; a work of merit and ability, though composed with haste,
on the spur of a particular occasion, in the midst of other occupations,
and under circumstances not admitting of careful revision. The immediate
object of the work was to counteract the weight of opinions advanced by
several popular European writers of that day, M. Turgot, the Abbe de
Mably, and Dr. Price, at a time when the people of the United States
were employed in forming and revising their systems of government.

Returning to the United States in 1788, he found the new government
about going into operation, and was himself elected the first
Vice-President, a situation which he filled with reputation for eight
years, at the expiration of which he was raised to the Presidential
chair, as immediate successor to the immortal Washington. In this high
station he was succeeded by Mr. Jefferson, after a memorable controversy
between their respective friends, in 1801; and from that period his
manner of life has been known to all who hear me. He has lived, for
five-and-twenty years, with every enjoyment that could render old age
happy. Not inattentive to the occurrences of the times, political cares
have yet not materially, or for any long time, disturbed his repose. In
1820 he acted as Elector of President and Vice-President, and in the
same year we saw him, then at the age of eighty-five, a member of the
Convention of this Commonwealth called to revise the Constitution. Forty
years before, he had been one of those who formed that Constitution; and
he had now the pleasure of witnessing that there was little which the
people desired to change.[11] Possessing all his faculties to the end of
his long life, with an unabated love of reading and contemplation, in
the centre of interesting circles of friendship and affection, he was
blessed in his retirement with whatever of repose and felicity the
condition of man allows. He had, also, other enjoyments. He saw around
him that prosperity and general happiness which had been the object of
his public cares and labors. No man ever beheld more clearly, and for a
longer time, the great and beneficial effects of the services rendered
by himself to his country. That liberty which he so early defended, that
independence of which he was so able an advocate and supporter, he saw,
we trust, firmly and securely established. The population of the country
thickened around him faster, and extended wider, than his own sanguine
predictions had anticipated; and the wealth, respectability, and power
of the nation sprang up to a magnitude which it is quite impossible he
could have expected to witness in his day. He lived also to behold those
principles of civil freedom which had been developed, established, and
practically applied in America, attract attention, command respect, and
awaken imitation, in other regions of the globe; and well might, and
well did, he exclaim, "Where will the consequences of the American
Revolution end?"

If any thing yet remain to fill this cup of happiness, let it be added,
that he lived to see a great and intelligent people bestow the highest
honor in their gift where he had bestowed his own kindest parental
affections and lodged his fondest hopes. Thus honored in life, thus
happy at death, he saw the JUBILEE, and he died; and with the last
prayers which trembled on his lips was the fervent supplication for his
country, "Independence for ever!"[12]

Mr. Jefferson, having been occupied in the years 1778 and 1779 in the
important service of revising the laws of Virginia, was elected Governor
of that State, as successor to Patrick Henry, and held the situation
when the State was invaded by the British arms. In 1781 he published his
Notes on Virginia, a work which attracted attention in Europe as well as
America, dispelled many misconceptions respecting this continent, and
gave its author a place among men distinguished for science. In
November, 1783, he again took his seat in the Continental Congress, but
in the May following was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary, to act
abroad, in the negotiation of commercial treaties, with Dr. Franklin and
Mr. Adams. He proceeded to France, in execution of this mission,
embarking at Boston; and that was the only occasion on which he ever
visited this place. In 1785 he was appointed Minister to France, the
duties of which situation he continued to perform until October, 1789,
when he obtained leave to retire, just on the eve of that tremendous
revolution which has so much agitated the world in our times. Mr.
Jefferson's discharge of his diplomatic duties was marked by great
ability, diligence, and patriotism; and while he resided at Paris, in
one of the most interesting periods, his character for intelligence, his
love of knowledge and of the society of learned men, distinguished him
in the highest circles of the French capital. No court in Europe had at
that time in Paris a representative commanding or enjoying higher
regard, for political knowledge or for general attainments, than the
minister of this then infant republic. Immediately on his return to his
native country, at the organization of the government under the present
Constitution, his talents and experience recommended him to President
Washington for the first office in his gift. He was placed at the head
of the Department of State. In this situation, also, he manifested
conspicuous ability. His correspondence with the ministers of other
powers residing here, and his instructions to our own diplomatic agents
abroad, are among our ablest state papers. A thorough knowledge of the
laws and usages of nations, perfect acquaintance with the immediate
subject before him, great felicity, and still greater facility, in
writing, show themselves in whatever effort his official situation
called on him to make. It is believed by competent judges, that the
diplomatic intercourse of the government of the United States, from the
first meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774 to the present time,
taken together, would not suffer, in respect to the talent with which it
has been conducted, by comparison with any thing which other and older
governments can produce; and to the attainment of this respectability
and distinction Mr. Jefferson has contributed his full part.

On the retirement of General Washington from the Presidency, and the
election of Mr. Adams to that office in 1797, he was chosen
Vice-President. While presiding in this capacity over the deliberations
of the Senate, he compiled and published a Manual of Parliamentary
Practice, a work of more labor and more merit than is indicated by its
size. It is now received as the general standard by which proceedings
are regulated, not only in both Houses of Congress, but in most of the
other legislative bodies in the country. In 1801 he was elected
President, in opposition to Mr. Adams, and re-elected in 1805, by a vote
approaching towards unanimity.

From the time of his final retirement from public life, in 1809, Mr.
Jefferson lived as became a wise man. Surrounded by affectionate
friends, his ardor in the pursuit of knowledge undiminished, with
uncommon health and unbroken spirits, he was able to enjoy largely the
rational pleasures of life, and to partake in that public prosperity
which he had so much contributed to produce. His kindness and
hospitality, the charm of his conversation, the ease of his manners, the
extent of his acquirements, and, especially, the full store of
Revolutionary incidents which he had treasured in his memory, and which
he knew when and how to dispense, rendered his abode in a high degree
attractive to his admiring countrymen, while his high public and
scientific character drew towards him every intelligent and educated
traveller from abroad. Both Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson had the pleasure
of knowing that the respect which they so largely received was not paid
to their official stations. They were not men made great by office; but
great men, on whom the country for its own benefit had conferred office.
There was that in them which office did not give, and which the
relinquishment of office did not, and could not, take away. In their
retirement, in the midst of their fellow-citizens, themselves private
citizens, they enjoyed as high regard and esteem as when filling the
most important places of public trust.

There remained to Mr. Jefferson yet one other work of patriotism and
beneficence, the establishment of a university in his native State. To
this object he devoted years of incessant and anxious attention, and by
the enlightened liberality of the Legislature of Virginia, and the
co-operation of other able and zealous friends, he lived to see it
accomplished. May all success attend this infant seminary; and may those
who enjoy its advantages, as often as their eyes shall rest on the
neighboring height, recollect what they owe to their disinterested and
indefatigable benefactor; and may letters honor him who thus labored in
the cause of letters![13]

Thus useful, and thus respected, passed the old age of Thomas Jefferson.
But time was on its ever-ceaseless wing, and was now bringing the last
hour of this illustrious man. He saw its approach with undisturbed
serenity. He counted the moments as they passed, and beheld that his
last sands were falling. That day, too, was at hand which he had helped
to make immortal. One wish, one hope, if it were not presumptuous, beat
in his fainting breast. Could it be so, might it please God, he would
desire once more to see the sun, once more to look abroad on the scene
around him, on the great day of liberty. Heaven, in its mercy, fulfilled
that prayer. He saw that sun, he enjoyed its sacred light, he thanked
God for this mercy, and bowed his aged head to the grave. "Felix, non
vitae tantum claritate, sed etiam opportunitate mortis."

The last public labor of Mr. Jefferson naturally suggests the expression
of the high praise which is due, both to him and to Mr. Adams, for their
uniform and zealous attachment to learning, and to the cause of general
knowledge. Of the advantages of learning, indeed, and of literary
accomplishments, their own characters were striking recommendations and
illustrations. They were scholars, ripe and good scholars; widely
acquainted with ancient, as well as modern literature, and not
altogether uninstructed in the deeper sciences. Their acquirements,
doubtless, were different, and so were the particular objects of their
literary pursuits; as their tastes and characters, in these respects,
differed like those of other men. Being, also, men of busy lives, with
great objects requiring action constantly before them, their attainments
in letters did not become showy or obtrusive. Yet I would hazard the
opinion, that, if we could now ascertain all the causes which gave them
eminence and distinction in the midst of the great men with whom they
acted, we should find not among the least their early acquisitions in
literature, the resources which it furnished, the promptitude and
facility which it communicated, and the wide field it opened for analogy
and illustration; giving them thus, on every subject, a larger view and
a broader range, as well for discussion as for the government of their
own conduct.

Literature sometimes disgusts, and pretension to it much oftener
disgusts, by appearing to hang loosely on the character, like something
foreign or extraneous, not a part, but an ill-adjusted appendage; or by
seeming to overload and weigh it down by its unsightly bulk, like the
productions of bad taste in architecture, where there is massy and
cumbrous ornament without strength or solidity of column. This has
exposed learning, and especially classical learning, to reproach. Men
have seen that it might exist without mental superiority, without vigor,
without good taste, and without utility. But in such cases classical
learning has only not inspired natural talent; or, at most, it has but
made original feebleness of intellect, and natural bluntness of
perception, something more conspicuous. The question, after all, if it
be a question, is, whether literature, ancient as well as modern, does
not assist a good understanding, improve natural good taste, add
polished armor to native strength, and render its possessor, not only
more capable of deriving private happiness from contemplation and
reflection, but more accomplished also for action in the affairs of
life, and especially for public action. Those whose memories we now
honor were learned men; but their learning was kept in its proper place,
and made subservient to the uses and objects of life. They were
scholars, not common nor superficial; but their scholarship was so in
keeping with their character, so blended and inwrought, that careless
observers, or bad judges, not seeing an ostentatious display of it,
might infer that it did not exist; forgetting, or not knowing, that
classical learning in men who act in conspicuous public stations,
perform duties which exercise the faculty of writing, or address
popular, deliberative, or judicial bodies, is often felt where it is
little seen, and sometimes felt more effectually because it is not seen
at all.

But the cause of knowledge, in a more enlarged sense, the cause of
general knowledge and of popular education, had no warmer friends, nor
more powerful advocates, than Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson. On this
foundation they knew the whole republican system rested; and this great
and all-important truth they strove to impress, by all the means in
their power. In the early publication already referred to, Mr. Adams
expresses the strong and just sentiment, that the education of the poor
is more important, even to the rich themselves, than all their own
riches. On this great truth, indeed, is founded that unrivalled, that
invaluable political and moral institution, our own blessing and the
glory of our fathers, the New England system of free schools.

As the promotion of knowledge had been the object of their regard
through life, so these great men made it the subject of their
testamentary bounty. Mr. Jefferson is understood to have bequeathed his
library to the University of Virginia, and that of Mr. Adams is bestowed
on the inhabitants of Quincy.

Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson, fellow-citizens, were successively
Presidents of the United States. The comparative merits of their
respective administrations for a long time agitated and divided public
opinion. They were rivals, each supported by numerous and powerful
portions of the people, for the highest office. This contest, partly the
cause and partly the consequence of the long existence of two great
political parties in the country, is now part of the history of our
government. We may naturally regret that any thing should have occurred
to create difference and discord between those who had acted
harmoniously and efficiently in the great concerns of the Revolution.
But this is not the time, nor this the occasion, for entering into the
grounds of that difference, or for attempting to discuss the merits of
the questions which it involves. As practical questions, they were
canvassed when the measures which they regarded were acted on and
adopted; and as belonging to history, the time has not come for their

It is, perhaps, not wonderful, that, when the Constitution of the United
States first went into operation, different opinions should be
entertained as to the extent of the powers conferred by it. Here was a
natural source of diversity of sentiment. It is still less wonderful,
that that event, nearly contemporary with our government under the
present Constitution, which so entirely shocked all Europe, and
disturbed our relations with her leading powers, should be thought, by
different men, to have different bearings on our own prosperity; and
that the early measures adopted by the government of the United States,
in consequence of this new state of things, should be seen in opposite
lights. It is for the future historian, when what now remains of
prejudice and misconception shall have passed away, to state these
different opinions, and pronounce impartial judgment. In the mean time,
all good men rejoice, and well may rejoice, that the sharpest
differences sprung out of measures which, whether right or wrong, have
ceased with the exigencies that gave them birth, and have left no
permanent effect, either on the Constitution or on the general
prosperity of the country. This remark, I am aware, may be supposed to
have its exception in one measure, the alteration of the Constitution as
to the mode of choosing President; but it is true in its general
application. Thus the course of policy pursued towards France in 1798,
on the one hand, and the measures of commercial restriction commenced in
1807, on the other, both subjects of warm and severe opposition, have
passed away and left nothing behind them. They were temporary, and,
whether wise or unwise, their consequences were limited to their
respective occasions. It is equally clear, at the same time, and it is
equally gratifying, that those measures of both administrations which
were of durable importance, and which drew after them momentous and long
remaining consequences, have received general approbation. Such was the
organization, or rather the creation, of the navy, in the administration
of Mr. Adams; such the acquisition of Louisiana in that of Mr.
Jefferson. The country, it may safely be added, is not likely to be
willing either to approve, or to reprobate, indiscriminately, and in the
aggregate, all the measures of either, or of any, administration. The
dictate of reason and of justice is, that, holding each one his own
sentiments on the points of difference, we imitate the great men
themselves in the forbearance and moderation which they have cherished,
and in the mutual respect and kindness which they have been so much
inclined to feel and to reciprocate.

No men, fellow-citizens, ever served their country with more entire
exemption from every imputation of selfish and mercenary motives, than
those to whose memory we are paying these proofs of respect. A suspicion
of any disposition to enrich themselves or to profit by their public
employments, never rested on either. No sordid motive approached them.
The inheritance which they have left to their children is of their
character and their fame.

Fellow-citizens, I will detain you no longer by this faint and feeble
tribute to the memory of the illustrious dead. Even in other hands,
adequate justice could not be done to them, within the limits of this
occasion. Their highest, their best praise, is your deep conviction of
their merits, your affectionate gratitude for their labors and their
services. It is not my voice, it is this cessation of ordinary pursuits,
this arresting of all attention, these solemn ceremonies, and this
crowded house, which speak their eulogy. Their fame, indeed, is safe.
That is now treasured up beyond the reach of accident. Although no
sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear
record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the
land they honored. Marble columns may, indeed, moulder into dust, time
may erase all impress from the crumbling stone, but their fame remains;
for with AMERICAN LIBERTY it rose, and with AMERICAN LIBERTY ONLY can it
perish. It was the last swelling peal of yonder choir, "THEIR BODIES ARE
song, I echo that lofty strain of funeral triumph, "THEIR NAME LIVETH

Of the illustrious signers of the Declaration of Independence there now
remains only CHARLES CARROLL. He seems an aged oak, standing alone on
the plain, which time has spared a little longer after all its
contemporaries have been levelled with the dust. Venerable object! we
delight to gather round its trunk, while yet it stands, and to dwell
beneath its shadow. Sole survivor of an assembly of as great men as the
world has witnessed, in a transaction one of the most important that
history records, what thoughts, what interesting reflections, must fill
his elevated and devout soul! If he dwell on the past, how touching its
recollections; if he survey the present, how happy, how joyous, how full
of the fruition of that hope which his ardent patriotism indulged; if he
glance at the future, how does the prospect of his country's advancement
almost bewilder his weakened conception! Fortunate, distinguished
patriot! Interesting relic of the past! Let him know that, while we
honor the dead, we do not forget the living; and that there is not a
heart here which does not fervently pray that Heaven may keep him yet
back from the society of his companions.

And now, fellow-citizens, let us not retire from this occasion without a
deep and solemn conviction of the duties which have devolved upon us.
This lovely land, this glorious liberty, these benign institutions, the
dear purchase of our fathers, are ours; ours to enjoy, ours to preserve,
ours to transmit. Generations past and generations to come hold us
responsible for this sacred trust. Our fathers, from behind, admonish
us, with their anxious paternal voices; posterity calls out to us, from
the bosom of the future; the world turns hither its solicitous eyes;
all, all conjure us to act wisely, and faithfully, in the relation which
we sustain. We can never, indeed, pay the debt which is upon us; but by
virtue, by morality, by religion, by the cultivation of every good
principle and every good habit, we may hope to enjoy the blessing,
through our day, and to leave it unimpaired to our children. Let us feel
deeply how much of what we are and of what we possess we owe to this
liberty, and to these institutions of government. Nature has, indeed,
given us a soil which yields bounteously to the hand of industry, the
mighty and fruitful ocean is before us, and the skies over our heads
shed health and vigor. But what are lands, and seas, and skies, to
civilized man, without society, without knowledge, without morals,
without religious culture; and how can these be enjoyed, in all their
extent and all their excellence, but under the protection of wise
institutions and a free government? Fellow-citizens, there is not one of
us, there is not one of us here present, who does not, at this moment,
and at every moment, experience, in his own condition, and in the
condition of those most near and dear to him, the influence and the
benefits of this liberty and these institutions. Let us then
acknowledge the blessing, let us feel it deeply and powerfully, let us
cherish a strong affection for it, and resolve to maintain and
perpetuate it. The blood of our fathers, let it not have been shed in
vain; the great hope of posterity, let it not be blasted.

The striking attitude, too, in which we stand to the world around us, a
topic to which, I fear, I advert too often, and dwell on too long,
cannot be altogether omitted here. Neither individuals nor nations can
perform their part well, until they understand and feel its importance,
and comprehend and justly appreciate all the duties belonging to it. It
is not to inflate national vanity, nor to swell a light and empty
feeling of self-importance, but it is that we may judge justly of our
situation, and of our own duties, that I earnestly urge upon you this
consideration of our position and our character among the nations of the
earth. It cannot be denied, but by those who would dispute against the
sun, that with America, and in America, a new era commences in human
affairs. This era is distinguished by free representative governments,
by entire religious liberty, by improved systems of national
intercourse, by a newly awakened and an unconquerable spirit of free
inquiry, and by a diffusion of knowledge through the community, such as
has been before altogether unknown and unheard of. America, America, our
country, fellow-citizens, our own dear and native land, is inseparably
connected, fast bound up, in fortune and by fate, with these great
interests. If they fall, we fall with them; if they stand, it will be
because we have maintained them. Let us contemplate, then, this
connection, which binds the prosperity of others to our own; and let us
manfully discharge all the duties which it imposes. If we cherish the
virtues and the principles of our fathers, Heaven will assist us to
carry on the work of human liberty and human happiness. Auspicious omens
cheer us. Great examples are before us. Our own firmament now shines
brightly upon our path. WASHINGTON is in the clear, upper sky. These
other stars have now joined the American constellation; they circle
round their centre, and the heavens beam with new light. Beneath this
illumination let us walk the course of life, and at its close devoutly
commend our beloved country, the common parent of us all, to the Divine

* * * * *


Page 170.

The question has often been asked, whether the anonymous speech against
the Declaration of Independence, and the speech in support of it
ascribed to John Adams in the preceding Discourse, are a portion of the
debates which actually took place in 1776 in the Continental Congress.
Not only has this inquiry been propounded in the public papers, but
several letters on the subject have been addressed to Mr. Webster and
his friends. For this reason, it may be proper to state, that those
speeches were composed by Mr. Webster, after the manner of the ancient
historians, as embodying in an impressive form the arguments relied upon
by the friends and opponents of the measure, respectively. They of
course represent the speeches that were actually made on both sides, but
no report of the debates of this period has been preserved, and the
orator on the present occasion had no aid in framing these addresses,
but what was furnished by general tradition and the known line of
argument pursued by the speakers and writers of that day for and against
the measure of Independence. The first sentence of the speech ascribed
to Mr. Adams was of course suggested by the parting scene with Jonathan
Sewall, as described by Mr. Adams himself, in the Preface to the Letters
of Novanglus and Massachusettensis.

So much interest has been taken in this subject, that it has been
thought proper, by way of settling the question in the most authentic
manner, to give publicity to the following answer, written by Mr.
Webster to one of the letters of inquiry above alluded to.

"_Washington, 22 January, 1846._

"Dear Sir:--

"I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th
instant. Its contents hardly surprise me, as I have received very many
similar communications.

"Your inquiry is easily answered. The Congress of the Revolution sat
with closed doors. Its proceedings were made known to the public from
time to time, by printing its journal; but the debates were not
published. So far as I know, there is not existing, in print or
manuscript, the speech, or any part or fragment of the speech, delivered
by Mr. Adams on the question of the Declaration of Independence. We only
know, from the testimony of his auditors, that he spoke with remarkable
ability and characteristic earnestness.

"The day after the Declaration was made, Mr. Adams, in writing to a
friend,[14] declared the event to be one that 'ought to be commemorated,
as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.
It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games,
sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this
continent to the other, from this time forward, for evermore.'

"And on the day of his death, hearing the noise of bells and cannon, he
asked the occasion. On being reminded that it was 'Independent day,' he
replied, 'Independence for ever!' These expressions were introduced into
the speech _supposed_ to have been made by him. For the rest I must be
answerable. The speech was written by me, in my house in Boston, the day
before the delivery of the Discourse in Faneuil Hall; a poor substitute,
I am sure it would appear to be, if we could now see the speech actually
made by Mr. Adams on that transcendently important occasion.

"I am, respectfully,

"Your obedient servant,


[Footnote 1: Hon. Josiah Quincy.]

[Footnote 2: Nearly all that was known of this celebrated argument, at
the time the present Discourse was delivered, was derived from the
recollections of John Adams, as preserved in Minot's History of
Massachusetts, Vol. II. p. 91. See Life and Works of John Adams, Vol.
II. p. 124, published in the course of the past year (1850), in the
Appendix to which, p. 521, will be found a paper hitherto unpublished,
containing notes of the argument of Otis, "which seem to be the
foundation of the sketch published by Minot." Tudor's Life of James
Otis, p. 61.]

[Footnote 3: See Life and Works of John Adams, Vol. II. p. 150, Vol.
III. p. 447, and North American Review, Vol. LXXI. p. 430.]

[Footnote 4: Cicero de Officiis, Lib. I. sec. 43.]

[Footnote 5: A fac-simile of this ever-memorable state paper, as drafted
by Mr. Jefferson, with the interlineations alluded to in the text, is
contained in Mr. Jefferson's Writings, Vol. I. p. 146. See, also, in
reference to the history of the Declaration, the Life and Works of John
Adams, Vol. II. p. 512 _et seq._]

[Footnote 6: This question, of the power of Parliament over the
Colonies, was discussed, with singular ability, by Governor Hutchinson
on the one side, and the House of Representatives of Massachusetts on
the other, in 1773. The argument of the House is in the form of an
answer to the Governor's Message, and was reported by Mr. Samuel Adams,
Mr. Hancock, Mr. Hawley, Mr. Bowers, Mr. Hobson, Mr. Foster, Mr.
Phillips, and Mr. Thayer. As the power of the Parliament had been


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