THE DEMOCRACY OF SPRINGFIELD,
AND NEIGHBORING TOWNS,
July 4, 1836.
By GEORGE BANCROFT.
GEORGE AND CHARLES MERRIAM, MAIN STREET.
HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
THE BEQUEST OF
EVERT JANSEN WENDELL
Gratitude to God becomes the citizens of a free republic. Thanks be to that Providence which overrules the destinies of states, and has crowned our happy country with its richest blessings.
Gratitude to our fathers becomes the present generation. Honor to the memory of the men from whom we inherit the rich bequest of civil liberty; honor to the gallant soldiery of New England, to the few who survive and to the many who are departed; to the heroes of the revolution of every State, to Washington, and Lafayette, and all their gallant companions in arms, who in fields of blood and in seasons of peril, achieved the victory for independence, and laid the foundation of national glory on the rock of the power of the people.
As the organ of the Democracy of Springfield, I bid you welcome to this new anniversary of our independence. You who believe in man's capacity for self-government, you who receive those great principles which the hand of Jefferson imbodied in the cherished instrument that has just been read, you who feel the blood of generous affection throb warmly beneath your breasts, you who desire to uphold the rights of free labor, to advance the progress of humanity, to confirm the power of the people, I bid you welcome, all welcome, thrice welcome, to our festival.
The day we celebrate is the birth-day of Democracy; which is but another name for the power of the people. The fourth of July was the day on which the people assumed power, and proclaimed their power to the admiring world.
Before that time our English ancestors had known but two theories of government. The first of these, and the oldest, is the Tory theory of the Divine Right. It puts the physical force of the nation at the disposition of an individual sovereign, and declares the authority of that sovereign to be sacred and irresistible by the grace of God. It is the theory of the lovers of absolute will, carried into effect by the instrumentality of brute force. Though known to our fathers and to us chiefly from English history, the system is older than the British monarchy. Indeed, it is as old as tyranny, and tyranny is as old as the selfishness of human nature.
The root of this theory is a great contempt for the human species. Its advocates are willing to trample the common man in the dust. They combine to oppress the laborer; they have a myriad of cunning devices to secure his services; and they offer for their abuses and their wrongs the one single plea, It is the will of God; it is the order of Providence. In a fond idolatry of themselves, they fancy the Father of' the human race has sanctioned their usurpations; they cite the commands of heaven to justify their tyrannies.
With us you would think this system could find no advocates. And yet we have them; for tory principles furnish the ready excuse for injustice; and there are men among us who apply them, as far as possible, to our civil institutions. As we have no hereditary legislators, arbitrary power cannot here be asserted as the birth-right of a privileged order; but they who deny the right of instruction, deify the will of the representative, or temporary agent, and refusing to the people the right of a paramount judgment, surrender the government for the time to the arbitrary caprice, the desperate ambition, the bigotry or the selfishness of an individual.
In like manner the principles of toryism are transferred from public life to the social relations.
When the Southern Nullifier, recklessly insulting the free labor of the North, declares, that "the labor of freemen cannot successfully contend with the labor of slaves;" that "the northern States will pass by a rapid transition through anarchy to despotism," that "the institution of negro slavery is an indispensable element in an unmixed representative government," he does but express that hatred and contempt for humanity, which has distinguished the race of tyrants from the beginning of the world. And when after further deliberation, the same chief magistrate, despising the opinions of Jefferson and of Madison, in a public document to which he demands the attention of the North, solemnly declares, with a universality which embraces the world, that "no human institution is more manifestly consistent with the will of God, than domestic slavery," that "no one of his ordinances is written in more legible characters than that which consigns the African race to that condition," he does but insult the conscience of mankind, shut his eyes against the experience of the past, and employ the tory plea which can be esteemed valid only where the arm of violence is uplifted to enforce it by "death without benefit of clergy." Such
principles are subversive of liberty; they tend to excite malignant hostility between different sections of the country; and it is not surprising that their fruit should be treason and disunion.
But the evil influence of tory principles does not stop here. It is the prerogative of humanity to make progress; to gather up the experience of the past, to husband the truths which time and opportunity discover. The tory, therefore, being opposed to progress, condemns the discussion of' principles, and rising above the Constitution and Statutes, and defying the limitations of power which the people have established, he declares the honest profession of' opinions, the fair argument on subjects of deepest interest, to be "A MISDEMEANOR AT COMMON LAW." This is in accordance with the tory theory; which is better suited to Thibet or Turkey, than to New England. It is a crime against humanity: it is "foul ribaldry."
The activity of the tory principle may further be discovered, wherever there is an attempt to put authority above authority above reason to employ coercion instead of argument; to propagate faith by the pillory and the whipping-post and disfranchisement; to remove public functionaries as far as possible from popular control; to bend society to the purposes of individuals; to advance the purposes of reckless ambition by combinations to delude, to cheat, and to confuse the public mind. In a word the attempt to gain power in any manner except as freely conceded from the deliberate and continued conviction and preference of the people, is the result of a depravity, kindred to the spirit of toryism. Such is toryism:--founded on a contempt for the common man, exerting superior strength to engross the benefits of society, invoking superior intelligence to delude and corrupt the public mind, and impiously pleading for its defence the will of God, the order of Providence. This system has but one character, whether in Russia or Japan, in Rome or Constantinople, in Vienna or Boston.
The second theory regards society as established by a compact, which, when once formed, is held to be irrevocable, and incapable of amendment. This system regards liberty as the result of a bargain between the government and the governed; and as measured by the grant. The methods of government being once established, are therefore esteemed fixed forever. The immutability of oriental despotism is claimed for the compact, and freedom is but a privilege covenanted for; it seeks its title deeds in the records of the past; it looks for its security to the graves of the dead; it adduces no arguments in its support but from the musty archives of the past. Instead of saying, It is right, it says, It is established. It asserts an immortality for law, not for justice; it perpetuates established wrong on the plea of a vested right. Happy is it for a nation, on this theory, if its authors made for it originally a good bargain for be it evil or be it good, the bargain must be kept by all posterity. This theory of compact is the theory of whiggism; it is the citadel of aristocracy: it is, in a good measure, the creed of our whig doctors of to-day.
This theory, by its very nature, can apply to nothing but material wealth; because mind is always in motion. It is the indefeasible prerogative of humanity to make Progress: the soul cannot be bound down by fixed contract; error cannot be rendered immutable by an intellectual mortmain; nor the progress of truth restrained by vested rights in opinions.
You will further perceive, that this system of an original compact is hardly one step of an advance towards a truly liberal system. It regards every injustice, once introduced into the compact, as sacred; a vested right that cannot be recalled; a contract that, however great may be the pressure, can never be cancelled. The whig professes to cherish liberty, and he cherishes only his chartered franchises. The privileges that he extorts from a careless or a corrupt legislature, he asserts to be sacred and inviolable. He applies the doctrine of divine right to legislative grants,
and spreads the mantle of superstition round contracts. He professes to adore freedom, and he pants for monopoly. Not that he is dishonest; he deceives himself; he is the dupe of his own selfishness; for covetousness is idolatry; and covetousness is the only passion which is never conscious to itself of its existence.
This whig doctrine is not peculiar to late years or even to late centuries; the passions in human nature on which parties are founded, were always the same; and the whig doctrine, under much the same form as at present, has been reproduced, wherever privileged wealth has struggled for dominion. It has been, in all ages, the strong hord of those who desire to erect barriers against the people, to resist the progress of enfranchisement, and to subject the voice, and the conscience, and the rights of the many, to the interests, and privileges, and ambition of the few.
With us the whig looks to the Constitution not merely as an institution of government, but as a bridle in the mouth of the people. He scans the instrument carefully, to discern those points, on which he may plant resistance to the paramount power of the many; and seeks to interpret them in such a manner as will enable him to engross power for the wealthy and the few. Holding every thing, which can be inferred from the letter of his compact, as a vested right, his notions of political obligation are measured by the same standard. Were an army bombarding the capitol, he would insist on his constitutional privilege of refusing supplies. The very nature of a popular government requires that the people shall elect their own chief magistrate; but the whigs deliberately conspire to take this election from the people and transfer it to the House of Representatives, pleading the letter of the Constitution, and applying to ordinary elections the remedy provided for a contingency, which ought always, if possible, to be avoided. Again: the very nature of society and government, require union. Concert of feeling and action is essential to the continuance of free institutions. When the people cease to have morally a unity of character, when there is no longer a common idea which the country represents, when the election of public servants is no longer guided by principles and feelings pervading and uniting our widely extended land, discordant factions will take the place of' federal union, and power will be wrested from the people to be surrendered to a combination of those factions. It was a common sympathy with our sister States which achieved the revolution, and which formed the federal union. But the letter of the Constitution permits an infinite variety of parties and an infinite number of candidates; and the whig claims his vested right under the Constitution of attempting to defeat all concert of action, to break up all moral union, to destroy all sympathy between the States, by assuming a position of insulated surliness, and obtaining for his candidate a name, for which not one other State in the Union offers one solitary vote. What scenes of confusion would ensue if the democratic party--but no, that is impossible. The democratic party is the party of harmony. "Union," said the father of his country, "is the point of our political fortress, against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively, though often covertly and insidiously directed." Listening to the counsels of Washington, the democracy "frowns on the first attempt to alienate one portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together its various parts." It is the whigs of the South who "calculate the value of the union;" it is the whigs of the North who desire to consummate disunion, and see Massachusetts "blotted from the map of the States," rather than reconciled to the country. It is the whigs who, under the forms of the Constitution, but in defiance of its spirit, by the multiplication of candidates, strive to wrest from the people the choice of their own magistrates, at one election getting up a special candidate for "solitary" South Carolina, and at another a special candidate for "solitary" Massachusetts.
Democracy is the institution of government by the many, for the common good. Its energy is derived from the will of the people; its object is the welfare of the people; its strength is in the affections of the people. It is the most powerful element of modern civilization; it is the greatest discovery ever made in political science.
I call it a discovery; and designedly. It was a discovery, and not a creation. Bad laws may be the mere conceptions of the human mind; good laws never can be; for good laws depend upon existing relations, which the wise lawgiver observes, and imbodies in his code. Our fathers proclaimed the principles of democracy; but did not create them. They were coŽval with the first conception of order in the divine mind; and are as pervading and as extensive as moral existence. Like Christianity, and like all moral principles, they are eternal in their truth and in their obligation.
The principles of democracy, imbodied in the Declaration of Independence, were but the manifesto of a system which, in the divine mind, was as old as creation. That manifesto spread through the world with the rapidity of light; in Europe, in South America, it was the dawn of a new day; the Mexican waked from his apathy; the Spaniard emerged from the bigotry of the Inquisition; France prepared to escape from the coils of absolutism. The principles of democracy contained in the Declaration of Independence possess vigor to revive the decaying energies of ancient states; to enfranchise the world; to renew the youth of the nations.
I know that tile enemies of democracy attempt to shield themselves from reproach, by exciting terror against the apprehended tyranny of the people. But tyranny in a popular government is an impossibility; for to a popular government tyranny would be self-destruction. Democracy governs by means of truth, discovered by the activity of' the public mind, and applied by the deliberate exercise of the public will; but tyranny checks discussion; it holds back the light; it intercepts truth. A government of the people is a government conducted by the mind of the country, freely enlightened and freely exerted. Tyranny cannot reach the public mind; and tyranny in a democracy is therefore all impossibility.
Such are the great systems which have divided the political world. To the tory, law is an expression of absolute will; to the whig, it is the protection of privilege; to democracy, it is a declaration of right. In the tory system, the executive and sovereign are one; in the whig system, the executive is the sovereign, except where expressly limited; in the system of democracy, the executive is not the sovereign, but the servant, of the people. The tory clings to past abuses; the whig idolizes present possessions; democracy is the party of progress and reform. The tory, blaspheming God, pleads the will of heaven as a sanction for a government of force; the whig, forgetting that God is not the God of the dead, appeals to prescription; democracy lives in the consciences of the living. The tory demands an exclusive established church; the whig tolerates dissent on conditions; democracy enfranchises the human mind. The tory idolizes power; the whig worships his interests; democracy struggles for equal rights. The tory pleads for absolute monarchy; the whig for a wealthy aristocracy; democracy for the power of the people. The tory regards liberty as a boon; the whig as a fortunate privilege; democracy claims freedom as an inalienable right. The tory loves to see a slave at the plough; the whig prefers a tenant or a mortgaged farm; democracy puts the plough in the hands of the owner. The tory tolerates no elective franchise; the whig gives a vote to none but men of property, democracy respects humanity, and struggles for universal education and universal suffrage. The tory bids the suffering poor gather the crumbs that fall from his table; the whig says, "Be ye clothed, be ye fed," but allows no obligation; democracy holds it a duty to soothe the mourner, and to redeem the wretched. The tory looks out for himself; the whig for his clan; democracy takes thought for the many. The tory adheres to the party of Moloch; the whig still worships at the shrine of Mammon; democracy is practical Christianity.
Thus I have endeavored to trace the principles of democracy, imbodied by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, to their origin in human nature and society. It is not difficult to establish, that they have from the first been the principles of New England; that they are interwoven with her earliest existence; that they formed the vital element of all her institutions; that they constituted the germ of political life in every New England State.
The principles of democracy were brought to our shores by the breezes that wafted the May Flower across the Atlantic. The pilgrims did not come for wealth, but for liberty; they describe themselves as alike "removed from gentry and from beggarly." "In our native land," say they, "we were accustomed to no more than a plain country life, and the innocent trade of husbandry." "We hold ourselves," they continue, "strongly tied to all care of each other's good, and of the whole." "And when, amidst the storms of winter, the precious bark anchored within the waters of our bay, the emigrants assembled in convention to institute a government for themselves; to frame "just and equal laws for the general good." Then it was that the precedents of American democracy began. In the cabin of the May Flower humanity raised its banner, inscribing on its folds, "Equal laws for the general good."
Such was the dawn of democracy in the old Colony. Had tory principles been respected, Massachusetts had never been settled; had whig rules been followed, our fathers had never established a body of representatives. It is well known, that in the eyes of archbishop Laud and the tories of his day, non-conformity was a felony, and our fathers were esteemed obstinate in treason. At the aristocratic revolution of 1688, when whig principles were established, our fathers were chided, by the great whig lawyers of that age, for having dared to go beyond their vested rights, and form a representative government. They had established admirable methods for public instruction, and these also the whig learning of that day denounced, as an enormous usurpation, not to be justified by any clause in their charter. Yes, fellow citizens, if the bigotry of precedent had overcome the creative intelligence of your fathers, they never would have instituted a college or a General Court. The tory convicted them of felony; the whig disfranchised them for the usurpation o f natural rights; democracy alone can give them a verdict of acquittal.
In New Hampshire the first settlements were established according to the precedent of Plymouth and the towns of Portsmouth and Dover and Exeter were established, according to the principles of natural right, as so many little republics in the wilderness. And here I cannot but observe, what I shall have occasion to repeat, how democracy derives its strength from the influence of religion. Our fathers, you will remember, always came attended by their religious teachers; they were led into the wilderness by Aaron as well as by Moses; and in those days, when New England attempted to intimidate the infant settlements of New England, she always directed her menaces against the clergy. And do you think the ministers of God gave way? Do you think they fled before the panic that an English monarch could conjure up? No! my friends. Of the clergy of the first century in New England there was not a tory among them all. They were not reeds shaken with the wind. They were the first to set their foot in the waters, and there to stand, till danger was past. When Rev. Mr. John Higginson was summoned before Andros to say by what right our people held their franchises, the brave man made answer, "By the grand charter of God." When the Rev. John Wise, the Hampden of America, was taken into custody that he might be tormented into paying an illegal tax, he went to jail, where be would have died, sooner than have set the example of dereliction, for he used to say, "Democracy is Christ's government in state and church." This was, in an eminent degree, the spirit which pervaded New Hampshire. When King Charles II. imposed upon that colony a royal governor, he attempted to levy illegal taxes; but not a single citizen would pay them. At Hampton the sheriff, one hundred and fifty years ago, was put on horseback and escorted out of town; in Exeter the farmers' wives heated brimming kettles of water to scald the reprobate deputy who should dare to attempt collection; and when the governor in despair ordered out the militia, the militia were the people, and refused obedience. In the parish church of Portsmouth there was but one royalist; him the Rev. Mr. Moody subjected to censure from the church; and when the governor expostulated, Mr. Moody wrote a sermon against the governor himself. "The people of New Hampshire," said governor Cranfield, the governor of that day and a most excellent whig he afterwards proved himself to be, "are factious and malignant: unless these factious preachers are turned out of the Province, it will be impossible to enforce his majesty's commands.--I shall esteem it the greatest happiness in the world to be allowed to remove from these unreasonable people." The governor returned to England; the clergy continued to preach; the people remained factiously fond of liberty; and from that day to this, it has been pretty well understood, that in the heart of a New Hampshire man, whether at home or abroad, the love for democratic liberty is planted as firmly as the everlasting granite in the mountains of the granite state.
From the hills of New Hampshire turn now your eyes in Providence to the shores of the Narragansett, where the rival of Descartes invoked the blessings of providence on the spot where the lovers of "soul liberty" planted their abode. The government which Roger Williams established, was a government of the people; his spirit harbored a lofty confidence in his fellow men. The will of the majority controlled the rising colony "in civil things;" of the conscience there was no inquisitor but God. "To exercise power over conscience," said they, "we do hold to be a point of absolute cruelty." So intense was the spirit of democracy among the little band, the rumor went abroad, that "they would have no magistrates." But then say their records, "Our popularitie shall not, as some conjecture it will, prove an anarchic, and so a common tyrannie; for we are exceedingly desirous" such is ever the rule among the friends of democracy, "to preserve every man safe in his person, name, and estate."
Or will you turn to another scene in the early days of New England? Behold the handful of emigrants escaping from Boston to Rhode Island? Miantonomoh, the chief of the Narragansetts, welcomes them to his teritory; and affection for Roger Williams induces the savage hero to bestow on the exiles the beautiful island of Rhode Island. And there the little band of herdsmen and shepherds assemble to the sound of a drum, on the sea side; the roar of the waves within their hearing, and no canopy but the canopy of heaven over their heads. And what government do you think these exiles framed? What but a government of themselves? "We do unanimously agree," such are the words of their records, "that the government which this body politic doth attend unto is a democracie, or popular government; that is to say, it is in the power of the body of freemen, orderly assembled, or major part of them, to make or constitute just laws, by which they will be regulated; and to depute from among themselves such ministers as shall see them faithfully executed between man and man." Such was the beautiful institution of government in Rhode Island; the little community, as democrats always ought to do, loved one another; and the signet for the state was a sheaf of arrows with the inscription; "Love shall conquer all things."
Our early settlements on Connecticut river were equally established in the forms and in the spirit of democracy. The people of Connecticut,--and the rule did not vary essentially in the upper towns,--instituted their own government; and every inhabitant was invested with the elective franchise. The first day on which the "pleasant banks" of our river were colonized, was the first day of unmixed popular freedom for the rising commonwealth; and Jefferson, observing in its forms of government the principles he loved, used always to say of Connecticut, that her original institutions were democratic. Every officer in the land was elected directly or indirectly by the people. Legislation was mild and humane. The whole annual expense of the government did not exceed the salary of a royal governor. The judges, like other laborers, were paid for their services by the day. The busy hum of the wheel told the tale of domestic industry; and the flax from the fields, and the wool from the folds, were woven at home. In the world of fashion no one had precedence of the farmer's wife and the farmer's daughters; the costliest equipage was a pillion; and the home-spun gown, woven from flax, and colored with copperas and otter, and the snow-white flaxen apron, were the richest luxuries of dress, carefully reserved for the decorum of
Sabbath. The husbandman who tilled his own soil, and fatted his own beeves, was the great man of the land. There were no vast inequalities of condition; the lands were divided according to rules that seemed equitable; and a larger house or a fuller barn was the chief distinction of rural wealth. Every man labored; and industry and frugality produced abundance. And what room was there to fear want? The trees of the forest dropped juices, from which sugar was refined; the river was alive with shad and salmon; the roe-buck and the fallow deer yielded venison, equal to that which won the blessing of the patriarch. It was the golden age of New England; when the country was, as it were, enameled with virtues, and pure affections bloomed through the villages like flowers in the fields. It was the age of equality; humanity was the Genius of the land; and every family, happy in its simple enjoyments, as the labor of the day began and as it ended, looked upward to God as the author of all good. For more than a century Connecticut was in advance of the civilized world in its legislation, and consequently in the condition of its people. The whole earth could not exhibit a community comparable to it for public happiness.
Nor let it be deemed surprising, that the husbandmen on the Connecticut made such rapid advances in political science. No adverse interest disinclined them to the welfare of the people. They consulted the oracle within their breasts; and the invisible Egeria whose inspirations they followed, was the still, small voice of conscience. They "felt the beauty and loveliness" of moral truth applied to politics, of a legislation resting on general principles. "It is not a speculative thing," says one who sprung from the midst of them, and who possessed the richest and the clearest mind that ever ripened in New England; "it depends on the sense of the heart." Conscience is the light within every man, to be reverenced
As God's most intimate presence in the soul,
And his most perfect image in the world.
It sheds its guiding beams on every mind; it makes itself heard in terror to the guilty; it whispers consolation to the gentle and the benevolent. It is like the magnet which is the same in every Ship, under whatever flag it may sail; and points truly to the North in the pirate not less than the merchantman. Conscience is the cynosure of truth, the oracle of duty; never erring in the masses, and erring in individuals only as the loadstone in a single ship may be attracted from its true direction. Away with the false and heartless maxim, that truth dwells in dark places; that she lies hid in the bottom of a well; that she can be reached only by the vigor of the most powerful intellect. Error delights in darkness and con fusion, and it re quires all the energy of giant minds to sustain the delusions on which a selfish aristocracy rest their pretensions; but truth is a social spirit; her home is in the heart of the people, in the breast of the race she rests her head serenely on the bosom of humanity. Error demands the efforts of genius to conceal her behind sophisms, to protect her by false terrors, to invoke superstition for her defence; but truth dwells in every cottage, communes with the unlearned as well as the learned, goes forth with the shepherd upon the mountainside, and joins the family group that welcomes the return of the laborer. She gambols with childhood; she makes her home with all that love candor and peace; she blesses every one who will hush the turbulence of selfish passions and listen to her tranquil revelations. In same degree in which every man can love his child or his wife, in the same degree he can feel the inspiring influence of moral truth. The germ lies in the commonest mind. There is not one generous affection nor one moral principle, which does not exist in every man's heart. All that the most cultivated understanding can know of God, and nature, and duty, lies in the mind of each individual. Yes, in the mind of the least educated of our race. Only in the cultivated mind it is unfolded; in the common mind it lies like the leaf of the fern in late winter, perfectly formed, yet still concealed in the folds, which warm suns are to develope. No one dares to doubt this, in the case of natural affection; it is not education that teaches the mother to love her child. No one doubts this in religious feeling. The sincere prayer of the humblest worshipper wings its way upward as directly, as if the incense rose from the Vatican itself. The principle applies equally to political truth: there is an instinct of liberty; a natural perception of the loveliness and beauty of freedom; and our fathers listened to it, and took counsel of it. Its inspiration made the wilderness glad; its revelations shed light that well might startle the wisest statesmen and philosophers of the old world. I speak no new doctrine. I do but repeat what was known to our fathers; I do but echo the words that were pronounced in Old Hampshire, one hundred and two years ago. The gift of feeling moral truth, of which political science is a branch, was rightly declared by our fathers, "to be from God. Nothing the creature receives is so much a participation of the Deity: it is a kind of emanation of God's beauty, and is related to God as light is to the sun . It is not a thing that belongs to reason; it depends on the sense of the heart. The evidence that is this way obtained, is vastly better and more satisfying, than all that can be obtained by the arguings of those that are most learned and greatest masters of reason; it is far more excellent than all the knowledge of the greatest philosophers and statesmen. And babes are as capable of knowing these things, as the wise and prudent, and the are often hid from these and revealed to those. For not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world." It was because our fathers freed themselves from prejudice and selfish passion, and, making them selves like little children, listened calmly to the voice within, that the book of political wisdom was thrown wide open to their gaze; that they gave their affections to democratic liberty as naturally and as firmly as they adored their Creator or loved their offspring.
Were I to proceed and recount all the incidents, which illustrate the democratic spirit of early New England, the hours of day would pass away, and the shades of evening gather around us, before my task were done. New England was not founded for the service of Mammon; she was not cradled in the devices of whiggism; but, in the true spirit of democracy, it was ever held, that he who values moral truth but as twelve, and the world as thirteen, is no true New England man. The same principle is observable in all our New England institutions; our towns; our churches; and our free schools.
New England was settled by way of towns; each separate village was a real and perfect democracy within itself; each town-meeting was a convention of its people; all the inhabitants, the affluent and the needy, the wise and the foolish, were equal members of the little legislature. Truth won its victories in a fair field, where pride, not less than benevolence, might join in the debate; where selfishness could secure no special favors; where justice and learning claimed no privilege. Our town meetings were the schools in which our lawgivers were educated; and these bear in perfection the impress of democracy.
The same remark applies to the village church. True religion can never become the ally of avarice. Christianity burst the shackles of superstition, broke the seals that rested on the destinies of man, and shed the pleasant light that shall enfranchise the world. I know that foul calumny has loudly asserted, and still secretly whispers, that democracy favors infidelity. The charge implies ignorance not less than corrupt malevolence. The masses of mankind never favored infidelity. Irreligion is not a trait of humanity.
A long and earnest study of the history of the race gives me a right to assert it. Infidelity is the offspring of aristocracy; it flourishes most where pride and abundance curb the passions least. You cannot find, throughout the globe, one single nation, civilized or savage, not a scattered tribe, not an insulated horde, where there is not among the masses, faith in God, in the soul, and in the duty of self-denial. The United States, eminently the land of democracy, is the most religious country on earth. The people of every nation adore a superior intelligence, bury their dead, and possess the institution of marriage. The people of the United States, where civil and religious liberty are most fully developed, is the most religious people on earth. The enfranchising principle is a purifying principle. The odious doctrines of materialism were generated in the abodes of despotism; democracy, following the counsels of religion, exults in "the reality of spiritual light."
That spiritual light may dawn upon every mind. It shines in upon the cottage as freely as on prouder mansions. The universal diffusion of the powers of mind and heart proves the capacity of the human race for advancement. And hence it is, that democracy, by the instinct of self-preservation, cherishes that other New England institution, the system of common schools; the happiest institution of the reformation; the glory of Calvin; the pride of Scotland; the vital element of New England politics. The system of free schools, in every land that it can reach, will break up religious bigotry, will eradicate superstition, will undermine aristocracy, and lead inevitably to the freedom and power of the people. Nor let us suppose, that every thing has yet been done for Common schools in New England. Democracy is pledged to new efforts for the diffusion of' truth and the increase of the relative number of active and inquiring minds. Here, as everywhere, the rule is, union and progress; to count as nothing what has been gained, but to press forward towards further improvement in the intellectual and moral condition of the people. Mind is universal; and its universal culture is the best protection of the natural equality of the race, and the surest means of its constant advancement. The analysis of truth is a slow process; the perception of truth that has once been analyzed, is immediate and easy. Whole generations of inquirers sometimes pass away, having made but few advances in science; while their successors safely and rapidly move over the ground once explored. The village lad who reads the blessed truths of Christianity in the plain simplicity of the gospel narrative, knows more of God, and Providence, and duty, than the wisest sage of the ancient world; the farmer's boy, by honest application of his mind to study, may in two years pass far beyond the bounds which limited the genius of Newton; the common sailor, with his quadrant, easily masters principles, which acute and powerful minds in the course of centuries had slowly evolved; and the little girl on the lower forms of the common school, in a few weeks learns more of geography than all that was known to Columbus, when he started for the discovery of a world. The analysis of the principles of government is likewise a result of experience and observation; and as the experience of America on the forms and effects of self-government exceeds that of all the rest of the world, it is hazarding but little to say, that as our system of common schools shall be improved, every American youth may easily become imbued with sound principles of public right, a knowledge of the nature, the tendencies and the duties of democracy, far beyond all that has become but faintly known to the wisest of European statesmen.
I have thus pointed out to you the democratic character of the early institutions of New England; I have shown that the principles of popular liberty in the Declaration of Independence, are written oil their corner-stone. But I shall not leave the argument here. I shall pursue it to see if further confirmation can be found in tile character of our early settlers, in the character of our fathers.
Our fathers were exiles for conscience sake; they came to the wilderness for freedom of religion; they were of the reformed religion; men who dissented from the forms of dissent; men who were forced to push the principles of' natural liberty to their remote conclusions, in order to defend their separation from European creeds. They were all members of plebeian sects, adherents to creeds that sprung up among the people. It was in the midst of penury and want, in sight of the wretchedness of the enslaved peasantry and the crimes of a corrupt priesthood, that the still small voice for freedom of conscience and emancipation of labor was first raised by the Baptists. And, do you think that it was in the abodes of princes that the spirit of Calvin was nurtured? Was his infancy cradled in palaces of marble? Was his youth bred in the soft lap of indulgence? As his mind was gaining vigor to wrestle with the errors of a world, did he tread on pavements of porphyry? or wear robes of purple? or crown himself with a tiara? No, my friends! the reformers whom our fathers followed, sprang from the people, and dwelt with the people; they were plebians all; they wore no crown but the crown of thorns; they gathered no treasures but such as cannot be taken away; they had no grandeur but the grandeur of making themselves the benefactors of humanity.
Or will you look to those later reformers who in a nearer century themselves visited our shores? Will you follow the steps of the meek and patient Wesley; will you see him now waking the echoes of Christianity in the depths of the forests, and now cherishing the aspirations of innocence in our cities? Seeking out the bruised spirit, that he might heal its wounds, and making his way to every abode that misfortune or sorrow had entered before him; comforting the oppressed, and remembering the neglected? I ask you, if from such a root aristocracy can rise? I demand if from that well spring of truth you draw the doctrine that wealth may be deified? I ask you if there you learn to make of a monied interest the corner stone of society? I demand, if from that oracle you get the response of our Massachusetts whigs, that a government founded on property is a legitimate government? No, my friends! the infancy of these New England States was cradled in the simplicity of love, and watched by the angels of heaven; the brightest lights of all time, the most gifted minds among the guides of humanity, went as a cloud of glory before their steps; and from the earliest dawn, the gospel of liberty, like the gospel of all truth, shed its hallowed beams over the rising settlements, whispering its words of freedom and of peace. Thus the motives which led our fathers to plant the rock-bound coasts of New England were all in harmony with democracy.
Once more, to complete my argument, I repeat, New England in its origin was democratic; it could not but have been democratic; for what was there in Europe that could emigrate? Europe, as the result of the middle ages, bad seen feudalism, Christianity in the forms of the established church, Christianity in its spirit and truth, royalty, and the enfranchised commons. Feudalism did not emigrate; it could not emigrate; it existed only as a legal form; the tenure of estates. The Hierarchy did not emigrate; European jealousy would not tolerate an independent establishment; and haughty prelates despised the poverty of the wilderness. Royalty was here only by its representative, a feeble shadow, and in some governments, the deputy of a representative, the shadow of a shadow. Nothing came in power but the people. Christianity in its spirit came but it came with the people. Europe gave nothing but the best of her plebeian sons, tried in the school of misfortune; disciplined by the struggles of penury and persecution. And therefore the early period of our colonial life was for the new world the golden age of humanity. Men of every sect into which awakening reason had divided the people, came to our shores. The sceptic did not come; the infidel did not come; the sceptic and the infidel had no motive to come; the institutions of Europe were well enough for them. Popular liberty in its infancy in America, had religion to rock its cradle; and therefore it is, that the childhood of the glorious plebeian was so beautiful with the hues of health and the loveliness of innocence; therefore it is, that the spirit, of democratic power and freedom dwells among you as immutable as truth, as imperishable as mind.
And why should we not stand in the ancient paths? What motive have we for not rallying to the standard of popular liberty? Why should not we feed the sacred flame and transmit it in new brilliancy to the next generation?
It is a significant fact, that every State, where the system of common schools is established, except perhaps Massachusetts, is at this time by immense majorities with the democracy of the country. I trust that Massachusetts will be found there also. If the democracy of this State has sometimes been overborne by the vast concentration of monied interests, it never has surrendered. Truth is immortal; the triumph of democracy may be adjourned; it cannot be avoided. So sure as the seasons return, the cause of the people will gain the victory even here, where the struggle is hardest; and the intensity of the conflict may have this advantage, that it will develope more fully who are the secret enemies to the power and progress of the people.
All the free States, without one exception, unless it be Massachusetts, all others from the St. Croix to the wilderness, are with us. The yeomanry of the land never desert the statesmen, who honestly maintain their cause; and the independent mechanics, now becoming so numerous and so powerful a class, are like the yeomanry, the natural friends of democracy.
Of our sister States at the South, none but South Carolina is prepared for a desperate struggle against us. The politicians who malign the union, who cherish aristocracy, and who impiously desire to reverse the decrees of God, roll back the hand on the dial-plate of time full three thousand years, and renew what they call the days and the institutions of the patriarchs, these visionary politicians, lost in the Serbonian bogs of their own metaphysical theories, go to the death against "the tyranny of the majority," the usurpations of the people.
Especially New York is with us. The State which like our own has given hostages for its regard for commerce, and manufactures, and agriculture, the State which is pledged to internal improvements, to free labor and to free schools which is as a New England State in its origin, industry and manners, the State which is filled with our kindred, and which has placed at the head of the government and in its highest trusts, children of our own soil, sons of Massachusetts, that State has nobly taken the lead. Her star is in the ascendant, and by her side shine the stars of New England, a glorious constellation.
If we look to pleasant companionship, if we desire to draw tighter the bonds that bind us to the union, we shall unite with the democracy of the country. And does not the prosperity of the land authorize our confidence? Our country exults like a strong man, crowned with victory from the race, and glorying in anticipation of new successes; it goes forth like the bridegroom from his chamber; it presses forward on its career, like the sun rejoicing in the East. At one bound it crossed the Alleghany, and planted its foot on the Ohio; the next, and it has passed the Mississippi; as it prepares to take the third, the wilderness itself will set no bounds to its career.
Or do you demand a more accurate consideration of special interests? When was the shelter of the farmer more secure? When did ever the bread of industry possess for him a sweeter relish? In what favored region, in what happy clime, did the hardy yeoman ever enjoy so fully the
prerogatives of man? When did ever the blessings of heaven pour more plenteously upon him? And as his hale offspring multiplies around him, how sweet the thought that they are ripening for the comforts of freedom, and the enjoyment of equal rights; that all the new States of the union are vieing with the old in offering them an opportunity of successful action, and an arena of honor.
And does it not go well with manufactures? Are the gloomy forebodings of the screeching owls and hideous night-birds of the panic come to pass? Is the music of the hammer silent in your shops? Have wages fallen fifty per cent? Do your streams flow through solitudes? Are your children without clothes, and your wives without food? Are the streets grass grown, and the factories shut up? Is corn worth no more than twenty-five cents a bushel, and produce wasting for want of purchasers? Is the river deserted? Has the town gone to waste? Never was the hum of mechanic industry so active; never were our streams so vexed with toil and compelled to work their passage to the ocean; never did the work shops ring with a livelier din; never did the water wheels run more merrily. The blooming children swarm like clusters of roses round your houses; the sweet smiles of conjugal love wipe all weariness from the brow of successful labor; and smiling Industry walks through our villages, scattering plenty all around her with both her hands.
Least of all has the commercial interest reason for discontent. From the commencement of our government the care for commerce has never been so widely or so powerfully exerted. Never was there so firm, so earnest, so sincere an appeal for an increase of the navy, and the defence of the sea board; never so well concerted plans for giving efficiency to the maritime force of the country plans which, if but partially successful, failed only because retarded by the zeal of the very men, who pride themselves on the defence of commerce.
But the power of the government was not exhausted in vain recommendations. Democracy has washed out the spot that European insolence had cast on our flag; she has caught the dying echoes of the wrongs of our mariners in years long gone by; she has knocked at the
palace gates of the oldest principalities of Europe, and demanded redress for the American seaman; she has gone into the heart of the maritime State of Denmark, and claimed and obtained reparation; she has crossed the mountains of Spain, when their fastnesses rung with the tumult of domestic feuds, and raising her voice louder than the jarring discords of civil factions, has hushed the scene of turbulence into concession and redress; she has sent her messengers into the beautiful bay of Naples, and her fleets, wafted by the bland zephyrs that raise but a ripple for a surge to break upon the flowery beach, have waked the younger branch of the Bourbons from their oblivion, and commanded requital to be made for every ancient wrong. She has brushed away the dust from her slumbering claims against France, and bearing the American pennant into the Halls of the Tuilleries, she calmly claimed the reparation of injury from an ancient ally and a friend; and when the reparation, though acknowledged to be duel was yet withheld, she left the union flag all spangled with stars in proud defiance on the walls of the palace, where it hung in terror till the world turned its finger of scorn on the kingdom that delayed the fulfilment of an obligation which it did not dare to question. And has democracy offered an apology for the expression of truth and the performance of duty? The indemnity is to be paid; and there have been no apologies, unless it be apologies from men, whose short sighted policy would protect their gains by the sacrifice of honor.--Thus it was, that the governments of Europe have been compelled to restore more than eight millions of money, of which our merchants had been defrauded. Nor is this the noblest part of the result. It is a glorious testimony to the advancement of humanity. The redress of wrongs was entrusted to reason, and on the theatre of European ambition and violence, the furies and licentiousness of war were made to yield to the language of remonstrance and the progress of intelligence. Well was it said on the floor of Congress, that the President, in this policy, "would carry the people along with him." Well did a son of Massachusetts give a pledge for us and say, "I engage for New England." New England speaks for herself; and joins in the applause of the World; she has reconciled herself to democracy; its triumphs are her own.
The wealth of our merchants has been rescued from the hands of the civilized governments that had been spoilers. It has equally been protected against the lawless freebooter, the adventurous buccanier. The vessels of the pi rate no longer plough their way among the isles of the gulf of Mexico; and the merchantman in its traffic, is safe against every thing but the elements. Nor has tranquillity been restored in our own vicinity alone. Beyond the Atlantic, beyond the southern capes of Africa, in the Indian ocean, among the straits of the other hemisphere, the streamer floats securely from the masts of the American; piracy has been suppressed; wrongs avenged; and a mystic power of protection been spread round our mariners. In the glory of the great republic, we are told that a freeman perished on the cross, within sight of Italy, vainly exclaiming, I am a Roman citizen; on the coast of Sumatra, beneath the burning suns of India, where the sails of swarms of pirates are, swelled by perfumed gales from spicy groves, and passions rage with the fury of the sultry clime, there the mariner from the hills of New England, as he holds within his grasp the folds of our flag, and declares himself an American citizen, passes safe among the lawless, unharmed by the barbarians of another color and another creed.
Nor has democracy rested satisfied with the ancient channels of commerce. She has sought new openings for traffic in every part of the world; she has formed new treaties; she has carried the principles of international law to the gulf of Ormus, and the waters of Chin-India; she has caused them to be respected by the children of Buddha and the followers of Mahomet. The American merchant may now traffic with the kingdom of Siam, or with the Sheiks of Arabia. All the races of humanity seem united by a common bond. And how beautiful are the results of the advancing power of the youngest daughter of civilization! How do the earliest traditions seem melting into the results of present enterprise! Thousands of years "expand their cloudy wings;" and along the dark line of ages, the patriarchs of oldest time seem to stretch out the hand, and beckon our commerce towards tile cradle of our race and the birth place of our religion. Ideas travel on the prow of every ship; the American bark that, under the auspices of our flag, ploughs the eastern seas, is instinct with life, is pregnant with moral truth; wherever she makes her way, she will carry the principles that enfranchise the mind, and break the seals of humanity for the pagan world.
But American democracy is not content for the benefit of commerce to connect itself with the ancient world; she is just preparing to equip a new squadron to search for unknown regions; to penetrate the dark recesses of the Southern ocean, vex the polar seas, and carry the flag of the union where no prow ever yet cleaved the billow; to see if in the frozen realms of the remotest south, there be islands and treasures of the deep to invite the dauntless enterprise and reward the fearless labor of the American merchant.
Of all kinds of maritime business, that of whaling is the most beset with dangers and difficulties; so much so, that for a long time, there were hardly three ports in the world, from which voyages were made with success. The men engaged in this pursuit, do not sail for a given harbor; their place of destination is the high sea itself; their business must be pursued upon the mighty deep. Three years are the usual period of an adventure; and in that time the hardy mariners circumnavigate the globe; are sometimes parching under the sultry atmosphere and the vertical heat of the tropics; and are sometimes thrown into the vicinity of the frozen regions; at times they are exposed to be swept before the fiercest attacks of' a hurricane near the line; and at others are heaved on the wildest billows into which the ocean is lashed by polar winds; they pursue their prey into every sea; they double the remotest capes, and search for their game in every zone and along every coast, till finally there is not a nook in the ocean where a whale can gambol in security; and thus for three years they are buffeted by every wind, and rocked by every tempest, and exposed to every climate, and tried by every hardship. Amidst pursuits so appalling, disasters often ensue; the wrecks of many a vessel now float among the surges of the Southern sea. Hope whispers the thought that the unhappy mariners have yet found a refuge upon unknown isle; the people of the United States, whose enterprise deems no purpose too vast for
Its gigantic energies, deems no act of benevolence too minute for its regard; and at this moment is preparing a ship to coast among the thousand isles of the South Pacific, and search for the footsteps of our shipwrecked men.
And what excuse, then, have our merchants for their resistance to the democracy, which has defended their treasures, and heaped on them benefits? Are they so seized by the passion for dominion, that they forget to have the feelings of patriots? Let them recover from the unworthy bigotry that darkens their understandings; let them remember they are men; let them feel for humanity; let them love their whole country.
Or will our adversaries assert that no principle is at issue? The assertion only shows an ignorance of human nature, and of the history of human. It is an induction, sustained by the history of our race from the earliest period to the present, an induction confirmed by the concurring testimony of every nation that the conflict of parties is the struggle of opinions for the mastery. This is the reason why the Political institutions of a free country are so powerful an element of national education. The eve of every election is the contest of opposing principles; and however much there may be of error and passion and falsehood and calumny in the canvass, the victory is always achieved under the banner of' truth. No party can be held together and succeed except by an honest principle. Men rally to nothing else; and if ever a party should fail to have a great truth for its central point, that part I could not long be held together; it would have no vitality.
Or is it said that our principles are not distinctly marked? that we are but the party of non-committal? The public mind struggles for truth; it avoids the extremes of passion; it walks securely between the burning ploughshares of conflicting interests. It loves free trade, but does not forget to counteract foreign unequal legislation; it abhors the cruel bigotry of Mexico, and yet respects the sanctity of treaties; it deposites the actual surplus revenue with the states, yet "scruples to levy an unnecessary tax almost as it would scruple a robbery;" it cherishes internal improvements with enthusiastic fondness, yet refuses to violate the rights of the States; it resists Southern whiggism, the party that pushes the doctrine of State rights to the extreme of nullification, and it opposes the Northern whigs, who despise the doctrine of State rights, found their party on the influence of money, and tend to consolidation. He that quits the central path of duty, estranges himself from humanity; and, in the same degree, swerves from the party of democracy.
Or is it affirmed, that democracy is opposed to the whole wealth and intelligence of the country? The masses of wealth, we concede, are against us. Can the same be said of intelligence? Democracy is the child of light; and adopts every enfranchising truth, that time and genius and the public mind may develope. Or is the remark intended to apply not to principles but to men? Have the gifted minds of our nation been the adversaries of democracy? Spirits of Madison and of Livingston! we summon you from the tomb to repel the calumny.
Or will they say it is not the country. Will they declare that this wonderful unanimity is but the chime of office seekers and office holders? That it is won by intrigue? That it is held by corruption?
This the language of those who have corrupted themselves into a contempt for humanity; who deny to masses of men the possession of judgment and of conscience; who thus strike at the root of all human excellence and religious faith; and by denying the capacity of man under the favor of heaven to govern himself, take away the possibility of human advancement. As if it were possible for one man to vitiate the conscience of the masses! as if the ocean could be polluted! as if all the springs of all the rivers could at one moment be poisoned! The doctrine is a dereliction to liberty, to christian truth and to humanity. It does at one and the same moment strike the Providence of God from the heavens and divide the earth between profligates and fools. Yes, my friends! Infidelity is the moral pestilence of the age; the plague that is generated amidst luxury and pride, withering the soul into which it enters, and corrupting the heart with insinuating subtlety. Sometimes it comes with the soft tread of indulgence, and lapping the soul in the earthly Elysium of gratified desire, abandons it to the restlessness of despair. Sometimes it comes in the pride of metaphysics; and reason is so bewildered by its own dim lustre, that it blots out the bright intelligence which is the light of the world. Then comes the anatomist with his dissecting knife; and because the separate limbs of the will not speak, nor the dead bones visibly cover themselves with the radiant glory of a celestial body, he shuts his ears against the voice which is
uttered by the harmony of the world, and echoed by the living responses of conscience. Next comes the new school of biblical critics with their exegetical jargon, and because they, like the Chaldeans of old can not read the writing, nor make known the interpretation thereof; because they find life to be a dream, and yet cannot explain the meaning of' the vision, they advise, in their pusillanimous philosophy, to acquiesce in a modest scepticism. Next comes the merry company of sensualists; and they laugh to scorn the wisdom of the magicians, who have attempted to interpret the counsels of nature; in the midst of their revelries they scoff at the wise philosophers that had thought by elaborate research to solve the mysterious question of the origin and end of
human existence; life, say they, is a riddle, but we have found the answer; eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die. Last of all, and in the train of the sensualist, comes the raving troop of political sceptics; they who deny to the masses not only souls capable of a hereafter but of a here; men who say in their hearts, "The people is easily duped; wealth should rule;" men "who having debauched themselves into a persuasion that mankind are incapable of governing themselves, appeal less to the reason of the many than to their weaknesses;" and because the instinct of the masses does not favor their selfishness, are false to the spirit of God which breathes through the conscience of mankind. Infatuated men! who, in the midst of their political revelries, where the country is insulted, and humanity blasphemed, could not hear the awful doom that they were weighed and found wanting; could not see the finger of a man's hand write on the walls of their banquet room the ominous sentence of their divisions and their defeat.
But for us, let us hold fast to the integrity of our political faith; for that is the only sure fountain of patriotism; the only salient and purifying spring of beneficent reform. The influence of' moral power in controlling the destinies of our country, is to us the strongest evidence of a super intending Providence. Do we seek for displays of divine power in the external world? How much more is it visible in the progress of humanity. Do you find evidence of God's goodness in the planets and the stars? The planets and the stars are not instinct with life, and cannot reveal the divine power so glorious as the course of a living nation; the collected energy of our people; the intelligence and progress of our country. Or do you see in the material world the proofs of design? How much more may you perceive proofs of the highest design in the study of the capacities of the multitude; its power to discover, estimate, and apply; the power which the people possesses of a continuous and continually improving existence. The eye of democracy discerns in our national annals the evidence of a moral power; and beholds the footsteps of Deity like a trail of glory in the departing years. We stand on higher ground than that chosen by the political infidels. We believe and they doubt; we trust in the people; they scorn the people; we rejoice in the gathering signs of advancing popular power in every part of the world; they mourn over human progress as the downfall of society; to us the present is full of joy and the future of hope; to them the present is an hour of sullen discontent; and the future is shrouded in the darkness of gloom.
But shall we be intimidated by their clamor? Shall we be disheartened by their gloomy forebodings? Is the opinion of the country to be bowed by an artificial pressure in the money market? and frightened into a change of its convictions by the scarecrows of corrupt politicians, by the horrible hobgoblins of even the most experienced panic-makers? And did they indeed think, that the people of the United States were to be dealt with as a stubborn horse, and its spirit to be broken by stinting it of its provender, by stopping discounts? And did they think that the foggy exhalations from the fens of whig despondency, could dim the lustre of the sun of democratic liberty?
Pond impious men! think ye yon sanguine
Raised by your breath bath quenched the orb of day?
To-morrow be repairs his golden flood
And gilds the nations with redoubled ray.
Yes, it was at the memorable season of the Panic, that the contest took place in advance to defeat the candidates of the democracy; it was then that the whole force of the financial power was exerted against the power of the people. We acknowledge that the adversary was powerful; that like the fabled beings of mythology, the giant wielded a hundred arms. But vain was the effort to blot out the intelligence of the common mind. It was soon obvious, the contest was between physical force and moral power; a monied interest and the peoples; between the treasures of wealth and the treasures of mind; between blind possessions and living intelligence; between the force of material interests and the wisdom, the purity, and the power of the multitude. Could the issue long remain doubtful? Do you think God would permit the darkness of wilful error, the delusions of false prophets, the perversions of desperate ambition to pass unrebuked? Do you think that Providence would hold back the light, would shut out the dawn of truth from the skies of morning?
Night, and all her sickly dews,
Her spectres wan and birds of boding cry,
He gives to range the dreary sky,
Till o'er the Eastern cliffs afar,
Hyperion's march they spy, and glittering shafts of war.
Light dawned, and democracy achieved its victory; the power of aristocracy patrolled the streets in proud defiance, till the unerring judgment of the many exposed the fallacy of their prophecies and the arrogance of their pretensions. Their career was just long enough to enable them to display themselves in their true character; when the people came with its winnowing fan, and the counsels of' the ungodly were scattered like the chaff which the wind of heaven driveth away. At the autumn election the people will but make a record of its verdict.
And wherever the day is our own, let us conduct ourselves with such singleness of purpose, that none will be our enemies, but the open and the secret enemies of popular institutions. Let us ever bear in mind, that the permanence and the value of our success can rest on no foundation but the intelligence and morality of our people.
Such is the voice which comes to us, fresh from the land of spirits, from the grave of madison. It is but a few short weeks, since it was my happiness to sit for days together by the side of the venerable man, and listen to his counsels, uttered on the borders of the tomb. It had been my purpose to gather from the treasures of his experience the history of that period, in which he himself, the most serene, of public men, of the clearest intellect, of an angelic suavity of tem per, was the beautiful writer, and the eloquent debater, who bore the brunt of the contest against the monied aristocracy in its first desperate struggle for dominion. He pointed out to me every document which he had written at that period; we consulted them all. Many of them at his desire I read aloud to him; they are essays, that apply to every form under which the ever continuing struggle between the people and the monied interest can return; and the patriot of four score and five years aware of standing on the threshold of another world, without the least recoil in his heart, renewed his approbation of those principles, on which democracy rests for its support. I was carried back to the very scenes where the truths which are the vital element of popular liberty, first obtained the aid of an organized party I beheld the energies of freedom, as they then existed in the breast of the people, reflected in all their lustre and power from the mirror of a comprehensive and an unsullied mind.
In his retirement, Madison was happy in the consciousness of having served his country with fidelity; happy in the grateful admiration of the people; happy in the serene enjoyment of his fame, which was diffused through out the world; happy in the affections of home. His mind delighted in the philosophic enjoyment of rural pleasures. "Strange as you may think it," said he with a smile, "I never loved public life; my tastes were always for rural occupations and for my study." His active and inquiring mind was enriched by the fruits of extensive research, as well as by the most varied public experience; and, to the latest period of his life, he watched with intense interest the progress of liberal principles in Europe, and the rising dangers to our government at home. Keenly alive to the desire of winning the esteem of mankind, he was indifferent to flattery. His judgments respecting himself were marked by the same moderation which illustrated his character; and the evident consciousness of his merit was blended with the most perfect decorum. His conversation embraced the widest range of subjects in history, in speculative philosophy, and in the condition and prospects of his country. His opinions were expressed with equal modesty and precision. He never indulged in acrimonious censure of his opponents; no evil passions clouded the serenity of his judgment; and his candid soul, immovably fixed in the support of democracy and of union, openly opposed to Nullification on the one side, and the ambition of the monied interest on the other, rendered justice even to his enemies. It was observable that he even painfully sought to account for the errors of his adversaries, without impeaching their integrity; and was never satisfied till he had traced a political phenomenon philosophically to its cause. His residence at Montpelier was the most beautiful specimen of old age; he went down to the grave full of years and honor, as the sun, on the eve of a long and placid summer's day, sinks gently beneath the horizon; and his memory will remain more lovely than the loveliest hues of the skies of evening. But it is not as an aged man, that he will dwell in the memory of succeeding generations. He will live in imagination, as he was when in the bloom of manhood he waked the love of union on the south side of the Potomac; when he, the gentlest of our statesmen, the candidate without envy and without guile, met the people of Virginia face to face under the canopy of heaven when he, the purest of our early writers, the most cultivated of our orators, on the floor of congress, gathered together the rays of the intelligence of the nation, and kindled on our high places then undying light of democratic freedom. The heart that in those days throbbed in his bosom, was there to the last; he was with us in his late old age; I am able to say it; he was with us in the late days of his life. Farewell, blessed spirit! And if from the abodes in which the soul of Madison now dwells, it could send to us a message, we know that his voice would bid us offer our holiest prayers and our purest efforts for the union and the power of the people.
It was in the last days of March and the earliest of April, that I was, for a few days, an inmate at Montpelier. Mr. Madison's health was at that time so firm, that he could spend the whole day and evening in conversation. In speaking of his Political opponents, he expressed himself with a candor which could hardly be surpassed, unless it was by the firmness with which he maintained his own convictions.
His services to humanity will not cease with his death; he has left a legacy which will be value by the whole world to the end of time. "when elected a member of the Convention," said he, and I use nearly his own words, "I began to study the character of the Amphyctionic Council and the leagues of antiquity; and I soon observed how meagre accounts of them had been transmitted to posterity. I resolved that the history of our own Federal Union should not be left to the same obscurity." For this purpose he took notes in the Convention, from which he was never absent; he dined moderately, drinking little or no wine, and wrote till about dark. Then taking a short walk, he returned, drank tea, and wrote till bed time. Rising early, he continued writing till breakfast, and again after breakfast till the hour when the Convention came together. In this way he was able to keep up with each day's debate and to write out the speeches and proceedings in full. He was not absent during one important scene. The work which he has prepared for the press, and which will fill three octavo volumes, contains the proceedings of the Convention, with the debates in the very words of each speaker. Every thing will be found there without partiality and without concealment.
Mr. Madison delighted to bear testimony to the integrity of his colleagues. Stating with the greatest firmness the points on which he differed from Hamilton, he rendered ample justice to the latter. Indeed, he was even anxious to be candid. "The Convention," said he, and everything confirms the judgment, "was the purest legislative body I ever knew. It is said there were parties; there were differences of opinion; but all the members were animated with a sincere desire to form the best federal government; and there were few whose previous views were not somewhat modified by the debates. It was the purest legislative body; personal considerations and party view mingled as little as possible in the discussion."
I mention these details, because the value of the History or Journal is rendered incalculable by the fact, that the events of each day were carefully and immediately written down. The volumes will have paramount historical authority.
Mr. Madison attempted to gather memorials of the history of the Declaration of Independence. In this he declared that he had met, with little success.
The Journal of the Convention is not the only historic monument which Mr. Madison has left. He has left journals of congress from 1782 to 1784, and from his return to Congress in 1786 to the close of the Congress of the Confederacy. His intimate correspondence with Jefferson, and Edmund Randolph, and others, exists; and I verily believe, that if it were all to be printed, there would not be found one single petulant remark, least of all one single uncandid aspersion of his opponents.
I held it a great advantage to hear from Mr. Madison's own lips high encomiums on Jefferson; to listen to accounts of the gay good humor in which he delighted; of his immense industry and power of humor in which he delighted; of his immense industry and power of research, and the remarkable purity, decorum, and correctness of his tastes and manners. In private life he must lave been as amiable, in his public career he was humane.
That Mr. Madison was in the last days of his life with the democracy of the country, as much as he was from 1795 to the close of our war, is not secret in Virginia. The day on which I arrived at Orange Court-House, it was publicly asserted; and on the next day was repeated and not denied. What I learned then was confirmed to me. There is no doubt about it. Mr. Madison believed what I have attempted to illustrate in this Address, that the contests of parties are the contests of conflicting opinions. Mr. Madison was like opposed to the Whigs of the South and to the Whigs of the North; not to them personally, but to their doctrines; and his preference of Mr. Van Buren, whom he personally esteemed most highly, was the result, not of that personal esteem, but of love to the Union. The party that rallies round Mr. Van Buren was to Mr. Madison the party of union.
An attempt has sometimes been made, to represent Mr. Madison as having been estranged from democracy. It is a foul calumny. It is true, that his candor was perfect; that he sought the motive to conduct in most public men in convictions and fixed interests of a general character.
Mr. Madison was most open and decided in his condemnation. Of the panic and the welfare of the Senate on the President, the opinion of Mr. Madison was the opinion of the people of the United States, and of the enlightened communities of Europe. On the French question Mr. Madison was equally with the administration; and as we read together his early writings on the difficulties of Washington's administration with England, many passages were applied to the recent controversy with France. The city of Boston remains consistent in its opposition to democracy; and Mr. Madison remained consistent in his attachment to it. He felt, that the union was safe in no other hands. In death, as in life, he was the friend of his country.
The influence of the city of Boston has kept Massachusetts in an unrelenting opposition to every democratic administration of the country. It was said of the English nobility with regard to a man of genius,
They helped to bury, whom they helped to starve.
It is a fact, which the yeomanry of Massachusetts ought duly to consider, that the whigs of that same city of Boston have been the loudest in their eulogies of the democratic presidents, after they were dead. Jefferson and Madison and Monroe, they are willing to worship among the stars; they were unwilling to respect them when in power. What is the just inference? I appeal to the country, if it be not this; When the selfish passions of the moment pass away, humanity asserts its rights and does honor to its benefactors. This is well. But there is one thing better; To respect the friends of humanity during the active years of their lives, as well as after they are removed from earth; to co-operate with them, to cherish them, to defend and support them, while they are yet capable of deriving comfort from such support. It is a miserable policy to reserve affection for the grave.
Erratum.--Page I, line 21, for require read requires.