BY GEO. CLINTON, JUN. Citizen of the State of New York.

Published by order of the Societies.





Fellow Citizens,

THE commemoration of important events is a laudable practice, co-eval with the existence of nations. We have convened this day to celebrate an event dear to the recollec­tion of every genuine American. While the slaves of monarchy delight in consecrating to festivity the natal days of their tyrants, let free Americans ever assemble and celebrate with becoming dignity, the anniversary of that illustrious aera which gave them birth as a nation. Let us on this solemn occasion ever remember the nefarious and insidious plans which were laid to enslave us; the cruelty and perfidy with which they were endeavoured to be carried into effect; our generous resistance to tyranny, and the various vicissitudes of our revolutionary war. Let us travel back in imagination to the scenes of the revolution: Let our hearts pul­sate in unison with the different events of the times: Let us rejoice in our victories and sympathize in our disasters: Let us glow with indignation at acts of barbarity, treachery and cowardice; and brighten into pleasure on contemplating deeds of magnanimity, clemency, courage and fidelity: Let us shed the tributary tear over the graves of our departed worthies, and indulge in emotions of gratitude for the services of our surviving patriots; but above all, let us be grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, for crowning our virtuous exertions with LIBERTY and INDE­PENDENCE.

[Page 4]IT would be a pleasing and useful task, no less worthy the pen of the historian, than the declamation of the orator, to pourtray in animated colours, the rise, progress, and final consequences of the American revolution. But pleasing and useful as the theme might be, I shall, with the candor and indulgence of this numerous and respectable assembly, take a different range of contemplation, and shall, in the first place, consider the advantages gained by the revolution, and in the second place, the means necessary to preserve and perpetuate those advantages.

DULY to appreciate the blessings derived from the revolution, let us take a view of our situation anterior to our inde­pendence. We were colonies of the British monarchy. Our civil institutions were conformable to the government of the mother country, being a complicated medley of monarchy, aristocracy, and the shadow of democratic power. In most of the colonies the executive and judicial officers were appointed by the crown; the upper branch of the legislature emanated from the same source, and the most numerous branch was chosen without regard to the first principles of representation. The colonial executive had a negative on the acts of the legislature. No laws repugnant to those of England were of validity, and the fiat of the king was essential to their existence. Without in this place exposing the vices inherent in the monarchical system, or making any animad­versions on the boasted theory of balances, it must be obvious to the most common capacity, that a colony, dependent on a foreign power, can neither enjoy the advantages of self-government, nor controul the resources of the country to the interest and emolument of the community. As colonies of the British empire, we were subject to the sway of a government separated from us by an ocean of three thousand miles. It is impossible that a government at such a distance can either be sufficiently acquainted with or devoted to the interests of colonies, to govern them with propriety; or in fact that they can be kept in due subordination, short of a military force. As colonies, the British parliament not only exer­cised the right of regulating our commerce and laying impositions and restrictions on it; but they likewise claimed a right to bind us [Page 5] in all cases whatsoever. If this declaration were well founded, we were truly the slaves of an absolute master, and although under his authority we might have enjoyed a portion of liberty, it would not have proceeded from the nature of the government, but from the indulgence of the reigning master. A subject of the gloomy despotism of Turkey may enjoy liberty, but it is the precarious liberty of a slave. Under the controul of a foreign power, imper­fectly acquainted with our concerns, and actuated by different interests; subject to the coercion of a standing army; to the unli­mited imposition of taxes, what were we to expect in return? Protection. The obligations, say the partizans of British supre­macy, are reciprocal; we protect you, and as the price of that protection we expect obedience. And how do you protect us? You draw us into the vortex of European contests; you rush head­long into wars, and because we are annexed to your empire we experience a common fate. Then our arms must be united in the same cause; and after having for a trifling consideration plunged us into hostilities, involved us in debt, retarded the growth and improvement of our country, and led to the slaughter our most valuable citizens, the expences of the war must be drawn from our own coffers by the hands of a parliament in which we have no voice. This—this—is the protection which the mother country kindly affords her defenceless colonies. Colonies are planted for the advantages of commerce. When a nation becomes populous, and manufactures to a great extent, it has been supposed their interest to plant colonies in order to consume their manufactures, and supply them in exchange with raw materials and the necessaries of life. It is evident then that the balance of trade will always be in favor of the mother country; her regulating authority over commerce being adequate to modify it to her own advantage. The colonies of America embracing an extent of continent composed of every clime and soil; perforated with navigable rivers, and abounding in all the necessaries and most of the luxuries of life, opened a theatre of commerce worthy the rapacity of European nations. This valuable source of wealth did not long escape the vigilant avarice of Britain. With respect to manufactures, arts and sciences, it was supposed to be her interest to keep us in a state [Page 6] of infancy; she acted accordingly. Influenced in her councils by the narrow views of jealousy and avarice, she cramped, fettered, and restrained our resources, and palsied our growing greatness. Her tyrannical acts have this day been read you in our admirable Declaration of Independence. The yoke was too galling; the burthen too heavy to bear. The proud and dignified souls of A­mericans revolted from slavery, and by establishing us free and independent states, we have acquired the following benefits:

  • I. WE have thrown off a corrupt monarchical system, and ac­quired the right of self government.
  • II. WE obtained the right of regulating our commerce, and controling and directing our resources to our own emolu­ment. And
  • III. WE placed ourselves in a situation to avoid an interference in European politics.

THAT that government is the best which confers the greatest happiness upon the greatest number is an undeniable position. The government that combines virtue, wisdom and power in the most eminent manner, is the best calculated to confer the great­est happiness. This is the end of all civil institutions; and in order to attain it, there must be virtue to will, wisdom to plan, and power to execute. The panegyrists of the English constitu­tion have seized with avidity the distinction I have made, and have not scrupled to assert that that government combines these three essential attributes in the most eminent manner. When it shall be proved that the House of Commons, chosen without re­gard to the principles of representation, and under the absolute in­fluence of the executive, is in the most eminent manner the deposi­tory of public virtue: When it shall be conceded that wisdom is, in a peculiar degree, confined to the nobility, and that it descends like lands and tenements by hereditary succession: When it shall be admitted that the power of the nation is most safely and bene­ficially lodged in the hands of a monarch with undefined preroga­tives [Page 7] —then, and not till then, let us yield our assent to such ab­surd dogmas. But waving all reflections on the corrupt condition of the British monarchy, it is impossible that such a government, even in its most perfect state, should confer the greatest happiness upon the greatest number. The rights of the least powerful or lower grades of society will necessarily be disregarded. The cot­tage will be despoiled to enrich and decorate the palace; and the humble claims of genius and merit be supplanted by the imposing splendor of wealth and titles. A Representative Democracy, pro­perly modified and judiciously organized, is the only government either compatible with the dignity of man, or calculated to pro­mote his happiness. When the powers of government are lodged in the whole community, the government is bound by the strongest ties to advance the felicity of the community; and the community will be equally engaged in sustaining the authority of the govern­ment; because they compose a single unit, and their interests are precisely the same. That there may exist interests in a free go­vernment, foreign from the general good, it would be uncandid not to acknowledge, but they are not as necessarily incident to this institution; not so fatal and permanent as those which grow out of monarchical establishments. Neither can it be denied that even in monarchical states the blessings necessarily flowing from the enjoyment of regular liberty, have in some few instances been dispensed in a liberal degree; proceeding either from an accidental mildness in the administration, or from a share which the people have had in the government; but not in so great and ample a manner, not so free from counterpoising evils, as in republics. Wherever representation ends, there likewise terminates responsi­bility: a popular branch in the legislature does not constitute a free state. So far as the powers of the other departments extend, so far the people are not self governed and free. Besides, their perpetuity will erect a standing phalanx of influence which must bear down all opposition, and irresistably sway the public will.

HAVING emancipated their country from the British monar­chy, the United States established separate constitutions for their internal government, and entered into articles of confederation and [Page 8] perpetual union, for the management of their general concerns and the means of general defence. Whilst oppressed by a foreign war, and cemented by the ties of common danger and the imperious motives of self preservation, the recommendations of the delegates of the Union, had all the force and authority of laws; but the return of peace having dispelled the gloomy clouds that darkened our horizon and lulled us into a state of security, the articles of confederation were found inadequate to national objects. The acts of congress being merely advisory, were no longer respected, and experience dictated the necessity of a more liberal and coercive system of federal government. A general convention was called; a constitution proposed, submitted to the people, amply discussed, and finally ratified. The scene of a people free and enlightened, establishing and ratifying a system of government, which they had previously considered and approved, exhibited a spectacle the most dignified that ever appeared on the globe. It was novel and un­exampled, as it was magnificent. Most of the governments of the world are the offspring of accident, force or fraud. Even the so much celebrated institutions of Sparta, of Athens, and of Rome, cannot boast a popular origin. Were they formed by a convention of the people? Were they discussed by the people? Were they submitted to the people? Were they to stand or fall by the appro­bation or rejection of the people? To all these questions the im­partial voice of history answers in the negative. In order to esta­blish their institutions Lycurgus and Numa had recourse to religi­ous imposture, and Solon appointed only to propose a system of laws, usurped the powers of legislation. From the aera of the adoption of the federal constitution, we may date the consumma­tion of our union, and the concentration of those powers of sove­reignty in a general head. Competent under a patriotic adminis­tration, to the due regulation of commerce; the defence of the nation, the perpetuation of our independence, and the preservation of our rights.

BY dissolving all political connection with Great Britain, we removed ourselves from the contentions of the old world. Already separated from it by an immense ocean; respectable in population; [Page 9] powerful in virtue; in a just and accurate knowledge of our rights, inferior to none, the disunion was inevitable; independence was the order of Nature. Having no interest in foreign concerns, further than the rights of humanity are implicated, it is our first duty to avoid all interference in European politics. Neutrality is the ground which we should firmly maintain, and although as individuals it is impossible to suppress our opinions or to stifle our feelings, policy dictates that the line of national interest should be strictly and inflexibly pursued. It is almost unnecessary to remark the trivial causes which produce European quarrels. For fifty years out of the last hundred the English have been embroiled in wars. The chimerical idea of preserving a balance of power, has been the ostensible motive of ravaging the finest countries in Europe. Upon this celebrated topic, a writer, as distinguish­ed for original genius as perspicuity and accuracy of thought, has the following observations: "The pretence of the balance of power has, in a multitude of instances, served as a veil to the intrigue of courts; but it would be easy to shew, that the present independence of the different states of Europe has, in no in­stance, been materially supported by the wars undertaken for that purpose."

HAVING taken a cursory view of the advantages derived from the revolution, the means necessary to preserve them will be the next subject of consideration. The first and most essential support of republican government is the virtue of the people. Constitutions may be formed; institutions may be established on the most liberal, just and philanthropic principles; and all in vain—if the morals of the people be corrupt; if self-interest predominate over the love of country, and vice and licentious­ness usurp the place of religion. To arrive at a just sense of our duties, learning and instruction are necessary—A free people will ever be studious of cultivating useful knowledge. Like the soil which is rendered fertile by its own productions, free countries, the native soil of the arts and sciences, are cherished and sup­ported by their generative power. Between virtue and knowledge [Page 10] there is an intimate and necessary connexion. Without their genial influence, representative government cannot exist. Knowledge is necessary to direct a proper choice of representatives, and to judge of the conduct of government. The constitution is the chart by which the political vessel must be directed—Whether the representatives of the people pursue the prescriptions of the constitution; whether they conform to its spirit: To know this, requires the diligent and watchful scrutiny of the people. Inde­pendent of their knowledge and virtue, the constitution is a mere carte blanche. All free governments are liable to two species of abuse by their representatives—either an implied or express infrac­tion of the constitution. When laws are made, not contradictory to the letter of the constitution, but repugnant to the general good, the constitution is impliedly violated; because the general good is the foundation of the social compact. When laws are enacted, repugnant both to the letter and spirit of the constitu­tion, it is expressly violated. The remedy for these injuries are either contained in the constitution itself, which establishes the periodical election of officers, the judicial department, and pu­nishment by impeachment, or it rests with the people themselves. If the judiciary possess sufficient virtue, they will never carry in­to execution laws expressly repugnant to the constitution, which they are solemnly pledged to support, and which is paramount to all law. If the people are driven to the dilemma of vindicating their constitutional rights, their situation is truly alarming. The most corrupt and wicked administration will have its devoted par­tisans: when remonstrances fail, the sword must decide the con­test, and civil war, pregnant with the worst calamities of life, will convulse the bosom of our country.

FREEDOM of opinion is essential to knowledge and virtue. An unrestrained communication of sentiment and discussion of public measures is the scourge of tyrants and the strongest pillar of democracy. A free press would soon destroy the most gloomy despotisms—kings tremble before the inquisition of the people. There is a distinguishing principle of right and wrong in the most untutored breast, which abhors tyranny and execrates flagitious­ness. [Page 11] Let the mind be enlightened, and the chains of slavery are broken. In this country the freedom of opinion, both in civil and religious concerns, is happily secured by the constitution. May the popular indignation and the vengeance of heaven light upon the unprincipled wretch that shall attempt to infringe so in­valuable a privilege!—To perpetuate the advantages of the revo­lution, let us support our constitutions: May they be the rallying point of all true republicans. Because objections were made to the federal constitution when it was first proposed for considera­tion, let no one be hardy or foolish enough to assert that those who were then opposed to it would now wish to overthrow it by force or by fraud. All parties admitted that it was not a perfect system—that it needed amendments; and the only material ques­tion was, whether they should precede or follow the adoption. Since the ratification several very important amendments have been engrafted into the constitution. This has been the means, we trust, of uniting all parties in its favour. If it be defective, it contains within itself the power of amendment. The same wisdom which pointed out the necessity of a more energetic system of federal government than the articles of confederation, will, it is hoped, produce such alterations in our general constitution as experience shall dictate to be salutary and expedient. Let us preserve our union: United, we are powerful and unconquerable—Divided, we become the prey of intestine faction and foreign ambition. Let none presume to assert that our territory is too extensive, our man­ners too dissimilar, or our interests too repugnant for a federal government. If the states maintain authority to manage their internal concerns, the relations of the union are neither too mul­tifarious, too complicated or arduous for a general government. A small territory is the seat of faction. When the spirit of dis­cord is prevalent it pervades every part; infuses its poison into the bosom of families, and contaminates the whole mass. No por­tion of the community is sufficiently dispassionate to support the public good, and the government is destroyed by a mob or sub­verted by a tyrant. A government over an extensive country pro­mises duration, permanence and stability; its views are enlarged as its territory; local interests affect not the mass of the commu­nity; [Page 12] and when one part becomes disordered, there is sufficient vigor in the others to restore the health of the political body. Beware of the spirit of party: it may dissolve your union, dis­member your empire, and render you the sport of ambition, and the cause of your own destruction. Never may it be recorded in history that the people which combined against despotism, and by their united energies shook off the yoke of British tyranny, have become a divided and dismembered nation. Let this great ex­ample of national vigor teach you the advantages of union. Fo­reign connections are dangerous: Such is the degeneracy of go­vernments, that treaties are no longer kept than interest war­rants: they are the cobwebs of state, which entangle the weak, and let the powerful escape. Treaties form foreign connexions, and foreign connections engender war—an evil as hostile to the interests of a young and growing country as to the feelings of benevolence and the cause of humanity. Have, therefore, as little political connection with foreign nations as possible. The empire of China exhibits an instance of a great and powerful commercial nation, rich in manufactures, and celebrated in arts, who have existed, as far as the best authenticated records testify, free from foreign connections. National debts should ever be con­sidered as national evils: they are, in their operative consequences, both unjust, and impolitic, and hostile to the interest of republics; they load posterity with burthens which have generally been ac­cumulated by the folly and extravagance of the preceding govern­ments, and without purchasing a single benefit. They create a baneful spirit of speculation; they poison the morals of the peo­ple; they naturally accumulate, and will either finally destroy the government, or be fraudulently destroyed by the government. They add an artificial support to the administration, and by a spe­cies of bribery enlist the monied men of the community on the side the measures of government, however corrupt or ruinous to the ge­neral weal. Look to Great Britain; see the burthens under which the people groan by means of her enormous national debt; the sour­ces of taxation exhausted, and her political existence prolonged by contributions extorted by the menaces of a French invasion.

[Page 13]THE means of national defence should rest in the body of the people. A well organized militia is the only safe bulwark of a free people, competent on all occasions to repel invasion and suppress insurrection. Standing armies are not only expensive but dangerous to the liberties of the state. In republics every citizen should be a soldier. No wars are just but those undertaken in self-defence. A war of self-defence will ever engage the senti­ments, the feelings, and the passions of the people in its support. In all cases in which a nation have been oppressed and resorted to arms, they have performed prodigies of valor. The armies of liberty have ever triumphed over the armies of despotism. Wit­ness, the plains of Marathon, where the Athenians vanquished the Persians. Witness the struggles of the United Provinces against the whole force of the Spanish Monarchy. Witness the Cantons of Switzerland. Witness the atchievrments of our own countrymen in our revolutionary war—and the unexampled prow­ess of French republicans against the confederated powers of Europe.

Fellow Citizens.

WE have taken a view of the advantages derived from our revo­lution, and we have endeavored to point out the means necessary to preserve and perpetuate them. While you contemplate the rich inheritance which has been acquired by your own valor and the virtue and prowess of your fathers, let me beseech you to transmit it unsullied and unimpaired to your posterity; It is a duty which you owe to yourselves, to your country, and to your God— Most of the nations of the world are either engulphed in despotism or convulsed with the calamities of war. America promised to be the seat of peace—The asylum of the oppressed—The nursery of the arts, and the favorite abode of liberty; Other nations imi­tating her example, have thrown off the shackles of despotism and the amiable disciples of philanthrophy fondly anticipated the final destruction of tyranny and the reality of those golden days of human happiness and improvement which have hitherto only existed in the poet's song or prophet's prediction. But a thick cloud envelopes our horizon—War, unnaturaral war—More baneful than famine or pestilence is ready to burst on our own devoted country—with [Page 14] a nation that assisted us in our struggles for independence we are on the brink of hostilities—It is not my design to enter into an investigation of the nature or necessity, or justice of the contest; while you deprecate the dilemma in which you are involved—Be ever mindful of your independence, and ever ready to defend it against every foreign agression, and while you cherish your inde­pendence forget not, my Fellow Citizens, your inestimable rights; Deprived of Liberty, Independence is a mere name. While you guard against the encroachments of foreign powers, at the same time guard against the encroachments of your own government. A state of war, or public danger, has been always greedily seized to invade the constitutional privileges of the people. Never, citi­zens, resign your inestimable rights: Resist the first appearance of usurpation: crush the monster in his infancy, least he arrive to gigantic stature and crush you to ruins. While with promptitude and cheerfulness you obey the constitutional acts of the constituted authorities, evince to your country and to the world, that you are resolved to LIVE FREE or DIE.


ODE Composed for the occasion by Margaretta V. Faugeres; The Music performed by the URAN [...]N MUSICAL SOCIETY.

WELCOME morn, whose genial ray,
Ushers in this joyous day;
Memorable day of bliss!
Memorable day of bliss!
When thy pearly beams unfold
In the orient, flush'd with gold,
Then let Virtue's gladdening bands,
With warm hearts and union'd hands,
Blooms with plants perennial twine,
Decorating FREEDOM'S shrine.
Freeborn children of this land,
Let each ardent wish expand;
Hail the hours with sacred glee—
'Tis the day of LIBERTY.
Catch a spark of patriot flame
From the favorite son of Fame:
Him his country's promis'd stay—
Him his country's promis'd stay—
WASHINGTON, the brave and wise,
Freedom's friend and Virtue's prize.
Let his zeal your breasts elate;
Firm he held the helm of state:
While the brightness you admire,
Emulate the glorious fire.
Freeborn children, &c,
Nations greet you with applause:
Still sustain your country's cause:
Veterans still her rights revere,
Veterans still her rights revere,
When oppression threats from far
Bravely meet the storm of WAR
Banish discord from your bands,
Interest asks, and Peace commands—
Courage, firmness, unity,
Ever will maintain you free.
Freeborn children, &c,
Nature's source, whose sovereign nod
Sways creation—MIGHTY GOD!
O'er our council, oh! preside:
O'er our council, oh! preside:
THOU canst bid the tempest cease;
THOU from war canst summon peace;
From the glooms of wild dismay
THOU canst call a rapturous day.
Let thy truth our souls pervade;
Let us dwell beneath thy shade.
So the children of this land
Shall each ardent wish expand:
Hail the hour with sacred glee,
On this day of LIBERTY.

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