AT an aera portentous of events the most momen­tous and alarming ever witnessed by the American Re­public since its formation—At a period when the in­habitants of our much loved country are so divided in political opinion, that to express our sentiments freely to each other, seems to be of no other use but to en­kindle the flames of enmity and discord—At this critical epoch, my fellow-citizens, you have called upon me to deliver this Anniversary Address. Conscious of my own inability to do justice to the office, particularly at this perilous moment, I have with much diffidence and reluctance accepted the hazarduous employment. A sincere wish to be instrumental in promoting harmony and union among my fellow-citizens, and to avoid giv­ing offence to any party, are among the first and most ardent desires of my heart: But to please all at the pre­sent day, when such opposition exists in political sen­timents, is an object (however desirable) not within the power of any one to attain. If, therefore, I should be so fortunate as to obtain only the negative recompence of general escape from censure, I shall esteem myself happy in the event, and consider my small labours on this occasion as having been amply rewarded. It must afford real happiness to every lover of civil liberty, to behold so numerous, so splendid, and respectable an [Page 4] assembly convened within these venerable walls, for the purpose of offering up to Heaven the annual tribute of Gratitude for the great and distinguished Blessings we have so long enjoyed. To retrace the operation, and describe the progress, of the memorable Revolution which gave Independence to these United States—To review the conduct of the venerable Sages who planned it, or to admire the exertions in combat of the patriotic Warriors who executed it, would be a pleasing, an agreeable task. It would afford sufficient scope for ad­miration, and unbounded matter for panegyric. But as these subjects have been so often, and by many so ably, illustrated within these walls, my fellow-citizens will excuse me from making them the principal subject of this discourse. Let us keep this truth ever in our minds, that it is easier to atchieve a revolution which will give freedom to a nation, than it is to preserve that freedom after it is once obtained. It is easier to break down the ponderous walls of despotism, than to erect on their ruins a permanent edifice of freedom. In breaking the chains of tyranny, the business of liberty is but half accomplished. While we read the history of mankind, our minds are enraptured with the various relations of the patriotic, noble, and successful exertions in favor of Public Liberty. But, alas! when we look around us, how few nations are to be found who enjoy the blessing! The history of the revolutions in the Gre­cian states, whose inhabitants are justly celebrated for their love of civil liberty, is little more than a story of the people violently shaking off the burthens of one tyrant, and quietly taking on those of another. The Romans drove into exile their Kings, to make way for the oppression of the Patricians. This same people shook off the detestable tyranny exercised by the De­cemvirs, but tamely submitted to the despotism of their Military Chiefs. But we need not go back to the an­cients. Is there not a dreadful example of a similar nature within our own knowledge? The people of France, who had submitted to monarchical oppression [Page 5] for near one thousand years, rose, as it were by in­spiration, nobly broke the bands of tyranny, heroically demolished the ancient castles of despotism, and enthu­siastically removed every badge and every vestige of slavery! But, alas! how soon do we find this same peo­ple groaning under the horrid cruelties of one of their leaders! This one removed, another succeeds him with a rapidity, the relation of which will stagger the cre­dulity of future ages!—To develope the causes of this strange phenomenon, to investigate the reason, and attempt to point out the remedy, is, although an ar­duous. yet a necessary duty. The causes may, in ge­neral, be attributed to the frailty of man, to unruly and ungovernable passions, to prejudice and interest oper­ating on our minds. A disposition to better our own condition, is implanted in the very constitution of every man. This disposition, exercised with moderation, is the source of both public and private advantage—but when carried to excess, is the origin of almost every evil. This disposition operating on the minds of Rulers, requires great virtues to restrain it within salutary limits. They have not only their own passions and interest that call for gratification, but they are constantly exposed to the undue influence of others, who artfully assail them under the specious garb of patriotism, or the more seducing presence of private friendship. The danger on the part of the people, arises either from unbounded confidence, or unreasonable jealousy. A medium be­tween these two extremes, is the only sure path to tread. An unbounded confidence leads to an abuse of public trusts, and unreasonable jealousy to anarchy and pub­lic convulsion. These are the satal causes which have ruined all the free nations that have gone before us.—If they have escaped being dashed to pieces on the rocks of anarchy, they have been gradually drawn within the more dangerous whirlpools of despotism. So that one would almost be led to conclude, that mankind were doomed either to become the sport of internal convulsions, or the deluded victims of systematic op­pression. [Page 6] The principal remedy for these horrid ca­lamities, my fellow-citizens, is EDUCATION—A general diffusion of knowledge of every kind, but more particularly that of our social rights and duties, and our political interests. Let them not only be accu­rately marked out in our political institutions, but fixed by early instruction in the minds of our youth. Is there a subject on which our happiness through life, so much depends, as on that of our social relations? and yet is there any subject so completely neglected? In a course of education, is there any branch of learning so capable of being reduced to scientific principles? and yet is there to be found a single professor in the whole art? A tyrant will tell you, that it is your duty to place unbounded confidence in your rulers, and that all knowledge and virtue is centred in them, and that they cannot do wrong. On the other hand, a popular demagogue will endeavour to persuade you, that all kind of confidence is dangerous, and that the only way to be free, is to live in a constant state of dis­trust and violent jealously, and be ready on the first alarm to fly to arms. Thus parties arise, and the strongest arm decides the conflict. When if we had been early taught the necessity of a reasonable confi­dence in our rulers, and at the same time the safety and propriety of such a watchfulness over their conduct, as would enable us to judge with some degree of accu­racy, of the propriety or impropriety of re-electing them, and that if they should act unwisely or even un­justly, it is always much better to submit to the evil, until it can be remedied by a new election, than to plunge the country into a civil war. Society would be thereby saved from the scourge of intestine commo­tions, and at the same time the liberties and rights of the citizens secured. I am aware I shall be told, that the important affairs of a great empire are beyond the reach of common capacities, and that men following laborious employments have not leisure to acquire a knowledge of our political interests. It will be ad­mitted [Page 7] that every man in the nation may not be com­petent to judge of the justness of every measure; but it cannot be denied, that a large majority are capable of judging whether their affairs are well administred or not.

But, fellow-citizens, one important principle in poli­tics should never be kept out of view. Although the government should pursue measures, which to us may appear detrimental to the public interest, yet, as long as they keep within the limits marked out by the con­stitution, their measures must be received as law, and readily obeyed. This plain truth results from the ve­ry nature of every free government. The laws consti­tionally enacted, must be considered as having been made by the voice of the majority of the people, altho' the people were not present and assenting thereto; for this, from numbers and situation, would be impracti­cable, and from the impractibility results the necessity of a representative government. The representatives chosen by the people, become their agents, and act in their place. The majority of those representatives are, therefore, on the principles of our constitution, a ma­jority of the people. It is of importance then, for the people to know how their agents transact their concerns, and this is to be done by a free and public discussion of the measures they may pursue. Any restriction on this head, is an inversion of the natural order of things. It is setting up the agent as above the inspection and an­imadversion of the principal: and although it is the du­ty of the people to submit to and readily obey all laws enacted constitutionally by their agents, whether these laws accord with their sentiments or not, yet it would be the essence of all despotism, for these agents to set themselves up as above the inspection and animadver­sion of their principals. In fact, it would be tearing up by the roots the great principle of all free govern­ments; for the people, thus prohibited from enquiring into the conduct of their agents, would be incompe­tent to judge whether their affairs were administred [Page 8] wisely or not—They would also be kept in the dark respecting their qualifications, and therefore would be incompetent to act in their proper sphere in the election of their representatives. On drawing a correct distinc­tion between inspecting the conduct of our public agents, and refusing obedience to laws constitutionally enacted, the public safety depends. For in the first place, should the people be prohibited from enquiring into the conduct of their agents, slavery would be the inevitable consequence; and on the other hand, to re­fuse obedience to laws constitutionally made, would be to unhinge society and plunge us into a state of anarchy and disorder. Therefore, the people have a right to animadvert on the conduct of their public agents, and, in fact, it is their duty to do it; but they have no right to refuse obedience to the laws, such a refusal would be one of the highest crimes they could commit against the peace and safety of society. Be­sides the advantages of education, and the free discus­sion of political principles and measures, another means in the hands of a free people to preserve their liberties, is a well regulated MILITIA, equal at least to the defence of the nation against sudden foreign at­tacks or domestic violence. This at least puts arms in the hands of every man, and I am bold to say, that the moment those arms are wrested from them, that mo­ment their liberties are entombed in the most horrid des­potism. While the Roman republic depended on its militia for national defence, the liberties of the meanest citizens were safe. When the Patricians at length be­gan to oppress the Plebians, the latter, with arms in their hands, nobly retired to the sacred Mount, deter­mined to make their way into some more favorable clime, and free themselves from the injustice of their haughty lords, who knowing them to be the bulwark of the nation, paved the way for their return, by plac­ing them on the footing of freemen.

Again, when the oppressions of the Decemvirs became intolerable, the people, with arms in their hands, mar­shalled [Page 9] themselves under the standard of Virginius, and again freed their country. But, alas! what was to save the liberties of Rome from the standing army of Ma­rius, of Sylla, and of Caesar? Who could behold six hundred of the most venerable patriots and respecta­ble citizens, proscribed by the tyrant and butchered in their own houses in cold blood in one day, without lamenting that Rome had ever depended for its de­fence on any other means than its ancient militia insti­tutions? God forbid, that I should depreciate the merit of a band of veterans, that braved, as well cold, want, hunger, and fatigue, as the weapons of their enemy, in our glorious struggle for freedom; yet it is not to be forgotten, that the militia of America immortalized their country by their brave exertions in defence of its liber­ties. Shall I ask where hath its prowess been displayed? No—Rather let me ask, where hath it not? Hath it not from Lexington, in Massachusetts, to the Cow-pens, in Carolina? Need I bring to your view the scenes of Bunker's-Hill, or the plains of Bennington, or Sara­toga? No, scarcely a wall or hamlet in New-Jersey, but hath witnessed their glorious atchievements. And let me add, that no spoiler of national rights will ever invade this country with impunity, while the militia retain their freedom and their arms.

In presenting you my cordial congratulations on this festive Anniversary, it would be pleasing to add an observation usual on such occasions—"That on this auspicious day, a universal joy diffuses itself from one end of this extensive continent to the other."—This has been our happy lot, while our political hor­rizon remained tranquil and serene. But, alas! my fellow citizens, the blissful scene is changed. Clouds and thick darkness have obscured the prospect. The rolling thunder, which has hitherto been rumbling at a distance in terrific horror, now approaches near, and with reiterated and tremendous peals, announces the storm of war is at hand! The Furies have dipped [Page 10] their snaky locks in human gore. Bellona has mount­ed her fatal chariot, and Mars himself stands clad in bloody armour, ready for combat. Yes, fellow citizens, the war-hoop is again founded on these peaceful shores, and we may perhaps again behold the smoke of our conflagrated cities, towns, villages, and temples as­cending to the skies. The dreadful yell of the mur­derous savage, may again grate our ears. The cries of the innocent offspring in the arms of the expiring mo­ther, a victim to the hatchet or bayonet—The groans of our violated virgins and aged matrons—Our valua­ble citizens murdered in prison-ships and dungeons, or coolly massacred after surrender, may again take place. Who can smile at the loss of a father, a bro­ther, a son, or husband slain in battle, and look upon war as a pastime, calculated for amusement!—Permit me to repeat a passage from the speech of the patriotic Mr. Ames, on the floor of Congress, against war—"On this theme, my emotions are unutterable—If I could find words for them—If my powers bore any propor­tion to my zeal, I would swell my voice to such a note of remonstrance, it should reach every log house be­yond the mountains. I would say to the inhabitants, wake from your false security, your cruel dangers, your more cruel apprehensions, are soon to be renew­ed. The wounds yet unhealed are to be torn open again. In the day time your path through the woods will be ambushed. The darkness of midnight will glitter with the blaze of your dwellings. You are a father, the blood of your sons shall fatten your corn­field—You are a mother, the war-hoop shall wake the sleep of the cradle." The sentiment of the celebrated Doct. Smith, late member of Congress, were, only two years ago, as much averse to war as those of Mr. Ames. These are his words—"Call on the advocates of war, to point out the advantages which are to indemnify you for a state of society, which sets loose all the sa­vage and brutal passions of man, and then drives him forth to butcher those he does not even keow; which [Page 11] stains the fair field of plenty with human gore, and changes scenes of luxuriance into a barren wilderness; which either prostrates or converts the calm retreats of science, and the sacred temples of the Almighty, into a polluted haunt of howling beasts. Examine well if genuine patriotism again alone invites to darken this smiling land with the funeral cypress, and to enlarge the sad sphere of widowhood and fatherless distress; to convert the peaceful vehicles of commerce which whiten the ocean, into the bloody caverns of death; to substi­tute, in short, poverty for wealth, famine for abun­dance, anarchy for order, perfidy for faith; and ex­change the tranquil enjoyments of social harmony for the miseries of sieges, the sustenance of putrid carcases, and the sight of mutilated limbs. Remember well, that war, the dire scourge of other nations, is a calamity peculiary grevious to America." Both Mr. Ames and Dr. Smith, have ever been allowed to be men of ex­tensive knowledge and great abilities. They have been considered as enlightened statesmen, and their opinions have been resorted to as models of political perfection. If then these sentiments are just, is it not still the in­terest of America to remain at peace? Has war, within the small space of two years, been divested of its hor­rors and attendant evils? No, my fellow-citizens, war is still the greatest curse ever inflicted by Heaven on a guilty land. But where sleeps the Guard an Genius of Columbia, while the destroying angel is girding on his desolating sword? Is war our only alternative, and must then our devoted country again bleed at every pore? If this is to be our unhappy destiny, let us unite ("as a band of brothers") and prepare for self­defence—It is the first law of nature. But while we brandish the sword in one hand, let us still hold out the olive branch in the other, and convince the world, that Americans are not a servile and submissive people, nor yet a fool hardy race.

[Page 12] May the Almighty Ruler of the Universe mix mercy with his threatning judgements, and amidst the shocks of war, devastation, and carnage, may he graciously dispose the hearts of Americans to friendship and for­bearance with one another, and, above all, preserve our country from the most direful of all calamities, a Civil War.


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