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AN ORATION, PRONOUNCED at NORFOLK, ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, Fourth of July, 1798.

By AUGUSTUS PETTIBONE.

Published by Request.

PRINTED AT LITCHFIELD, BY T. COLLIER, 1798.

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AN ORATION.

IN compliance to the wishes of a number of my fellow-citizens, I rise to address this Audience, and join with them to celebrate the glorious date of our National Independence. Nothing, but a strong de­sire to promote the welfare of my country, together with the approbation of my friends, could have in­duced me to appear in this public place▪—here to act the part of an Orator, and proclaim the joys of the day.—I flatter myself, that any inaccuracy of com­position, or defects of oratory▪ by which an assem­bly like this, might condemn the Speaker, will meet with the most favourable respect;—as my ad­miration for the cause, rather than vanity, led me on to the stage.—Decency and gratitude demand of us, that on the Fourth of July, we call to mind those venerable sages, who scorned the chains of im­pending servitude, and taught us their children, the road to freedom.

[Page 4]If we reflect a moment, upon the vast and compli­cated designs of Providence, through all the admin­istration of time,—we shall revere the Great Arbiter of nations, who causes one empire to rise from the smallest beginning, to the highest importance;—and at the same time, plunges other kingdoms from the summit of glory, into the great sink of the world.

This anniversary, is the birth day of these United States, when they flung off the heavy yoke of Britain, and assumed the rank of empire among the nations of the earth. May it be wafted down the stream of time, to the remotest ages of posterity, to com­memorate the important events of our national exist­ence.

How are we drowned in admiration, when we re­view the conduct of those American patriots and he­roes, who dared, in defiance of those potent and bloody foes, who beset us with all the horrors of war, and strewed our land with carnage and devastation, to declare, "That we are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States."—I shall pass, in silence, those grand encomiums, which long have echoed from stage to stage, to praise the virtues of our former worthies, and leave you to turn the his­toric page, there to read the deeds of our wise po­liticians and bravest Generals.

After deploring with you the slaughtered thousands [Page 5] of our fathers and friends, who fell by the sword in the field of Mars, to gain our liberty, that golden prize; under what obligations are we placed, to re­member the Great Ruler of Nations, who hath res­cued us from our enemies, and given us a govern­ment established on the broad basis of liberty.

With what emotions of joy, ought we to exult, when we consider the happy manner, we were bro't to unite in our Federal Constitution! Are not the annals of history replete, that in violence, in usurpa­tion, and in conquest, most governments have ori­ginated? And rarely can it be said, that any nation ever renounced tyranny, without civil wars and blood­shed. But you Americans have been victorious over your enemies,—victorious over yourselves: For it was here, out of the discordant materials which com­posed our empire, the important acquisition was made, without any great struggle or violent emotions. —Our emancipation, from vassalage to Independence, was the price of much blood and treasure; but our free constitutions of government, all harmoniously uniting in a general one, were the result of free de­bate and mature deliberation; and by reason and ar­gument alone was it effected. This grand palladi­um and instrument of our National Union, was con­structed by the most eminent sages of America; which so happily combines energy with wisdom, that ex­perience has proved it to be the master piece of hu­man policy. It is not in the scope of imagination, [Page 6] to conceive of more equal privileges, civil or reli­gious, than are here established. With what assurance may we say, What other nation, ancient or modern, has been equally fortunate and happy?

When we consider the respectable figure we make on this Western continent, among the kingdoms of the earth, we have reason to adore the God of our fathers, who led them to this happy land.—Hail, Columbians! hail, happy land! What a precious legacy have you to transmit to posterity; a country producing all the necessaries and conveniencies of life,—which was acquired by our ancestors, who braved every danger, and overcame every difficulty, to procure it from Savages nursed in blood, trained up in fraud, revenge and idolatry.

How happy does our situation appear, when we look abroad, and see the wasting miseries, which af­fect so many nations of the earth?—There, the lives and the fortunes of the lower classes in community, are at the disposal of a few rulers, favourites, and pensioners; who, with lawless sway, devour the fruits of laborious diligence.—Under arbitrary and des­potic governments, how many millions of our fellow creatures, sigh for the blessings, which we enjoy, without the most distant hope of obtaining them?— There, without cause, subjects are driven from their families and possessions, into solitary banishment, or hurried into dungeon and places of cruel confine­ment,—and secluded from all the comforts of life.

[Page 7]Our situation affords a pleasing prospect for re­flection, when we look into France, and see them drowned in anarchy and confusion, walking in the broad road of infidelity;—the streets of their capital drenched in blood, and paved with heads, which have fallen from the Guillotine. May we not, with the greatest propriety, this day, rejoice and congra­tulate each other, with the bounties of Heaven, which has, for a series of time, crowned these States, with the balm of peace? so that our empire has risen like the tide of the ocean, and taken large strides towards perfection. Yet such is the misfortune of the world, that prosperity and adversity succeed in their turns. The malignity of man, that bane to happiness, has waked a jealous eye in the realms of France, which, like the subtle serpent, watches our unguarded moments, in order to seize us for a prey. Alas! my Countrymen, it is a melancholy truth, that this is a day big with events; when dan­gers threaten the peace and prosperity of these Unit­ed States, and foreign influence has deeply wounded our national honour, and injured our lawful com­merce. And this by our Gallic foes, who are in­toxicated with victory, and have an avaricious thirst to drink the blood of millions; and like Lucifer, that fallen Monster, are plotting the destruction of the world.—But may we not hope, that there is a Joshua yet on earth, who, as a humble agent of favouring Heaven, shall halt the planets in their orbits, and [Page 8] confound their armies in a day?—Are not the prin­ciples, which actuate the French government to­wards us, principles equally hostile to all liberty and righteous government?—Behold a French Directory, the most detestable! who have originated, and exist, from venality and corruption.—While we, under our government, have endeavoured to walk in the strict­est principles of neutrality, they,—like the pestilence, walk in darkness; suck the treasures of our conti­nent; seize the property of individuals,—and under the shadow of legal adjudication, appropriate it to their own use. Such conduct is unspeakable mean­ness;—infamous perfidy:—It outrages the annals of piracy. Can we be calm under such provoking injuries, insults, and robberies?—Our modera­tion has been known, our patience tried. We wish for peace,—we too well know the horrors of war.—But there is a point, beyond which, our for­bearance will not extend;—when a war becomes a blessing, and will be favoured by the Great Ruler of Nations.

When I consider the threatning aspect of our na­tional concerns, and the imminent danger of entering into a foreign war,—this consolation charms me;— to behold myself surrounded by a band of soldiers, clothed in arms, and inured to military discipline: You, my Friends, Citizens, and Fellow-Soldiers, are the pride of your country, and bulwark of freedom. If, in order to settle the unhappy differences, which [Page 9] exist between these United States and France, we should be compelled to have recourse to arms—prove yourselves the model of heroes, the heirs of your fa­thers who upheld America through the late revolu­tion. Cultivate your minds with military skill—Fan in your breasts the martial fire—Be ever ready to defend your country—Chastise with the sword— Thrust with the bayonet,—and conquer in the field. In the alternative of peace or war, let the sword and the musket be your daily companions; for in them depends the strength of a nation. May the officers and generals who command you in the field, unite in them the fortitude and wisdom of the immortal WASHINGTON,—and cause our enemies to declare, That America is as terrible in arms, as in former times.—Yes! the noble sons of America, who are inured to exercise, hale, robust, with an ardent love of Liberty, ready to face danger and death, are able to crush a Buonaparte, with his victorious army,— and bring them into terms of submission:—And you will learn them, as Britain has been taught, to pile their arms on the field of submission, and their navy to retire with infamy from our shores.

May I not address myself to this Audience in ge­neral, and say, the time has come, we must protect our dear bought privileges.—Let us show, that we not only have the spirit to resent the insolence, but the energy to correct the perfidy of those ferocious [Page 10] Frenchmen. Does not the voice of those departed heroes, who devoted their lives to obtain the liber­ties which we enjoy, strongly admonish us with sword in hand, to secure them from all hostile invasion.

If the powers of Europe united, have not been able to protect the Hollanders, the Italians, the Ve­netians, and the Swiss from the rapacity of the ma­rauding French,—let us not boast of safety from an intervening ocean.—How much is our danger heightened, since we are not united, and have par­ricides, who wish to sap our national prosperity,— stop the wheels of government, and be connected with a nation, which ought to be considered as a blank upon the world?—"Whose citizens are mad to fury, seeking some miserable victims to be sacrificed to their rage, by an Atheistical tribunal,—who give judgment without mercy, and inflict death without justice."—O Liberty! how has thy name been per­verted, by our Democratic disorganizers,—who are the leaders of faction, and would overspread Ame­rica with discord and slaughter, or destroy us in the insidious embraces of foreign fraternization.—May Gallatin, Nicholas, Giles and others, meet with the just indignities of the people, whom they have at­tempted to deceive, and feel their influence annihila­ted, on the discovery of their plots and designs. —How frequently do we hear of their audacity, by their declaiming, in Congress, their attachment to liberty, and stiling themselves the Patriots of their [Page 11] country? You need not be informed, how assiduous they have been in the arts of intrigue, and aiding the wicked designs of our most implacable enemies, in plotting our ruin, and sowing the seeds of discord and seperation, between the people and their govern­ment. May they, with Bache, that secret emissary, whose press has teemed with abuses, and poured forth a flood of calumny against the guardians of our na­tion, be learnt and learn, the Diplomatic Skill of France,—that our federal soil will not nourish their felonious practices. But what can be more accepta­ble to every true American, than to see the spirit, which prevails in the majority of our National Coun­cil, who view with just indignation the tame and perfidious temper of the opposers of our govern­ment; and by their unremitted exertions, have saved us from ruin, in contests which have been long and dubious,—and the final success, the seeming effect of mere accident?

What nation, what kingdom, what empire, can boast of a better Executive Department, than the United States of America? Great ADAMS, the illus­trious Chief of that noble order, shines like a star of the first magnitude, and may justly be compared with the Sun, in the political world. Thou great Guardian of Freemen, and Chief of millions! who art placed like a watch upon our political walls, to guard them against the invidious designs of those Demons of France,—who artfully plot to sow the [Page 12] seeds of sedition around our seat of government: Yet such is thy prudence, and such thy wisdom, that in­stead of wishing to draw the sword of vengeance, or unsheath the dagger, thou hast sent Envoys extraor­dinary to France,—Pinckney, Marshall and Gerry, —those Ministers of Peace. But with what cold dis­dain, and with what black ingratitude, have they been treated!—Let our weekly Gazettes, Courants and Monitors declare.

My Friends and Fellow-Citizens,—while our na­tional rights are in danger of being arrested from us, it behoves us to prepare for the means of defence, and be in perfect readiness to meet every invasion. I conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, and the rights of humanity, to discountenance the disorganizing principles, which have been too prevalent among many of our citizens, and have corrupted our na­tional councils. Give not occasion for posterity to say, that at the close of the eighteenth century, the conquerors of Britain suffered themselves to be de­prived of an ocean of privileges, and cast into a gulf of misery and wretchedness. I pray to Heaven, that our conduct be such, that a century from this, we have the praises from an hundred millions of Ameri­can tongues, which will chaunt forth this sentence, That we were the able defenders of our liberty and government, which were procured, at the expence of thousands of life.

[Page 13]May the time speedily arrive, when it shall be said by our enemies, Randolph, Munroe and Genet, that we are actuated with patriotic views, and are deter­mined to support our public men and measures, in the lawful administration of our government.— Then an ambitious, unprincipled nation, which is fired with the rage of universal dominion, will be taught that America will never become tributary; and should she demand it in a hostile way, she will rue her folly, and learn, that the warlike sons of America are unconquerable: And then we shall roll on to the summit of national felicity and happiness, and look down on the nations of Europe with an eye of indifference.

While we stand prepared to defend our rights, let us not forget to promote piety and peace. For these blessings our progenitors toiled, watched, bled and died. In their councils they animated and presided; in their wars they inspired and overcame; in their government they influenced and blessed; and in their families they ruled and trained up for endless life. Most unnatural children shall we prove, if with the combined force of such glorious examples, and in the possession of such hard-earned happiness, we neg­lect any means, or refuse any efforts, to discharge this duty.

It cannot be too frequently inculcated, and too deeply impressed upon our minds, at this particular [Page 14] crisis of our national affairs, that the men, whom we appoint to public offices and trust, be such as will perpetuate our privileges; so that millions yet un­born may live under our free republican govern­ment, and sit under their own vines and fig-trees, enjoying the fruits of their labor.—May the conduct of our rulers be such, as to exhibit to the world, that the liberty, the order, the peace, the learning, and the Religion of our land, will be preserved secure and inviolate.

With what a sense of gratitude, ought we to be impressed, when we see the means of education pro­moted and established, by the Legislature, within our State? I will undertake to predict, that, when the arts and sciences, which now prevail in the State of Connecticut, shall pervade the general Empire, then shall we avoid the poisonous seeds of domestic discord and dissension.—Literature prepares the mind for free and candid discussion, and compromises the only means, within the reach of human abilities, of forming the minds of the young to act their parts, with propriety and dignity, when they shall succeed their predecessors.

Ye Matrons and Fair Daughters of America! con­sider how much the wealth and prosperity of our nation depend upon your frugality and economy.— Much is in your power, by the weight of your ex­ample, and the influence of your charms, to polish [Page 15] our manners, correct our vices, and inspire our hearts with the love of virtue. Yours is the noble em­ployment to cultivate the tender minds of your children with useful knowledge, and impress them with the importance of industry and morality—And, ye Maidens! support your natural character;—kill with your frowns the unprincipled libertine;—dis­countenance by your conduct dissipation and idle­ness; and your influence will be increased,—not only that of your beauty and accomplishments,—but the influence of your virtues, whose dominion controles the evils, and multiplies the blessings of society.

When we notice the local situation of our country, we shall readily be convinced of the expediency, that the arts of Agriculture should be studied and pursued, since we have a large and an extensive country, pro­ducing all the necessaries of life; which is intersected with navigable rivers and inland waters, to facilitate commerce,—so that in a commercial point of view, we have become the second nation of the world.— Our population has rapidly increased; the Savages in the Western wilds have ceased their cruel bar­barities, and are retiring from the unsettled lands within our boundaries; so that the den of the tyger, and the haunt of the Savage, have become the peaceful abodes of wealth and industry.

But, finally, taking into consideration the vast field which is here opened for improvements, in science, [Page 16] in government, in religion, and in morals,—the Philosopher will felicitate himself with the prospect of discoveries, favorable to arts and happiness;—the Statesman will rejoice, that here is a retreat from the vassalage of Europe;—the Divine will bless God, that a place has been reserved for an uncorrupted church;—and the Philanthropist, who compares the yeomanry of America, with the peasantry of Europe, will congratulate himself, with an event, which has removed millions of his fellow-creatures, from the ambition of princes, and a participation of the vices which mark the decline of nations.

May our land continue to be the nurse of Freemen, the region of peace, remote from tyranny and op­pression.—May a spirit of philanthropy actuate the rulers of America, and hasten the coming of that day, when the lion shall lie down with the lamb.

FINIS.

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