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AN ORATION, DELIVERED IN THE BAPTIST MEETING HOUSE, IN THOMASTON, JULY 4th, 1798.

AT THE REQUEST OF THE FRIENDLY SOCIETY, AND IN COMMEMORATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE.

BY THE REV. THURSTON WHITING.

Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father and he will shew thee: thy elders and they will tell thee.MOSES.

HALLOWELL, PRINTED BY HOWARD S. ROBINSON.

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Voted—That Capt. Ephraim Snow, Col. Thomas Starret and David Fales Esq. be a committee to wait on the Rev. Mr. Whiting, and in the name of the Society to thank him for his sensible, well-adapted and ani­mated Address, this day delivered to them, and to request a copy thereof for the press.

Attest, Samuel S. Wilde, Sec'ry pro tem.

To the Committee of the Society.

GENTLEMEN,

It has ever been my sincere aim to cherish the interests—cultivate the esteem and friendship—and conform to the wishes of my brethren of the "Friendly Society;" if they are pleased to think that giving typogra­phical publicity to the address I have had the honor, this day, to deliver to them, will promote any salutary effect, or if it will be a gratification to them, I shall not hesitate to submit the copy, so politely requested, with all its imperfections, to their disposal and the candor of the public.

I have the pleasure to be, Gentlemen, Your's and the Society's friend and brother, THURSTON WHITING.
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AN ORATION.

FRIENDS, BRETHREN AND FELLOW CITIZENS!

IT is a dictate of the light of nature—a universal sentiment amongst mankind, as appears from the practice of all nations and ages, by some public monuments, or significant and speaking actions, to recog­nize interesting events of a public nature, and to do this at stated return­ing periods; and this practice has received a sanction from heaven. The Jews were enjoined to celebrate the anniversary of their deliverance from Pharaoh's tyranny, by the paschal feast; and their narrow escape from the sanguinary Haman's perfidy and cruelty, by observing the days of purim.

It is very obvious that the proper observance of a custom like this, is calculated to excite and cherish moral and religious sentiments, as well as, in some instances, to promote objects more purely political.

On this joyous anniversary, dear to all true Americans, we are invited to commemorate the birth of American Empire. To minds fraught with patriotism and sensibility, it must be a pleasing and instructive task, to take a retrospective view of the early settlement of America, by our venerable ancestors, to investigate their principles and motives, as well as their suf­ferings in the arduous enterprize—to mark the rapid progress of popula­tion—of agriculture and commerce—of the arts and sciences, and their beneficial and embellishing effects in this new world, and to retrace those signal and interesting scenes, some humiliating and afflicting, and others brilliant and glorious, which paved the way to, which accompanied, and which have succeeded the independence of the United States.

The full development, and minute detail of these particulars, is the pro­vince of the elaborate historian. The utmost that the occasional declaim­er can promise, or hope to do, is to designate the great outlines, leading traits, and most prominent features of the interesting picture.

To this attempt, with diffidence, I now address myself—and "while we are musing" on our dear country's past sufferings and dangers, and her [Page 4] present growing importance and happiness, "may the fire burn"—may the sacred incense of devout and humble gratitude ascend from our im­passioned bosoms, to that great Supreme of Beings, and Sovereign Arbiter of nations, who has ever signalized himself as America's friend, guardian and benefactor; and may this be accompanied with the flame of genuine patriotism—the love of liberty—of republicanism, and of every virtue ne­cessary to make republics or individuals happy.

The origin and formation of the American nation lie more directly and completely under the eye, and within the grasp and comprehension of the historian and his reader, than those of any other nation, whose an­nals have been written and preserved. When we trace back the histories of ancient Greece and Rome to their source, we find ourselves lost in a terra incognita—in the regions of romance and fable. We are bewildered in the labyrinths of Minos, and find ourselves in the company of preterna­tural heroes and giants, of satyrs and demigods, of Theseus and Hercules, of Romulus and Remus. These monstrous and visionary beings had dis­appeared, and "the age of chivalry was gone by," before the discovery of America, by European navigators and adventurers; which is but of modern date, and hence the minutiae of our history and chronology may be exactly ascertained. The commencement of permanent settlements, and the formation of colonies in North America, did not take place till after the revival of learning and religion on the European continent and its adjacent islands. This revival, however, and the reformation consequent upon it▪ were but partial at that period. In England they had thrown off the supremacy of the Pope, and the tyranny of the hierarchy of Rome—they had abolished many of the idolatrous and superstitious rites and cer­emonies of that corrupted church; in short, they had reduced the exorbi­tant temporal power and jurisdiction of the clergy and their courts, and re­covered some portion of their civil and religious rights. But, with all these happy improvements and acquisitions, they retained no small por­tion of that intolerant, conscience-binding and persecuting spirit, for which "Mother Church," for many ages, had been so famous. The dignified clergy of the established church of England were disposed to treat those that dissented from them with but little more indulgence than the Catho­lics [Page 5] did the Heretics, as they termed the Reformers; and sometimes car­ried their zeal so far as to burn their bodies out of love to their souls.—This was, especially, the temper of the English court during the unhap­py and odious reigns of the four Kings of the Stuart race—the two Charles's and the two James's—they were, at best, but weak princes—pos­sessed of arbitrary, despotic principles of government—refined by their re­ligious creed which they received from Rome—and intoxicated with high notions of prerogative, and "the right divine of Kings to govern wrong;" they were a disgrace to the throne and an awful scourge to the kingdom.

The Dissenters, from whom the inhabitants of the Newengland states in general derived their pedigree (and they may glory in their descent) were, at that time, stigmatized, by their enemies, by the name of puri­tans—and if ever there was a people, since the more pure and primitive times of the gospel, who deserved that appellation, on account of their sin­cere and conscientious regard to the purity of christian doctrine, discipline, worship and manners, it was that generation.

They and their puritanism, however, were to the last degree odious and offensive to the high church Jacobite party, which then bore the sway in government, and like the haughty, hard-hearted tyrant of Egypt and his cruel task-masters towards their Hebrew vassals, they "evilly entreated and dealt hardly with our fathers"—they persecuted them for righteousness sake—they enacted laws and with rigor executed them, by which they stript the nonconformists of their civil and religious rights and immuni­ties, and subjected them to every indignity and hardship. Fines and confiscations of estate were but a common lot among them—many were confined to loathsome dungeons, till a lingering death put a period to their sufferings. By an execrable edict, generally known by the name of the "Test Act." 2000 dissenting ministers were ejected from their pul­pits and their livings in one day. These were a glorious band of christian soldiers—a noble army of confessors—and among the number we may reckon several great and distinguished names, which, together with their pious writings, have been handed down to us, and whose praise is, de­servedly, in the American churches.

It was in these dismally dark and perilous times, when to worship God, [Page 6] according to the dictates of their own consciences was a state crime—when their pastors were thrust into corners—and they despoiled of every thing most dear and valuable on earth—when the arm of persecution and tyranny reigned, and threatened the total subversion of the glorious refor­mation, so happily atchieved, in the preceding century—it was at such a time, and under these peculiar circumstances, that our forefathers first me­ditated a dereliction of their dear native land, and the seeking of an asylum in the, then, unexplored and inhospitable wilds of America. And in these, and other concurring circumstances, which attended the transplantation of civilization, liberty and religion into this western hemisphere, we, as christians, must see and acknowledge an overruling and wonder-working providence. To prepare a refuge for the oppressed—a last retreat for persecuted religion and liberty to flee to, providence had commissioned and conducted Christopher Columbus, Americus Vespucius, Sebastian Cabot and others, to make discoveries of this new continent, and has ever since been carrying on some great designs here. The planting and nur­turing a church here, under the auspices of freedom and good govern­ment, has evidently been the peculiar object of providential care and goodness. It is the case in fact, and said to be agreeable to antient pre­diction, that empire and the arts and sciences, which began in the east, should travel west; and it is added, that on this continent, under the set­ting sun, they should display their last and highest splendor and glory; and as far as we can judge, from present appearances, the last part of the prediction is in train of rapid fulfilment.

But, waving this, I would just observe, that it was in the close of the year 1620 that the first ship, freighted with emigrants destined for settlers, arrived in the harbor of Plymouth, in the now Commonwealth of Mas­sachusetts. They had a long and hazardous passage, and upon their ar­rival, were worn down with fatigue and hardship. See, my friends, the poor houseless families, the germe and stamina of the New-England states, landed on a desert shore—a waste, howling wilderness before them, in­habited only by savage beasts or still more savage men—their provisions scanty, and a long cold winter before them. Many died before the return of spring by sickness, brought on by want and sufferings, and those that [Page 7] survived supported their precarious existence, from day to day, by shell­fish which they found near the shores.

It becomes us, the descendants of these brave and enterprizing suffer­ers who are "fed with the finest of the wheat"—"who eat the fat and drink the sweet," on this auspicious day to look back to "the day of small things," and to remember what our fair inheritance cost our fathers.

It was late in the next season before any supplies or new settlers arrived at the young colony; and for ten years following the settlement lan­guished or progressed but slowly. But after that period, immigrations more numerous and respectable were annually received, and the business of plantation was prosecuted with vigor and success. These exiled apostles of liberty and religion▪ animated by the idea that they were now beyond the reach of tyranny's vengeful arm, and with the prospect of bet­ter days before them, were industrious from principle, and from motives the most interesting and stimulating to the human heart. The forests, an­tient as the deluge, yielded to the laboring axe—they subdued the rugged soil—they planted them fields and gardens—they built them houses and towns—and whereever they pitched their tents they erected synagogues and altars, for the worship of God, and the due celebration of the chris­tian mysteries.

Hence we see, brethren, what were the principles and motives, and some of the concurring providences of Almighty God, which led the way to the settlement of this country, and laid the foundation of our rising em­pire. Our fathers, at every hazard, planted religion—virtue—freedom in the land. These they loved more than their lives—these they cultivat­ed, cherished and strictly guarded—and these they transmitted, pure and unimpaired, to their immediate descendants: and now we, after a few, and but few, intervening generations, have risen up in their stead, and entered upon the precious inheritance.

To be thankful for our blessings we must be sensible of their worth and the price they have cost. For advocating and defending those principles of civil and religious liberty, which are the established creed of Americans, and recognized by our civil constitutions, how many statesmen and pat­riots, like Hampden and Sidney, have lost their heads on the martyring [Page 8] block! How many apostles of our liberty and religion, both laity and clergy, have died at the stake! and how many in the field of battle!

O tyranny! O despotism! are these thy cruel dreadful rites! these thy miserable, tho' respectable victims! canst thou not be appeased but by such costly sacrifices!

O sacred liberty! dear as thou art to the human breast, canst thou not be purchased but at such prodigious expence!

If we, my friends and fellow citizens, can depreciate and think lightly of these our birth-right blessings, if we can neglect and abuse them, or trifle them away, we show that we form an estimate of them widely different from that of the most illustrious personages the world ever produced, and "of whom the world was not worthy."

The copiousness and endearment of the subject would detain me long­er here, did not the shortness of my time hurry me down the stream of A­merican history to more recent transactions and events.

While the colonies remained in their infantile and weak state, and were un­able to render their immense natural resources very productive, the Mother Country, as we were proud and fond to stile Great Britain, treated us with some appearance of justice, and even of friendship. Tho' it can't be wholly overlooked that the same Jacobite party, which expelled our an­cestors from their inheritance and native homes, still kept up their reli­gious spleen and persecuting spirit against them and their descendants in America, and at different periods, several blows were aimed at our religion and liberty. As to commerce, our British brethren considered us as their factors—their hunters—their fishermen—their lumberers—and annually sent over their ships to receive all our exports—they monopolized our trade and the balance was always in their favor—but they did not violent­ly and directly rob or plunder us.

The last war in which America bore a part with Great Britain, against France, their then common enemy, and the seat of which, in its last stages, was on our continent, bro't the military and commercial importance and internal resources of this country more fully into view than ever before. From that period we became an object of ministerial consideration and speculation. We had indeed, till then, been kept in leading-strings: [Page 9] but these sat light upon us—such was our deference and devotion to the parent-state, we were willing to contribute our full proportion towards the defence of the Empire: nay, to bear a part of the burden of wars in which ambition and caprice, rather than justice and sound policy, involved it. But the British ministry, not satisfied with this, and with realizing all the emoluments of our commerce, apprehending also, that as we approach­ed to national manhood we might think of going alone without the help of leading-strings, contrived and fabricated shackles of iron and fetters of brass, to impose upon us, and at length avowed their intention and their right so to do. They declared, that "the Parliament of Great-Britain had a right to make laws to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever;" which was equivalent to saying, that we had no exclusive rights or pro­perty of our own; but that they were sovereign lords of our soil and masters of our persons and purses. This doctrine, so degrading and in­sulting to every citizen of America, they attempted, both before and af­ter its avowal, to carry into effect. To this purpose they had instituted stamp duties and commissioned stamp masters to collect them. The co­lonies so universally and violently revolted against this daring and direct infringement upon their liberty and property, that, from motives of state­prudence, the measure, tho' not the principle, was dropt—the Stamp Act was repealed. The next attempt to raise a revenue from us; without our consent, was by laying duties on tea, glass, paper and other articles of ne­cessary importation into America. The same indignant spirit, the same manly and strenuous opposition appeared against this, as the former mea­sure; to overcome which, and carry their darling point, the junto of St. James' tried every art and artifice which machievalian policy, or folly and madness could invent. They tampered with our Governments and en­deavored to intimidate the governed. They sent their boasted engines of thunder and destruction into our harbors, and stationed their soldiers in our peaceful towns. The horrid scene of murder and carnage displayed in the streets of Boston, on the evening of the 5th of March 1770, when the "British blood-hounds," were let loose upon the unarmed and un­offending inhabitants, must forever impress the minds of Americans with horror at the idea of standing armies in a time of peace, and teach them [Page 10] that when civil and municipal law is subject to the controul of the military it must constitute the most odious and fearful despotism.

To divide and disunite the colonies, and by the example of one to overawe and intimidate the rest, our then province of Massachusetts was singled out as the peculiar object of ministerial vengeance. The port of Boston was shut up by an act of Parliament, and blockaded by a naval force; and a few months after, that devoted town was invested by an arm­ed force by land, and all communication with the country suspended.

The effect of this cruel, pointed outrage against the obnoxious pro­vince, instead of dividing, was to unite the colonies, "from Dan to Beer­sheba." From Georgia to the old province of Maine the Tocsin was sound­ed—the alarm was spread—one common sentiment, with few exceptions, pervaded the whole mass of the people—their interests were deemed one, and the danger common—the maxim was adopted, "BY UNITING WE STAND, BY DIVIDING WE FALL."

The expedient of a Congress of deputies, from all the different colonies, to consult upon the most prudent measures to be taken, at that alarming crisis, was wisely, and as it were, instinctively fallen upon. It was wonder­ful, and beyond expectation, that the people of so many different colo­nies, whose local situations and interests, as also their governments, hab­its and manners, were so diverse, should be led to form so strict a union and confederation, and this too without the sanction and coercion of formal, established authority.

The language of the first Congress was the faithful echo of that of the hearts of all the brave and loyal, tho injured, sons of America, whom they represented. They would then have deemed it unjustifiable temerity to have admitted the idea of detaching themselves from the British empire. In the language of loyalty and wounded affection, they prostrated the co­lonies at the foot of a throne to which they had ever been wont to attach the ideas of wisdom, justice and clemency. To have condescended low­er—to have asked for less than we did, would have been unworthy and unbecoming the character of British subjects. Indeed, we asked for no favor—no royal boon—but only for the secure enjoyment of what God and nature, and the blood and sweat of our ancestors, had made unalien­ably [Page 11] our own, and which, without a crime, we could not part with. This was denied us—our humble, loyal and dutiful remonstrances were treat­ed with neglect and scorn—we were spurned from the throne, and all ac­cess thereto barred against us.

Thus abandoned—friendless and alone—unknown to the nations of Europe—we were compelled to make our solemn appeal to the God of justice, and under him to the arbitrament of the sword. Some of us can remember the opening of the dreadful scene at Lexington, on the 19th of April, 1775. The Rubicon was then passed, and there was no receding—all hope of accommodation vanished with the smoke of the first gun that was fired on that portentous day—there was no alternative left us, but either tamely and dastardly to surrender our dearest rights, or valorously to de­fend them in the field. To our everlasting honor, as a people, we had virtue and spirit enough, in the face of every discouragement, to choose the latter, and "LIBERTY OR DEATH" became the motto of the Ameri­can standard. We had staked our ALL and must stand the hazard of the die.

Many interesting and tragical scenes ensued—the mighty issue, big with the fate of America, hid from the eyes of mortals by the impenetra­ble curtain of futurity, hung in long and anxious suspense; and at some gloomy, distressful periods, the firmest hearts of the firmest American patriots felt some misgivings, and trembled in anticipation of the awful, dubious event.

The particular conjuncture of time and of affairs at which we first as­sumed national existence and sovereignty, demands, on this occasion, our special notice and consideration. It was in 1776, and, as you well know, on that day whose propitious anniversary we are now celebrating. No national assembly on earth, not even the Amphyctiones of Greece, or the Senate of Rome, ever exhibited a more august, majestic or affecting spec­tacle than did the representatives of nascent America, on that memorable day. To be convinced of this, we need only recur to their personal situa­tion, and the situation of their country, on that critical, trying occasion. They well knew, that in case of failure in the mighty contest, then pend­ing, their heads, as well as fortunes, must have paid the forfeit to enraged [Page 12] despotism. The aspect of our affairs in the field was by no means flat­tering. Then no such prodigy as the surrender of a famed Burgoyne or Cornwallis, with their vaunted, veteran armies, to an American standard, had been seen; on the contrary, we had met with some discouraging checks—we had failed in our Canadian enterprize. The British fleet and army had evacuated Boston, a few months before, only that they might take a more advantageous post, and strike a more successful blow in some other part, and with that design, were then hovering on our coasts, with an augmented force. Our army was diminishing faster, by the expira­tion of enlistments, than it could be recruited by new levies, and our in­testine enemies, the tories, like the ominous raven, were croaking and foreboding swift perdition to the sons of liberty.

The human character, in the person of individuals, never appears to so good advantage, as when rising superior to those difficulties and discour­agements under which the generality of mankind sink. It is no uncom­mon merit for a centinel to maintain his post in a secure situation, where there is no apprehension of assault or opposition: but to do this at the point of the bayonet, with death in one eye and his duty in the other, ar­gues the good soldier—the man of courage. The lukewarm and timid thought and pronounced this, of all others, the most improper and un­suitable crisis to set up for independence. But behold the patriotic Sen­ators of America, on this day, 22 years ago, rising superior to all the ad­verse scenes and gloomy prospects which surrounded themselves or their country! They came forward with magnanimity and firmness; and dared, in the face of the world, and in defiance of injurious, formidable Britain, to assert their country's violated rights—to declare "That the American Colonies," which they represented, "were, and of right ought to be, free, sovereign and independant States," and in a solemn, religious manner, commended their just and bleeding cause to Heaven's interposition and care.

The declaratory act, which they then passed and published, is drawn up in the manly, becoming language of patriotism and piety, and ought to be engraven on the heart of every American, and the names of its authors, foremost of which stands our patriotic and amiable Hancock, transmit­ted to latest posterity, with honour and applause.

[Page 13] We have not time to mark all the varied scenes and vicissitudes of a long eight years war to maintain this declaration—it cost us an immense profusion of our best blood and treasure. But when we survey the glo­rious and extensive objects secured to us, by an honorable peace, in con­trast with what must have been our abject and miserable situation, in a re­verse of events, we must still think it a cheap purchase.

It has been charged upon MAN, as an odious appendage of his charac­ter, that upon realizing a benefit, he is prone to forget the benefactor, to­gether with the instrument of conveying the benefit. I wish the Ame­rican people may never be liable to this imputation, in regard either to "the God of our fathers" or to those champions of liberty, who, under him, were the chief instruments in defending our rights, and securing our independence, during the course of the revolutionary war. Upon recol­lection, what a long list of able and enlightened statesmen and patriotic soldiers rises to view, who have severally acted a noble and conspicuous part, either on the stage of American politics, or the theatre of the Ame­rican war. At the head of this list stands the illustrious name of WASH­INGTON. When we contemplate or speak of this great man, for he is but a man, we are to avoid every thing that savours of idolatry or adulation, and if we do this we cannot well be extravagant in his eulogy. Is it ex­travagant to say, that the pen of old Plutarch was never employed upon a richer subject?—is it extravagant to place a Washington's merit above that of the Alexanders and Cesars of antiquity, those butchers of mankind, or the Henrys and Fredericks—the Lewises and Georges of modern times? or is it extravagant to say, that it was reserved for the honor of America to display the most finished character, as a politician and hero, in the present expiring century?

How fortunate and happy was it for America that, when she was driven to the dire necessity of recurring to arms in self dcfence, her eyes were di­rected to this accomplished CAPTAIN, to command her armies and direct the operations of the war! and how kind was providence to us in pre­serving his important life thro' so many hazardous campaigns! had he fallen in battle, or been betrayed into the hands of the enemy, as was at­tempted by the infamous Arnold, how would all America have groaned [Page 14] beneath the stroke! what a damp would it have struck upon all our hopes! how darkened our prospects! but he lived to see the important struggle crowned with complete success; and then retired, resigning his commission, with the same modesty, gracefulness and dignity, with which he accepted it, since which time, upon the adoption of the Federal Con­stitution, invited, and as it were compelled, by the total suffrage of united America, he presided for eight successive years in our general government, and his obliged fellow-citizens, and the impartial world, must approve his administration as wise and prudent. Were it not invidious—and did I not behold, in his successor, great talents, displayed with wisdom, firmness and moderation, in a critical, perplexed state of public affairs, I should say, that if any other man had had the conducting of the helm of the na­tion, during the presidency of Mr. Washington, we had long before this time, been embroiled in the mad politics, and shameful and desolating wars of Europe.

But in eulogizing this universal darling of his country, we are not to overlook the merits of others: many sons of America have done worthily, tho' he may have excelled them all. The hoary Franklin, the American Newton, here presents to view—he was the "sage Mentor" in our coun­cils at home, and the able negociator abroad. On this auspicious day, we hail the memories of a Montgomery, who bravely fell before the walls of Quebec—of a Warren, who nobly died, repelling the enemy, on Bunker's Hill—of the amiable Scammel, who died a martyr to the perfidy and cruelty of a party of British soldiers—of a Mercer, who in the dis­play of his heroism met his fate in the battle at Princetown—and a long list of Warriors who sealed their patriotism with their blood.

Some, who survived to behold their country in peace and liberty, have since died, in their peaceful beds, among whom a Green and a Putnam are conspicuous.

A goodly number of patriots and heroes still live, the ornament and blessing of their country in peace, as they were its protection and defence in war—even the poor worn out soldier, the private centinel, ought not to be forgotten by us, on this occasion—if the officers in an army are the head to govern and the eyes to direct, the soldiery are the hands to exe­cute [Page 15] the enterprize. They doubtless have their merit and claim a share in the glory of atchieving the independence of their country, and sorry I am, owing to an exhausted treasury and want of public credit at the close of the war, they have realized so small a recompence for all their la­bors and toils and sufferings.

With the blessing of peace, we were established in the exclusive, na­tional right, and the quiet possession, of a large extensive territory, em­bracing 1500 miles of sea coast, endued with fertility of soil, salubrity of air, healthiness of climate, and as great abundance of natural advantages and sources of national wealth, as any empire the sun ever yet shone upon.

We are a nation peculiarly favoured of indulgent and bounteous Hea­ven. We are happy in the best of governments—happy in our rulers—happy in the possession of every civil and religious blessing, and want no­thing but virtue, sense and knowledge to make a due appreciation of our priveleges and a heart to improve them, to make us a great and respecta­ble nation. Our growth and prosperity, since the adoption of the general government, has been astonishing, unprecedented and unparallelled in the history of the most thriving nations. America, not long since, unknown to the nations on the old continent, or known only as a poor appendage to the British empire, which, by monopolizing her trade, cramped her growth and kept her out of sight, is now become the mart of nations, and her canvass is unfurled, in all the known seas on the globe.

'Tis true our political horizon, at present suffers a partial eclipse, our commercial prosperity is interrupted, and our happy national prospects obscured, by a dark cloud which has, for some time past, been gathering over our heads, from the coast of France.

When we recollect our past connections with that nation—that they es­poused our cause and befriended us in the day of our distress—that they fought by our sides—that in their first attempt to throw off the yoke of unlimited monarchical despotism, and introduce republicanism in its stead, they professed to take their lessons from us, and to embark in the same cause in which we had just succeeded—I say, these things considered, it is painful to animadvert on the present characters, and late conduct, of [Page 16] the rulers of that distracted, ill-fated nation. But friendship and even patience and forbearance have their limits.

On the commencement of the present European war, our government wisely determined to take and maintain a neutral stand, and has ever since studied strictly to observe the duties and restrictions peculiar to such a de­licate situation; while at the same time, it kept good faith and fulfilled all treaty-obligations to France, its Ally. But this national justice and pru­dence not exactly coinciding with the selfish, ambitious views and ex­orbitant expectations of the rulers of France, and not being able, by finesse and intrigue, to controul our government, and bring us into their mea­sures, they have licensed, by one decree after another, founded on the most frivolous pretexts, and their privateers have committed the most wanton and unremitted depredations on our defenceless commerce, for these 18 months past, and have plundered our industrious citizens of more, perhaps, than 25 millions of property.

Repeated attempts at negociation, on the part of our Executive, with a sincere view to an amicable composition of existing differences, have proved fruitless; and we seem now to be just on the eve of a war with that insolent, imperious nation, which, flushed with their career of successes, on the European continent, assumes to treat us with the utmost indiffer­ence and disdain, as well as flagrant injustice.

Nothing is more to be dreaded or deprecated, on this side of the do­minions of the grim tyrant of hell, than supreme power lodged in the hands of fools or madmen, or, which is the same or still worse, of men who are abandoned reprobates to religion, justice, faith and every principle of political and moral rectitude—whose ruling passions are the love of domi­nation and the love of lucre—who have the meaness to "sell the mighty meed of their large honors for so much vile trash as might be grasped thus" with their bloody fists—and the unblushing effrontery to insult the ears and feelings of upright and dignified ministers of other nations, with clamorous demands of douceurs and bribes, and to extort from unoffending nations, if in their power, immense sums to furnish their menes plaisirs, or pocket-money—and who, with the Horseleach's insatiable daughters, are everlastingly crying give, give, Pargent, Pargent. This is but part of the [Page 17] portrait of an infamous, despotic, self assumed oligarchy, who have the lives, liberties and sortunes of 25 millions of their fellow creatures in their hands—hands, compared with which, Lady Macbeth's, or King Richard the third's are lily-white.

It is some relief to humanity's feelings, when contemplating such an odious and horrid tyranny, to reflect that it can be but of short duration; for its necessary, direct tendency is to self destruction. And while it does last, if we remain united and firm, and rally round the standard of in­dependence, we have little to fear, either from its insidious arts, or open injuries: for such an union and firmness will be a sufficient security against the former, and joined to vigorous exertion, would, in a great measure, indemnify us against the latter. A state of war, I know is a serious calam­ity—"pregnant" with infinitely more "mischiefs" than a fair and equal "treaty" to prevent it. But when an aggressing power capriciously in­terdicts all diplomatic intercourse and refuses to treat, and yet persists in its aggressions, what are we to do?

In short, France has already thrown the gauntlet. No formal declara­tion of war, by her rulers, could evince their vindictive spirit or hostile in­tentions against us, more effectually, than does their late and present treatment of us. And shall we remain the tame, unresisting victims of their injustice and rapacity? Shall Americans, who so lately bled in free­dom's cause, and gained their independence at so dear a rate, suffer them­selves, so soon, to be despoiled of these blessings, now almost peculiar to themselves, by French intrigues or French violence? Forbid it, patriot­ism—Forbid it, national dignity, honour and just resentment—Forbid it▪ a reverence for the memory of our virtuous and patriotic ancestry—and forbid it, a regard to unborn posterity.

But I chearfully quit this unwelcome subject to conclude with some ob­servations on a more pleasing theme, the importance of literature, which my brethren of "The Friendly Society" have a right to expect from me on this occasion. When we contemplate the influence of literature, on the great scale of national prosperity and political happiness, how forcibly must a conviction of its importance and utility strike us, from almost every historic page, both antient and modern. How gloomy the retrospect on [Page 18] the nations and ages before the birth of learning and the introduction of the liberal arts! A short life spent in this age of light and refinement is of more worth than Methuselah's term of years in such an age and na­tion. Consult history, and it will invariably be found that a state of savage, uncultivated nature, instead of that peaceful, happy state, by some roman­tic writers represented, is but a scene of lawless violence, or of abject and wretched slavery. It will be found, moreover, that learning, liberty and religion go hand in hand. Greece and Rome, so respectable, so admired, so celebrated in the annals of antiquity, became so by cultivating learn­ing. By this means they acquired a knowledge of the essential rights of human nature—they learned the true dignity of man—that heaven de­signed him to be free—and that life without liberty scarcely deserved the name of a blessing—and while they nursed the muses and preserved their virtue, they preserved their freedom and independence—their national ho­nor and importance.

The learning of the antients was in its zenith in the Augustan age, about the commencement of the christian era. From that period, it began its de­cline, which, tho' gradual, ceased not till it became total. At the coming in of the fifth century, when the Goths and Vandals, and other barbarous nations from the "great northern hive" swarmed and overspread the ci­vilized world, learning might be said to expire, and with it expired almost every thing valuable in society and civil life. Liberty took its flight. Ty­ranny, civil and ecclesiastical, lifted its hydra head and hissed on every side. In christendom the prospect was piteous and gloomy. The lovely reli­gion of the benevolent Jesus lost its native simplicity and lustre, and be­came involved in the darkest shades of error and superstition. This fair daughter of heaven, disfigured and stript of her proper ornaments, ap­peared with a sour forbidding aspect and in a foreign, unseemly dress. A fad millenium succeeded—a thousand years which make almost a blank in history. A blank, did I say? No, for the few miserable pages of the an­nalist are inscribed with the black accounts of the tragical effects of the reign of ignorance, bigotry and tyranny.

In the 15th century, there began a small revival of learning, in Europe, which, gradually increasing, paved the way for the happy reformation, in [Page 19] the next century. Since that memorable epocha the lamp of literature has been shining brighter and brighter▪ untill this our day, and is, perhaps, ap­proximating its high meridian. And what have been the effects of this glorious luminary? The fogs and mists, the illusions and fictions of error have been dispelled before it—the Dagon of superstition has fallen before the sacred ark of genuine religion—tyranny has been hurled from its throne—persecution has shut its devouring jaws—liberality of sentiment and a spirit of free enquiry have prevailed—and philanthropy, humanity, candor and charity have been diffused, and shed their benign and heaven­ly influence on society.

Perhaps America, at this day, exhibits the fairest picture of any coun­try or nation under heaven, of the importance and happy influence of li­terature and science. The American people, collectively considered, are, beyond dispute, the best educated and the most enlightened of any in the world, and our infant nation already exhibits many noble specimens and monuments of her genius and intellectual resources. Witness the many valuable literary productions of American growth, and the many useful and embellishing improvements in the face of the country, which indicate both genius and a public and enterprizing spirit, and which have taken place since the revolution. Witness that important and happy revolution itself. A less enlightened people would never have been so jealous and tenacious of their liberties—so eagle-eyed to have spied out encroach­ments upon them—nor been capable of making so vigorous and manly, and withal so prudent, a stand against encroachments. Witness the hap­py republican systems of government which have taken place in the re­spective states, and above all, the Federal Constitution which is, undoubt­ly, the best palladium of liberty and barrier against its abuse, of any system of human contrivance, and which, if we have virtue to support it, promis­es to advance the respectability, stability and glory of the American Em­pire, as much beyond those of every other, as this system exceeds their defective, or less perfect ones. Here the remark is obvious, that the same knowledge, virtue and patriotism, which led the way to the freedom and independence of our country, are essential and indispensable to the pre­servation of the same. The more ignorant the subjects of despotism are, the better, on some accounts—better for the despot—for he can rule [Page 20] them with less resistance—better for the abject vassals, for their chains and fetters will set the easier upon them. For my own part, if I must have been doomed a slave to some imperious master, let me never have known the sweets of liberty; for knowing them, I must have sighed after them, and repined and sickened in their absence. But not so with respect to the subjects of a free state and of a republican government. The con­tinuation of their freedom and happiness depends upon the continuation of their knowledge and virtue—these must be cherished and diffused by proper means and institutions—by domestic instruction—by schools and seminaries for desseminating the rudiments of knowledge—by colleges and academies for promoting higher science—by honorary and pecu­niary emoluments as an encouragement and reward to inventive genius and eminence in science. It is of the last importance that the people at large, who have, in a sense, the whole government in their own hands, should be well instructed and virtuously inclined. The character of those elected to the office of rulers depends upon the information, character and principles of the electors.

We are happy to observe, that our civil fathers, well weighing this im­portant principle, have paid very particular attention to the interests of li­terature and religion. They have patronized and endowed colleges and academies of different descriptions, and made provision for schools and public teachers of morality and religion, in every town.

We, who live in this remote part of the country, labor under some pe­culiar disadvantages, in point of education. We are beginning a new country—taking farms out of the rough, uncultivated wilderness, where to make any impression requires exertion and assiduity. A great propor­tion of our time must necessarily be devoted to making provision for our families. We can have but little opportunity for furnishing our minds with knowledge, compared with people in a reverse of circumstances, and even if we could find leisure for reading, we in general are unfurnished with books, and hence we see the expediency and utility of social and circulating libraries. To me it appears strange that this happy expedient should have been so long neglected, in this eastern country. "The Friendly Society" was the first institution of the kind that took place in this country; and I do not know but I might add, in the District of [Page 21] Maine—I felicitate you, my brethren, and myself, on the success it has already obtained and the prospect of its enlargement. I am persuaded that it is a laudable and good instutition and calculated to promote objects highly interesting to us, considered either in our individual capacities and domestic connections, or as members of civil and religious society.

Personal happiness and the endearments of the domestic circle are vastly heightened by the due culture of the mind, it smooths the unsocial, forbid­ding roughnesses of human nature, improves and polishes the human fa­culties, and furnishes a capacity both for communicating and receiving in­tellectual entertainment.

Learning is religion's favorite handmaid. This applies even to the higher kinds of science. "Philosophy suggests motives to religion, and religion adds pleasures to philosophy." The same may be said of all the liberal arts▪ their object is the investigation of nature, and "to look thro' nature up to nature's God" is the ne plus ultra of all human researches, the rewarding crowning end.

When I consider the place I now stand in, and the common religion of which we make the profession, it cannot surely be deemed amiss to suggest that, in our several stations and relative situations, we should discharge the duties resulting from them, and in particular display all the virtues of patriotism, from sublimer views, and ultimately to more noble ends than the securing any political or temporary advantages whatever, and in the perusal of books, which providence has put into our hands, we ought to have something more important in view, than the gratifying a transient curiosity, or a taste for literary amusement.

Our religion teacher us to consider our present existence as a state of minority, of discipline and probation, designed to prepare us for our adult age in the next life, which is to be a lasting and unchangeable state, and therefore that our true happiness, which it is our wisdom and duty to pur­sue, lies above and beyond this world.

Let us then my friends, study to reduce the moral science, and all our religious knowledge, to practice, and seek after and attain that "wisdom whose ways are ways of pleasantness and all whose paths are peace,"—and whose blessed influences and effects shall extend beyond the ruin of thrones, the downfall of empires, and the termination of all political existence in this world, and support and solace the heart forever.

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