AN Oration, DELIVERED FEBRUARY 22, 1800.

THE DAY OF PUBLIC MOURNING For the Death of General George Washington.


Quis nostrum tam animo agresti ac duro suit, ut Roscii morte nuper non commoveretur? Cicero pro Ar. Poeta.

Printed by SAMUEL HALL, No. 53, Cornhill, BOSTON. 1800.


IN Town-Meeting, voted that Deacon RICHARD SPARROW, and Mr. HEMAN LINNEL be a Committee, to present the thanks of the Town to the Rev. Mr. BASCOM, for his ORATION delivered before them, on the 22d February last; and to desire a copy of it to be printed, at the cost of the Town.

Copy of record, by

An Oration.

‘I use this new address, as I stand before you now in a new character, and upon a new occasion. In my at­tempt to perform the task you have assigned me, I feel myself supported by a confidence in your well-known candor.’

THIS day is remarkable. This day, sixty-eight years ago, had the honour to witness the nativ­ity of one of the greatest and best of the human race. You will readily conceive, that the reference applies to the late General GEORGE WASHINGTON, whose memory is blessed. This day, therefore, has often been celebrated, in many of our cities and towns, in commemoration of that happy event.—Some of you, I presume, have seen the lively im­pressive emblems of publick joy displayed upon that occasion, and have partaken in the high-wrought affection.

HAPPY were it for us! happy were it for the whole nation! were this the only object of publick attention, this day. But the case is greatly other­wise. [Page 6] The harp is now turned to mourning; for that venerable and illustrious Personage has lately closed his eyes upon the light of life, and is now no more.

ON the 14th December last, a regretful day now to be adopted into the gloomy annals of mortality, his invaluable life was taken from the earth.

THE winged tidings, as if an host had perished, or a whole city rushed to ruin, pervaded the whole land. The bereaved nation is now seen, as the Prophet saw the tents of Cushan, in affliction; or, as were the chosen tribes in the wilderness, lamenting the death of their Moses.

THIS day, so often the joyful anniversary of his birth, is now, by authority, made sacred to his fu­neral honours. Alas for the day! Quantum mutatus ab illo! How is the scene changed! Yet, the nature of this changeful world considered, perfectly in order.

SHOULD the propriety of the publick solemnities of this day be demanded, while the publick loss, and the sublime virtues of our ascended Patriot, in sol­emn assemblies, resound from the lips of a thousand selected orators; I shall make some reply.

MOURNING for the dead, with funeral respect for the great and good, especially such as have been great and publick benefactors, is a dictate of nature, ex-emplified in the practice of all nations, the disciples of Divine Revelation not excepted; and appears to [Page 7] be countenanced, at least, by Revelation itself. The principle, like other natural principles, has been in­dulged to excess; has often been the parent of the grossest absurdities, and even of abominable idolatries. Hence, mere frail mortals have been deified; and some of the most polluted wretches, sainted. Last respects to virtuous deserving character, when no­thing more can be done, are often overdone. This is no reason that nothing of the kind should be at­tempted. If any thing be due from the living to the dead, it is an honourable remembrance. Who lives, and wishes not that his honours, if he has any, may outlive him? Such a principle, under due re­straint, is not without its use; is a stimulus to the acquisition of personal accomplishments and merit; a motive, among greater motives, to a virtuous and honourable practice. More virtue exists, we pre­sume, because it is known, that its praise shall sur­vive its possessor. What less than to check vice, and encourage virtue, did the wise king of Israel intend, when he uttered that memorable aphorism? "The memory of the just is blessed; but the name of the wicked shall rot."

As Pagan, Jewish, and Christian princes, poten­tates, heroes, &c. have been publickly honoured by their funeral rites; who will deny the present claim, in behalf of our WASHINGTON, to be just?

I PRESUME, it is now the wish of this whole au­dience, most certainly it is mine, that I were able [Page 8] to do justice to a character, so much the ornament and boast of our nation. But, instead of attempt­ing to describe a character so exalted, I will honour him yet more another way; by acknowledging it is above my reach. To this small tribute of praise (for small indeed it is) I will add that which is far greater; by announcing to you, that others, con­summate Eulogists, who have acted the part before me, have confessed the attempt to be desperate.—What description of the fun, when shining in his meridian lustre, shall improve the intuitive idea of his splendor? That must be a fair hand, that touches the driven snow without injury to its native white­ness. Suffice it for me further to say, that on every pronunciation of the glorious name, GENERAL WASHINGTON, rides forth the idea of a bright as­semblage, if I may not say, the aggregate, of virtues.

I SHALL attempt, however, with great and com­prehensive brevity, and as great diffidence, to retrace the mighty and beneficent deeds of one, who has been so much the organ of salvation and blessings to his native country, and our own.

SINCE the day of some, and before the day of others, of us, the now United States of America were appendages of the British nation. The parent state ceased to govern them with affection, and for­ged political chains for them. Born free, and accus­tomed to a liberal government, they revolted at the idea of subjugation. Coercive policy met their firm [Page 9] united resistance. Fleets and armies were employed against them. It was necessary that an opposing army should be raised and organized. An important, but not difficult question arose; Who shall take the chief command? no doubt was long entertained. WASHINGTON was appointed. Not for filthy lucre, not from the pride of his heart, not to support a lawless faction, not to drive in sunder the nations for conquest or plunder; but "for the help of the Lord against the mighty;" for the help of his then oppressed, already wounded, and bleeding country, he greatly arose, and accepted the awful charge.

WHAT followed is well known. He came; he fought; he conquered. Long time, with various success, at the head of his brave republican legions, he opposed the mighty invaders of our rights and possessions; those who blockaded our harbours, rav­aged our coasts, burned our cities to ashes, and shed rivers of innocent blood. When the prospect dark­ened before him, despondency found him not; suc­cess could not flatter him to abate his vigilance. As the fruits of his prowess, so happily accompanied with prudence and perseverance, whole armies, one after another, became his mortified captives; and he unbuckled not his armour till all opposition gave way before him; till he saw the proud foe of hu­manity prostrated and trembling under the point of his sword, and his native land a quiet habitation. Then, and not before, he resigned the august com­mand, and retired to the common rank of a citizen.

[Page 10] IT was not long, before the united voice of the nation called him forth from his beloved retirement, to preside over the realms his valor had saved.—This honour was done him a second time; a third time was prevented only by his absolute refusal, for reasons he adduced. By his administrations, as Chief Magistrate, it was made evident, that nature had formed him for the sceptre, as well as for the sword.

THE nation being threatened again with the ca­lamity of war, to whom was it natural for them to look for protection, under God, but to their veteran Hero, who had so recently conducted them to vic­tory and peace? The solicitations of Government, therefore, prevailed with him to resume the conquer­ing sword, and take the command of the precau­tionary forces. Under the honours of this appoint­ment, at the command of the Arbiter of life, to which the highest must submit, he made his mighty exit, and retired, all are confident, to peaceful regions.

How imperfect the review! Draw upon your memories, call up faithful history, to supply the present lack of narration. From these sources of in­formation it will appear, that such were his virtues and talents, and so directly and successfully exerted for the benefit of his generation, that he rose to fame by his own merits, and, foreign to his main object, attached to himself honours to an effulgence of glory. His praise is in all the nation; it surpasses [Page 11] her limits; and, like the rays of the prince of day, is gone out into all the world. It re-echoes to us from every enlightened people. It will progress with civilization, till both embrace the ends of the earth. And his name shall endure, as long as virtue and talents, employed for the best purposes, shall command plaudits from a human tongue. We ex­press our confidence of its perpetuity, by addressing to him that ancient poetic line, as pertinent to the purpose as in its primary application; ‘Semper honos, nomenque tuum, laudesque manebunt.’ Pardon the unknown tongue, and take the sense thus: ‘Forever live thy name, renown and praise.’

DESERVEDLY great as the publick mourning is, is there no consolation?

No grief so great, but remedies are found;
There's balm in store to heal a nation's wound.

IN behalf of our deceased benefactor, mourning, we presume, is needless; tears would be wasted.—Why weep for the dead, who have accomplished every important purpose of life, and retired to their rewards? To his more publick character as a patriot, we are happy in being able to add, that he, whose memory we celebrate as the Saviour of our country, was himself a disciple of the Saviour of the world; believed in, and professed, the Christian Religion; [Page 12] was in church-fellowship; and attended the sacred ordinances; and, in his more private walks, order­ed his steps by the heavenly rules and maxims of the gospel. Such a one must have happiness secured. Earth, bad as it is, cannot deny it him; death can­not deprive him of it; the eternal world, most cer­tainly, must improve it to perfection.

For Vernon's mount, that with a palace vies,
He now possesses heavenly paradise:
Elate in honours which outshine, outlive
The fading plaudits fellow-mortals give:
Anointed high above his fellows there,
As much as he surpass'd the vulgar here.

THE publick loss we justly deplore. The breach is wide like the sea. But, consolation offers itself to us from the highest source. We piously exult in the language of the Prophet, in a dark day; "Art not thou from everlasting, O Lord our God, our holy One? We shall not die," as a nation, though WASHINGTON, so long and so much the breath of our nostrils, be taken from us. Be we but a vir­tuous people, and the Lord will provide for us. With him is the residue of the spirit. When Moses the servant of the Lord was dead, He raised up Joshua, to lead the chosen race to their destination. Nor are we left in a situation only to hope against probability, so long as there is an ADAMS, a JEFFER­SON, and others we could name; even an host of patriots who survive, to watch over, defend, and [Page 13] improve the glorious fabric of our union and polity, according to the pattern that has been shewed them from the Mount (Vernon).

AND may we not console ourselves, in part, from the consideration of the flourishing state of literature in our nation? that the scientific fountains will pro­vide for a succession of wise and faithful rulers, to go in and out before us; and of Generals too, to command our armies, so long as the world around us shall remain so depraved and rapacious, as to make the art and occupation of war necessary for defence.

BUT, shall we praise our WASHINGTON, and neglect HIM who is higher than the highest? Herod made an oration to the people, and committed an error that proved fatal to the pompous orator him­self; "he gave not God the glory." And far be it from us, in imitation of a late refinement upon hea­thenism, to address our publick gratitude to our na­tional genius. We are not ashamed to mention the name of the Lord, who rules in the kingdom of men; our hope in the day of evil; in the day of prosperity, our song. Is WASHINGTON celebrated this day, as having been our political Father, our Ben­efactor, our Saviour? For this purpose God raised him up, to shew forth by him his mighty power, and his extensive goodness, before all the people.—He foresaw our destinies, and fitted him exactly for our purpose: raised him up in the right time: he [Page 14] was of proper age the moment his services were wanted; nearly the age of Moses when he entered upon his divine legation, to liberate the posterity of Jacob, from the oppressions of the tyrant of Egypt. The Creator of man united in him strength of body, and vigour of mind; formed him by nature and edu­cation for his work; made him impregnable to the force of corruption, should the proffered price of his fidelity be the greatest, and lavished upon him the talents of war and of government. The Preserver of man strengthened his warlike arm, and covered his anointed head in the day of battle; not an hair of his head fell to the ground; nor was a drop of his blood shed by the sword of the enemy. Happy for us! the same man, WASHINGTON, had, and re­tained, the Chief Command of our forces, from the beginning to the end of the memorable conflict.—The honoured instrument deserves an honourable remembrance; but the ultimate praise must take an higher direction, even to the God of armies and battles, who turneth the victory on which side he pleaseth. Thus we "render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

LOOK now for a reward of your further attention, in a concluding word of advice.

DO we honour the memory of General WASH­INGTON this day, as having been our benefactor, and so much the instrument of our national freedom, [Page 15] and present happy establishment? Hence, these are benefits; benefits to be appreciated, defended, and improved. He has left us in a situation most friend­ly to the acquisition and enjoyment of publick and private property; the cultivation of every virtue; and the practice of pure and undefiled religion, which is under a divine promise of this life, and the life to come. Therefore, let us stand fast, let us stand right in, and prize and improve, the liberty with which we are made free, by the sword of the LORD, and of WASHINGTON his faithful ser­vant.

YOU will now allow me to retire within my proper sphere, and act the preacher, so far as to exhort all present, heedfully to attend to the voice that cries, "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass:" the solemn voice of mortality, I mean, now become peculiarly impressive, by the fall of this mighty one, this earthly god, who has died like another man, and fallen like one of the princes. In regard to death, the high and low, the illustrious and obscure together, stand on equal ground; there is no pre-eminence. "The small and the great are there"; "and there is no discharge in that war." Let us fight the good fight of faith; and the reward will be, a crown of glory that shall not fade.


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