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ORATION AT PLYMOUTH.

This oration was delivered at Plymouth on fathers. To multiply instances, where it were the twenty-second of December, 1802, in com- impossible to adduce an exception, would be to memoration of the landing of the Pilgrims.

waste your time and abuse your patience : but

in the sacred volume, which contains the subAmong the sentiments of most powerful stance of our firmest faith and of our most preoperation upon the human heart, and most their highest efficacy, but are sanctioned by the

cious hopes, these passions not only maintain highly honorable to the human character, are those of veneration for our forefathers, and of express injunctions of the Divine Legislator to

his chosen people. love for our posterity. They form the connect

The revolutions of time furnish no previous ing links between the selfish and the social

passions. By the fundamental principle of Chris- example of a nation shooting up to maturity tianity, the happiness of the individual is inter- and expanding into greatness

, with the rapidity woven, by innumerable and imperceptible ties, American

people. In the luxuriance of youth,

which has characterized the growth of the with that of his contemporaries: by the power and in the vigor of manhood, it is pleasing of filial reverence and parental affection, indi- and instructive to look backwards upon the vidual existence is extended beyond the limits helpless days of infancy; but in the continual of individual life, and the happiness of every and essential changes of a growing subject

, the age is chained in mutual dependence upon that transactions

of that early period would be soon of every other. Respect for his ancestors ex obliterated from the memory, but for some pericites, in the

breast of man, interest in their his- odical call of attention to aid the silent records tory, attachment to their characters, concern of the historian. Such celebrations arouse and for their errors, involuntary pride in their virtues. Love for his posterity spurs him to ex- They are faithful pledges of the respect we bear

gratify the kindliest emotions of the bosom. ertion for their support, stimulates him to virtue for their example, and fills him with the to the memory of our ancestors, and of the

tenderness with which we cherish the rising tenderest solicitude for their welfare. Man, therefore, was not made for himself alone generation. They introduce the sages and he No; he was made for his country, by the obli- roes of ages past to the notice and emulation of gations of the social compact; he was made for of our gratitude, and schools of virtue to our

succeeding times: they are at once testimonials his species, by the christian duties of universal

children. charity: he was made for all ages past, by the sentiment of reverence for his forefathers; and able; they are virtuous; their cultivation is

These sentiments are wise; they are honorhe was made for all future times, by the impulse not merely innocent pleasure, it is incumbent of affection for his progeny. Under the influence of these principles, "Existence sees him duty...Obedient to their dictates, you, my felspurn her bounded reign.” They redeem his low-citizens, have instituted and paid frequent nature from the subjection of time and space : event of weightier intrinsic importance, or of

observance to this annual solemnity. And what he is no longer a "puny insect shivering at a breeze;" he is the glory of creation, formed to

more extensive consequences, was ever selected

for this honorary distinction occupy all time and all extent: bounded, during his residence upon earth, only by the bounother nations have generally been compelled to

In reverting to the period of their origin, immortality in brighter regions, when the fab- plunge into the chaos of impenetrable antiquity,

or to trace a lawless ancestry into the caverns ric of nature itself shall dissolve and perish,

of ravishers and robbers. It is your peculiar The voice of history has not, in all its com- privilege to commemorate, in this birthday of pass, a note but answers in unison with these your nation, an event ascertained in its minutest sentiments. The barbarian chieftain, who de- details: an event of which the principal actors fended his country against the Roman invasion, driven to the remotest extremity of Britain,

are known to you familiarly, as if belonging to and stimulating his followers to battle, by alỉ your own age: an event of a magnitude before that has power of persuasion upon the human of her powers. It is your further bappiness to

which imagination shrinks at the imperfection heart

, concludes bis exhortation by an appeal to behold, in those eminent characters who were these irresistible feelings*—“Think of your most conspicuous in accomplishing the settleforefathers and of your posterity.”. The Romans ment of your country, men upon whose virtues themselves, at the pinnacle of civilization, were

you can dwell with honest exultation. The actuated by the same impressions, and celebrat- founders of your race are not handed down to ed, in anniversary festivals, every great event you, like the father of the Roman people, as which had signalized the annals of their fore: the sucklings of a wolf. You are not descended

from a nauseous compound of fanaticism and * Proinde ituri in aciem, et majores vestros et posteros sensuality, whose only argument was the sword, cogitate.-Galgacus in Vita Agricolae.

And whose only paradise was a brothel. No

Gothic scourge of God; no Vandal pest of na- have unfolded themselves in all their grandeur, tions; no fabled fugitive from the flames of to the eyes of the present age. It is a common Troy; no bastard Norman tyrant appears among amusement of speculative minds, to contrast the list of worthies, who first landed on the the magnitude of the most important events rock, which your veneration has preserved, as with the minuteness of their primeval causes, a lasting monument of their achievement. The and the records of mankind are full of examples great actors of the day we now solemnize, were for such contemplations. It is, however, a illustrious by their intrepid valor, no less than more profitable employment to trace the constiby their christian graces; but the clarion of con- tuent principles of future greatness in their kerquest has not blazoned forth their names to all nel; to detect in the acorn at our feet the germ the winds of heaven. Their glory has not been of that majestic oak, whose roots shoot down wafted over oceans of blood to the remotest to the centre, and whose branches aspire to the regions of the earth. They have not erected skies. Let it be then our present occupation to themselves colossal statues upon pedestals of to inquire and endeavor to ascertain the causes human bones, to provoke and insult the tardy first put in operation at the period of our comhand of heavenly retribution. But theirs was memoration, and already productive of such “the better fortitude of patience and heroic magnificent effects; to examine, with reiterated martyrdom." Theirs was the gentle temper care and minute attention, the characters of of christian kindness; the rigorous observance those men who gave the first impulse to a new of reciprocal justice; the unconquerable soul series of events in the history of the world; to of conscious integrity. Worldly fame has been applaud and emulate those qualities of their parsimonious of her favor to the memory of minds which we shall find deserving of our those generous champions. Their numbers admiration; to recognize, with candor, those were small; their stations in life obscure; the features which forbid approbation or even reobject of their enterprise unostentatious; the quire censure, and finally, to lay alike their theatre of their exploits remote: how could frailties and their perfections to our own hearts, they possibly be favorites of worldly fame?- either as warning or as example. That common crier, whose existence is only Of the various European settlements upon known by the assemblage of multitudes: that this continent, which have finally merged in pander of wealth and greatness, so eager to one independent nation, the first establishments haunt the palaces of fortune, and so fastidious were made at various times, by several nations, to the houseless dignity of virtue: that parasite and under the influence of different motives. of pride, ever scornful to meekness, and ever In many instances, the conviction of religious obsequious to insolent power: that heedless obligation formed one and a powerful inducetrumpeter, whose ears are deaf to modest me- ment of the adventurers; but in none, excepting rit, and whose eyes are blind to bloodless, dis- the settlement at Plymouth, did they constitute tant excellence.

the sole and exclusive actuating cause. WorldWhen the persecuted companions of Robin-ly interest and commercial speculation entered son, exiles from their native land, anxiously largely into the views of other settlers: but the sued for the privilege of removing a thousand commands of conscience were the only stimulus leagues more distant to an untried soil, a rigor- to the emigrants from Leyden. Previous to ous climate and a savage wilderness, for the their expedition hither, they had endured a sake of reconciling their sense of religious duty long banishment from their native country. with their affections for their country, few, per- Under every species of discouragement, they haps none of them, formed a conception of undertook the voyage; they performed it in what would be, within two centuries, the result spite of numerous and almost insuperable obo of their undertaking. When the jealous and stacles; they arrived upon a wilderness bound niggardly policy of their British sovereign, de- with frost and hoary with snow, without the nied them even that humblest of requests, and boundaries of their charter; outcasts from all instead of liberty, would barely consent to pro- human society; and coasted five weeks togemise connivance, neither he nor they might be ther, in the dead of winter, on this tempestuous aware that they were laying the foundations of shore, exposed at once to the fury of the ele. a power, and that he was sowing the seeds of a ments, to the arrows of the native savage, and spirit, which, in less than two hundred years, to the impending horrors of famine. would stagger the throne of his descendants, Courage and perseverance have a magical and shake his united kingdoms to the centre. talisman, before which difficulties disappear, So far is it from the ordinary habits of mankind, and obstacles vanish into air. These qualities to calculate the importance of events in their have ever been displayed in their mightiest elementary principles, that had the first colonists perfection, as attendants in the retinue of strong of our country ever intimated as a part of their passions. From the first discovery of the westdesigns, the project of founding a great andern hemisphere by Columbus, until the settlement mighty nation, the finger of scorn would have of Virginia, which immediately preceded that pointed them to the cells of bedlam, as an abode of Plymouth, the various adventurers from the more suitable for hatching vain empires than the ancient world had exhibited, upon innumerable solitude of a transatlantic desert.

occasions, that ardor of enterprise and that These consequences, then so little foreseen, stubbornness of pursuit, which set all danger at

defiance, and chain the violence of nature at The difficulties and dangers, which so often had their feet. But they were all instigated by defeated attempts of similar establishments, personal interests. Avarice and ambition had were unable to subdue souls tempered like tuned their souls to that pitch of exaltation. yours. You heard the rigid interdictions ; you Selfish passions were the parents of their hero- saw the menacing forms of toil and danger, forism. It was reserved for the first settlers of bidding your access to this land of promise: but New England to perforin achievements equally you heard without dismay; you saw and disarduous, to trample down obstructions equally dained retreat. Firm and undaunted in the formidable, to dispel dangers equally terrific, confidence of that sacred bond; conscious of under the single inspiration of conscience. To the purity, and convinced of the importance of them, even liberty herself was but a subordi- your motives, you put your trust in the pronate and secondary consideration. They claimed tecting shield of Providence, and smiled defiexemption from the mandates of human author- ance at the combining terrors of human malice ity, as militating with their subjection to a and of elementai strife. These, in the accomplishsuperior power. Before the voice of heaven ment of your undertaking, your were sumthey silenced even the calls of their country. moned to encounter in their most hideous

Yet, while so deeply impressed with the forms; these. you met with that fortitude, and sense of religious obligation, they felt, in all its combated with that perseverance which you energy, the force of that tender tie which binds had promised in their anticipation: these you the heart of every virtuous man to his native completely vanquished in establishing the founland. It was to renew that connection with dations of New England, and the day which their country which had been severed by their we now commemorate is the perpetual memocompulsory expatriation, that they resolved to rial of your triumph. face all the hazards of a perilous navigation, It were an occupation, peculiarly pleasing, to and all the labors of a toilsome distant settle- cull from our early historians, and exhibit bement. Under the mild protection of the Bata-fore you every detail of this transaction. To vian government, they enjoyed aiready that carry you in imagination on board their bark freedom of religious worship, for which they at the first moment of her arrival in the bay; had resigned so many comforts and enjoyments to accompany Carver, Winslow, Bradford and at home: but their hearts panted for a res- Standish, in all their excursions upon the desotoration to the bosom of their country. Invi- late coast; to follow them into every rivulet ted and urged by the open-hearted and truly and creek where they endeavored to find a firm benevolent people, who had given them an asy- footing, and to fix, with a pause of delight and lum from the persecution of their own kindred, exultation, the instant when the first of these to form their settlement within the territories heroic adventurers alighted on the spot where then under their jurisdiction; the love of their you, their descendants, now enjoy the glorious country predominated over every influence save and happy reward of their labors. But in this that of conscience alone, and they preferred grateful task, your former orators, on this annithe precarious chance of relaxation from the versary, have anticipated all that the most ardent bigoted rigor of the English government to the industry could collect, and gratified all that the certain liberality and alluring offers of the Hol- most inquisitive curiosity could desire. To you, landers. Observe, my countrymen, the generous my friends, every occurrence of that momentpatriotism, the cordial union of soul, the con ous period is already familiar. A transient scious, yet unaffected vigor, which beam in allusion to a few characteristic incidents, which their application to the British monarch. mark the peculiar history of the Plymouth set“They were well weaned from the delicate tlers, may properly supply the place of a narmilk of their mother country, and inured to the rative, which, to this auditory, must be superdifficulties of a strange land. They were knit Auous. together in a strict and sacred bönd, to take One of these remarkable incidents is the excare of the good of each other and of the ecution of that instrument of government by whole. It was not with them as with other which they formed themselves into a bodymen, whom small things could discourage, or politic, the day after their arrival upon the small discontents cause to wish themselves coast, and previous to their first landing. This again at home." Children of these exalted is, perhaps, the only instance, in human history, Pilgrims! Is there one among you, who can of that positive, original social compact, which hear the simple and pathetic energy of these speculative philosophers have imagined as the expressions without tenderness and admiration? only legitimate source of government. Here Vederated shades of our forefathers! No! ye was a unanimous and personal assent, by all the were, indeed, not ordinary men! That coun- individuals of the community, to the associatry which had ejected you so cruelly from her tion by which they became a nation. It was bosom, you still delighted to contemplate in the the result of circumstances and discussions, character of an affectionate and beloved mother. which had occurred during their passage from The sacred bond which knit you together was Europe, and is a full demonstration that the indissoluble while you lived ; and oh! may it nature of civil government, abstracted from the be to your descendants the example and the political institutions of their native country, pledge of harmony to the latest period of time! I had been an object of their serious meditation.

The settlers of all the former European colo- | later, the subject was more industriously sifted, nies had contented themselves with the powers and for half a century became one of the princonferred upon them by their respective char- cipal topics of controversy between the ablest ters, without looking beyond the seal of the and most enlightened men in the nation. The royal parchment for the measure of their rights, instrument of voluntary association, executed and the rule of their duties. The founders of on board the Mayflower, testifies that the Plymouth had been impelled by the peculiari- parties to it had anticipated the improvement ties of their situation to examine the subject of their nation. with deeper and more comprehensive research. Another incident, from which we may derive After twelve years of banishment from the occasion for important reflections, was the atland of their first allegiance, during which they tempt of these original settlers to establish bad been under an adoptive and temporary sub- among them that community of goods and of jection to another sovereign, they must natu- labor, which fanciful politicians, from the days rally have been led to reflect upon the relative of Plato to those of Rousseau, have recomrights and duties of allegiance and subjection. mended as the fundamental law of a perfect They had resided in a city, the seat of a uni- republic This theory results, it must be acversity, where the polemical and political con- knowledged, from principles of reasoning most troversies of the time were pursued with un- flattering to the human character. If industry, common fervor. In this period they had wit- frugality, and disinterested integrity were alike nessed the deadly struggle between the two the virtues of all, there would, apparently, be parties, into which the people of the United more of the social spirit, in making all property Provinces, after their separation from the a common stock, and giving to each individual crown of Spain, bad divided themselves. The a proportional title to the wealth of the whole. contest embraced within its compass not only Such is the basis upon which Plato forbids, in theological doctrines, but political principles, his republic, the division of property. Such is and Maurice and Barnevelt were the temporal the system upon which Rousseau pronounces leaders of the same rival factions, of which the first man who enclosed a field with a fence, Episcopius and Polyander were the ecclesiasti- and said, this is mine, a traitor to the human cal champions. That the investigation of the species. A wiser and more useful philosophy, fundamental principles of government was however, directs us to consider man according deeply implicated in these dissensions is evident to the nature in which he was formed; subject from the immortal work of Grotius, upon the to infirmities, which no wisdom can remedy; to rights of war and peace, which undoubtedly weaknesses, which no institution can strengthoriginated from them. Grotius himself bad en; to vices, which no legislation can correct. been a most distinguished actor and sufferer in Hence it becomes obvious, that separate prothose important scenes of internal convulsion, perty is the natural and indisputable right of and his work was first published* very shortly separate exertion; that community of goods after the departure of our forefathers from without community of toil is oppressive and Leyden. It is well known that, in the course unjust; that it counteracts the laws of nature, of the contest, Mr. Robinson more than once which prescribe, that he only who sows thé appeared, with credit to himself, as a public seed shall reap the harvest; that it discourages disputant against Episcopius; and from the all energy, by destroying its rewards; and manner in which the fact is related by Gov- makes the most virtuous and active members · ernor Bradford, it is apparent that the whole of society, the slaves and drudges of the worst. English church at Leyden took a zealous inter- Such was the issue of this experiment among est in the religious part of the controversy. our forefathers, and the same event demonstraAs strangers in the land, it is presumable that ted the error of the system in the elder settlethey wisely and honorably avoided entangling ment of Virginia. Let us cherish that spirit of themselves in the political contentions involved harmony, which prompted our forefathers to with it. Yet the theoretic principles, as they make the attempt, under circumstances more were drawn into discussion, could not fail to favorable to its success, than, perhaps, ever 00arrest their attention, and must have assisted curred upon earth. Let us no less admire the them to form accurate ideas concerning the candor with which they relinquished it, upon origin and extent of authority among men, in- discovering its irremediable inefficacy. To dependent of positive institutions. The im- found principles of government upon too adportance of these circnmstances will not be vantageous an estimate of the human character, duly weighed without taking into consideration is an error of inexperience, the source of which the state of opinions then prevalent in England. is so amiable, that it is impossible to censure it The general principles of government were with severity. We have seen the same misthere little understood and less examined. The take, committed in our own age, and upon a whole substance of human authority was cen- larger theatre. Happily for our ancestors, tred in the simple doctrine of royal preroga- their situation allowed them to repair it, before tive, the origin of which was always traced in its effects had proved destructive. They had theory to divine institution. Twenty years no pride of vain philosophy to support, no per

fidious rage of faction to glut, by persevering

In 1625.

in their mistakes, until they should be extin- | human property can be held. By their volunguished in torrents of blood.

tary association they recognized their allegiance As the attempt to establish among them to the Government of Britain, and in process selves the community of goods was a seal of of time, received whatever powers and authori. that sacred bond which knit them so closely ties could be conferred upon them by a charter together, so the conduct they observed towards from their sovereign. The spot on which they the natives of the country displays their stead- fixed, had belonged to an Indian tribe, totally fast adherence to the rules of justice, and their extirpated by that devouring pestilence which faithful attachment to those of benevolence and had swept the country, shortly before their archarity.

rival. The territory, thus free from all excluNo European settlement, ever formed upon sive possession, they might have taken by the this continent, has been more distinguished for natural right of occupancy.' Desirous, however, undeviating kindness and equity towards the of giving ample satisfaction to every pretence savages. There are, indeed, moralists who of prior right, by formal and solemn convenhave questioned the right of the Europeans to tions with the chiefs of the neighboring tribes, intrude upon the possessions of the aboriginals they acquired the further security of a purin any case, and under any limitations what-chase. At their hands the children of the dessoever. But have they maturely considered ert had 20 cause of complaint. On the great the whole subject? The Indian right of pos- day of retribution, what thousands, what milsession itself stands, with regard to the great- lions of the American race will appear at the est part of the country, upon a questionable bar of judgment to arraign their European, infoundation. Their cultivated fields; their con- vading conquerors! Let us humbly hope, that structed habitations; a space of ample suf- the fathers of the Plymouth Colony will then ficiency for their subsistence, and whatever appear in the whiteness of innocence. Let us they had annexed to themselves by personal indulge the belief, that they will not only be labor, was undoubtedly, by the laws of nature, free from all accusation of injustice to these theirs. But what is the right of a huntsman to unfortunate sons of nature, but that the testithe forest of a thousand miles over which he monials of their acts of kindness and benevohas accidentally ranged in quest of prey ? Shall | lence towards them, will plead the cause of the liberal bounties of Providence to the race their virtues, as they are now authenticated by of inan be monopolized by one of ten thousand the records of history upon earth. for whom they were created ? Shall the exu- Religious discord has lost her sting; the berant bosom of the common mother, amply cumbrous weapons of theological warfare are adequate to the nourishment of millions, be antiquated: the field of politics supplies the claimed exclusively by a few hundreds of her alchymists of our times with materials of more offspring? Shall the lordly savage not only fatal explosion, and the butchers of mankind no disdain the virtues and enjoyments of civiliza- longer travel to another world for instruments tion himself, but shall he control the civilization of cruelty and destruction. Our age is too enof a world? Shall he forbid the wilderness to lightened to contend upon topics, which conblossom like the rose? Shall he forbid the cern only the interests of eternity; and men oaks of the forest to fall before the axe of in- who hold in proper contempt all controversies dustry, and rise again, transformed into the about trifles, except such as inflame their own habitations of ease and elegance? Shall he passions, have made it a common-place censure doom an immense region of the globe to per. against your ancestors, that their zeal was enpetual desolation, and to hear the howlings of kindled by subjects of trivial importance; and the tiger and the wolf silence for ever the voice that however aggrieved by the intolerance of of human gladness? Shall the fields and the others, they were alike intolerant themselves. valleys, which a beneficent God has formed to Against these objections, your candid judgment teem with the life of innumerable multitudes, will not require an unqualified justification; but be condemned to everlasting barrenness? Shall your respect and gratitude for the founders of the mighty rivers, poured out by the hand of the State may boldly claim an ample apology. nature, as channels of communication between The original grounds of their separation from numerous nations, roll their waters in sullen the church of England, were not objects of a silence and eternal solitude to the deep? Have magnitude to dissolve the bonds of communion; hundreds of commodious harbors, a thousand much less those of charity, between Christian leagues of coast, and a boundless ocean, been brethren of the same essential principles. Some spread in the front of this land, and shall every of them, however, were not inconsiderable, and purpose of utility, to which they could apply, numerous inducements concurred to give them be prohibited by the tenant of the woods ? No, an extraordinary interest in their eyes. When generons philanthropists! Heaven has not been that portentous system of abuses, the Papal dothus inconsistent in the works of its hands! minion, was overturned, a great variety of reliHeaven has not thus placed at irreconcilable gious sects arose in its stead, in the several counstrife, its moral laws with its physical creation! tries, which for many centuries before had been The Pilgrims of Plymouth obtained their right screwed beneath its subjection. The fabric of of possession to the territory, on which they the reformation, first undertaken in England settled, by titles as fair and unequivocal as any I upon a contracted basis, by a capricious and

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