« AnteriorContinuar »
OUR COUNTRY, AS TO THE PRESENT.
We must keep in view our past history, that we may be enabled to form a correct estimate of our inheritance, and the blessings it, conveys. Our fathers have bequeathed a precious legacy. Their name is a tower of strength. It should be cherished, not only with filial pride, but with an honest intent to imitate their virtues, and to consummate the noble plan they commenced. It was their plan to form a community pervaded, in every part, by the spirit of the Bible. We are the only nation whose infancy was baptised into a pure Christianity; the only people whose beginnings were lighted by cultivated intellect and elevated piety. We alone have no relics of barbarism, no feudal customs, no hereditary wrongs, to impede the progress of reform. It becomes us, therefore, to mark out a new path, untrodden by kings, and open only to those, who make the Bible their statute-book. Thus alone do we walk in the steps of our fathers, who pitched their tent here in the wilderness, to escape the corruptions of the old world, and to lay their foundations anew.
The lesson, thus taught in our origin, is repeated in our advancement thus far. We have grown with unexampled rapidity, but under the operation of causes almost unknown to the old world. Conquest and the sword have as yet had little to do with our growth. Wars have added scarcely anything to our domain or population. By peaceful influences have we, till just now, extended our territory and increased our census. The emigrant, exiled from the land of his birth by poverty or oppression, seeks
here a refuge and a home. The wide valleys of the West invite the starving laborer from his field of unrequited toil in the old world. Free mind and unfettered enterprise reduce all the elements of nature into servitude to man. Every stream in its flow, drives the machinery to weave his clothing and grind his corn. Every lake and river is rippled by the steam-paddles, which stem wind and current. Mountains bow and valleys are exalted, that the iron road may penetrate every inland hamlet, opening easy communication with the highway of nations, and bringing nigh them that were afar off. Labor meets its reward: man is free: the soil belongs to the tiller of the ground. The old world is a paradise to the rich and noble, but a desert to the poor and plebeian. The new world is the Eden of the industrious, nor does the diligent hand cultivate it in vain. Under this influence, the afflicted and the oppressed of every clime come, as clouds, or as doves to their windows; and swell our numbers, and cover our territory. No nation was ever so built up. Under old dynasties, wars of conquest have extended dominion, and gathered a tributary population. But God has not so increased our greatness; and we are blind to his teaching, and unworthy of the new dispensation committed to us, if we ever adopt the old maxims of despots, and play "the game of kings" for the enlargement of our borders.
As our origin and progress, so our institutions, civil and religious, are peculiar; and belong to a new order of society. Louis XIV., that embodiment of despotism, said, in sober truth, as well as in the pride of power: "I am the State!" But we know no such theory of government. Here, the people is the State. Their will is the law, their happiness is the aim, their virtue is the strength, of society. Rulers, elected for a limited time, not created by the accident of birth, are their servants, and are responsible to them for the trust reposed. This is new. Old tyrannies and despotisms knew nothing like it. Mind and tongue, too, are free. The press is unshackled. The Church is not chained to the State; nor desires influence, other than her truths may exert over the hearts of both ruler and people. The free-will offerings of the people support the sanctuary and the altar. Education is open to all. The children of the people are cared for. Neither Church nor State would have them grow up in ignorance; for a religion and government, based on the Bible, must be in fear, not of light,
but of darkness. In these free institutions, there is an admirable adaptation to a new order of society; but they are wretchedly inadequate to a career like that of older nations. These institutions are made for peace, not for war. The camp and the quarter-deck know no freedom. "I am the soul of the army," said a mighty captain, "I want men to act as I think." A shackled press and a servile priesthood, ready to heed the beck of power, and sway the people to the caprice of their rulers, are essential to a warlike nation. Even the old Roman, when the enemy thundered at the gates of the Eternal City, gave up his republican institutions; and clothed a dictator with the power of life and death in his single will. It was wisely done, for despotism and war are twinbrothers. A government based on the Bible, and designed therefore to introduce the reign of peace, is unfitted for hostile aggressions. Such a government our fathers designed ours to be. Let us go on this errand of peace. Fearlessly scouting the dogmas of kings and conquerers, let us boldly open to the world a new dispensation, in which the ploughshare and the pruning hook displace the spear and the sword, and the people learn war no
Under the influence of these institutions, there has grown up a people with marked characteristics. They are money-getting and money-loving; but no people expend more willingly for useful ends. Mark the numerous churches and school-houses, and the means of instruction provided for all classes; the canals and railroads connecting every part of the land; the charitable and benevolent institutions shedding light over the earth. There is a love of peace and peaceful arts. When, a few years since, our legislators were stirring up the elements of strife with England, and Congress rang with the notes of war, how anxiously the nation waited; and how gladly it welcomed the treaty, nor cared how the boundary was fixed, so peace were secured. As to the present unhappy war with Mexico, the nation must speak out in indignant. remonstrance, before it be too late to banish from our councils the accursed spirit of conquest.
How quickly the people move at the call of benevolence! When Greece was perishing by sword and famine, a thousand hands were spontaneously extended for her relief. When famishing Ireland lifted up her voice, promptly sped the swift-winged ships, freighted with willing charities. War was then raging; but the