"O eternal King of men and angels, elevate our minds! each
low and partial passion thence dispel! till this great truth
in every heart be known, that none but those who aid the
public cause, can shield their country or themselves from
IN this grand republican virtue we can with pleasure compare our Washington with the great worthies of ancient or modern times.
The patriotism of the Roman emperor, Alexander, has been celebrated through all ages, because he was never known to give any place through favour or friendship; but employed those only whom he believed to be the best qualified to serve his country. In our Washington we meet this great and honest emperor again. For in choosing men to serve his country, Washington knew no recommendation but merit--had no favourite but worth. No relations, however near-- no friends, however dear--stood any chance for places under him, provided he knew men better qualified. Respecting such men, he never troubled himself to inquire,whether they were foreigners or natives, federalists or democrats. Some of the young officers of his native state, on hearing that Colonel Washington was made COMMANDER IN CHIEF, were prodigiously pleased, expecting to be made field officers immediately. But in this they weres outterly mistaken, that some of them have foolishly said, "it was a misfortune to be a Virginia." Indeed, his great souil was so truly republican, that, during the whole of his administration, he was never known to advance an individual of his own name and family.
The British, with good reason, admire and extol Admiral Blake as one of the bravest and best of patriots; because, though he disliked Oliver Cromwell, yet he fought gallantly under him; and, with his dying breath, exhorted his men, "to love their country as a common mother; and, no matter what hands the government might fall into, to fight for her like good children."
Of the same noble spirit was Washington. Often was he called to obey men greatly his inferior, and to execute orders which he entirely disapproved. But he was never known to falter. Sensible of the infinite importance if union and order to the good of his country, he ever yielded a prompt obedience to her delegated will. And, not content with setting us, through life, so fair an example, he leaves us at his death, this blessed advice: "Your government claims the utmost confidence and support. RESPECT for its AUTHORITY, compliance with its laws, acquiesence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of TRUE LIBERTY. The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution, whic at any time exosts, until changed by anexplicit and authentic act of the whole people, is SACREDLY OBLIGATORY UPON ALL.'
History has lavished its choicest praises on those magnanimous patriots, who, in their wars for liberty and their country, have cheerfully sacrificed their own wealth to defeat the common enemy.
Equal to this was the spirit of Washington. For, during the war, while he was with the army to the north, a British frigate came up the Potomac, to Mount Vernon; and threatened to lay the place in ashes, if provisions were not instantly sent on board. To save that venerable mansion, the manager sent aboard the requisite supplies. On hearing the matter, Washington wrote his manager the following letter:
" Sir--It gives me extreme concern to hear that you furnished the enemy with refreshments. It would have been a less painful circumstance to me, to have heard, that in consequence of your non-compliance with their request, they had laid my plantation in ruins.
But, among all his splendid acts of patriotism, there is none which, with so little noise, may do us more good, than his "Legacy, or Farewell to the People of the United States." In this admirable bequest, like a true teacher sent from God, he dwells chiefly on our union and brotherly love. This, the first birth of true religion, appears to him as the one thing needful, the spring of political life, and bond of perfection.
On this topic he employs all the energies of his mind: and, in words worthy to be written in gold, emphatically beseeches his countrymen to guard with holiest care "the unity of the government," as the " main pillar and palladium of their liberty, their independence, and every thing most dear to them on earth."
Little did that illustrious patriot suspect, that, in so short a time after his death, the awful idea of disunion should have become familiar to the public eye --so familiar as to have worn off half its horrors from the minds of many of our deluded citizens! Disunion! Merciful God! what good man can think of it but as of treason, and as a very Pandora's box, replete with every curse that can give up our dear country to desolation and havoc!
This disorganizing scheme has been three times brought forward, by what Washington terms "cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men," making use of a thousand arts to shut the eyes of the citizens on that yawning gulph to which they were so wickedly misleading them. And each time, Lucifer-like, these ministers of darkness have clothed themselves over as " angels of light " with the captivating plea of public good.--"The disadvantages of the union! the disadvantages of the union? " is their constant cry. Now admitting it to be true, that this so much hated union has its disadvantages, (and where is there any human institution, even the noblest, that is free from them?) yet is it not the parent of blessings so many and great, that no good man, as Washington says, "can think of them without gratitude and rejoicing?" and is it not equally true, that these disadvantages of the union would not, in fifty years, equal the ruinous consequence of a disunion, in probably half a year.
At present,* the plea for this most horrible measure, is the mischievous effects of the embargo. (Anno Domini, 1809)--Well, grant that it is mischievous, highly mischievous and painful, for such we all feel it, yet how inexpressibly absurd it must be, to put the loss of trade, for a year or two, in competition with the peace and happiness, the independence and sovereignty of our country! Would not this be an act a thousand times more mad and wicked than that of the wretched Esau, who, to remove the cravings of a momentary appetite, sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage !
At this day, through the great mercies of God, we have cause to consider ourselves the happiest nation on earth.--List ! oh list!
For many years past the greater part of Christendom has been involved in all the horrors of the most bloody and destructive wars. Their kings and queens have been rudely hurled from their thrones: and the "honourable men and the princes," verifying the mournful language of ancient prophecy, have been seen embracing the dung-hill, or flying from their distracted countries: while the mass of the people, unable to fly, have been crushed to the earth with tythes and taxes-- with impressments and conscriptions--with forced loans and arbitrary requisitions--with martial law, ad- ministered by military judges, with the bayonet at the breast of the citizens! On the other hand, during all these horrid convulsions and miseries of other nations, we, thoughtless, thankless we, have enjoyed all the blessings of peace, plenty, and security. Our persons have been free from the violence of impressments and conscriptions; and our lives and property perfectly safe under the nightly staves of a few old watchmen! while other nations have been over-run with devouring armies, and doomed to see their houses in flames, and the garments of their children rolled in blood, we, like favoured Israel, have been sitting under our vine and fig-tree, none daring to make us afraid. We have been advancing in riches and strength, with a rapidity unequalled in the history of man. We have been progressing in arts, manufactures, and commerce, to an extent and success that has astonished the most enlightened Europeans: and even at this moment, while suffering under the privations of the embargo, we are feasted with every necessary, and enjoying many of the elegancies of life.
And yet, with so many substantial blessings in our hands, with so much heaven-sent manna in our mouths, like ungrateful Israel, we are mourning for lack of European luxuries (as they did for the Egyptian flesh- pots), luxuries which we once enjoyed, but are now most unjustly deprived of by our brethren, the nations of Europe, who are stronger than we. And as if that were not a sufficient evil--as if it were not grievous enough to suffer such a hindrance in trade, agriculture, and business of all kinds--we are now threatened with one, in comparison of which our present privations are insignificant--one which of all others, Washington most dreaded, and was most startled at, I mean a separation of the states, and consequently, civil war.
This dreadful consequence is as obvious as it is dreadful. Yes, it is most obvious, that the separation of the states can never take place without civil war. For if the states, disposed to separate, were unanimous in the attempt, the general government could not look idly on their apostacy, but must resist it! and to that end must call out the force of the rest of the union to crush it. And here, merciful God! what scenes are rising before the eyes of horror-struck imagination ? A whole nation suddenly filled with terror; " men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking to those things that are coming on the land "-- the drums and instruments of war beginning to sound-- the warriors' guns and swords preparing; not for cheerful defence of liberty and country, which would make war glorious; but for the gloomy and infernal work of civil discord. Sisters, mute with grief, and looking through swelling tears, on their brothers, as they gird on the hated swords--wives, shaking with strong fits, and, with their little children, filling their houses with lamentations for husbands and fathers tearing them- selves away for the dismal war, whence they are to return no more ! while aged parents, at parting with their sons, express the deep grief only in groans! or, wringing their withered hands, with tearful eyes to heaven, implore a speedy grave to put their griefs to rest.
But all this is but the beginning of sorrows. For who can paint the scenes which ensue when the two armies meet? when they meet, not in the liberal spirit of stranger troops, who, fighting merely for honour and pay, are ready, in the first moment of victory, to sheath their swords, and to treat the vanquished with humanity and politeness; but in all the bitterness and exterminating spirit of a family quarrel, where men, after numberless acts of the blackest slander and of rancorous hate, having done every thing to destroy each other's souls, are now come together to destroy each other's bodies. Hence, the moment the ill-fated parties meet, their fierce revengeful passions take fire: scarce can they wait the trumpet's dreadful signal. Then, rushing on each other, more like demons than men, they thrust and stab, and shout and yell, in the horrid work of mutual slaughter.
And when one of the wretched parties, nearly consumed by the sword, and unable to resist any longer, cry for quarters, they cry in vain.
The furious conquerors feel not the touch of pity; but, regardless of uplifted hands and prayers, continue their cruel blows till all is hushed in death.
This is the horrid fate of all civil wars. The streets of ancient Rome; the fields of Culloden; the plains of modern France; and even the piney woods of Georgia and South Carolina, strewed with mangled carcases, all give awful proof, that when brethren turn their swords into each other's bowels, war degenerates into murder, and battles into butcheries.
Nor can even the grave set limits to their rage; but, like lions, turning from the mangled dead, they fly for new game to the living. All those, who by their wealth had most injured, or by their writings had most inflamed them, are sure to be the victims of their vengeance. Such persons--as was the case in the last war, between the whigs and tories in the southern states--have been dragged out of their houses, and, amidst the screams of their wives and children, have been hung up on the trees, or cut to pieces with swords with the most savage joy; while their furniture has been plundered, their houses burnt, their cattle and slaves carried off, and their widows and children driven out, crying, and without bread, into the barren woods.
Nor does this tragedy (of a free government madly divided and destroying itself) terminate here. Even this, as Solomon says, is but their " way to hell and their going down by the chambers of death," (political slavery). For when nations thus wickedly abuse their liberty, God will take it away. When they will not live in peace, out of virtuous choice, they shall be compelled by brutal force.
And since they would not let God reign over them with a golden sceptre of reason and equal laws, he will set a master over them with a scourge of scorpions and an iron rod: some proud tyrant, who, looking on our country but as his estate, and ourselves as his cattle, shall waste our wealth on the pomps of his court, or the salaries of his officers; destroy our sons in his ambitious wars; and beggar us with exactions, as long as his ministers can invent taxes, or we, by hard labour, can raise money to pay them.
"Then," in the words of Washington, "what a triumph for the advocates of despotism, to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves; and that systems founded on equal liberty are ideal and fallacious! " Then, how will the proud sons of despotism shake themselves with laughter on their thrones; and hell itself, responsive to their joy, clank her congratulating chains, that heaven is defeated, and the misery of man is sealed.
But, O ye favoured countrymen of Washington! your republic is not yet lost; there is still hope. The arm that wrought your political salvation, is still stretched out to save; then hear his voice and live! Hear the voice of the Divine Founder of your republic: "Little children, love one another." Hear his voice from the lips of his servant Washington. "Above all things hold dear your national union. Accustom yourselves to estimate its immense, its infinite value to your individual and national happiness. Look on it as the palladium of your tranquillity at home; of your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; and even of that very liberty which you so highly prize! " To this you are bound by every tie of gratitude and love to God or man. 1st. As to God, no people more than you can be bound to adore that in- visible hand which rules the affairs of men. 'Twas he who fought your battles, and against such fearful odds established your independence; and afterwards disposed your hearts for the reception of a general and equal government. And for what did God per- form all these miracles for you, but that he might glorify himself in your protection and happiness ? And will you now rise up with joy to co-operate with God in the glorious work of beautifying, with the fruits of righteousness, this goodly land, which he has so honoured, that he may place his own great name therein?
And remember, moreover, my countrymen, that you are now the favoured actors on a most conspicuous theatre; a theatre which seems peculiarly designated of Heaven for the display of human greatness and felicity. Far from the furious passions and politics of Europe, you are placed here by yourselves, the sole proprietors of a vast region, embracing all the soils and climates of the earth, and abounding with all the conveniences of life. And Heaven has crowned all its blessings by giving you a freer government and a fairer opportunity for political happiness than any other nation was ever favoured with. In this view, citizens of the United States, you are certainly responsible for the highest trust ever confided to any people. The eyes of long oppressed humanity are now looking up to you as to her last hope; the whole world are anxious spectators of your trial; and with your behaviour at this crisis, not only your own, but the destiny of unborn millions is involved. If, now, you make a wise use of the all important opportunity--if your free constitution should be sacredly maintained-- if honour, if patriotism, if union, and brotherly love should prevail, with all the good qualities which ennoble the character of nations--then the victory will be sure: your triumph will be complete: and the pressure of the present difficulties, instead of weakening will give a firmer tone to the federal government, that shall probably immortalize the blessings of LIBERTY to our children and children's children.
Then rouse! my generous countrymen, rouse! and, filled with the awfulness of our situation, with the glorious spirit of '76, rally around the sacred standard of your country. As good children give her all your support. Respect her authority!--comply with her laws !--acquiesce in her measures! Thus cemented by love, she shall become like the precious wedge of Ophir that defies the furnace; and coming forth from the fiery trial brighter than ever, she shall shed on the cause of freedom, a dignity and lustre which it never enjoyed before; a lustre which cannot fail to have a favourable influence on the rights of man. Other nations, finding from your example, that men are capable of governing themselves, will aspire to the same honour and felicity. Great and successful struggles will be made for liberty. Free governments (the pure mothers of nations) will at length be established. Honouring all their virtuous children alike, jealousies and hatreds will cease, and cordial love prevail, inviting the industry of all, the blessing of plenty will be spread abroad, and shameless thefts be done away. And wisdom and worth (as in the choice of a free people) being called to high places, errors will be rare. Vices, ashamed, shall hide their odious heads, cruelties seem abhorrent, and wars unknown. Thus step by step progressing in virtue, the world will ripen for glory, till the great hour of her dissolution being come, the ready archangel shall lift his trumpet, and sound her knell. The last refining flames shall then kindle on this tear-bathed, blood-stained globe, while from its ashes a new earth shall spring, far happier than the first. There, freed from all their imperfections, the spirits of good men, (the only true patriots,) shall dwell together, and spend their ever brightening days in loves and joys eternal.
May the Great Founder of your holy republic keep you all under his divine protection; incline your hearts to cultivate a spirit of cheerful subordination to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another; and finally dispose you all to do justice; to love mercy; and to demean yourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion; without an humble imitation of whose example, in these things, we can never hope to be a great and happy nation.