Графични страници
PDF файл

jealousy of national character. Read his devotedness to you in his military bequests to near relations." These swords," they are the words of Washington, “ these swords are accompanied with an injunction not to unsheath them for the purpose of shedding blood, except it be for self-defence, or in defence of their country and its rights; and in the latter case, to keep them unsheathed, and prefer falling with them in their hands, to the relinquishment thereof."

In his acts, Americans, you have seen the man. In the complicated excellence of character, he stands alone. Let no future Plutarch attempt the iniquity of parallel. Let no soldier of fortune ; let no usurping conqueror; let not Alexander ca Cæsar; let not Cromwell or Bonaparte ; let none among the dead or the living, appear in the same picture with Washington : or let them appear as the shade to his light.

On this subject, my countrymen, it is for others to speculate, but it is for us to feel. Yet in proportion to the severity of the stroke, ought to be our thankfulness that it was not inflicted sooner. Through a long series of years has God preserved our Washington, a public blessing : and now that he has removed him for ever, shall we presume to say, What doest thou ? Never did the tomb preach more powerfully the dependence of all things on the will of the Most High. The greatest of mortals crumble into dust, the moment he commands, Return, ye children of men. Washington was but the instrument of a benignant God. He sickens, he dies, that we may learn not to trust in men, nor to make flesh our arm. But though Washington is dead ; Jehovah lives. God of our fathers ! be our God, and the God of our children ! Thou art our refuge and our hope; the pillar of our strength; the wall of our defence, and our unfading glory!

Americans! This God who raised up Washington, and gave you liberty, exacts from you the duty of cherishing it with a zeal according to knowledge. Never sully, by apathy or by outrage, your fair inheritance. Risk not, for one moment, on visionary theories, the solid blessings of your lot. To you, particularly, O youth of America ! applies the solemn charge. In all the perils of your country, remember Washington. The freedom of reason and

of right, has been handed down to you on the point of the hero's sword. Guard, with veneration, the sacred deposit. The curse of ages will rest upon you, O youth of America! if ever you surrender, to foreign ambition, or domestic lawlessness, the precious liberties for which Washington fought, and your fathers bled.

I cannot part with you, fellow-citizens, without urging the long remembrance of our present assembly. This day we wipe away the reproach of republics, that they know not how to be grateful. In your treatment of liv. ing patriots, recall your love and your regret of Washington. Let not future inconsistency charge this day with hypocrisy. Happy America, if she gives an instance of universal principle in her sorrows for the man “ first in war, first in peace, and first in the affections of his country.

[ocr errors]

Extract from an Oration, delivered February 24, 1775,

before the American Philosophical Society, at Philadelphia, by David RITTENHOUSE, L. L. D. F. R. S.

IF we consider that infinite variety which obtains in those parts of nature with which we are most intimate: how one order of most curiously organized bodies, infinitely diversified in other respects, all agree in being fixed to the earth, and receiving nourishment from thence: how another order have spontaneous motion, and seek their food on different parts of the earth, whilst by gravity they are confined to its surface, but in other respects diversified like the former. How a third float in, and below the surface of a dense fluid, of equal weight with their bodies, which would soon prove fatal to both the others: and a fourth, consisting of vast variety too, have this property in common, that by a peculiar mechanism of their bodies, they can soar to great heights above the earth, and quickly transport themselves to distant regions, in a fluid so rare as to be scarcely sensible to us. But not to pursue this boundless subject any further, I

when we consider this great variety so obvious on our globe, and ever connected by some degree of unifor


mity, we shall find sufficient reason to conclude, that the visible creation, consisting of revolving worlds and central suns, even including all those that are beyond the reach of human eye and telescope, is but an inconsiderable part of the whole. Many other and very various orders of things, unknown to, and inconceivable by us, may, and probably do exist, in the unlimited regions of space. And all yonder stars innumerable, with their dependencies, may perhaps compose but the leaf of a flower in the Creator's garden, or a single pillar in the immense being of the Divine Architect.

Here is ample provision made for the all-grasping mind of man!

If it shall please that Almighty Power who hath placed us in a world, wherein we are only permitted to look about us and to die ;" should it please him to indulge us with existence throughout that half of eternity which still remains unspent ; and to conduct us through the several stages of his works; here is ample provision made for employing every faculty of the human mind, even allowing its powers to be constantly enlarged through an endless succession of ages. Let us not complain of the vanity of this world, that there is nothing in it, capable of satisfying us : happy in those wants, happy in those restless desires, for ever in succession to be gratified ; happy in a continual approach to the Deity.

I must confess that I am not one of those sanguine spirits who seem to think, that, when the withered hand of death hath drawn up the curtain of eternity, almost all distance between the creature and Creator, between finite and Infinite, will be annihilated. Fvery enlargement of our faculties, every new happiness conferred upon us, every step we advance towards the perfection of the Divinity, will very probably render us more and more sensible of his inexhaustible stores of communicable bliss, and of his inaccessible perfections.

Were we even assured that we shall perish, like the lowers of the garden, how careful would a wise man be so preserve a good conscience, during the short period of iris existence ; because, by his very constitution, which he cannot alter, this is his pride and glory, and absolutely necessary to his present happiness; because this would

insure to him, at the approach of death, the soothing reflection, that he was going to restore, pure and uncorrupted, that drop of divinity within him, to the original ocean whence it was separated. How much more anxi. ously careful ought we to be, if we believe, as powerful arguments compel us to believe, that a conduct in this life, depending on our choice, will stamp our characters for ages yet to come. Who can endure the thought of darkening his faculties, by an unworthy application of them here on earth, and degrading himself to some inferior rank of being, wherein he may find both his power and inclination to obtain wisdom and exercise virtue, exceedingly diminished ? On the other hand, if that bumble adiniration and gratitude, which sometimes rises in our minds when we contemplate the power, wisdom and goodness of the Deity, constitutes by far the most sublimely happy moments of our lives, and probably will for ever continue to do so, there cannot be a stronger incitement to the exercise of virtue, and a rational employment of those talents we are entrusted with, than to consider, that, by these means, we shall in a few years, be promoted to a more exalted rank among the creatures of God, have our understandings greatly enlarged, be enabled to follow truth in all her labyrinths, with higher relish and more facility, and thus lay the foundation of an eternal improvement in knowledge and happiness.

A Sketch of the character of Alexander Hamilton, by Hon.

FISHER AMES, L. L. D. IT is with really great men, as with great literary works, the excellence of both is best tested by the extent and durableness of their impression. The public has not suddenly, but after an experience of five and twenty years, taken that impression of the just celebrity of ALEXANDER HAMILTON, that nothing but his extraordinary intrinsic merit could have made, and still less, could have made so deep and maintained so long. In this case it is safe and correct to judge by effects : we some times calculate the height of a mountain, by measuring the length of its shadow.

It is not a party, for party distinctions, to the honour of our citizens be it said, are confounded by the event ; it is a nation, that weeps for its bereavement. We weep as the Romans did, over the ashes of Germanicus. It is a thoughtful foreboding sorrow, that takes possession of the heart, and sinks it with no counterfeited heaviness.

It is here proper, and not invidious to remark, that, as the emulation excited by conducting great affairs, commonly trains and exhibits great talents, it is seldom the case, that the fairest and soundest judgment of a great man's merit is to be gained, exclusively, from his associates in counsel or in action. Persons of conspicuous merit themselves, are, not unfrequently, bad judges, and still worse witnesses on this point; often rivals, some times enemies; almost always unjust, and still oftener envious or cold. The opinions they give to the public, as well as those they privately formed for themselves, are, of course, discoloured with the hue of their prejudices and resentments.

But the body of the people, who cannot feel a spirit of rivalship towards those, whom they see elevated by nature and education, so far above their heads, are more equitable, and, supposing a competent time and opportunity for information on the subject, more intelligent judges. Even party rancour, eager to maim the living, scorns to strip the slain. The most hostile passions are soothed or baffled by the fall of their antagonist. Then, if not sooner, the very multitude will decide on character, according to their experience of its impression; and as long as virtue, not unfrequently for a time obscured, is ever respectable when distinctly seen, they cannot withhold, and they will not stint their admiration.

If then the popular estimation is ever to be taken for the true one, the uncommonly profound public sorrow for the death of ALEXANDER HAMILTON, sufficiently explains and vindicates itself. He had not made himself dear to the passions of the multitude by condescending, in defiance of his honour and conscience, to become their instrument; he is not lamented, because a skilful flatterer is now mute for ever. It was by the practice of no art, by wearing no disguise ; it was not by accident, or by the levity or profligacy of party, but in despite of its

« ПредишнаНапред »