« AnteriorContinuar »
those individual intelligences which make up the mind and opinion of the age. Mind is the great lever of all things; human thought is the process by which human ends are ultimately answered; and the diffusion of knowledge, so astonishing in the last half-century, has rendered innumerable minds, variously gifted by nature, competent to be competitors, or fellow-workers, on the theatre of intellectual operation.
The great wheel of political revolution began to move in America. Here its rotation was guarded, regular, and safe. Transferred to the other continent, from unfortunate but natural causes, it received an irregular and violent impulse; it whirled along with a fearful celerity; till at length, like the chariot-wheels in the races of antiquity, it took fire from the rapidity of its own motion, and blazed onward, spreading conflagration and terror around.
ADAMS AND JEFFERSON,
Adams and Jefferson, I have said, are no more. As human beings, indeed, they are no more. They are no more, as in 1776, bold and fearless advocates of independence; no more as on subsequent periods, the head of the government; no more as we have recently seen them, aged and venerable objects of admiration and regard. They are no more. They are dead. But how little is there, of the great and good, which can die ' To their country they yet live, and live for ever. They live in all that perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth ; in the recorded proofs of their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of mankind. They live in their example; and they live, emphatically, and will live in the influence which their lives and efforts, their principles and opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of men, not only in their. own country, but throughout the civilized world. A superior and commanding human intellect, a truly great man, when heaven vouchsafes so rare a gift, is not a temporary flame, burning bright for awhile, and then expiring, giving place to returning darkness. It is rather a spark of fervent heat, as well as radiant light, with power to enkindle the common mass of human mind; so that when it glimmers, in its own decay, and finally goes out in death, no night follows, but it leaves the world all light, all on fire, from the potent contact of its own spirit. Bacon died; but the human understanding, roused, by the touch of his miraculous wand, to a perception of the true philosophy, and the just mode of inquiring after truth, has kept on its course, successfully and gloriously. Newton died; yet the courses of the spheres are still known, and they yet move on, in the orbits which he saw, and described for them, in the infinity of space. - We are not assembled, therefore, fellow-citizens, as men overwhelmed by calamity by the sudden disruption of the ties of friendship or affection, or as in despair for the republic, by the untimely blighting of its hopes. Death has not surprised us by an unseasonable blow: We have, indeed, seen the tomb close, but it has closed only over mature years, over long-protracted public service, over the weakness of age, and over life itself only when the ends of living had been fulfilled. These suns, as they
rose steadily, and slowly, amidst clouds and storms in their ascendant, so they have not rushed from their meridian, to sink suddenly in the west. Like the mildness, the serenity, the continuing benignity of a summer's day, they have gone down with slow descending, grateful, long lingering light; and now that they are beyond the visible margin of the world, good omens cheer us from “the bright track of their fiery car !”
When public bodies are to be addressed on momentous occasions, when great interests are at stake, and strong, passions excited, nothing is valuable, in speech, farther than it is connected with high intellectual and moral endowments. Clearness, force, and earnestness are the qualities which produce conviction. True eloquence, indeed, does not consist in speech. It cannot be brought from far. Labor and learning may toil for it, but they will toil in vain. Words and phrases may be marshalled in every way, but they cannot compass it. It must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the occasion. Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire after it—they cannot reach it. It comes, if it come at all, like the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force. The graces taught in the schools, the costly ornaments, and studied contrivances of speech, shock, and disgust men, when their own lives, and the fate of their wives, their children, and their country, hang on the decision of the hour. Then words have lost their power, rhetoric is vain, and all elaborate oratory contemptible. Even
genius itself then feels rebuked, and subdued, as in the presence of higher qualities. Then, patriotism is eloquent; then, self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception, outrunning the deductions of logic, the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit, speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature, and urging the whole man onward, right onward to his object— this, this is eloquence; or rather it is something greater and higher than all eloquence, it is action, noble, sublime, godlike action. JEFFERSON,
Thus useful, and thus respected, passed the old age of Thomas Jefferson. But time was on its ever ceaseless wing, and was now bringing the last hour of this illustrious man. He saw its approach, with undisturbed serenity. He counted the moments, as they passed, and beheld that his last sands were falling. That day, too, was at hand, which he had helped to make immortal. One wish, one hope, if it were not presumptuous—beat in his fainting breast. Could it be so—might it please God—he would desire—once more, to see the sun–once more to look abroad on the scene around him, on that great day of liberty.—Heaven, in its mercy, fulfilled that prayer.—He saw that sun–he enjoyed its sacred light—he thanked God for his mercy, and bowed his aged head to the grave. “Felix non vita tantum claritate, sed etiam opportunitate mortis.”
THE II, LUSTRIOUS DEAD.
Fellow-citizens, I will detain you no longer by this faint and feeble tribute to the memory of the illustrious dead. Even in other hands, adequate justice could not be performed, within the limits of this occasion. Their highest, their best praise, is your deep conviction of their merits, your affectionate gratitude for their labors and services. It is not my voice, it is this cessation of ordinary pursuits, this arresting of all attention, these solemn ceremonies, and this crowded house, which speak their eulogy. Their fame, indeed, is safe. That is now treasured up, beyond the reach of accident. Although no sculptured marble shall rise to their memory, norengraved stone bear records of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored. Marble columns may, indeed, moulder into dust, time may erase all impress from the crumbling stone, but their fame remains; for with American liberty it rose, and with American liberty only can it perish. It was the last swelling peal of yonder choir, “their bodies are buried in peace, but their name liveth evermore.” I catch that solemn song. I echo that lofty strain of funeral triumph, “ their name liveth evermore.”
We did not, we could not here, forget our venerable neighbor of Quincy. We knew that we were standing, at a time of high and palmy prosperity, where he had stood, in the hour of utmost peril; that we saw nothing but liberty and security, where he had met the frown of power; that we were enjoying every thing, where he had hazarded every thing; and just and sincere plaudits rose to his name, from the crowds which filled this area, and hung over these galleries. He whose grateful duty it was to speak to us, on that day, of the virtues of our fathers, had, indeed, admonished us that time and years were