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and of him to compose. And now, when they could hope to enjoy only the satisfaction of still possessing him, the pleasure of recounting his acts, and the benefit of practising his lessons, they accompany his retirement with their aspirations, that his evening may be as serene, as his morning had been fair, and his noon resplendent.
That he should ever again endure the solicitudes of office, was rather to be deprecated than desired. Because it must be a crisis singularly portentous, which could justify another invasion of his repose. From such a necessity we fondly promised ourselves exemption. Flattering, fallacious security! The sudden whirlwind springs out of a calm. The revolutions of a day proclaim that an empire was. However remote the position of America; however peaceful her character; however cautious and equitable her policy; she was not to go unmolested by the gigantic fiend of Gallic domination. That she was free and happy, was crime and provocation enough. He fastened on her his murderous eye: he was preparing for her that deadly embrace, in which nations, supine and credulous, had already perished. Reduced to the alternative of swelling the catalogue of his victims, or arguing her cause with the bayonet and the ball, she bursts the illfated bonds which had linked her to his destinies, and assumes the tone and attitude of defiance. The gauntlet is thrown. To advance is perilous: to retreat, destruction. She looks wistfully round, and calls for WASHINGTON. The well known voice, that voice, which he had ever accounted a law, pierces the retreats of Vernon, and thrills his bosom. Domestic enjoyments lose their charm; repose becomes to him inglorious; every sacrifice is cheap, and every exertion easy, when his beloved country requires his aid. With all the alacrity of youth, he flies to her succor. The helmet of war presses his silver locks. His sword, which dishonor had never tarnished, nor corruption poisoned, he once more unsheaths, and prepares to receive on its point the insolence of that foe whose intrigue he had foiled by his wisdom.
It must ever be difficult to compare the merits of WASHINGTON's characters, because he always appeared greatest in that wbich he last sustained. Yet if there is a preference, it must be assigned to the lieutenantgeneral of the armies of America. Not because the duties of that station were more arduous than those which he had often performed, but because it more fully displayed his magnanimity. While others become great by elevation, Washington becomes greater by condescension. Matchless patriot! to stoop, on public motives, to an inferior appointment, after possessing and dignifying the highest offices! Thrice favored country, which boasts of such a citizen! We gaze with astonishment: we exult that we are Americans. We augur every thing great, and good, and happy. But whence this sudden horror ? What means that cry of agony ? : Oh! 'tis the shriek of America! The fairy vision is fled: Washington isno more! “ How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished !"
Daughters of America, who erst prepared the festal bower and the laurel wreath, plant now the cypress grove, and water it with tears.
“ How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished !"
The death of Washington, Americans, has revealed the extent of our loss. It has given us the final proof that we never mistook him. Take his affecting testament, and read the secrets of his soul. Read all the power of domestic virtue. Read his strong love of letters and of liberty. Read his fidelity to republican principle, and his 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 of 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 or Cæsar, let not Cromwell or Buonaparte, 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 forever, 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
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 living 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 s first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen!”
DELIVERED AT PLYMOUTH DECEMBER 22, 1802,
AT THE ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION OF THE FIRST
LANDING OF OUR ANCESTORS, AT THAT PLACE ;
BY JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
Among the sentiments of most powerful operation upon the human heart, and most highly honorable to the human character, are those of veneration for our forefathers, and of love for our posterity. They form the connecting links between the selfish and the social passions. By the fundamental principle of christianity, the happiness of the individual is interwoven, by innumerable and imperceptible ties, with that of his contemporaries: by the power of filial reverence and parental affection, individual existence is extended beyond the limits of individual life, and the happiness of every age is chained in mutual dependence upon that of every other. Respect for his ancestors excites, in the breast of man, interest in their history, attachment to their characters, concern for their errors, involuntary pride in their virtues. Love for his posterity spurs him to exertion for their support, stimulates him to virtue for their example, and fills him with the tenderest solicitude for their welfare. Man, therefore, was not made for himself alone. No; he was made for his country, by the obligations of the social compact: he was made for his species, by the christian duties of universal charity: he was made for all ages past, by the sentiment of reverence for his forefathers; and he was made for all future times, by the impulse of affection for his progeny. Under the influence of these principles, - Existence sees him spurn her boundVOL. v.