« AnteriorContinuar »
SPEECH OF WILLIAM LIVINGSTON,
GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
TO THE LEGISLATURE OF THAT STATE, IN THE YEAR 1777.
GENTLEMEN, Having, already, laid before the assembly, by messages, the several matters that have occurred to me, as more particularly demanding their attention, during the present session, it may seem less necessary to address you in the more ceremonious form of a speech. But, conceiving it my duty to the state, to deliver my sentiments on the present situation of affairs, and the eventful contest between Great Britain and America, which could not, with any propriety, be conveyed in occasional messages, you will excuse my giving you the trouble of attending for that purpose.
After deploring with you the desolation spread through this state, by an unrelenting enemy who have, indeed, marked their progress with a devastation unknown to civilized nations, and evincive of the most implacable vengeance, I heartily congratulate you upon that subsequent series of success, wherewith it hath pleased the Almighty to crown the American arms; and particularly on the important enterprize against the enemy at Trenton and the signal victory obtained over them at Princeton, by the gallant troops under the command of his excellency general Washington. Considering the contemptible figure they make at present, and the disgust they have given to many of their own confederates amongst us, by their more than Gothic ravages, (for thus doth the great Disposer of events often deduce good out of evil, their irruption into our dominion will probably
subsehe Almis on the
redound to the public benefit. It has certainly enabled us the more effectually to distinguish our friends from our enemies. It has winnowed the chaff from the grain. It has discriminated the temporizing politician, who, at the first appearance of danger, was determined to secure his idol, property, at the hazard of the general weal, from the persevering patriot, who, having embarked his all in the common cause, chooses rather to risk, rather to lose that all, for the preservation of the more estimable treasure, liberty, than to possess it, (enjoy it he certainly could not,) upon the ignominious terms of tamely resigning his country and posterity to perpetual servitude. It has, in a word, opened the eyes of those who were made to believe, that their impious merit, in abetting our persecutors, would exempt them from being involved in the general calamity. But as the rapacity of the enemy was boundless, their havoc was indiscriminate, and their barbarity unparalleled. They have plundered friends and foes. Effects, capable of division, they have divided. Such as were not, they have destroyed. They have warred upon decrepit age; warred upon defenceless youth. They have committed hostilities against the professors of literature, and the ministers of religion; against public records, and private monuments, and books of improvement, and papers of curiosity, and against the arts and sciences. They have butchered the wounded, asking for quarter; mangled the dying, weltering in their blood; refused to the dead the rites of sepulture; suffered prisoners to perish for want of sustenance; violated the chastity of women; disfigured private dwellings of taste and elegance; and, in the rage of impiety and barbarism, profaned and prostrated edifices dedicated to Almighty God.
And yet there are amongst us, who, either from ambitious or lucrative motives, or intimidated by the terror of their arms, or from a partial fondness for the British constitution, or deluded by insidious propositions, are secretly abetting, or openly aiding their machinations to deprive us of that liberty, without which man is a beast, and government a curse.
Besides the inexpressible baseness of wishing to rise on the ruins of our country, or to acquire riches at the expense of the liberties and fortunes of millions of our fellow-citizens, how soon would these delusive dreams, upon the conquest of America, end in disappointment? For where is the fund to recompense those retainers to the British army? Was every estate in America to be confiscated, and converted into cash, the product would not satiate the avidity of their national dependants, nor furnish an adequate repast for the keen appetites of their own ministerial beneficiaries. Instead of gratuities and promotion, these unhappy accomplices in their tyranny, would meet with supercilious looks and cold disdain; and, after tedious attendance, be finally told by their haughty masters, that they, indeed, approved the treason, but despised the traitor. Insulted, in fine, by their pretended protectors, but real betrayers, and goaded with the stings of their own consciences, they would remain the frightful monuments of contempt and divine indignation, and linger out the rest of their days in self-condemnation and remorse; and, in weeping over the ruins of their country, which themselves had been instrumental in reducing to desolation and bondage.
Others there are, who, terrified by the power of Britain, have persuaded themselves, that she is not only formidable, but irresistible. That her power is great, is beyond question; that it is not to be despised, is the dictate of common prudence. But, then, we ought also to consider her, as weak in council, and ingulfed in debt; reduced in her trade; reduced in her revenue; immersed in pleasure; enervated with luxury; and, in dissipation and venality, surpassing all Europe. We ought to consider her as hated by a potent rival, her natural enemy, and particularly exasperated by her imperious conduct in the last war, as well
as her insolent manner of commencing it; and thence inflamed with resentment, and only watching a favorable juncture for open hostilities. We ought to consider the amazing expense and difficulty of transporting troops and provisions above three thousand miles, with the impossibility of recruiting their army at a less distance; save only with such recreants, whose conscious guilt must, at the first approach of danger, appal the stoutest heart. Those insuperable obstacles are known and acknowledged by every virtuous and impartial man in the nation. Even the author of this horrid war, is incapable of concealing his own confusion and distress. Too great to be wholly suppressed, it frequently discovers itself in the course of his speech-a speech terrible in word, and fraught with contradiction; breathing threatenings and betraying terror; a motley mixture of magnanimity and consternation, of grandeur and abasement. With troops invincible, he dreads a defeat, and wants reinforcements. Victorious in America, and triumphant on the ocean, he is a humble dependant on a petty prince; and apprehends an attack upon his own metropolis; and, with full confidence in the friendship and alliance of France, he trembles upon his throne at her secret designs and open preparations.
With all this, we ought to contrast the numerous and hardy sons of America, inured to toil, seasoned alike to heat and cold, hale, robust, patient of fatigue, and, from their ardent love of liberty, ready to face danger and death; the immense extent of continent, which our infatuated enemies have undertaken to subjugate; the remarkable unanimity of its inhabitants, notwithstanding the exception of a few apostates and deserters; their unshaken resolution to maintain their freedom or perish in the attempt; the fertility of our soil in all kinds of provisions necessary for the support of war; our inexhaustible internal resources for military stores and naval armaments; our comparative economy in public expenses; and the
millions, we save by having reprobated the further exchange of our valuable staples for the worthless baubles and finery of English manufacture. Add to this, that in a cause so just and righteous on our part, we have the highest reason to expect the blessing of heaven upon our glorious conflict. For, who can doubt the interposition of the Supremely Just, in favor of a people, forced to recur to arms in defence of every thing dear and precious, against a nation deaf to our complaints, rejoicing in our misery, wantonly ag. gravating our oppressions, determined to divide our substance, and, by fire and sword, to compel us into submission ?
Respecting the constitution of Great Britain, bating certain royal prerogatives of dangerous tendency, it has been applauded by the best judges; and displays, in its original structure, illustrious proofs of wisdom and the knowledge of human nature. But what avails the best constitution with the worst administration ? For, what is their present government, and what has it been for years past, but a pensioned confederacy against reason, and virtue, and honor, and patriotism, and the rights of man? What were their leaders, but a set of political craftsmen, flagitiously conspiring to erect the babel, despotism, upon the ruins of the ancient and beautiful fabric of law; a shameless cabal, notoriously employed in deceiving the prince, corrupting the parliament, debasing the people, depressing the most virtuous, and exalting the most profligate; in short, an insatiable junto of public spoilers, lavishing the national wealth, and, by peculation and plunder, accumulating a debt already enormous ? And what was the majority of their parliament, formerly the most august assembly in the world, but venal pensioners to the crown; a perfect mockery of all popular representation; and, at the absolute devotion of every minister? What were the characteristics of their administration of the provinces ? The substitution of regal instructions in the room of law; the mul