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At a meeting of the Trustees of the PILGRIM Society, present, John Watson, William Davis, James Sever, Alden Bradford, Barnabas Hedge, Thomas Jackson, Jr. and Zabdiel Sampson, Esquires, Voted, “That the thanks of the Trustees be presented to the Hon. DANIEL WEBSTER, for his eloquent and interesting Discourts E, delivered at Plymouth, on the 22d instant, at their request, in commemoration of ... the completion of the second century since the settlement of New England—that he be requested to furnish a copy for publication—and that the Corresponding Secretary communicate the preceding vote.”
While in the performance of this duty, as honorable as it is pleasing, I am directed to subjoin, that the Committee of the JMassachusetts Historical Society, and of the American Antiquarian Society, who attended on this occasion, by invitation, unite in the request. With great esteem and regard, I am, Sir, Very Respectfully, SAMUEL DAVIS, Corresponding Secretary of the Pilgrim Society.
Boston, Dec. 26, 1820.
I HAve received yours of the 23d, communicating the request of the Trustees of the Pilgrim Society, and of the Committee of the Historical and Antiquarian Societies, that a copy of my Discourse may be furnished for the press. I shall cheerfully comply with this request; but at the same time I must add, that such is the nature of my other engagements, that I hope I may be pardoned if I should be compelled to postpone this compliance to a more distant day than I could otherwise have wished.
I am, Sir, with true regard,
To SAMUEL DAvis, Esq.
Let us rejoice that we behold this day. Let us be thankful that we have lived to see the bright and happy breaking of the auspicious morn, which commences the third century of the history of NewEngland, Auspicious indeed; bringing a happiness beyond the common allotment of Providence to men; full of present joy, and gilding with bright beams the prospect of futurity, is the dawn, that awakens us to the commemoration of the Landing of the Pilgrims. Living at an epoch which naturally marks the progress of the history of our native land, we have come hither to celebrate the great event with which that history commenced. Forever honoured be this, the place of our fathers’ refuge Forever remembered the day which saw them, weary and distressed, broken in every thing but spirit, poor in all but faith and courage, at last secure from the dangers of wintry seas, and impressing this shore with the first footsteps of civilized man!
It is a noble faculty of our nature which enables us to connect our thoughts, our sympathies, and our happiness, with what is distant in place or time; and, looking before and after, to hold communion at once with our ancestors and our posterity. Human and mortal although we are, we are nevertheless not mere insulated beings, without relation to the past or the future. Neither the point of time, nor the spot of earth, in which we physically, live, bounds our rational and intellectual enjoyments. We live in the past by a knowledge of its history; and in the future by hope and anticipation. By ascending to an association with our ancestors; by contemplating their example and studying their character; by partaking their sentiments, and imbibing their spirit; by accompanying them in their toils, by sympathising in their sufferings, and rejoicing in their successes and their triumphs, we mingle our own existence with theirs, and seem to belong to their age. We become their contemporaries, live the lives which they lived, endure what they endured, and partake in the rewards which they enjoyed. And in like manner, by running along the line of future time, by contemplating the probable fortunes of those who are coming after us; by attempting something which may promote their happiness, and leave some not dishonourable memorial of ourselves for their regard when we shall sleep with the fathers, we protract our own earthly being, and seem to crowd whatever is future, as
well as all that is past, into the narrow compass of our earthly existence. As it is not a vain and false, but an exalted and religious imagination, which leads us to raise our thoughts from the orb, which, amidst this universe of worlds, the Creator has given us to inhabit, and to send them with something of the feeling which nature prompts, and teaches to be proper among children of the same Eternal Parent, to the contemplation of the myriads of fellow beings, with which his goodness has peopled the infinite of space;—so neither is it false or vain to consider ourselves as interested and connected with our whole race, through all time; allied to our ancestors; allied to our posterity; closely compacted on all sides with others; ourselves being but links in the great chain of being, which begins with the origin of our race, runs onward through its successive generations, binding together the past, the present, and the future, and terminating at last, with the consummation of all things earthly, at the throne of God. There may be, and there often is, indeed, a regard for ancestry, which nourishes only a weak pride; as there is also a care for posterity, which only disguises an habitual avarice, or hides the workings of a low and grovelling vanity. But there is also a moral and philosophical respect for our ancestors, which elevates the character and improves the heart. Next to the sense of religious duty and moral feeling, I hardly know what should bear with stronger obligation on a liberal and en