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must reckon, certainly, the revolution of South America; and we are not likely to overrate the importance of that revolution, either to the people of the country itself or to the rest of the world. The late Spanish colonies, now independent states, under circumstances 5 less favorable, doubtless, than attended our own revolution, have yet successfully commenced their national existence. They have accomplished the great object of establishing their independence; they are known and acknowledged in the world; and although in re- 10 gard to their systems of government, their sentiments on religious toleration, and their provision for public instruction, they may have yet much to learn, it must be admitted that they have risen to the condition of settled and established states more rapidly than could 15 have been reasonably anticipated. They already furnish an exhilarating example of the difference between free governments and despotic misrule. Their commerce, at this moment, creates a new activity in all the great marts of the world. They show themselves co able, by an exchange of commodities, to bear a useful part in the intercourse of nations.
A new spirit of enterprise and industry begins to prevail; all the great interests of society receive a salutary impulse; and the progress of information not 25 only testifies to an improved condition, but itself constitutes the highest and most essential improvement.
When the battle of Bunker Hill was fought, the existence of South America was scarcely felt in the civilized world. The thirteen little Colonies of North 30 America habitually called themselves the “Continent.” Borne down by Colonial subjugation, monopoly, and bigotry, these vast regions of the South were hardly visible above the horizon. But in our day there has
been, as it were, a new creation. The southern hemisphere emerges from the sea. Its lofty mountains begin to lift themselves into the light of heaven; its broad
and fertile plains stretch out, in beauty, to the eye of 5 civilized man, and at the mighty bidding of the voice of political liberty the waters of darkness retire.
And, now, let us indulge an honest exultation in the conviction of the benefit which the example of our
country has produced, and is likely to produce, on 10 human freedom and human happiness. Let us en
deavor to comprehend in all its magnitude, and to feel in all its importance, the part assigned to us in the great drama of human affairs. We are placed at the head of the system of representative and popular gov15 ernments. Thus far our example shows that such
governments are compatible not only with respectability and power, but with repose, with peace, with security of personal rights, with good laws, and a just adminis
tration. 20 We are not propagandists. Wherever other systems
are preferred, either as being thought better in themselves, or as better suited to existing conditions, we leave the preference to be enjoyed. Our history hitherto · proves, however, that the popular form is practicable, 25 and that with wisdom and knowledge men may govern
themselves; and the duty incumbent on us is to preserve the consistency of this cheering example, and take care that nothing weaken its authority with the world. If,
in our case, the representative system ultimately fail, 30 popular governments must be pronounced impossible.
No combination of circumstances more favorable to the experiment can ever be expected to occur. The last hopes of mankind, therefore, rest with us; and if it should be proclaimed that our example had become an
argument against the experiment, the knell of popular liberty would be sounded throughout the earth.
These are excitements to duty; but they are not suggestions of doubt. Our history and our condition, all that is gone before us, and all that surrounds us, 5 authorize the belief that popular governments, though subject to occasional variations, in form perhaps not always for the better, may yet, in their general character, be as durable and permanent as other systems. We know, indeed, that in our country any other is im- 10 possible. The principle of free governments adheres to the American soil. It is imbedded in it, immovable as its mountains.
And let the sacred obligations which have devolved on this generation, and on us, sink deep into our hearts. 15 Those who established our liberty and our government are daily dropping from among us. The great trust now descends to new hands. Let us apply ourselves to that which is presented to us, as our appropriate object. We can win no laurels in a war for inde- 20 pendence. Earlier and worthier hands have gathered them all. Nor are there places for us by the side of Solon, and Alfred, and other founders of states. Our fathers have filled them. But there remains to us a great duty of defence and preservation; and there is 25 open to us also, a noble pursuit, to which the spirit of the times strongly invites us. Our proper business is improvement. Let our age be the age of improvement. In a day of peace, let us advance the arts of peace and the works of peace. Let us develop the resources 30 of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered. Let us cultivate
a true spirit of union and harmony. In pursuing the great objects which our condition points out to us, let us act under a settled conviction, and an habitual
feeling, that these twenty-four States are one country. 5 Let our conceptions be enlarged to the circle of our
duties. Let us extend our ideas over the whole of the vast field in which we are called to act. Let our object
be, OUR COUNTRY, OUR WHOLE COUNTRY, AND NOTHING • BUT OUR COUNTRY. And, by the blessing of God, may 10 that country itself become a vast and splendid monument, not of oppression and terror, but of Wisdom, of Peace, and of Liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration forever!
AT INDEPENDENCE HALL
Philadelphia, Feb. 21, 1861 I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my 5 hands is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. I can say in return, sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated in and 10 were given to the world from this hall. I have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and 15 framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that independence. I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this confederacy 20 so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the mother-land, but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. 25 It was that which gave promise that in due time the