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and an acknowledgment of the continuing efficacy of the great truths promulgated in the Declaration of Independence? These are indeed affecting questions.
To commemorate the event which has here brought us together, and at the same time to invigorate our virtuous resolutions, let us, for a moment, look back upon the lives of our two illustrious fellow citizens, who walked band in hand through the struggle of the revolution, and hand in hand have descended to the tomb, as if, with one voice, to deliver their parting blessing to their beloved country.
Mine is not the task of the biographer or the historian. I am not to enter into a detail of their lives, nor to attempt to spread before you a history of the great events in which they acted. These are for abler hands, for ampler opportunity, and more extended labour. Nor is it at all consistent with the duty I owe to the occasion, or to you, if it were in accordance with my own inclination, or within the scope of my humble capacity, to disturb the harmony of feeling that prevails, by attempting a comparative estimate of their uncommon merits. It is not my office, nor is it your desire, to weigh them against each other—to bring them into conflict, when death has sealed for ever the friendship which, in their latter years, they so delighted to cherish. A rapid, and it necessarily must be a hasty and imperfect sketch of some of the principal points in their public career, will be sufficient to show how strong is the claim of both to our warmest admiration, and to our most affectionate gratitude. Extend to me your indulgence, of which I stand so much in need, while, in obedience to your commands, I endeavour, however feebly, to present such a sketch,
The attempt of Great Britain to visit these colonies with an exercise of power inconsistent with their just rights, found our two eminent fellow citizens, each in his native state. Mr. Jefferson, a young man, already a distinguished member of a legislature, which has never been without the distinction of patriotism and talents. Mr. Adams, a few
years older, successfully engaged in the practice of the law, with established reputation and extensive influence. They were among the first to discern the character of this arrogant attempt; to rouse their countrymen to a sense of the danger of submission; to animate them to the assertion of their rights; and to embark, fearlessly, in resistance to the first approaches of arbitrary power. They did not hesitate. They never paused to count the cost of personal sacrifice, but, with a resolution as determined as it was virtuous, placed at once their lives, their fortunes, and all their hopes upon the issue of theiir country's cause.
When these colonies, for mutual support and counsel, resolved to convene a general Congress, Mr. Adams was appointed one of the deputies from Massachusetts. He took his seat on the 5th of September, 1774, the memorable day of the first meeting of that august assembly, whose acts then were, and since have been the theme of universal admiration. Indeed it may be truly averred, that as long as wisdom, constancy, unconquerable resolution,-as long as patriotism,.and contempt of every danger, but that which threatens one's country—as long, to sum it all up at once, as generous and disinterested devotion, guided by talents of the highest order, shall be esteemed among men, so long will the old Congress continue to retain the first place among human assemblies, and spread its lustre over the age in which it acted.
In this same body, Mr. Jefferson took his seat on the 21st June, 1775, elected a deputy from Virginia, in the place of Peyton Randolph. Of the estimation in which Mr. Jefferson was held, in that more than Roman Senate, though still a young man, probably the youngest in Congress, sufficient evidence will presently appear. But in the mean time let me mention to you a fact which preceded, a few days, the coming in of Mr. Jefferson, and deserves to be remembered with gratitude to his illustrious associate. It was John Adams, who, on the 15th June, 1775, nominated George
Washington, “ to command all the continental forces raised, and to be raised, for the defence of American liberty.” It upon
that nomination the father of his country was unanimously elected. How many reflections are here excited! But we must not now indulge in them.
This interesting circumstance does not appear on the printed Journals of Congress. It would seem to have been the practice not to give the names of those who made either nominations or motions. But it is stated
the most respectable authority, whence also are derived some particulars, which it may not be uninteresting to mention. The person who had been previously thought of for this high station, was General Ward of Massachusetts. As he was of the same colony with Mr. Adams, it must have been a sacrifice of feeling thus to pass him by. He generously and readily made it to advance the great, good cause. A striking example of disinterestedness!—Washington, not aware of the intention of Mr. Adams, was in his seat in Congress at the time of the nomination. The instant it was made, he rose and left the hall. · A beautiful instance of unaffected modesty!
But we must not dwell too long on these particulars, however delightful and refreshing. The march of events was rapidly disclosing the important truth, that submission, unconditional submission, or victory, were the only alternatives. Already had blood been shed at Lexington, at Concord, and at Bunker's hill. Already had the freemen of America, as if guided by a common impulse, met the veteran troops of Great Britain in the field, and encountered them with a determined courage which nothing but a deep conviction of their rights could have inspired. Already too, as we have seen, had the Congress appointed the immortal Washington to command the troops raised, or to be raised, for the defence of American liberty. Already bad they declared with the utmost solemnity, “We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as volunta
ry slavery.” Our cause was armed with the triple armour of justice; but as yet it wanted, perhaps, a more definite purpose, a visible standard and a character that should give us a station among the nations of the earth.
On the 7th June, 1776, resolutions were moved respecting independence.* On the 10th June, a committee of the whole reported a resolution; “That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states ; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” . On the same day the consideration of this resolution was postponed to Monday, the first of July; and it was resolved, " that in the mean while, that no time be lost, in case the Congress agree thereto, a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration to the effect of this resolution.” On the following day a committee was appointed, of which Mr. Jefferson was the first named, and Mr. Adams the second. The remainder of the committee were Dr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, and R. R. Livingston. The duty of preparing the draught was by them committed to Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Adams. Thus were they associated in that immortal labour. On the 2d July, the resolution of independence was adopted, and on the ever memorable 4th July, 1776, the declaration reported by the committee, with some slight alterations, was agreed to and promulgated. It is now a nation's creed.
There is a point of resemblance, in the lives and characters of these illustrious men, which must not be overlooked in its bearing upon the present subject. To the natural gift of great talents, they had both added the advantages of constant laborious culture. They came forward, disciplined and prepared by previous study, for the service and
* The motion was made by Richard Henry Lee, in pursuance of instructions from the Convention of Virginia, and is understood to have been in the terms reported by the committee of the whole.
the ornament of their country. The deep and extensive learning of Mr. Adams is familiar to all, and none of us are ignorant of the varied and uncommon acquirements of Mr. Jefferson. The late venerable Charles Thompson, a chronicle of the times of the revolution, has told me, that he well remembered the first appearance of Mr. Jefferson in Congress; that he brought with him the reputation of great attainments, particularly in political science, which he always well sustained. They had both diligently studied the history of man and of government. The examples of generous devotion in ancient times, inspired their hearts with lofty patriotism. The records of ages since, showed them how accident, and fraud, and force, bad sunk the great body of mankind under grinding oppression, justified at length by maxims essentially false, but which the solita. ry speculations of writers, however undeniably true, were unable to correct. Here then, with prophetic wisdom they perceived, and blessed be God who put it into their hearts to perceive_here they perceived was the great occasion which the patriot and philanthropist had rather wished than hoped for, at once to fix the end and aim of the revolution by raising the standard of the rights of man.
It was no longer a mere contest for separation National independence was indissolubly connected with civil and religious liberty. The same venerated instrument that declared our separation from Great Britian, contained also the memorable assertion, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This was the text of the revolution—the ruling vital principle—the hope that animated the patriot's heart, and nerved the patriot's arm, when he looked forward through succeeding generations, and saw stamped upon all their institutions, the great principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. It is