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not a charter-we hold by no charter. Freedom is coeval with our national existence, derived to us from no man's grant or concession, but received from the Author of our being, and secured by the valour, and toil, and blood of our ancestors.
These sacred principles, thus solemnly inscribed upon the banner of the revolution, are still borne aloft by the strength of increasing millions. They have not been defaced nor obliterated, nor even their lustre dimmed, by lapse of time or change of circumstances. When the war of the revolution was ended, and the god of battles had crowned our country's cause with victory, the gallant soldier who had endured every privation, and exposed himself to every hazard in the field, laid down his arms in submission to their acknowledged authority. An armed nation which had conquered peace in a seven years war, was changed in an instant into a nation of citizens; and the men who had fought and bled in the cause of their country, were seen in the walks of private life, confessing by their conduct, their voluntary allegiance to the truths which had been proclaimed on the great day of independence.
When, from the experience of a few years, the inefficacy of the articles of confederation had been demonstrated, these sacred principles were solemnly reiterated in the introduction of the Constitution of the United States. They are the basis of every state constitution : and, like the air that we breathe, they belong to our very existence. He would be justly deemed an apostate, and a traitor, who should seek to destroy or weaken them. He would be held up to opprobrium and scorn, as the enemy of his country, and the enemy of mankind.
Nor has their kindly influence been confined to our own country. Throughout the world, the friends and advocates of human freedom and of human rights, have found consolation and encouragement in the example thus set before them. The standard was raised for ourselves—but itwas
raised on high, and it has floated in triumph, visible to the
ations of the civilized world, for their assurance that man is competent to self government. Long established error has been rebuked by their practical excellence. Systems apparently consolidated by ages, have been modified by their influence. A knowledge of the rights of man has been universally disseminated. Whenever and wherever, by any crisis in affairs, the people for a moment recover a portion of their lost power, their eager demand is for the acknowledgment of first principles in written constitutions. Whenever a sovereign, alarmed by foreign menace or pressure, would rouse his people to uncommon exertion, he appeals, not to the obsolete errors which he loves too well to renounce whilst their preservation is possible; but, in such an exigency, he is obliged to speak to their own sense of their own rights, and to promise to secure them by written constitutions. This we have witnessed in our day. Monarchs and their subjects have marched forth together under this assurance, animated with unwonted energy. The last, the greatest, the most powerful incentive to vigorous exertion, has been found in that knowledge which the principles of the Declaration of Independence have diffused so extensively. Such promises, it is true, have often proved delusive. “ Ease would retract vows made in pain." But the knowledge exists—the feeling is there-it cannot again be smothered or subdued. It will go on, conquering and to conquer. At this moment, such has been its mighty progress, that no man will dare to assert, even though a princely diadem surround his brow, what, fifty years ago it would have been thought impious to dispute. That “ 'governments are instituted for the benefit of the people," is already established—“that they derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” cannot fail soon to follow, to the utter extirpation of the absurd beresy of the divine right of kings. In this hemisphere, a “fraternity of freedom” has been founded. The colonies of Spain, afflict.
ed by ages of oppression, have looked upon the standard of our revolution, and been healed. They have achieved their independence; and have taken their station among the powers of the earth, as members of a family of free republics. Such has already been the spread of the light which issued from yonder hall, on the fourth July, 1776.
In contemplating the part which these illustrious men performed in the great work of that day, it is delightful to reçur to the generous and conclusive testimony they have borne to each other's merits. Of Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams says “he came into Congress in June, 1775, and brought with him a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent for composition. Writings of his were handed about, remarkable for their peculiar felicity of expression. Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, explicit, and decisive on committees, (not even Samuel Adams was more so,) that he seized upon my heart.” Of Mr. Adams, Mr. Jefferson says, in a letter, written in 1813, to an artist, who was about to engrave the picture of the Declaration of Independence, “ No man better merited, than Mr. John Adams, a most conspicuous place in the design. He was the pillar of its support on the floor of Congress—its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious attacks it encountered.” Assaults it did encounter-resistance it did suffer-not from the enemies only of our country, but from her most sincere friends. The timid were alarmed; the minds of men of ordinary constancy were possessed with doubts and hesitation, at this final and irretrievable step. Heroic courage and patriotism were what the occasion demanded, and what-let us be thankful for it !--the occasion found. We have seen that the resolution engaged the attention of Congress, from the 7th June, when it was moved, to the 2d July, when it was adopted. “The arguments in Congress,” says the late venerable Governor M.Kean, a man of revolutionary stature and strength, himself one of the signers of the declaration, “The
arguments, for and against the Declaration of Independence, were exhausted, and the measure fully considered.” And so they, doubtless, were, with all the deliberate gravity and solemn earnestness which the momentous occasion required. It was, indeed, a fearsul question. At the last moment, when the question was about to be put, a celebrated member of the Congress, of undoubted patriotism, a man whose memory is still cherished with grateful affection for his contributions to the service and the honour of his country, rose and spoke against it. “He stated the consequences in alarming colours.” Silence and doubt ensued. John Adams, “the pillar of its support,” as Mr. Jefferson has styled him, rose in reply. His fervid eloquence silenced every doubt. The question was settled, and the vote of the states was unanimous. In what language he made this last and powerful appeal, we may judge from the triumphant burst of patriotic exultation and pious emotion with which he wrote to a friend on the following day.* “ Yesterday the greatest question was decided that was ever debated in America; and greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among men.
A resolution was passed, without one dissenting colony, that these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.' The day is passed. The 4th July, 1776, will be a memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows,
* There can be no doubt that the date of the letter was the 3d July, 1776, though, in recent publications, it has appeared with the date of the 5th. The resolution of Independence was adopted on the 2d July—the declaration was not agreed to till the 4th. The former is the “resolution” referred to by Mr. Adams. Inattention to this distinction has probably led to the change of date in the printed copies. The error is pointed out, and corrected in a very satisfactory manner, in the Democratic Press of the 12th instant.
games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward for ever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states; yet, through all the gloom I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.”
The authorship of the splendid record we have been considering belongs to Mr. Jefferson. To him is justly due the merit of preparing a paper, which has elevated the national character, and furnished a perpetual source of instruction and delight. That Mr. Adams, his colleague, entered deeply into his sentiments, is equally certain. To the last he retained his attachment to the original draught prepared by Mr. Jefferson, and thought it had not been improved by the slight alteration it underwent, in expunging a few passages or parts of passages.
Placed by their talents and virtues in this elevated and commanding position, these two distinguished champions of the rights of their country and the rights of mankind, were thence-forward looked to for every arduous service. In December, 1777, Mr. Adams was appointed a commissioner to France, an appointment, as all who are acquainted with our history well know, of great hazard, but of the highest importance. Struggling for cxistence, with comparitively feeble means, against a powerful enemy, who assumed the tone of an insolent and vindictive master, but struggling with a constancy of resolution, which already conciliated the regard of nations, our country looked abroad for countenance and aid. But the fleets of England covered the ocean, and the tower, where Laurens was so long confined, with no prospect beyond it but the scaffold, was the almost certain reward of the daring rebel (for so they would have