Page images

old time before them," had been induced to seek, in the wilds of this newly discovered continent, an asylum from religious and political intolerance.

They had subdued the forest in the vicinity of the shores where their forefathers had landed. They had explored the rivers piercing the interminable hills which seemed ranged as barriers against their progress to the West. They had penetrated to the fertile plains beyond the sources of those rivers, and had discovered others emptying into inland seas connected with each other, skirting the Nothern borders, and stretching to the Western confines of the land; and they had visited the mighty cataract, where the accumulated waters have overthrown the mountain wall, and forced their passage to the ocean.

Apprised thus of the natural benefits of their situation, they had not merely become reconciled to their lot, but rejoiced that their fathers had taken refuge in this land of promise. Even the good old pilgrims of the former race, had confessed that their "lines had fallen in pleasant places," and had ceased to regret the comforts and refinements of European civilization. Their sons had never known their sacrifices or their privations; and Time the great peacemaker, had obliterated the rememberance of their fathers' wrongs. For themselves they enjoyed a complete toleration in all matters of religion, and the essentials of political and civil liberty had in practice been allowed to them.

Rapidly increasing in numbers, they were already strong enough to defend themselves against the hostile tribes still lurking within their territories; and to repel the invasions of more civilized enemies, from a bordering province.They had acquired experience in war. At home, they had secured peace, and were steadily advancing in agriculture and all the useful arts of civil and domestic life. Abroad they had pursued a commerce, which, though restricted by the jealous spirit of colonial monopoly, was the more profitable from their free intercourse with their sister colonies in

the islands, and from their almost exclusive possession of the great fisheries on their own coasts.

To improve these advantages, they were blessed with industry, frugality, enterprise and intelligence; and with equal probity and skill, they availed themselves of all their physical and moral resources, to acquire wealth and honor, prosperity and happiness. Nor were their efforts fruitless; for they had already become rich and powerful enough to excite the cupidity, and alarm the jealousy of the mother country. A revenue was attempted to be drawn from them, by the paramount authority of a British Parliament. But though well disposed to bear their fair proportion of the public burdens, when constitutionally required, the future founders of the American Republic were as resolute to withhold the contribution even of a nominal sum when exacted by a legislature in which they were not represented. It was the principle for which they contended, The inseparable connection between taxation and representation, was maintained by them as a fundamenta! axiom; and sooner than compromise their unalienable right to the enjoyment of their private property without surrendering the smallest portion of it for public purposes, except by their own consent; the descendants of Hampden, of Russell, and of Sidney, and the disciples of Milton, of Harrington and of Locke, were prepared to stake all they possessed on the issue of resistance.

The great Charter of English liberty they claimed as their birth-right; its immortal vindicators, as their ancestors; and notwithstanding their affection for the land to which they owed their origin and laws; notwithstanding their attachment to the nation with whom they claimed a common language and descent; they deliberately resolved, rather than submit to usurpation, to sever the ties which held them in allegiance to a parent government, and connected them in friendship with a kindred people.

In the struggle which ensued, it was soon apparent upon whom the mantles of the great Apostles of English liberty had fallen; for in the American Congress were collected in

dividuals not only worthy of the blood of the martyrs from which they had sprung, but whose wisdom and fortitude, whose virtue and eloquence would have shed a lustre on the brightest days of Greece or Rome. So true is it, that great occasions produce the talents equal to their exigencies; or, rather so true is it, my countrymen, that the all-bounteous Ruler of the Universe, whenever he purposes to exalt a nation, calls forth the faculties of his intellectual creatures in correspondence with the great design.

In this august assembly, Adams and Jefferson were among the most conspicuous. They came as the respective delegates of the two Provinces at that time the most important in the Confederacy; and the most forward and resolute in the assertion of their rights. Hand in hand they had approached the contest; and hand in hand, and in the foremost rank, appeared their chosen sons, worthy and fit to represent them. The one descended from intrepid sufferers for consciencesake ; the other sprung from a gayer and chivalric race of bold adventurers for fame and freedom. Both were in "the prime and vigor of their manhood," and each was distinguished for natural endowments, as well as for extensive acquirements; for strength of understanding, solidity of judgment, firmness of principle, liberality of sentiment, and rectitude of intention and of conduct. They met on high, but equal ground; and seem to have been drawn together by sympathy of character as well as of opinions. They were members of the same profession, and had pursued it in that liberal and honorable spirit, by which the study and practice of the law tends to enlarge the capacity of the mind, as well as to sharpen and invigorate its faculties. From principle, both were inflexible, devoted patriots; by intuition, if not by education, statesmen. The one was an orator; the other a philosopher and if Adams had attained more celebrity for eloquence, Jefferson was more highly estimated for the written productions of his genius. If the former possessed greater practical knowledge of affairs, the latter was richer in the resources of speculative wisdom; and whatsoever quality

or acquisition appeared deficient in the one, was to be found in the character or talents of the other; so that between them they combined every requisite which, at the impending crisis, could render their services so useful, so inestimable, to their country.

And most auspiciously were those services united on that momentous occasion, when Congress, having drawn the sword, determined to throw away the scabbard, and were about to resolve that "the United Colonies" were, "and of right ought to be free and Independent States." Then it was that Jefferson and Adams were associated with Franklin, Sherman and Livingston, to prepare a solemn Declaration, announcing and justifying that determination to the world.The two former were deputed by their colleagues to perform the office; and an amicable contest ensued between them; in which they pressed upon each other, the honorable task of drawing up the document. Adams finally prevailed; and thus the duty of composing it, devolved on Jefferson.

Never was public trust more ably or more satisfactorily performed. The Declaration thus produced, established the lasting fame of its author, as a scholar, a statesman, and a patriot for its principles were sound and enlightened; its statements forcible and clear; its style animated, nervous, and impressive; its tone calm, dignified and firm; and above all, it responded in language and sentiment to the voice and feelings of the nation. As a public measure its immediate effects were decisive; and its beneficial consequences are not yet to be estimated. It disarmed the treacherous; it rallied the faithful and the bold; it encouraged the timid; confirmed the dubious; and it pledged the lives and fortunes, and the sacred honor of the people, as well as of their repre sentatives, to maintain the rights and principles it had asserted. It secured our own freedom ; and offered to the oppressed of other nations, and of other times, an example, as well as precepts, which never will be lost on them. It gave the first impulse to the protracted struggle for liberty

in France. Its spirit once animated the patriots of Spain; and will awaken them again. It still lives in their descendants in our Southern continent, and cheers the last lingering hopes of Greece; and will yet revive them! Yes, Fellow Countrymen! the principles proclaimed in the Declaration, of American Independence, have not only produced their fruits on this wide continent, and been disseminated on the wastes of Europe; but before the revolution of another jubilee, they will take root and flourish in every soil and climate under Heaven! The march of Light, of Knowledge, and of Truth, is irresistable, and Freedom follows in their train! Well, then, did your Adams, at that time, predict the rising glories of the day it issued; and well did your Jefferson, on his bed of death, pray but to witness once more its recurrence, and with his latest sigh, breathe forth his gratitude for the unexampled blessing!

Such, Fellow Citizens, is the imperfect sketch the occasion permits, of the connected services of Jefferson and Adams, at the era of Independence; and such the transient view that time allows, of the effects and promise of their joint exertions. Although afterwards transferred to different scenes, their separate efforts were in proportion honorable to themselves as individuals, advatageous to their country, and important to mankind. For the residue of the war, Adams was employed as the representative of the infant Republic, at various European Courts; in negociating loans to provide sustenance for its armies, and in forming alliances to aid the cause in which they were engaged. In both these objects he was successful; nor were his labors intermitted until he had co-operated in concluding that treaty by which the Independence of this country was finally acknowledged by Great Britain; and the two nations, who had been declared "enemies in war," had" in peace" become "friends." During this interval, Jefferson had returned to his native state; and after having been engaged by public authority, in revising and digesting its laws, and conforming their provi

« PreviousContinue »