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PRONOUNCED AT CHARLESTON, SOUTH-CAROLINA,
August 3, 1826.
BY WILLIAM JOHNSON.
It is not my practice, my respected fellow-citizens, to introduce myself to my auditors with an apology, but with unaffected humility would I bespeak your benevolence on this occasion, to one who has long since abandoned the rostrum to another generation. Happy that land, in which, as the aged fall away, a new race succeeds, full of integrity, intelligence, and patriotism. Then it is, that the hoary veteran, before whose eyes the invisible hand hath written, “Prepare for thy departure !" cheerfully retires to the shades of meditation, happy in the conviction that he consigns his beloved country into hands that will never abandon her. Then it is that when convened to shed the tear of gratitude upon the urns of great and distinguished benefactors, as one by one they drop into the gulf of eternity, we can lift our hearts in humble gratitude to Him, who has spared them to us long enough to breathe their spirit into a multitude of survivors. The call of those survivors I obey. Who would hesitate ? when summoned by a generous public, animated by the noblest feelings, to give a voice to their gratitude, a direction to their meditations.
Nor is it from the living only that the summons comes.A voice rises from the tomb, inviting and encouraging. Where are we?
Surrounded by the mouldering remains of the venerated dead. And among the mementos of mortality that lie so thick around us, how often do we read the simple legend of
some fellow labourer of the immortal JEFFERSON? If it be given to the disembodied spirit to mingle in the affairs of life, with what joy may they not hover over the solemnities of this occasion! And may we not imagine them even now whispering to the bosoms of this crowded assembly, "Well done, our faithful children; in the ceremonies of this day, we behold the best assurance that we too shall not be forgotten.In the display of respectful gratitude here exhibited, we recognise the welcome earnest of the only return we ask for our sacrifices-gratitude to your benefactors, and fidelity to your country."
Yes, departed patriots! with filial piety shall your humble worth be often remembered. Subordinate necessarily is that duty which devolves on the far greater part of mankind; yet he who zealously and faithfully fills the little orbit which circumscribes his services, is not the less an object of gratitude, because not called on to do more.
And may not he who addresses you, be permitted to mix up with higher motives, feelings of a more humble and individual nature? The incense of public praise, will not ascend with the less grateful odour, because co-mingled with the aspirations of individual gratitude.
Think not, my most respected auditors, that I mean to venture upon a vain and unappropriate effort to excite your feelings or elicit your tears. Strongly marked as has been the exit of the great man whom we now meet to commemo. rate, I address myself to too enlightened an audience, to be carried away by fortuitous circumstances, however singularly combined. Yet, in the remotest ages in which our history shall be recounted, will the pious reader pause, and reflect on the singular coincidences that marked the late departure of our two venerable Patriots. The days of superstition, when singular combinations of natural events were construed into omens of good or evil, have long since gone by. Yet who so insensible as not to feel that a more solemn interest will henceforward be shed over the celebration of our national festival!
It was, indeed, their day; Providence marked it as such. Annually for half a century, had they enjoyed together the outpourings of a nation's gratitude on its return; and well might they, on that anniversary, which was so peculiarly marked both by religious and political feeling, unite in the pious ejaculation, "Let now thy servants depart in peace, for our eyes have seen the salvation of our country."
Together they came forth in their strength; together they toiled for the same glorious object, and together they closed their eyes upon its happy attainment. And, notwithstanding all the envenomed slanders of selfish and irritated partizans, they lived to give to the world the most touching proof that, however differing in their views and measures, that deep rooted esteem, which a knowledge of each other's worth, acquired in the hour of severest probation, had planted in each other's bosoms, remained to the last unshaken. There is such a moral beauty, such a moral excellence, in the inci cident to which I allude, that I hesitate not to place it at the head of the catalogue of their praises. It was a sublime example, to a nation that looked to them for examples. Nay, to the christian world. Long and ardent had been their political struggles; animated and envenomed the altercations of their adherents. Alternately victor and vanquished, how could they be so great as to have resisted the access of unkindly feelings! Yet they were so great; unkindly feelings were all sacrificed at the shrine of their religion and their country. What has destroyed half the republics that have gone before us? Individual animosities, pride of opinion, the struggle for power, long nurtured hatred, a patient waiting for revenge. How edifying the example of those two great men, rising superior to the weakness of our nature, and with the most friendly greeting, cheering each other on their journey to the grave! When in future times, among the angry passions which political discussions will excite, the foiled aspirant for popular distinction, shall feel engendering in his bosom those pernicious propensities which so often sacrifice
all considerations to private or to party feelings; let the bright example of these mighty Patriots come over his recollection, beautifully exemplifying the aphorism of the wise man, "He that ruleth his spirit, is greater than he who taketh a city."
Heaven has expressed its approbation of this great example by enforcing it in their deaths. And shall not we, my fellow-citizens, improve the singular coincidence, of their being thus consigned to the common resting place of all, on that same day on which they had once united all in the most glorious of struggles ;, into a solemn injunction from Heaven, to let our dissensions rest with them forever? Enough have we been distracted; not by party; for among high-minded and virtuous men, the most opposite measures are pursued without invading the courtesies of private life; but by the furious zealot, or the selfish and vindictive intriguer, whose views had nothing in them of a virtuous feeling.
I make no apology for noticing first in order, those traits of character which exhibit the moral greatness of Mr. Jefferson. Need I inculcate on this audience, wherein consists the true dignity of man? or whereon must rest the basis of our republican institutions? Animal courage is the attribute of millions; nay, often a mere factious quality; yet in its place deserving of high praise, and justly commanding the admiration of the world. But far above this, ranks that sublime attribute, which, gathered in itself, and supported by no power but a consciousness of its own honourable purposes, can pursue the course of wisdom and of virtue, in defiance of all the demons of malice, envy, and calumny-nay in defiance of what is infinitely harder to be borne, of the frowns and menaces of a misguided public. From the remotest antiquity, this has been regarded as the great mind's distinguishing attribute.
In how eminent a degree did this quality distinguish him whom we now meet to commemorate. Abused, calumniated, misrepresented, mocked, and ridiculed, as it was his fate
to be, through many a painful year of his existence, never was his temper for a moment discomposed. There was a philosophic calm diffused over his most ordinary actions, a perfect repose of the passions, which triumphed over persecution.
Yet this was by no means the result of natural temperament; nature made his feelings vivacious in the extreme; it was acquired from reflection; a system formed upon study, observation and experience, and reduced to practice by a firmness which could not be turned aside from a purpose deliberately formed.
Who is there but must have been struck with that wonder. ful preservation of intellect which he exhibited to the latest hour! Those who shared the honour of his correspondence, can furnish specimens of the most recent dates, abounding in all that strength, neatness, order and originality, which distinguished the compositions of his best days. Let it not be imagined that this protracted preservation of our mental powers, proceeds alone from their original strength. Without tranquillity of mind, self-command, evenness of temper, habits of order, of temperance and industry, the most powerful intellect will waste itself by its very intensity.Genius is ever accompanied with extraordinary sensibility; and unless happily combined with those moral and intellectual restraints which are necessary to control the impetuosity of its movements, it shines like the meteor, which dazzles, alarms, and explodes, but imparts nothing of that warmth, which animates and beautifies nature to-day, remains undiminished for to-morrow.
The time is now arrived when the labours of his study will be made known to the world; and nothing but the well ordered economy of time from which he never departed, will account for their immensity. But the day never dawned upon his slumbers; every moment had its appropriate employment or amusement; and of these not a few were set apart for social converse and the society of his family.Then it was, that he exhibited a striking illustration of the