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PRONOUNCED AT ALEXANDRIA, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
August 10, 1826,
BY WILLIAM F. THORNTON.
THE funeral knell that waked us from our dreams-the slow and gloomy march that brought us to this fane-and those solemn sounds of prayer and anthem, still lingering in our ears-tell us, my fellow-citizens, that a melancholy occurrence-great and calamitous—has called us together. An occurrence, more interesting in its character, and more universal in its impression upon the public feeling, than any that has attracted our attention, since the beloved Washington was removed from the scenes of his earthly glory.
When a renowned statesman, a worthy patriot, or a gallant soldier, sinks into the silent tomb, we give vent to our wonted flow of patriotism, and exclaim in the fullness of our hearts-"A great man has fallen in Israel !" But if such be the strain of panegyric on ordinary occasions,-when the departed worthy leaves many an equal, and many a superior behind him, where shall I find language to discharge that sacred duty, which your kindness and misplaced confidence. have imposed upon me.
No ordinary men were they whom now we mourn. In all the vicissitudes of life, and in their peaceful communion with death they were truly great. Great in the intuitive powers of mind and great in knowledge and wisdom. In virtue, in patriotism, in philanthropy, and in every quality that exalts and adorns our nature, they were great in a pre-eminent degree. But, alas! where are they now? Gone to "that
undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns." Yes, my fellow-citizens, it has pleased the Almighty disposer of events, to summon into his august presence, those illustrious and venerated fathers of the Republic—JEFFERSON and ADAMS. And impelled by an all-pervading gratitude for their services, we have assembled to pay the last sad tribute of affectionate regard to their memories; to offer up the homage of the heart to superior excellence; and to mingle our fervent orisons to heaven, with feeble and unworthy eulogies of the lamented dead.
Surely, I may say-the beauty of our Israel is gone!— "how are the mighty fallen!" But they have fallen, full of years and full of honors; and the blessings of emancipated millions have followed their spirits to those regions where life is without end, and where sorrow never enters. mourn their fall as becomes a bereaved and grateful children, and yet, we find a balm in the reflection, that they had risen to the most elevated height in the love and veneration of mankind, and that the felicitous termination of their mortal career triumphantly paralyzed the sting of DEATH, and denied to the GRAVE, its accustomed victory. Thanks to that omnipotent Being, who speaks us into life, and returns us to the dust at his pleasure, they have been called from time to eternity in a manner every way suited to their transcendent merits. Nor is their glorious exit more profitable to their own imperishable fame, than it is auspicious to the interests, and gratifying to the feelings of those who inherit the rich fruits of their virtuous devotion to liberty.
From the earliest periods of political association,-whether we derive our information from authentic history, from tradition or from legends,—it has been the usage of nations to consecrate some day to their existence as an independent community, or to their deliverance from the rude grasp of relentless oppression. Some distinguished incident, in their political careers, has been selected by all, and conspicuously honored, that it might be contemplated as the cause of their
elevation, while they were yet in prosperity; and that, when overtaken by adversity, they might recur to the subject of their veneration with a melancholy pleasure, and derive from it a stimulus to noble sentiments, and daring enterprize.Rome had her national festivals-Greece her Olympic Games-and ancient Jerusalem burned hallowed incense on her altars-commemorative of her deliverance from slavery, and from sacrilegious pollution. So universal, indeed, has been the salutary practice, and so important has it been considered in its influence upon the governmental concerns of men, that those whose legends and history afford no striking occurrence entitled to commemoration, have invariably resorted to fiction to supply the deficiency. That, however, is not the condition of the States which compose this favored Empire. They have been spared the necessity of that resort, as well while they were Colonies of the parent country, as since their glorious elevation to the rank of a free and powerful nation. The blood of our heroes, and the wisdom of our statesmen, have imprinted on the fairest page of history, many an incident which ourselves delight to dwell upon; and which our children, and our children's children, will proudly own as the work of their fathers.
Among these incidents, my fellow citizens, is one, so grand in its design, so bold in its execution and so momentous in its consequences, that it soars above all the deeds of men-and to after generations, will be a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, to guide and cheer them on their march to greatness. That bright and glorious incident,-need I tell you, my friends,-is the unanimous declaration, by a band of patriots, that all men were born free and equal :-and that these once persecuted colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.
This important act was no idle parade to intimidate an enemy or to draw upon its authors the empty applause of the world.-No-It was the offspring of lofty souls, determined to be free or to die in the holy struggle. They knew that no
compromise could secure them from the vengeance of an ambitious, and remorseless parent-They were aware of the toil, the blood and the treasure, it would cost themselves, and perhaps their children. And with a firm reliance on a protecting providence they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to support the high ground they had taken.
That they received the divine aid which they imploredand that they never swerved from their magnanimous purpose the present moral and political supremacy of our country sufficiently attest.
Who is not proud of such a Declaration emanated from the land of his birth.-O! it is an immortal Instrument; worthy its immortal author, and worthy him, who was acknowledged to be the Pillar of its support. To tyrants, it is the hand upon the wall.—It is the manifesto of a nation's wrongs, inflicted by a cruel King-the charter of a nation's rights sealed with the approbation of a just GOD.
Well may the day, that boasts an act so wise and chivalrous, claim to be the fairest and the noblest in the calendar,— for it is the birth-day of liberty in the land of her choice land that has nourished her in peace and in war; and extended her fame and power, to every part of the world, where the rays of her glory have not been refracted by the impenetrable darkness that is the atmosphere of ignorance.
Such, my fellow-citizens, is the day which has been wisely selected as our National Festival; and fifty years of calms and storms have seen us constant in our free devotion.
When the day of Jubilee had come, and millions of freemen were assembled around the altars of Liberty to celebrate the triumph of the rights of man over the impious pretensions of kings and of patriotism over reckless ambition; when hundreds of eloquent tongues, and the deafening peals of cannon, where proclaiming the precious truth that Americans are competent to wield a government-emanating from the people, and based upon their will; when the pious Christian was
returning thanks for the privilege of worshipping in his own way, and propagating his peculiar tenets, without persecution, and without tithes ; and when every bosom swelled with gratitude to the virtuous patriots whose wisdom and energy had produced such signal benefits-how foreign from our minds, in the midst of these rejoicings, was the thought, that we should soon be called upon to mourn at once, the fall of two of our greatest benefactors-the author and the supporter of the Declaration of Independence. Little did we think indeed, whilst around the festive board, on that joyful day,offering the strongest testimonials of regard, of reverence, and of love to these venerated sages,-that they had bid us a long and last farewell, and were, at that moment, winging their way to a world of spirits! Wonderful, mysterious, awful coincidence! In vain do we look to the annals of humanity for another to compare with it.-It is a theme that will fill the world. It is a great and sublime picture for ourselves and our children to contemplate.-It may be regarded, in fact, as the seal of divinity stamping alike with immortality, our liberties and their departed authors. We still enjoy those liberties my countrymen ; let us not forget the friends who gave them. Let their names and their deeds descend from generation to generation, until the commissioned Angel "shall put one foot on the earth, and the other foot on the sea, and lift his hand and swear, that time shall be no lon
To pretend to delineate, with any degree of accuracy, the peculiar traits of character, or the inestimable services of such men as Jefferson and Adams, would be as uninstructive to you, as for me it would be difficult and presuming. The history of their actions,-replete with evidences of their motives -has long been indelibly written on your hearts; and has exhibited, to the world, models of pure benevolence, and selfcreated greatness-equalled only in "the father of his country"—"above all Greek, above all Roman praise." How vain, then, would be the essay, to recapitulate their deeds, or enn