Page images

standing the great elevation of the meadow, the afternoons are still warm enough to revive the chilled butterflies and call them out to enjoy the lateflowering goldenrods. The divine alpenglow flushes the surrounding forest every evening, followed by a crystal night with hosts of lily stars, whose size and brilliancy cannot be conceived by those who have never risen above the lowlands.

· Thus come and go the bright sun-days of autumn, not a cloud in the sky, week after week till near December. Then comes a sudden change. Clouds of a peculiar aspect with a slow, crawling gait gather and grow in the azure, throwing out satiny fringes, and becoming darker until every lakelike rift and opening is closed and the whole bent firmament is obscured in equal structureless gloom.

Then comes the snow, for the clouds are ripe; the meadows of the sky are in bloom, and shed their radiant blossoms like an orchard in the spring. Lightly, lightly they lodge in the brown grasses and in the tasseled needles of the pines, falling hour after hour, day after day, silently, lovingly, — all the winds hushed, — glancing, and circling hither, thither, glinting against one another, rays interlocking in flakes as large as daisies. And then the dry grasses, and the trees, and the stones are all equally in bloom again.

Thunder showers occur during the summer months, and impressive it is to watch the coming of the big transparent drops, each a small world in itself - one unbroken ocean without islands hurling free through the air like planets through space.

But still more impressive to me is the coming of the snow flowers, — falling stars, winter daisies, – giving bloom to all the ground alike. Raindrops blossom brilliantly in the rainbow, and change to flowers in the sod; but snow comes in full flower direct from the dark, frozen sky.

Hushed now is the life that so late was beating warmly. Most of the birds have gone below the snow line, the plants sleep, and all the fly wings are folded. Yet the sun beams gloriously many a cloudy day in winter, casting long lance shadows athwart the dazzling expanse.

Walk the meadows now! Scarce the memory of a flower will you find. The ground seems twice dead. Nevertheless the annual resurrection is drawing near, the life-giving sun pours his floods, the last snowwreath melts, myriads of growing points push eagerly through the steaming mold, the birds come back, new wings fill the air, and fervid summer life comes surging on, seemingly yet more glorious than before.


[merged small][graphic][merged small]

In a plain room, of an unpretending and recent building - the lower east room of what then was a statehouse, what since has been known as the “ Independence Hall” — in the midst of a city of perhaps thirty thousand inhabitants — a city which preserved its rural aspect, and the quaint simplicity of whose plan and structures had always been marked among American towns — were assembled probably less than fifty persons to consider a paper prepared by a young Virginia lawyer, giving reasons for a Resolve which the assembly had adopted two days before.

They were farmers, planters, lawyers, physicians, surveyors of land, with one eminent Presbyterian clergyman. A majority of them had been educated at such schools, or primitive colleges, as then existed on this continent, while a few had enjoyed the rare advantage of training abroad and foreign travel; but a considerable number, and among them some of the most influential, had had no other education than that which they had gained by diligent reading while at their trades or on their farms.

The figure to which our thoughts turn first is that of the author of the careful paper on the details of which the discussion turned. It has no special majesty or charm — the slight, tall frame, the sunburned face, the gray eyes spotted with hazel, the red hair which crowns the head; but already, at the age of thirty-three, the man has impressed himself on his associates as a master of principles, and of the language in which those principles find expression, so that his colleagues have left to him, almost wholly, the work of preparing the important Declaration.

He wants readiness in debate, and so is now silent; but he listens eagerly to the vigorous argument and the forcible appeals of one of his fellows on the committee, Mr. John Adams, and now and then speaks with another of the committee, much older than himself — a stout man, with a friendly face, in a plain dress, whom the world already had heard something of as Benjamin Franklin.

These three are perhaps most prominently before us as we recall the vanished scene, though others were there of fine presence and cultivated manners, and though all impress us as substantial and representative men, however harsh the features of some, however brawny their hands with labor. But certainly nothing could be more unpretending, more destitute of pictorial charm than that small assembly of persons for the most part quite unknown to previous fame.

After a discussion somewhat prolonged, as it seemed at the time, especially as it had been continued from previous days, and after some minor amendments of the paper, toward evening it was adopted, and ordered to be sent to the several States, signed by the President and the Secretary, and the simple transaction was complete. Whatever there may have been of proclamation and bell ringing appears to have come on subsequent days. It was almost a full month before the paper was engrossed, and signed by the members. It must have been nearly or quite the same time before the news of its adoption had reached the remoter parts of the land.

If pomp of circumstance were necessary to make an event like this great and memorable, there would have been others in our own history more worthy far of our commemoration. As matched against multitudes in our history, it would sink into instant and complete insignificance.

Yet here, to-day, a hundred years from the adoption of that paper, in a city which counts its languages by scores, and beats with the tread of a million feet, in a country whose enterprise flies abroad over

« PreviousContinue »