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master intellects, who while they lived, obstructed with these organs of sense, ravished the ear with the tongues of men, and, having now cast off“ this muddy vesture of decay," are gone where they speak with the tongues of angels, can yet find no medium of communication from the eternal world but wretched inarticulate rappings and clatterings, which pothouse clowns would be ashamed to use in their intercourse with each other, - as if our matchless Choate, for instance, who has just electrified the land with a burst of eloquence not easily paralleled in the line of time, and worthy of the illustrious subject of his eulogy, if sent with a message from a higher stage of being, would creep skulking and rapping behind the wainscot, instead of coming in robes of light, with a voice like the music of the spheres;- an age, I say, that believes all this, and yet doubts and sneers at the wonderworking fervors of earnest men, swayed by the all-powerful influence of sincere faith.
It believes, - yes, in the middle of the nineteenth century, it believes that you can have the attraction of gravitation, which holds the universe together, suspended by a showman for a dollar, who will make a table dance round the room by an act of volition, — forgetful of the fact, that, if the law of gravitation were suspended for the twinkling of an eye, by any other Power than that which ordained it, every planet that walks the firmament, yea, all the starry suns, centres of the countless systems, unseen of mortal eyes, which fill the unfathomed depths of the heavens, would crumble back to chaos, — but it can see in the Pilgrims nothing but a handful of narrow-minded bigots, driven by discontent from the Old World to the New; and can find nothing in the majestic process by which United America has been established as a grand temple of religious and civil liberty, a general refuge of humanity, but a chapter in political history, which neither requires nor admits explanation.
Mr. President, this may sound like philosophy, but it is the philosophy of the Sadducee; it is a text on which Isaac Laquedem himself might lecture. It quenches the brightest glory of our nature. The Pilgrims were actuated by that principle, which, as I have just said, has given the first impulse to all the great movements of the modern world, - I mean profound religious faith. They had the frailties of humanity. This exalted principle itself was combined with human weakness. It was mingled with the prejudices and errors of age and country and sect; it was habitually gloomy; it was sometimes intolerant, but it was reverent, sincere, all-controlling. It did not influence, it possessed the soul. It steeled the heart to the delights of life; it raised the frame above bodily weakness; it enabled the humble to brave the frowns of power; it triumphed over cold and hunger, the prison and the scaffold; it taught uneducated men to speak with persuasive fervor; it gave manly strength and courage to tender and delicate women. In the admirable letter of Robinson and Brewster, whom I call great men, Mr. President, written in 1617, to Sir Edwyn Sandys, whom, they pathetically say, “under God, above all persons and things in the world, we rely upon," – among the suggestions which they make to encourage him to further their undertaking is this:
“We do verily believe and trust that the Lord is with us, unto whom and whose service we have given ourselves in many trials, and that he will graciously prosper our endeavors, according to the simplicity of our hearts."
The men who can utter these words with sincerity, and who have embarked in a just cause, have already succeeded. They may not gather the fruit, but they have planted the seed; others may build, but they have laid the foundation. This is the spirit which in all ages has wrought the moral miracles of humanity, which rebuked and overturned the elegant corruption of the classical polytheism, as it did the darker and fiercer rites of Thor and Woden, which drove back the false and licentious crescent into Asia, and held Europe together through the night of the middle ages, which, limited neither to country, communion, nor sex, despite of human weaknesses and errors, in the missions of Paraguay and the missions of the Sandwich Islands, in Winthrop, in
Penn, and in Wesley, in Eliza Seton and Mary Ware, has accomplished the beneficent wonders of Christian faith and love.
But, sir, our fathers embraced that second grand idea of civil liberty with not less fervor than the first. It was a kindred fruit of the same stock. They cherished it with a zeal not less intense and resolute. This is a topic for a volume, rather than for the closing sentence of a speech at the dinner table. I will only say that the highest authorities in English history, Hume, Hallam, Macaulay, neither of them influenced by sympathy with the Puritans, concur in the opinion that Eng. land was indebted to them for the preservation of her liberties in that most critical period of her national existence, when the question between prerogative and law, absolute authority and constitutional government, was decided for ever.
In coming to this country, our fathers most certainly contemplated, not merely a safe retreat beyond the sea, where they could worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, but a local government founded on popular choice. That their foresight stretched onward through the successive stages of colonial and provincial government which resulted in the establishment of a great republican confederacy, it would be extravagant to pretend. But from the primitive and venerable compact signed on the 11th of November, 1620, on board the Mayflower, while she yet nestled in the embrace of Provincetown harbor, after her desolate voyage, like a weary child at even-song in its mother's arms, through every document and manifesto which bears on the question, there is a distinct indication of a purpose to establish civil government on the basis of republican equality.
In a word, Mr. President, their political code united religion and liberty, morals and law, and it differed from the wild license which breaks away from these restraints, as the well guided railway engine, instinct with mechanical life, conducted by a bold, but skilful and prudent hand, and propelled in safety towards its destination, with glowing axle, along its iron grooyes, differs from the same engine when its speed is rashly urged beyond the point of safety, or when, driven by criminal recklessness or murderous neglect, it leaps madly from the track, and plunges with its crushed and shrieking train into the jaws of destruction."
* This speech was made a short time after the occurrence of the shocking railroad accident at Norwalk, Conn.
I Am greatly indebted to you, Mr. President and fellowcitizens, for this very kind reception. Though personally known to very few of you, you will not allow me to regard myself as a stranger. Though it has never been my good fortune before to do any thing more than pass through Manchester with railway speed, your cordial welcome has made me feel myself at once at home. With this simple acknowledgment of your kindness, Mr. President, I feel as if I ought to stop. This is the husbandman's festival, celebrated under the auspices of the New Hampshire Agricultural Society. Your executive committee was good enough, early in the season, to invite me to pronounce the usual annual address on this occasion. I felt greatly honored by the request, which, however, more than one prevailing reason compelled me to decline; and so acceptably has the duty been performed by the gentleman who has preceded me; so much has he instructed and interested us in his very appropriate discourse, that I cannot but congratulate you and myself, that it devolved upon him and not upon me, I feel it somewhat presumptuous, being neither a scientific nor practical farmer, to intrude myself at all before an audience like this, and in the presence of those so much better able to occupy your time to advantage. My best apology will be, not to occupy much of it, and not to presume to dwell upon matters which must be so much better understood by others.
Mr. President, though it has not been my good fortune to
* A speech at the annual fair of the New Hampshire State Agricultural Society, held at Manchester, 7th October, 1853.