Gambar halaman

onary times in the bosoms of the aged; to kindle those feelings anew, in the susceptible hearts of the young; it would still be our duty, on every becoming occasion, in the strongest colors, and in the boldest lines we can command, to retrace the picture of the times that tried men's souls. We owe it to our fathers, we owe it to our children. A pacific and friendly feeling towards England is the duty of this nation ; but it is not our only duty, it is not our first duty. America owes an earlier and a higher duty. to the great and good men, who caused her to be a nation; who, at an expense of treasure, a contempt of peril, a prodigality of blood--the purest and noblest that ever flowed,---of which we can now hardly conceive, vindicated to this continent a place among the nations of the earth. I cannot consent, out of tenderness to the 'memory of the Gages, the Hutchinsons, the Grenvilles and Norths, the Dartmouths and Hillsboroughs, to cast a veil over the labors and the sacrifices of the Quincys, the Adàmses, the Hancocks and the Warrens. I am not willing to give up to the ploughshare the soil wet with our fathers' blood; no! not even to plant the olive of peace in the furrow.

There is not a people on earth so abject, as to think that national courtesy requires them to hush up the tale of the glorious exploits of their fathers and countrymen, France is at peace with Austria and Prussia; but she does not demolish her beautiful bridges, baptized with the name of the battle fields, where Napoleon annihilated their armies; nor tear down the columns, moulten out of the accumulated heaps of their captive artillery. England is at peace with France and Spain, but does she suppress the names of Trafalgar and the Nile; does she overthrow the towers of Blenheim casle, eternal monuments of the disasters of France; does she tear down from the rafters of her chapels, where they have for ages waved in triumph, consecrated to the God of battles, the banners of Cressy and Agincourt?-No; she is wiser; wiser, did I say? she is truer, juster to the memory of her fathers and the spirit of her children. The national character, in some of its most important elements, must be formed, elevated, and strengthened from the materials which history presents. The great objection which has been urged, and urged at the point of the bayonet and at the mouth of the cannon, by the partisans of arbitrary power in Europe, against revolutionary and popular governments, is, that they want a historical basis, which alone, they say, can impart stability and legality to public institutions, But certainly the historical basis is of much greater moment to the spirit, than to the institutions of a people; and for the

reason, that the spirit itself of a nation is far more important than its institutions at any moment. Let the spirit be sound and true, and it will sooner or later find or make a remedy for defective institutions. But though the institutions should surpass, in theoretic beauty, the fabled perfection of Utopia or Atlantis, without a free

spirit, the people will be slaves; they will be slaves of the most despicable kind,- pretended freemen.

And how is the spirit of a people to be formed and animated and cheered, but out of the store-house of its historic recollections? Are we to be eternally ringing the changes upon Marathon and Thermopylæ; and going back to read in obscure texts of Greek and Latin of the great examplars of patriotic virtue? I thank God, that we can find them nearer home, in our own country, on our own soil; -—that strains of the noblest sentiment, that ever swelled in the breast of man, are breathing to us out of every page of our country's history, in the native eloquence of our mother tongue; that the colonial and the provincial councils of America, exhibit to us models of the spirit and character, which gave Greece and Rome their name and their praise among the nations. Here we ought to go for our instruction; the lesson is plain, it is clear, it is applicable. When we go to ancient history, we are bewildered with the difference of manners and institutions.

We are willing to pay our tribute of applause to the memory of Leonidas, who fell nobly for his country, in the face of the foe. But when we trace him to his home, we are confounded at the reflection, that the same Spartan heroism to which he sacrificed himself at Thermopylæ, would have led him to tear his only child, if it happened to be a sickly babe-the very object for which all that is kind and good in man rises up to plead—from the bosom of its mother, and carry it out to be eaten by the wolves of Tay. getus. We feel a glow of admiration at the heroism displayed at Marathon, by the ten thousand champions of invaded Greece; but we cannot forget that the tenth part of the number were slaves, unchained from the work-shops and door -posts of their masters, to go and fight the battles of freedom. I do not mean that these examples are to destroy the interest with which we read the history of ancient times; they possibly increase that interest, by the singular contrast they exhibit. But they do warn us, if we need the warning, to seek our great practical lessons of patriotism at home; out of the exploits and sacrifices, of which our own country is the theatre; out of the characters of our own fathers. Them we know, the high-souled, natural, unaffected, the citizen heroes. We know what firesides they left for the cheerless camp. We know with what, pacific habits they dared the perils of the field. There is no mystery, no romance, no madness, under the name of chivalry, about them. Itis all resolute, manly resistance, for conscience and liberty's sake, not merely an overwhelming power, but of all the force of long-rooted habits, and native love of order and peace,

Above all, their blood calls to us from the soil which we tread; it beats in our veins; it cries to us, not merely in the thrilling words of one of the first victims in this cause, -"My sons, scorn to be slaves ;”-but it cries with a still more moving eloquence

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

My sons, forget not your fathers.” Fast, oh, too fast, with all our efforts to prevent it, their precious memories are dying away. Notwithstanding our numerous written memorials, much of what is known of those eventful times dwells but in the recollection of a few revered survivors, and with them is rapidly perishing, unrecorded and irretrievable. How many prudent counsels, conceived in perplexed times; how many heart-stirring words, uttered when liberty was treason; how many brave and heroic deeds, performed when the haltar, not the laurel, was the promised meed of patriotic daring,-are already lost and forgotten in the graves of their authors. How little do we,-although we have been permitted to hold converse with the venerable remnants of that day, --how little do we know of their dark and anxious hours; of their secret meditations ; of the hurried and perilous events of the momentous struggle. And while they are dropping round us like the leaves of autumn, while scarce a week passes that does not call away some member of the veteran ranks, already so sadly thined, shall we make no effort to hand down the traditionis of their day to our children; to pass the torch of liberty, which we received in all the splendour of its first enkindling, bright and flaming to those who stand next us in the line; so that when we shall come to be gathered to the dust where our fathers are laid, we may say to our sons and our grandsons, “ If we did not amass, we have not squandered your inheritance of glory?"

Let us then faithfully go back to those all-important days. Let us commemorate the events, with which the momentous revolutionary crisis was brought on; let us gather up the traditions which still exist; let us show the world, that if we are not called to follow the example of our fathers, we are at least not insensible to the worth of their characters ; not indifferent to the sacrifices and trials, by which they purchased our prosperity,

Time would fail us to recount the measures by which the way was prepared for the revolution ;-the stamp act; its repeal, with the declaration of the right to tax America; the landing of troops in Boston, beneath the batteries of fourteen vessels of war, lying broadside to the town, with springs on their cables, their guns loaded, and matches smoking, the repeated insults, and finally the massacre of the fifth of March, resulting from this military occupation; and the Boston Port-Bill, by which the final catastrophe was hurried on Nor can we dwell upon the appointment at Salem, on the seventeenth of June 1774, of the delegates to the continental congress; of the formation at Salem, in the following October, of the provincial congress; of the decided measures, which were taken by that noble assembly, at Concord and at Cambridge; of the preparations they made against the worst, by organizing the militia, providing stores, and appointing commanders. All this was done by the close of the year 1774.

At length the memorable year of 1775 arrived. The plunder of


the provincial stores at Medford, and the attempt to seize the cannon at Salem, had produced a highly irritated state of the public mind. The friends of our rights in England made a vigorous effort in the month of March, to avert the tremendous crisis that impended. On the twenty-second of that month, Mr. Burke spoke the last word of conciliation and peace. He spoke it in a tone and with a power befitting the occasion and the man ;-he spoke it to the northwest wind. Eight days after, at that season of the year when the prudent New England husbandman repairs the inclosures of his field, for the protection of the fruits of nature's bounty which ere long will cover them, General Gage sent out a party of eleven hundred men to overthrow the stone walls in the neighbourhood of Boston, by way of opening and levelling the arena for the bloody contest he designed to bring on.

With the w, in the months of February and March, his officers were sent in disguise to traverse the country, to make military surveys and sketches of its roads and passes, to obtain accounts of the stores at Concord and Worcester, and to communicate with the small number of disaffected Americans. These disguised officers were here at Concord, on the twentieth of March ; and received treacherous or unsuspecting information of the places, where the provincial stores were concealed. I mention this only to show, that our fathers in their arduous contest, had every thing to contend with; secret as well as open foes; treachery in the cabinet, as well as power in the field. But I need not add, that they possessed not only the courage and the resolution, but the vigilance and care, demanded for the crisis. In November 1774, a society had been formed in Boston, principally of the mechanics of that town,-- a class of men to whom the revolutionary cause was as deeply indebted, as to any other in America,- for the express purpose of closely watching the movements of the open and secret foes of the country. In the long and dreary nights of a New England winter, they patrolled the streets; and not a movement which concerned the cause, escaped their vigilance. Not a measure of the royal governor, but was in their possession, in a few hours after it was communicated to his confidential officers. Nor was it manly patriotism alone, whose spirit was thus aroused in the cause. The daughters of America were inspired with the same noble temper, that animated their fathers, their husbands, and their brethren. The historian tells us, that the first intimation communicated to the patriots of the impending commencement of hostilities, came from a daughter of liberty, unequally yoked with an enemy of her country's rights.

With all these warnings, and all the vigilance with which the royal troops were watched, none supposed the fatal moment was hurrying so rapidly on. On Saturday, April fifteenth, the Provincial Congress adjourned their session in this place, to meet on

the tenth of May. On the very same day, Saturday the fifteenth of April, the companies of grenadiers and light infantry in Boston, the flower not merely of the royal garrison, but of the British army, were taken off their regular duty, under the pretence of learning a new military exercise. At the midnight following, the boats of the transport ships, which had been previously repaired, were launched, and moored for safety under the sterns of the vessels of war.

Not one of those movements,-least of all, that which took place beneath the shades of midnight, was unobserved by the vigilant sons of liberty. The next morning, Colonel Paul Revere, a very active member of the patriotic society just mentioned, was despatched by Dr. Joseph Warren to John Hancock and Samuel Adams, then at Lexington, whose seizure was threatened by the royal governor. So early did these distinguished patriots receive the intelligence, that preparations for an important movement were on foot. Justly considering, however, that some object besides the seizure of two individuals was probably designed, in the movement of so large a force, they counselled the Committee of Safety to order the distribution into the neighbouring towns, of the stores collected at Concord. Colonel Revere, on his return from this excursion on the sixteenth of April, in order to guard against any accident, which might make it impossible at the last moment to give informatiou from Boston of the departure of the troops, concerted with his friends in Charlestown, that whenever the British forces should embark in their boats to cross into the country, two lanterns should be · shown in North Church steeple, and one, should they march out by Roxbury.

Thus was the meditated blow prepared for before it was struck, and we almost smile at the tardy prudence of the British Commander, who, on Tuesday the eighteenth of April, despatched ten serjeants, who were to dine at Cambridge, and at nightfall scatter themselves on the roads from Boston to Concord, to prevent notice of the projected expedition from reaching the country.

At length the momentous hour arrives, as big with consequences to man, as any that ever struck in his history. The darkness of night is still to shroud the rash and fatal measures, with which the liberty of America is hastened on. The highest officers in the British army are as yet ignorant of the nature of the meditated blow. At nine o'clock in the evening of the eighteenth, Lord Percy is sent for by the governor to receive the information of the design. On his way back to his lodgings, he finds the very movements, which had been just communicated to him in confidence by the commander in chief, a subject of conversation in a group of patriotic citizens in the street. He hastened back to General Gage and tells him he is betrayed; and orders are instantly given to permit no American to leave the town. But the order is five minutes too late. Dr. Warren, the President of the

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »