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ORATION BEFORE THE CINCINNATI.
This oration was delivered by Mr. Boudinot, , us, in a miraculous deliverance from a second at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, agreeably to a Egypt-another house of bondage. “And thou
shalt show thy son on this day, saying this day resolution of the State Society of Cincinnati, *
is kept as a day of joy and gladness, because on the Fourth of July, 1793.
of the great things the Lord has done for us,
when we were delivered from the threatening GENTLEMEN, BRETHREN, AND FELLOW-CITI- power of an invading foe. And it shall be a ZENS: Having devoutly paid the sacrifice of sign unto thee, upon thine hand, and for a meprayer and praise to that Almighty Being, by morial between thine eyes, that the law of the whose favor and mercy this day is peculiarly Lord may be in thy mouth, for with a strong dedicated to the commemoration of events hand hast thou been delivered from thine enewhich fill our minds with joy and gladness, it mies: Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance becomes me, in obedience to the resolutions of | in its season, from year to year, for ever." our Society, to aim at a further improvement |
When great events are to be produced in this of this festival, by leading your reflections to our world, great exertions generally become the contemplation of those special privileges necessary; men are therefore usually raised up, which attend the happy and important situa- with talents and powers peculiarly adapted to tion you now enjoy among the nations of the the purposes intended by Providence, who ofearth.
ten by their disinterested services and extreme Is there any necessity, fellow-citizens, to sufferings, become the wonder as well as the spend your time in attempting to convince you examples of their generation. of the policy and propriety of setting apart this The obligations of mankind to these worthy anniversary, for the purpose of remembering, characters, increase in proportion to the imporwith gratitude, the unexampled event of our tance of the blessings purchased by their labors. political salvation ?
It is not then an unreasonable expectation The cordial testimony you have borne to this which, I well know, generally prevails, that institution for seventeen years past, supersedes this day should be usually devoted to the perthe necessity of an attempt of this kind; and, petuating and respectfully remembering the indeed, if this had been the first instance of our dignified characters of those great men, with commemorating the day, the practice of all na- | whom it has been our honor to claim the intitions and of all ages, would have given a sanc-mate connection of fellow-citizens,-men who tion to the measure.
have purchased our present joyful circumstan'he history of the world, as well sacred as ces at the invaluable price of their blood. profane, bears witness to the use and impor- But you must also acknowledge with me, tance of setting apart a day as a memorial of that this subject has been so fully considered, great events, whether of a religious or political and so ably handled by those eloquent and ennature.
lightened men who have gone before me in this No sooner had the great Creator of the heav- | honorable path, that had their superior abilities ens and the earth finished his almighty work, failen to my lot, I could do but little more than and pronounced all very good, but he set apart repeat the substance of their observations and (not an anniversary, or one day in a year, but) vary their language. one day in seven, for the commemoration of his Forgive me, ye spirits of my worthy, departinimitable power in producing all things out of ed fellow-citizens! Patriots of the first magninothing.
tude, whose integrity no subtle arts of bribery The deliverance of the children of Israel from and corruption could successfully assail; and a state of bondage to an unreasonable tyrant, whose fortitude and perseverance no difficulties was perpetuated by the eating of the Paschal or dangers could intimidate! Whose labors Lamb, and enjoining it to their posterity as an and sufferings in the common cause of our annual festival for ever, with a “remember this country—whose exploits in the field and wisday, in which ye came out of Egypt, out of the dom in the cabinet, I have often been witness house of bondage.”
to, during a cruel and distressing war! Forgive, The resurrection of the Saviour of mankind O Warren, Montgomery! and all the nameness is commemorated by keeping the first day of heroes of your illustrious group! Forgive, that the week, not only as a certain memorial of his I omit on the present occasion, to follow the first coming in a state of humiliation, but the steps of those compatriots who have preceded positive evidence of his future coming in glory. me, but had rather spend this sacred hour in
Let us then, my friends and fellow-citizens, contemplating those great purposes which anianite all our endeavors this day, to remember, mated your souls in the severe conflict, and for with reverential gratitude to our supreme Bene- which you fought and bled! factor, all the wonderful things he has done for Were you present to direct this day's medi
tations, would you not point to your scarred * See note at page 367.
| limbs and bleeding breasts, and loudly call upon as to reward your toils and sufferings, by forci- , masters nor servants, otherwise than stewarde bly inculcating and improving those patriotic of his appointment, to serve each other accordprinciples and practices which led you to those ing to our different opportunities and abilities, noble achievements that secured the blessings and of course accountable for the manner in we now enjoy?
which we perform our duty,-he is no respecter Yes, ye martyrs to liberty! ye band of he- of persons, -he beholds all with an equal eye, roes! ye once worthy compatriots and fellow and although “order is heaven's first law," and citizens! We will obey your friendly sugges- he has made it essential to every good governtion, and greatly prize that freedom and inde- ment, and necessary for the welfare of every pendence, purchased by your united exertions, community, that there should be distinctions as the most invaluable gem of our earthly among members of the same society, yet this crown!
difference is originally designed for the service, The late revolution, my respected andience, benefit, and best good of the whole, and not for in which we this day rejoice, is big with events their oppression or destruction.* that are daily unfolding themselves and pressing It is our duty then, as a people, acting on in thick succession, to the astonishment of a principles of universal application, to convince wondering world!
mankind of the truth and practicability of It has been marked with the certain charac- them, by carrying them into actual exercise for teristic of a divine over-ruling hand, in that it the happiness of our fellow-men, without sufferwas brought about and perfected against all / ing to be perverted to oppression or licentioushuman reasoning, and apparently against all ness. human hope; and that in the very moment of The eyes of the nations of the earth are fast time when all Europe seemed ready to be opening, and the inhabitants of this globe, notplunged into commotion and distress.
withstanding it is 3000 years since the promulDivine Providence, throughout the govern- gation of that invaluable precept, “thou shalt ment of this world, appears to have impressed love thy neighbor as thyself," are but just bemany great events with the undoubted evidence ginning to discover their brotherhood to each of his own almighty arm. He putteth down other, and that all men, however different with kingdoms and he setteth up whom he pleaseth, regard to nation or color, have an essential inand it has been literally verified in us, that, terest in each other's welfare. "no king prevaileth by the power of his own Let it then be our peculiar, constant care strength."
and vigilant attention, to inculcate this sacred The first great principle established and se- | principle, and to hand it down to posterity, imcured by our revolution, and which since seems proved by every generous and liberal practice, to be pervading all the nations of the earth; that while we are rejoicing in our own political and which should be most zealously and care- and religious privileges, we may with pleasure fully improved and gloried in by us, is the ra- contemplate the happy period, when all the national equality and rights of men, as men and tions of the earth shall join in the triumph of citizens.
this day, and one universal anthem of praise I do not mean to hold up the absurd idea shall arise to the universal Creator in return charged upon us, by the enemies of this valua- for the general joy. ble principle, and which contains in it, inevita- Another essential ingredient in the happiness ble destruction to every government, “that all we enjoy as a nation, and which arises from the men are equal as to acquired or adventitious principles of the revolution, is the right that rights." Men must and do continually differ in every people have to govern themselves in such their genius, knowledge, industry, integrity and manner as they judge best calculated for the activity.
common benefit. Their natural and moral characters—their It is a principle interwoven with our constivirtues and vices--their abilities, natural and ac- tution, and not one of the least bic sings purquired together with favorable opportunities chased by that glorious struggle, to the comfor exertion, will always make men different memoration of which this day is specially deamong themselves, and of course create a pre- voted, that every man has a natural right to be eminency and superiority one over another. governed by laws of his own making, either in But the equality and rights of men here con- person or by his representative; and that no templated are natural, essential, and unalienable, authority ought justly to be exercised over such as the security of life, liberty, and property. him, that is not derived from the people, of These should be the firm foundation of every whom he is one. good government, as they will apply to all nations at all times, and may properly be called Lactantius, lib. 5. cap. 15, fol. 399, speaking of the univera universal law. It is apparent that every man sal equality of mankind, says: “ Æquitatem dico-80 cum is born with the same right to improve the tal- | cæteris cæquandi, quam Cicero acquabilitatem vocat,Deus ent committed to him, for the use and benefit enim, qui homines generat & inspirat, omnes æcquos, id est of society, and to be respected accordingly.
| pares esse voluit: Eamdem conditionem vivendi omnibus We are all the workmanship of the same di- | posuit, omnes ad sapientiam genuit: omnibus immortalivine hand. With our. Creator, abstractly con- tatem spopondit. Nemo apud eum servus est, nomo sidered, there are neither kings nor subjects, dominus."
This, fellow-citizens, is a most important, ble story, but prudently mark the effects of their practical principle, first carried into complete public measures, and judge of the tree by its execution by the United States of America. fruits.
I tremble for the event, while I glory in the I do not wish to discourage a constant and subject.
lively attention to the conduct of our rulers. To you, ye citizens of America! do the in- A prudent suspicion of public measures is a habitants of the earth look with eager attention great security to a republican government; but for the success of a measure on which their a line should be drawn between a careful and happiness and prosperity so manifestly depend. critical examination into the principles and ef
To use the words of a famous foreigner, “You fects of regular systems after a fair and candid are become the hope of human nature, and trial, and a captious, discontented and censoought to become its great example. The asy- rious temper, which leads to find fault with lum opened in your land for the oppressed of every proposition in which we have not an imall nations must console the earth."
mediate hand; and raise obstacles to rational On your virtue, patriotism, integrity, and plans of government, without waiting a fair submission to the laws of your own making, experiment. It is generally characteristic of and the government of your own choice, do the this disposition, to find fault without proposing hopes of men rest with prayers and supplica- a better plan for consideration. tions for a happy issue.
We should not forget that our country is Be not, therefore, careless, indolent, or inat- large, and our fellow-citizens of different mantentive, in the exercise of any right of citizen-ners, interests, and habits. That our laws to ship. Let no duty, however small, or seem- be right, must be equal and general; of course ingly of little importance, be neglected by you. the differing interests must be combined, and
Ever keep in mind that it is parts that form brotherly conciliation and forbearance continthe whole, and fractions constitute the unit. ually exercised, if we will judge with propriety Good government generally begins in the fam- of those measures that respect a nation at large. ily, and if the moral character of a people once While we thus enjoy as a community, the degenerates, their political character must soon blessings of the social compact in its purity, follow.
and are all endeavoring to secure the invaluaA friendly consideration of our fellow-citi- ble privileges, purchased by the blood of thouzens, who by our free choice become the public sands of our brethren who fell in the dreadful servants, and manage the affairs of our common conflict; let us also be careful to encourage and country, is but a reasonable return for their promote a liberality and benevolence of mind diligence and care in our service.
towards those whom they have left behind, and The most enlightened and zealous of our pub- whose unhappy fate it has been to bear a heavJic servants, can do little without the exertions ier proportion of the expensive purchase, in the of private citizens to perfect what they do but loss of husbands, parents or children, perhaps form as it were in embryo. The highest offi-| their only support and hope in life. cers of our government are but the first servants Mankind, considered as brethren, should be of the people and always in their power: they dear to each other; but, fellow-citizens, who have, therefore, a just claim to a fair and can have together braved the common dangerdid experiment of the plans they form and the who have fought side by side, who have minlaws they enact for the public weal. Too much gled their blood together, as it were in one rich should not be expected from them; they are but stream-who have labored and toiled with men and of like passions and of like infirmities united efforts to accomplish the same glorious with ourselves; they are liable to err, though end, must surely be more than brethren—it is exercising the purest motives and best abilities a union cemented by blood. required for the purpose.
I can no longer deny myself the felicity, my Times and circumstances may change and beloved friends and fellow-citizens, members of accidents intervene to disappoint the wisest a Society founded on these humane and benevmeasures. Mistaken and wicked men (who olent principles, of addressing myself more parcannot live but in troubled waters) are often ticularly to you, on a day, which in so peculiar laboring with indefatigable zeal, which some- a manner shines with increasing lustre on you, times prove but too successful, to sour our minds refreshing and brightening your hard-earned and derange the best formed systems. Plausi- laurels, by renewing the honorable reward of ble pretensions and censorious insinuations, are your laborious services in the gratitude of your always at hand to transfer the deadly poison of rejoicing fellow-citizens. jealousy, by which the best citizens may for a Methinks I behold you on the victorious time be deceived.
banks of the Hudson, bowed down with the These considerations should lead to an atten- fatigues of an active campaign, and the suffertive solicitude to keep the pure, unadulterated ings of an inclement winter, receiving the wel. principles of our constitution, always in view ; come news of approaching peace, and your to be religiously careful in our choice of public country's political salvation, with all that joy officers; and as they are again in our power at of heart and serenity of mind, that become citivery short periods, lend not too easily a patient zens who flew to their arms, merely at their ear to every invidious insinuation or improba- 1 country's call, in a time of common danger.
The war-worn soldiers, reduced to the ca- | their sufferings and perseverance, now rouses lamities of a seven years' arduous service, now the patriotic fire. They again rejoice in the solemnly pause and reflect on the peculiarity event; they unite in a firm, indissoluble bond, of their critical situation. The ravages of war “gratefully to commemorate the event, which had been extended through a country dearer to gave independence to America,—to inculcate them than life, and thereby prevented that to latest ages the duty of laying down in peace, ample provision in service or reasonable re- arms assumed for public defence in war,-tó compense on their return to private life, that continue their mutual friendship, which comprudence required and gratitude powerfully menced under the pressure of common dangers, dictated.
and to effectuate every act of beneficence, dicThey thought that the distresses of the army tated by a spirit of brotherly kindness to any had before been brought to a point. “That of their number and their families, who might they had borne all that men could bear; their unfortunately be under the necessity of receivproperty expended-their private resources at ing them;" and by this unanimous act establish an end-their friends wearied out and disgusted this sacred truth, “that the glory of soldiers with incessant applications." But another trial, cannot be well completed without acting well severer than all, still awaits them; they are now the part of citizens.” to be disbanded and a separation to take place This, gentlemen, is your origin as a Societymore distressing than every former scene! Till the source from whence you sprang, and this now the severe conflict was unseen or unat- day we are carrying on the work first began in tended to. Poverty and the gratitude of their these social principles.* country are their only reward.
With a heart filled with unfeigned gratitude True, they are to return to their friends and to the author of all our mercies, and overflowfellow-citizens with blessings on their heads. ing with the most affectionate friendship toward The general liberty and independence are now you, suffer me to congratulate you on this sevsecured, but yet want and dire distress stare enteenth anniversary of our happy indepenmany in the face. They are to return to wives dence. Long, long, even to the remotest ages, and children, long used to dependence on the may the citizens of this rising empire enjoy the cold hand of charity, in hopes of a sure support triumph of this day; may they never forget the from the success of the common cause, when invaluable price which it costs, as well as the their husband, father or child returned glorious great purposes for which it was instituted, and from the field of conquest. Alas! these flat- may a frequent recurrence to the first principles tering hopes now are no more.
of our constitution on this anniversary, be a Their country's exhausted treasury cannot constant source of security and permanence to yield them even the hard-earned pittance of a the rising fabric! May the rights of man and soldier's pay. Being urged on one hand by the the purity of a free, energetic, and independent subtle poison of inflammatory, violent and art- government be continually cherished and proful addresses, under the specious mask of pre- moted by every son of Cincinnatus! May the tended friendship, (the last expiring effort of a remembrance of those worthy heroes, once our conquered foe,)-warned on the other hand by the experience, wisdom, and rational conduct * The Society of the Cincinnati was established in 1783. of their beloved commander, their father and on the tenth of May of that year, officers from the several long-tried friend, -they solemnly deliberate. regiments of the respective lines of the American army, met
Some guardian angel, perhaps the happy at the cantonment on Hudson river, where proposals were genius of America, ever attendant on the object read and a committee appointed to preparo a plan of estabof her care, raises the drooping head, wipes the lishment. On the thirteenth instant a plan was submitted, indignant, falling tear from the hardy soldier's and adopted, the principles of which were: eye, and suggests the happy expedient!
“An incessant attention to preserve inviolato those exBrotherlo affertion produced brotherly realted rights and liberties of human nature, for which they lief-the victorious bands unite together-they
have fought and bled, and without which the high rank of a despise the infamous idea—they refuse to listen
rational being is a curse instead of a blessing.
"An unalterable determination to promote and cherish to the siren's song—they form the social tie
between the respective States, that union and national they cast in the remaining fragment of their
honor so necessary to their happiness, and the future dig. scanty pay, and instead of seizing their arms and
nity of the American empire. demanding their rights by menace and violence,
- To render permanent the cordial affection subsisting they refuse “to lessen the dignity or sully the
among the officers. This spirit will dictate brotherly kind. glory they had hitherto maintained. They de
ness in all things, and particularly extend to the most subtermined to give one more proof of unexampled
stantial acts of beneficence, according to the ability of the patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to society, towards those officers and their families who unfor. the pressure of their complicated sufferings, tunately may be under the necessity of receiving it." and thereby afford an occasion to posterity to The General Society of Cincinnati, "for the sake of frosay, had that day been wanting, the world had quent communications," was divided into State societies, and not seen the last stage of political perfection, these again into districts, under the direction of the State to which human nature is capable of attain- societies. Some of these societies still (1857) exist.
See the proceedings of the New York Society of the Cincintati, The glorious certainty of peace, purchased by published in 1861.
beloved companions, whose lives they did not legislation of the Union or of a particular State hold dear, when required for their country's with as much confidence as the noblest subject safety, animate us to preserve inviolate, what of an established monarchy. they purchased at so high a rate! May we, by This is a peculiar happiness of our highly fathe uniform conduct of good citizens and gen- / vored republic among the nations of the earth, erous, faithful friends, show ourselves worthy i proceeding from the successful revolution ir of such valuable connections!
which we this day rejoice. Long, long may you live to enjoy the reward Suffer me, ye fair daughters of New Jersey ! of your labors, in the exercise of the duties of to call on you also in a special manner, to add this honorable anniversary; and after a long your invigorating smiles to the mirth and feslife of services to your country, usefulness to tivity of this day. Our happiness can be but half your Society, and happiness to yourselves, may complete, if you refuse to crown the whole with you leave your generation in the full enjoyment your kind approbation. of peace and a sound constitution, justified by Have you not at all times and do you not still experience, for the example of which, nations continue to participate deeply in the multiplied yet unborn, shall rise up and call you blessed! | blessings of our common country? Raised from
And now, my respected audience, we appeal the humiliating state of your sex in most other to your candor and generosity; you have heard countries, you also breathe the sacred air of our origin-you have known our conduct- freedom, and nobly unite your exertions for the our Society is designed for the happiness and general good. benefit of mankind—we have no secretswe The Rights of Women are no longer strange claim no separate privileges—we ask no inde- sounds to an American ear; they are now heard pendent immunities we are embarked in one as familiar terms in every part of the United common cause with you—we glory in one per- States; and I devoutly hope that the day is not fect political equality,—all we wish for, is the far distant, when we shall find them dignifying, pleasure of renewing ancient friendships—of the in a distinguishing code, the jurisprudence of mutual remembrance of past labors and suffer- the several States in the Union. ings—the liberal exercise of that celestial prin- But in your domestic character, do you not ciple, charity, and one common interest with also enjoy the most delightful contemplations you in the security of our liberty, property, arising from the Revolution of Seventeen Hunand independence.
| dred and Seventy-six ? We profess to be a band of brethren, united Can you look on the children of your tenderto our fellow-citizens by every tie of interest, est care, and reflect on the cheerful prospects gratitude, and love. Let us then go hand in opening upon them through life, without feeling hand with you, in looking forward to the happy the most lively emotions of gratitude for the instate of our country, during a long succession estimable privileges conferred on the citizens of ages yet to come.
of America? Are not your resolutions strengthWe are encouraged in this animating hope ened and your endeavors redoubled, to furnish by the numerous advantages arising to us, in a them with every qualification, both mental and peculiar manner, from the happy revolution we personal, for the future service of a country thus commemorate this day; they are conspicuous rendered dear to you? in every quarter to which the view can be di- But your share of the joy of this day does rected.
not rise from a single source. To whom are we If we turn our attention to the strong hope more indebted for the origin of our present hapof every community, the rising generation, the piness, than to your delicate and discerning sex? world has yet enjoyed nothing equal to their In vain did Columbus, our great founder and advantages and future prospects.
discoverer, after settling the principles of his The road to honors, riches, usefulness, and sound philosophy, apply to the wise men of fame, in this happy country, is open equally to his country. In vain did he solicit, in strains all. The equality of citizens in its true sense of the most suppliant humiliation, the different must raise the most lively hopes, prompt the thrones of Europe, when kings considered themnoblest exertions, and secure a certainty of suc- selves as God's vicegerents here below; despis. cess to all, who shall excel in the service of ed by the ignorant-traduced by the malevotheir country, without respect of persons. lent-contemned by the great-laughed at by
The meanest citizen of America educates his pretended philosophers—and trified with by the beloved child with a well founded hope, that if arrogance of ministers and their hirelings; all he should become equal to the task, he may ra- his hopes and those of a New World had, at tionally aspire to the command of our armies, last, sunk in despair, and we, this day, might a place in the cabinet, or even to the filling of have mingled our fate with the slaves of the the presidential chair; he stands on equal ground Old World, had not the penetrating wisdom and in regard to the first honors of the State, with persevering magnanimity of the fair, but un the richest of his fellow-citizens.
daunted Isabella, the ornament of your sex, The child of the poorest laborer, by enjoying and the jealousy of ours, saved this Western the means of education (afforded in almost every World from the oblivion of more than five thoucorner of this happy land) is trained up for, and sand years. Did she employ the excess of useis encouraged to look forward to a share in the less treasures in this happy adventure? No!