« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
their independence, the requisite knowledge, virtue and experience to frameour complicated form of government, and to put it into full and successful ope-ration, and that it has been owing to a want of this training which they enjoyed that other nations have not succeeded, when they have endeavored to imitate our example.
Let us now return after this long digression to Washington and the Constitution.
The Constitution of the United States went into operation in 1789, at a time when the whole of Europe was becoming conyulsed by the throes of the first French Revolution. Fortunately thạt Constitution had provided that the foreign relations of the country should be regulated by the President.
“The establishment of JUSTICE, in the intercourse between the nation and foreign powers was thus pre-eminently committed to the custody of one man; but that man was George Washington.” Of his general administration there is not time to speak, and I shall content myself with giving a brief summary in the language of John Quincy Adams in his celebrated address in 1839, at the close of the first half century from the time of the adoption of the constitution. It was my good fortune to sit near the venerable patriot and statesman on that occasion, and to listen to the words as they fell from the lips of the "old man eloquent." Thus he says, speaking of the Constitution :
“The first element of its longevity was undoubtedly to be found in itself, but we may without superstition or fanatacism believe that a superintending Providence had adapted to the character and principles of this institution those of the man, by whom it was first to be administered. To fill a throne was neither his ambition nor his vocation. He had no descendants to whom a throne could have been transmitted had it existed. He was placed by the unanimous voice of his country at the head of that government which they had substituted for a throne, and his eye looking to futurity was intent upon securing to after ages not a throne for a seat to his own descendants, but an immoveable seat upon which the descendants of his country might sit in peace, and freedom and happiness, if so it please heaven, to the end of time.'
And yet his administration was not free from difficulties, and it required all his firmness to guide the new ship of state, amid the contending elements around it. Thus Mr. Adams speaks of his success. Again he adds"In eight years of a turbulent and tempestous administration, Washington had settled..
upon firm foundations the practical execution of the Constitution of the United States.—In the midst of the most appalling obstacles, through the bitterest internal dissensions, and the most formidable combinations of foreign antipathies and cabals, he had subdued all opposition to the Constitution itself; had averted all dangers of European war; had redeemed the captive children of his country from Algiers; had reduced by chastisement and conciliated by kindness the most hostile Indian tribes; had restored the credit of the nation and redeemed their reputation for fidelity to the performance of their obligations; had provided for the total extinguishment of the public debt; had settled the Union upon the immoveable foundation of principle, and had drawn around his head for the admiration and emulation of after times, a brighter blaze of glory than had ever encircled the brows of hero, or statesman, patriot or sage."
It was when the administration of Washington was drawing to its close, when after forty-five years spent in the service of his country, when in the evening of his days in his own affecting language, he expected soon to be consigned to the mansions of rest, that he issued that ever memorable farewell address to his countrymen—that address which in the words of the late Chief Justice Jay, " was to be read in this country and in foreign countries, and intended for the present and future generations”. While addressed to the people collectively, and containing advice and warning to the nation, in its relations with foreign States, it at the same time presents in clear and manly outlines, the duties, and the responsibilities, of the individual American Citizen. The importance of preserving the Union of these States—the free and harmonious intercourse among all the members—the avoiding of sectional jealousies—the baneful effects of party spirit-are all urged upon the consideration of his countrymen with that sincerity and earnestness, which their importance demands. As you read, it seems as if Washington had before him when he wrote, the condition of our country at the present time. But let us pass and refer to some of those views which are more particularly applicable to us as individuals. And first, allow me to call attention to what he considers the foundation stone of a republican government.
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
Well has the poet said
"He is a freeman whom the truth makes free."
He who cherishes the faith made manifest in that revelation which the Creator has given to the creature: he who takes for his standard the lofty morality which it teaches, cannot fail to be a good citizen.
If apples of gold should be set in pictures of silver, to please the eye, let this great truth, taught by the Father of his Country, be written on the memories of the American people, so that it may be had in everlasting remembrance.
Having said that both reason and experience forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle, and that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government, he adds on the subject of Education :
"Promote then as an object of primary importance Institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened".
In some of the early messages of Washington he recommended the establishment of a National University where the youth of the country might be educated, to become statesmen and fitted for the various duties of civil life, and also a Military Academy where young men might be trained up in the profession of soldiers. The institution at West Point, whose graduates have ennobled the character of the officers of the American Army, was early recommended by the first President. The cause of general education has found warm supporters from the time of Washington to the present, in most of the States of the Union.
In several of them and especially in our own Empire State, provision is made for the free education of every child. The laws which compel the application of one man's property for the education of another man's children are based upon broad principles.—They assume that in a government where all the people rule-all the people should be educated—that property, liberty and life are rendered more secure--and that in order that the republic shall suffer no harm through the ignorance of the citizen, all shall have the means of education within their reach, literally without money and without price. How far it is consistent with this great and noble principle to throw into the body politic, and clothe with power a great mass of mind often entirely uneducated, I leave for others to determine.
· But it is not alone in the education of the schools that the American citizen should be trained. A man may be a scholar, and yet be a slave—wanting that independence of character, that individuality, that self-reliance, and that practical knowledge which fit men to be partakers in the government of a great country. The elector who casts his vote, at a general election in the United States, discharges a high and responsible duty. He is called upon oftentimes to pass upon questions, which involve the foreign interests and relations of the country, and which according as they are settled, may make for the weal or the woe of present and future generations. He is called to decide questions affecting all the great industrial pursuits—the mercantile, mechanical, manufacturing and agricultural interests of the country. In his own state, he is, under the constitution, literally a sovereign, having in one sense unlimited control over all the interests which legislation can reach. Should not he who is called upon to discharge such duties, be educated and qualified ? Does it not require some knowledge and some experience, to be able to judge rightly upon all these momentous questions? It is said that
“Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.”
And yet it is true that every man born in this country, and availing himself of the ordinary advantages afforded him, can and ought to qualify himself as an elector. The duty of citizenship is cast upon him by his birth. It is not a matter of choice, and he cannot rid himself of the obligations. He is bound to see to it that the republic suffers no harm. “Eternal vigilance," it is said, “ is the price of liberty.” It is the price which every man in this country must pay for being free born. No man ought to say that he does not know what measure is right, or what policy ought to be pursued, or that he distrusts all men and all measures, and therefore will not exercise his right of suffrage. Such a course may be proper in the subject of a despot, but does not become a freeman. As a good citizen, he is in my judgment bound to examine for himself, and make up his own mind, and then go forward, fearlessly and independently, in the discharge of his duty. When every man intelligently expresses his opinion, you realize the true theory of a republic. Then if the citizens are trained up, and fitted by education—and if they recognize the teaching of Washington, that religion and morality are the true supports of a government, there need be no fear of our eminent success as a nation. The views of Washington in reference to the agitating topics of the day, are well understood. In his address, he asks—
"Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation ?
"Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humour or caprice ?"
The heart of a freeman beats when he listens to the stories of wrongs, and oppressions, with which earth is filled; and it is natural that he should be impatient to aid in the redress of those wrongs, and to let the oppressed go free.But we must remember that we are the trustees, of a precious trust, "the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” given to our children by the will of our common ancestors, and we should see to it, that we do not peril the treasure.
Our example has already done much, for the cause of freedom; our career has been one of unexampled success and prosperity. We have shown to the world what freemen and a free government can do. We have established our home upon the land and upon the sea. We have opened up a commerce with all nations.—On every ocean our ships are found, carrying our principles, and our enterprise.
“Whose ready sails with every wind can fly,
I have sometimes thought that we might apply to the nation, the remarks of the late William Wirt, addressed to young men, on decision of character. He .said in substance, that he would not have them like the stream meandering through the meadow, which is turned aside by every trifling obstacle—nor would he have them like the mountain torrent which sweeps away every thing in its course and leaves a rocky and a dusty channel behind it—but he would have them like the ocean itself, that emblem of greatness, which in its calmest moments still heaves its resistless waters to the shore, and purifies itself by its own operation.
So our country should not like the meadow brook, be turned from the path of duty, by the fear of any temporary inconvenience; nor should she, like the mountain torrent, rush madly forward in a crusade for liberty, involving herself perhaps in wars which may leave ruin and misery in their train; but she should