Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

the rising glory of America. “As,” he says, “the celestial light of the Gospel was directed here by the finger of God, it will doubtless finally drive the long, long night of heathenish darkness from America. So arts and sciences will change the face of nature in their tour from hence to the western ocean.” Having dwelt on the prospect of progress, he says, “O ye unborn inhabitants of America should this page escape the destined conflagration at the year's end, and these alphabetical letters remain legible; when your eyes behold the sun after he has rolled the season round for two or three centuries more, you will know that in Anno Domini 1758 we dreamed of your times.” . - r This was printed on the eve of the aggressions on the rights of the colonists, by successive British administrations. They elicited a continuous strain of animating prophecy concerning America. It was computed, in 1765, that in seventy-five years the population would number sixteen millions ; that in one hundred years it would increase to thirty-two millions; and it was said that America would be the greatest empire the world had ever seen. It was averred, in 1773, that, if the ministry persisted in its policy, it would not be fifteen years before the Americans would form an independent nation; and all were enjoined to prepare to act as joint members of the

grand American Commonwealth. In this way a sentiment of nationality mingled instinctively in the utterances with the idea of independence; or the thought that the colonies would not only throw off their allegiance to the crown, but would become a

political unit, — a nation. This sentiment was min

istered to by the nature of the country: — a vast, connected, and fertile land; the absence of impassable barriers between the sections; a climate uniting the productions of the torrid and the temperate zones; majestic rivers inviting inland communication; an imperial line of coast, stimulating maritime enterprise. It seemed, to the thoughtful, that the Almighty had formed it for the abode of a people that should stand pre-eminent in the world. Their ideal of what should constitute a country was not simply hills and valleys, land and water, but spiritual things as well; and as they mused on the establishment, in this land, of American liberty on the basis of American law, - on the Christian idea of man that was shaping their civil and religious institutions, - they reached the faith that progress was about to receive a fresh impulse, “ as if the New World was to surpass the Old, and the glory of the human nature was to receive its highest perfection near the setting sun.” But there is an unfair way of presenting even truths, as when all the facts are gathered on One side of a subject, and those on the other side are ignored. The critical have a right to ask the salient

question, Is there not to be found as much argument in favor of forming the thirteen colonies, each entirely independent of each other, into so many nations, as there is in favor of establishing one American Republic? The conviction in relation to the power which might be justly exercised by the several colonies was remarkable. There was in the public mind an ideal of a line of limitation, in relation to local rights, which they never allowed the imperial power to invade without a protest. From the earliest period of the colonies, down to the controversy on the Stamp Act, there was not a single assembly which had not been called upon, at One time or another, to defend their free exercise of political rights against the aggressions of the prerogative. In each instance the same manliness in

standing in defence of this ideal line was ever seen.

There was a oneness of political ideas in all the colonies on this point. The positions thus maintained with respect to local rights induced the royalists to charge upon their opponents, that, logically, they would make each town, or each county, or each colony, an independent nation. The whigs would indignantly repudiate this, and would aver that they claimed no rights which were inconsistent with any obligation which the individual, the municipality, or the colony owed to the crown or the common country. They revered the British Constitution, because they viewed it as a protector of their civil and religious institutions. Especially did they look upon their municipalities and their general assemblies as the fields in which the individual was trained in the duties of self-government. But I have not met, in all the files of newspapers which I have examined, prior to 1776, a single essay, written by a whig, urging the establishment of thirteen nations. Thus there is found, in the political thought of that era, the idea of a nation. It was not merely speculation by the scholar in his closet. It was a distinct aim urged in the press. It was the talk in the marts of trade, in the workshop, in the fields. The thought was grander than Greece ever attained. “That the Greeks could be united into one political community, never came into the mind of any Greek statesman, or Greek philosopher. The independence of each city was the one cardinal principle from which all Greek political life started. The city was the Greek idea of a nation.” In America it was not merely public opinion, but it was a conviction that the civilization which had been planted here demanded for its future development the protective power of a common country. The Declaration of Independence was the joint act of a people acting on such ideas. It was matured, announced, and ratified, under circumstances that

Americans on this day cannot tire of remembering.

The war had continued, with various success, from the hour of the rattle of the musketry on the glorious morning of the nineteenth of April, 1775. During the summer succeeding perils were multiplying on every side. The Indians in the settlements on the frontiers were indulging their merciless play of scalping; Carlton was driving the continental army out of Canada; the Howes, at the head of a powerful land and naval force, were threatening New England and moving on New York; Parker's fleet was approaching Charleston; the loyalists were arming, enrolling and rising in Delaware, New Jersey and New York. “ Armies,” it was said in the press, “ composed of Hessians, Hanoverians, regulars, and Indians, were plundering and murdering, while the king was amusing a distressed people with the sound of commissioners crying, ‘ Peace, peace, when there is no peace!” “Anxiety and apprehension,” a contemporary says, “invaded every breast. Every public assembly, every religious congregation, every scene of social intercourse or domestic privacy and retirement, was a scene of deliberation on the public calamity and impending danger.” There was mourning in many a home on account of the fall of the “beauty of Israel on the high places.” What though the land was poor, and the future all unknown? The people felt that the time which the prophets had predicted had come. There was a sentiment of

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »