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Mr. Mayor, Gentlemen Of The Council, FellowCitizens : —
The annual town-meeting, held in Boston in 1783, voted "that the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence should be constantly celebrated by the delivery of a public oration, in which the orator shall consider the feelings, manners, and principles which led to this great national event, as well as the important and happy effects" thatw shall forever continue to flow from it." From that time there has been a succession of utterances giving expression to the love and veneration in which successive generations on this historic soil hold the memory of the sages and heroes of the Revolution. The men of Boston of that era, by their unswerving devotion to principle, won the admiration of their brethren in all the colonies, and the gratitude of posterity.
"We meet to-day, not as citizens of a town, or of a city, or of a State, but as Americans. From the time of the morning guns and bells to eventide, when the sky is brilliant with illuminations, the thought is fixed on the country. "What a spectacle of progress it has presented, as the three millions who began the national life with the aim of planting here the seeds of Christian civilization, grew to forty millions! Commonwealth after commonwealth rose and took their places by the side of the thirteen original States, and thus as co-equals entered into the great inheritance of liberty and law,—each, by planting the school and the church, aiming to keep active those safeguards of our institutions, public education and religion.
Boston presents a type of this progress. Its population was but sixteen thousand when it did the great service in behalf of the principles of the Revolution; a population of three hundred and seventy-five thousand rejoices in the happy effects that flowed from the triumph. To-day, with the addition of Brighton, Charlestown, Dorchester, and Roxbury, there, may be said to be a new Boston. Hence, the community dwelling in the beautiful natural scenery in which Joseph Warren was born, the communities around Bunker Hill and Faneuil Hall, join now, for the first time, to celebrate the glorious Fourth. As their famed w Committees of Correspondence" met of old in council to promote the cause of liberty and union, so may their descendants be ever ready to stand forth in their defence.
The work of to-day is a work of peace. Boston is growing. On every side we see life and vigor. The way in which enterprise is covering with solid structures the recent desolation by fire, and the activity in the marts of trade, show how alive business men are to their opportunities. May the inhabitants of the places recently incorporated with Boston catch something of the spirit of the original town, and become sensitive to its interests and honor. Unquestionably it is destined to be a great city. There cannot be a wiser policy than to take every step with such a future in view. Indeed, nothing is surer than a continuous growth of Boston, because nothing is surer than that its priceless privileges, its noble educational and charitable activities, its commerce and its arts, will ever have, what is essential to them, the protective shield of a great nation.
We are here to celebrate the day in which the birth of the nation was announced to the world. The Saxon, the Celt and the Norman, the Scot, the Swede and the Huguenot came here, encountered the hardships of the wilderness, and began a new civilization. They brought with them old ideas and principles; but here they assumed a significance they never had before. They brought here the Christian idea of man; on it they built their superstructure, and the individual took his proper place in the political system. They brought with them the idea of the municipality; but in their hands this primordial political unit became a new creation. They brought with them the great discovery of modern times, representation; and in their hands, as applied in the municipality and to the general assembly, it was a representation of every community. In this way was produced the free and independent American. It was a new growth. It was the greatest American product. Power attempted to check this development. Original methods were devised to meet the demands and wants of the hour. The thirteen communities grew into union. They became the United Colonies. At length a majority of the people of these colonies instructed their representatives in Congress assembled to dissolve their connection wTith the crown. This was done by the resolution passed on the Second day of July, 1776. Then the United Colonies became the United States. The form of proclaiming this fact was then matured. On the Fourth day of July the Declaration announced that the people had assumed, "among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitled them."
Prophecy then became reality. It is remarkable how far back there were prophetic voices concerning this continent. They are met with before it was discovered,— before even the voyages of the Northmen. I have not time even to quote these sayings. Columbus knew of them, and used them to induce monarchs to engage in costly enterprise. Thus the unknown quantity in America, like the unknown quantity in algebra, helped to solve the problem of its own existence.
In the early days of colonization, Herbert wrote the well-known lines,
"Religion stands on tiptoe in our land,
which Archbishop Tillotson, in 1703, interpreted to mean, that, when vice should overspread England, the Gospel would pass into America, and that vast colonies had been transplanted out of Europe into these parts on purpose to make way for the change. The idea that these colonies were looking to the establishment of a republic, that they designed independence, and would become independent, was discussed in the Cabinets of Charles the Second and of James, and in the Parliament of Queen Anne. It was a constant allegation of the royal governors throughout the colonial age that they were devising plans for dissolving their allegiance to the crown. During this period the rising glory of America was the theme of many an American pen. It was common to predict that ,here would be a great nation. I can think of no prediction so distinct as that of Nathaniel Ames, the father of Fisher Ames. His little almanac of 1758, full of information in regard to the condition of the country, burns and glows with the thought of