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made during the war : the total inefficacy of the recommendatory federal system, which had been formed in the bosom of contention: the peaceable and deliberate adoption of a more effectual national constitution by the people of the union, and the prosperous administration of that government, which has repaired the shattered fabric of public confidence, which has strengthened the salutary bands of national union, and restored the bloom and vigor of impartial justice to the public countenance, afford a subject of pleasing contemplation to the patriotic mind. The repeated unanimity of the nation has placed at the head of the American councils, the heroic leader, whose prudence and valor conducted to victory the armies of freedom: and the two first offices of this commonwealth, still exhibit the virtues and employ the talents of the venerable patriots,* whose firm and disinterested devotion to the cause of Liberty, was rewarded by the honorable distinction of a British proscription. Americans ! the voice of grateful freedom is a stranger to the language of adulation. While we wish these illustrious sages to be assured that the memory of their services is impressed upon all our hearts, in characters, indelible to the latest period of time, we trust that the most acceptable tribute of respect, which can be offered to their virtues, is found in the confidence of their countrymen. From the fervent admiration of future ages, when the historians of America, shall trace from their examples the splendid pattern of public virtue, their merits will receive a recompense of much more precious estimation than can be conferred by the most flattering testimonials of contemporaneous applause.
The magnitude and importance of the great event which we commemorate, derives a vast accession from its influence upon the affairs of the world, and its operation upon the history of mankind. It has already
* John Hancock and Samuel Adams, the two distinguished leaders of the republicans in Massachusetts,
been observed that the origin of the American revolution bears a character different from that of any other civil contest, that has ever arisen among men. not the convulsive struggle of slavery to throw off the burden of accumulated oppression ; but the deliberate, though energetic effort of freemen, to repel the insidious approaches of tyranny. It was a contest involving the elementary principles of government—a question of right between the sovereign and the subject which, in its progress, had a tendency to introduce among the civilized nations of Europe, the discussion of a topic the first in magnitude, which can attract the attention of mankind, but which, for many centuries, the gloomy shades of despotism had overspread with impenetrable darkness. The French nation cheerfully supported an alliance with the United States, and a war with Britain, during the course of which a large body of troops and considerable fleets were sent by the French government, to act in conjunction with their new allies. The union, which had at first been formed by the coalescence of a common enmity, was soon strengthened by the bonds of a friendly intercourse, and the subjects of an arbitrary prince, in fighting the battles of freedom, soon learned to cherish the cause of liberty itself. By a natural and easy application to themselves of the principles upon which the Americans asserted the justice of their warfare, they were led to inquire into the nature of the obligation which prescribed their submission to their own sovereign; and when they discovered that the consent of the people is the only legitimate source of authority, they necessarily drew the conclusion, that their own obedience was no more than the compulsive acquiescence of servitude ; and they waited only for a favorable opportunity to recover the possession of those enjoyments, to which they had never forfeited the right. Sentiments of a similar nature, by a gradual and imperceptible progress, secretly undermined all the foundations of their government; and when the necessities of the sove
reign reduced him to the inevitable expedient of appealing to the benevolence of the people, the magic talisman of despotism was broken, the spell of prescriptive tyranny was dissolved, and the pompous pageant of their monarchy, instantaneously crumbled to atoms.
The subsequent European events, which have let slip the dogs of war, to prey upon the vitals of humanity; which have poured the torrent of destruction over the fairest harvests of European fertility; which have unbound the pinions of desolation, and sent her forth to scatter pestilence and death among the nations; the scaffold smoking with the blood of a fallen monarch; the corpse-covered field, where agonizing nature struggles with the pangs of dissolution-permit me, my happy countrymen, to throw a pall over objects like these, which could only spread a gloom upon the face of our festivity. Let us rather indulge the pleasing and rational anticipation of the period, when all the nations of Europe shall partake of the blessings of equal liberty and universal peace. Whatever issue may be destined by the will of heaven, to await the termination of the present European commotions, the system of feudal absurdity has received an irrecoverable wound, and every symptom indicates its approaching dissolution. The seeds of liberty are plentifully
However severe the climate, however barren the soil of the regions in which they have been received, such is the native exuberance of the plant, that it must eventually flourish with luxuriant profusion. The governments of Europe must fall; and the only re. maining expedient in their power, is to gather up their garments and fall with decency. The bonds of civil subjection must be loosened by the discretion of civil authority, or they will be shivered by the convulsive efforts of slavery itself
. The feelings of benevolence involuntarily make themselves a party to every circumstance that can affect the happiness of mankind; they are ever ready to realize the sanguine hope, that
the governments to rise upon the ruins of the present systems, will be immutably founded upon the principles of freedom, and administered by the genuine maxims of moral subordination and political equality. We cherish, with a fondness which cannot be chilled by the cold, unanimated philosophy of scepticism, the delightful expectation, that the cancer of arbitrary power will be radically extracted from the human constitution; that the sources of oppression will be drained; that the passions, which have hitherto made the misery of mankind, will be disarmed of all their violence, and give place to the soft control of mild and amiable sentiments, which shall unite in social harmony the innumerable varieties of the human race. Then shall the nerveless arm of superstition no longer interpose an impious barrier between the beneficence of heaven and the adoration of its votaries; then shall the most distant regions of the earth be approximated by the gentle attraction of a liberal intercourse; then shall the fair fabric of universal liberty rise upon the durable foundation of social equality, and the long expected era of human felicity, which has been announced by prophetic inspiration, and described in the most enraptured language of the muses, shall commence its splendid progress.. Visions of bliss! with every breath to heaven we speed an ejaculation, that the time may hasten, when your reality shall be no longer the ground of votive supplication, but the theme of grateful acknowledgment; when the choral gratulations of the liberated myriads of the elder world, in symphony, sweeter than the music of the spheres, shall hail your country, Americans! as the youngest daughter of Nature, and the first-born offspring of Freedom.
TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES.
FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS, The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprize you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made.
I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken, without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that, in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence, in my situation, might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest; no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness; but am supported by a full conviction, that the step is compatible with both.
The acceptance of, and continuance, hitherto, in the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to