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skies over our heads shed health and vigor. But what are lands, and seas, and skies, to civilized man, without society, without knowledge, without morals, without religious culture; and how can these be enjoyed, in all their extent, and all their excellence, but under the protection of wise institutions and a free government? Fellow-citizens, there is not one of us, there is not one of us here present, who does not, at this moment, and at every moment, experience, in his own condition, and in the condition of those most near and dear to him, the influence and the benefits of this liberty, and these institutions. Let us then acknowledge the blessing, let us feel it deeply and powerfully, let us cherish a strong affection for it, and resolve to maintain and perpetuate it. The blood of our fathers, let it not have been shed in vain; the great hope of posterity, let it not be blasted.
The striking attitude, too, in which we stand to the world around us, a topic to which, I fear, I advert too often, and dwell on too long, cannot be altogether omitted here. Neither individuals nor nations can perform their part well, until they understand and feel its importance, and comprehend and justly appreciate all the duties belonging to it. It is not to inflate national vanity, nor to swell a light and empty feeling of self-importance, but it is that we may judge justly of our situation, and of our own duties, that I earnestly urge this consideration of our position, and our character, among the nations of the earth. It cannot be denied, but by those who would dispute against the sun, that with America, and in America, a new era commences in human affairs. This era is distinguished by Free Representative Governments, by entire religious liberty, by improved systems of national intercourse, by a newly awakened, and an unconquerable spirit of free inquiry, and by a diffusion of knowledge through the community, such as has been before altogether unknown and unheard of. America, America, our country, fellow-citizens, our own dear and native land, is inseparably connected, fast bound up, in for
tune and by fate, with these great interests. If they fall, we fall with them; if they stand, it will be because we have upholden them. Let us contemplate, then, this connexion, which binds the prosperity of others to our own; and let us manfully discharge all the duties which it imposes. If we cherish the virtues and the principles of our fathers, Heaven will assist us to carry on the work of human liberty and human hap
Auspicious omens cheer us. Great examples are before us. Our own firmament now shines brightly upon our path. Washington is in the clear upper sky. Those other stars have now joined the American constellation; they circle round their centre, and the heavens beam with new light. Beneath this illumination, let us walk the course of life,' and at its close devoutly commend our beloved country, the common parent of us all, to the Divine Benignity.
PRONOUNCED AT CAMBRIDGE, BEFORE
THE PHI BETA KAPPA SOCIETY,
AT THE ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, ON THE THIRTY-FIRST
DAY OF AUGUST, 1826,
BY JOSEPH STORY,
GENTLEMEN, If I had consulted my own wishes, I should not have presumed to address you on the present occasion. The habits of professional employment rarely admit of leisure for the indulgence of literary taste. "And in a science, whose mastery demands a whole life of laborious diligence, whose details are inexhaustible, and whose intricacies task the most acute intellects, it would be matter of surprise, if every hour withdrawn from its concerns did not somewhat put at hazard the success of its votary. Nor can it escape observation, how much the technical doctrines of a jurisprudence, drawn from remote antiquity, and expanding itself over the business of many ages, must have a tendency to chill that enthusiasm, which lends encouragement to every enterprize, and to obscure those finer forms of thought, which give to literature its lovelier, I may say, its inexpressible graces. The consciousness of difficulties of this sort may well be supposed to press upon every professional mind. They can be overlooked by those only, whose youth has not been tried in the hard school of experience, or whose genius gives no credit to impossibilities.
I have not hesitated, however, to yield to your invitation, trusting to that indulgence, which has not hitherto been withheld from well meant efforts, and not un
willing to add the testimony of my own example, however humble, in favor of the claims of this society to the services of all its members.
We live in an extraordinary age. It has been marked by events, which will leave a durable impression upon tho pages of history by their own intrinsic importance. But they will be read with far deeper emotions in their effects upon future ages; in their consequences upon the happiness of whole communities; in the direct or silent changes forced by them into the very structure of society; in the establishment of a new and mighty empire, the empire of public opinion; in the operation of what Lord Bacon has characterized almost as supreme power, the power of knowledge, working its way to universality, and interposing checks upon government and people, by means gentle and decisive, which have never before been fully felt, and are even now, perhaps, incapable of being perfectly comprehended. Other ages have been marked by brilliant feats in
Wars have been waged for the best and for the worst of purposes. The ambitious conqueror has trodden whole nations under his feet, to satisfy the lust of power; and the eagles of his victories have stood on either extreme of the civilized world. The barbarian has broken loose from his northern fastnesses, and overwhelmed in his progress temples and thrones, the adorers of the true God, and the worshippers of idols. Heroes and patriots have successfully resisted the invaders of their country, or perished in its defence; and in each way have given immortality to their exploits. Kingdoms have been rent asunder by intestine broils, or by struggles for freedom. Bigotry has traced out the march of its persecutions in footsteps of blood; and superstition employed its terrors to nerve the arm of the tyrant, or immolate his victims. There have been ancient leagues for the partition of empires, for the support of thrones, for the fencing out of human improvement, and for the consolidation of arbitrary power. There have, too, been
bright spots on the earth, where the cheering light of liberty shone in peace; where learning unlocked its stores in various profusion; where the arts unfolded themselves in every form of beauty and grandeur ; where literature loved to linger in academic shades, or enjoy the public sunshine ; where song lent new inspiration to the temple; where eloquence alternately consecrated the hall of legislation, or astonished the forum with its appeals.
We may not assert, that the present age can lay claim to the production of any one of the mightiest efforts of human genius. Homer and Virgil, and Shakspeare and Milton were of other days, and yet stand unrivalled in song. Time has not inscribed upon the sepulchre of the dead any nobler names in eloquence, than Demosthenes and Cicero. Who has outdone the chisel of Phidias, or the pencil of Michael Angelo, and Raffaelle? Where are the monuments of our day, whose architecture dares to contend with the Doric, Ionic or Corinthian of Greece, or even with the Composite or Gothic of later times ? History yet points to the pregnant though brief text of Tacitus, and acknowledges no finer models than those of antiquity. The stream of a century has swept by the works of Locke and Newton; yet they still stand alone in unapproached, in unapproachable majesty.
Nor may we pronounce, that the present age by its collective splendor in arts and arms casts into shade all former epochs. The era of Pericles witnessed a combination of talents and acquirements, of celebrated deeds and celebrated works, which the lapse of twenty-two centuries has left unobscured. Augustus, surveying his mighty empire, could scarcely contemplate with more satisfaction the triumph of his arms, than the triumph of the philosophy and literature of Rome. France yet delights to dwell on the times of Lewis the Fourteenth, as the proudest in her annals; and England, with far less propriety, looks back upon the reign of Queen Anne for the best models of her literary excellence.