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and worship, to listen to the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and discourses from pious ministers of the several denominations.
This attention to the wants of the intellect and of the soul, as manifested by the voluntary support of schools and colleges, of churches and benevolent institutions, is one of the most remarkable characteristics of the American people, not less strikingly exhibited in the new than in the older settlements of the country. On the spot where the first trees of the forest were felled, near the log cabins of the pioneers, are to be seen rising together the church and the schoolhouse. So has it been from the beginning, and God grant that it may thus continue!
“On other shores, above their mouldering towns,
In sullen pomp, the tall cathedral frowns;
Who does not admit that this unparalleled growth in prosperity and renown is the result, under Providence, of the union of these States, under a general Constitution, which guarantees to each State a republican form of government, and to every man the enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, free from civil tyranny or ecclesiastical domination ?
And, to bring home this idea to the present occasion, who does not feel that, when President Washington laid
his hand on the foundation of the first Capitol, he performed a great work of perpetuation of the Union and the Constitution? Who does not feel that this seat of the gen. eral government, healthful in its situation, central in its position, near the mountains whence gush springs of wonderful virtue, teeming with Nature's richest products, and yet not far from the bays and the great estuaries of the sea, easily accessible and generally agreeable in climate and association, does give strength to the union of these States ? that this city, bearing an immortal name, with its broad streets and avenues, its public squares and magnificent edifices of the general government, erected for the purpose of carrying on within them the important business of the several departments, for the reception of wonderful and curious inventions, for the preservation of the records of American learning and genius, of extensive collections of the products of nature and art, brought hither for study and comparison from all parts of the world—adorned with numerous churches, and sprinkled over, I am happy to say, with many public schools, where all the children of the city, without distinction, have the means of obtaining a good education, and with academies and colleges, professional schools and public libraries-should continue to receive, as it has heretofore received, the fostering care of Congress, and should be regarded as the permanent seat of the national government ? Here, too, a citizen of the great republic of letters, a republic which knows not the metes and bounds of political geography, has prophetically indicated his conviction that America is to exercise a wide and powerful influence in the intellectual world, by founding in this city, as a commanding position in the field of science and literature, and placing under the guardianship of the government, an institution “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”
With each succeeding year new interest is added to the spot; it becomes connected with all the historical associations of our country, with her statesmen and her orators, and, alas! its cemetery is annually enriched by the ashes of her chosen sons.
Before us is the broad and beautiful river, separating two of the original thirteen States, which a late President, a man of determined purpose and inflexible will, but patriotic heart, desired to span with arches of ever-enduring granite, symbolical of the firmly cemented union of the North and the South. That President was General Jackson.
On its banks repose the ashes of the Father of his Country, and at our side, by a singular felicity of position, overlooking the city which he designed, and which bears his name, rises to his memory the marble column, sublime in its simple grandeur, and fitly intended to reach a loftier height than any similar structure on the surface of the whole earth.
Let the votive offerings of his grateful countrymen be freely contributed to carry this monument higher and still higher. May I say, as on another occasion, “Let it rise; let it rise till it meet the sun in his coming; let the earliest light of the morning gild it, and parting day linger and play on its summit!"
Fellow citizens, what contemplations are awakened in our minds as we assemble here to re-enact a scene like that performed by Washington! Methinks I see his venerable form now before me, as presented in the glorious statue by Houdon, now in the Capitol of Virginia. He is dignified and grave; but concern and anxiety seem to soften the lineaments of his countenance. The government over which he presides is yet in the crisis of experiment. Not free from troubles at home, he sees the world in commotion and in arms all around him. He sees that imposing foreign powers are half disposed to try the strength of the recently established American government. We perceive that mighty thoughts, mingled with fears as well as with hopes, are struggling within him. He heads a short procession over these then naked fields; he crosses yonder stream on a fallen tree; he ascends to the top of this eminence, whose original oaks of the forest stand as thick around him as if the spot had been devoted to Druidical worship, and here he performs the appointed duty of the day.
And now, fellow citizens, if this vision were a reality; if Washington actually were now among us, and if he could draw around him the shades of the great public men of his own day, patriots and warriors, orators and statesmen, and were to address us. in their presence, would he not say to us: “Ye men of this generation, I rejoice and thank God for being able to see that our labors and toils and sacrifices were not in vain. You are prosperous, you are happy, you are grateful; the fire of liberty burns brightly and steadily in your hearts, while duty and the law restrain it from bursting forth in wild and destructive conflagration. Cherish liberty, as you love it; cherish its securities, as you wish to preserve it. Maintain the Constitution which we labored so painfully to establish, and which has been to you such a source of inestimable blessings. Preserve the Union of the States, cemented as it was by our prayers, our tears, and our blood. Be true to God, to your country, and to your duty. So shall the whole Eastern world follow the morning sun to contemplate you as a nation; so shall all generations honor you, as they honor us; and so shall that Almighty Power which so graciously protected us, and which now protects you, shower its everlasting blessings upon you and your posterity.”
Great Father of your Country! we heed your words; we feel their force as if you now uttered them with lips of flesh and blood. Your example teaches us, your affectionate addresses teach us, your public life teaches us, your sense of the value of the blessings of the Union. Those blessings our fathers have tasted, and we have tasted, and still taste. Nor do we intend that those who come after us shall be denied the same high fruition. Our honor as well as our happiness is concerned. We cannot, we dare not, we will not, betray our sacred trust. We will not filch from posterity the treasure placed in our hands to be transmitted to other generations. The bow that gilds the clouds in the heavens, the pillars that uphold the firmament, may disappear and fall away in the hour appointed by the will of God; but until that day comes, or so long as our lives may last, no ruthless hand shall undermine that bright arch of Union and Liberty which spans the continent from Washington to California.
Fellow citizens, we must sometimes be tolerant to folly, and patient at the sight of the extreme waywardness of men; but I confess that, when I reflect on the renown of our past history, on our present prosperity and greatness, and on what the future hath yet to unfold, and when I see that there are men who can find in all this nothing good, nothing valuable, nothing truly glorious, I feel that all their reason has fled away from them, and left the entire control over their judgment and their actions to insanity and fanaticism; and more than all, fellow citizens, if the purposes of fanatics and dis
$ 11–Orations—Vol. VII.