Page images

10 age.

to a morning's walk in the olive gardens of the academy, the young men of this factious city. Those tumultuous assemblies of Athens,—the very same, which rose in

their wrath, and to a man clamored for the blood of 5 Phocion--required to be addressed, not in the cheap,

extemporaneous rant of modern demagogues, but in the elaborate and thrice-repeated orations of Demosthenes. No! the noble and elegant arts of Greece grew up in no Augustan age,-enjoyed neither royal nor imperial jatron

Unknown before in the world, strangers on the Nile, and strangers on the Euphrates, they sprang at once into life in a region not unlike our own New England, iron-bound, sterile, and free.

The imperial astronomers of Chaldea went up almost 15 to the stars in their observatories; but it was a Greek who

first foretold an eclipse, and measured the year. The nations of the East invented the alphabet; but not a line has reached us of profane literature, in any of their lan

guages,--and it is owing to the embalming power of 20 Grecian genius, that the invention itself has been trans

mitted to the world. The Egyptian architects could erect structures, which, after three thousand five hundred years, are still standing in their uncouth, original majesty ; but it

was only on the barren soil of Attica, that the beautiful 25 columns of the Parthenon and the Theseum could rest,

which are standing also. With the decline of liberty in
Greece, began the decline of all her letters, and all her
arts, though her tumultuous democracies were succeeded
by liberal and accomplished princes.

[ocr errors]



Among all the attractions of divine worship, there is none like that of the preacher's natural eloquence. No instrument of music is so sweet as the human voice, when

attuned, as it may be, by care. The most exhilarating 5 band of performers on the dulcimer and the cymbal, will

be heard with less pleasure, than he who has learned to
play well on that instrument which is as far superior to
all others, as a work of God is superior to the works of

Let it then no longer be said, that while an organ


[ocr errors]

ist will spend years in learning to manage a collection of leaden pipes, the preacher is unwilling to exert himself for acquiring a control over the stops and keys of what is

far more religious in its tones, than the organ. So, like5 wise, the human eye can be made eloquent, when the

tongue can say no more; the palm of the hand, too, has an eye which is full of meaning. But the philosophy of these organs is neither understood, nor applied to prac.

tice, by our preachers. 10 If we dwelt in a land, where the preacher is the only

man who ventures to address an assembly, then we might lean on this privilege, and rest assured, that a faulty eloquence in the pulpit, is better than none at all


the people. But we dwell in a land, where the laymen are 15 popular orators; where the mechanic is master of a racy,

vigorous diction ; where the reformed inebriate can electrify an audience who will sleep under a lifeless sermon; where the enemies of religion and social order, have

caught the spirit and the fire which the ministry have 20 lost. Other men can speak without reading; and unless

we can use, in a good cause, the weapons which infidels use in a bad one, we shall surrender the truth to dangers which can arise nowhere, but in a republic. Nowhere,

but in this republic, is the force of popular eloquence felt 25 universally ; and the church will be overborne, if this force be not controlled with unwonted skill.

We have not sought to recover the naturalness of manner which an artificial education has perverted. We still

allow our theological seminaries to remain destitute of all 30 adequate instruction on this theme. It is confidently be

lieved, that, if professorships of elocution were properly endowed and supplied in our theological seminaries, a more immediate and a more manifest service would be

rendered to the pulpit, than can be performed by almost 35 any other charity ; for the department of elocution is now

more neglected than any other; and if nature were allowed to resume the place, from which the worst species of art has expelled it, the improvement in our speech would be

seen and felt more easily, quickly, and generally, than 40 almost any other kind of improvement.



[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Let us look, for a moment, at the arguments advanced by the opponents of the bill. The meritorious services of the petitioners, the signal advantages that have resulted

from these services to us and to posterity ; the losses sus5 tained by the petitioners, and the consequent advantages

derived by the government from the act of commutation, are unequivocally admitted.

But it is contended, we have made a compromise legally binding on the parties, and exonerating the government 10 from farther liability ; that, in an evil and unguarded hour,

they have given us a release, and we stand upon our “bond.”

Now, the question which I wish to address to the con

science and the judgment of this honorable body, is this, 16 not whether this issue was well taken in point of law;

not whether we might not hope for a safe deliverance under it; but whether the issue ought to be taken at all ; whether it comports with the honor of the government to

plead a legal exemption against the claims of gratitude ; 20 whether, in other words, the government be bound at all times to insist upon its strict legal rights.

Has this been the practice of the government on all former occasions? Or, is this the only question on which

this principle should operate ? Nothing can be easier 25 than to show, that the uniform practice of the government

has been at war with the principle which is now opposed to the claim of the petitioners.

Not a session has occurred, since the commencement of this government, in which Congress has not relieved the 30 citizens from hardships resulting from unforeseen contin

gencies, and forborne an enforcement of law, when its enforcement would work great and undeserved injury. I might, if excusable on an occasion like this, turn over the

statute book, page by page, and give repeated proofs of 35 this assertion. But it is unnecessary.

It appears, then, that it has not been the practice of the government to act the part of Shylock with its citizens , and God forbid, that it should make its debut* on the

present occasion, not so much in the character of merci40 less creditor, as a reluctant, though wealthy debtor; with



holding the merited pittance from those to whose noble

* Pronounced dabū.

daring and unrivalled fortitude, we are indebted for the privilege of sitting in judgment on their claims; and manifesting more sensibility for the purchasers of our

lands, than for those by whose bravery they were won; and 5 but for whose achievements, those very purchasers, instead

of being the proprietors of their soil, and the citizens of free and sovereign states, might now be the mis able vassals of some worthless favorite of arbitrary power.

If disposed to be less liberal to the Revolutionary offi10 cers than to other classes of community, let us at least

testify our gratitude by relieving their sufferings, and returning a portion of those immense gains which have been the glorious fruits of their toil and of their blood.

Such would, in my judgment, be a correct view of the 15 subject, had the government relieved itself of all farther

liability, by the most ample and unexceptionable performance of its stipulations. How much stronger, then, will be their appeal to your justice, if it can be shown, that you

have no right to urge this act of commutation, as a com20 plete fulfilment of your promise ?



After deploring with you the desolation spread through this state, by an unrelenting enemy, who have, indeed, marked their progress with a devastation unknown to civ

ilized nations, and evincive of the most implacable ven5 geance, I heartily congratulate you upon that subsequent

series of success, wherewith it hath pleased the Almighty to crown the American arms; and particularly, on the important enterprise against the enemy at Trenton, and the

signal victory obtained over them at Princeton, by the gal10 lant troops under the command of his excellency, General Washington.

Considering the contemptible figure they make at present, and the disgust they, have given to many of their own

confederates amongst us, by their more than Gothic rav15 ages, (for thus doth the great Disposer of events often de

duce good out of evil,) their irruption into our dominion will probably redound to the public benefit. It has certainly enabled us the more effectually to distinguish our

friends from our enemies. It has winnowed the chaff 20 from the grain. It has, discriminated the temporizing poli

tician, who, at the first appearance of danger, was determined to secure his idol, property, at the hazard of the general weal, from the persevering patriot, who, having embarked his all in the common cause, chooses rather to

risk, rather to lose that all, for the preservation of the 5 more estimable treasure, liberty, than to possess it, (enjoy

it he certainly could not,) upon the ignominious terms of tamely resigning his country and posterity to perpetual servitude. It has, in a word, opened the eyes of those

who were made to believe, that their impious merit, in 10 abetting our persecutors, would exempt them from being involved in the general calamity.

But, as the rapacity of the enemy was boundless, their havoc was indiscriminate, and their barbarity unparalleled.

They have plundered friends and foes. Effects, capable 15 of division, they have divided. Such as were not, they

have destroyed. They have warred upon decrepit age; warred upon defenceless youth. They have committed hostilities against the professors of literature, and the min

isters of religion; against public records, and private mon20 uments, and books of improvement, and papers of curiosity,

and against the arts and sciences. They have butchered the wounded, asking for quarter; mangled the dying, weltering in their blood ; refused to the dead the rites of

sepulture ; suffered prisoners to perish for want of suste25 nance; violated the chastity of women; disfigured private

dwellings of taste and elegance; and, in the rage of impiety and barbarism, profaned and prostrated edifices dedicated to Almighty God.

And yet there are those ainongst us, who, either from 30 ambitious or lucrative motives, or intimidated by the terror

of their arms, or from a partial fondness for the British constitution, or deluded by insidious propositions, are secretly abetting, or openly aiding their machinations to deprive us

of that liberty, without which man is a beast, and govern35 ment a curse.



Sir, I wish for peace; I wish the negotiation may succeed ; and, therefore, I strongly urge you to adopt these resolutions. But though you should adopt them, they alone will not ensure success. I have no hesitation in saying,

« PreviousContinue »