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its blessings to their descendants. They were not less conspicuous for the wisdom of their counsels in the cabinet, than distinguished for their heroic valor and fortitude in the field. If they had encircled their brows with honor and glory as beroes and warriors, they added an undying immortality to their names as legislators. They erected a government, very far surpassing any model, which the world had known in practical operation.
By the introduction of the federative and representative principles, they accommodated a republican system to the difficult operation of regulating an extended territory, with a population of different and sometimes jarring interests. By surrounding it with all the checks and balances which human ingenuity could devise, they endeavored to provide for its security. By the recognition of the fundamental principle that sovereignty abides in the people, and thus constituting them the source of all legitimate power, they infused into it a recuperative energy, a resuscitating principle. The people are thus constituted the arbiters of their own destiny.
And the argument is founded on sound basis which supposes, that a departure, in the administration of government from its great first principles, operating injuriously to the interests of the people, will ultimately find its corrective in this renovating feature of the government. Many causes may lead us to aberrate far from the path of duty and happiness - the conflicts of sectional interests, the impulses of ungoverned ambition, the excitements of party — but still, the tendency of this principle will be to restore us. Its force and power, however, depend upon, and essentially imply requisite qualifications in the people. These are mainly virtue and knowledge. How great, in this respect, is our preëminence over the once splendid but fallen republics of antiquity? The lights of science indeed beamed upon them; but they were destitute of that better knowledge which illuminates our moral nature, and subdues the mighty powers of intellect and mind beneath the controlling influence of virtue. The history of much later periods exhibits the progress of human improvement darkened with many shades, and the perversion of the highest attainments in science and knowledge to the destruction of the foundations of social order and happiness. The eighteenth century, in the example and fate of continental Europe, furnishes a memorable
lesson to the world of the awful consequences of a separation between the lights of philosophy and the obligations of religion; and demonstrates the necessity, that the monument erected to science should be placed at the side of an altar erected to the Deity. We are professedly a Christian people, and if our country is destined to escape the dangers which wrecked the ancient republics, to survive the shock of time, and continue a blessing to her people, and an example for good to the nations of the earth, it will be mainly owing to the fact, that we are a Christian people.
Far preëminent too, over the ancients is our position with regard to the means of diffusing that degree of intelligence and education among all classes of the people, necessary to a correct apprehension of the nature of our government, and the exercise of a proper judgment upon its administration. I allude to that expanded system of public and free schools, so universally adopted in our country; and, to the mighty power introduced by the art of printing and a public press. It is not the eminence attained, in particular departments of the sciences, that is involved in our present reflections. This is confined in all countries to a few favored geniuses. It is a more humble degree, but a general diffusion of knowledge we are contemplating.
The three great departments of active industry and productive labor, agriculture, manufactures and commerce, are constantly tending to augment the wealth and power of the country, and thus add to the stability and perpetuity of the government. The very collisions which these sometimes conflicting interests create, have reacted on the administration with a purifying influence. Whilst the vastly increasing population of our country, with its consequent increased demands upon each of these departments, must ere long place them respectively beyond the necessity of legislative protection, and enable each to flourish by its own unaided strength.
The spirit of improvement in our country has taken a sound and healthful direction. The republics and empires of antiquity, and the despotic governments of more modern times, employed much of their superabundant wealth in the erection of splendid ornaments, exciting a false and vicious taste, and provoking the national pride and vanity into an admiration for delusive, unreal and unsubstantial objects. An hundred generations the leaves of autumn have dropt
into the grave, and yet the pyramids stand erect and unbroken above the floods of the Nile.* But what is the country, and where are the civil and political institutions of the Pharaohs and Ptolemies ? Alas! these useless monuments survive only to admonish us of the folly and vanity of human pride and ambition.
Where is Rome, with all her splendid monuments of greatness and wealth? Where her temples, her columns, her colossal statues, her amphitheatres ? Alas! the wheel of fortune has accomplished her revolution, and the triumphal monuments of Cæsar and the Antonines have tottered from their foundations. These stupendous exhibitions of magnificence, wealth and genius, contained nothing to renovate the decaying youth and revive the drooping virtues of a falling state, or to vanquish the injuries of time and fate.
They were idle and barren monuments of parade, oppressive to the generations by whom they were raised, without a redeeming quality of good to posterity. Utility is impressed in living images upon all the enterprizes and improvements of our country — to this great purpose the genius of her people, and her resources, both individual and public, are bent with an energy and perseverance productive of the grandest results to the happiness, power and durability of our country and her institutions. A wholesome and moral tone is imparted to the public taste and feeling, which strengthens, while it purifies. Here no pyramids, of gigantic proportions, will lift their towering summits to the skies — no coliseum, with its huge bulk, cumber the earth — no Ephesian, no Roman temple, of gorgeous magnificence, will violate the simplicity and humility of our holy worship. The splendid monuments of the wisdom and enterprize of this age, and of this country in particular, which will be transmitted for the happiness as well as admiration of posterity, will consist in the trophies of genius won by its amazing inventions in the useful arts; and in those vast and grand works of internal improvement which, linking together the distant parts of our wide-spread territory, and abridging that distance by easy and rapid communication, will cultivate familiar personal acquaintance and knowledge, produce identity of interests, and, by instructing us in our reciprocal dependence, strengthen and perpetuate the bond of our national union. These monuments will consist in that expanded system of general and public education, to which so much of the wealth of the country has been applied, for the enlightenment of mind and diffusion of knowledge, “the palladium of a free government, the guaranty of the representative system, and the ægis of our federative existence.”
These are some of the considerations, which sustain our hope, in the strength and perpetuity of our government and institutions. Yet, when we contemplate the delicate relations which exist in our complex system, and the nice equipoise required to preserve the several distinct governments within their respective orbits; when we look upon the discordant and jarring interests to be adjusted, and sectional jealousies to be regulated and controlled — when we reflect upon the moral corruptions, the spirit of faction, the promptings of unholy ambition incident to all free states — we may not conceal from ourselves the dangers that surround us. Our experience of the past, short and limited as it is, admonishes us that there is a reality in these suggestions; and enforces the truth of the political axiom that, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” In that momentous period, when our safety shall be threatened; when the wild spirit of faction, like a mighty flood, bursting over the barriers that confine it, shall deluge our plains and fields, commingling “the wandering rivulet and the silver lake” in the confused roar of its disturbed and agitated waters, -oh, then let us cling to the constitution of our country — it is the ark of our political safety - it will bear us securely above the angry floods, and amidst the noise of many waters, and land us in safety at last upon another Ararat.
When mad and unrestrained ambition, unmindful of duty and of country, shall fiercely mingle in the strife for power and for place — Ah! then let the American citizen turn him to the history of his country, and on that page which records the illustrious deeds of his ancestors, he will behold a noble example of patriotism and virtue; and like the Athenian of old, in view of the statues of Harmodius and Aristogiton, he will be subdued to a sense of the love and duty which he
* De Witt Clinton.
owes to his country. Let him meditate on the high responsibility of each succeeding generation to preserve and perpetuate to posterity the blessings of this fair fabric of government. Let him contemplate our position towards the nations of the earth, and the necessity of maintaining this last, noble, living example of freedom and self government. Let him cast his eye forward upon the unborn millions, whose destiny, for happiness or woe, hang suspended on the final issue of our grand political experiment. Let him ascend the mount of vision, and looking through the vista of the future, survey the glory and grandeur of his country, as she shall be in the remote annals of time, successfully resisting the principles of destruction, erect amid the injuries of time and fortune, the abode of happiness, the asylum of the oppressed, the light of the world. And, in the mighty anticipation may every unholy feeling be absorbed in the one great overruling sentiment of Love for our Country.