William Smith.

An Oration in memory of General Montgomery, and of the officers and soldiers, who fell with him, December 31, 1775, before Quebec : drawn up (and delivered February 19th, 1776) at the desire of the honourable Continental Congress online

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Online LibraryWilliam SmithAn Oration in memory of General Montgomery, and of the officers and soldiers, who fell with him, December 31, 1775, before Quebec : drawn up (and delivered February 19th, 1776) at the desire of the honourable Continental Congress → online text (page 1 of 3)
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^iil ECGi;S ^

tihxavy of t:he t:heolo0ical Seminary






O R A T I O N,

In mem O,/ R Y. o f

• ^/

A N D O F T H E '
Who fell with HIM, December 31, 1775,


Q^ U E BE C;

Drawn up (and delivered February igth, i77^>)

At tke DESiREoF the


""by W Tl L 1AM "^S M I T HTaa

Provoft of the COLLEGE and A C A D E M Y

O thou, who bad'ft them fall with honor cro^vn'd.
Soon m ake the bloody pride of war to ccafe !
May thefe the only facrihce be found
I'o public freedom, and their country's peace.


NEWTORK: Reprinted by John Andersoi:?, the

Corner of Beekman*s-Slip,

M, D c c, L X X V r.

' A N


Fathers^ Brethren, and Ceunirynienl

AN occafion truly folema has affembled us
this day ; aud, that your attention may be
i D'ace ."'^^^/°'^™" ^"d ferioos, hear. i„ thefirft
I P-ace, the voice of eternal truth. « It is better to

" « S? ?; ; "°" f 1 ^'^°"^"'"S than to the HouS

nimlelt, and no man dieth to himfelf •"

r-rr^^v.^^" -^"""n""'"' "'"'^^"^ted v^ithapu-
r.r ray of divinity 5 Patriots ofthefirft magnitude
who, in a peculiar fenfe. may be faid to live and
die, not tojhemfelves, but to others; and confe
qjentiy to him who is the author of all good^cfr
Endowed with that iuperior excellence which do s

nat"on d" °"l-^^°'fP^.r' '^' ^'^^"°"« °f every
nation clarm kindred with them ; and the general
^^ntercfts of humanity are concerned in their fhaS,

In veneration of fuch men, toexchane- the ac
cuftomed walks of pleafure for the Houfe of

efSS; T 5r'^" '" '''^''' ^^-^- -i'h teal
to? tc r ^°^h^^'-.'^=™°^y; to ftrive,if p6ffibIe.^
to etch fome portion of their eternal fpirit as 't

feht."::" ;^j? -''^l^Phere, into perUunioa
l^-ta consenul foints a^ye, is a laudable cuftom.


ccEvalwith fociety, and fanftified to us by the ex-
ample of the wiftft nationf .

It was the manner of the Egyptians, tiic fathers
of arts and fcience, not only .to celebrate the namcs^
but to embalm the bodies, of their dcceafed he-
roe" that they might be long preterved in public
vievJ.'as examples of virtue j and/although - dead,

vet fpeaking." , .

But this honour was not eafiiy to be obtained •,
nor was it beftowed indifcrimmately upon the vul-
gar Great. It was decreed only by the public
voice, a venerable affcmbly of Judges, htfcxc
whom the body of the deceafed was brought foe
trial, and folemnly acquitted or condemned upon.
the evidence of the people, , - j

Even Kings themfelves, however much ipare*
when alive, for the fake of public tranquility, had
Rill this more than fiery Ordeal before their eyes ;
and by the example of fcme of their immtjer, who>
had been rcfufed fcpulture in thofe very tombs
which their pride had prepared to their own mc^
morv, were taught both to venerate and to dreaa
a law, which extended its punifhments beyond ihc
iifual times of oblivion.

The moral of this inftitution was truly lublime,,
conftantly inculcating a moft important leffon—
-' That whatever diliinaions our wantb and vices
Biay render neccffary, in this fhort and wiperfca:
>.eriod of our being, they are all cancelled by the
hand of death y and, through the endlcfs untried
periods which fuccecd, virtue and beneficence will
make the true diftindions, and be the only founda-
tions of happinefs and renpwi>5

f m

If from tj>s Egyptians, we pafs to the Greefo,
poirticul^ly the enlightened Aihemars, we flu I
find tbattfeey had ^n exprefs law appointing Ora-
tionf and public Funerals, in honour ot thole
who'glorioufly facrificed their lives to their coun-
trv Aud this folemn office was performed before
the great afTembiics of the people ; lonnetimes for
one, and temetimes for bands of heroes together.
Thucydidep, has recorded a celeWated Oration
of this laft kind, delivered by Pericles. Tlieihul-
trlous fpeaker, after a moft animating defcription
of t\^tAmor Patria, the love of our country—
which he exalts above all hutnap virtues, turns to

the deceafed. , ,.

" Having beftowed their lives to the public,
.' every one of them, fays he, bath received a
«> praise that will never decay -. a fepulchre that
.< will always be moft illuP- ious ; not that m which
«« their bones lie moulderincc. but that in which
.«. their fame is preferved. This whole earth is the
«' fepulchre of iUuftrious citizens"— and their in-
fcription is written upon the hearts of all good


" As for you, the furvlvors, from this very mo-
- ment. emulating their virtues, place your fole
«' happinais in liberty, and be prepared to foUovj
« its call through every danger." Ttien, addrel-
fincT himfelf, withcxquifite tendernefs, to the rc-
liat and children of the deceafed, he fi-ggcfts to
them, that the common wealth was their huioand,
their father, and brother.

" From this day forward, to the age of mata-
« rlty, fhall the Orphans be educated at the public
— - ■' — - — " ' expcnce

■ \

( 6 ;

** expence of the ftate. For this benevolent meed
" have the laws appointed to all future relifts of
^* thofe who m^y fall in the public concefts/'

Nor were the Romans lefs careful in this mat-
ter. Confidering men in general as brave^ more
by art than nature ; and that honour is a more
powerful incentive than fear j they made frugality,
temperance, patience, and labor, manly exercife^
and love of rheir country, the maLi principles of
education. Cowardice and negled: oi duty in the
field, were feldom puniChcd with death or corpo-
ral inflictions ; but by what was accounted worfe,
a life decreed to ignominious expuliion, and de-^
gradation from Roman privileges.

On the contrary, deeds of public virtue were re-^
warded, according to^ their magnitude, with fta-.^
tucs, triumplis of various kinds, peculiar -badges
of drefs at public folen'mitiesj and fong« of praife
to the livi-ng as well as the dead.

Next to the hymns coaipofed in honor of the
Gods ; Poetry derived its origin^ from the fongs of
triumph to heroes^ who tamed the rude manners
of mankind, founded cities, repelled the incuriions
of enemiep, and gave peace to their country. And
this cuftom began when Rome contained only a
lew fnepherds, gathering flrength by an alluvies.
of the outcafts of neighbouring nations.

Thofe firft efforts ef poetic calogy, whether in
profe or vcrfe (like thofe of a fimilar origin, which:
uature, alv/ays the fame, teaches our favage neigh-
bours) although often iublime in fubftance, were
yet fo rude in ftrudurc, that Livy forbears quoting
tiicm, as having become intolerable to the more


( 7 )

refined taftc of their pofterity ; however fuifable
they might nave been to the acra of their produdion.
What a multitude of compofiticns of this kind
maft have exifted between the barbarous fongs of
the military upon the triumph of Cofius, and the
celebrated panegyric of Pliny upon Trajan ! Thev
are faid t© have been fwellcd into two thoufand
volumes, even in the ti!;ic of Auguftus. In fliorr,
' the praife of public virtue was wrought into the
whole texture of Roman polity j and Virgil, callinor
Religion to his aid, gave it the higheft finifji, "
He divides his Hades, or place of Gho«s, into
different regions ; and to the gulph of deepeft per-
dition, configns thole monftersof iniquity whi>
delighted in the deftrudion of mankind, betrayed
Jeir country, or violated its religion and laws.
There he excruciates them, in company with

" Gorgons and Hydras and Chimeras dire—"
Vultures prey upon their vitals, or they are whirled
eternally round with Ixion upon his wheel or
bound down with Tantalus, whofe burning 'lbs
iiang quivering over the elufive waters it cannot
touch ; or the Fury Tifyphone, her hair entwin'd
with lerpents, her garments red with human <Tore
urges on their tortures with unrelenting hand "f *

The Poet having thus exhaufted imagination as
well as mythology, in the defcription of puniflx-
mentsfor the difturbers of mankind and foes to
their country, raifes his conclufion to a height of
horror beyond the reach of exprefTion -

" Had I a hundred mouths, a hundred tongues,'
NT ''°^^/{ '"■^^'' ^"'^ adamantine lungs ;
Not ha f the mighty icsnt could I difclofc •
I'Repeattheir -.^v" ■:,•'•.>•. -dreadful woes.

r s )

Nor has Virgil ftraved any farther through the
fields of fancy or fable in this place than to bor-
row ftrtngth of colouring for the r.rb of tnith ; and
I fufpedt, that he drank from a purer founta-.o than
that of Helicon, when he peopled bis Tartarus wuh
the ancient fcourges of the human race- An au-
thor ity facred among chriftians has indeed g.ven us
a moft awful conf.rmati. :. of his dodnne _

A Prophet and Poet indeed, whofe lafpiration
was truly from Heaven, the incomparably fabxme •■
ISAIAH, foretelling the fail of Babylon, has an
Ode of triumph, wherein he e^^ults over us haughty
Monarch in Itrains of wonderful irony and re-
proach. He reprobates him as a deftroyer of man-
Ld ; who hid " made the world a w.ldernefs.
He reprefents the whole earth as delivered f,om a
rurfebyhisfalll The trees of the forcft rejoice,
becaufe he is laid low 1 The very grave refafes a
covering to his execrable corfe ! he is configne.. to
th depLofm-ifery; while the infernal manfions
■ themfelves are moved at his approach, and uie
Ss of departed tyrants rife up, m hornd .rray ,
fnd mocker^ of triumph, to bid him welcome t. ,

his final abode ! , r • > ^f th\<, imC

The aftonifhing grandeur and fpint of tms pa.-
fa.e. and i.deed Sf the whole Ode. are unnva-lcd
Wnv Poet of Greek or Roman name. 1
^^<Tlow hath the opprefTor ceafed ! T^- Lord
.< hath broken the fl^ff of the wicked ! He that
.. mote the people in wrath - that ruled the riat^n.
.< in anger - is perfeaued and none hindere n The
«. whok earth is at reft-they break torth no
« flnging ; yea the fie-^trees rejoice at thee, nd the

( ^ )

^^ ce^ars^ oF Lebanon, l^iyH>g> fince thou art laid
** down no teller is come up againd us-

»^ Hell from beneath is moved for thee, to meet
'' thee at thy coming. It Oarreth up the dead for
'' thed— even the chiefs of the nations ! They (ay
^' unto thee, art thoo alfo become weak as we ?
*' 1 hy pomp is brought down to the grave-— How
'* art thou fallen, O Lucifer, that didft weaken the
*' nations ? All kings^ (meaning jaft: and merciful
'' kings) even all of them^ie in glory, every one ia
'* his own hoafe (or fepuichre ;) but thou art caft
'^ out of thy grave like an abominablevbranch/' &c.
Bat although the reward of heroes, in the chrif-
tian*s heaven, be oar proper theme on this folemn
day ; yet the paffmg view which we have taken of
the perdition decreed to the traitors of their country,
in the Poet's hell, confirmt^d alfo by the voice of
fcripture, is not foreign to our main purpofe,

I know your boioms glow with fo ilrongan
averfion to all the foes of liberty in this life, that
you will furely aVoid every thought and adtion,
which might doom you to their company in the
life to come j and therefore, bidding adieu — and
may it be an eternal adieu— to thofe dreary regions
and their mifc-rable i^nhabltants, let us- ivov/ exalt
our joyous vitw to thofe celeflial n^anfions, where
the benefaarors of mankindreap immortal triumphs!
'' Lo ! the bleft tt^ln advance along the meads,
*^ And fnowy wreaths adorn their glorious heads
*^ Patriots who periflVd for their countr.^^'s rights
*« Or nobly triumph'd in the field of fight.
*' Worthies, who life by ufeful arts rcfin'd,
** With, thofe who. leave a deathlcfs name behind
"' - g ' '^^Fiiends

*« Friends of the world, and patrons of mankind^
«' Some on the verdant plains are ftretch'd along^
•« Sweet to the ear, their tuneful Paeaiis rung.
But here, ye Pagan poets, and thou Prince of
their choir, we leave you far behind ; for your
fublimeft flights are now infinitely fhort of the
theme ! Your gloomy Theology gave you tolerable
aid in forming a Hell, but the utmoft efforts of
natural genius could not make a heaven worthy of
a rational and immortal foul ! The glory of giving
lomc animating defcription of that blils " which
eye hath not feen, nor ear before heard, nor could
<< the unenlightened heart of man otherwife con-
*' ceive/' was left for a more divine teacher. From
him we learn, that a heart pure and detatched from
fordid plealures, a foul panting after perfedlion,
ftriving to imitate the goodnefs of heaven, antici-
pating its approving fentence, and devoted to the
fervice of mankind, fhall at laft rife and mix in
eternal fellowfliip with the beatified family of God.
Having now, my refpeded countrymen-— and I
hope I do not weary you— laid a wide foundation
upon the pradice of the wifeft nations— in fupport
of the prefent folemnity ; I fhall add but little
more concerning the public utility of the thing

Circumftanced as we now are, perhaps fhall long.
be, in building up a fabric for future ages, it
•would be a wife infiitution, if in imitation of the
Genoefe* feaft of union,' we fhould make at leafl'
an annual paufe, for a review of paft incidents, and
of the charaders of thofe who have borne an illuf-
trious ftiare in them 5 thereby animating our virtue.

and uniting ourfcIve& more clofely in the bonds of
mutual friend lliip,**

The world, in general, is- more willing to imi-
tate, than to be taught; and examples of eminent
eharaders have a ilronger influence than written
precepts. Mex's adions area more faithful mirror
of their lives than their words. Tiie former feldoni
deceive y but the latter often. The deeds of old,
contradt a venerable authority over us, when fanc-
tified by the voice of app'auding ages ; and, even
in our own day, our hearts take an immediate part
with thofe who have nobly triumphed, or greatly
fufFered in our behalf.

But the more ufefu] the difplay of fuch characs-
tersraaybe co the world, the more difficult is the
work. And I am net to learn, that of all kinds of
writing, panegyric requires the moft delicate hand*
Men feldom endure the praife of any adions, but
thofe v^hich their felf-love reprefents as poffible to
themfelves. Whatever is held up as an example,
if placed beyond the reach of humanity duly
exalted by public fpirit, will exite no emulation;
and whatever is placed within the vulgar walks of
life, will attrad: no attention.

There is a further difficulty, peculiar to certaia;^
times; particularly thofe of civil diflenfioni when
the minds of men are worked into a ferment,
Vv^'hence it happens, that they who have been the
fubjcdsof obiiquy in one age, have become the

theme of praife in another. Such was Ham.pden

in the days of paffivc obedience; branded as a fedU
tious difturbcr of his country's peace; and at the
blefkd aera.o£ the revolution, ei:alted into the firfl:


C 12 >

rank of patriots. Such was Sidney, coridemne^f
to afcaffold in the former period ; and, in the lat-
ter, immortalized by the delegated Voice of the
nation !

What judgment" pofterity will form of the pre-
fent mighty contcft, in which thefc united colo-
nies are engaged, I am at no lofs to determine' iii
my own heart. But^ while the fame adions are,
by one part of a great empire, pronounced the moft;
criminal refiftance, and by another, the moft laiid-
abieeiforts of felf-prefervatioa^ no public chara^er
can be drawn alike acceptable to -all, Neverihc-
lefs, as the faithful hiliorian is the beft panegyrift
of true merit, he will not fail)ioD himfeif to times.
and feafons, but exalt himfelf above them ; and,
confcious of his dignity, as refponfibic to kicceed-
5ng ages, will take eternal truth as his fupport,
which can alone bear the impartial teft of future
examination. He knows that the divine colors of
virtue, although they may give a temporary g^are,
will not blend or mellow into a ground-work of

Whatever events, difaftrous or happy, may lie
before us ; yet fome degree of applaufe, even from
an enemy, is certainly due to thofe iiluflrious men,
v^'^ho, led by confcience and a clear perfuafion of
duty, lacrifice their eafe, their lives and fortunes to.
the public ; and from their friends and country,
they are entitled to a deathlefs renown.

Perifh that narrow pride, whichfwill fufrer mca
to acknowledge np virtue, but among their own
party. In this direful conteft, the chief concern
of a liberal mind/ will be^ that fo mucl;i pcrfonal

"' . ' " - vii:-^

( IS >

virtue as nriay be found on both fide% bftead of

being united in fome great national point for the
common good, ihould be dread fully employed to
the purpoie of mutual deilrudion. And a man
can as foon diveft hiaifelf of his hutnanity, as rc-
fuletbc tribute of veneration, <}ae tp actions truly

V/hen once it becomes crioiinal to plead th«
caufe of a fufFering people; when their virt'ies caa
no longer be fafely recorded, then tyranny has put
the lalt hand to her barbarous work. All the va-
luable purpofes of lociety ar^ fruihated ; and what-
ever other human fate remains will be wholly in-
different to the wife and good.

There are alfo many whofe minds are fo little^
that they can conceive nothing great, which does
cot court the eye in all the trappings of drefs, titles,
and external fplendor. An America)uPatriot ! a
Blanket-Here ! a General from the phugh ! All
thefe are terms of ridicule and reproach among
many. Yet fuch was Cincinnatus^ in the beft days
of Roman virtue ; and a Britifli p* ^it, already quo-
ted, hath boldly taught his countrymen this noble

*' Some^ with wbom compared, your injcul-trtbei
** Are but the beings of a Jammer's day^
*« Have held the leak of empire^ rul'd the ftorm
*^' Of mighty war ; then^ with unweary'd hand^
** Dijdatning little delicacies^ Jeiz*d
*' The plough,, and grec^dy independayit liv'd,'*

"» The fame noble kflbn is alfo taught, by the well
known, flory of the two Spaniib grandees, who

r H )

were fent ambaffadors to the Hague. Notwith-
ftanding all the pride oi their nation, they did not
defpifc the Dutch deputies, when they met then^
in a plain habit, and iaw them on a journey fit
down upon the grafs, to a frugal rcpaft of bread
and cheefe, out of their knapfacks. On the con-
trary, they cried out, " We fliail never be able to
*' conquer thele people j we muft even make peace
with tiiem.'^

Should ambaffidors honor us with a vifit, upon
a like occaiion ; let us be prepared to meet them
in the flime majeftic fimplicity of drefs and man-
ners. Let us convince them that public virtue is
confined to no clafs of men ; and that although it
fornetimes bafks in the lunfhine of courts, it fre-
quently lies hid in the fhades of obfcurity, like the
latent fire in flint, till called forth by the coUifive
Jiand of oppreffion^

Adveriiiy is the ieafon which (hews the fpirit of a
tnm in its full vigor ; and times of civil calamity
never tail to ftrike forth lights, fornetimes fingle,
and fornetimes whole confteilations, mingling their
kindred rays to warm and to ill«uminate the geniusr
of their country.

The facred flame thus enkindled, is not fed by^
the fuel of faction or party ; but by pure benevo-
lence and love of the public. It therefore, fooa
rifes above the felfifh principles, refines and bright-
ens as it rifes, and expands itfeU into heavenly di-
nienfion?. Being inexti'nguifbable in its own na-
ture, the blood of thoufands on the fcaiFold or in:
the field, is but as oil poured into a conflagration,
cncreaiiiig its vehemence, till it cooiames all be-

( 15 )

fore it 5 burning ftill clearer and ftrongcr, unto the
full day of peace and civil happjnefs.

Thofe who enjoy a true portiop of this divine
flame, duly called forth into exercife, ftand in no
need ' of further titles or diftindions, either by
birth or grant. For what can the world prefent
greater to the fight of mortals, or even immortals^
than a man who knows and courts ihc bleffings of
peace, , who wilhes to breathe out his laft in its
arms \ and, keeping it ftill as his objecb, is never-
thelefs roufed by the iirft pang ot his lufFering
country j gives his whole illuftrious fpirit to her re-
lief; rifes above all human allurements; never re-
mits his zeal ; fears na;hing ; regards norbing, bat
the ientiments which virtue and magnanim'ty in-
fpire ? What higher qualities can be required ta
entitle a man to tne veneration and eulogies of his
country ? And thefe too will be his molt durable

The ma^mificent ftruftures raifed by the grati-
tude of m.ankind to their benefadois of old, had
but a local and temporary ule. They were be -
held only by one people, and for a few ages.
" The Heaven afpiring pyramid, the proud
« Triumphal arch, and all that e'er upheld
«« The worfhipp'd name of hoar antiquity
" Are mouldering into duft."
In vain does the way-faring man invcftigate the
tottering ruins for the divinity once cnlhrined
there! A fcanty refceptacle, about fix feet m
length, and half the breadth,, informs him, that it
once contained fome human duft, longfince ming-
kd with the commou mafs. la vain does thcr

t i6 ) . . . ;

iprying antiquary dwell upon the fculpture, or
ilrive to colled and fpell the fcattered fragments
of letters. The infcription is gone— ^long fincc
gone, effaced, obliterated ! And fruiclcfs were the
ibarch, through the whole world, for the Hero's
name, if it were not recorded in the Orator's pagc^
and proclaimed by the faithful voice of hilfory.

There it fhali live, while the fnuileft veftiges of
literature remain upon earth, yea, till the final dif-
folation of things human ; nor fliall it perifh then 3
but, being the immediate care of Heaven, the
great Archangel, when he fweeps funs and fyllems
frorri their place, and kindles up their lafl fires,
ftretching forth his mighty arm, ilLtll pluck the
deathi'efs fcroll from the devouring conflagration,
and give it a place among the archives of eternity !

But whither am 1 borne ? to what heights have
I afcended ? I look dovvn with aftonifliment and
tremble at my fituation ! O! Let. your friendly
arms be extended to fave me as I fall. For in the
idea I have of my fubjec^, I have undertaken ^to
guide the chariot of the fun ; and how fhall I fleer
through the exalted traft that lies before me ?-—
Confidering myfelf as honored with this day's of-
fice, by the delegated voice of fome milHons of
people through a vaft continent, upon an occafion,
wherein their gratitude, their dignity, their love
of liberty, are ail in fome degree concerned j what
language fhsll I ufe, or how fhall I accommodate
inyfelf to every circumflance, in the arduous work ?

Truth alone muft guide the hand that* delineates
a character. Should I affedt to foar aloft and dip
my pencil in the colours of the iky, I ihould bat


( »7 )
1fnaang;er my own ^ings, melt their wax, and be

precipitated headlong. " Nor is the danger lefs in

the other extreme.

Oh! then, for fonie better Phcebus, fome pre-
fiding Genius, to gaide me through my remaining
way; to point out the middle path, and teach me
to unite dignity with eaie, ftrength with perfpecu-
ity i and truth with the unafFedled graces of elocu-
tion. Or rather, you {hall be my Phoebus^ my
infpiring as well ^s prefiding genius, ye delegated
fathers of your country ! So far vrill I ftrive to
imitate him, who always animated himfelf with
his fubj'^d, by thus accofting himfelf before he
went forth to fpeak.

" Remember, thou art this day going to addrefs
inen born in the arms of liberty, Grecians, Athe-
nians !" — Let no thought enter thy heart-— let no
word fall from thy tongue^ un Worthy of fuch an
audie.ice !

As to that hero, whofe memory you celebrate
as a ProtO' Martyr to your rights, for through
whatever fields 1 have ftraycd, he has never es-
caped my vieWj as to him I fay, if any thing hu-
man could now reach his ear, nothing but the
great concerns of virtue, liberty, truth and juftice
would be tolerable to hirn ; for to thefe v^^as his
life devoted, from his early years.

He had received a liberal education in Ireland,
his native country, before he went into the army;
and was indeed endued with talents which would
have led him to eminence in any profeffion. His
own he (ludied with a felicity which foon diftin-
guiflicdhii military abilities ^ but war and conquefl:

C ^ t -

( i8 ;

having no other charms to him than as the necefla-

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Online LibraryWilliam SmithAn Oration in memory of General Montgomery, and of the officers and soldiers, who fell with him, December 31, 1775, before Quebec : drawn up (and delivered February 19th, 1776) at the desire of the honourable Continental Congress → online text (page 1 of 3)