David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) online

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and seek another habitation in a distant clime. When they came
to this new world, which they fairly purchased of the Indian nat-
ives, the only rightful proprietors, they cultivated the then bar-
ren soil by their incessant labor, and defended their dear-bought
possessions with the fortitude of the Christian and the bravery of
the hero.

After various struggles, which, during the tyrannic reigns of
the house of Stuart, were constantly kept up between right and
wrong, between liberty and slavery, the connection between Great
Britain and this colony was settled in the reign of King William
and Queen Mary by a compact, the conditions of which were ex-
pressed in a charter, by which all the liberties and immunities of
British subjects were confided to this province, as fully and as
absolutely as they possibly could be by any human instrument
which can be devised. And it is undeniably true that the great-
est and most important right of a British subject is that he


shall be governed by no laws but those to which he, either in
person or by his representatives, hath given his consent: and this
I will venture to assert is the great basis of British freedom; it
is interwoven with the Constitution; and whenever this is lost,
the Constitution must be destroyed.

The British Constitution, of which ours is a copy, is a happy
compound of the three forms, under some of which all govern-
ments may be ranged, — namely, monarchy, aristocracy,- and de-
mocracy; of these three the British legislature is composed, and
without the consent of each branch, nothing can carry with it the
force of a law; but when a law is to be passed for raising a tax,
that law can originate only in the democratic branch, which is the
House of Commons in Britain, and the House of Representatives
here. The reason is obvious: they and their constituents are to
pay much the largest part of it; but as the aristocratic branch,
which in Britain is the House of Lords, and in this province the
Council, are also to pay some part, their consent is necessary;
and as the monarchic branch, which in Britain is the Kine, and
with us either the King in person, or the Governor whom he
shall be pleased to appoint to act in his stead, is supposed to
have a just sense of his own interest, which is that of all the
subjects in general, his consent is also necessary, and when the
consent of these three branches is obtained, the taxation is most
certainly legal.

Let us now allow ourselves a few moments to examine the
late acts of the British Parliament for taxing America. Let us
with candor judge whether they are constitutionally binding upon
us; if they are, in the name of justice let us submit to them,
without one murmuring word.

First, I would ask whether the members of the British House
of Commons are the democracy of this province ? if they are,
they are either the people of this province, or are elected by the
people of this province to represent them, and have therefore a
constitutional right to originate a bill for taxing them; it is most
certain they are neither; and therefore nothing done by them can
be said to be done by the democratic branch of our Constitution.
I would next ask whether the lords who compose the aristocratic
branch of the Legislature are peers of America. I never heard
it was (even in these extraordinary times) so much as pretended,
and if they are not, certainly no act of theirs can be said to be the
act of the aristocratic branch of our Constitution. The power of


the monarchic branch we, with pleasure, acknowledge resides in
the King, who may act either in person or by his representa-
tive; and I freely confess that I can see no reason why a procla-
mation for raising revenues in America issued by the King's sole
authority would not be equally consistent with our own Constitu-
tion, and therefore equally binding upon us with the late acts of
the British Parliament for taxing us; for it is plain that if there
is any validity in those acts, it must arise altogether from the
monarchical branch of the Legislature; and I further think that
it would be at least as equitable; for I do not conceive it to be of
the least importance to us by whom our property is taken away,
so long as it is taken without our consent; and I am very much
at a loss to know by what figure of rhetoric, the inhabitants of
this province can be called free subjects, when they are obliged
to obey implicitly such laws as are made for them by men three
thousand miles off, whom they know not, and whom they never
empowered to act for them, or how they can be said to have prop-
erty, when a body of men over whom they have not the least
control, and who are not in any way accountable to them, shall
oblige them to deliver up part, or the whole of their substance
without even asking their consent: and yet whoever pretends that
the late acts of the British Parliament for taxing America ought
to be deemed binding upon us must admit at once that we are
absolute slaves, and have no property of our own; or else that
we may be freemen, and at the same time under a necessity of
obeying the arbitrary commands of those over whom we have no
control or influence, and that we may have property of our own,
which is entirely at the disposal of another. Such gross absurd-
ities, I believe, will not be relished in this enlightened age: and it
can be no matter of wonder that the people quickly perceived, and
seriously complained of the inroads which these acts must unavoid-
ably make upon their liberty, and of the hazard to which their
whole property is by them exposed; for if they may be taxed
without their consent, even in the smallest trifle, they may also,
without their consent, be deprived of everything they possess,
although never so valuable, never so dear. Certainly it never
entered the hearts of our ancestors that after so many dangers in
this then desolate wilderness, their hard-earned property should be
at the disposal of the British Parliament; and as it was soon found
that this taxation could not be supported by reason and argument,
it seemed necessary that one act of oppression should be enforced


by another, and therefore, contrary to our just rights as possess-
ing, or at least having a just title to possess, all the liberties and
immunities of British subjects, a standing army was established
among us in time of peace; and evidently for the purpose of ef-
fecting that, which it was one principal design of the founders of
the Constitution to prevent when they declared a standing army
in a time of peace to be against law, — namely, for the enforce-
ment of obedience to acts which, upon fair examination, appeared
to be unjust and unconstitutional.

The ruinous consequences of standing armies to free com-
munities may be seen in the histories of Syracuse, Rome, and
many other once flourishing states, some of which have now
scarce a name! their baneful influence is most suddenly felt,
when they are placed in populous cities; for, by a corruption of
morals, the public happiness is immediately affected! and that
this is one of the effects of quartering troops in a populous city
is a truth to which many a mourning parent, many a lost de-
spairing child in this metropolis, must bear a very melancholy
testimony. Soldiers are also taught to consider arms as the only
arbiters by which every dispute is to be decided between con-
tending states; — they are instructed implicitly to obey their com-
manders, without inquiring into the justice of the cause they are
engaged to support; hence it is, that they are ever to be dreaded
as the ready engines of tyranny and oppression. And it is too
observable that they are prone to introduce the same mode of
decision in the disputes of individuals, and from thence have
often arisen great animosities between them and the inhabitants,
who, whilst in a naked, defenseless state, are frequently insulted
and abused by an armed soldiery. And this will be more espe-
cially the case when the troops are informed that the intention
of their being stationed in any city is to overawe the inhabit-
ants. That this was the avowed design of stationing an armed
force in this town is sufficiently known; and we, my fellow-
citizens, have seen, we have felt the tragical effects! The fatal
fifth of March, 1770, can never be forgotten. The horrors of
that dreadful night are but too deeply impressed on our hearts.
Language is too feeble to paint the emotion of our souls, when
our streets were stained with the blood of our brethren — when
our ears were wounded by the groans of the dying, and our eyes
were tormented with the sight of the mangled bodies of the
dead. When our alarmed imagination presented to our view our


houses wrapt in flames, our children subjected to the barbarous
caprice of the raging soldiery, — our beauteous virgins exposed to
all the insolence of unbridled passion, — our virtuous wives, en-
deared to us by every tender tie, falling a sacrifice to worse
than brutal violence, and perhaps like the famed Lucretia, dis-
tracted with anguish and despair, ending their wretched lives by
their own fair hands. When we beheld the authors of our dis-
tress parading in our streets, or drawn up in a regular battalia,
as though in a hostile city, our hearts beat to arms; we snatched
our v/eapons, almost resolved by one decisive stroke to avenge
the death of our slaughtered brethren and to secure from future
danger all that we held most dear; but propitious heaven for-
bade the bloody carnage and saved the threatened victims of our
too keen resentment, not by their discipline, not by their regular
array, — no, it was royal George's livery that proved their shield,
— it was that which turned the pointed engines of destruction
from their breasts. The thoughts of vengeance were soon buried
in our inbred affection to Great Britain, and calm reason dictated
a method of removing the troops more mild than an immediate
resource to the sword. With united efforts you urged the imme-
diate departure of the troops from the town; you urged it, with
a resolution which insured success; you obtained your wishes,
and the removal of the troops was effected without one drop of
their blood being shed by the inhabitants.

The immediate actors in the tragedy of that night were sur-
rendered to justice. It is not mine to say how far they were
guilty. They have been tried by the country and acquitted of
murder! and they are not to be again arraigned at an earthly
bar; but surely the men who have promiscuously scattered death
amidst the innocent inhabitants of a populous city ought to see
well to it that they be prepared to stand at the bar of an Omnis-
cient Judge! and all who contrived or encouraged the stationing
troops in this place have reasons of eternal importance to reflect
with deep contrition on their base designs, and humbly to repent
of their impious machinations.

The infatuation which hath seemed, for a number of years, to
prevail in the British councils, with regard to us, is truly aston-
ishing! what can be proposed by the repeated attacks made upon
our freedom, I really cannot surmise,. — even leaving justice and
humanity out of question. I do not know one single advantage
which can arise to the British nation from our being enslaved:


— I know not of any gains, which can be wrung from us by op-
pression, which they may not obtain from us by our own con-
sent, in the smooth channel of commerce: we wish the wealth
and prosperity of Britain; we contribute largely to both. Doth
what we contribute lose all its value, because it is done voluntar-
ily ? the amazing increase of riches to Britain, the great rise of
the value of her lands, the flourishing state of her navy, are
striking proofs of the advantages derived to her from her com-
merce with the Colonies; and it is our earnest desire that she
may still continue to enjoy the same emoluments, until her
streets are paved with American gold; only let us have the
pleasure of calling it our own, while it is in our own hands; but
this it seems is too great a favor — we are to be governed by
the absolute command of others; our property is to be taken
away without our consent — if we complain, our complaints are
treated with contempt; if we assert our rights, that assertion is
deemed insolence; if we humbly offer to submit the matter to
the impartial decision of reason, the sword is judged the most
proper argument to silence our murmurs! but this cannot long
be the case — surely the British nation will not suffer the reputa-
tion of their justice and their honor to be thus sported away by
a capricious ministry; no, they will in a short time open their
eyes to their true interest; they nourish in their own breasts a
noble love of liberty; they hold her dear, and they know that all
who have once possessed her charms had rather die than suffer
her to be torn from their embraces — they are also sensible that
Britain is so deeply interested in the prosperity of the Colonies
that she must eventually feel every wound given to their free-
dom; they cannot be ignorant that more dependence may be
placed on the affections of a brother than on the forced service
of a slave; they must approve your efforts for the preservation
of your rights; from a sympathy of soul they must pray for your
success; and I doubt not but they will ere long exert them-
selves effectually to redress your grievances. Even the dissolute
reign of King Charles II., when the House of Commons im-
peached the Earl of Clarendon of high treason, the first article
on which they founded their accusation was that ^^he had de-
signed a standing army to be raised, and to govern the kingdom
thereby. » And the eighth article was that «he had introduced
an arbitrary government into his Majesty's plantation," — a terri-
fying example to those who are now forging chains for this country !


You have, my friends and countrymen, frustrated the designs
of your enemies by your unanimity and fortitude; it was your
union and determined spirit which expelled those troops who pol-
luted your streets with innocent blood. You have appointed this
anniversary as a standard memorial of the bloody consequences
of placing an armed force in a populous force, and of your de-
liverance from the dangers which then seemed to hang over your
heads; and I am confident that you never will betray the least
want of spirit when called upon to guard your freedom. None
but they who set a just value upon the blessings of liberty are
worthy to enjoy her — your illustrious fathers were her zealous
votaries — when the blasting frowns of tyranny drove her from
public view, they clasped her in their arms, they cherished her
in their generous bosoms, they brought her safe over the rough
ocean, and fixed her seat in this then dreary wilderness; they
nursed her infant age with the most tender care; for her sake
they patiently bore the severest hardships; for her support, they
underwent the most rugged toils; in her defense they boldly en-
countered the most alarming dangers: neither the ravenous beasts
that ranged the woods for prey, nor the more furious savages of
the wilderness, could damp their ardor! Whilst with one hand
they broke the stubborn glebe, with the other they grasped their
weapons, ever ready to protect her from danger. No sacrifice,
not even their own blood, was esteemed too rich a libation for
her altar! God prospered their valor; they preserved her brill-
iancy unsullied; they enjoyed her whilst they lived, and, dying,
bequeathed the dear inheritance to your care. And as they left
you this glorious legacy, they have undoubtedly transmitted to
you some portion of their noble spirit, to inspire you with virtue
to merit her and courage to preserve her; you surely cannot,
with such examples before your eyes, as every page of the his-
tory of this country affords, suffer your liberties to be ravished
from you by lawless force, or cajoled away by flattery and fraud.

The voice of your fathers' blood cries to you from the ground:
My sons scorn to be slaves! In vain we met the frowns of ty-
rants — in vain we crossed the boisterous ocean, found a new
world, and prepared it for the happy residence of liberty — in
vain we toiled — in vain we fought — we bled in vain, if you,
our offspring, want valor to repel the assaults of her invaders!
Stain not the glory of your worthy ancestors, but like them re-
solve never to part with your birthright; be wise in your delib-


erations, and determined in your exertions for the preservation of
your liberties. Follow not the dictates of passion, but enlist
yourselves under the sacred banner of reason; use every method
in your power to secure your rights; at least prevent the curses
of posterity from being heaped upon your memories.

If you, with united zeal and fortitude, oppose the torrent of
oppression; if you feel the true fire of patriotism burning in your
breasts; if you, from your souls, despise the most gaudy dress that
slavery can wear; if you really prefer the lonely cottage (whilst
blest with liberty) to gilded palaces, surrounded with the ensigns
of slavery, you may have the fullest assurance that tyranny, with
her whole accursed train, will hide their hideous heads in confu-
sion, shame, and despair — if you perform your part, you must
have the strongest confidence that the same Almighty Being who
protected your pious and venerable forefathers, who enabled
them to turn a barren wilderness into a fruitful field, who so
often made bare his arm for their salvation, will still be mindful
of you, their offspring.

May this Almighty Being graciously preside in all our coun-
cils! May he direct us to such measures as he himself shall ap-
prove and be pleased to bless! May we ever be a people favored
of God! May our land be a land of liberty, the seat of virtue,
the asylum of the oppressed, a name and a praise in the whole
earth, until the last shock of time shall bury the empires of the
world in one common undistinguished ruin!



't has become fashionable to question Washington's literary
ability and to attribute the authorship of the Farewell Ad-
dress and of his Inaugurals largely to others. Fortunately,
however, the original draft of the Farewell Address as Washington
made it has been preserved in his own handwriting, with the altera-
tions and additions made to it after his consultation with his advis-
ers. The manuscript shows that, though he accepted suggestions and
amendments with the modesty and good judgment which were always
a mode of expression for his great ability, the governing ideas of the
address are completely his own, while its literary style also is his,
except that, as amended, it formalizes his occasional colloquialisms.
Of Washington's life and character it is unnecessary to speak, but it
will not be inappropriate to emphasize the facts of his education
against the tendency to assume that great virtue and great intellect
are separable. His education did not extend to the classics as did that
of most Virginia country gentlemen in his time, and because of this
it is frequently asserted that "he could not spell* — with the infer-
ence that he was ignorant even of the rudiments of an English educa-
tion. It will be remembered, however, by every one who has studied
the growth of the English language that in the first half of the eight-
eenth century its spelling had not become completely formalized,
even in London itself. While the dictionaries of Bailey and others
preceded that of Samuel Johnson, that great work did not appear
until 1755, and although there was a general tendency to accept it as
a conclusive authority, it was not possible that its orthography could
at once supplant the habit of phonetic spelling, which had prevailed
to a greater or less extent from the time of Alfred the Great until
the beginning of the eighteenth century. If Washington was at times
individualistic in his spelling and in his syntax, he was no more so
than Alfred the Great, whose compositions, in spite of such idiosyn-
cracies, are accepted by all competent authorities as admirable ex-
amples of the English of his time.

Washington was a man of great intellect, not a great orator, be-
cause he had never attempted to cultivate fluency of speech, — pre-
ferring, indeed, to reject it and to avoid it, that he mi^ht win the



deliberation of idea which made him what he was; but if as a pub-
lic speaker he never achieved such a masterpiece as the Gettysburg
Address, it was not because he lacked the ability or had failed to
achieve the education necessary to give expression to great ideas.
His Inaugural Address of 1789 and his Farewell Address are in every
sense his own, and of their kind they are incomparable.

W. V. B.

(Delivered in New York, April 30th, 1789)

Fellow- Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Represe7itatives : —

AMONG the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have
filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the
notification was transmitted by your order, and received on
the fourth day of the present month. On the one hand, I was
summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with
veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the
fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immut-
able decision as the asylum of my declining years; a retreat
which was rendered every day more necessary as W'Cll as more
dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of fre-
quent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed
on it by time; on the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty
of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being
sufficient to awaken, in the wisest and most experienced of her
citizens, a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not
but overwhelm with despondence one who, inheriting inferior
endowments from nature, and unpracticed in the duties of civil
administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own de-
ficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver is that it
has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appre-
ciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All
I dare hope is, that if, in executing this task, I have been too
much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or
by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the
confidence of my fellow-citizens and have thence too little con-
sulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty
and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the
motives which misled me and its consequences be iudged by



my country, with some share of the partiality in which they

Such being the impression under which I have, in obedience
to the pubh'c summons, repaired to the present station, it would
be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fer-
vent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the
universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose
providential aids can supply every human defect, that his bene-
diction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the peo-
ple of the United States a government instituted by themselves
for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument
employed in its administration to execute, with success, the func-
tions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the
Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself
that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor
those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people
can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which
conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United
States, Every step by which they have advanced to the character
of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by
some token of providential agency. And, in the important revo-
lution just accomplished, in the system of their united govern-
ment, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many
distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot
be compared with the means by which most governments have
been established, without some return of pious gratitude, along
with a humble anticipation of the future blessings, which the
past seems to presage. These reflections, arising out of the pres-

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 8 of 56)