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tion of other conquered people, at the mercy of the conquerors. For ourselves, we may be ready to run the hazard; but are we ready to carry the country to that length ? Is success so probable as to justify it? Where is the military, where the naval power, by which we are to resist the whole strength of the arm of England? for she will exert that strength to the utmost. Can we rely on the constancy and perseverance of the people? or will they not act as the people of other countries have acted, and, wearied with a long war, submit, in the end, to a worse oppression? While we stand on our old ground, and insist on redress of grievances, we know we are right, and are not answerable for consequences. Nothing then can be imputed to us. But if we now change our object, carry our pretentions further, and set up for absolute independence, we shall lose the sympathy of mankind. We shall no longer be defending what we possess, but struggling for something which we never did possess, and which we have solemnly and uniformly disclaimed all intention of pursuing, from the very outset of the troubles. Abandoning thus our old ground of resistance only to arbitrary acts of oppression, the nations will believe the whole to have been mere pretence, and they will look on us, not as injured, but as ambitious subjects. I shudder before this responsibility. It will be on us, if, relinquishing the ground on which we have stood so long, and stood so safely, we now proclaim independence, and carry on the war for that object, while these cities burn, these pleasant fields whiten and bleach with the bones of their owners, and these streams run blood. It will be upon us, it will be upon us, if, failing to maintain this unseasonable and ill-judged Declaration, a sterner despotism, maintained by military power, shall be established over our posterity, when we ourselves, given up by an exhausted, a harassed, a misled people, shall have expiated our rashness and atoned for our presumption on the scaffold.” It was for Mr. Adams to reply to arguments like these. We know his opinions, and we know his character. He would commence with his accustomed directness and earnestness. “Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. It is true indeed that in the beginning we aimed not at independence. But there's a Divinity which shapes our ends. The injustice of England has driven us to arms; and, blinded to her own interest for our good, she has obstinately persisted, till independence is now within our grasp. We have but to reach forth to it, and it is ours. Why then should we defer the Declaration? Is any man so weak as now to hope for a reconciliation with England, which shall leave either safety to the country and its liberties, or safety to his life and his own honour? Are not you, Sir, who sit in that chair, is not he, our venerable colleague near you, are you not both already the proscribed and predestined objects of punishment and of vengeance? Cut off from all hope of royal clemency, what are you, what can you be, while the power of England remains, but outlaws? If we postpone independence, do we mean to carry on, or to give up, the war? I)o we mean to submit to the measures of Parliament, Boston-Port Bill and all? I)o we mean to submit, and consent that we ourselves shall be ground to powder, and our country and its rights trodden down in the dust? I know we do not mean to submit. We never shall submit. Do we mean to violate that most solemn obligation ever entered into by men, that plighting, before God, of our sacred honour to Washington, when, putting him forth to incur the dangers of war, as well as the political hazards of the times, we promised to adhere to him, in every extremity, with our fortunes and our lives? I know there is not a man here, who would not rather See a general conflagration sweep over the land, or an earthquake sink it, than one jot or tittle of that plighted faith fall to the ground. For myself, having, twelve months ago, in this place, moved you, that George Washington be appointed commander of the forces raised, or to be raised, for defence of American liberty, may my right hand forget her cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I hesitate or waver in the support I give him. “The war, then, must go on. We must fight it through. And if the war must go on, why put off longer the Declaration of Independence? That measure will strengthen us. It will give us character abroad. The nations will then treat with us, which they never can do while we acknowledge ourselves subjects in arms against our sovereign. Nay, I maintain that England herself will sooner treat for peace with us on the footing of independence than consent, by repealing her Acts, to acknowledge that her whole conduct toward us has been a course of injustice and oppression. Her pride will be less wounded by submitting to that course of things which now predestinates our independence than by yielding the points in controversy to her rebellious subjects. The former she would regard as the result of fortune; the latter she would feel as her own deep disgrace. Why then, why then, Sir, do we not as soon as possible change this from a civil to a national war? And since we must fight it through, why not put ourselves in a state to enjoy all the benefits of victory, if we gain the victory? “If we fail, it can be no worse for us. But we shall not failso The cause will raise up armies; the cause will create navies. The people, the people, if we are true to them, will carry us,
and will carry themselves, gloriously through this struggle. I care not how fickle other people have been found. I know the people of these Colonies, and I know that resistance to British aggression is deep and settled in their hearts, and cannot be eradicated. Every Colony, indeed, has expressed its willingness to follow, if we but take the lead. Sir, the Declaration will inspire the people with increased courage. Instead of a long and bloody war for restoration of privileges, for redress of grievances, for chartered immunities, held under a British King, set before them the glorious object of entire independence, and it will breathe into them anew the breath of life. Read this Declaration at the head of the army; every sword will be drawn from its scabbard, and the solemn vow uttered, to maintain it, or to perish on the bed of honour. Publish it from the pulpit: religion will approve it, and the love of religious liberty will cling round it, resolved to stand with it, or fall with it. Send it to the public halls; proclaim it there; let them hear it who heard the first roar of the enemy’s cannon; let them see it who saw their brothers and their sons fall on the field of Bunker Hill, and in the streets of Lexington and Concord, and the very walls will cry out in its support. “Sir, I know the uncertainty of human affairs, but I see, I see clearly, through this day’s business. You and I indeed may rue it. We may not live to the time when this Declaration shall be made good. We may die; die, colonists; die, slaves; die, it may be, ignominiously and on the scaffold. Be it so; be it so l If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. IBut while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country, and that a free country. “But, whatever may be our fate, be assured, be assured, that this Declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood; but it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both. Through the thick gloom of the present, I see the brightness of the future, as the Sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honour it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its annual return they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears, not of subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude, and of joy. Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off, as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence now, and INDEPENDENCE FOR EVER.”
RIGHT USE OF LEARNING.
LITERATURE sometimes disgusts, and pretension to it much oftener disgusts, by appearing to hang loosely on the character, like something foreign or extraneous, not a part, but an illadjusted appendage; or by seeming to overload and weigh it down by its unsightly bulk, like the productions of bad taste in architecture, where there is massy and cumbrous ornament, without strength or solidity of column. This has exposed learning, and especially classical learning, to reproach. Men have seen that it might exist without mental superiority, without vigour, without good taste, and without utility. But in such cases classical learning has only not inspired natural talent ; or, at most, it has but made original feebleness of intellect, and natural bluntness of perception, something more conspicuous. The question, after all, if it be a question, is, whether literature, ancient as well as modern, does not assist a good understanding, improve natural good taste, add polished armour to native strength, and render its possessor, not only more capable of deriving private happiness from contemplation and reflection, but more accomplished also for action in the affairs of life, and especially for public action. They whose memories we now honour were learned men; but their learning was kept in its proper place, and made subservient to the uses and objects of life. They were scholars, not common nor superficial; but their scholarship was so in keeping with their character, so blended and inwrought, that careless observers, or bad judges, not seeing an ostentatious display of it, might infer that it did not exist; forgetting, or not knowing, that classical learning, in men who act in conspicuous public stations, perform duties
4 In reference to the foregoing speech, I cannot do better than by quoting from Curtis's Life of Webster: “President Fillmore informs me that he once asked Mr. Webster, in familiar conversation, what authority he had for putting this speech into the mouth of John Adams, the Congress at that period having always sat with closed doors. Mr. Webster replied that he had no authority for the sentiments of the speech excepting Mr. Adams's general character, and a letter he had written to his wife, that had frequently been published. After a short pause, Mr. Webster added: “I will tell you what is not generally known. I wrote that speech one morning in my library, and when it was finished my paper was wet with tears.”
which exercise the faculty of writing, or address popular, deliberative, or judicial bodies, is often felt where it is little seen,
and sometimes felt more effectually because it is not seen at all.—Discourse on Adams and Jefferson.
THE MURDER OF ME. WHITE.5
I AM little accustomed, Gentlemen, to the part which I am now attempting to perform. Hardly more than once or twice has it happened to me to be concerned on the side of the government in any criminal prosecution whatever; and never, until the present occasion, in any case affecting life.
But I very much regret that it should have been thought necessary to suggest to you, that I am brought here to “hurry you against the law and beyond the evidence.” I hope I have too much regard for justice, and too much respect for my own character, to attempt either; and, were I to make such attempt, I am sure that in this court nothing can be carried against the law, and that gentlemen, intelligent and just as you are, are not, by any power, to be hurried beyond the evidence. Though I could well have wished to shun this occasion, I have not felt at liberty to withhold my professional assistance, when it is sup
5 The argument from which this famous passage is taken was made to the jury, in August, 1830, at a special session of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, held in Salem, for the trial of John F. and Joseph J. Knapp, charged with participating in the murder of Captain Joseph White. The deed of murder was actually committed by the hand of one Richard Crowminshield, who had been hired by the Knapps to do it for $1,000. While Crowninshield and the Knapps were in prison awaiting trial, J. J. Knapp, under a pledge of indemnity, made a full confession of the whole affair; and Crowninshield, having heard of this confession, soon after committed suicide in the prison. Knapp thereupon withdrew his confession, and refused to testify in the trial. This released the other party from the pledge; and then J. F. Knapp was indicted as principal in the murder, and his brother as an accessary. Doth of the ICnapps were convicted of the crime, and executed. Webster was engaged by the prosecuting officers of the State to aid them in the case. The opposing counsel were Mr. Franklin Dexter and Mr. W. H. Gardiner, men eminent for ability and learning, who did their utmost in the defence. Some objection was made to Webster's having a hand in the trial, but was overruled; and Mr. Dexter complained that he had been brought there to “hurry the jury against the law and beyond the evidence.” The portion of Webster's argument here given has stood the hardlest trial, perhaps, that any thing of the sort can undergo: it has been a favourite piece in school and college declamation ever since; and would have been staled long ere this, if any thing could stale it. But no frequency of such use can take the spirit and freshness out of it. And it gains much in effect from a full knowledge of the circumstances of the case. .