Page images
PDF
EPUB

tions providing for the erection of a marble tomb, and a marble monument over the remains of Washington, and sent an earnest request to Mrs. Washington, that these sacred relics of the nation's friend and benefactor should be transmitted for final repose beneath the walls of the Capitol, and the flag of the country. The answer of Mrs. Washington, who was a model of her sex, and like the mother of Washington, among the noblest examples of the great and good women of the land, was, that accustomed as she had been to bring her private feelings into subjection to the voice of the country, and taught as she had been by Washington himself, to bow to the will of the nation, she was ready to surrender the remains of her deceased husband to what seemed to be the call of the country.

Mr. President, ---I feel sure I may bespeak the good will of the Senate of New York for a proposition like that upon your table, and which has come to us unanimously approved by the other branch of the State Legislature. My assurance is founded

the debt which New York owes to the memory of the Father of his Country. At Long Island, at Staten Island, on both banks of the Hudson, in the city of New York, and all around that city, through the darkest hours of the Revolution, and in the fiercest struggles for independence, he stood upon our soil, the defender of its liberties, the preserver of its property, the protector of the lives of its citizens. It seems to me, sir, that the waters of the Hudson, on the shores of which Washington perilled his life, and the waters of the Potomac, on the shores of which he lived and died, might be mingled into one flowing and harmonious river ; that the Old Dominion and New York, forgetting all past animosities, might mutually bury their differences and divisions in the grave of Washington, and upon the soil of Mount Vernon. At least, let me hope that New York will unanimously recommend that this hallowed ground will be rescued from desecration, and become the property of the American people.

upon

*

*

*

*

I see before me the beloved and honored John Marshall, of Virginia, as he addressed the representatives of the people in words which had become historic truths : “ First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." I see the venerated form of President John Adams, on whose motion in the Provincial Congress, George Washington had been placed at the head of the American armies. I hear his letter read to the two Houses of Congress, in answer to the official record of his death. I read his declaration, that if “ Trajan found a Pliny, Marcus Aurelius will not need historians, biographers, or eulogists." True, sir, it is that Washington needs neither historians, biographers, nor eulogists. His name is written all over the country, while his fame is inscribed upon the hearts of all his countrymen. But the soil where his remains repose is not, as it should be, the

property of the nation. In the tomb of Washington and the home of Washington, I would let every American citizen enjoy an ownership, and therefore it is I so urgently press the passage of this resolution.

[blocks in formation]

Washington was a hero, a statesman, a philanthropist, a patriot, and, to sum up all, in one word, he was an American. No public man, living or dead, can be compared with him in moral purity, in generous self-sacrifices, or in disinterested benevolence. The sublimity of his character, rising in majesty above all common levels, reminds one of "the cloudcapt towers” of the Alps or Apennines, as the traveller at the foot of these mountains has seen them bathed in the morning sunlight, and kissing the very skies with which they seemed to hold delightful communion; or to come to our own home, it soars as much above the level of common men, as the highest peaks of the Alleghanies rise above the muddy waters of the Ohio. I compare the Hon. Senator to no such man, nor Washington to any man whatsoever.

[blocks in formation]

If I heard the Senator read aright, he alluded to what is called the Higher Law !" There are men, sir, who can boldly march to the desk of the presiding officer of this body, and, holding up their right hands, repeat the sacred words I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States," or who, as they repeat these solemn pledges of fidelity, can put their lips to God's holy book, and imprint, I fear, just such a kiss upon it, as that with which Judas betrayed his Master. For one, sir, I know of no higher law to govern me here than the Constitution of my country, and when I say this, I speak both as a legislator and a man. That Constitution is in perfect harmony with

the teachings of God, and the precepts of humanity. It was modelled by good Christian men, and is in perfect conformity with divine wisdom and the highest public good. Sir, I can have some respect for the logic of those bold bad men, who find in the Constitution a power which they hate, and who are, therefore, ready to tear the instrument to pieces, and trample it under foot. I can have no respect whatever for that other class of higher law persons, who take upon them the oath of God to abide by the Constitution, and yet are ready to violate it as often as it conflicts with their interests or principles to support it.

*

*

*

I hope that this resolution, upon which I have been urging action from day to day, is not to be mutilated or destroyed. I have exhausted all the language and argument of which I am capable, in favor of its adoption as it came to us from the Assembly, and in conclusion, borrowing words and thoughts stronger than any of my own, I must say to you as the great Pericles said to the people of Athens, upon an occasion not wholly dissimilar to the present : “O Athenians (Americans I would say), these dead bodies ask no monument : their monument arose when they fell, and so long as liberty shall have defenders, their names will be imperishable. But, O Athenians, it is we who need a monument to their honor. We, who survive, not having yet proved that we, too, could die for our country, and be immortal. We need a monument, that the widows and children of the dead, and all Greece, and the shades of the departed, and all future ages may see

and know that we honor patriotism, and virtue, and liberty, and truth; for, next to performing a great deed, and achieving a noble character, is to honor such characters and deeds."

But slaves, that once conceive the glowing thought
Of freedom, in that hope itself possess
All that the contest calls for :-spirit, strength,
The scorn of danger, and united hearts,
The surest presage of the good they seek.

« PreviousContinue »