Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

fict of nations, was to remain in peace. Faction at home, and intrigue and menace from abroad, endeavor to shake him-in vain-he remains serene and immovable in the storm that surrounds him. Foreign intrigue he defeats-foreign insolence he represses-domestic faction, dashing against him, breaks itself to pieces. He meets the injustice, indeed, both of Britain and of France, by negociation, rather than by a precipitate declasation of war ; but maintains towards them that firm and commanding attitude which becomes the head of a free and great Tepublic. He obliges them to respect him ; and preserves the tranquility of his country. As an American, he knows no nation but as friends in peace, in war as enemies. Towards one he forgets ancient animosities when it is useless to remember them. Towards another he renounces a chimerical gratitude when it is claimed only to involve us in fruitless calamities; perhaps, to put into their hands a dangerous empire over our own, and over other nations,

And now, my countrymen, behold, in the prosperity that surrounds you, the happy effects of this wise policy. See the desolated regions of Europe compare their endless revolutions, their ferocious tyrannies, their murders, their massacres, their brutal violations of virgin honor, and conjugal fidelity, their wasted plains, their plundered cities, with our peaceful and flourishing state ; and bless the memory of Washington, to whose prudence and magnanimity, shall I not say in spite of yourselves ? you owe it. Had not his firm patriotism, and his sage councils prevailed, what might not have been our present condition ? I tremble to imagine it. We might, by the audacity of foreigners, have been stripped of the power of self-government-we inight have looked only on pillaged towns, and a desolate shore--we might have seen the sacred asylum of our families polluted with lust and murder-we might have been the prey of civil discord-We might, like the wretched inhabitants of Saint-Domingo, have been the dreadful victims of domestic treason._Unhappy the nation who permits a more powerful foreigner to obtain an ascendant in her councils !

Let me not forget that, amidst his cares for our foreign relations, he chastised and repressed the inroads of the savage tribes upon our frontiers, by the arms of the gallant Wayne. And, when rebellion dared to raise an impious front against the laws, he infused new energy into the government, by the promptitude and decision with which he crushed it."

· To recapitulate, in one word, the events of an administration as wise as it has been successful public credit has been restored public peace has been preserved, notwithstanding thế most powerful efforts to disturb it-domestic faction has been kept under control foreign intrigue and insolence have been defeated and repressed-foreign nations have been compelled to respect the republic-its power has been encreased its resources have been multiplied--a savage war has been terminated—rebel. lion has been punished the laws have been strengthened and energy and stability have been infused into the government.

With this wise statesman it was an invariable principle of policy, that we can never be secure against the injustice of fo. reign nations while we do not possess the power of commanding respect, and punishing aggression. Weak intreaties, pusillanimous concessions, only invite indignities : For, unfortunately, power is right in the morality of republics as well as of kings. The defence of our commerce, therefore, the fortification of our ports, and the effectual organization of our military force, were objects towards which he ever directed a solicitous atten. tion.

· BEHOLD, then, this illustrious man, no less sublime as a statesman, than as a warrior ! His character is a constellation of all the greatest qualities that dignify or adorn human nature. The virtues and the talents which, in other instances, are divid. ed among many, are combined in him.

Having rendered such invaluable services to the state, and accomplished every object for which he had re-entered into pub. lic life, his desire to return to privacy and retirement could no longer be resisted. A second time he gave the world the great and rare example of voluntarily descending from the first station in the universe, the head of a free people, placed there by their unanimous suffrage, and continued there with a zeal only not idolatrous, to the rank of a plain and simple citizen, obedient to those laws which ambition would have placed its glory in controlling. The pride of reigning he despised. Its labors he endured only for his country. And, when he could, he cast it from him as a bauble to which his soul was superior.

On Mount Vernon he enjoyed his family and his virtue ; but still prepared to sacrifice all his dearest predilections whenever his beloved country should demand his aid. Unfortunately, it was too soon required. The injustice of a foreign nation had compelled her to arm ; and he was coming forth to defend her under the shade of those laurels which he had gathered in her service. But the ruler of the Universe, the God of armies, had otherwise determined.--Ah! in what an eventful crisis of the world—in what a dubious and alarming moment for America, hath she lost her hero !-Great God! thy councils are inscrutable !

He died as he had lived, with that serenity of mind, and that, composed fortitude, which had ever distinguished his character. Death has no terrors to a pure soul which already derives its supreme pleasures from virtue. There are ardent and impetuous spirits who can affront death in the field, who are not able to regard it with a calm and steady eye in the thoughtful scenes of retirement, and under the pressure of disease. The fire and tumult of battle transport them beyond themselves-honor impels them-and the observation of thousands imparts to the mind an artificial force. But, in the silent chamber, where no · foreign impulse supports the heart, and it is not sustained by a

consoling retrospect on life, they often shrink from the idea of dissolution, and of the destinies of eternity; and those who seemed to be more than men in the terrible hour of conflict, have been seen to be less than men upon the bed of death. Our hero was the same in that moment as in all the past-magnanimous, firm, confiding in the mercy, resigned to the will, of heaven. Ah! with what beauty does religion shine in the con.'

cluding scene of such a life ! How precious the hope of immora tality in such a moment ! Rising on his own faith, and on the prayers of millions, to the throne of the eternal, he receives in heaven the reward of those illustrious services to his country, and to human nature, which could never be paid him upon earth. *

Such in peace and in war, in private and in public life, was that illustrious man whom all America this day mourns, whom foreign nations lament, and whom the most distant time shall crown with continually new praises. If I have not been able to rise to the dignity of my subject, I have, at least, endeavored to discharge the uffice of a good citizen, in paying my homage to the departed father of his country. Other orators will rise to do him justice-history will preserve the remembrance of his great qualities to the remotest ages his memory will forever be his highest eulogy.

· The praise that is now paid to such distinguished merit can no longer be suspected of adulation. The universal impulse of the nation dictates it—the first magistrate of America, the friend of Washington, in a stile worthy himself, and worthy his great co-patriot, has given the example of it f-the supreme legislature of the Union have decreed him the noblest honors communities and individuals vie with one another in the testimonies of their respect and veneration. It is a great republican duty to crown with honors and with eulogies pre-eminent merit, and public services. Glory is the only reward which is worthy free states to bestow, or patriots to receive. All otħers, seizing on the principles of avarice, vanity, or pleasure, render the love of country only a secondary passion. The rewards of glory, to which sublime souls have always been devoted, still

* Answer of congress to bis speech on resigning bis office of commander in chief.

+ See the president's answer to the address of condolence presented by the senate.

leave our country to be the first object in the heart. They are the homage which nations pay to superior virtue. Egypt, by her funeral panegyrics, first taught the world the influence of posthumous glory to create wise magistrates, illustrious heroes, and virtuous citizens. Greece, by the aid of her laurel and her ivý, of her statuaries and her painters, and above all, of her historians and her orators, rendered her citizens the admiration and the envy of the universe. Letters are more durable than marble. Long since, the monuments of Trajan and Agricola have perished ; but the glory of the one, and the virtues of the other, shall exist forever, embalmed by the genius of Pliny and of Tacitus. Yet, brass and marble shall not be wanting to record his fame. A monument, worthy a great nation, shall rise to him in the new capitol, that, like the capitol of Rome, shall be the centre of a universe of its own. Yield ! excellent lady! who hast already known how to make so many sacrifices to thy country, yield to our solicitations his precious remains, that, laid at the foundation of those walls whence issue our laws, he .. may still seem to be the support of the republic. *

Ah ! could I make my voice resound throughout the earth could I support, by my genius, the grandeur of the subject, I would hold him out as a model to lawgivers, and to princes. Heroes who place a false glory in overturning the peace and liberties of the world, should learn from him wherein true glory consists, and restrain their intemperate ambition. His actions should instruct the universe.

Rulers of the new world ! imbibe his spirit! govern by his example! It is then only that our tears for Washington can be dried up when we see his image revived in you. The grief that overwhelms us shall give place to the delicious tears of joy, when we see, springing from his ashes, so many illustrious and virtuous citizens, the ornaments and defenders of their country.

* Since the delivery of this discourse we have been assured that Mrs. Wasbington bas complied with the request of congress. See ber admirable letter to the president of the United Siates.'

Kk

« AnteriorContinuar »