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violence of nature at their feet. But they were all instigated by personal interests. Avarice and ambition had tuned their souls to that pitch of exaltation. Selfish passions were the parents of their heroism. It was reserved for the first settlers of New England to perform achievements equally arduous, to trample down obstructions equally formidable, to dispel dãngers, equally terrific, under the single inspiration of conscience. To them, even liberty herself, was but a subordinate and secondary consideration. They claimed exemption from the mandates of human authority, as militating with their subjection to a superior power. Before the vaice of heaven they silenced even the calls of their country.
Yet, while so deeply impressed with the sense of religious obligation, they felt
, in all its energy, the force of that tender tie which binds the heart of every virtuous man to his native land. It was to renew that connexion with their country which had been severed by their compulsory expatriation, that they resolved to face all the hazards of a perilous navigation, and all the labors of a toilsome distant settlement. Under the mild protection of the Batavian government, they enjoyed already that freedom of religious worship, for which they had resigned so many comforts and enjoyments at home: but their hearts panted for a restoration to the bosom of their country. Invited and urged by the openhearted and truly benevolent people, who had given them an asylum from the persecution of their own kindred, to form their settlement within the territories then under their jurisdiction; the love of their country predominated over every influence save that of conscience alone, and they preferred the precarious chance of relaxation from the bigoted rigor of the English government to the certain liberality and alluring offers of the Hollanders. Observe, my countrymen, the generous patriotism, the cordial union of soul, the conscious, yet unaffected vigor, which beam in their application to the British monarch.
“ They were well weaned from the delicate milk of their mother country, and inured to the difficulties of a strange land. They were knit together in a strict and sacred bond, to take care of the good of each other and of the whole. It was not with them as with other men, whom small things could discourage, or small discontents cause to wish themselves again at home.” Children of these exalted Pilgrims! Is there one among, you, who can hear the simple and pathetic energy of these expressions without tenderness and admiration? Venerated shades of our forefathers! No! ye were, indeed, not ordinary men! That country which had ejected you so cruelly from her bosom, you still delighted to contemplate in the character of an affectionate and beloved mother. The sacred bond which knit you together was indissoluble while you lived; and oh! may it be to your descendants the example and the pledge of harmony to the latest period of time! The difficulties and dangers, which so often had defeated attempts of similar establishments, were unable to subdue souls tempered like yours. You heard the rigid interdictions; you saw the menacing forms of toil and danger, forbidding your access to this land of promise: but you heard without dismay; you saw and disdained retreat. Firm and undaunted in the confidence of that sacred bond; conscious of the purity, and convinced of the importance of your motives, you put your trust in the protecting shield of Providence, and smiled defiance at the combining terrors of human malice and of elemental strife. These, in the accomplishment of your undertaking, you were summoned to encounter in their most hideous forms: these you met with that fortitude, and combatted with that perseverance which you had promised in their anticipation: these you completely vanquished in establishing the foundations of New England, and the day which we now commemorate is the perpetual memorial of your triumph.
from our early historians, and exhibit before you, every
detail of this transaction. To carry you in imagination on board their bark at the first moment of her arrival in the bay; to accompany Carver, Winslow, Bradford and Standish, in all their excursions upon the desolate coast; to follow them into every rivulet and creek where they endeavored to find a firm footing, and to fix, with a pause of delight and exultation, the instant when the first of these heroic adventurers alighted on the spot where you, their descendants, now enjoy the glorious and happy reward of their labors. But in this grateful task, your former orators, on this anniversary, have anticipated all that the most ardent industry could collect, and gratified all that the most inquisitive curiosity could desire. To you, my friends, every occurrence of that momentous period is already familiar. A transient allusion to a few characteristic incidents, which mark the peculiar history of the Plymouth settlers, may properly supply the place of a narrative, which, to this auditory, must be superfluous.
One of these remarkable incidents is the execution of that instrument of government by which they formed themselves into a body-politic, the day after their arrival upon the coast, and previous to their first landing. This is, perhaps, the only instance, in human history, of that positive, original social compact, which speculative philosophers have imagined as the only legitimate source of government. Here was a unanimous and personal assent, by all the individuals of the community, to the association by which they became a nation. It was the result of circumstances and discussions, which had occurred during their passage from Europe, and is a full demonstration that the nature of civil government, abstracted from the political institutions of their native country, had been an object of their serious meditation. The settlers of all the former European colonies had contented themselves with the powers conferred upon them by their respective charters, without looking beyond the seal of the royal parchVOL. y.
ment for the measure of their rights, and the rule of their duties. The founders of Plymouth had been impelled by the peculiarities of their situation to examine the subject with deeper and more comprehensive research. After twelve years of banishment from the land of their first allegiance, during which they had been under an adoptive and temporary subjection to another sovereign, they must naturally have been led to reflect upon the relative rights and duties of allegiance and subjection. They had resided in a city, the seat of a university, where the polemical and political controversies of the time were pursued with uncommon fervor. In this period they had witnessed the deadly struggle between the two parties, into which the people of the United Provinces, after their separation from the crown of Spain, had divided themselves. The contest embraced within its compass not only theological doctrines, but political principles, and Maurice and Barnevelt were the temporal leaders of the same rival factions, of which Episcopius and Polyander, were the ecclesiastical champions. That the investigation of the fundamental principles of government was deeply implicated in these dissensions is evident from the immortal work of Grotius, upon the rights of war and peace, which undoubtedly originated from them. Grotius himself had been a most distinguished actor and sufferer in those important scenes of internal convulsion, and his work was first published* very shortly after the departure of our forefathers from Leyden. It is well known, that in the course of the contest, Mr. Robinson more than once appeared, with credit to himself as a public disputant against Episcopius; and from the manner in which the fact is related by Governor Bradford, it is apparent that the whole English church at Leyden took a zealous interest in the religious part of the controversy. As strangers in the land, it is presumable that they wisely and honorably avoided entangling themselves in the political contentions involved with it. Yet the theoretic principles, as they were drawn into discussion, could not fail to arrest their attention, and must have assisted them to form accurate ideas concerning the origin and extent of authority among men, independent of positive institutions. The importance of these circumstances will not be duly weighed without taking into consideration the state of opinions then prevalent in England. The general principles of government were there little understood and less examined. The whole substance of human authority was centred in the simple doctrine of royal prerogative, the origin of which was always traced in theory to divine institution. Twenty years later, the subject was more industriously sifted, and for half a century became one of the principal topics of controversy between the ablest and most enlightened men in the nation. The instrument of voluntary association, executed on board the Mayflower, testifies that the parties to it had anticipated the improvement of their nation.
* In 1625.
Another incident, from which we may derive occasion for important reflections, was the attempt of these original settlers to establish among them that community of goods and of labor, which fanciful politicians, from the days of Plato to those of Rousseau, have recommended as the fundamental law of a perfect republic. This theory results, it must be acknowledged, from principles of reasoning, most flattering to the human character. If industry, frugality and disinterested integrity, were alike the virtues of all, there would, apparently, be more of the social spirit
, in making all property a common stock, and giving to each individual a proportional title to the wealth of the whole. Such is the basis upon which Plato forbids, in his republic, the division of property. Such is the system upon which Rousseau pronounces the first man, who enclosed a field with a fence and said, this is mine, a traitor to the human species. A wiser