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But it is only the influence of that event on America, and on the measures of the President, that belongs to my subject. It would be ingratefully wrong to his character, to be silent in respect to a part of it, which has the most signally illustrated his virtues.
The genuine character of that revolution is not even yet so well understood, as the dictates of self-preservation require it should be. The chief duty and care of all governments is to protect the rights of property, and the tranquillity of society. The leaders of the French revolution, from the beginning, excited the poor against the rich. This has made the rich poor, but it will never make the poor rich. On the contrary, they were used only as blind instruments to make those leaders masters, first of the adverse party, and then of the state. Thus the powers of the state were turned round into a direction exactly contrary to the proper one, not to preserve tranquillity and restrain violence, but to excite violence by the lure of power, and plunder, and vengeance. Thus all France has been, and still is, as much the prize of the ruling party, as a captured ship; and if any right or possession has escaped confiscation, there is none that has not been liable to it.
Thus it clearly appears, that, in its origin, its character, and its means, the government of that country is revolutionary: that is, not only different from, but directly contrary to, every regular and well-ordered society. It is a danger, similar in its kind, and at least equal in degree, to that, with which ancient Rome menaced her enemies. The allies of Rome were slaves; and it cost some hundred years' efforts of her policy and arms, to make her enemies her allies. Nations, at this day, can trust no better to treaties; they cannot even trust to arms, unless they are used with a spirit and perseverance becoming the magnitude of their danger. For the French revolution has been, from the first, hostile to all right and justice, to all peace and order in so. ciety; and therefore, its very existence has been a state of warfare against the civilized world, and most of all
against free and orderly republics, for such are never without factions, ready to be the allies of France, and to aid her in the work of destruction. Accordingly, scarcely any but republics have they subverted. Such governments, by showing in practice what republican liberty is, detect French imposture, and show what their pretexts are not.
To subvert them, therefore, they had, besides the facility that faction affords, the double excitement of removing a reproach, and converting their greatest obstacles into their most efficient auxiliaries.
Who, then, on careful reflection, will be surprised, that the French and their partizans instantly conceived the desire, and made the most powerful attempts, to revolutionize the American government? But it will hereafter seem strange, that their excesses should be excused, as the effects of a struggle for liberty; and that so many of our citizens should be flattered, while they were insulted with the idea, that our example was copied, and our principles pursued. Nothing was ever more false, or more fascinating. Our liberty depends on our education, our laws and habits, to which even prejudices yield; on the dispersion of our people on farms, and on the almost equal diffusion of property ; it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart; and on the influence all these produce on public opinion, before that opinion governs rulers. Here liberty is restraint; there it is violence: here it is mild and cheering, like the morning sun of our summer, brightening the hills and making the vallies green; there it is like the sun, when its rays dart pestilence on the sands of Africa. American liberty calms and restrains the licentious passions, like an angel that says to the winds and troubled seas, be still. But how has French licentiousness appeared to the wretched citizens of Switzerland and Venice? Do not their haunted imaginations, even when they wake, represent her as a monster, with eyes that flash wildfire, hands that hurl thunderbolts, a voice that shakes the foundation of the hills ? She stands, and
her ambition measures the earth; she speaks, and an epidemic fury seizes the nations.
Experience is lost upon us, if we deny, that it had seized a large part of the American nation. It is as sober and intelligent, as free, and as worthy to be free, as any in the world; yet, like all other people, we have passions and prejudices, and they had received a violent impulse, which, for a time, misled us.
Jacobinism had become here, as in France, rather a sect than a party, inspiring a fanaticism that was equally intolerant and contagious. The delusion was general enough to be thought the voice of the people, therefore, claiming authority without proof, and jealous enough to exact acquiescence without a murmur of contradiction. Some progress was made in training multitudes to be vindictive and ferocious. To them nothing seemed amiable, but the revolutionary justice of Paris; nothing terrible, but the government and justice of America. The very name of patriots was claimed and applied, in proportion as the citizens had alienated their hearts from America, and transferred their affections to their foreign corrupter. Party discerned its intimate connexion of interest with France, and consummated its profligacy by yielding to foreign influence.
The views of these allies required, that this country should engage in war with Great Britain. Nothing less would give to France all the means of annoying this dreaded rival: nothing less would ensure the subjection of America, as a satellite to the ambition of France : nothing else could make a revolution here perfectly inevitable.
For this end, the minds of the citizens were artfully inflamed, and the moment was watched, and impatiently waited for, when their long heated passions should be in fusion, to pour them forth, like the lava of a volcano, to blacken and consume the peace and government of our country.
The systematic operations of a faction, under for
eign influence, had begun to appear, and were succes. sively pursued, in a manner too deeply alarming to be soon forgotten. Who of us does not remember this worst of evils in this worst of ways ? Shame would forget, if it could, that, in one of the states, amendments were proposed to break down the federal senate, which, as in the state governments, is a great bulwark of the public order. To break down another, an extravagant judiciary power was claimed for states. In another state, a rebellion was fomented by the agent of France: and who, without fresh indignation, can remember, that the powers of government were openly usurped, troops levied, and ships fitted out to fight for her? Nor can any true friend to our government consider without dread, that, soon afterwards, the treaty-making power was boldly challenged for a branch of the government, from which the constitution has wisely withholden it.
I am oppressed, and know not how to proceed with my subject. Washington, blessed be God! who endued him with wisdom and clothed him with power; WASHINGTON issued his proclamation of neutrality, and, at an early period, arrested the intrigues of France and the passions of his countrymen, on the very edge of the precipice of war and revolution.
This act of firmness, at the hazard of his reputation and peace, entitles him to the name of the first of patriots. Time was gained for the citizens to recover their virtue and good sense, and they soon recovered them. The crisis was passed, and America was saved.
You and I, most respected fellow-citizens, should be sooner tired than satisfied in recounting the particulars of this illustrious man's life.
How great he appeared, while he administered the government, how much greater when he retired from it, how he accepted the chief military command under his wise and upright successor, how his life was unspotted like his fame, and how his death was worthy
period would be soon obliterated from the memory, but for some periodical call of attention to aid the silent records of the historian. Such celebrations arouse and gratify the kindliest emotions of the boa som. They are faithful pledges of the respect we bear to the memory of our ancestors, and of the tenderness with which we cherish the rising generation. They introduce the sages and heroes of ages past to the notice and emulation of succeeding times: they are at once testimonials of our gratitude, and schools of virtue to our children.
These sentiments are wise; they are honorable ; they are virtuous; their cultivation is not merely innocent pleasure, it is incumbent duty. Obedient to their dictates, you, my fellow-citizens, have instituted and paid frequent observance to this annual solemnity. And what event of weightier intrinsic importance, or of more extensive consequences, was ever selected for this honorary distinction ?
In reverting to the period of their origin, other nations have generally been compelled to plunge into the chaos of impenetrable antiquity, or to trace a lawless ancestry into the caverns of ravishers and robbers. It is your peculiar privilege to commemorate, in this birthday of your nation, an event ascertained in its minutest details: an event of which the principal actors are known to you familiarly, as if belonging to your own age: an event of a magnitude before which imagination shrinks at the imperfection of her powers. It is your further happiness to behold, in those eminent characters who were most conspicuous in accomplishing the settlement of your country, men upon whose virtues you can dwell with honest exultation. The founders of your race are not handed down to you, like the father of the Roman people, as the sucklings of a wolf. You are not descended from a nauseous compound of fanaticism and sensuality, whose only argument was the sword, and whose only paradise was a brothel. No Gothic
No Gothic scourge of God;