Слике страница

And, although the other colonies were not possessed of the same grotesque and intolerant bigotry as those of New England, they were not the less jealous of the principle of local independence.

Botta, the distinguished Italian, who wrote the first impartial history of our War of Independence, says: “As to the provinces of the South, the land there being more fertile, and the colonists consequently enjoying greater affluence, they could pretend to a more ample liberty, and discover less animosity for opinions which differed from their own, Nor should it be imagined that the happy fate they enjoyed, had enervated their minds or impaired their courage. Living continually on their own plantations, far from the luxury and se. duction of cities, frugal and moderate in all their de. sires, it is certain, on the contrary, that the great abundance of things necessary to life rendered their bodies more vigorous, and their minds more impatient of all subjection. In these provinces, also, the slavery of the blacks, which was in use, seemed-however strange the assertion—to have increased the love of liberty among the white population. This influence they considered not merely as a right, but as a fran. chise and privilege. They considered the pretensions of the British Government as tending to reduce them to a state little different from that of their own negro slaves.”

Another thing that led to the greater love of the principle of local independence among most of the col. onies, was a perpetual fresh recurrence to the causes which had led to the planting of their destinies upon these shores.

If it was a love of liberty, and an abhorrence of the privations they suffered on account of it, that brought them to these shores, how should the ardor of exasper

ated minds have been appeased in these vast solitudes, where the amusements of Europe were unknownwhere assiduity in manual toils must have hardened their bodies, and increased the asperity of their characters.

If, in England, they had shown themselves adverse to the dictation of centralized power, how should their opinions have been changed here, where scarcely a vestige was seen of the royal authority and splendor ? Many of them had encountered exile, at the epoch when the war waged most fiercely in their native country between the king and the people—at the epoch when the armed subjects contended for the right of resisting the will of the prince when he usurps their liberties.

The colonists had suffered for these principles in the old country, and how should they forget them in the new ?

They were not only, for the most part, Protestants, but they were protestants against protestantism.

They were dissenters to all kinds of authority, ecclesiastical or civil, which was not the election of their own free and independent choice.

This spirit grew up with their growth, and strength. ened with their strength on this continent, from the time of their landing up to the very period of the Con. stitution. The circumstances that surrounded them were most favorable to the growth of this feeling of perfect independence, and of impatience at every thing that partook of the character of centralized coercive restraint.

From the vast extent of the territory occupied, and the abundance of vacant lands, every colonist was, or might have become, at the same time, a proprietor, a farmer, and a laborer.

Finding all his enjoyments in rural life, he saw spring up, grow, prosper, and arrive at maturity, under his

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Ani round about-absorbed, he haded not
The death that threaten'd himcould not shoot.
Tulcs liberty. I turned my bow aside,
All lot him soar away.

The land was free! 0! with what pride I used To walk tha se hills, and look up w my God, And bless him that it was so. It was freeFrom end to end, from cliff to lake, 'twas free! Free as our torrents are that leap our rocks, And plough our vallies, without asking leave: Or, as our peaks, that rear their caps of anyw, In very presence of the regal bun! In my boat at night, when midway o'er the the laks, The stars went out, and down the mountain gore, The wind came roaring! I have sat and eyed The thunder breaking from his cloud, and finiled To see him shake his lightnings oer my head, And think I had no master, save his own! I have thought of othér lands, whose storms Are summer tlaws to those of mine, and just Have wished me there—the thought that mine was frases Has check'd that wish, and I have raised my head, And cried in thraldom to that furious wind, Blow on! This is the land of liberty » Such were the freedom-inspiring surroundings of our forefathers, who laid the foundations of civil liberty, and of local independence on this continent. The cradle of liberty was liere rocked by the untrammeled winds of heaven.

Man's soul was made free by ten thousand proclamations issued by the voice of Nature and Providence, which spoke by the authority of charters older than the records of human governments, and diviner than the statutes of legislative enactments.

Every man's bosom was a kingdom! Every man's soul was a king! Vast forests, hills, vallies, rivers, lakes, fields, were his subjects.

He commanded them, and they obeyed. Each in its turn paid tribute to his wants, and is due time poured wealth and plenty into his lap.

Here he grew in greatness and power, becoming progressively more free and independent, as he subju. gated the continent to his will, until at length the insti. tutions of government grew under bis hand into a temple of liberty that commanded the wonder and ad. miration of the world.

That was the Union !



own eyes, and often by his own hands, all things ne.
cessary for the life of man.

lle was the monarch of all he surveyed. He felt
himself free from all subjection, from all dependence.
And individual liberty is a most powerful incentive to
civil independence.

He was a true lord. He might hunt, fowl, and fish whenever he pleased. There were no poacher laws to restrain his will. His parks, and pleasure grounds, and reservoirs were boundless forests, vast and numer. ous lakes and rivers, and the sea unrestricted and in. exhaustible in fish of every species. How could this man feel himself otherwise than a lord of the soil, as free as the winds and the eagles that flew above him ? How could he feel otherwise than free ? Independence was as much a part of the emotions and passions of his bosom, as of his unrestricted footsteps among the unfenced hills and vallies of the boundless continent around him.

The eagle that soared from peak to peak over all this wilderness realm, was not inore free.

And it was with something more than a metaphor, that our forefathers adopted the eagle as the fitting emblem of American Liberty.

They regarded this proud native of these forests
with as sacred, and almost as superstitious a reverence,
as William Tell, the immortal hero of Switzerland, who,
in Sheridan Knowles' inimitable drama of his name, is
made to say :

“Scaling yonder peak,
I saw an eagle wheeling near its brow;
O'er the abyss, his broad-expanded wings
Lay calin aud nuotionless upon the air,
As if he tioated thera without their aid,
By the sole act of his unlorded will,
That buoy'd him proudly up. Instinctively
I bent my bow ; yet kept he rounding still
His airy circle, as in the delight
of measuring the ample range beneath,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »