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children clinging to our skirts, we should see something, and feel something, of that scene, which, in the providence of God, was enacted at Plymouth on the 22d of December, 1620.
Thanks to Almighty God, who, from that distressed early condition of our fathers, has raised us to a height of prosperity and of happiness which they neither enjoyed, nor could have anticipated! We have learned much of them; they could have foreseen little of us. Would to God, my friends, that, when we carry our affections and our recollections back to that period, we could arm ourselves with something of the stern virtues which supported them, in that hour of peril, and exposure, and suffering! Would to God that we possessed that unconquerable resolution, stronger than bars of brass or iron, which strengthened their hearts; that patience, “ sovereign o'er transmuted ill," and, above all, that faith, that religious faith, which, with eyes fast fixed upon heaven, tramples all things earthly beneath her triumphant feet!
Gentlemen, the scenes of this world change. What our ancestors saw and felt, we shall not see nor feel. What they achieved, it is denied to us even to attempt. The severer duties of life, requiring the exercise of the stern and unbending virtues, were theirs. They were called upon for the exhibition of those austere qualities, which, before they came to the Western wilderness, had made them what they were. Things have changed. In the progress of society, the fashions and the habits of life, with all its conditions, have changed. Their rigid sentiments, and their tenets, apparently harsh and exclusive, we are not called on, in every respect, to imitate or commend; or rather to imitate, for we should commend them always, when we consider the state of society in which they had been adopted, and in which they seemed necessary. Our fathers had that religious sentiment, that trust in Providence, that determination to do right, and to seek, through every degree of toil and suffering, the honor of God, and the preservation of their liberties
, which we shall do well to cherish, to imitate, and to equal
, to the utmost of our ability. It may be true, and it is true, that in the progress of society the milder virtues have come to belong more especially to our day and our condition. The Pilgrims had been great sufferers from intolerance; it was not unnatural that their own faith and practice, as a consequence, should become some
what intolerant. This is the common infirmity of human nature. Man retaliates on man. It is to be hoped, however, that the greater spread of the benignant principles of religion, of the divine charity of Christianity, has, to some extent, improved the sentiments which prevailed in the world at that time. No doubt the “ first-comers," as they were called, were attached to their own forms of public worship, and to their own particular and strongly cherished religious opinions. No doubt they esteemed those sentiments, and the observances which they practised, to be absolutely binding on all, by the authority of the word of God. It is true, I think, in the general advancement of human intelligence, that we find, what they do not seem to have found, that a greater toleration of religious opinion, a more friendly feeling towards all who profess reverence for God and obedience to his commands, is not inconsistent with the great and fundamental principles of religion; I might rather say, is itself one of those fundamental principles. So we see in our day, I think, without any departure from the essential principles of our fathers, a more enlarged and comprehensive Christian philanthropy. It seems to be the American destiny, the mission which has been intrusted to us here on this shore of the Atlantic, the great conception and the great duty to which we are born, to show that all sects, and all denominations, professing reverence for the authority of the Author of our being, and belief in his revelations, may be safely tolerated without prejudice either to our religion or to our liberties.
We are Protestants, generally speaking; but you all know that there presides at the head of the supreme judicature of the United States a Roman Catholic; and no man, I suppose, through the whole United States, imagines that the judicature of the country is less safe, that the administration of public justice is less respectable or less secure, because the Chief Justice of the United States has been, and is, a firm adherent of that religion. And so it is in every department of society amongst us. In both houses of Congress, in all public offices, and all public affairs, we proceed on the idea that a man's religious belief is a matter above human law; that it is a question to be settled between him and his Maker, because he is responsible to none but his Maker for adopting or rejecting revealed truth. And here is the great distinction which is sometimes overlooked,
and which I am afraid is now too often overlooked, in this land, the glorious inheritance of the sons of the Pilgrims. Men, for their religious sentiments, are accountable to God, and to God only. Religion is both a communication and a tie between man and his Maker; and to his own master every man standeth or falleth. But when men come together in society, establish social relations, and form governments for the protection of the rights of all, then it is indispensable that this right of private judgment should in some measure be relinquished and made subservient to the judgment of the whole. Religion may exist while every man is left responsible only to God. Society, civil rule, the civil state, cannot exist, while every man is responsible to nobody and to nothing but to his own opinion. And our New England ancestors understood all this quite well. Gentle men, there is the “ Constitution” which was adopted on board the Mayflower in November, 1620, while that bark of immortal memory was riding at anchor in the harbor of Cape Cod. What is it? Its authors honored God; they professed to obey all his commandments, and to live ever and in all things in his obedience. But they say, nevertheless, that for the establishment of a civil polity, and for the greater security and preserva. tion of their civil rights and liberties, they agree that the laws and ordinances, acts and constitutions, and I am glad they put in the word " constitutions,") — they say that these laws and ordinances, acts and constitutions, which may be established by those whom they shall appoint to enact them, they, in all due submission and obedience, will support.
This constitution is not long. I will read it. It invokes a religious sanction and the authority of God on their civil obligations; for it was no doctrine of theirs that civil obedience is a mere matter of expediency. Here it is :
“ In the name of God, Amen: We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, king, defender of the Faith, &c., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the
ends aforesaid, and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws and ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony ; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."
The right of private judgment in matters between the Creator and the individual, and submission and obedience to the will of the whole, in all that respects civil polity, and the administration of such affairs as concerned the colony about to be established, they regarded as entirely consistent; and the common sense of mankind, lettered and unlettered, everywhere establishes and confirms this sentiment. Indeed, all must see that it is the very ligament, the very tie, which connects man to man, in the social system; and these sentiments are embodied in that constitution. Discourse on this topic might be enlarged, but I
pass from it.
Gentlemen, we are now two hundred and thirty years from that great event. There is the Mayflower. There is an imitation on a small scale, but a correct one, of the Mayflower. Sons of New England! there was in ancient times a ship that carried Jason to the acquisition of the Golden Fleece. There was a flag-ship at the battle of Actium which made Augustus Cæsar master of the world. In modern times, there have been flagships which have carried Hawke, and Howe, and Nelson of the other continent, and Hull, and Decatur, and Stewart of this, to triumph. What are they all, in the chance of remembrance among men, to that little bark, the Mayflower, which reached these shores on the 22d day of December, 1620 ? Yes, brethren of New England, yes! that Mayflower was a flower destined to be of perpetual bloom! Its verdure will stand the sultry blasts of summer, and the chilling winds of autumn. It will defy winter; it will defy all climate, and all time, and will continue to spread its petals to the world, and to exhale an ever-living odor and fragrance, to the last syllable of recorded time.
Gentlemen, brethren of New England! whom I have come some hundreds of miles to meet this night, let me present to you one of the most distinguished of those personages who came hither on the deck of the Mayflower. Let me fancy that I now
* Pointing to a small figure of a ship, in confectionery, representing the Mayflower, that stood before him.
see Elder William Brewster entering the door at the farther end of this hall; a tall and erect figure, of plain dress, of no elegance of manner beyond a respectful bow, mild and cheerful, but of no merriment that reaches beyond a smile. Let me suppose that his image stood now before us, or that it was looking in upon this assembly.
“ Are ye,” he would say, with a voice of exultation, and yet softened with melancholy, “are ye our children? Does this scene of refinement, of elegance, of riches, of luxury, does all this come from our labors? Is this magnificent city, the like of which we never saw nor heard of on either continent, is this but an offshoot from Plymouth rock?
• Quis jam locus
Is this one part of the great reward for which my brethren and myself endured lives of toil and of hardship? We had faith and hope. God granted us the spirit to look forward, and we did look forward. But this scene we never anticipated. Our hopes were on another life. Of earthly gratifications we tasted little; for human honors we had little expectation. Our bones lie on the hill in Plymouth church-yard, obscure, unmarked, secreted, to preserve our graves from the knowledge of savage foes. No stone tells where we lie. And yet, let me say to you who are our descendants, who possess this glorious country and all it contains, who enjoy this hour of prosperity and the thousand blessings showered upon it by the God of your fathers, we envy you not, we reproach you not. Be rich, be prosperous, be enlightened. Live in pleasure, if such be your allotment on earth; but live, also, always to God and to duty. Spread yourselves and your children over the continent, accomplish the whole of your great destiny, and if it be that through the whole you carry Puritan hearts with you, if you still cherish an undying love of civil and religious liberty, and mean to enjoy them yourselves, and are willing to shed your heart's blood to transmit them to your posterity, then will you be worthy descendants of Carver and Allerton and Bradford, and the rest of those who landed from stormy seas on the rock of Plymouth.”
Gentlemen, that little vessel, on the 22d of December, 1620, made her safe landing on the shore of Plymouth. She had been