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THE ADDITION TO THE CAPITOL.*
FELLow-Citizens,— I greet you well; I give you joy, on the return of this anniversary; and I felicitate you, also, on the more particular purpose of which this ever-memorable day has been chosen to witness the fulfilment. Hail! all hail! I see before and around me a mass of faces, glowing with cheerfulmess and patriotic pride. I see thousands of eyes turned towards other eyes, all sparkling with gratification and delight. This is the New World ! This is America . This is Washington! and this the Capitol of the United States! And where else, among the nations, can the seat of government be surrounded, on any day of any year, by those who have more reason to rejoice in the blessings which they possess? Nowhere, fellow-citizens! assuredly, nowhere! Let us, then, meet this rising sun with joy and thanksgiving!
This is that day of the year which announced to mankind the great fact of American Independence. This fresh and brilliant morning blesses our vision with another beholding of the birthday of our nation; and we see that nation, of recent origin, now among the most considerable and powerful, and spreading over the continent from sea to sea.
Among the first colonists from Europe to this part of America, there were some, doubtless, who contemplated the distant consequences of their undertaking, and who saw a great futurity. But, in general, their hopes were limited to the enjoyment of a safe asylum from tyranny. religious and civil, and to respectable subsistence, by industry and toil. A thick veil hid our times from their view. But the progress of America, however slow, could not but at length awaken genius, and attract the attention of mankind. In the early part of the second century of our history, Bishop Berkeley, who, it will be remembered, had resided for some time in Newport, in Rhode Island, wrote his well-known “Verses on the Prospect of planting ARTs and LEARNING in AMERIca.” The last stanza of this little poem seems to have been produced by a high poetical inspiration: – “Westward the course of empire takes its way; The four first acts already past,
* An Address delivered at the Laying of the Corner-stone of the Addition to the Capitol, on the 4th of July, 1851. The following motto stands upon the title-page of the original pamphlet edition: — “Stet Capitolium
A fifth shall close the drama with the day:
This extraordinary prophecy may be considered only as the result of long foresight and uncommon sagacity; of a foresight and sagacity stimulated, nevertheless, by excited feeling and high enthusiasm. So clear a vision of what America would become was not founded on square miles, or on existing numbers, or on any common laws of statistics. It was an intuitive glance into futurity; it was a grand conception, strong, ardent, glowing, embracing all time since the creation of the world, and all regions of which that world is composed, and judging of the future by just analogy with the past. And the inimitable imagery and beauty with which the thought is expressed, joined to the conception itself, render it one of the most striking passages in our language. On the day of the declaration of independence our illustri ous fathers performed the first scene in the last great act of this drama; one in real importance infinitely exceeding that for which the great English poet invokes
“A muse of fire,
The Muse inspiring our fathers was the Genius of Liberty, all on fire with a sense of oppression, and a resolution to throw it off; the whole world was the stage, and higher characters than princes trod it; and, instead of monarchs, countries and nations and the age beheld the swelling scene. How well the characters were cast, and how well each acted his part, and what emotions the whole performance excited, let history, now and hereafter, tell. At a subsequent period, but before the declaration of independence, the Bishop of St. Asaph published a discourse, in which the following remarkable passages are found:—
“It is difficult for man to look into the destiny of future ages; the designs of Providence are vast and complicated, and our own powers are too narrow to admit of much satisfaction to our curiosity. But when we see many great and powerful causes constantly at work, we cannot doubt of their producing proportionable effects. “The colonies in North America have not only taken root and acquired strength, but seem hastening with an accelerated progress to such a powerful state as may introduce a new and important change in human affairs. “Descended from ancestors of the most improved and enlightened part of the Old World, they receive, as it were by inheritance, all the improvements and discoveries of their mother country. And it happens fortunately for them to commence their flourishing state at a time when the human understanding has attained to the free use of its powers, and has learned to act with vigor and certainty. They may avail themselves, not only of the experience and industry, but even of the errors and mistakes, of former days. Let it be considered for how many ages a great part of the world appears not to have thought at all; how many more they have been busied in forming systems and conjectures, while reason has been lost in a labyrinth of words, and they never seem to have suspected on what frivolous matters their minds were employed. “And let it be well understood what rapid improvements, what important discoveries, have been made, in a few years, by a few countries, with our own at their head, which have at last discovered the right method of using their faculties. “May we not reasonably expect that a number of provinces possessed of these advantages and quickened by mutual emulation, with only the common progress of the human mind, should very considerably enlarge the boundaries of science 2 “The vast continent itself, over which they are gradually spreading, may be considered as a treasure yet untouched of natural productions that shall hereafter afford ample matter for commerce and contemplation. And if we reflect what a stock of knowledge may be accumulated by the constant progress of industry and observation, fed with fresh supplies from the stores of nature, assisted sometimes by those happy strokes of chance which mock all the powers of invention, and some. times by those superior characters which arise occasionally to instruct and enlighten the world, it is difficult even to imagine to what height of improvement their discoveries may extend.
“And perhaps they may make as considerable adrances in the arts of ciril gorernment and the conduct of life. We have reason to be proud, and even jealous, of our excellent constitution; but those equitable principles on which it was formed, an equal representation (the best discovery of political wisdom), and a just and commodious distribution of power, which with us were the price of civil wars, and the rewards of the virtues and sufferings of our ancestors, descend to them as a natural inheritance, without toil or pain.
“But must they rest here, as in the utmost effort of human genius ! Can chance and time, the wisdom and the erperience of public men, sug. gest no new remedy against the evils which vices and ambition are perpetually apt to cause 2 May they not hope, without presumption, to preserve a greater zeal for piety and public devotion than we have done * For sure it can hardly happen to them, as it has to us, that when religion is best understood and rendered most pure and reasonable, then should be the precise time when many cease to believe and prac. tise it, and all in general become most indifferent to it.
“May they not possibly be more successful than their mother country has been in preserving that reverence and authority which are due to the laws to those who make, and to those who execute them 2 May not a method be intented of procuring some tolerable share of the comforts of life to those inferior useful ranks of men to whose industry we are indebted for the whole 2 Time and discipline may discover some means to correct the extreme inequalities of condition between the rich and the poor, so dangerous to the innocence and happiness of both. They may fortunately be led by habit and choice to despise that luxury which is considered with us the true enjoyment of wealth. They may have little relish for that ceaseless hurry of amusements which is pursued in this country without pleasure, exercise, or employment. And perhaps, after trying some of our follies and caprices, and rejecting the rest, they may be led by reason and experiment to that old simplicity which was first pointed out by nature, and has produced those models which we still admire in arts, eloquence, and manners. The diversity of new scenes and situations, which so many growing states must neces. sarily pass through, may introduce changes in the fluctuating opinions and manners of men which we can form no conception of; and not only the gracious disposition of Providence, but the visible preparation of causes, seems to indicate strong tendencies towards a general improvement.”
Fellow-citizens, this “gracious disposition of Providence,” and this “visible preparation of causes,” at length brought on the hour for decisive action. On the 4th of July, 1776, the Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, declared that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATEs. This declaration, made by most patriotic and resolute men, trusting in the justice of their cause and the protection of Heaven, and yet made not without deep solicitude and anxiety, has now stood for seventy-five years, and still stands. It was sealed in blood. It has met dangers, and overcome them; it has had enemies, and conquered them; it has had detractors, and abashed them all; it has had doubting friends, but it has cleared all doubts away; and now, to-day, raising its august form higher than the clouds, twenty millions of people contemplate it with hallowed love, and the world beholds it, and the consequences which have followed from it, with profound admiration. This anniversary animates and gladdens and unites all American hearts. On other days of the year we may be party men, indulging in controversies, more or less important to the public good; we may have likes and dislikes, and we may maintain our political differences, often with warm, and sometimes with angry feelings. But to-day we are Americans all; and all nothing but Americans. As the great luminary over our heads, dissipating mists and fogs, now cheers the whole hemisphere, so do the associations connected with this day disperse all cloudy and sullen weather in the minds and hearts of true Americans. Every man's heart swells within him; every man's port and bearing become somewhat more proud and lofty, as he remembers that seventy-five years have rolled away, and that the great inheritance of liberty is still his; his, undiminished and unimpaired; his in all its original glory; his to enjoy, his to protect, and his to transmit to future generations. Fellow-citizens, this inheritance which we enjoy to-day is not only an inheritance of liberty, but of our own peculiar American liberty. Liberty has existed in other times, in other countries, and in other forms. There has been a Grecian liberty, bold and powerful, full of spirit, eloquence, and fire; a liberty which produced multitudes of great men, and has transmitted one immortal name, the name of Demosthenes, to posterity. But