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An Oration delivered before the Society of the Cincinnati of New Jersey, in consequence of their request, at Trenton, on the 4th day of July 1789

This is the day, the day of universal joy for the inhabitants of this western world. The anniversary of American Independence once more dawns on us, and it dawns with unusual brightness. The hostile desolating bands have not only left our shores, and hushed the noise of wars; our freedom & emancipation from foreign bondage, the noble objects of the bloody conflict, are not only happily effected, not only have we gained a name and station among the empires of the world, but to crown the summit of our wishes, Anarchy & Discord are flapping their retiring wings, and all the blessings of a free and efficacious government lie in the pleasing prospect now before us.

If other nations of the world have had cause to commemorate events by which their civil privileges have been enlarged, or their oppression diminished; if other nations have thought it necessary, by public festivals and splendid skews, to preserve in their memory, and to perpetuate to the knowledge of their posterity, the deliverances of their country from threatened ruin, or its elevation to superior happiness; Americans, above all other people, have reason to commemorate the event of which this day is the anniversary, with the most exalted joy, with the most cheerful festivity, and with the most un-bounded gratitude to the supreme ruler of the universe. History has nothing to parallel our situation, humanity can reach no farther. Permit me there-fore, my countrymen, to bespeak your indulgence to this, in discharge of the task assigned me, I take up a small part of this auspicious day, in making a few observations on the American Revolution. A subject too extensive for my feeble abilities, the greatest human abilities are inadequate to discuss it with propriety A people extending from New Hampshire to Georgia, these millions of souls, but yesterday doomed to servitude, are emancipated and free. The empire of oppression is broken; America is independent. Welcome, thrice welcome, glorious day, whose return reminds us of the dignity of our situation! Hail blessed Epocha! Which has raised human nature from disgrace, has enlarged the empire of reason, and promises blessings, heretofore unheard of, to the present generation and to millions yet unborn.

It is a revolution, my countrymen, great in itself, its consequences, both to these United States and to the world at large.

View it in itself; and whether we consider its rise, progress, or happy completion, the mind is equally filled with pleasure & amazement. The historic page, which relates the rise of other empires, must blush for her happiness, even on those she most approves, when brought to the test of a comparison. Was the American Revolution commenced under the guidance of ambition? Was its object to gratify at the expense of much blood and treasure, the pride, the avarice or the revenge of some haughty despot? Was it produced by the unruly passions of an unthinking multitude grown mad by oppression, having everything to hope for and nothing to loose? Was it conducted by the power and influence of the great and wealthy over the indigent and dependent? Did it end in the tyranny of a few men over the liberties of all? No, my country-men, different was the source and progress, thank Heaven, far different was the conclusion of the American warfare. A people, pleased with the mildness of their laws and of their religion; happy in their connexion with a foreign nation from which they had emigrated, & which with a peculiar fondness they caressed with the enduring name of mother, saw themselves increasing in numbers, in wealth, in knowledge and in everything held dear among men; a people, thus happy in their situation, were but threatened with the loss of that freedom, to enjoy which their fathers had encountered every danger, and surmounted unparalleled difficulties; actual oppression did not yet exist, the love of freedom was interwoven in their very constitution, they were alarmed at their danger; they betook themselves to a mode of redress they had on other occasions adopted with success; they petitioned, they remonstrated to their Sovereign, they appealed to the justice, nay, to the humanity of the nation from whom they had sprung; their petitions, their remonstrances, their appeals were all equally fruitless. They were however determined to be free; they nobly resolved to prefer even death to slavery. This glorious revolution was the result of cool deliberation, the product of the most consummate reason, and on thy soil, at Lexington! It was sealed with blood, more precious than ever flowed from human veins. Here the solemn appeal was made to the great God of armies, here the glorious drama opened. Let it be the task of the faithful historian minutely to record the different parts and to describe the character of the actors. Suffice it for me to observe that patriotism never before shone in greater purity, nor performed more glorious feats of active or passive valor! All ranks and degrees of men, however distinguished by fortune, by local situation or sentiments of religion, united to preserve the freedom of their country. The rich, the poor, the learned and the unlearned, the officer, the soldier, the troops enlisted, and the temporary levies of militia, all formed but one patriotic band of brothers. They rushed to arms with undaunted souls: death left its terrors, virtue supplied the place of discipline, valor, the place of arms. Witness for me, ye Britons, when your vet-troops retired before undisciplined farmers and mechanics, in the novel ‘I:convenient of clubs and stones. Nor did their noble ardour abate during altie perilous contest; in difficulties it brightened, nay, defeats but kindled its In every State they felt the rage, the fury, and the unexampled cruelty of the unrelenting foe; in every State they, sooner or later, caused them to feel “the keen, rough searchings of a patriot’s steel” until by their heroic achievements in the field, by their firmness in their councils, and by the matchless fortitude, wisdom and perseverance of their illustrious chieftain, they drew the attention of the magnanimous monarch of France. He, with a nobleness of soul becoming the prince of a generous nation, warmly embarked in the American cause. His fleets & armies flew to our aid on the wings of prosper-“, gales, and as if their own country’s safety had been in danger, even outdid themselves in deeds of war. Witness again, ye Britons, how bravely the troops of our generous ally fought by our side and how freely they poured forth their kindred blood in the battles of freedom. Yes, great Louis, while gratitude remains a virtue, thy name shall be dear to the present and every future generation of Columbia’s sons. Long and bloody was the contest, various was the success; all that is great and noble was called forth into action: no sacrifice of time, or property, of pleasure, health, or life, was thought too great in so sacred a cause. Victory at last held forth her bleeding head to the combatants on freedom’s side. The haughty lion retired to his den, and an honorable peace was the result of the glorious conflict.

But not yet was the American Revolution completed. To render this great event a real blessing to Society, to preserve for ourselves the great prize acquired by armies and to transmit it pure and uncorrupted to our posterity, a greater and more difficult work remained to be performed. And, let every breath be filled with pious gratitude: for the unexampled blessing, the same people, who had virtue enough to risque their lives and fortunes in defense of their inestimable rights and privileges, had wisdom enough to perceive that a government formed in the midst of a raging war, for thirteen large and populous States, differing in extent, in soil, in produce, in the manner and dispositions of their inhabitants; that a government, formed by deliberations daily interrupted by the din of arms, by the shouts of victory, or by the doleful tale of some sad disaster, must be fraught not only with the imperfections incident to all human productions, but with others naturally arising from this Peculiarity of circumstances. Experience also soon convinced them that this was the case; and the want of energy in the federal councils, under the old confederation, was at length universally acknowledged. They knew, they now felt, they were freemen. The glorious political truth, that all power is derived from the people and that they have a right to take the necessary measures for the preservation of that liberty to which they are entitled by the laws of nature, and of nature’s God, was never before so happily applied. Delegates Were appointed to consider the important subject of a federal government. The result of their deliberations was fairly submitted to the free and unbiased discussion of the American people; and, as pleasing to relate! After having exercised a power never before granted to the children of men, the constitution framed by their delegates was honourably adopted. A constitution securing the great and valuable rights of the people, firmly confederating these extensive and populous States, and calculated to draw forth the resources of this great empire on principles of equality and justice. By this great event the glorious fabric of American happiness has been completed, and we may now rejoice in the idea that the blood of the martyrs who died in the sacred cause of freedom was not spilt in vain.

Thus great, my countrymen, is the American Revolution in itself. Let us, for a few moments, view it in its consequences to these United States, and also to human society at large. And here the consciousness of the subject over-whelms description. The eloquence of angels is necessary to manage the majestic topic. Let us humbly, then, attempt a few traits of the glorious picture.

The freedom and independence of an immense territory, inhabited by a brave and hardy race of men, are the first fruits of the important struggle. The mind of man can hardly take in the comprehensive and novel idea. Petty republics have heretofore enjoyed, and still enjoy, a species of liberty. Placed. below the envy of their neighbors, or perhaps necessary to be supported in the scale of politics, they have preserved it by this precarious tenure. America is a continent of freemen. Here millions are already in the full possession of the blessings of genuine liberty; and from her happy situation, the fertility and extent of her cultivated and uncultivated lands, she promises to extend the incomparable boon to additional millions & millions & millions.

Peace, the great harbinger of all earthly blessings, promises long to be the portion of this happy land. Unconnected with the politics of foreign nations, united at home by a firm and equal government, war and the rumors of war shall no more disturb our repose; but contented with Sovereigns of our own extensive and exuberant country, we shall naturally betake ourselves to the cultivation of those arts which are calculated to make us a great & happy people. The farmer, the merchant and the mechanic will, with united efforts, promote our wealth; cheerful industry shall smile on every side, whilst temperance and frugality shall produce the fruits of its labor. Learning shall offish, and continually add to the number of worthies devoting themselves to the commendable task of preserving, improving and enlarging the blessings gained by the wisdom of our councils and the valor of our armies. Religion too unrestrained by the secular arm, and unawed by earthly power, shall here bless her victories, and whilst enjoying the highest temporal felicity, teach twin to prepare for the fruition of more exalted bliss, of pleasures which are to last for evermore.

This revolution hath also enlarged the bonds of human society, and like the intermarriages in families, promoted a useful connection between parties before totally separated. Had America remained dependant on Great Britain, these extensive States, now so happily united by the ties of interest and affection, en-joying one firm and uniform government, calculated to support, improve and defend the whole and every part, would have been so many different colonies kept by the arts of their transatlantic sovereign in perpetual broils and ferment to render them a more easy prey to the tyranny of himself and his minions. But this is not all, they would moreover have been, if not enemies, strangers to the rest of mankind. Instead of those beneficial alliances already formed, and which may be hereafter formed, royal mandates from Great Britain prohibiting all intercourse with them, would have constituted the records of our connections with the nations of the eastern continents. We should have been strangers, oh France, to thy generous benevolence, to this elegance of thought and manners, strangers to thee, Great La Fayette, thou enthusiast in freedom’s cause–the soldier’s boast and pride–the soldier’s friend.

Another effect of the American Revolution is that it hath fixed, in the minds of the people, such a love of freedom, as must eventually preserve the important blessing. We naturally prize at a great rate what hath cost much in the attainment. The perilous struggle for American deliverance from bond-age, the precious treasure & the more precious blood which has been sacrificed to accomplish it, have deservedly increased its value in the estimation of all her sons, and, no doubt, will keep them on a constant watch against every encroachment on their rights and privileges. Nay, such is the spirit of liberty which actuates the bosom of every American, that if, during its continuance, any man, entrusted with power, should attempt a measure leading to subjugate this country, he will but have risen to fall despicably low. Beware then ye present and ye future rulers of this extensive empire, that ye sport not with the liberties of your constituents, nor rouse the indignation of a people determined to be free. To use the language of the enlightened Pliny, “remember it is Athens you approach, remember it is Lacedemon you govern.”

But the greatest and most beneficial effect of the American Revolution is that it hath taught mankind to revere the cause of freedom. When the nations of the old world beheld these thirteen colonies, without arms, ammunition, or discipline engaging in a war with Great Britain, then in the zenith of her glory, claiming to herself the empire of the seas, and deeming her armies invincible, they called it madness, and the more humane pitied our folly: when they saw them nobly struggling and sometimes conquering the veteran armies of this cruel foe, gaining fresh vigour in difficulties, and rising superior to the most dreadful defeats, they viewed them with silent amazement. But when they saw the God of armies, after having smiled upon their daring efforts, and frequently interposed by the most extraordinary providences in their favour at last granting to their unexampled performance and unshaken firmness the noble objects of the contest, the freedom and independence of their country they added esteem to their admiration, and we literally became the wonder of the gazing world. That warmth for freedom, which was here kindled into a perfect flame, could not be here confined. By wind and by water it bath crossed the wide Atlantic, and if we may judge of future events from the effects it hath already produced, the enraptured mind is pleased with the delightful idea, that it will, ere long, disenthrall the world, that tyranny will be driven from its strongest holds, and universal liberty bless the globe.

But I cannot enlarge. Those, my countrymen, are the happy consequences of this great revolution, consequences which must fill the mind of every American with raptures untasted by the unfortunate sons and daughters of bondage; with pleasures more refined than ever tyrant or tyrant’s friend en-joyed. And, what is sufficient to increase that pleasure to the highest degree of ecstasy, these happy consequences promise to be perpetual. Our local situation will protect us from hostile attacks from abroad, the glorious fruits which we have reaped from our former union at home, will preserve us from all fatal dissensions among the States confederated, the natural disposition of the people will guard us against all encroachments on our freedom; and, to crown our satisfaction with this pleasing subject, the former and frequent interpositions of the divine providence, in our favor, must presage to every contemplative mind, that the omnipresent ruler of the universe hath not interfered in vain with his blessings on our arduous struggle for freedom and independence.

Rejoice then, ye Americans all, of every age, sex and condition, of every occupation & employment!

Ye American Sages, who, in our councils, have aided in this transcendent work, rejoice, both ye who have laid the firm foundation, and ye who have planned the magnificent superstructure!

Ye American warriors of every description, rejoice! Heaven hath at last stamped a value upon a soldier’s name. Ye have not fought to make an addition to the sable list of tyrants; ye have not bled to increase the number of slaves; ye have waved a fabric of freedom the most glorious the world hath ever beheld: view it with raptures, and shout for joy; rejoice that a nation of freemen is born; rejoice that ye are its fathers!

Ye venerable divines and all ye friends of religion, rejoice! The liberty of con-science is one of the cornerstones of this glorious building. No slavish shack-les can here be framed for the human soul. The demon, Persecution, with all its instruments of torture, is forever banished from our happy climes. Already have charity and liberality of sentiment taken place of bigotry and superstition among the different worshippers of the deity. The pure religion used undefiled will now recommend itself by its own native excellency, under the fostering and protecting care of the rulers of this extensive empire.

Ye friends of learning, rejoice! Lo! The sun of science hath risen on this western world, and already shines with refulgent splendour. Its rays will brighten its light increase until the perfect day. Statesmen we have who do honour to human society; in every art, in every science, we can boast of men who do honour to human nature. Republics are favorable to the muses. Large is the harvest and many laborers will be wanted. Take courage then, ye American youth, let a noble emulation fire your breasts. Believe me; the Philips will leave enough for the Alexander. Tread with pleasure in the paths of science; and for your encouragement, remember that a Madison, a Paterson, and a Hamilton were once the tender pupils of an Academy.

Ye American matrons, rejoice! Exult in the idea that you are the wives of free-men, the mothers of sovereigns.

Ye fair daughters of Columbia! Your charms would be lost on slaves. For heroes ye raise triumphal arches, for freemen ye throw your flowers.

Ye American farmers, rejoice. Your flocks and your herds are all your own. Ye are sovereigns of the fertile hills, and still more fertile vales. From well-fought fields we have gained our freedom; from well-tilled fields, we will gain both wealth and importance.

Ye American merchants, rejoice. The world is all before you. Hoist now the sail, and let the streamers float upon the wanton breezes. Spread your canvas to the inviting winds, and by a well-directed and extensive commerce, enrich yourselves and repay the farmer’s toils.

Ye American tradesmen and mechanics, view your increasing consequence in this great republic, and rejoice! Long have you suffered by your country’s folly; their eyes are opened, and pleasing is the prospect now before you.

But why do I confine myself to the inhabitants of this western world? ye distant isles, ye distant nations, rejoice! Ye who groan under the hard Yoke of bondage and never tasted the sweets of freedom! Lo! Here is an as ylwil’ for all the oppressed: our harbours, our cities invite you; our fertile fields in. vite vou. Here you may enjoy the blessings of a free and happy govern plenty shall deck your boards, you shall sit in the pleasant shades of your ow” orchards, and there shall be no tyrant or tyrant’s slave to make you afrabT. But ye cannot come—learn then the sacred flame of freedom. Learn from us the important lesson, that men determined to be free, cannot be conquered. The God of armies will befriend their sacred cause and command the yexy. elements to conspire for their deliverance. Let, therefore, the American story be rehearsed in the ears of your children, let them relate it to their children, and their children to another generation. Sound in their ears the name of Washington: for then argument will be needless. And now hasten, O Time! on thy rapid wings, the happy hour, when kings shall be taught that they rule for the people, and when all who govern shall know and feel this sacred truth,. that liberty is the birth right of man.

Ye departed ghosts of heroes who nobly died in your country’s cause! If aught you know of what passeth on earth, come, join with us in the joys of this happy hour. Great is the boon you have purchased with your blood,’ and great is your glory. It shall survive the patriot’s tear gratefully dropped to your dear remembrance, it shall survive the wreck of matter and the fall of worlds.

Ye angelic hosts, who as revelation informs us, take delight in the works of your great creation for the happiness of men, deign to embellish the rejoicings of this auspicious day, by the junction of your harmonious views, and vouchsafe an additional hallelujah on American freedom. But I forbear. Let us my countrymen, who are the immediate partakers of the blessings resulting from this great revolution, rejoice with an exceeding great joy. And whilst we eat our bread with gladness and drink our wine with a merry heart, let us seriously reflect on the importance of our perfect conduct to the fate of futu unnumbered generations, and let us practice those duties which alone ca preserve the precious deposit of freedom pure and uncorrupted. Let virtu be the characteristic of every American, and let us unanimously subscribe the sacred truth, that vice degradeth a people, and that righteousness alo can exalt a nation. So doing, peace shall attend, not only our days, but als those of our well-instructed posterity. Riches, and honors, and blessings every kind shall constantly await us, and when we have finished our course of patriotism here, that virtue, which alone can recommend us to the divine benediction as a people, will also ensure to us, as individuals, the joys of a happy immortality hereafter.

But I should indeed be wanting in my duty on this pleasing occasion, and do injustice to my own feelings, if I suffered my oration to conclude without particularly addressing myself to you, gentlemen of the Cincinnati. I know not how to express the rapturous emotions of my esteem which possesses my breast, when I turn myself to those, who have been active instruments in ef-fecting the glorious revolution I have humbly attempted to describe. I trust I need not use the language of persuasion to induce you to rejoice on the an-niversary of American independence. Your Country is in full possession of the object of its wishes. You have attained the prize for which you so nobly contended. Mortifying indeed it must have been to every patriotic soldier, to behold America, after its happy emancipation, as it were oppressed with the weight of the hard earned blessing, and without the means adequate to preserve it; but surely equal might be their satisfaction, when by the smiles of indulgent heaven, the dark clouds of anarchy and discord are so hap-pily dissipated by the blessed rays of government. If, however, your cares and difficulties since your retirement to the peaceful shades of private life, if the marks of ingratitude in your emancipated country to its military survi-vors have in any degree interrupted that flow of joy naturally arising on the contemplation of so glorious an event of which you made so great a part, then, gentlemen, think of the years of the war; recollect your toils and suffer-ings, bring back to your imagination the bitter hardships of the eight years conflict—the summer’s heat—the winter’s cold—the days ye thirsted, and the nights ye hungered—the painful wounds—the loathsome dungeons: add to these the blood of brothers slain whilst nobly struggling for their country’s freedom; and having dropped the tributary tear to their blessed memory, you cannot but rejoice in the idea that, neither you have suffered, nor they bled, in vain. It is even glorious in great attempts to fail. What then must be the glory of America’s patriot army, who have nobly succeeded in the greatest accomplishment ever made, the liberation of a continent from thralldom. Let the breath of the malignant, let the envious tongue endeavor to blast the reputation of those who have procured peace, liberty, and safety for their country. Let them gratify their narrow souls by charging the American arm); when forming, from the purest motives, an amicable association, at the close of the brilliant contest, with design dangerous to the freedom of that country, the love of which nerved their arms with desperation, and enabled them to brave unparalleled dangers and difficulties unutterable. Another still greater revolution must happen before malice and envy will be banished from the world. The applause, the gratitude, the confidence of the great and good, is all your own, it is all you want. In one word: America is free; Washington lives and rules. It is enough! Rejoice then, and again rejoice in your country’s happiness. And may that happiness be perpetual; may it be transmitted from generation to generation, until human governments shall be no more, and until the immediate exercise of all power shall be placed in the hands of the Mighty Creator and Prince of Peace.