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OF GENERAL MONTGOMERY,
OF THE OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS,
•WHO FELL WITH HIM, DECEMBER 31, 1775;
DELIVERED IN THE GREAT CALVINIST CHURCH, BY TEE APPOINTMENT AND AT THE DESIRE, OF THE HONORABLE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS; PHILADELPHIA, FEBRUARY 19, 1776.
O thou, who bad'st them fall with honour crown'd,
FATHERS, BRETHREN, AND COUNTRYMEN.
A.N occasion truly solemn has assembled us this day; and, that your attention may be alike solemn and serious, hear, in the first place, the voice of eter. nal truth—" It is better to go to the house of mourn* "ing than to the house of feasting;" for—" None "of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to him"self"—*
But there are some men, illuminated with a purer ray of divinity—Patriots of the first magnitude —who, in a peculiar sense, may be said to live and die, not to themselves, but to others; and consequently to him who is the author of all goodness. Endowed with that superior excellence which does honour to our whole species, the virtuous of every nation claim
kindred with them; and the general interests of humanity are concerned in their character.
In veneration of such men, to exchange the accustomed walks of pleasure for the house of mourning; to bedew its sacred recesses w ith tears of gratitude to their memory; to strive, if possible, to catch some portion of their ethereal spirit, as it mounts from this earthly sphere, into perfect union with congenial spirits above—is a laudable custom, coeval with society, and sanctified to us by the example of the wisest nations.
It was the manner of the Egyptians, the fathers of arts and science, not only to celebrate the names, but to embalm the bodies, of their deceased heroes, that they might be long preserved in public view, as examples of virtue; and, although "dead yet "speaking."
But this honour was not easily to be obtained; nor was it bestowed indiscriminately upon the vulgar great. It was decreed only by the public voice— a venerable assembly of judges, before whom the body of the deceased was brought for trial, and solemnly acquitted or condemned upon the evidence of the people.
Even kings themselves, however much spared when alive, for the sake of public tranquillity, had still this more than fiery ordeal before their eyes; and, by the example of some of their number, who had been refused sepulture in those very tombs which their pride had prepared to their own memory, were taught both to venerate and to dread a law, which extended its punishments beyond the usual times of oblivion.
The moral of the institution was truly sublime— constantly inculcating a most important lesson— "That whatever distinctions our wants and vices may render necessary, in this short and imperfect period of our being, they are all cancelled by the hand of death; and, through the endless untried periods which succeed, virtue and beneficence will make the true distinctions of character, and be the only foundations of happiness and renown!
If from the Egyptians, we pass to the Greeks, particularly the enlightened Athenians, we shall find that they had an express law, appointing orations and public funerals, in honour of those who gloriously sacrificed their lives to their country. And this solemn office was performed before the great assemblies of the people; sometimes for one, and sometimes for bands of heroes together.
Thucydides has recorded a celebrated oration of this last kind, delivered by Pericles. The illustrious speaker, after a most animating description of the amor patriae—the love of our country—which he exalts above all human virtues, turns to the deceased—
"Having bestowed their lives to the public, every "one of them, says he, hath received a praise that "will never decay—a sepulchre that will always be "most illustrious;—not that in which their bones lie "mouldering, but that in which their fame is pre"served. This whole earth is the sepulchre of illus*4 trious citizens,"—and their inscription is written upon the hearts of all good men.
.\s for you. the survivors:—from this very Tso emulating their virtues, place Tout safe "happiness in liberty—and be prepared to follow its "call through every danger." Then, addressing himself, with exquisite tenoerDess, to the relicts and children of the deceased, he suggests to them that the common* eaith was their husband, their £cher and brother—
"From this day forward to the age of maturity, "shall the orphans be educated at the pubiic expense "of the state. For this benevolent meed have the "bws appointed to all future relicts of those who "may iaU in the public contests."
Nor were the Rom A X S less careful in this matter. Considering men in general as brave, more by art than nature; and that honour is a more powerful incentive than fear; they made frugality, temperance, patience of labour, manly exercise, and love of their country, the main principles of education. Cowardice and neglect of duty in the field, were seldom punished frith death or corporal inflictions; but by what was accountedworse, a life decreed to ignominious expulsion and degradation from Roman privileges.
On the contrary, deeds of public virtue were rewarded, according to their magnitude, with statues, triumphs of various kinds, peculiar badges of dress at public solemnities, and* songs of praise to the living as well as the dead.
• Ther ut called " Cantii na," as wrought ap ia the aiga poetic style; hat were aot, therefore, always ia Terse or measure.
Next to the hymns composed in honour of the Gods, Poetry derived its origin from the songs of triumph to heroes,* who tamed the rude manners of mankind, founded cities, repelled the incursions of enemies, and gave peace to their countryf. And this custom began when Rome contained only a few shepherds, gathering strength by an alluvies of the outcasts of neighbouring nations.
Those first efforts of poetic eulogy, whether in prose or verse (like those of a similar origin, which nature, always the same, teaches our savage neighbours) although often sublime in substance, were yet so rude in structure, thatj Livy forbears quotingthem as having become intolerable to the more refined taste of his age, however suitable they might have been to the aera of their production.
What a multitude of compositions of this kind must have existed between the barbarous songs of the military upon the triumph of || Cossius, and the celebrated panegyric of Pliny upon Trajan! They are said to have been swelled into two thousand volumes, even in the time of Augustus. In short, the praise of public virtue was wrought into the whole
* Soliti sunt, in epulis, canere convivas ad tibicinem, de clarorum ho. minum virtute. Cic.
f Qui terras hominumque colunt genus, aspera bella Componunt, agros assignant, oppida condunt. Ifor.
J Carmen canentes ibant, ilia tempestate forsitan laudabile rudibus ingeniis, nunc abhorrens & inconditum, si referater.
|| Longe maximum triumphi, spectaculum fuit Cossius—-—ineum milites carmina incondita, xquantes eum Romulo, canere.