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In the structure of their characters; in the course of their action; in the striking coincidences which marked their high career ; in the lives and in the deaths of the illustrious men, whose virtues and services we have met to commemorate-and in that voice of admiration and gratitude which has since burst, with one accord, from the twelve millions of freemen who people these States, there is a moral sublimity which overwhelms the mind, and hushes all its powers into silent amazement!
The European, who should have heard the sound without apprehending the cause, would be apt to inquire, “What is the meaning of all this? what had these men done to elicit this unanimous and splendid acclamation? Why has the whole American nation risen up, as one man, to do them honor, and offer to them this enthusiastic homage of the heart ? Were they mighty warriors, and was the peal that we have heard, the shout of victory? Were they great commanders, returning from their distant conquests, surrounded with the spoils of war, and was this the sound of their tri. umphal procession ? Were they covered with martial -glory in any form, and was this the noisy wave of the - multitude rolling back at their approach ?!” Nothing of all this: No; they were peaceful and aged patriots, who, having served their country together, through their long and useful lives, had now sunk together to the tomb. They had not fought battles; but they had formed and moved the great machinery of which battles were only a small, and, comparatively, trivial consequence. They had not commanded armies ; but they had commanded the master springs of the nation, on which all its great political, as well as military movements depended. By the wisdom and energy of their counsels, and by the potent mastery of their spirits, they had contributed pre-eminently to produce a mighty Revolution, which has changed the aspect of the world. A Revolution which, in one half of that world has already restored man to his "long-lost liberty ;” and government to its only legitimate object, the happiness of the People: and, on the other hemisphere, has thrown a light so strong, that even the darkness of despotism is beginning to recede. Compared with the solid glory of an achievement like this, what are battles, and what the pomp of war, but the poor and fleeting pageants of a theatre? What were the selfish and petty strides of Alexander to conquer a little section of a savage world, compared with this generous, this magnificent advance towards the emancipation of the entire world!
And this, be it remembered, has been the fruit of intellectual exertion! the triumph of mind! What a proud testimony does it bear to the character of our nation, that they are able to make a proper estimate of services like these! That while, in other countries, the senseless mob fall down in stupid admiration, before the bloody wheels of the conqueror-even of the conqueror by accidentin this, our People rise, with one accord, to pay their homage to intellect and virtue! What a cheering pledge does it give of the stability of our institutions, that while abroad, the yet benighted multitude are prostrating themselves before the idols which their own hands have fashioned into Kings, here in this land of the free, our People are every where starting up with one impulse, to follow with their acclamations the ascending spirits of the great Fathers of the Republic! This is a spectacle of which we may be permitted to be proud. It honors our country no less than the illustrious dead. And could those great Patriots speak to us from the tomb, they would tell us that they have more pleasure in the testimony which these honors bear to the character of their country, than in that which they bear to their individual services. They now see as they were seen, while in the body, and know the nature of the feeling from which these honors flow. It is love for love. It is the gratitude of an enlightened nation to the noblest order of benefactors. It is the only glory worth the aspiration of a generous spirit. Who would not prefer this living tomb in the hearts of his countrymen, to the proudest mausoleum that the Genius of Sculpture could erect !
Man has been said to be the creature of accidental position. The cast of his character has been thought to depend, materially, on the age, the country, and the circumstances, in which he has lived. To a considerable extent, the remark is, no doubt, true. Cromwell, had he been born in a Republic, might have been “ guiltless of his country's blood;" and, but for those civil commotions which had wrought his great mind into tempest, even Milton might have rested "mute and inglorious." The occasion is, doubtless, necessary, to develope the talent, whatsoever it may be ; but the talent, must exist, in embryo at least, or no occasion can quicken it into life. And it must exist, too, under the check of strong virtues; or the same occasion that quickens it into life, will be extremely apt to urge it on to crime. The hero who finished his career at St. Helena, extraordinary as he was, is a far more common character in the history of the world, than he who sleeps in our neighborhood, embalmed in his country's tears or than those whom we have now met to mourn and to honor.
Jefferson and Adams were great men by nature. Not great and eccentric minds “ shot madly from their spheres” to affright the world and scatter pestilence in their course; but minds, whose strong and steady light, restrained within their proper orbits by the happy poise of their characters, came to cheer and to gladden a world that had been buried for ages in political night. They were heaven-called avengers of degraded man. They came to lift him to the station for which God had formed him, and to put to fight those idiot superstitions with which tyrants had contrived to enthrall his reason and his liberty. And that Being who had sent them upon this mission, had fitted them, pre-eminently, for his glorious work. He filled their hearts with a love of country which burned strong within them, even in death. He gave them a power of understanding which no sophistry could baffle, no art elude; and a moral heroism which no dangers could appal. Careless of themselves, reckless of all personal consequences, trampling under foot that petty ambition of office and honor which constitutes the master-passion of little minds, they bent all their mighty powers to the task for which they had been delegated the freedom of their beloved country and the restoration of fallen man. They felt that they were Apostles of human liberty; and well did they fulfil their high commission. They rested not until they had accomplished their work at home, and given such an impulse to the great ocean of mind, that they saw the waves rolling on the farthest shore, before they were called to their reward. And then left the world, hand in hand, exulting, as they rose, in the success of their labors.
Adams and Jefferson were born, the first in Massachusetts on the 19th of October, 1735; the last in Virginia, on the 2d of April, 1743. On the earliest opening of their characters, it was manifest that they were marked for distinction. They both displayed that thirst for knowledge, that restless spirit of inquiry, that fervid sensibility, and that bold, fearless independence of thought, which are among the sureșt prognostics of exalted talent; and fortunately for them, as well as for their country and mankind, the Universities in their respective neighborhoods opened to their use, all the fountains of ancient and modern learning. With what appetite they drank at these fountains, we need no testimony of witnesses to inform us. The living streams which afterwards flowed from their own lips and pens, are the best witnesses that can be called, of their youthful studies. They were, indeed, of that gifted order of minds, to which early instruction is of little other use than to inform them of their own powers, and to indicate the objects of human knowledge. Education was not with them as with minor characters, an attempt to plant new talents and new qualities in a a straŋge and reluctant soil. It was the development, merely of those which already existed. Thus, the pure and disinterested patriotism of Aristides, the firmñess of Cato, and the devotion of Curtius, only wakened the principles that were sleeping in their young hearts, and touched the responding chords with which heaven had attuned them. The statesman-like vigor of Pericles, and the spirit-stirring energy of Demosthenes, only roused their own lion powers and informed them of their strength. Aristotle, and Bacon, and Sidney, and Locke, could do little more than to disclose to them their native capacity for the profound investigation and ascertainment of truth; and Newton taught their power to range among the stars. In short, every model to which they looked, and every great master to whom they appealed, only moved into life the scarcely dormant energies with which Heaven had endued them; and they came forth from the discipline, not decorated for pomp, but armed for battle.
From this first coincidence, in the character of their minds and studies, let us proceed to another. They both turned their attention to the same profession, the profession of the law; and they both took up the study of this profession on the same enlarged scale which was so conspicuous in all their other intellectual operations. They had been taught by Hooker to look with reverence upon the science of the law: for, he had told them that “her seat was the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world.” Pursued in the spirit, on the extended plan, and with the noble aim, with which they pursued it, may it not be said, without the hazard of illiberal construction, that there was no profession in this country to which Heaven could have directed their choice, so well fitted to prepare them for the eventful struggle which was coming on.
There was now open war between Great Britain and her colonies. Yet the latter looked no farther than resistance to the specific power of the parent country to tax them at pleasure. A dissolution of the union had