Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

might be fatal, than to perform exploits that are brilliant; and as a statesman, to adhere to just principles, however old, than to pursue novelties; and therefore, in both characters, his qualities were singularly adapted to the interest, and were tried in the greatest perils of the country. His habits of inquiry were so far remarkable, that he was never satisfied with investigating, nor desisted from it, so long as he had less than all the light that he could obtain upon a subject, and then he made his decision without bias.

This command over the partialities that so generally stop men short, or turn them aside in their pursuit of truth, is one of the chief causes of his unvaried course of right conduct in so many difficult scenes, where every human actor must be presumed to err. If he had strong passions, he had learned to subdue them, and to be moderate and mild. If he had weaknesses, he concealed them, which is rare, and excluded them from the government of his temper and conduct, which is still more rare. If he loved fame, he never made improper compliances for what is called popularity. The fame he enjoyed is of the kind that will last forever; yet it was rather the effect, than the motive of his conduct. Some future Plutarch will search for a parallel to his character. Epaminondas is, perhaps, the brightest name of all antiquity. Our WASHINGTON resembled him in the purity and ardor of his patriotism; and, like him, he first exalted the glory of his country. There, it is to be hoped, the parallel ends: for Thebes fell with Epaminondas. But such comparisons cannot be pursued far, without departing from the similitude. For we shall find it as difficult to compare great men as great rivers: some we admire for the length and rapidity of their current, and the grandeur of their cataracts; others, for the majestic silence and fulness of their streams: we cannot bring them together to measure the difference of their waters. The unambitious life of Washington, declining fame, yet courted by it, seemed, like the Ohio, to VOL V.

21

choose its long way through solitudes, diffusing fertility; or like his own Potomac, widening and deepening his channel, as he approaches the sea, and displaying most the usefulness and serenity of his greatness towards the end of his course. Such a citizen would do honor to any country. The constant veneration and affection of his country will show, that it was worthy of such a citizen.

However his military fame may excite the wonder of mankind, it is chiefly by his civil magistracy, that his example will instruct them. Great generals have arisen in all ages of the world, and perhaps most in those of despotism and darkness. In times of violence and convulsion, they rise, by the force of the whirlwind, high enough to ride in it, and direct the storm. Like meteors, they glare on the black clouds with a splendor, that, while it dazzles and terrifies, makes nothing visible but the darkness. The fame of heroes is indeed growing vulgar: they multiply in every long war; they stand in history, and thicken in their ranks, almost as undistinguished as their own soldiers.

But such a chief magistrate as Washington, appears like the pole star in a clear sky, to direct the skilful statesman. His presidency will form an epoch, and be distinguished as the age of Washington. Already it assumes its high place in the political region. Like the milky-way, it whitens along its allotted portion of the hemisphere. The latest generations of men will survey, through the telescope of history, the space where so many virtues blend their rays, and delight to separate them into groups and distinct virtues. As the best illustration of them, the living monument, to which the first of patriots would have chosen to consign his fame, it is my earnest prayer to heaven, that our country may subsist, even to that late day, in the plenitude of its liberty and happiness, and mingle its mild glory with WASHINGTON's.

EULOGY ON WASHINGTON,

DELIVERED FEBRUARY 22, 1800, BY APPOINTMENT OF A

NUMBER OF THE CLERGY OF NEW YORK.

BY JOHN M. MASON,

PASTOR OF THE ASSOCIATE-REFORMED CHURCA IN THE CITY OF

NEW YORK.

FELLOW-CITIZENS. The offices of this day belong less to eloquence than to grief. We celebrate one of those great events which, by uniting public calamity with private affiction, create in every bosom a response to the throes of an empire. God, who doeth wonders; whose ways must be adored, but not questioned, in severing from the embraces of America her first-beloved patriot, has imposed on her the duty of blending impassioned feeling with profound and unmurmuring submission. An assembled nation, lamenting a father in their departed chief; absorbing every inferior consideration in the sentiment of their common loss; mingling their recollections and their anticipations, their wishes, their regrets, their sympathies and their tears, is a spectacle not more tender than awful, and excites emotions too mighty for utterance. I should have no right to complain, Americans, if, instead of indulging me with your attention, you should command me to retire, and leave you to weep in the silence of wo. I should deserve the reprimand, were I to appear before you with the pretensions of eulogy. No! Eulogy has mistaken her province and her powers, when she assumes for her theme the glory of WASHINGTON. His deeds and his virtues are his high eulogium-his deeds most fami

liar to your memories, his virtues most dear to your affections. To me, therefore, nothing is permitted but to borrow from yourselves. And though a pencil, more daring than mine, would languish in attempting to retrace the living lines wbich the finger of truth has drawn upon your hearts, you will bear with me, while, on a subject which dignifies every thing related to it, • I tell you that which you yourselves do know.'

The name of WASHINGTON, connected with all that is most brilliant in the history of our country, and in human character, awakens sensations which agitate the fervors of youth, and warm the chill bosom of age. Transported to the times when America rose to repel her wrongs, and to claim her destinies, a scene of boundless grandeur bursts upon our view. Long had her filial duty expostulated with parental injustice. Long did she deprecate the rupture of those ties which she had been proud of preserving and displaying. But her humble entreaty spurned, aggression followed by the rod, and the rod by scorpions, having changed remonstrance into murmur, and murmur into resist. ance, she transfers her grievances from the throne of earth to the throne of heaven; and precedes by an appeal to the God of judgment, her appeal to the sword of war.

At issue now with the mistress of the seas; unfurnished with equal means of defence; the convulsive shock approaching; and every evil omen passing before her, one step of rashness or of folly may seal her doom. In this accumulation of trouble, who shall command her confidence, and face her dangers, and conduct her cause? God, whose kingdom ruleth over all, prepares from afar the instruments best adapted to his purpose. By an influence which it would be as irrational to dispute as it is vain to scrutinize, he stirs up the spirit of the statesman and the soldier. Minds, on which he has bestowed the elements of greatness, are brought, by his providence, into contact with exigencies which rouse them into action. It is in the season of effort and of peril that impotence disappears, and energy arises. The whirlwind, which sweeps away the glow-worm, uncovers the fire of genius, and kindles.it into a blaze, that irradiates, at once, both the zenith and the poles.

But among the heroes who sprung from obscurity, when the college, the counting-house, and the plough teemed with “ thunderbolts of war,” none could, in all respects, meet the wants and the wishes of America. She required, in her leader, a man reared under her own eye; who combined with distinguished talent, a chåracter above suspicion; who had added to his physical and moral qualities the experience of difficult service; a man, who should concentrate in himself the public affections and confidences; who should know how to multiply the energies of every other man under his direction, and to make disaster itself the means of success—his arm a fortress and his name a host. Such a man it were almost presumption to expect; but such a man all-ruling heaven had provided, and that man was WASHINGTON.

Pre-eminent already in worth, he is summoned to the pre-eminence of toil and of danger. Unallured by the charms of opulence: unappalled by the hazard of a dubious warfare: unmoved by the prospect of being, in the event of failure, the first and most conspicuous victim, he obeys the summons, because he loves his duty. The resolve is firm, for the probation is terrible. His theatre is a world; his charge, a family of nations; the interest staked, in his hands, the prosperity of millions unborn in ages to come; his means, under aid from on high, the resources of his own breast, with the raw recruits and irregular supplies of distracted colonies. O crisis worthy of such a hero! Followed by her little bands, her prayers and her tears, WASHINGTON espouses the quarrel of his country. As he moves on to the conflict, every heart palpitates, and every knee trembles. The foe, alike valiant and veteran, presents no easy conquest, nor aught inviting but

« FöregåendeFortsätt »