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DELIVERED JULY 4, 1825,
IN COMMEMORATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, BEFORE
THE SUPREME EXECUTIVE OF THE COMMONWEALTH, AND THE CITY COUNCIL AND INHABITANTS OF THE CITY OF BOSTON:
BY CHARLES SPRAGUE.
Why, on this day, lingers along these sacred walls, the spirit-kindling anthem? Why, on this day, waits the herald of God at the altar, to utter forth his holy prayer? Why, on this day, congregate here the wise, and the good, and the beautiful of the land ?-Fathers! Friends! it is the Sabbath Day of Freedom! The race of the ransomed, with grateful hearts and exulting voices, have again come up, in the sunlight of peace, to the Jubilee of their Independence! :
The story of our country's sufferings, our country's triumphs, though often and eloquently told, is still a story that cannot tire, and must not be forgotten. You will listen to its recital, however unadorned ; and I shall not fear, therefore, even from the place where your chosen ones have so long stood, to delight and enlighten, I shall not fear to address you. · Though I tell you no new thing, I speak of that, which can never fall coldly on your ears. You will listen, for you are the sons and daughters of the heroic men, who lighted the beacon of " rebellion," and unfurled, by its blaze, the triumphant banner of liberty; your own blood will speak for me. A feeble few of that intrepid band are now among you, yet spared by the grave for your veneration; they will speak for me. Their sinking forms, their bleached locks, their honorable scars;these will, indeed, speak for me. Undaunted men! how must their dim eyes brighten, and their old hearts grow young with rapture, as they look round on the happiness of their own creation. Long may they remain, our glad and grateful gaze, to teach us all, that we may treasure all, of the hour of doubt and danger; and when their God shall summon them to a glorious rest, may they bear to their departed comrades the confirmation of their country's renown, and their children's felicity.
We meet to indulge in pleasing reminiscences. One happy household, we have come round the table of memory, to banquet on the good deeds of others, and to grow good ourselves, by that on which we feed. Our hope for remembrance, our desire to remember friends and benefactors, are among the warmest and purest sentiments of our nature. To the former we cling stronger, as life itself grows weaker. We know that we shall forget, but the thought of being forgotten, is the death-knell to the spirit. Though our bodies, moulder, we would have our memories live. When we are gone, we shall not hear the murmuring voice of affection, the grateful tribute of praise; still, we love to believe that voice will be raised, and that tribute paid. Few so humble, that they sink below, none so exalted, that they rise above, this common feeling of humanity. The shipwrecked sailor, thrown on a shore where human eye never lightened, before he scoops in the burning sand his last, sad resting place, scratches on a fragment of his shattered bark the record of his fate, in the melancholy hope, that it may some day be repeated to the dear ones, who have long looked out in vain for his coming. The laurelled warrior, whose foot has trodden on crowns, whose hand has divided empires, when he sinks on victory's red field, and life flies hunted from each quivering vein, turns his last mortal thought on that life to come, his country's brightest page.
The remembrance we so ardently desire, we render unto others. To those who are dear, we pay our dearest tribute. It is exhibited in the most simple, in the most sublime forms. We behold it in the child, digging a little grave for its dead favorite, and marking the spot with a willow twig and a tear. We behold it in the congregated nation, setting up on high its monumental pile to the mighty. We beheld it, lately, on that green plain, dyed with freedom's first blood; on that proud bill, ennobled as freedom's first fortress; when the tongues of the Eloquent, touched with creative fire, seemed to bid the dust beneath them live, and the long-buried come forth. We behold it now, here, in this consecrated temple, where we have assembled to pay our annual debt of gratitude, to talk of the bold deeds of our ancestors, from the day of peril, when they wrestled with the savage for his birthright, to the day of glory, when they proclaimed a new charter to man, and gave a new pation to the world.
Roll back the tide of time: how powerfully to us applies the promise: “ I will give thee the heathen for an inheritance.” Not many generations ago, where you now sit, circled with all that exalts and embellishes civilized life, the rank thistle nodded in the wind, and the wild fox dug his hole unscared. Here lived and loved another race of beings. Beneath the same sun that rolls over your heads, the Indian hunter pursued the panting deer; gazing on the same moon that smiles for you, the Indian lover woed his dusky mate. Here the wigwam blaze beamed on the tender and helpless, the council fire glared on the wise and daring. Now they dipped their noble limbs in your sedgy lakes, and now they paddled the light canoe along your rocky shores. Here they warred; the echoing whoop, the bloody grapple, the defying death-song, all were here; and when the tiger strife was over, here curled the smoke of peace. Here, too, they worshipped; and from many a dark bosom went up a pure prayer to the Great Spirit. He had not written His laws for them on tables of stone, but He had traced them on the tables of their hearts. The poor child of nature knew not the God of revelation, but the God of the universe he acknowledged in every thing around.
re the he count their nuled the
He beheld him in the star that sunk in beauty behind his lonely dwelling, in the sacred orb that flamed on him from his mid-day throne; in the flower that snapped in the morning breeze, in the lofty pine, that defied a thousand whirlwinds; in the timid warbler that never left its native grove, in the fearless eagle, whose untired pinion was wet in clouds; in the worm that crawled at his foot, and in his own matchless form, glowing with a spark of that light, to whose mysterious source he bent, in humble, though blind adoration.
And all this has passed away. Across the ocean came a pilgrim bark, bearing the seeds of life and death. The former were sown for you, the latter sprang up in the path of the simple native. Two hundred years have changed the character of a great continent, and blotted forever from its face a whole, peculiar people. Art has usurped the bowers of nature, and the anointed children of education have been too powerful for the tribes of the ignorant. Here and there a stricken few remain, but how unlike their bold, untamed, untameable progenitors! The Indian, of falcon glance, and lion bearing, the theme of the touching ballad, the hero of the pathetic tale is gone! and his degraded offspring crawl upon the soil where he walked in majesty, to reinind us how miserable is man, when the foot of the conqueror is on his neck.
As a race they have withered from the land. Their arrows are broken, their springs are dried up, their cabins are in the dust. Their council-fire has long since gone out on the shore, and their war-cry is fast dying to the untrodden west. Slowly and sadly they climb the distant mountains, and read their doom in the setting sun. They are shrinking before the mighty tide which is pressing them away; they must soon hear the roar of the last wave, which will settle over them forever. Ages hence, the inquisitive white man, as he stands by some growing city, will ponder on the structure of their disturbed remains, and wonder to what manner of person they belonged. They will VOL. V.
live only in the songs and chronicles of their exterminators. Let these be faithful to their rude virtues as men, and pay due tribute to their unhappy fate as a people.
To the Pious, who, in this desert region built a city of refuge, little less than to the Brave, who round that city reared an impregnable wall of safety, we owe the blessings of this day. To enjoy, and to perpetuate religious freedom, the sacred herald of civil liberty, they deserted their native land, where the foul spirit of persecution was up in its fury, and where mercy had long wept at the enormities perpetrated in the abused names of Jehovah and Jesus. “ Resist unto blood !" blind zealots had found in the bible, and lamentably indeed, did they fulfil the command. With “ Thus saith the Lord,” the engines of cruelty were set in motion, and many a martyr spirit, like the ascending prophet from Jordan's bank, escaped in fire to heaven.
It was in this night of time, when the incubus of bigotry sat heavy on the human soul :
When crown and crosier ruled a coward world,
Can we sufficiently admire the firmness of this little brotherhood, thus self-banished from their country? Unkind and cruel, it was true, but still their country. There they were born, and there, where the lamp of life was lighted, they had hoped it would go out. There a father's hand had led them, a mother's smile had warmed them. There were the haunts of their boyish days, their kinsfolk, their friends, their recollections, their all. Yet all was left; even while their heartstrings bled at the parting, all was left; and a