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shutting up the main avenues to our liberation, by witholding from us the poor privilege of benefitting by the kind indulgence, the generous intentions of our superiors."
What could we answer to arguments like these? Silent and peremptory, we might reject the application; but no words could justify the deed.
In vain should we resort to apologies, grounded on the fallacious suggestions of a cautious and timid policy. I would as soon believe the incoherent tale of a schoolboy, who should tell me he had been frightened by a ghost, as that the grant of this permission ought in any degree to alarm us. ' Are we apprehensive, that these men will become more dangerous, by becoming free? Are we alarmed, lest, by being admitted to the enjoyment of civil rights, they will be inspired with a deadly enmity against the rights of others ? Strange, unaccountable paradox! How much more rational would it be, to argue, that the natural enemy of the privileges of freemen, is he who is robbed of them himself! In him the foul demon of jealousy converts the sense of his own debasement into a rancorous hatred for the more auspicious fate of others; while from him, whom you have raised from the degrading situation of a slave, whom you have restored to that rank, in the order of the universe, which the malignity of his fortune prevented him from attaining before, from such a man, (unless his soul be ten thousand times blacker than his complexion, you may reasonably hope for all the happy effects of the warmest gratitude and love.
Sir, let us not limit our views to the short period of a life in being; let us extend them along the continuous line of endless generations yet to come, how will the millions, that now teem in the womb of futurity, and whom your present laws would doom to the curse of perpetual bondage, feel the inspiration of gratitude to those, whose sacred love of liberty shall have opened the door to their admission within the pale of freedom? Dishonorable to the species is the idea, that
they would ever prove injurious to our interests. Released from the shackles of slavery, by the justice of government, and the bounty of individuals, the want of fidelity and attachment, would be next to impossible. . .
Sir, when we talk of policy, it would be well for us to reflect, whether pride is not at the bottom of it; whether we do not feel our vanity and self-consequence wounded at the idea of a dusty African, participating, equally with ourselves, in the rights of human nature, and rising to a level with us, from the lowest point of degradation. Prejudices of this kind, sir, are often so powerful, as to persuade us, that whatever countervails them, is the extremity of folly, and that the peculiar path of wisdom, is that which leads to their gratification. But it is for us to be superior to the influence of such ungenerous motives; it is for us to reflect, that whatever the complexion, however ignoble the ancestry, or uncultivated the mind, one universal father gave being to them and us; and, with that being, conferred the unalienable rights of the species. But I have heard it argued, that if you permit a master to manumit his slaves by his last will and testament, as soon as they discover he has done so, they will destroy him, to prevent a revocation-never was a weaker de. fence attempted, to justify the severity of persecution; never did a bigoted inquisition condemn a heretic to torture and to death, upon grounds less adequate to justify the horrid sentence. Sir, is it not obvious, that the argument applies equally against all devičes' whatsoever, for any person's benefit ? For, if an advantageous bequest is made, even to a white man, has he not the same temptation, to cut short the life of his benefactor, to secure and accelerate the enjoyment of the benefit ?
As the universality of this argument renders it completely nugatory, so is its cruelty palpable, by its being more applicable to other instances, to which it has never been applied at all, than to the case under consideration,
IT THE REQUEST OF THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF BOSTON, IN COMMEMORATION OF THE ANNIVERSARY
OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE,
BY JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
It has been a custom, sanctioned by the universal practice of civilized nations, to celebrate, with anniversary solemnities, the return of the days which have been distinguished by events the most important to the happiness of the people. In countries where the natural dignity of mankind, has been degraded by the weakness of bigotry, or debased by the miseries of despotism, this customary celebration has degenerated into a servile mockery of festivity upon the birthday of a sceptered tyrant, or has dwindled to an unmeaning revel, in honor of some canonized fanatic, of whom nothing now remains but the name, in the calendar of antiquated superstition. In those more fortunate regions of the earth where liberty has condescended to reside, the cheerful gratitude of her favored people has devoted to innocent gayety and useful relaxation from the toils of virtuous industry the periodical revolution of those days which have been rendered illustrious by the triumphs of freedom.
Americans ! such is the nature of the institution which again calls your attention to celebrate the establishment of your national independence. And surely since the creation of the heavenly orb which separated the day from the night, amid the unnumbered events which have diversified the history of the human race, none has ever occurred more highly deserving of cele
bration, by every species of ceremonial, that can testify a sense of gratitude to the Deity, and of happiness, derived from his transcendent favors.
It is a wise and salutary institution, which forcibly. recalls to the memory of freemen, the principles upon which they originally founded their laboring plan of state. It is a sacrifice at the altar of liberty herself; a renewal of homage to the sovereign, who alone is worthy of our veneration; a profession of political fidelity, expressive of our adherence to those maxims of liberal submission and obedient freedom, which in these favored climes, have harmonized the long contending claims of liberty and law. By a frequent recurrence to those sentiments and actions upon which the glory and felicity of the nation rest supported, we are enabled to renew the moments of bliss which we are not permitted to retain; we secure a permanency to the exaltation of what the constitution of nature has rendered fleeting, and a perennial existence to enjoyments which the lot of humanity has made transitory.
The “ feelings, manners and principles,” which led to the independence of our country; such, my friends and fellow-citizens, is the theme of our present commemoration. The field is extensive; it is fruitful : but the copious treasures of its fragrance have already been gathered by the hands of genius; and there now remains for the gleaning of mental indigence, nought but the thinly scattered sweets which have escaped the vigilance of their industry.
They were the same feelings, manners and principles, which conducted our venerable forefathers from the unhallowed shores of oppression; which inspired them with the sublime purpose of converting the forests of a wilderness into the favorite mansion of liberty; of unfolding the gates of a new world as a refuge for the victims of persecution in the old :—the feelings of injured freedom, the manners of social equality, and the principles of eternal justice.
but the things ne gleaning of u genius; a
Had the sovereigns of England pursued the policy prescribed by their interest, had they not provoked the hostilities of their colonists against the feeble fortress of their authority, they might perhaps have retained, to this day, an empire which would have been but the more durable, for resting only upon the foundation of immemorial custom and national affection.
Incumbered, however, with the oppressive glory of a successful war, which had enriched the pride of Britain with the spoils of her own opulence, and replenished the arrogance in proportion as it had exhausted the resources of the nation; an adventurous ministry, catching at every desperate expedient to support the ponderous burden of the national dignity, and stimulated by the perfidious instigations of their dependents in America, abandoned the profitable commercial policy of their predecessors, and superadded to the lucrative system of monopoly, which we had always tolerated as the price of their protection, a system of internal taxation from which they hoped to derive a fund for future corruption, and a supply for future extravagance.
The nation eagerly grasped at the proposal. The situation, the condition, the sentiments of the colonies, were subjects upon which the people of Britain were divided between ignorance and error. The endearing ties of consanguinity, which had connected their ancestors with those of the Americans, had been gradually loosened to the verge of dissolution, by the slow, but ceaseless hand of time. Instead of returning the sentiments of fraternal affection, which animated the Americans, they indulged their vanity with preposterous opinions of insulting superiority: they considered us, not as fellow-subjects, equally entitled with themselves, to every privilege of Englishmen, but as wretched outcasts, upon whom they might safely load the burden, while they reserved to themselves the advantages of the national grandeur. It has been observed, that nations the most highly favored with freedom, VOL v.