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by Massachusetts and her sister colonies in New England ;— a course, that was largely conducive to the growth of those peculiarities in our forefathers' views, which are described with so much force and felicity by Mr Webster.
They came hither,' are his words ;-They came hither to a land, from which they were never to return. Hither they had brought, and here they were to fix, their hopes, their attachments, and their objects. Some natural tears they shed, as they left the pleasant abodes of their fathers, and some emotions they suppressed, when the white cliffs of their native country, now seen for the last time, grew dim to their sight. They were acting, however, upon a resolution not to be changed. With whatever stifled regrets, with whatever occasional hesitation, with whatever appalling apprehensions, which might sometimes arise with force to shake the firmest purpose, they had yet committed themselves to heaven and the elements; and a thousand leagues of water were soon interposed to separate them for ever from the region which gave them birth. A new existence awaited them here; and when they saw these shores, rough, cold, barbarous, and barren as then they were, they beheld their country. That mixed and strong feeling, which we call love of country, and which is, in general, never extinguished in the heart of man, grasped and embraced its proper object here. Whatever constitutes country, except the earth and the sun, all the moral causes of affection and attachment, which operate upon the heart, they had brought with them to their new abode. Here were now their families and their friends, their homes and their property. Before they reached the shore, they had established the elements of a social system, and at a much earlier period had settled their forms of religious worship. At the moment of their landing, therefore, they possessed institutions of government and institutions of religion; and friends and families, and social and religious institutions, established by consent, founded on choice and preference, how nearly do these fill up our whole idea of country! The morning, that beamed on the first night of their repose, saw the Pilgrims already established in their country. There were political institutions, and civil liberty, and religious worship. Poetry has fancied nothing, in the wanderings of heroes, so distinct and characteristic. Here was man, indeed, unprotected and unprovided for, on the shore of a rude and fearful wilderness; but it was politic, intelligent, and educated man. Every thing was civilized, but the physical world. Institutions, containing in substance all that ages had done for human government, were established in a forest. Cultivated mind was to act on uncultivated nature; and, more than all, a government and a country were to commence, with the very first found
ations laid under the divine light of the christian religion. Happy auspices of a happy futurity! Who would wish that his country's existence had otherwise begun? Who would desire the power of going back to the ages of fable? Who would wish for other emblazoning of his country's heraldry, or other ornaments of her genealogy, than to be able to say, that her first existence was with intelligence, her first breath the inspirations of liberty, her first principle the truth of divine religion?'
Connected with this subject of the peculiarities in the nature of the colonies of New England is another inquiry as to the kind of connexion, the degree of dependence, in which the colonists considered themselves placed with respect to England. It is very certain that when the puritans began to flock to America, for the sake of indulging in their own forms of religious worship unmolested, strong suspicions were awakened in the minds of the high-church party, that the motives, views, and purposes of the emigrants were not purely loyal. The bigoted upholders of the established church knew that the dissenters had been persecuted with unrelenting severity in some reigns, and harshly treated in all.-The inevitable consequence of this must be to estrange and alienate them from the interest of their native land, in which they were compelled to lead a life of insecurity, degradation, and wretchedness. Conformable to this is the testimony of historians. Speculative reasoners in that age,' says Hume in allusion to the colonists,— 'foretold that, after draining their mother-country of inhabitants, they would soon shake off her yoke, and erect an independent government in America.'-Indeed, it is well understood, that the puritans burned with an equally ardent zeal for both civil and religious freedom. They were alike for purging the high places of the church from its abominations, and for withstanding the exorbitant power arrogated by the Tudors and the Stuarts. And if the government had promoted and facilitated, instead of checking, the voluntary expatriation of these turbulent spirits, king Charles would, perhaps, have been spared the humiliation of dying on the scaffold, by the axe of the common executioner, and an obscure sect of religionists, might never have entertained pretensions so lofty as to be induced to lift up a soldier of fortune, to fill the throne of the Plantagenets. Among the emigrant puritans, there was, undoubtedly, a large number of the most distinguished leaders in the long parliament, and bravest partizans of the round-head
troops. John Hampden resided some time in Plymouth, and Hugh Peters, in Massachusetts-which later colony recounts among its governors, the artful diplomatist, zealous republican, and enthusiastic sectary, sir Henry Vane. Nay, it is a certain fact, for which Mather, Neal, Hutchinson and Hume, are sufficient vouchers, that Charles I. by an order of council, prevented the intended emigration of several men, who soon afterwards contributed to strip him of his crown and life, among whom were Haslerig, Pym, and Cromwell. There was, therefore, ample cause for the mother country to be watchful of the colonies; but the government at home carried their jealously too far, when they suspected the exiles of a design to throw off their allegiance to the crown. Our ancestors entertained very peculiar opinions with relation to this point. They distinguished subjection, observes Hutchinson,* into necessary and voluntary. Necessary subjection, according to their ideas, arose from actual residence within a country, to whose laws the resident would feel himself obliged by duty and compelled by situation to submit. But they maintained that every person was justified in expatriating himself, even in the extreme case when the state should be in pressing need of his services, provided his inherent unalienable right to liberty of conscience was invaded. Such was their own condition. Now as they purchased their lands of the original inhabitants of the country to which they removed, succeeding at the same time to the soil and the dominion of that country, they conceived that they should thus have been rendered wholly independent of the English government, had they not accepted a charter therefrom, and thus entered into a state of voluntary subjection, binding them in circumstances where all necessary subjection was at an end. In short, they considered their allegiance to the crown to rest on charters alone, and a mutual compact made between the parties for their common benefit, which became null and void so soon as either violated the conditions of the agreement. But for them to have disclaimed the authority of the metropolis, at this early period, would have been sure destruction; because the Dutch settlers along the Hudson, and the French in Acadia would gladly have seized upon the least occasion for crushing our colonies, were they not fearful of provoking the resentment of England. Of course the * History of Massachusetts, i, 452.
colonists would feel cautious how they rashly divested themselves of their only safeguard, although it is unquestionable that the bond of union, which connected them with Europe, hung loosely upon them, since they assumed and exercised the right of enacting what laws, and adopting what form of government seemed most conducive to their interest, without pausing to inquire whether the common law was or was not infringed.
There is no part of this discourse, which seems to us more honorable to the speaker, than that in which he alludes to the venerable John Adams; a man, whose high career and signal fortune bear witness to the justice of the distinguished praise bestowed on him by Mr Webster. Well may the patriot of the revolution say, in the words of the poet quoted by Cicero,
The whole passage is so admirable, that we cannot forbear extracting it.
It is now five and forty years since the growth and rising glory of America were portrayed in the English parliament with inimitable beauty, by the most consummate orator of modern times. Going back somewhat more than half a century, and describing our progress as foreseen from that point by his amiable friend, lord Bathurst, then living, he spoke of the wonderful progress, which America had made during the period of a single human life. There is no American heart, I imagine, that does not glow, both with conscious patriotic pride and admiration for one of the happiest efforts of eloquence, so often as the vision of " that little speck, scarce visible in the mass of national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body," and the progress of its astonishing development and growth, are recalled to the recollection. But a stronger feeling might be produced, if we were able to take up this prophetic description where he left it, and placing ourselves at the point of time, in which he was speaking, to set forth with equal felicity the subsequent progress of the country. There is yet among the living a most distinguished and venerable name, a descendant of the Pilgrims; one who has been attended through life by a great and fortunate genius; a man illustrious by his own great merits, and favoured of heaven in the long continuation of his years. The time, when the English orator was thus speaking, preceded, but by a few days, the actual opening of the revolutionary drama at Lexington. He, to whom I have alluded, then at the age of forty, was among the most zealous and able
defenders of the violated rights of his country. He seemed already to have filled a full measure of public service, and attained an honorable fame. The moment was full of difficulty and danger, and big with events of immeasurable importance. The country was on the very brink of a civil war, of which no man could foretel the duration or the result. Something more than a courageous hope or characteristic ardor would have been necessary to impress the glorious prospect on his belief, if, at the moment before the sound of the first shock of actual war had reached his ears, some attendant spirit had opened to him the vision of the future ;-if it had said to him, "The blow is struck; and America is severed from England for ever!" if it had informed him, that he himself, the next annual revolution of the sun, should put his own hand to the great Instrument of Independence, and write his name where all nations should behold it, and all time should not efface it; that ere long he himself should maintain the interest, and represent the sovereignty of his new-born country, in the proudest courts of Europe; that he should one day exercise her supreme magistracy; that he should yet live to behold ten millions of fellow citizens paying him the homage of their deepest gratitude and kindest affections; that he should see distinguished talent and high public trust resting where his name rested; that he should even see, with his own unclouded eyes, the close of the second century of New England, who had begun life almost with its commencement, and lived through nearly half the whole history of his country; and that, on the morning of this auspicious day, he should be found in the political councils of his native state, revising, by the light of experience, that system of government, which, forty years before, he had assisted to frame and establish; and great and happy as he should then behold his country, there should be nothing in prospect to cloud the scene, nothing to check the ardor of that confident and patriotic hope, which should glow in his bosom to the end of his long-protracted and happy life.'
Mr Webster's discourse is replete with original views; but that portion of it, which relates to the public institutions of New England, bears, in a peculiar manner, the stamp of his vigorous and discriminating mind. Among the many important subjects there discussed, we must confine ourselves to that of general instruction.
Having detained you so long with these observations, I must yet advert to another most interesting topic, the Free Schools. In this particular, New England may be allowed to claim, I think, a merit of a peculiar character. She early adopted and has constantly maintained the principle, that it is the undoubted right