« PreviousContinue »
reluctantly retired a bullet struck him in the head, and he fell, the first illustrious victim to the patriots' cause. His death was mourned with the deepest sorrow, and added to the determination of the colonists to fight to the end for their liberties.
THE BOSTON MASSACRE [All readers of history are probably familiar with the event of March 6, 1770, when a body of British soldiers, irritated by the taunts of a throng of Bostonians, fired upon them, a number falling dead and wounded. This event, which became known as the “Boston Massacre,” produced an intense sensation in city and country. Dr. Warren delivered two anniversary orations on it, one in 1772 and the other in 1775. The latter was in defiance of the British soldiery, who had threatened to shoot anyone who dared speak on the subject. Warren contemned their threats and delivered at Old South Church an impassioned address, from which we make the following selection.]
Could it have been conceived that we should have seen a British army in our land, sent to enforce obedience to acts of Parliament destructive to our liberty? But the royal ear, far distant from this western world, has been assaulted by the tongue of slander ; and villains, traitorous alike to king and country, have prevailed upon a gracious prince to clothe his countenance with wrath, and to erect the hostile banner against a people ever affectionate and loyal to him and his illustrious predecessors of the House of Hanover. Our streets are filled with armed men ; our harbor is crowded with ships of war : but these cannot intimidate us; our liberty must be preserved ; it is far dearer than life—we hold it even dear as our allegiance; we must defend it against the attacks of friends as well as enemies; we cannot suffer even Britons to ravish it from us.
No longer could we reflect with generous pride on the heroic actions of our American forefathers; no longer boast our origin from that far-famed island whose warlike sons have so often drawn their well-tried swords to save her from the ravages of tyranny ; could we, but for a moment, entertain the thought of giving up our liberty. The man who meanly will submit to wear a shackle contemns the noblest gift of heaven, and impiously affronts the God that made him free.
It was a maxim of the Roman people, which eminently conduced to the greatness of that state, never to despair of the commonwealth. The maxim may prove as salutary to us now as it did to them. Short-sighted mortals see not the numerous links of small and great events, which form the chain on which the fate of kings and nations is suspended. Ease and prosperity, though pleasing for a day, have often sunk a people into effeminacy and sloth. Hardships and dangers, though we forever strive to shun them, have frequently called forth such virtues as have commanded the applause and reverence of an admiring world. Our country
loudly calls you to be circumspect, vigilant, active and brave. Perhaps (all gracious Heaven avert it), perhaps the power of Britain, a nation great in war, by some malignant influence may be employed to enslave you; but let not even this discourage .you. Her arms, 'tis true, have filled the world with terror ; her troops have reaped the laurels of the field; her fleets have rode triumphant on the sea : and when, or where, did you, my countrymen, depart inglorious from the field of fight? You too can show the trophies of your forefathers' victories and your own ; can name the fortresses and battles you have won ; and many of you count the honorable scars of wounds received whilst fighting for your king and country.
Where Justice is the standard, Heaven is the warrior's shield : but conscious guilt unnerves the arm that lifts the sword against the innocent. Britain, united with these colonies by commerce and affection, by interest and blood, may mock the threats of France and Spain, may be the seat of universal empire. But should America, either by force, or those more dangerous engines, luxury and corruption, ever be brought into a state of vassalage, Britain must lose her freedom also. No longer shall she sit the empress of the sea ; her ships no more shall waft her thunders over the wide ocean ; the wreath shall wither on her temples ; her weakened arm shall be unable to defend her coasts ; and she, at last, must bow her venerable head to some proud foreigner's despotic rule. . .
But my fellow-citizens, I know you want not zeal or fortitude. You will maintain your rights, or perish in the generous struggle. However difficult the combat, you never will decline it when freedom is the prize. An independence of Great Britain is not our aim. No, our wish is that Britain and the colonies may, like the oak and ivy, grow and increase in strength together. But whilst the infatuated plan of making one part of the empire slaves to the other is persisted in, the interests and safety of Britain, as well as the colonies, require that the wise measures, recommended by the honorable the Continental Congress, be steadily pursued; whereby the unnatural contest between a parent honored and a child beloved may probably be brought to such an issue, as that the peace and happiness of both may be established upon a lasting basis. But if these pacific measures are ineffectual, and it appears that the only way to safety is through fields of blood, I know you will not turn your faces from your foes, but will undauntedly press forward, until tyranny is trodden under foot, and you have fixed your adored goddess Liberty on the American throne.
RICHARD HENRY LEE AND GOUVERNEUR MORRIS The former is usually known as Henry Lee, who delivered the famous panegyric on Washington. Gouverneur Morris was distinguished as an eloquent member of the Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States. His wooden leg did not interfere with his success as a speaker.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS AND EDWARD EVERETT Names famous in American Oratory for scholarship and elegant diction as well as models of the mot distinguished oratory. Both were uncompromising in their advocacy of popular rtghts. Their printed orations occupy many vo'umes and cover all the great questions of nearly a century.
SAMUEL ADAMS (1722-1803)
LEADER OF THE BOSTON PATRIOTS
ROM 1760 to 1775 Boston was the hotbed of resistance to British
oppression. Onit the hand of George III. descended with crush
ing weight, and a stalwart group of patriots defied the efforts of those whom they deemed their mortal enemies. Foremost among these was Samuel Adams, who led in all the movements against “taxation without representation,” and by his fervid oratory kept the spirit of resistance alive. Poor though he was, he could not be bought, though more than once an effort to bribe him to desert the cause of the people was made. “ Come, friend Samuel,” said to him Mather Byles, a Tory clergyman of Boston, “ let us relinquish republican phantoms and attend to our fields." Very well,” he replied, “ you attend to the planting of liberty and I will grub up the taxes. Thus we shall have pleasant places.”
He was the leading spirit in the celebrated “ Boston Tea Party.” On December 16, 1773, when the tea-ships lay in the harbor, a great town meeting was held, in which Adams and others took prominent part. When night had fallen he rose and said: “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.” These words seemed a signal, a war-whoop was heard at the door, and a party of men disguised as Indians rushed impetuously to the wharf, boarded the ships, and flung the tea to the fishes of the harbor. This event and the action of the king in response thereto, had a great deal to do with precipitating the Revolution.
Adams became a member of the Continental Congress and was one of the most earnest and unflinching of those who labored for the Declaration of Independence. The signing of the Declaration gave occasion for the delivery of the only example we possess of his fervent