Page images
PDF
EPUB

The second issue is involved in the first, but it is one which more immediately concerns ourselves. Our fathers, who came to this western world to enjoy religious liberty, soon and naturally imbibed in its exercise the idea of political freedom. And when they and their children found the yoke of kingly power oppressive and galling, they declared, and fought for, and established their independence as a nation. And then, with calm deliberation, secking wisdom from the past, planning blessings for the future, and ever while acknowledging still imploring aid from above, they proceeded to frame a constitution and ordain a government,

the Constitution and Government of the United States of America. Under these the Republic has gone on, steadily, rapidly, expanding its borders, developing its resources, increasing its power, the intelligence, moral culture and refinement of its people, keeping pace with its material growth, its manufactures and arts rivaling in skill and beauty the productions of the old world, its agriculture not only sustaining its own vast population, but sending of its abundance to foreign shores, the sails of its commerce whitening every sea, and glistening over waters which the keel of no adventurer ever before ploughed, its navy upon the ocean, its army upon the land, bearing aloft its proud stars and stripes through storm and battle to triumph,—until, by all the world no nation was more respected or admired, until through all the world there was no nation whose people were more prosperous

and happy.

In the midst of this sunshine came the storm. Almost from the clear sky fell the thunderbolt. No foreign foes assailed us,—but in our very midst, led by those who had enjoyed the highest honors and emoluments of the Republic, sustained by those who had been nourished by its bounty and had received its choicest benefits, there sprang up as in a day, matured, full-grown, full-armed treason and rebellion. Their avowed purpose was to subvert the government, and to destroy the union of the States. To this end they have violated their oaths, have plundered the public revenues, by cunning and

fraud, or with a strong hand, have seized arsenals and forts, have marshaled vast armies, have fought sanguinary battles, have wrought misery and ruin and death, have wasted and desolated the land, -until now the solemn question is, and this is the second great issue, whether we are any longer to have a government, and with power to enforce its laws and protect its subjects, whether the institutions which have thus far secured to us such moral and material blessings are any longer to shield, protect and preserve us,whether the Union, hitherto our pride and strength, and the only certain security for our progress and prosperity hereafter, is further to endure,—or, whether, on the other hand, our very national existence is passing away, and with it all that has made our American citizenship so prized and dear to us,—whether, torn and rent asunder, we are for the long dreary future to be embroiled in strife, and lasting wars are to dwarf our civilization and blast our very life,—whether, in fine, we are to be domineered over and trod under foot by rebels and traitors, and mad ambition, and cruel selfishness and unreasoning hate are to engulf alike the cherished memories of the past, the treasured realities of the present, and the once fond hopes for the future, in one common ruin.

Such are the issues involved in the war which is upon us,-a war which has given new color to all our thoughts and new form to all our actions, which has filled the land with martial spirit and the air with the strains of martial music,—which has put to flight the well-nigh settled ideas of the beauty of peace, and has smoothed and made glorious the rugged front of war,—which has almost displaced the waving grain and tasseled corn with serried ranks and bristling bayonets—which from town and country, from workshop and farm, from field and fireside, from shop and study, from all pursuits of life and all ranks of society, has sent forth armed hosts to fight, and, if need be, to fall in defense of what our fathers fought and fell to establish, and to transmit unimpaired the rich legacy they bequeathed to us.

Gentlemen, it is in such a crisis that we have assembled today. In such times and under such circumstances, it was to me as impossible, as, in my judgment, it would have been improper, not to take at least passing notice of what at home is stirring society to its very depths, and abroad is agitating the whole political world. Wherever men meet together, it is the uppermost thought. In the marts of trade and upon the exchange, men of business anxiously talk of it, and with suspended breath eagerly watch for the first spark of new intelligence that comes flashing along the electric wires. In schools of science and in academic halls it mingles with studies severe and polite, directs inventive thought to new and more terrible instruments of carnage, dwells with delight upon those bursts of eloquence which in ancient and modern times stirred the souls of men to heroic achievements, and teaches poetry to leave soft Dorian measures and sing the inspiring strains of martial lyrics. Even to the house of God it goes with the devout worshipper, and as he lifts his soul in praise, and with the minister at the altar offers up his humble prayer, patriotism mingles with devotion, and the blessing of Heaven is invoked upon our national cause.

Met together, then, as the farmers of Essex County, whose fathers, leaving the plough in the furrow, rushed to the first conflict for independence, throughout the struggle were truest and bravest, and when victory was won, took no humble part in organizing the institutions we are now striving to maintain, should we not, as their sons why should we not pledge ourselves anew to the Union they established, swearing eternal fidelity to its friends, eternal hatred to its foes ? Born and bred amid scenes and under influences which nurture a sturdy independence, drawing life and strength from the very soil and breathing the free air of heaven, it is upon the husbandmen, the farmers, that the country and the cause must in their last great exigency depend. It was Cincinnatus, who, in the days of the old Roman Republic, was called from his work in the field to lead the new levies to the deliverance of the beleagured legions,

the conquest of the enemy, and the salvation of the city. It was William Tell, who, amid the snow-clad summits of the Alps, shot the bolt which rallied the peasants of Switzerland, and redeemed their land from the thraldom of Austria. It was the sturdy, praying yeomanry of Huntingdonshire and Cambridge, who, under Oliver Cromwelll, filled the invincible ranks of the Ironsides, and who at Marston Moor and at Naseby clove down the plumed cavaliers of King Charles, established the Commonwealth, and gave to English history one of its brightest pages.

It was Washington, and Putnam, and the farmers who followed their lead and stood by them through the war, and “whose bones now lie mingled with the soil of every State, from New England to Georgia,” who fought and won the battles of the Revolution. And so now it must be, and is.' All honor to the mechanics and artizans, to those who from the busy marts of trade, from the patient toil of workshops, have rushed to the rescue ; aye, all honor to the scholars, the professional men, the gentlemen of wealth and leisure, who have thrown aside their books, abandoned lucrative employments, left quiet and luxury, and have grasped the sword in defense of the right; but honor, above all, to the hard-handed tillers of the soil, who in the great West, the North-West, and North,—who everywhere in the loyal States, have gone to swell the ranks of the army of freedom,ếour sons, our brothers, our friends, our defenders, who are fighting manfully in our behalf, and who, with God's blessing, are sure to conquer. Let us give them our aid, our sympathy, our prayers. Let us stand by them till the last battle is fought and the last victory is won. Let us, discarding all thoughts of compromise with armed rebellion, trampling in the dust all cowardly emblems of inglorious peace, stand by the Union and its defenders, till the Star Spangled Banner shall again wave in triumph over a peaceful, re-united and happy land.

Gentlemen of the Society: In accepting the invitation to address you on this occasion, I had a right to assume that you would expect from me none of those practical lessons to which

you have been accustomed to listen, but that you would be content to hear any such general suggestions bearing upon your great interest as might naturally occur to an outside observer. With this understanding between us, and proceeding to fill up my allotted hour, let me first call your attention to the thought which the peculiar circumstances of the times cannot fail to impress upon all, the supreme importance of agriculture as developed and illustrated by a state of war. During the active lifetime of the present generation of farmers, we have, at home at least, lived in profound peace. During this period, although agriculture has flourished, and great progress has been made in the efficient means of farm labor, in the improvement of the soil, in the profitable adaptation and raising of crops, and in the breeding of stock, yet it cannot be denied that in commerce, manufactures, and the mechanic arts, there has been still greater progress. Although commerce is but the interchange of the superfluous products of different regions and climes, and manufactures and the arts but manipulate and turn to use the raw material which the earth supplies, and so agriculture is the basis of all, yet the fountain has seemed of less importance than the streams which flowed from it, the superstructure has overshadowed the foundation. How is it now? Commerce and manufactures, (I speak, of course, in general terms,) are paralyzed. The ships lie rotting at the wharves, the work-shops are deserted, the hum of machinery is stilled, the occupation of the merchant, the manufacturer, the mechanic, is gone. The operative, the artisan, even the fisherman who from the stormy sea has drawn up subsistence and wealth, all in vain seek for their accustomed labor,—and without work, without wages, they see cold winter approaching, and actual want almost staring them in the face. In this emergency, where, and to whom, are all thoughts and all eyes turned ? To the farm and the farmer. Plough more acres, plant broader fields, raise larger crops,—such, months ago, was the universal cry, and from one end of the land to the other the exclamation was, it is upon our farms and our farmers that

« PreviousContinue »