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He has taught us to maintain this union, not by seeking to enlarge the powers of the government, on the one hand, nor by surrendering them, on the other; but by an administration of them at once firm and moderate, pursuing objects truly national, and carried on in a spirit of justice and equity.
The extreme solicitude for the preservation of the Union, at all times manifested by him, shows not only the opinion he entertained of its importance, but his clear perception of those causes which were likely to spring up to endanger it, and which, if once they should overthrow the present system, would leave little hope of any future beneficial reunion.
Of all the presumptions indulged by presumptuous man, that is one of the rashest which looks for repeated and favorable opportunities for the deliberate establishment of a united government over distinct and widely extended communities. Such a thing has happened once in human affairs, and but once; the event stands out as a prominent exception to all ordinary history; and unless we suppose ourselves running into an age of miracles, we may not expect its repetition.
Washington, therefore, could regard, and did regard, nothing as of paramount political interest, but the integrity of the Union itself. With a united government, well administered, he saw that we had nothing to fear; and without it, nothing to hope. The sentiment is just, and its momentous truth should solemnly impress the whole country. If we might regard our country as personated in the spirit of Washington, if we might consider him as representing her, in her past renown, her present prosperity, and her future career, and as in that character demanding of us all to account for our conduct, as political men or as private citizens, how should he answer him who has ventured to talk of disunion and dismemberment? Or how should he answer him who dwells perpetually on local interests, and fans every kindling fame of local prejudice? How should he answer him who would array State against State, interest against interest, and party against party, careless of the continuance of that unity of government which constitutes us one people ?
The political prosperity which this country has attained, and which it now enjoys, has been acquired mainly through the instrumentality of the present government.
While this agent continues, the capacity of attaining to still higher degrees of
prosperity exists also. We have, while this lasts, a political life capable of beneficial exertion, with power to resist or overcome misfortunes, to sustain us against the ordinary accidents of human affairs, and to promote, by active efforts, every public interest. But dismemberment strikes at the very being which preserves these faculties. It would lay its rude and ruthless hand on this great agent itself. It would sweep away, not only what we possess, but all power of regaining lost, or acquiring new possessions. It would leave the country, not only bereft of its prosperity and happiness, but without limbs, or organs, or faculties, by which to exert itself hereafter in the pursuit of that prosperity and happiness.
Other misfortunes may be borne, or their effects overcome. If disastrous war should sweep our commerce from the ocean, another generation may renew it; if it exhaust our treasury, future industry may replenish it; if it desolate and lay waste our fields, still, under a new cultivation, they will grow green again, and ripen to future harvests. It were but a trifle even if the walls of yonder Capitol were to crumble, if its lofty pillars should fall, and its gorgeous decorations be all covered by the dust of the valley. All these might be rebuilt. But who shall reconstruct the fabric of demolished government? Who shall rear again the well-proportioned columns of constitutional liberty? Who shall frame together the skilful architecture which unites national sovereignty with State rights, individual security, and public prosperity? No, if these columns fall, they will be raised not again. Like the Coliseum and the Parthenon, they will be destined to a mournful, a melancholy immortality. Bitterer tears, however, will flow over them, than were ever shed over the monuments of Roman or Grecian art; for they will be the remnants of a more glorious edifice than Greece or Rome ever saw, the edifice of constitutional American liberty.
But let us hope for better things. Let us trust in that gracious Being who has hitherto held our country as in the hollow of his hand. Let us trust to the virtue and the intelligence of the people, and to the ellicacy of religious obligation. trust to the influence of Washington's example. Let us hope that that fear of Heaven which expels all other fear, and that regard to duty which transcends all other regard, may influence public men and private citizens, and lead our country still on
ward in her happy career. Full of these gratifying anticipations and hopes, let us look forward to the end of that century which is now commenced. A hundred years hence, other disciples of Washington will celebrate his birth, with no less of sincere admiration than we now commemorate it. When they shall meet, as we now meet, to do themselves and him that honor, so surely as they shall see the blue summits of his native mountains rise in the horizon, so surely as they shall behold the river on whose banks he lived, and on whose banks he rests, still flowing on toward the sea, so surely may they see, as we now see, the flag of the Union floating on the top of the Capitol; and then, as now, may the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!
Gentlemen, I propose “ THE MEMORY OF GEORGE WashINGTON."
From the excellent speeches delivered by gentlemen on this interesting occasion, we cannot refrain from selecting for this publication, though a little out of place, the appropriate, just, and classic remarks of Mr. Robbins.
Mr. Webster having retired, Mr. Chambers, being in the chair, called upon Mr. Robbins of Rhode Island; when Mr. Senator ROBBINS of that State addressed the company as follows:
“GENTLEMEN, - I beg leave to offer a sentiment; but first, with your indulgence, will offer a few remarks, not inappropriate, I hope, to the oc. casion.
“ It is the peculiar good fortune of this country to have given birth to a citizen, whose name everywhere produces a sentiment of regard for his country itself. In other countries, whenever or wherever this is spoken of to be praised, and with the highest praise, it is called the country of Washington. I believe there is no people, civilized or savage, in any place, however remote, where the name of Washington has not been heard, and where it is not repeated with the fondest admiration. We are told, that the Arab of the desert talks of Washington in his tent, and that his name is familiar to the wandering Scythian. He seems, indeed, to be the delight of human kind, as their beau ideal of human nature. · Nil oriturum alias, nil ortum tale fatentes.'
“No American, in any part of the world, but has found the regard for
himself increased by his connection with Washington, as his fellow-countryman ; and who has not felt a pride, and had occasion to exult, in the fortunate connection?
“ Half a century and more has now passed away since he came upon the stage, and his fame first broke upon the world; for it broke like the
; blaze of day from the rising sun, - almost as sudden, and seemingly as
universal. The eventful period since that era has teemed with great men, who have crossed the scene and passed off. Some of them have arrested great attention, very great ; still Washington retains his preëminent place in the minds of men, still his peerless name is cherished by them in the same freshness of delight as in the morn of its glory.
“ History will keep her record of his fame; but history is not necessary to perpetuate it. In regions where history is not read, where letters are unknown, it lives, and will go down from age to age, in all future time, in their traditionary lore.
“Who would exchange this fame, the common inheritance of our country, for the fame of any individual which any country of any
time can boast? I would not; with my sentiments, I could not.
" I recollect the first time I ever saw Washington : indeed, it is impossible I should forget it, or recollect it without the liveliest emotion. I was then a child at school. The school was dismissed, and we were told, that General Washington was expected in town that day, on his way to Cambridge, to take command of the American army. We, the children, were permitted to mingle with the people, who had assembled in mass to see him. I did see him ; I riveted my eyes upon him ; I could now, were I master of the pencil, delineate with exact truth his form and fcatures, and every particular of his costume : so vivid are my recollections. I can never forget the feelings his sublime presence inspired. How often, afterwards, when I came, in my studies, to learn them, have I repeated and applied, as expressive of that feeling, these lines,
Credo equidem, nec vana fides, genus esse Deorum." He did seem to me more than mortal. It is true this was young and ignorant enthusiasm ; but, though young and ignorant, it was not false; it was enthusiasm, which my riper judgment has always recognized as just; it was but the anticipated sentiment of the whole human kind.
“I now beg leave to offer this sentiment:-
- a code of politics by which, and by which alone, as he believed, their union and their liberties can be made immortal.”