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giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
2. Mr. President, it is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
3. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judg ing of the future but by the past. And, judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry, for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the house? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.
4. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort.
5. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not force us submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir; she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other.
They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging.
6. And what have we to oppose them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we any thing new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capa ble; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find, which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer.
7. Sir, we have done every thing that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne.
8. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free; if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending; if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon, until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained; we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms, and to the God of hosts, is all that is left us.
9. They tell us, sir, we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the
delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
10. Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God, who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged. Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable; and let it come!! I repeat it, sir, let it come!!!
11. It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, peace; but there is no peace. The war has actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but, as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
INDUSTRY NECESSARY TO FORM THE ORATOR.
1. THE history of the world is full of testimony to prove how much depends upon industry; not an eminent orator has lived, but is an example of it. Yet, in contradiction to all this, the almost universal feeling appears to be, that industry
can effect nothing, that eminence is the result of accident, and that every one must be content to remain just what he may happen to be.
2. Thus multitudes, who come forward as teachers and guides, suffer themselves to be satisfied with the most indifferent attainments, and a miserable mediocrity, without so much as inquiring how they might rise higher, much less making any attempt to rise. For any other art they would have served an apprenticeship, and would be ashamed to practise it in public before they had learned it.
3. If any one would sing, he attends a master, and is drilled in the very elementary principles, and only after the most laborious process, dares to exercise his voice in public. This he does, though he has scarce any thing to learn but the mechanical execution of what lies, in sensible forms, before his eyes. But the extempore speaker, who is to invent as well as to utter, to carry on an operation of the mind as well as to produce sound, enters upon the work without preparatory discipline, and then wonders that he fails!
4. If he were learning to play on the flute for public exhibition, what hours and days would he spend in giving facility to his fingers, and attaining the power of sweetest and most impressive execution! If he were devoting himself to the organ, what months and years would he labor, that he might know its compass, and be master of its keys, and be able to draw out, at will, all its various combinations of harmonious sound, and its full richness and delicacy of expression!
5. And yet he will fancy that the grandest, the most various, the most expressive of all instruments, which the infinite Creator has fashioned, by the union of an intellectual soul with the powers of speech, may be played upon without study or practice; he comes to it a mere uninstructed tyro, and thinks to manage all its stops, and command the whole compass of its varied and comprehensive power. He finds himself a bungler in the attempt, is mortified at his failure, and settles in his mind forever that the attempt is vain.
6. Success in every art, whatever may be the natural talent,
is always the reward of industry and pains. But the instances are many, of men of the finest natural genius, whose beginning has promised much, but who have degenerated wretchedly as they advanced, because they trusted to their gifts, and made no effort to improve.
7. That there have never been other men of equal endowments with Cicero and Demosthenes, none would venture to suppose; but who have so devoted themselves to this art, or become equal in excellence? If those great men had been content, like others, to continue as they began, and had never made their persevering efforts for improvement, what could their countries have benefited from their genius, or the world have known of their fame? They would have been lost in the undistinguished crowd that sank to oblivion around them.
8. Of how many more will the same remark prove true! What encouragement is thus given to the industrious! With such encouragement, how inexcusable is the negligence which suffers the most interesting and important truths to seem heavy and dull, and fall ineffectual to the ground, through mere sluggishness in the delivery!
9. How unworthy of one who performs the high function of a religious instructor; upon whom depend, in a great measure, the religious knowledge, and devotional sentiment, and final character, of many fellow-beings; to imagine that he can worthily discharge this great concern by occasionally talking for an hour, he knows not how, and in a manner he has taken no pains to render correct, impressive, or attractive! and which, simply through that want of command over himself which study would give, is immethodical, verbose, inaccurate, feeble, trifling! It has been said of the good preacher,
"That truths divine come mended from his tongue."
10. Alas! they come ruined and worthless from such a man as this! They lose that holy energy by which they are to convert the soul and purify man for heaven, and sink in interest and efficacy below the level of those principles which govern the ordinary affairs of this lower world.