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Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. It is true, indeed, that in the beginning we aimed not at independence. But there is a divinity
which shapes our ends. The injustice of England has driven 5 us to arms; and, blinded to her own interest, she has obstinately
persisted, till independence is now within our grasp. We have but to reach forth to it, and it is ours. Why, then, should we defer the declaration?
If we postpone independence, do we mean to carry on or 10 to give up the war? Do we mean to submit, and consent that
we shall be ground to powder, and our country and its rights trodden down in the dust ? I know we do not mean to submit. We never shall submit!
The war, then, must go on; we must fight it through. And if the war must go on, why put off the declaration of independence? That measure will strengthen us. It will give us character abroad. Nations will then treat with us, which they never
can do while we acknowledge ourselves subjects in arms against 5 our sovereign.
If we fail, it can be no worse for us. But we shall not fail. The cause will raise up armies; the cause will create navies. The people—the people, if we are true to them, will carry us, and
will carry themselves, gloriously through this struggle. I care 10 not how fickle other people have been found. I know the people
of these colonies; and I know that resistance to British aggression is deep and settled in their hearts, and cannot be eradicated.
Sir, the declaration of independence will inspire the people with increased courage. Instead of a long and bloody war for 15 the restoration of privileges, for redress of grievances, set before
them the glorious object of entire independence, and it will breathe into them anew the spirit of life.
Read this declaration at the head of the army; every sword will be drawn, and the solemn vow uttered to maintain it or 20 perish on the bed of honor. Publish it from the pulpit; religion
will approve it, and the love of religious liberty will cling around it, resolved to stand with it, or fall with it. Send it to the public halls; proclaim it there; let them see it who saw their
brothers and their sons fall on the field of Bunker Hill, and in 25 the streets of Lexington and Concord, and the very walls will cry out in its support.
Sir, I know the uncertainty of human affairs, but I see, I see clearly through this day's business. You and I, indeed, may rue
it. We may not live to see the time this declaration shall be 30 made good. We may die; die colonists; die slaves; die, it may
be, ignominiously, and on the scaffold. Be it so; be it so. If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready at the ap
pointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while 35 I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a coun
try, and that a free country.
But whatever may be our fate, be assured-be assured that this declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood; but it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both.
Through the thick gloom of the present I see the brightness of 5 the future, as the sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious,
an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its annual return
they will shed tears, copious tears, gushing tears; not of subjec10 tion and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude, and of joy.
Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves the measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I
have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now 15 ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I began, that, live
or die, survive or perish, I am for the declaration. It is my living sentiment, and, by the blessing of God, it shall be my dying sentiment; independence now, independence forever.
NOTES AND QUESTIONS Biography. Daniel Webster (1782-1852) stands out as America's foremost orator. His eloquence, his clear thinking, and the force of his personality made him equally great, whether answering an opponent in the Senate or delivering less passionate orations on anniversary occasions. He was the champion of the idea of complete union among the states. His service in the Senate, representing not only the people of Massachusetts but all who believed with him in “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable,” and his service as Secretary of State in President Tyler's cabinet, make him one of America's great statesmen.
Historical Note. John Adams, the second president of the United States, died in Boston on July 4, 1826, just fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He was not only conscious, before his death, of the significance of the day, but spoke of his colleague, Thomas Jefferson, and the fact that Jefferson would survive him. A few days later, news came from Virginia that Jefferson had died on the same day, a few hours earlier than Adams. The whole country was deeply affected by the remarkable coincidence of the passing away at the same time of these two great men, each of whom had signed the Declaration of Independence and served as president of the United States. On the second of August a public memorial meeting was held in Faneuil Hall, Boston, at which Daniel Webster delivered an oration on “Adams and Jefferson.” In this selection, which is merely a part of the oration, Webster represents what Adams might have said in the debate about the Declaration of Independence in the Continental Congress.
Discussion. 1. What was the vote under discussion at the time of this supposed speech? 2. Why, in the opinion of the speaker, must the colonists carry on the war? 3. What advantages does he say they will gain by the Declaration of Independence? 4. Whom does he address as "Sir”? 5. What plan does he suggest for making the Declaration known to the people? 6. What results does he expect will come from this action? 7. Show that the speaker has considered the possible consequences of signing the Declaration. 8. What prophecy does he make concerning the day on which the Declaration was signed? Has this prophecy been fulfilled ? 9. Point out lines in the speech that seem to you to be the most stirring. 10. The signing of the Declaration of Independence was the first great step in America's experiment in free government; why was it of great moment? 11. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: eradicated; ignominiously; copious.
LIBERTY AND UNION
(FROM WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESS)
FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS:
The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant,
and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be em5 ployed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that
important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline
being considered among the number of those out of .whom a 10 choice is to be made.
The unity of government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence—the support of your tranquil
lity at home and your peace abroad, of your safety, of your pros5 perity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize.
But it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;
as this is the point in your political fortress against which the 10 batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly
and actively, though often covertly and insidiously, directed—it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and
individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, 15 and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourself to think
and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it
can, in any event, be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon 20 the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our
country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country 25 has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of Amer
ican, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. You have in a common
cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and lib30 erty you possess are the work of joint counsels and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
To the efficacy and permanency of your union a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, be
tween the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must in35 evitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all