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It was therefore his desire rather to soften than enflame violent humours, wishing that America, in all her actions, might stand justified in the sight of God and the world. He foresaw the horrid train of evils which would be let loose by the stroke which should sever the ancient bond of union between Great Britain
It was therefore his wish that such a stroke should never proceed first from the hand of America. Nor did it so proceed.
The resistance made at Lexington was not the traiterous act of men conspiring against the supreme powers; nor directed by the councils of any public body in America; but rose immediately out of the case, and was dictated by self-preservation, the first great law of nature as well as society. If there was any premeditated scheme here, it was premeditated by those who created the dreadful necessity, either of resistance or ruin. For could it be expected that any people, possessing the least remains of virtue and li. berty, would tamely submit to destruction and
ravage -to be disarmed as slaves; stripped of their property, and left a naked prey even to the insults of surround. ing savages?
Was this an experiment worthy of Great-Britain? Where was the wisdom of her counsellors? Had their justice, their moderation quite forsaken them? Could they possibly expect obedience in such a case as this? Would they themselves, in a similar case, even under a legislative authority of their own free choice, submit to laws which would destroy the great end of all laws, self-preservation? Human nature says,
no. The genius of the English constitution says, no. The nation itself hath heretofore said, no; and a great oracle* of its laws has given his sanction to the verdict_" In cases of national oppression,” says he, " the nation hath very justifiably risen as one man, to “ vindicate the original contract, subsisting between “the king and people.” And—“ If the sovereign
power threaten desolation to a state, mankind will “ not be reasoned out of the feelings of humanity, “nor sacrifice liberty to a scrupulous adherence to “ political maxims."
If the case of America does not come within the above description, there seems to be no equity left upon earth; and whatever is exacted by force must be yielded through fear. But if justice be any thing more than a name, it is surely a solecism in politics to say, that one part of a free country has a right to command that which the other “cannot obey without
being slaves, nor resist without being rebels.” Yet to such a sad dilemma does the parliamentary claim of a “ right to bind us in all cases whatsoever," reduce America; involving in it a total surrender of our liberties; superseding the use of our own legislatures, marking us with such a badge of servitude as no freeman can consent to wear; and subjecting us to burdens laid by those who are not only unacquainted with our circumstances, and bear no part of the weight, but ease themselves in proportion as they load
If this be law, if it be equity, it has no example among any other people, possessing the least glimmerings of virtue or native freedom.
But although this claim be so repugnant to every idea of natural as well as legal justice, that the guilt of blood which it may occasion can be chargeable only on those who attempt to enforce it; yet I am well assured that when compelled at last by hard necessity, either to avert the dagger pointed at our breast or crouch to unconditional servitude, our hero's heart bled for the dreadful alternative.
His principles of loyalty to his sovereign (whom he had long served, and whose true glory consists in healing those streaming wounds) remained firm and unshaken. Love to our brethren whom we must oppose; the interchange of good offices, which had so intimately knit the bonds of friendship between them and us; the memory of those better days in which we fought and triumphed together; the vast fabric of mutual happiness raised by our union, and ready to be dissolved by our dissentions; the annihilation of those numerous plans of improvement in which we were engaged for the glory of the empire-all these considerations conspired to render this contest peculiarly abhorrent to him and every virtuous American, and could have been outweighed by nothing earthly, but the unquenchable love of liberty, and that sacred duty which we owe to ourselves and our posterity.
Hence, as appears from his papers, even in the full triumph of success, he most ardently joined his worthy friend* General Schuyler in praying that “ Heaven
. In his letter of Nov. 8:h.
may speedily re-unite us in every bond of affection “ and interest; and that the British empire may again “ become the envy and admiration of the universe, " and flourish” till the consummation of earthly things.
This part of his character, I dwell upon with particular satisfaction; and indeed had he evidenced a contrary sentiment, or gone forth in the rage of conquest, instead of the spirit of reconciliation; not all his other virtues, nor yet the respect which I owe to the appointment wherewith I am now honoured, could have induced me to appear in this place, on this occasion.
God forbid that any of the profession to which I belong, should ever forget their peculiar character, exercise a turbulent spirit, or prostitute their voice to enflame men's minds to the purposes of wild ambition, or mutual destruction. I am happy in knowing that nothing of this kind is wished from me; nay that the delegated voice of the continent, as well as of this particular province, supports me in praying for a restoration “ of the former harmony between Great“ Britain and these Colonies upon so firm a basis as “ to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any “ future dissentions, to succeeding generations in " both countries*"
The above paragraph having been either misrepresented or misunderstood by some, the author does not think himself at liberty to make the least alteration in it, even if he judged any to be necessary. 'The quota. tion from the last petition of congress, as well as the reference made to the instructions of our assembly, both point to a past period; and the author
Indeed this matter rests in safe hands, and is clear in itself. If redress of grievances, essential liberty, and security against future oppression can be obtained, according to our own desires; then neither consistency, dignity, nor a regard to our illustrious British friends, who have defended our cause, pledged themselves for our sincerity, and hope by our aid to restore and perpetuate the glory of the whole empire, can suffer us to hesitate. To say, let them look to their own safety, and we will look to ours, would be unworthy of the liberal soul of any American, truly animated in our present cause, and with the love of universal liberty.
But suppose these terms cannot be obtained? Why then, there will be no need of further arguments, much less of aggravations. Timid as my heart perhaps is, and ill-tuned as my ear may be to the din of arms and the clangor of the trumpet; yet, in that case, sounds which are a thousand times more harsh "even the croaking of frogs in the uncultivated fen,”
cannot be considered, from thence, as taking upon him to make the least declaration concerning the present sentiments of either of these bodies ; 11ór is there a word which can preclude the taking into the Terms of accommodation, so far as may be thought reasonable, the redress of whatever grievances or losses we may have sustained, since that period. Upon the whole, it is presumed, that a single sentiment is not to be found in the oration, which is not fully consonant to every declaration of congress which has yet appeared. And to impute to them, or even suspect, the least change of sentiment, before they themselves have declared it, would not only be indecent but very injurious to our catise. The author is also consistent with himself, and if the same doctrines which, he has been told, were well received in his late publication (Sermon before General Cadwalader's battalion) should now be disagreeable to any, the fault is not his.