« VorigeDoorgaan »
JANUARY 25, 1776.
“RESOLVED, That Dr. Smith be desired to prepare *** and deliver a
ORATION in honour of General “ MONTGOMERY, and of those Officers and Soldiers who mag“ nanimously fought and fell with him in maintaining the prin“ ciples of American Liberty.
" Extract from the Minutes,
“ CHARLES THOMSON, Sec.”
IN pursuance of this appointment the foilowing Oration was drawn up; and as the author knew that he was to address as great and respectable an audience, perhaps, as was ever convened in America, he neither wished to trifle with their character or his own, but used every effort in his power to render the composition worthy of the occasion; and now cheerfully submits it to the public judgment. He foresaw the difficulties incident to the undertaking ; and was prepared to encounter them, upon the principles mentioned in the oration itself.
Two or three quotations have been transferred from the text to the margin; a few small alterations, chiefly verbal, have been made, upon the recommendation of some friends, and a paragraph, which was forgotten in the delivery, is printed in its place. Upon the whole, the author hopes he has done justice to the memory of those brave men who are the subjects of the oration; and with respect to those reflections upon public affairs which must rise out of public characters, and are intimately connected with them, he is so far from wishing them retrenched, that (on a careful review) he is willing to rest upon them, whatever claim he may have to the appellation of a good Citizen, or friend to Liberty, so long as it may be remembered that he either lived or wrote in America!
OF GENERAL MONTGOMERY,
OF THE OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS,
DELIVERED IN THE GREAT CALVINIST CHURCH, BY THE AP
POINTMENT AND AT THE DESIRE, OF THE HONORABLE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS; PHILADELPHIA, FEBRUARY 19, 1776.
O thou, who bad'st them fall with honour crown'd,
FATHERS, BRETHREN, AND COUNTRYMEN,
An occasion truly solemn has assembled us this day; and, that your attention may be alike solemn and serious, hear, in the first place, the voice of eternal truth" It is better to go to the house of mourn**ing than to the house of feasting;” for “ None " of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to him. (6 sell”
But there are some men, illuminated with a purer ray of divinity-Patriots of the first magnitude -who, in a peculiar sense, may be said to live and die, . not to themselves, but to others; and consequently to him who is the author of all goodness. Endowed with that superior excellence which does honour to our whole species, the virtuous of every nation claim
kindred with them; and the general interests of humanity are concerned in their character.
In veneration of such men, to exchange the accustomed walks of pleasure for the house of mourning; to bedew its sacred recesses with tears of gratitude to their memory; to strive, if possible, to catch some portion of their ethereal spirit, as it mounts from this earthly sphere, into perfect union with congenial spi. rits above-is a laudable custom, coeval with society, and sanctified to us by the example of the wisest nations.
It was the manner of the Egyptians, the fathers of arts and science, not only to celebrate the names, but to embalm the bodies, of their deceased heroes, that they might be long preserved in public view, as examples of virtue ; and, although “ dead yet u speaking.”
But this honour was not easily to be obtained ; nor was it bestowed indiscriminately upon the vulgar great. It was decreed only by the public voicea venerable assembly of judges, before whom the body of the deceased was brought for trial, and solemnly acquitted or condemned upon the evidence of the people.
Even kings themselves, however much spared when alive, for the sake of public tranquillity, had still this more than fiery ordeal before their eyes; and, by the example of some of their number, who had been refused sepulture in those very tombs which their pride had prepared to their own memory, were taught both to venerate and to dread a law, which extended its punishments beyond the usual times of oblivion.
The moral of the institution was truly sublimeconstantly inculcating a most important lesson“ That whatever distinctions our wants and vices may render necessary, in this short and imperfect period of our being, they are all cancelled by the hand of death; and, through the endless untried periods which succeed, virtue and beneficence will make the true distinctions of character, and be the only foundations of happiness and renown!
If from the Egyptians, we pass to the Greeks, particularly the enlightened Athenians, we shall find that they had an express law, appointing orations and public funerals, in honour of those who gloriously sacrificed their lives to their country. And this solemn office was performed before the great assemblies of the people; sometimes for one, and sometimes for bands of heroes together.
Thucydides has recorded a celebrated oration of this last kind, delivered by Pericles. The illustrious speaker, after a most animating description of the amor patria—the love of our country-which he exalts above all human virtues, turns to the deceased
“ Having bestowed their lives to the public, every one of them, says he, hath received a praise that “ will never decay-a sepulchre that will always be “ most illustrious;—not that in which their bones lie
mouldering, but that in which their fame is pre“Herved. This whole earth is the sepulchre of illus“ trious citizens,”---and their inscription is written upon the hearts of all good men.