Let us therefore glory wisely as unto Jehovah for the works that he did in the days of our fathers.
Thanksgiving is upon us, and the following discourse was delivered not on this day, but on November 24th (close enough!), in the year 1853, by the Rev. Robert Sunderland, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. While this discourse is interesting on many levels, it is at times flowery and it is perhaps too patriotic for the taste of many today. Yet Rev. Sunderland is also often insightful, even prescient. If nothing else, his discourse presents us with a reminder to first be thankful for all that we enjoy as citizens of this nation, and then to pray for all that are in authority:—
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
(1 Timothy 2:1-3)
[Please note that Sunderland’s occasional use of the term “Republican” is not in reference to the political party (which began in 1854), but rather he uses the term to refer to advocates of the constitutional republic set forth in the U.S. Constitution.]
The Memories of the Metropolis: A Discourse delivered on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1853, in The First Presbyterian Church. By Rev. Byron Sunderland, the Pastor. Washington: Wm. M. Morrison & Co., 1853.
Note: The following Discourse was delivered on the occasion of Thanksgiving, November 24th, 1853, observed, in accordance with the recommendation of the Mayor of the City of Washington, as a day of public worship and thanksgiving to Almighty God…
2d Kings 2:19; Psalm 44:1; and Psalm 78:4.
“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth.” “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days in the times of old.” “We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.”
Love of God, love of country, and love of home, are the deepest and purest sentiments to which humanity is competent. They promote both philanthropy and gratitude. They kindle the present by recollections of the past, and by the hopes of the future. They are the soul of that wild, eternal Psalm, whose theme is Providence, repeated from sire to son in endless generations,
I need scarcely remind you that on this day of public thanksgiving to Jehovah, in accordance with the recommendations of both civil and ecclesiastical authority, and in observance of a custom now almost universal throughout the Confederacy, it is our privilege as Americans, and especially as inhabitants of the Federal City, to bring into the sanctuary, and to lay on the altars of Religion, our public and solemn thanks. The joy and the grandeur of this moment fill me with emotions which no language can express. I see a nation of my countrymen covered with unspeakable glory bending reverently before Almighty God in devout and grateful recognition of his parental solicitude. It is enough, my brethren. It is the greatest of sublimities I shall ever witness beneath the sun! To say all which the vision of this day stimulates, demands a stouter frame and a more burning utterance than belong to my poor nature, It is only a few feeble strains of the great Epic of my country., here and there a faint snatch of her song of wonder now rolling from the tuneful harp of Providence as it is swept by the hand of the Almighty, that we can pretend to rehearse before you—a few things that the fathers have told us of the work that was done in their days, that they may not be hidden from the children, and that the name and the praise of the Lord of Hosts may never be forgotten !
We have, therefore, in the spirit of the text, selected as a theme for the present occasion,
“THE MEMORIES OF THE METROPOLIS.”
or those recollections of the City of Washington, which, in its rise and progress, not only illustrate the patronage of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, but also, from their inherent beauty and thrilling power, serve to link ourselves in a romantic interest with those who went before, and those who shall come after us ; nay more, the remembrance of our beginning must prevail to heighten not only the fervor of our patriotism, but also the motives of our devout thanksgiving to the King of kings, when recited in contrast with the vicissitudes of an earlier history. The sun of our glory has just opened his portals, while the day of many an ancient capital has already gone out in darkness. To take a single example: It seems, from the allusion of the text, that so long ago as the times of the prophet Elisha, there stood a city in the East, the cradle of the human race, whence rose the nations of the earth. It was the far-famed Jericho, which, once blasted by the curse of Joshua, lay desolate for centuries. At length, rebuilt and reared among the hills, as ours to-day, it continued for ages the seat of learning and of laws, the resort of priests and prophets, and the ornament of Israel, But the Roman besom at length swept over it, the times were changed, and now it is but a wretched village of about fifty habitations!
The old town, once trodden by the feet of patriarchs and apostles, has sunken, into a heap of ruins. From the regions which once its towers illumined, the power and greatness of human life have been transferred. We have only to change the scene, and come round half the globe to where we stand to-day, and one might think that Arethusa’s fount, which whilom [at one time] flowed under the sea and burst up in the Sicilian Isle, had again appeared to lave the feet of this Queen of the Western Empire, and to make her glorious with the symbols of our national distinction. The course of human events has planted here the proudest pillar of government which the sun now shines upon. It is at length discovered how the Builder of the World, for a generation yet unborn, reared up this glorious circumference of hills, and overhung the ardent firmament, and rolled together the streams of yonder river, and strung through the vales which his hand scooped out the silver threads of springs, and clothed the slopes with verdure, and fringed the landscape’s with patriarchal trees, and guarded in long solitude even the swamp and the marsh and the fen, whose surface of reeds and samphire shook nightly to the rustling winds, that it might be for a place of habitation when the time should come, and a theatre of stirring scenes in one of the grandest ages of human achievement, and for a centre of exploit to a rising people whose career was to be unparalleled in the annals of the world. It seems like a vision of the night. Not many hundred moons ago, the wild Indian erected his wigwam where now we hear the busy hum of marts, where now our dwellings and churches stand, and where to-day we are assembled to worship God. The feuds of the Powhatans and Monacans are ended; and where once the council-fire was kindled in sight of yonder hill, the red men have vanished like the withered leaves which the winds of autumn are scattering, and which the next spring-breath may never find. It is but yesterday that the amphictyon of savage life was broken up, and on the very site of its ruins the prouder dome of the pale face has been upreared. It is but yesterday that, with the Capitol and the Presidential mansion, the Federal city has sprung up and these present thousands were gathered together—but a day since the hive was set and the Metropolitan swarm came in!
And there are those in the assembly to-day, I doubt not, who are familiar with it all, for the story of the beginning is no Grecian myth. No cloudy fable rests upon our origin; for when the oldest of our citizens were but children and youth, the foundations of the Metropolis were laid. These thronging memories will come back to-day and fill up with living images the meagre outline of the retrospect, which we want both the time and the information more fully to exhibit.
Go back then, in fancy, over the last portion of the eighteenth century, Standing on yonder hill, now crested by the nation’s Capitol, call to mind the old patents and the lines of the first surveys which had been made a hundred years before, for Richard Pinner, and William Langworth, and Captain Troop, and Francis Pope, who, seeing that his name was Pope, thought it no robbery to be equal with the Pope, and appropriated to his estate and the stream that watered it, the august names of Rome and the Tiber. His prophecy, which lingered for a century around the hill, has been at length accomplished, and now the Capitoline overlooks us in more than Roman majesty. As you stand gazing in after years from the same position, there lie outstretched around the lands of succeeding proprietors, on the one hand declining to the river’s brink, and on the other expanding in copse and forest, in ravine and meadow-land, away to the circling hills. There is Duddington pasture; there is the house of Daniel Carroll; yonder of Notley Young; and yonder still of David Burns. There are the uplands, and the orchards green, and the old burial-places of the dead. The lark springs up from the dewy corn, singing for joy away to the gates of heaven, and the plover whistles shrill at the nightfall in yonder sedge. In many a footpath, and by many a spring, the children wander plucking the wild fruit and startling a merry echo in the deep woods. Sportsmen and fishermen haunt the shoals of Anacostia, whose rude old wharves scarce break the morasses and the water-courses which crowd over the site of the present avenue of Pennsylvania, and end away in the northern slashes. All the home scenes of incipient English life lie spreading around, and there is yet no sign of the coming grandeur which is in part to supersede the unbroken picture of rural loveliness which beams from the hamlets of Hamburg and Carrollsburg, and bursts from distant Arlington, from the heights of Georgetown, from Prospect Hill, and from the silver sheen of waters playing far away in moonlight to the sea,
But we had our Elisha, on whom the mantle of all the prophets had descended. He had smitten the waters of the Revolution, and passed over in triumph. Long years before, he had from his rough canoe explored the course of the Potomac, surveying with proud and patriotic eye the future seat of Empire. You will call to mind the act of Congress of 1790, and all the legislation both of Maryland and Virginia through which the desire of Washington was finally accomplished. You will call to mind that day when he came, like the seer of old, to perfect the titles and to prepare for the foundations ; and the men of Georgetown, like those of Jericho, said unto him, “Behold, I pray thee, the situation of the city is pleasant, as my lord seeth.” You will call to mind the negotiations of those terms and the names of the men who ceded to the Government the territory of the District of Columbia. You will call to mind the 15th day of April, 1791, when the corner-stone of the District was set up below Alexandria, and in the public concourse the minister of the cross pronounced the prayers of the infant nation; and how, soon after the other corner-stones were set, and the soil thus measured was consecrated thenceforth and forever to the cause of American greatness and to the religion of God.
Then followed a decade of years preliminary to the coming of Congress and the full establishment of the Government here in the year 1800. You may call to mind the men who, in the close of the last century, came to stake out the site of the city and from the wilderness yet unsubdued to cast the streets and avenues and the public squares, and to mark many a height and many a lawn for the reception of the sacred monuments. You have heard of Johnson, and Stewart, and Carroll, the commissioners of L’Enfant and Ellicott, the engineers; and of Hoban, Thornton, and Ballet, the architects. You have heard how they toiled till the plan of the city was completed, and the first great structures of our Republican Independence were about to be erected. You will call to mind the coming of Washington, in the month of September, 1793, to lay the corner-stone of the Capitol; the day of the procession, with life and drum, on a fallen tree across the Tiber, and up the narrow footway, amid the oaks and under-wood, to the memorable spot. You will remember, who saw that sight, the majestic form and the reverend countenance of the Old Hero as he lifted up his voice and spake to you. You will remember—for such a memory can never fade—how he passed away amid the solemn grandeur of the hour, and ever after from the heights of Vernon turned his anxious yet exultant gaze towards the Metropolis, till he fell asleep ; and now, where “the Father of his Country’’ reposes, the nations make their foremost pilgrimage.
The seed was sown, and the scions of the city were putting forth. The old roads gave place to new-made streets; the evening lights grew thicker; the marshes waxed small and thin; the bloom of civilization was gathering, on the young flower just bursting from the shadows of the wilderness. The times of Adams and Jefferson succeeded; three thousand souls already made up the population of the place. The Congress came, and the act of incorporation followed in 1802. The municipal functions went into operation and the Metropolis, now chartered in the sacred name of Washington, was fairly launched on her pathway of renown to turn back never. The mayors came, of whom Robert Brent stood first in the succession, whose worthy followers, even until now, no doubt many of you can remember. The fathers of the city council came; the physicians and the lawyers and the judges came; the noble artists came; the men of invention and of genius came,—and scattered their imperishable works among us.
The old ferry-boat which once plied from this to Alexandria was succeeded by nobler vessels. The scanty stores of Stettinius and Sommerville were superseded by long, magnificent blocks, adorned and filled by all the heraldry of merchantmen. The straitened inn of the stammering and eccentric Pitt could no longer accommodate the strangers; and there came in its stead, one after another, the spacious boarding-houses and the splendid hotels rising upon the avenues. The spirit of enterprise, fresh blown from the battle of freedom, was abroad on every breeze and inspiring every motion. You may remember the inscription on the sign of Peter Rodgers: “ Peter Rodgers, saddler, from the green fields of Erin and Tyranny to the green streets of Washington and Liberty. See Copenhagen—view the seas—’tis all blockade—’tis all a blaze! The seas shall be free! Yankee Doodle, keep it up.”
Droll as this language sounds to the ear, a sentiment of mighty import still swung in it before the door of the exiled Irishman. It bounded in the old men’s veins, and flashed on the ruddy cheeks of children. It was the price of blood; and the people of the country and the Metropolis felt that it must never perish.
On went the young city in wealth, in trade, in manufactures—but more than all, in public institutions, in monuments of elegance, and taste, and refinement; in foundations of charity, of science, of chivalry. The gentlemen of the Press came. The Ministers of the Cross came. The Presidents came. The Cabinets came. Congress succeeded Congress; and those Titan brothers, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, long wrestled with antagonists in the forum of the Senate. Alas! they are no longer;—each lying in the dreamless sleep in his own place, far apart, as though a portion of our institutions, with them, had passed away.
And, indeed, it were long to tell of the great works done by herculean efforts, as the men multiplied and the town went on increasing. It were long to tell of companies that pitched those tanks on yonder bottom-land at the beginning of the Mall, and made a fire-place whence all the lamps are lighted along the streets at night, turning even so much gas to good account—to tell of times when the steam-horse came, and neighed so loud that his shrill whinny startled the echoes on all the hills. It were long to tell how they caught also that wilder steed, which before had bounded free over all the continent of clouds unbridled, and tamed him down with juices in a cup and long, slim wires, and made him gentle as a fawn—the bearer of swift messages to all points. It were long to tell how they planted the forges, and set up the machinery at the Navy Yard, as though Vulcan had indeed opened his workshop once more, that he might point for desolation the thunderbolts of Jove—how they reared the Observatory, to be for the light-house of the sky, where the genius of numbers out-rivals the imagination itself—how they have magnified the Departments of Government, where the machinery of the mighty Republic is silently but sublimely working off the burdens of empire. It were long to tell how they have received the tribute of the dying Smithson, and built a pile which, bearing his name, will perpetuate long the memory of his princely generosity—how they have garnished the pleasure-grounds and the public edifices with the immortal creations of such minds as Causici, Capellano, Persico, Greenough, Trumbull, and Mills. And how, at length, they have commenced to rear, so long deferred, that greatest pillar of American glory, the monument of the nation, where, in the Coliseum of our gathering greatness, shall be assembled the sculptured conclave of all our heroes around the form of Washington!
Ah! little now does the giddy maiden, whose tiny foot scarce touches the pavement over which she skips, flushed out in all the latest styles of fashion—and little does the dapper young gentleman, in his huge cravat and boots, fresh made of patent-leather, as he goes roistering from billiard-rooms and restaurants, wot [know] of the things here done by the consuming labor of hand and brain, where but a little ago the grey heron and the bittern hovered about the pools, and the fishermen spread their nets to dry in the noon-day sun. But thus the city’s life unfolded through all the times of transformation and of progress, with new difficulties daily overcome, and a real effort to make the future better than the past has been or than the present is; while in this advancement the woods were cleared, the ditches dug, the hills cut down, the banks erected, and time and sweat and money were poured out like water, till on the new arena no man can look without a just enthusiasm bearing him away delighted from this consecrated spot, and in the wrapt vision of all the sovereign States which circle round, causing him to exclaim in the language of the patriotic muse—
“Lives there a man with soul so dead.
Who never to himself hath said.
This is my own, my native land.”
We have seen as best we might, in the brief time allowed us, the first fibres of that web which were gathered up from the forest land, from the pestilent marsh, and from the Indian trail—spun from the very moss that grew upon the trees, and strung by the pebbles that shone in the springs and by the edge of streams, as delicate at the beginning as the spider’s web. But our weavers came—the strong men, and hundreds of noble names we ought to name, but have no space; and each working in his way, they collected the filaments from the ruggedness of nature ; they of their diligence fixed the warp in the loom, and the great shuttle of Providence was given them, and they wove the texture which soon must other hands continue; thus weaving in common with our countrymen the ever-widening fabric of the Metropolis, spangled with diamonds, and furnishing, we hope, at some distant day the mighty turban of purple and gold that shall sit, in the future coronation of Humanity, on the brow of the American Republic, illumined by the triple stars of Science, Government, and Religion! Such, my brethren, are some of the memories—would to heaven there were none other worse of this monumental city!—all themes of grateful reminiscence—making us thankful for what our fathers did, and thankful that on this day of thanksgiving we had their history to record and their memories to remember.
And now the web is wider and the woof thickens, and we have already become a force. Fifty thousand people, such as you are, cannot be together in any spot on earth, much less here, at the heart, without being a force—a fountain of influence, giving and taking with every section of the nation, and every quarter of the world, still growing to a larger force, and ending, perhaps, never as a force! It remains, therefore, under the hallowed impulses of these passing recollections, to address to you some practical considerations which may not be unaccordant with the spirit of this occasion. Indeed, from the prominence on which we stand, we would, if it were possible, summon around us every class of our fellow-citizens, and would urge upon them the sentiments of patriotism, philanthropy, and piety, which so many glorious recollections of our past are eminently adapted to inspire.
I. I would appeal to the massive millions of the people, and say, Your birth-right, Americans, has cost too much to be squandered—it promises too much for the future to be neglected. Remember, therefore, to preserve the Republic as it is—destined only to a just progress and expansion. There are many motives for this; our Government is the asylum of the world. We have drawn our blood from the Huguenot, from the Norman, from the Saxon, and the Celt. Men of all religions and of all philosophies are here; the emigrant and the exile from all quarters of the globe. They are our fellow-citizens, nursing the same shaggy breast of our common mother, which, out of the wilds of nature, was free from the first to give sustenance to all. It has been a thing taken for granted here from the beginning by our fathers and by ourselves, and so I hope it may ever be, that personal freedom, and private judgment, and the rights of conscience, so far as each is competent to them in his condition, are things too sacred to every human being to be invaded with impunity. It was seen that life had no impulse without liberty, and liberty no safeguards but virtue and intelligence; wherefore, the arms of the country were ever open to whatsoever human brother chose to abide with us; so that we had Jews and Germans, Yankees and Indians, the sons of Ireland, the emigrants of France and Spain, and Many nations, and the children of Ham, We had all foreigners, as when Jerusalem was filled with the representatives of the Eastern World. And thus far we have been more happy and more prosperous under the working of those great institutions which our fathers left us than any people hitherto. Preserve the Republic, then, in the name of God and Humanity, as it is. There was at times a love of liberty in the nations of antiquity, but they had more to contend with than we. Between tyranny and licentiousness, they could not see what kind of government was best; their revolutions were quick, turbulent, and extreme. Only France, among the moderns, can present a parallel, and that is because she has no religion, and has had none for a thousand years. But the want of faith in God is not the only danger to free governments, though from the want of faith most other dangers spring. If there be a danger to our own beloved country, it is in the levity and inconstancy which ruined, ages since, so many famous people. Deep meditation, stern contentment with fortune, and a hard, tough patience, is what this people must cultivate : these things, in this age of activity and effervescence, are likely to dwindle out of us. If we would not share the fate of the Greeks, we must not be as volatile as the Greeks; we must take care not to degenerate from the old stock of the men of the Revolution. It is possible for this people, instead of remaining like the granite of their mountains, to become rather like a bottle of hartshorn; and if so, we can expect but little firmness where so many winds are blowing; for the bottle will some cunning hand uncork, and away will fly the spirits,
But other nations had not our civil polity. They generally had but two parts, and no third to balance. The affairs of state were simply a bone of contention between the aristocracy and the mobocracy, the senate and the rabble. Now, all government must sway; authority will not stand still, So subtle and so mobile are the elements of humanity, that you might as well think to fix the waves of the ocean by petrifaction as to suppose that so great a matter as the government of states can be made to stand still. And why? If a chair in which a man is to sit be supported on the shoulders of living creatures—millions of men, for example—would it not be thought a thing incredible, yea, against nature, for those men to hold that chair perfectly still? Even so is the authority of human government. It will incline as the people incline—either to a centralization of power, or to a diffusion of power—either to despotism or anarchy. The wisdom of a polity is to make these movements and counter-movements check one another; and it was never so done as in our own country. We have a constitution which procures that, while the sea of the masses is lashed into tumult, the chair of state remains untilted. We live under laws, both national, state, and municipal, most singularly constructed to avert the excess or the abuse of political power. The genius of our polity seems almost to have been inspired. Oh, then, by all that is sacred, let us preserve as it is! May the Almighty save us from doing anything to darken a prospect which—not all brightness, to be sure, nor yet all clouds—is growing and will grow into the glister of a perfect day, if not overcast by the ambition of the few and the fanaticism of the many!
Again, other nations have fallen through the spirit of arrogance. To their high notions of wisdom and prowess they blindly trusted. They had great land victories and great naval success; their treasuries overflowed. Prosperity reacted; their vigilance was gone, and they fell a prey to foreign foes, or the still more bitter retributions of intestine war. We, too, as a nation have had our similar success, which, of course, is like contagion in the land; and one town, tingling with the applause of triumphs by our common arms, sends the same thrill into another, till the continent trembles with the martial spirit which has kindled through the millions. It is a pitfall into which many states have plunged before us. A nation lusty with sinews and full of wealth, when so inflamed, is on the verge to lose freedom. The grosser passions are then stimulated, and abandonment to the crisis of the hour comes on apace. Happy are we, however, thus far in this country, that peaceful labor restrains this tendency to ruin. The mass of the people are heavy workers, and the whole domain of the Republic shakes with the vigor of humanity in its prime; and though floods of wealth are pouring in, and property is rising, and the acres just shorn of woods are more costly, still the national industry increases, and each man may earn his meal. All this tells up so much our happy condition as a people, for Freedom loves hardy children, It is a sign of her decay when, out of huge and magnificent palaces, there goes not every day a man to some thorough labor of life. Honest labor is no enemy to our happiness and elevation, and so I hope every man and woman who boasts these immunities may have it for as high an honor to be a sturdy worker. Work intensifies thought, and intense thought will save our country, under the guidance of God, from the evils of levity and arrogance, and wealth and conquest. Ah! then, Americans, do not only love liberty, but conceive also its true idea; study its conditions in man and in society; and, as the voice of your glorious future, by your own spirit, of patriotism, (which is none other than the equal love of your whole country, no single part excluded,) by the memories of our fathers, by the destiny of universal man—yea, and by the sanctions of our most holy religion, to cleave to the Constitution and to the Confederacy as it is; and so may God pity you as ever you depart from this substance of the nation’s life, or suffer the banner which it sports to trail! Oh! where shall men look for succor when those ensigns which wave beside the dome of the Capitol shall have ceased to symbolize the patriotism of the nation, or float no longer in mockery of a people that have lighted themselves to destruction!
II. I call, therefore, upon the gentlemen of the Press to diffuse these sentiments, in every edition of book or journal, to the remotest dwelling. They are the life of those memories we have attempted to recall to you to-day. You hold in your hands the power to mould, in a very large degree, the opinions of our masses. We look with solicitude, not unmixed with pride and hope, as you move on in your stupendous mission. You wield a mighty weapon, and direct the most amazing force. The great Briareus of the printing art, scattering the sheets hourly like snow-flakes, is at your service to do your bidding; and the pulse of his giant heart, as it throws its diurnal circulation to every extremity, and falls along the tenderest nerve of every human interest, is giving tone and temper to the sum total of this instinctive and untiring people. You have the clue and the key, gentlemen, to their future destiny. Ah! do not miss the mark, and lead them wrong—like Polyphemus, strong but blind.
III. I call, too, upon the gentlemen of the Bar, and all who, before the people, or on the bench, or in the halls of legislation, are gifted with the power of public speech. The memories of the Metropolis must especially invoke you: the very air seems to breathe around us here something of the power and elevation of eloquence devoted to the welfare of America, Gentlemen, the Jaws are in your hands, and yon are to conserve the purity of justice, and teach this great people its practice. You have it for a privilege to defend our Constitution—a document which as it has seemed to me to be almost inspired from heaven, as the only fitting and continual altar of the national sacrifice, and that alone on which the vestal fire will bum. This is the earnest lesson of jour calling. You have no need to become demagogues or hypocrites, no need for the chicanery and the scrambling of parties. If you do but speak right out the eternal principles of the early jurists and expounders of our Government, you will speak to the great heart of the people; and you know, if we have correctly stated the theory of our civil polity, there must be a spirit of loyalty to the organic life and law of the system, or the strength of the Government is paralyzed. Oh! gentlemen, you have a heavy and solemn work. May you have Solon’s wisdom, Cato’s integrity, and Tully’s silver tongue! And for the shades of the illustrious dead in whose presence we seem almost to stand, and for the dear sake of all those hallowed monuments, do not fail in any tittle of your great mission.
IV. I would appeal to all the parents and guardians of our youth, to inculcate, at the earliest period of life, the sentiments of our fathers—let them not be hidden from the children—that they too may learn, and learning, venerate the things that were done among us in times of old. Let me entreat yon to educate the children. They shall have neither mental enjoyment nor social position, nor even the capability of self-government, without. It was one of the earliest principles, deep-rooted in our soil, that information and science are the bulwarks of liberty. Preserve the colleges, and seminaries, and the free common schools, as you would your hearth-stones and your homes. We can indeed do without Cambridge and Oxford, and the French and German universities, because our Republican institutions are simpler and more straightforward: they will make every town in the nation to be what Athens or what Sparta was—the Damasimborter—the “tamer of men.” That is our great glory more than all our material prosperities. Our business is to look after the essential interests of mind, and quarry, from these thousands of children (each child the jewel of his mother and precious as Cornelia’s were to her,) the future pillars of our country’s citizenship. Oh! let it be done, I beseech you! Let neither the struggle for bodily subsistence, nor the conflict of manifold opinions, nor the subtlety of civil or ecclesiastical encroachment, prevent us in this fundamental labor! Remember the boys and girls who will stand where we now stand in the next generation; for that day of responsibility and action they need a thorough knowledge and discipline. Whatever else you do, give such men and women to the next age. They will be castle-gates more formidable than the great Hexapylum! The tendency of these times is to the surface, to volubility and froth, and great swelling words of vanity. Sink down into the youthful mind so many fathoms deep the solid learning of a wise education, and then when the lighthouse rises there in coming times, no billow can break up the foundations, no cloud obscure the clear beam which shines thence a wav over the sea of human commotion.
V. And lastly, I would call on the Ministers of Religion—those men whose life it is to show the way to heaven by the avenue of the Cross. It belongs to the American people to cherish the Christian faith of our fathers, and to hold fast by the principles of the Bible in toleration and charity. It belongs to the American ministry to keep the pure flame burning in the great heart of the nation by the hopes of a Christian immortality. Deep faith in God and eternity was the foundation strength of the men of the Revolution. No flippant skepticism disgraced them—no scandal of infidelity blighted the character of their great works. They were made of a sterner stuff and of a nobler mould ; they had many creeds, it is true, but the vinculum of all was in their unqualified and unwavering trust in Jehovah, and in the constant recognition of his Providence; and thus they have shown to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength, and His wondrous works that He hath done! The nation was founded in their prayers and tears, baptized by their blood, and devoted to the Almighty by their sublime and invincible faith; the very corner-stones of the Metropolis were planted in crying and supplication to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. The nations that had not this religion have perished. Our catastrophe will never come if we abide by its principles. Now, therefore, by all the motives that can most stir the blood and the spirit of Republicans, by the deep and solemn life of religion itself, by the mysteries of death, and the morning of the millennium, when all that is truly heroic in the history of man will be clothed with a new and another immortality, do I invoke the ministrations of the Pulpit, to imbue this ever-growing people with the spirit of that unseen but eternal power the sound of whose going is like the rush of armies—that spiritual, mighty wind, filling every heart and every house of habitation—that gift of prophetic devotion which drives men perpetually to the worship of the Deity—that new creation which passes over the millions, and they come forth, in a resurrection of beauty and of glory, at the voice of the Almighty.
And now, in conclusion, I call upon you, one and all, to pay thanksgiving for all the memories which cluster about us in the Providence of God, and which kindle to-day so many fires of gladness through all our borders, and stimulate so many hopes of the coming future. Let us thank the Bountiful Giver of our lineage and our estate, and from this day take new courage and go forward. Let us therefore glory wisely as unto Jehovah for the works that he did in the days of our fathers in the times of old, Let us glory in this growing greatness of the Republic, and in the seat and temple of Americas empire, towards which the eyes and prayers of all the sovereign tribes are this day doubtless turned. Let us glory in the men who here first made the timbers crackle before the axe and flame, and in the impulse of freedom and of faith which we ever had from them, Alas! how many of them are sleeping to-day in the places of sepulture hallowed by their fame; and the few that were of them, and still linger as if to watch the country’s and the city’s rising grandeur, will soon go to carry some better tidings of nobler things still done—that meeting, if such spirits ever meet beyond the returnless bourn, it may be to say, “The city hath a pleasant sight and glorious hopes for the future, and our sons are there full of our blood and courage; and the great web of our national story will they weave on, till, coming to join us here, they leave it to their sons to weave it still!”—a web of august memories as lasting as that rising and, we trust, imperishable monument, to which, in recognition of the gift of God in our great Washington, we ask you to-day, before retiring to the scenes of your family festivities, to pay the votive offerings of so free and so proud Americans!