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They were accustomed to representative bodies and the forms of free government; they understood the doctrine of the division of power among different branches, and the necessity of checks on each. The character of our 5 countrymen, moreover, was sober, moral, and religious ; and there was little in the change to shock their feelings of justice and humanity, or even to disturb an honest prejudice.
We had no domestic throne to overturn, no privileged orders to cast down, no violent changes of 10 property to encounter. In the American Revolution, no
man sought or wished for more than to defend and enjoy his own.
None hoped for plunder or for spoil. Rapacity was unknown to it; the axe was not among the instru
ments of its accomplishments; and we all know that it 15 could not have lived a single day under any well-founded
imputation of possessing a tendency adverse to the Christian religion.
It need not surprise us, that, under circumstances less auspicious, political revolutions elsewhere, even when well 20 intended, have terminated differently. It is, indeed, a
great achievement, it is the master-work of the world, to establish governments entirely popular on lasting foundations; nor is it easy, indeed, to introduce the popular
principle at all into governments to which it has been 25 altogether a stranger. It cannot be doubted, however,
that Europe has come out of the contest, in which she has been so long engaged, with greatly superior knowledge, and, in many respects, in a highly improved con
dition. Whatever benefit has been acquired is likely to 30 be retained, for it consists mainly in the acquisition of
more enlightened ideas. And although kingdoms and provinces may be wrested from the hands that hold them, in the same manner they were obtained; although ordi
nary and vulgar power may, in human affairs, be lost as 35 it has been won; yet it is the glorious prerogative of the
empire of knowledge, that what it gains it never loses.
On the contrary, it increases by the multiple of its own power; all its ends become means; all its attainments, helps to new conquests. Its whole abundant harvest is but so much seed wheat, and nothing has limited, and nothing can limit, the amount of ultimate product.
Under the influence of this rapidly increasing knowledge, the people have begun, in all forms of government, to think, and to reason, on affairs of state. Regarding government as an institution for the public good, they demand a knowledge of its operations, and a participa- 10 tion in its exercise. A call for the representative system, wherever it is not enjoyed, and where there is already intelligence enough to estimate its value, is perseveringly made. Where men may speak out, they demand it ; where the bayonet is at their throats, they pray for it.
When Louis the Fourteenth said, “I am the state," he expressed the essence of the doctrine of unlimited power. By the rules of that systemy the people are disconnected from the state; they are its subjects, it is their lord. These ideas, founded in the love of power, and 20 long supported by the excess and the abuse of it, are yielding, in our age, to other opinions; and the civilized world seems at last to be proceeding to the conviction of that fundamental and manifest truth, that the powers of government are but a trust, and that they cannot be law- 25 fully exercised but for the good of the community. As knowledge is more and more extended, this conviction becomes more and more general. Knowledge, in truth, is the great sun in the firmament. Life and power are scattered with all its beams. The prayer of the Grecian 30 champion, when enveloped in unnatural clouds and darkness, is the appropriate political supplication for the people of every country not yet blessed with free institutions :
"Dispel this cloud, the light of heaven restore,
Give me to SEE, and Ajax asks no more.
We may hope that the growing influence of enlightened sentiment will promote the permanent peace of the world. Wars to maintain family alliances, to uphold or to cast down dynasties, and to regulate successions to thrones, 5 which have occupied so much room in the history of modern times, if not less likely to happen at all, will be less likely to become general and involve many nations as the great principle shall be more and more established,
that the interest of the world is peace, and its first great 10 statute, that every nation possesses the power of estab
lishing a government for itself. But public opinion has attained also an influence over governments which do not admit the popular principle into their organization.
A necessary respect for the judgment of the world operates, 15 in some measure, as a control over the most unlimited
forms of authority. It is owing, perhaps, to this truth, that the interesting struggle of the Greeks has been suffered to go on so long, without a direct interference, either
to wrest that country from its present masters, or to ex20 ecute the system of pacification by force, and, with united
strength, lay the neck of Christian and civilized Greek at the foot of the barbarian Turk. Let us thank God that we live in an age when something has influence besides
the bayonet, and when the sternest authority does not 25 venture to encounter the scorching power of public re
proach. Any attempt of the kind I have mentioned should be met by one universal burst of indignation; the air of the civilized world ought to be made too warm to be comfortably breathed by any one who would hazard it.
It is, indeed, a touching reflection, that, while, in the fulness of our country's happiness, we rear this monument to her honor, we look for instruction in our undertaking to a country which is now in fearful contest, not for works of art or memorials of glory, but for her own existence. Let her be assured, that she is not forgotten in the world; that her efforts are applauded, and that constant prayers
ascend for her success. And let us cherish a confident hope for her final triumph. If the true spark of religious and civil liberty be kindled, it will burn. Human agency cannot extinguish it. Like the earth's central fire, it may be smothered for a time; the ocean may overwhelm 5 it; mountains may press it down; but its inherent and unconquerable force will heave both the ocean and the land, and at some time or other, in some place or other, the volcano will break out and flame up to heaven.
Among the great events of the half-century, we must 10 reckon, certainly, the revolution of South America; and we are not likely to overrate the importance of that revolution, either to the people of the country itself or to the rest of the world. The late Spanish colonies, now independent states, under circumstances less favorable, doubt-15 less, than attended our own revolution, have yet successfully commenced their national existence. They have accomplished the great object of establishing their independence; they are known and acknowledged in the world; and although in regard to their systems of gov- 20 ernment, their sentiments on religious toleration, and their provision for public instruction, they may have yet much to learn, it must be admitted that they have risen to the condition of settled and established states more rapidly than could have been reasonably anticipated. 25 They already furnish an exhilarating example of the difference between free governments and despotic misrule. Their commerce, at this moment, creates a new activity in all the great marts of the world. They show themselves able, by an exchange of commodities, to bear a useful 30 part in the intercourse of nations.
A new spirit of enterprise and industry begins to prevail; all the great interests of society receive a salutary impulse; and the progress of information not only testifies to an improved condition, but itself constitutes the 35 highest and most essential improvement.
When the battle of Bunker Hill was fought, the existence of South America was scarcely felt in the civilized world. The thirteen little colonies of North America habitually called themselves the “continent.” Borne down by colonial subjugation, monopoly, and bigotry, these vast regions of the South were hardly visible above the horizon. But in our day there has been, as it were, a new creation. The southern hemisphere emerges from the sea. Its
lofty mountains begin to lift themselves into the light of 10 heaven; its broad and fertile plains stretch out, in beauty,
to the eye of civilized man, and at the mighty bidding of the voice of political liberty the waters of darkness retire.
And now, let us indulge an honest exultation in the conviction of the benefit which the example of our country 15 has produced, and is likely to produce, on human freedom
and human happiness. Let us endeavor to comprehend in all its magnitude, and to feel in all its importance, the part assigned to us in the great drama of human affairs.
We are placed at the head of the system of representative 20 and popular governments. Thus far our example shows
that such governments are compatible, not only with respectability and power, but with repose, with peace, with security of personal rights, with good laws, and a just administration.
We are not propagandists. Wherever other systems are preferred, either as being thought better in themselves, or as better suited to existing conditions, we leave the preference to be enjoyed. Our history hitherto proves,
however, that the popular form is practicable, and that 30 with wisdom and knowledge men may govern themselves;
and the duty incumbent on us is to preserve the consistency of this cheering example, and take care that nothing may weaken its authority with the world. If, in our
case, the representative system ultimately fail, popular 35 governments must be pronounced impossible. No com
bination of circumstances more favorable to the experi