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DELIVERED TO THE GRAND JURY OF THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, AT ITS FIRST SESSION IN PORTLAND, FOR THE JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF MAINE, MAY 8, 1820.
GENTLEMEN OF THE GRAND JURY, On this, the first occasion, that I have had the pleasure of meeting you, permit me to congratulate you on the favorable auspices, under which we are assembled. Our country enjoys a state of profound peace, under the guidance of wise and moderate councils; and though our foreign commerce is considerably abridged, both in its enterprise and prosperity, and our domestic intercourse is thus sensibly diminished; yet we have abundant reason to rejoice, as well in our exemption from the calamities, which have visited and oppressed many other nations, as in our own positive good fortune. Our agriculture yields us the most abundant products, cheapening thereby the fruits of the earth to the poor and necessitous; our really useful manufactures are increasing with a slow but solid growth ; and our industry and sound morals are maturing a hardy population, which is spreading with unexampled rapidity into the wilderness, and making our forests resound with the cheering sounds of the axe and the hammer. In addition to these substantial comforts, we are indulged by a kind Providence with the blessings of civil, political, and religious liberty —- blessings of inestimable value, without which life loses half its charms, property all its security, and patriotism itself sinks back from a virtue into a gross and venal prejudice.
The circumstances, under which I address you at the present moment, are, perhaps, without a parallel in the annals of the other quarters of the world. This district has just been admitted into the Union, as a free, sovereign, and independent state, possessing,
in common with all the others, an equality of national rights and honors, and protected by an excellent constitution, framed by its own deliberations upon principles of justice and equity.
And in what manner bas this been accomplished ? Not by the course, in which the division of empires has been usually sought and obtained; by civil dissension and warfare ; by successful resistance, wading through the blood of friends and foes to its purpose ; or by the terror of the sword, whose brightness has been stained by the sacrifice of innocence, or rusted by the tears of suffering and conquered virtue. Unhappily for mankind, a change of government has rarely taken place without involving evils of the most serious nature. It has been but the triumph of tyranny in the overthrow of the liberties of the people; or the sudden reaction of popular resentment, indignant at wrongs, and stimulated to criminal excesses.
Here a different scene, a scene of peace and good order, has been presented. The separation has been the result of cool deliberation, and cautious examination of the interests of both parties. It has been conducted in a spirit of mutual conciliation and friendship, with an anxious desire to promote the real happiness and prosperity of the people. It has been emphatically, and by no fancisul analogy, like the separation of a parent from his child, when the latter has attained maturity of years and experience. And, like that separation, I trust, it will only lay more surely the foundation of a mutual respect, sustained by the sense of independence, and chastened by grateful recollections of the past, and an earnest solicitude for the solid glory of the future.
At this new starting point of your political existence, it cannot be disguised, that much of your future character and prosperity will depend upon the wisdom and moderation of your public councils. The great system of your government is to be put into operation, and your laws remoulded and adapted to your own peculiar circumstances. May I venture to suggest, that a liberal and comprehensive policy, in respect to your public institutions and judicial establishments, cannot fail to produce the happiest effects, by creating confidence at home and distinction abroad. Let your laws be framed for the permanent welfare of all the people, for the security of private rights and private property, and for the promotion of good education, and learning, and religion. No system, that aims merely at temporary, or party, or local objects, or, that bends the great interests of the whole to the partial benefit
of the few, ever was, or ever can be, salutary. Such a system is not only unworthy of a free and enlightened people ; but brings disgrace and ruin, wherever it is established. It is the harbinger of faction and discontent; and leads to animosities, from which the people can derive nothing, but bad laws, bad morals, and bad government.
May I venture, also, to add, that nothing can be of more consequence to yourselves and to our coinmon country, than that you should cherish an habitual devotion to the constitution and government of the United States. I look upon that constitution as the great security of all our most valuable political and civil rights. It is the only effectual barrier against foreign conquest and domestic feuds, against the inroads of military ambition, and the more subtile, though not less dangerous, designs of civic demagogues. It will always be the determined, though concealed, purpose of the latter, to undermine the foundations of the national government, by stirring up jealousies of its legitimate powers; and, under an affected devotion to popular rights, to take advantage of temporary prejudices, and thereby gradually withdraw the affections of the people from those principles, which the wisdom of our fathers has consecrated as the keystones of the Union. I know not, indeed, how it is possible better to express the opinion, which every sound patriot and statesman ought to entertain on this subject, than in the language of that Farewell Address, which the great and good WASHINGTON has left as his last benediction to his country.
“ 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 tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty, which you so highly prize. But as 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 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, and immovable attachment to it ; accustoming yourselves 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. . .
“For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth, or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discrininations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have, in a common cause, fought and triumphed together. The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes."
Such is the language, now speaking, as it were, from the grave, of him, who was “ first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Having premised these remarks, which are drawn from me by a sense of duty, and a sincere regard to the welfare of your rising state, and which, I trust, will be received in the spirit of candor, in which they have been delivered, permit me now to call your attention to the subjects, which more immediately belong to your cognizance, as a Grand Jury of the United States.
You are impannelled to make due inquiry and presentment of all crimes, which have been committed against the United States within the judicial district of Maine. The oath of office, which has been administered to you, contains a general outline of the duty required of you. You are to inquire with diligence, and to make true and faithful presentments, unaffected by any motives, but those, which should influence conscientious and rational minds. You are to inquire without fear, favor, affection, or hope of reward, on the one side; and without the prejudices arising from hatred, envy, or malice, on the other. I am sure, that I need hardly press upon your attention the solemnity, dignity, and importance of your office. You are selected to guard the public peace, and to maintain the public laws; to accuse the guilty, and to protect the innocent. What higher objects can engage the attention of men, looking to the great interests of society? What nobler ends can be proposed, than those, which administer to the tranquillity and happiness of our friends and fellow-citizens ? What can be more acceptable to God, or more conformable to the dictates of religion, than the promotion of justice, the succour of virtue, and the relief of the injured and oppressed ? Nor can any one, who seri