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More than eighteen centuries have mourned over the loss of her empire. A mortal disease was upon her vitals before Cæsar had crossed the Rubicon; and Brutus did not restore her health by the deep probings of the senate chamber. The Goths and Vandals and Huns, the swarms of the North, completed only what was already begun at home. Romans betrayed Rome. The legions were bought and sold ; but the people offered the tribute money.
And where are the republics of modern times, which clustered round immortal Italy ? Venice and Genoa exist but in name. The Alps, indeed, look down upon the brave and peaceful Swiss in their native fastnesses ; but the guaranty of their freedom is in their weakness, and not in their strength. The mountains are not easily crossed, and the vallies are not easily retained. When the invader comes, he moves like an avalanche, carrying destruction in his path. The peasantry sinks before him. The country is too poor for plunder; and too rough for valuable conquest. Nature presents her eternal barriers on every side to check the wantonness of ambition ; and Switzerland remains, with her simple institutions, a military road to fairer climates, scarcely worth a permanent possession, and protected by the jealousy of her neighbours. )
We stand, the latest, and, if we fail, probably the last experiment of self-government by the people. We have begun it under circumstances of the most auspicious nature. We are in the vigor of youth. Our growth has never been checked by the oppressions of tyranny. Our constitutions have never been enfeebled by the vices or luxuries of the old world. Such as we are, we have been from the beginning ; simple, hardy, intelligent, accustomed to selfgovernment and self-respect. The Atlantic rolls between us and any formidable foe. Within our own territory, stretching through many degrees of latitude and longitude, we have the choice of many products, and many means of independence. The government is mild. The press is free. Religion is free. Knowledge reaches, or may reach, every home. What fairer prospect of success could be presented ? What means more adequate to accomplish the sublime end? What more is necessary than for the people to preserve what they themselves have created ?
Already has the age caught the spirit of our institutions. It has already ascended the Andes, and snuffed the breezes of both oceans. It has infused itself into the life-blood of Europe, and warmed the sunny plains of France, and the low lands of Holland. It has touched the philosophy of Germany and the North ; and,
moving onward to the South, has opened to Greece the lessons of her better days.
Can it be, that America, under such circumstances, can betray herself? that she is to be added to the catalogue of republics, the inscription upon whose ruins is, “ They were, but they are not”? Forbid it, my countrymen; forbid it, Heaven.
I call upon you, Fathers, by the shades of your ancestors, by the dear ashes which repose in this precious soil, by all you are, and all you hope to be ; resist every project of disunion, resist every encroachment upon your liberties, resist every attempt to fetter your consciences, or smother your public schools, or extinguish your system of public instruction.
I call upon you, Mothers, by that which never fails in woman, the love of your offspring ; teach them, as they climb your knees, or lean on your bosoms, the blessings of liberty. Swear them at the altar, as with their baptismal vows, to be true to their country, and never to forget or forsake her.
I call upon you, Young Men, to remember whose sons you are ; whose inheritance you possess. Life can never be too short, which brings nothing but disgrace and oppression. Death never comes too soon, if necessary in defence of the liberties of your country.
I call upon you, Old Men, for your counsels, and your prayers, and your benedictions. May not your gray hairs go down in sorrow to the grave, with the recollection, that you have lived in vain. May not your last sun sink in the west upon a nation of slaves. No- I read in the destiny of my country far better hopes,
far brighter visions. We, who are now assembled here, must soon be gathered to the congregation of other days. The time of our departure is at hand, to make way for our children upon the theatre of life. May God speed them and theirs. May he, who, at the distance of another century, shall stand here to celebrate this day, still look round upon a free, happy, and virtuous people. May he have reason to exult, as we do. May he, with all the enthusiasm of truth, as well as of poetry, exclaim, that here is still his country,
“ Zealous, yet modest; innocent, though free;
Patient of toil; serene amidst alarms;
DELIVERED ON THE CONSECRATION OF THE CEMETERY AT MOUNT AUBURN,
SEPTEMBER 24, 1831.
My Friends, The occasion, which brings us together, has much in it calculated to awaken our sensibilities, and cast a solemnity over our thoughts.
We are met to consecrate these grounds exclusively to the service and repose of the dead.
The duty is not new; for it has been performed for countless millions. The scenery is not new; for the bill and the valley, the dark, silent dell, and the deep forest, have often been devoted to the same pious purpose. But that, which must always give it a peculiar interest, is, that it can rarely occur, except at distant intervals; and, whenever it does, must address itself to feelings intelligible to all nations, and common to all hearts.
The patriarchal language of four thousand years ago is precisely that, to which we would now give utterance. We are “strangers and sojourners ” here. We have need of “ a possession of a burying-place, that we may bury our dead out of our sight.” Let us have “the field, and the cave, which is therein ; and all the trees, that are in the field, that are in all the borders round about "; and let them “ be made sure for a possession of a burying-place.”
It is the duty of the living thus to provide for the dead. It is not a mere office of pious regard for others; but it comes home to our own bosons, as those who are soon to enter upon the common inheritance.
If there are any feelings of our nature, not bounded by earth, and yet stopping short of the skies, which are more strong and inore universal than all others, they will be found in our solicitude as to the time and place and manner of our death ; in the desire to die in the arms of our friends; to have the last sad offices to our remains performed by their affection ; to repose in the land of our nativity ; to be gathered to the sepulchres of our fathers. It is almost impossible for us to feel, nay, even to feign, indifference on such a subject.
Poetry has told us this truth, in lines of transcendent beauty and force, which find a response in every breast;
“ For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing, anxious being e'er resigned,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind ?
“On some fond breast the parting soul relies;
Some pious drops the closing eye requires ;
E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires."
It is in vain, that philosophy has informed us, that the whole earth is but a point in the eyes of its Creator, — nay, of his own creation ; that, wherever we are, - abroad, or at home,
on the restless ocean, or the solid land, ; -- we are still under the protection of his providence, and safe, as it were, in the hollow of his hand. It is in vain, that Religion has instructed us, that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return; that, whether our remains are scattered to the corners of the earth, or gathered in sacred urns, there is á sure and certain hope of a resurrection of the body and a life everlasting. These truths, sublime and glorious as they are, leave untouched the feelings, of which I have spoken, or, rather, they impart to them a more enduring reality. Dust as we are, the frail tenements, which enclose our spirits but for a season, are dear, are inexpressibly dear to us. We derive solace, nay, pleasure, from the reflection, that, when the hour of separation comes, these earthly remains will still retain the tender regard of those, whom we leave behind; that the spot, where they shall lie, will be remembered with a fond and soothing reverence; that our children will visit it in the midst of their sorrows; and our kindred, in remote generations, feel that a local inspiration hovers round it.
Let him speak, who has been on a pilgrimage of health to a foreign land. Let him speak, who has watched at the couch of a dying friend, far from his chosen home. Let him speak, who has commiuied to the bosom of the deep, with a sudden, startling plunge, the narrow shroud of some relative or companion. Let
such speak; and they will tell you, that there is nothing, which wrings the heart of the dying, - aye, and of the surviving, — with sharper agony, than the thought, that they are to sleep their last sleep in the land of strangers, or in the unseen depths of the ocean.
“Bury me not, I pray thee,” said the patriarch Jacob, “bury me not in Egypt: but I will lie with my fathers. And thou shalt carry me out of Egypt; and bury me in their burying-place.” “ There they buried Abraham, and Sarah his wise ; there they buried Isaac, and Rebecca bis wise ; and there I buried Leah."
Such are the natural expressions of human feeling, as they fall from the lips of the dying. Such are the reminiscences, that for ever crowd on the confines of the passes to the grave. We seek again to have our home there with our friends, and to be blest by a communion with them. It is a matter of instinct, not of reasoning. It is a spiritual impulse, which supersedes belief, and disdains question.
But it is not chiefly in regard to the feelings belonging to our own mortality, however sacred and natural, that we should contemplate the establishment of repositories of this sort. There are higher moral purposes, and more affecting considerations, which belong to the subject. We should accustom ourselves to view them rather as means than as ends; rather as influences to govern human conduct, and to moderate human suffering, than as cares incident to a selfish foresight.
It is to the living mourner — to the parent, weeping over his dear dead child — to the husband, dwelling in his own solitary desolation to the widow, whose heart is broken by untimely
to the friend, who misses, at every turn, the presence of some kindred spirit — it is to these, that the repositories of the dead bring home thoughts full of admonition, of instruction, and slowly, but surely, of consolation also. They admonish us, by their very silence, of our own frail and transitory being. They instruct us in the true value of life, and in its noble purposes, its duties, and its destination. They spread around us, in the reminiscences of the past, sources of pleasiny, though melancholy reflection.
We dwell with pious fondness on the characters and virtues of the departed; and, as time interposes its growing distances between us and them, we gather up, with more solicitude, the broken fragments of memory, and weave, as it were, into our very hearts, the threads of their history. As we sit down by their graves, we seem to hear the tones of their affection whispering in our ears. We