Thwenty four years have this day elapsed, since United Columbia first raised the standard of Liberty, and echoed the shouts of Independence!
Those of you, who were then reaping the iron harvest of the martial field, whose bosoms then palpitated for the honor of America, will, at this time, experience a renewal of all that fervent patriotism, of all those indescribable emotions, which then agitated your breasts. As for us, who were either then unborn, or not far enough advanced beyond the threshold of existence, to engage in the grand conflict for Liberty, we now most cordially unite with you, to greet the return of this joyous anniversary, to hail the day that gave us Freedom, and hail the rising glories of our country!
On accasions like this, you have heretofore been addressed, from this stage, on the nature, the origin, the expediency of civil government. The field of political speculation has here been explored, by persons, posessing talents, to which the speaker of the day can have no pretensions. Declining therefore a dissertation on the principles of civil polity, you will indulge me in slightly sketching on those events, which have originated, nurtured, and raised to its present grandeur the empire of Columbia...
The conclusion of the revolutionary war did not conclude the great achievements of our countrymen. Their military character was then, indeed, sufficiently established; but the time was coming, which should prove their political sagacity.
No sooner was peace restored with England, the first grand article of which was the acknowledgment of our Independence, than the old system of confederation, dictated, at first, by necessity, and adopted for the purposes of the moment, was found inadequate to the government of an extensive empire. Under a full conviction of this, we then saw the people of these States engaged in a transaction, which is, undoubtedly, the greatest approximation towards human perfection the political world ever yet experienced; and which, perhaps, will forever stand in the history of mankind, without a parallel. A great Republic, composed of different States, whose interest in all respects could not be perfectly compatible, then came deliberately forward, discarded one system of government and adopted another, without the loss of one man's blood.
There is not a single government now existing in Europe, which is not based in usurpation, and established, if established at all, by the sacrifice of thousands. But in the adoption of our present system of jurisprudence, we see the powers necessary for governement, voluntarily springing from the people, their only proper origin, and directed to the public good, their only proper object.
With peculiar propriety, we may now felicitate ourselves, on that happy form of mixed government under which we live. The advantages, resulting to the citizens of the Union, from the operation of the Federal Constitution, are utterly incalculable; and the day, when it is received by a majority of the States, shall stand on the catalogue of American anniversaries, second to none but the birthday of Independence...
With hearts penetrated by unutterable grief, we are at length constrained to ask, where is our Washington? where the hero, who led us to victory - where the man, who gave us freedom? Where is he, who headed our feeble army, when destruction threatened us, who came upon our enemies like the storms of winter; and scattered them like leaves before the Borean blast? Where, O my country! is thy political saviour? where, O humanity! thy favorite son?
The solemnity of this assembly, the lamentations of the American people will answer, alas, he is now no more - the Mighty is fallen!
Yes, Americans, your Washington is gone! he is now consigned to dust, and sleeps in dull, cold marble. The man, who never felt a wound, but when it pierced his country, who never groaned, but when fair freedom bled, is now forever silent! ...
It becomes us, on whom the defence of our country will ere long devolve, this day, most seriously to reflect on the duties incumbent upon us. Our ancestors bravely snatched expiring liberty from the grasp of Britain, whose touch is poison; shall we now consign it to France, whose embrace is death? We have seen our fathers, in the days of Columbia's trouble, assume the rough habiliments of war, and seek the hostile field. Too full of sorrow to speak, we have seen them wave a last farewell to a disconsolate, a woe-stung family! We have seen them return, worn down with fatigue, and scarred with wounds; or we have seen them, perhaps, no more! For us they fought! for us they bled! for us they conquered! Shall we, their descendants, now basely disgrace our lineage, and pusillanimously disclaim the legacy bequeathed to us? Shall we pronounce the sad valediction to freedom, and immolate liberty on the altars our fathers have raised to her? No! The response of a nation is, "No!" Let it be registered in e archives of Heaven! - Ere the religion we profess, and the privileges we enjoy, are sacrificed at the shrines of despots and demagogues, let the pillars of creation tremble! let world be wrecked on world, and systems rush to ruin! Let the sons of Europe be vassals; let her hosts of nations be a vast congregation of slaves; but let us, who are this day free, whose hearts are yet unappalled, and whose right arms are yet nerved for war, assemble before the hallowed temple of Columbian Freedom, and swear, to the God of our Fathers, to preserve it secure, or die at its portals!