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leged that his intentions were hostile to liberty and the republic, those meni contended that he respected the republic, and his intentions were friendly. The people believed, and were destroyed.
The commonwealth of Rome was destroyed by a different process from that which proved fatal to Athens and Greece. As it braved the attempts of a foreign enemy, it was indebted to a citizen for its overthrow. Julius Cæsar contemplated the ruin of his country. This, as he knew, could not be effected but by the help of the common people; wherefore he attempted, by all possible means, to acquire popularity. When he had obtained the rank of consul, which he obtained by corruption, he promoted a law for the general division of property among the people, and another law for distributing corn among the idle and worthless vagabonds in Rome. His measures were opposed by the nobles, the wealthy, and the prudent; therefore he threw himself on the people, and claimed their protection. The people gratified his wishes. They raised him to the highest commands in the army. He gained the affection of the army, and made slaves of the people. While ,
. we attend to the rise and fall of other republics, we should not forget that historians should be considered as a species of pilots who set up beacons to show us the rocks and shoals on which other nations have suffered shipwreck. We have not subsisted many years as a republic, but we have experienced the uncommon fortune of becoming wealthy, luxurious, and old, in a few years. If we are less attentive to the history of ancient republics, let us consider, that within the memory of inan, there were some very respectable republics in Europe. They have disappeared, and,
“ Like the baseless fabric of a vision,
The destruction of those republics is not charged, as I think, to the account of bribery, or to the artifice of a deinagogue. The two most powerful of them destroyed themselves. There had been political disputes in each republic, as in all free governments. The warmest party, who called themselves patriots, called in the assistance of a powerful nation Assistance was not refused, and their patron crushed them to death by bis embraces.
The more cause we have to lament the general defects in ancient history, and the more cause we have to complain that there is hardly a country on the face of the earth whose original settlement and consequent progress can be discovered, the more industrious this society should be to preserve a small section of the globe, or the settlement and progress of a small colony from the great tomb of oblivion. It is not only our duty to have it faithfully recorded, how this part of the world was settled by civilized men, but also to show in what manner, and by what means, the inhabitants increased in useful knowledge and virtue; for it is not to be questioned, that a great proportion of the first settlers had but a small share of learning; and some of their chief officers were very deficient in virtue. Posterity will take little interest in knowing that the inhabitants may have doubled their number in twenty years; but they may be desirous to know by what means the subjects had obtained such a degree of information, toward the end of the eighteenth century, as to understand the principles of civil liberty, and contend successfully for their rights. Posterity will expect to be informed, and it will be your duty faithfully to record, what steps were taken in this eventful epoch, about the beginning of the nineteenth century, to promote virtue and the general stock of knowledge among the people. It was observed by a great philanthropist, that fewer criminals are incarcerated in Scotland or in Switzerland than in any other part of Europe. The reason he assigns for this difference is, that the common people in Scotland and Switzerland are more generally instructed than in any other part of the civilized world. They are more generally taught to read, and are taught the principles of the christian religion, the foundation of good morals. His reasoning on this subject was doubtless correct. For ignorance is the fruitful parent of vice; and the man who knows his duty is most likely to attend to it. In this critical period, it will therefore be the duty of government to multiply the means of instruction; it will be their duty to see that every citizen is taught to read, at whatever expense that may be done; and you will take a pleasure, for the benefits of posterity, in recording the fact. Posterity may be desirous to know, and it will be your duty to record, whether men in public trust, instructed as they are by ancient history, and by the recent fate of European republics, had been careful to check the dangerous progress of internal faction; to preserve peace; to cultivate harmony among their fellow citizens, and to retain the confidence and affection of the sister republics.
THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY,
AT THEIR ANNIVERSARY MEETING,
6th DECEMBER, 1811.
BY THE HONOURABLE DE WITT CLINTON,
ONE OF TIL VICE-PRESIDENTS OF THE SOCIETY.
NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY,
December 6th, 1811, RESOLVED, Thut the thanks of this Society be presented to the Honourable DE WITT Clinton, for the Discourse delivered this day before the Society; and that the Reverend Doctor MILLER, Doctor Hosack, and Mr. Thomas Eppy, be appointed a Committee to express the same, and to request a copy for publication.
Extract from the minutes,