« AnteriorContinuar »
to act and to perish. A hideous scene, where the spectators beheld, with horror and dismay, justice violated, honour polluted, religion degraded, and freedom destroyed. But great crimes were palliated, as they were perpetrated, by great talents. The infamy of murder and usurpation was ennobled by the sword of victory. And the multitude, dazzled by the splendour of success, that adoration which is due to virtue alone, was blindly and basely offered at the shrine of power. In seventeen years after Charles ascended his father's throne, he was engaged in civil war. At the close of another seventeen years he was led to the scaffold. During nine years the British sceptre was in the iron grasp of Cromwell. He made the nations tremble. But in less than three years from his decease, the son of Charles was restored. Fortunately for our freedom, this witty sen sualist, who, if we are to believe one of his profligate companions, “never said a foolish thing, and never did a wise one,” although he had the sense to perceive, had not the steadiness to pursue, nor the address to secure, the advantages of his situation. He
He might have put himself in possession of absolute power over a nation inured to war, and naturally brave. He might have held in his hand the fate of Europe. He might have been the rival of Louis the Fourteenth ; perhaps his superior. Instead of this, he basely became his pensioner, and in that mean condition waged war with the United Netherlands. But a majority of his parliament, too wise to be deceived, too brave to be intimidated, too honest to be seduced, obliged him to make peace, by withholding the means to make war. The first of these wars was terminated in three years by the treaty of Breda, which gave New-York to the British crown, the 26th of Janu
After a licentious reign of near two-and-twenty years, the throne of inglorious Charles was mounted by his bigoted brother James; who, crowned in 1684, fled to France in 1688. Half a century had elapsed, from the time when Charles the First made his lavish levy of ship money, to the accession of his son James. In the former half of this period the English character was degraded by hypocrisy and crime, in the latter by impiety and vice. During the first five-and-twenty years, we had no connexion with them. On the contrary, for two years, from 1652 to 1654, there was war between Oliver Cromwell and the States General. During the last five-and-twenty, we were secured against the contagion of their immorality, by distance, by poverty, and by the simple manners and habits which characterized our Dutch ancestors. Six years after New-York was ceded to Charles the Second, it was retaken by the Dutch, but restored to England the 9th February of the next year (1674) by the treaty of Westminster. In little more than fifteen years from that period, an insurrection under Lesler took this city for King William; whose war with France (terminated by the treaty of Ryswick, in 1697) lasted eight years. After a short breathing of four years, however, it was renewed, in the beginning of the last century, and lasted thirteen years more; till, at length, the treaty of Utrecht, on the 11th of April, 1714, followed by the death of Queen Anne in August of the same year, and of Louis XIV. on the first of September in the next year, gave to our country a more durable repose. For though it might have been imagined that our distance and our insignificance would I ve secured us, a lowly bush, from tempests which tore the tops of lofty trees; yet, bordering as we do on Canada, so long as France continued in possession of that province, every war in which she was engaged with England, laid waste our frontiers, and, calling forth every effort for their defence, exhausted our resources. From this rapid sketch, gentlemen, it appears that, children of commerce, we were rocked in the cradle of war, and sucked the principles of liberty with our mother's milk. Accordingly, we find that long before that controversy which rent the British empire asunder, in disputes with royal governors attempting to stretch authority beyond its just bounds, there was a steady appeal, by our fathers, to the principles on which the Belgic and British patriots relied in their opposition to tyranny.
The revocation of the edict of Nantz, in the year 1685, drove many French protestants to seek an asylum on our shores, and governor Hunter, in the year 1710, brought with him a number of palatines. Thus our ancestry may be traced to four nations, the Dutch, the British, the French, and the German. It would have been strange had a people so formed, been tainted with national prejudice. Far from it. We are, if I may be allowed to say so, born cosmopolite ; and possess, without effort, what others can with difficulty acquire by much travel and great expense. But as no earthly good is pure, so this equal respect and regard for strangers diminishes the preference to natives, on occasions where natives ought to be preferred; and impairs the activity, if not the strength, while it removes the blindness of patriotic sentiment. In like manner, it may be numbered among the advantages of commerce, that a liberality which extends to foreign correspondents the gentle appellation of friend, encourages the growth of general benevolence. It is at the same time to be lamented, that with this amiable sentiment is connected, a fondness for the fashions and productions of foreign countries which is injurious to the simplicity of ancient manners. But, from the combined operation of these causes, the emigrant from every nation finds himself here at home. Natives of the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Appennines, the highlands of Scotland, and the mountains of Wales, as well as those who inhabit the banks of the Shannon, the Thames, the Seine, the Rhine, and the Danube, meeting here, see in each other the faces of fellow countrymen. It results, from our mixed population, that he who wishes to become acquainted with the various languages and manners of mankind, need not ramble into distant regions. He, also, who would trace up society to its origin, can here behold it in the rudest condition. He can safely shut the volumes of philosophic dreaming, and look into the book of nature which lies open before him. Ethical reasoning may here be raised on the foundation of fact. If it be admitted, as a principle in the natural bistory of animals, that the state in which a particular species of them is most powerful and abundant, is the best suited to its nature, and therefore its natural state, it may be concluded that the natural state of man is that in which they are most numerous, and in which they have the most activity, strength and beauty. If this conclusion be just, we need but open our eyes on our savage brethren to be convinced, by a comparison of them with civilized man, that in so far as regards our own species, the state of nature and of society are one and the same. The half-naked Indian, who now sits shivering on the banks of Niagara, while he views that stupendous cataract, may view also the ships, the houses, the clothing and arms of his civilized fellow creatures, and hear the thunders of their cannon roar louder than the torrent. If he compares his feeble means and wretched condition with their power and wealth, he cannot but be sensible of his great inferiority. And much more will civilized man, who, daring death at the call of duty, not only spares an unresisting foe, but soothes his distrees, relieves his wants, and heals his wounds-much more will he feel superiority over the savage hunter of men, whose rule of war is general slaughter ; whosé trophies are torn bleeding from the skulls of women and children, and who gluts bis ferocity by the torture of helpless prisoners. The civilized man will perceive, also, if history has occupied his attention, by comparing the laws of ancient and modern war, the influence, and, in that influence, the truth of our holy religion. If it be true that one great end of history is to communicate a knowledge of mankind, and, by making man acquainted with his species, facilitate the acquisition of that most important science, the knowledge of himself; we may be permitted to believe that a faithful narrative of deeds done by our fathers will eminently merit a studious regard. The comparison which will, obtrusively, present itself between the aboriginal tribes, the various colonists, the emigrants from Europe, and the troops of different nations, will display a more perfect picture of our species than can easily be delineated on any other historical canrass. Neither will the strong lineaments of character be wanting. Those arduous circumstances which marked our origin, and impeded our growth; those ravages to which we were exposed, not only until the treaty of Utrecht, but in the war from 1744 to 1748, terminated by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle; in that which began in 1755 and ended in 1760 by the conquest of Canada, and in our war with Great Britain, from April, 1775, to November, 1783; above all, the persevering efforts to defend our country, in that long period of near one hundred and seventy years from the first settlement by the Dutch in 1614, to the time when this city was evacuated by the British in the close of 1783, during which there was