"THE times that tried men's ſouls*" are over—and the greateſt and compleateſt Revolution the world ever knew, is gloriouſly and happily accompliſhed.
BUT to paſs from the extremes of danger to ſafety—from the tumult of war to the tranquility of peace, though ſweet in contemplation, requires a gradual compoſure of the ſenſes to receive it. Even calmneſs has the power of ſtunning when it opens too inſtantly [Page 2] upon us. The long and raging hurricane that ſhould ceaſe in a moment, would leave us in a ſtate rather of wonder than enjoyment; and ſome moments of recollection muſt paſs before we could be capable of taſting the full felicity of repoſe. There are but few inſtances in which the mind is fitted for ſudden tranſitions: it takes in its pleaſures by reflection and compariſon, and thoſe muſt have time to act, before the reliſh for new ſcenes is compleat.
IN the preſent caſe—the mighty magnitude of the object—the various uncertainties of fate it has undergone—the numerous and complicated dangers we have ſuffered or eſcaped—the eminence we now ſtand on, and the vaſt proſpect before us, muſt all conſpire to impreſs us with contemplation.
[Page 3] To ſee it in our power to make a world happy—to teach mankind the art of being ſo—to exhibit on the theatre of the univerſe a character hitherto unknown—and to have, as it were, a new creation entruſted to our hands, are honours that command reflection, and can neither be too highly eſtimated, nor too gratefully received.
IN this pauſe then of recollection—while the ſtorm is ceaſing, and the long-agitated mind vibrating to a reſt, let us look back on the ſcenes we have paſſed, and learn from experience what is yet to be done.
NEVER, I ſay, had a country ſo many openings to happineſs as this. Her ſetting out into life, like the riſing of a fair morning, was unclouded and promiſing. Her cauſe was good; her principles juſt and liberal; [Page 4] her temper ſerene and firm; her conduct regulated by the niceſt ſteps of order; and every thing about her wore the mark of honour.
IT is not every country (perhaps there is not another in the world) that can boaſt ſo fair an origin. Even the firſt ſettlement of America correſponds with the character of the Revolution. Rome, once the proud miſtreſs of the univerſe, was originally a band of ruffians. Plunder and rapine made her rich, and her oppreſſion of millions made her great. But America needs never be aſhamed to tell her birth, nor relate the ſtages by which ſhe roſe to empire.
THE remembrance, then, of what is paſt, if it operates rightly, muſt inſpire her with the moſt laudable of all ambition, that of [Page 5] adding to the fair fame ſhe began with. The world has ſeen her great in adverſity; ſtruggling, without a thought of yielding, beneath accumulated difficulties; bravely, nay proudly, encountering diſtreſs, and riſing in reſolution as the ſtorm encreaſed. All this is juſtly due to her, for her fortitude has merited the character. Let, then, the world ſee that ſhe can bear proſperity; and that her honeſt virtue in time of peace, is equal to the braveſt virtue in time of war.
SHE is now deſcending to the ſcenes of quiet and domeſtic life; not beneath the cypreſs ſhade of diſappointment, but to enjoy in her own land, and under her own vine, the ſweets of her labours, and the reward of her toil. In this ſituation, may ſhe never forget, that a fair national reputation [Page 6] is of as much importance as independence: that it poſſeſſes a charm which wins upon the world, and makes even enemies civil: that it gives a dignity which is often ſuperior to power, and commands a reverence where pomp and ſplendor fail.
IT would be a circumſtance ever to be lamented, and never to be forgotten, were a ſingle blot, from any cauſe whatever, ſuffered to fall on a Revolution, which to the end of time muſt be an honour to the age that accompliſhed it; and which has contributed more to enlighten the world, and diffuſe a ſpirit of freedom and liberality among mankind, than any human event (if this can be called one) that never preceded it.
IT is not among the leaſt of the calamities of a long-continued war, that it unhinges [Page 7] the mind from thoſe nice ſenſations which at other times appear ſo amiable. The continual ſpectacle of woe blunts the finer feelings, and the neceſſity of bearing with the ſight renders it familiar. In like manner are many of the moral obligations of ſociety weakened, till the cuſtom of acting by neceſſity, becomes an apology where it is truly a crime. Yet let but a nation conceive rightly of its character, and it will be chaſtely juſt in protecting it. None ever began with a fairer than America, and none can be under a greater obligation to preſerve it.
THE Debt which America has contracted, compared with the Cauſe ſhe has gained, and the advantages to flow from it, ought ſcarcely to be mentioned. She has it in her choice to do, and to live, as happily as ſhe pleaſes. The world is [Page 8] in her hands. She has now no Foreign Power to monopolize her Commerce, perplex her Legiſlation, or controul her Proſperity. The ſtruggle is over which muſt one day have happened, and, perhaps, never could have have happened at a better time*; and inſtead of a domineering [Page 9] Maſter, ſhe has gained an Ally, whoſe exemplary greatneſs, and univerſal liberality, [Page 10] have extorted a confeſſion even from her enemies.
WITH the bleſſings of Peace, Independence, and an univerſal Commerce, the States, individually and collectively, will have leiſure and opportunity to regulate and eſtabliſh their domeſtic concerns, and to put it beyond the power of calumny to throw the leaſt reflection on their honour. Character [Page 11] is much eaſier kept than recovered; and that man, if any ſuch there be, who, from any ſiniſter views, or littleneſs of ſoul, lends unſeen his hand to injure it, contrives a wound it will never be in his power to heal.
As we have eſtabliſhed an Inheritance for Poſterity, let that Inheritance deſcend with every mark of an honourable conveyance. The little it will coſt, compared with the worth of the States, the greatneſs of the object, and the value of national character, will be a profitable exchange.
BUT that which muſt more forcibly ſtrike a thoughtful penetrating mind, and which includes and renders eaſy all inferior concerns, is the Union of the States. On this our great national character depends. [Page 12] It is this which muſt give us importance abroad and ſecurity at home. It is through this only that we are, or can be nationally known in the world. It is the flag of the United States which renders our ſhips and commerce ſafe on the ſeas, or in a foreign port. Our Mediterranean paſſes muſt be obtained under the ſame ſtyle. All our treaties, whether of alliance, peace, or commerce, are formed under the Sovereignty of the United States, and Europe knows us by no other name or title.
THE diviſion of the Empire into States is for our own convenience, but abroad this diſtinction ceaſes. The affairs of each State are local. They can go no farther than to itſelf; and were the whole worth of even the richeſt of them expended in revenue, it would not be ſufficient to ſupport Sovereignty [Page 13] againſt a foreign attack. In ſhort, we have no other national ſovereignty than as United States. It would even be fatal for us if we had—too expenſive to be maintained, and impoſſible to be ſupported. Individuals or individual States may call themſelves what they pleaſe; but the world, and eſpecially the world of enemies, is not to be held in a awe by the whiſtling of a name. Sovereignty muſt have power to protect all the parts which compoſe and conſtitute it: and as United States we are equal to the importance of the title, but otherwiſe we are not. Our Union, well and wiſely regulated and cemented, is the cheapeſt way of being great—the eaſieſt way of being powerful—and the happieſt invention in government which the circumſtances of America can admit of; becauſe it collects from each State, that which, by being inadequate, [Page 14] can be of no uſe to it, and forms an aggregate that ſerves for all.
THE States of Holland are an unfortunate inſtance of the effects of individual ſovereignty. Their disjointed condition expoſes them to numerous intrigues, loſſes, calamities, and enemies, and the almoſt impoſſibility of bringing their meaſures to a deciſion; and that deciſion into execution, is to them, and would be to us, a ſource of endleſs miſfortune.
IT is with confederate States as with individuals in ſociety: ſomething muſt be yielded up to make the whole ſecure. In this view of things we gain by what we give, and draw an annual intereſt greater than the capital. I ever feel myſelf hurt when I hear [Page 15] the Union, that great palladium of our liberty and ſafety, the leaſt irreverently ſpoken of. It is the moſt ſacred thing in the conſtitution of America, and that which every man ſhould be the moſt proud and tender of. Our citizenſhip in the United States is our national character: our citizenſhip in any particular State is only our local diſtinction. By the latter we are known at home; by the former to the world. Our great title is Americans; our inferior one varies with the place.
So far as my endeavours could go, they have all been directed to conciliate the affections, unite the intereſts, and draw and keep the mind of the country together; and the better to aſſiſt in this foundation-work of the Revolution, I have avoided all places of profit or office, either in the State I live in or in [Page 16] the United States; kept myſelf at a diſtance from all parties and party connections, and even diſregarded all private and inferior concerns: and when we take into view the great work we have gone through, and feel, as we ought to feel, the juſt importance of it, we ſhall then ſee, that the little wranglings and indecent contentions of perſonal party, are as diſhonourable to our characters, as they are injurious to our repoſe.
It was the cauſe of America that made me an author. The force with which it ſtruck my mind, and the dangerous condition the country appeared to me in, by courting an impoſſible and unnatural reconciliation with thoſe who were determined to reduce her, inſtead of ſtriking out into the only line that could cement and ſave her, A Declaration of Independence—made it impoſſible for me, [Page 17] feeling as I did, to be ſilent: and if, in the courſe of more than ſeven years, I have rendered her any ſervice, I have likewiſe added ſomething to the reputation of literature, by freely and diſintereſtedly employing it in the great cauſe of mankind, and ſhewing there may be genius without proſtitution.
INDEPENDENCE always appeared to me practicable and probable, provided the ſentiment of the country could be formed and held to the object: and there is no inſtance in the world, where a people ſo extended, and wedded to former habits of thinking, and under ſuch a variety of circumſtances, were ſo inſtantly and effectually pervaded, by a turn in politics, as in the caſe of Independence, and who ſupported their opinion, undiminiſhed, through ſuch a ſucceſſion of good and ill fortune, till they crowned it with ſucceſs.
[Page 18] BUT as the ſcenes of war are cloſed, and every man preparing for home and happier times, I therefore take my leave of the ſubject. I have moſt ſincerely followed it from beginning to end, and through all its turns and windings: and whatever country I may hereafter be in, I ſhall always feel an honeſt pride at the part I have taken and acted, and a gratitude to Nature and Providence for putting it in my power to be of ſome uſe to mankind.
Philadelphia, April 19, 1783.