Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

laborious hours, stolen from company, and sleep, and sickness, in some of the most complex and difficult business that ever engrossed his public attention. It will readily be seen that no station, near such a man, was a sinecure. He justly held that a public servant owed all his time, as well as energies, to the public. He tolerated, as to this, no plausible excuses or compromises, or metaphysical distinctions. While anything useful remained to be done, his motto was onward-onward-work-work-work.

Though it was no holiday affair to fill office as he filled it, whether looking to himself or those around him—though requiring, as well as practising, all the watchfulness of an Indian ambuscade, all the vigour, at times, of a forced march to surprise an enemy, all the zeal of a missionary of the Cross, yet his active temperament or military training, apparently so inconvenient to others, was mixed up with a courtesy of manner and kindly consideration of what was due to real infirmity ; so that in nothing was he more striking than in all the feelings of a gentleman. He had been formed in that Revolutionary school of politics which added the politeness of the French to the solidity of the English, or the manner of the La Fayettes and Rochambeaus to the strength and intelligence of the Burgoynes and Cornwallises. He exacted nothing which he did not reciprocate; he respected in others all that he asked for himself; and every candid observer soon felt that, however severe his course may at times have seemed at first, yet, in the end, he carried out only that Chesterfieldian as well as Christian injunction, to do to others as you would be done by.

Such was his case in general society, and so delicate his attentions to female excellence, that many, who never met him elsewhere, concluded at once he was more of a courtier, or man of the world, than suited for the conflicts of camps, and parties, and affairs of state. But nothing was farther from truth. The moment over, that had been demanded by social usages or the forms of fashion, his whole soul was in his business; and nothing personal or amusing could ever tempt him into the slightest neglect or abandonment of public duty. Never was he bigoted or exclusive in anything. He was public-spirited in all; nor did any Vandal spirit, however imputed, ever mark his opinions or deeds, even in the fiercest ravages of war or the bitterest excitements of politics; and however the great exigencies of public life may have forced him at times into action and responsibility when others doubted or halted, all his risks were for his country; all the dangers braved were intended to protect the people and the public safety.

That he should have been infallible in all this, none pretend; but that he meant well, and, in the main, did well, and as a whole performed noble service to his country, none can deny. If to err is human, then, if the light of the sun itself be not without some

shades intermingled—can we, taking him all in all, be otherwise than proud of his rank as a man, a soldier, and a statesman ? Whether on the Thames or the Ganges—under the tent of the Arab or in marble palaces, it is a distinction to be known as one of his countrymen. Compared with the renowned of other ages and other continents, all America may justly boast of him as a production creditable to the New World. Humanity itself becomes dignified, when man lives up to the height of his powers and his destiny. Though some have regarded him as only a meteor in our horizon, yet so far from that, he will live as a fixed star in history—one of the master minds of the age, carefully formed and practical in his efforts, and worthy the pages of future Plutarchs for many generations to come. The justice of this conclusion will strike us more forcibly, if we notice the contrast between his course and that of many inscribed high on the rolls of past ages; his whole life devoted to defend the liberties of his country, rather than like others to break them down; the passion of his heart to uphold rather than to overturn its constitution and laws, friends and power risked to preserve unimpaired the sacred ties of its union, the sceptre of state relinquished, and, like the humblest citizen, retiring to his farm, instead of striving, like many, to usurp authority, or prolong the pomp and pageantry of office.

In fine, he neither enriched himself by plunder or peculation, nor engrossed office for his family, nor waged a moment's war for ambition or conquest ; nor exercised a single new power, nor betrayed an old one, nor filled station an hour but from the will of the people, or in conformity to the charter of their liberties. What to such a man, in sterling worth, are the Cæsars and Napoleons and Santa Anas of history? and what is the value of their bad example, contrasted with the fidelity and patriotism of his, to guide the youth of all coming ages in the cause of public liberty and public virtue? How admirably were his qualities suited to render him a fit statesman for the stormy and responsible dangers of a republic! and how the instinct of our people detected, and appreciated, and honoured such qualities while living, and lament them when departed! Who can say that such a man was not raised up by a kind Providence for our national security in peace, no less than war? And while a nation bedews with tears the green turf where he sleeps, it is not sorrow without hope; for who can doubt that the same guardian power which has shielded us heretofore through the Washingtons and Jacksons, the Jeffersons and Franklins, that crowd the bright galaxy of our history, will raise up other worthies, and train them suitably to meet every peril which may menace us ?

Whatever may be the combinations of civil thrones abroad, or whatever the jealousy and injustice sometimes excited at home against those who are true to the cause of popular rights and free governments, as opposed to despotisms and monopolies and arbitrary dominion of all kinds—the past is full of hope for the future, and inspires the same confidence concerning the salvation of the republic, as was felt by him about his own in the shades of the Hermitage, when his purified spirit bade his countrymen its last farewell. When, in that solemn hour, all his trophies were laid lowly at the foot of the Cross, how joyful, even more than solemn, was such a close to the great drama of his existence on earth! Hallowed by what lofty consolations! Animated by what near reunions to all he had loved most in life! Sustained by what trusts on high! Grateful to what millions, for what confidence and honours below! Charmed by what prospects of enlarged and enlarging greatness to the country that gave him birth, and glory, and rest to his ashes! His last words were said to have been

“I have finished my destiny on the earth; and it is better that this worn-out frame should go to rest, and my spirit take up its abode with my Redeemer.

If a good close of life be its crowning excellence, his was one of the most fortunate that has fallen to the lot of humanity. Long will the memory of such a man be cherished by an admiring world; and long, very long, may it live in the hearts of his countrymen, and shed a genial influence over their character and institutions. Age and youth, in grateful crowds, till the evening of time, will gather around his tomb, recount his patriotism and glories with tearful eyes, venerate his virtues, and grow wiser and better by the salutary lessons his life inculcates.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

FELLOW-CITIZENS :-Penetrated with a most profound sense of the unusual importance of the present occasion, of the solemnity and universality of the public feeling which has given birth to this vast and imposing assemblage, and impressed with a deep conviction of the magnitude of the services rendered to his country by the illustrious man whose death we deplore, and whose memory we honour, I proceed to address you. In no instance in my life have I ever felt such innate shrinking from the performance of a public duty. When a nation mourns, the emblems of its grief address themselves to the imagination of the beholder, and the task of combining and concentrating in words the vivid emotions of an intelligent multitude may be considered hopeless. Everything around us is shrouded in the habiliments of woe. The strains of melancholy music fall

upon the ear in plaintive sounds, and around me are the men most conspicuous for excellence in virtue, for honourable stations in society, for talents and character, and all which can dignify human nature. Surrounded by all these incentives to stimulate imagination, how poor is language when it attempts to catch, and embody, and express the feelings which are thus powerfully roused into action! If the speaker were to be actuated by a cold selfishness, he would abandon his duty in despair. But the occasion calls forth the kind and gentle feelings of our nature, and he may well throw himself upon the forbearance of an audience predisposed, from all these circumstances, to the indulgence of the generous, instead of the stern, emotions of the heart.

In assembling, as we have done, to place upon the records of our history, this solemn tribute of respect to the memory of departed worth, we find ourselves in an attitude as novel as it is interesting: Here are men of all political parties, gathering under the flag of

a

the stars and stripes, to lay aside for a short time all differences of opinion, and in the name of their common country, for the benefit of those who now live, and those who are to come after us, to pay a token of respect to the memory of the patriot and soldier, Andrew Jackson. It is delightful to witness this union. It is refreshing to the contemplative mind, to look at one of these epochs when American citizens can meet around the holy altar of their country, laying aside every feeling which could detract from the solemnity of the occasion. We are around the bier of one of the dead Fathers of the Republic. Though his mortal remains are not actually present, the symbol is here. The funeral car, and the pall-bearers, and all the insignia of. mourning, are present to the senses; and the feelings which press upon me as I contemplate these indications of respectful grief, induce me to exclaim, as it was once said upon an occasion infinitely more solemn even than this : “Put off the shoes from thy feet, for the ground on which thou standest is holy.” Yes—it is holy ground. Nothing should be felt or said that does not partake of a feeling of awe. Nothing should be felt or said which is not calculated to make us purer patriots and better men. We are told that in the early history of Europe, in the eleventh century, during the seasons of Advent and Lent, there was a cessation of all private warfare from the evening of Thursday to the evening of Sunday in every week. No matter how imbittered were the feuds which prevailed—no matter with what fierceness private injuries were sought to be redressed at the point of the spear and the sword, the warriors of chivalry lowered their pennons when the time came for the “truce of God” to prevail. It was a beautiful institution, established by religious authority to mitigate the ferocity of the age. So it is with us on this day. Under the dispensation of Providence, whose infinite wisdom has suffered no unmitigated evil to afflict those creatures who are the constant recipients of his bounty, even the calamity which the nation mourns, is not without some compensatory good. We are under the “truce of God!" All the banners of political warfare are laid aside ; all differences of opinion are merged in the sentiment which fills the bosoms of us all, that he whose life was devoted to a nation's service is entitled to a nation's gratitude. It is the perfume of the gathered flower.

At the foot of this stately column, surmounted by the statue of the only human being whose birthday continued to be celebrated after his death, where a pure and classical taste has written an appropriate eulogium by the simple inscription

“TO WASHINGTON," we can properly assemble to pay respect to the memory of another of those men who belonged to what has been beautifully termed

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »