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colonial government; the distance from Europe, and the small hope of immediate profit to adventurers, are among the causes which had contributed to retard the progress of population. Perhaps it may be added, also, that during the period of the civil wars in England, and the reign of Cromwell, many persons, whose religious opinions and religious temper might, under other circumstances, have induced them to join the New England colonists, found reasons to remain in England; either on account of active occupation in the scenes which were passing, or of an anticipation of the enjoyment, in their own country, of a form of government, civil and religious, accommodated to their views and principles. The violent measures, too, pursued against the colonies in the reign of Charles the second, the mockery of a trial, and the forfeiture of the charters, were serious evils. And during the open violences of the short reign of James the second, and the tyranny of Andros, as the venerable historian of Connecticut observes, "All the motives to great actions, to industry, economy, enterprise, wealth, and population, were in a manner annihilated. A general inactivity and languishment pervaded the public body Liberty, property, and everything which ought to be dear to men, every day grew more and more insecure.'
With the revolution in England, a better prospect had opened on this country, as well as on that. The joy had been as great, at that event, and far more universal in New than in Old England. A new charter had been granted to Massachusetts, which, although it did not confirm to her inhabitants all their former privileges, yet relieved them from great evils and embarrassments, and promised future security. More than all, perhaps, the revolution in England, had done good to the general cause of liberty and justice. A blow had been struck in favor of the rights and liberties, not of England alone, but of descendants and kinsmen of England, all over the world. Great political truths had been established. The champions of liberty had been successful in a fearful and perilous conflict. Somers, and Cavendish, and Jekyl, and Howard, had triumphed in one of the most noble causes ever undertaken by men. A revolution had been made upon principle. A monarch had been dethroned, for violating the original compact between King and People. The rights of the people to partake in the government, and to limit the monarch by fundamental rules of government, had been maintained; and however unjust the government of England might afterwards be, towards other governments or towards her colonies, she had ceased to be governed herself by the arbitrary maxims of the Stuarts.
New England had submitted to the violence of James the second, not longer than Old England. Not only was it reserved to Massachusetts, that on her soil should be acted the first scene of that great revolutionary Drama, which was to take place near a century afterwards, but the English revolution itself, as far as the colonies were concerned, commenced in Boston. A direct and forcible resistance to the authority of James the second, was the seizure and imprisonment of Andros, in April 1689. The pulse of Liberty beat as high in the extremities as at the heart. The vigorous feeling of the Colony burst out, before it was known how the parent country
would finally conduct itself. The king's representative, Sir Edmund Andros, was a prisoner in the castle at Boston, before it was or could be known, that the king himself had ceased to exercise his full dominion on the English throne.
Before it was known here, whether the invasion of the Prince of Orange would or could prove successful; as soon only as it was known that it had been undertaken, the people of Massachusetts, at the imminent hazard of their lives and fortunes, had accomplished the revolution as far as respected themselves. It is probable, that, reasoning on general principles, and the known attachment of the English people to their constitution and liberties, and their deep and fixed dislike of the king's religion and politics, the people of New England expected a catastrophe fatal to the power of the reigning Prince. Yet, it was not either certain enough, or near enough, to come to their aid against the authority of the crown, in that crisis which had arrived, and in which they trusted to put themselves, relying on God, and their own courage. There were spirits in Massachusetts, congenial with the spirits of the distinguished friends of the revolution in England. There were those, who were fit to associate with the boldest asserters of civil liberty; and Mather himself, then in England, was not unworthy to be ranked with those sons of the church, whose firmness and spirit in resisting kingly encroachment in religion, entitled them to the gratitude of their own and succeeding ages.
The second century opened upon New England under circumstances which evinced that much had already been accomplished, and that still better prospects, and brighter hopes, were before her. She had laid, deep and strong, the foundations of her society. Her religious principles were firm, and her moral habits exemplary. Her public schools had begun to diffuse widely the elements of knowledge; and the College, under the excellent and acceptable administration of Leverett, had been raised to a high degree of credit and usefulness.
The commercial character of the country, notwithstanding all discouragements, had begun to display itself, and five hundred vessels, then belonging to Massachusetts, placed her in relation to commerce, thus early, at the head of the colonies. An author who wrote very near the close of the first century says; "New England is almost deserving that noble name, so mightily hath it increased; and from a small settlement, at first, is now become a very populous and flourishing government. The capital city, Boston, is a place of great wealth and trade; and by much the largest of any in the English empire of America; and not exceeded but by few cities, perhaps two or three, in all the American world."
But, if our ancestors at the close of the first century, could look back with joy, and even admiration at the progress of the country; what emotions must we not feel, when, from the point in which we stand, we also look back and run along the events of the century which has now closed? The country, which then, as we have seen, was thought deserving of a "noble name;" which then had "mightily increased," and become "very populous;" what was it, in comparison with what our eyes behold it? At that period, a very
great proportion of its inhabitants lived in the eastern section of Massachusetts proper, and in this colony. In Connecticut, there were towns along the coast, some of them respectable, but in the interior, all was a wilderness beyond Hartford. On Connecticut river, settlements had proceeded as far up as Deerfield, and Fort Dummer had been built, near where is now the south line of New Hampshire. In New Hampshire, no settlement was then begun thirty miles from the mouth of Piscataqua river, and, in what is now Maine, the inhabitants were confined to the coast. The aggregate of the whole population of New England did not exceed one hundred and sixty thousand. Its present amount is probably one million seven hundred thousand. Instead of being confined to its former limits, her population has rolled backward and filled up the spaces included within her actual local boundaries. Not this only, but it has overflowed those boundaries, and the waves of emigration have pressed, farther and farther toward the west. The Alleghany has not checked it; the banks of the Ohio have been covered with it. New England farms, houses, villages, and churches spread over, and adorn the immense extent from the Ohio to Lake Erie; and stretch along, from the Alleghany onwards, beyond the Miamis, and toward the Falls of St. Anthony. Two thousand miles westward from the rock where their fathers landed, may now be found the sons of the Pilgrims; cultivating smiling fields, rearing towns and villages, and cherishing, we trust, the patrimonial blessings of wise institutions, of liberty, and religion. The world has seen nothing like this. Regions large enough to be empires, and which, half a century ago, were known only as remote and unexplored wildernesses, are now teeming with population, and prosperous in all the great concerns of life; in good governments, the means of subsistence, and social happiness. It may be safely asserted, that there are now more than a million of people, descendants of New England ancestry, living free and happy, in regions, which hardly sixty years ago were tracts of unpenetrated forest. Nor do rivers, or mountains, or seas resist the progress of industry and enterprise. Ere long, the sons of the Pilgrims will be on the shores of the Pacific. The imagination hardly keeps up with the progress of population, improvement, and civilisation.
It is now five and forty years, since the growth and rising glory of America were portrayed in the English parliament, with inimitable beauty, by the most consummate orator of modern times. Going back somewhat more than half a century, and describing our progress as foreseen, from that point, by his amiable friend Lord Bathurst, then living, he spoke of the wonderful progress which America had made during the period of a single human life. There is no American heart, I imagine, that does not glow, both with conscious patriotic pride, and admiration for one of the happiest efforts of eloquence, so often as the vision, of "that little speck, scarce visible in the mass of national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body," and the progress of its astonishing developement and growth, are recalled to the recollection. But a stronger feeling might be produced, if we were able to take up this prophetic description where he left it; and placing ourselves at the point of time in which he
was speaking, to set forth with equal felicity the subsequent progress of the country. There is yet among the living a most distinguished and venerable name, a descendant of the Pilgrims; one who has been attended through life by a great and fortunate genius; a man illustrious by his own great merits, and favored of Heaven in the long continuation of his years. The time when the English orator was thus speaking of America, preceded, but by a few days, the actual opening of the revolutionary drama at Lexington. He to whom I have alluded, then at the age of forty, was among the most zealous and able defenders of the violated rights of his country. He seemed already to have filled a full measure of public service, and attained an honorable fame. The moment was full of difficulty and danger, and big with events of immeasurable importance. The country was on the very brink of a civil war, of which no man could foretell the duration or the result. Something more than a courageous hope, or characteristic ardor, would have been necessary to impress the glorious prospect on his belief, if, at that moment, before the sound of the first shock of actual war had reached his ears, some attendant spirit had opened to him the vision of the future; if it had said to him, "The blow is struck, and America is severed from England forever!" if it had informed him, that he himself, the next annual revolution of the sun, should put his own hand to the great instrument of Independence, and write his name where all nations should behold it, and all time should not efface it; that ere long he himself should maintain the interest and represent the sovereignty of his new-born country, in the proudest courts of Europe; that he should one day exercise her supreme magistracy; that he should yet live to behold ten millions of fellow citizens paying him the homage of their deepest gratitude and kindest affections; that he should see distinguished talent and high public trust resting where his name rested; that he should even see with his own unclouded eyes, the close of the second century of New England, who had begun life almost with its commencement, and lived through nearly half the whole history of his country; and that on the morning of this auspicious day, he should be found in the political councils of his native state, revising, by the light of experience, that system of government, which forty years before he had assisted to frame and establish; and great and happy as he should then behold his country, there should be nothing in prospect to cloud the scene, nothing to check the ardor of that confident and patriotic hope, which should glow in his bosom to the end of his long protracted and happy life.
It would far exceed the limits of this discourse, even to mention the principal events in the civil and political history of New England during the century; the more so, as for the last half of the period, that history has been, most happily, closely interwoven with the general history of the United States. New England bore an honorable part in the wars which took place between England and France. The capture of Louisburg gave her a character for military achievement; and in the war which terminated with the peace of 1763, her exertions on the frontiers were of most essential service as well to the mother country as to all the colonies.
In New England the war of the revolution commenced. I address those who remember the memorable 19th of April 1775; who shortly after saw the burning spires of Charlestown; who beheld the deeds of Prescott, and heard the voice of Putnam, amidst the storm of war, and saw the generous Warren fall, the first distinguished victim in the cause of liberty. It would be superfluous to say, that no portion of the country did more than the states of New England, to bring the revolutionary struggle to a successful issue. It is scarcely less to her credit, that she saw early the necessity of a closer union of the states, and gave an efficient and indispensable aid to the establishment and organization of the federal government.
Perhaps we might safely say, that a new spirit, and a new excitement began to exist here, about the middle of the last century. To whatever causes it may be imputed, there seems then to have commenced a more rapid improvement. The colonies had attracted more of the attention of the mother country, and some renown in arms had been acquired. Lord Chatham was the first English minister who attached high importance to these possessions of the crown, and who foresaw anything of their future growth and extension. His opinion was, that the great rival of England was chiefly to be feared as a maritime and commercial power, and to drive her out of North America, and deprive her of her West India possessions was a leading object in his policy. He dwelt often on the fisheries, as nurseries for British seamen, and the colonial trade, as furnishing them employment. The war, conducted by him with so much vigor, terminated in a peace, by which Canada was ceded to England. The effect of this was immediately visible in the New England colonies; for the fear of Indian hostilities on the frontiers being now happily removed, settlements went on with an activity before that time altogether unprecedented, and public affairs wore a new and encouraging aspect. Shortly after this fortunate termination of the French war, the interesting topics connected with the taxation of America by the British Parliament began to be discussed, and the attention and all the faculties of the people drawn towards them. There is perhaps no portion of our history more full of interest than the period from 1760 to the actual commencement of the war. The progress of opinion, in this period, though less known, is not less important, than the progress of arms afterwards. Nothing deserves more consideration than those events and discussions which affected the public sentiment, and settled the revolution in men's minds, before hostilities openly broke out.
Internal improvement followed the establishment, and prosperous commencement, of the present government. More has been done for roads, canals, and other public works, within the last thirty years, than in all our former history. In the first of these particulars, few countries excel the New England States. The astonishing increase of their navigation and trade is known to every one, and now belongs to the history of our national wealth.
We may flatter ourselves, too, that literature and taste have not been stationary, and that some advancement has been made in the elegant, as well as in the useful arts.