Imágenes de páginas

E U L O GY.*

We are in the midst of extraordinary events. BritishAmerican Civilization and Spanish-American Society have come into collision, each in its fullest maturity. The armies of the North have penetrated the chapparels at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma-passed the fortresses of Monterey, and rolled back upon the heart of Mexico the unavailing tide of strong resistance from the mountain-side of Buena Vista. Martial colonists are encamped on the coasts of California, while San Juan d'Ulloa has fallen, and the invaders have swept the gorge of Cerro Gordo-carried Perote and Puebla, and planted the banner of burning stars and evermultiplying stripes on the towers of the city of the Aztecs.

The thirtieth Congress assembles in this conjuncture, and the debates are solemn, earnest, and bewildering. Interest, passion, conscience, freedom, and humanity, all have their advocates. Shall new loans and levies be granted to prosecute still farther a war so glorious ? or shall it be abandoned ? Shall we be

* Delivered before the Legislature of New York, by Wm. H. Seward.

just ?

content with the humiliation of the foe? or shall we complete his subjugation ? Would that severity be magnanimous, or even just ? Nay, is the war itself

Who provoked, and by what unpardonable offence, this disastrous strife between two eminent Republics, so scandalous to Democratic Institutions ? Where shall we trace anew the ever-advancing line of our empire? Shall it be drawn on the shore of the Rio Grande, or on the summit of the Sierra Madre ? or shall Mexican Independence be extinguished, and our eagle close his adventurous pinions only when he looks off upon the waves that separate us from the Indies? Does Freedom own and accept our profuse oblations of blood, or does she reject the sacrifice ? Will these conquests extend her domain, or will they be usurped by ever-grasping slavery? What effect will this new-born ambition have upon ourselves ? Will it leave us the virtue to continue the career of social progress? How shall we govern the conquered people ?

Shall we incorporate their mingled races with ourselves, or rule them with the despotism of proconsular power ? Can we preserve these remote and hostile possessions in any way, without forfeiting our own blood-bought heritage of freedom?

Steam and lightning, which have become docile messengers, make the American people listeners to this high debate, and anxiety, and interest, intense and universal, absorb them all. Suddenly the council is dissolved. Silence is in the capitol, and sorrow has

thrown its pall over the land. What new event is this? Has some Cromwell closed the legislative cham. bers ? or has some Cæsar, returning from his distant conquests, passed the Rubicon, seized the purple, and fallen in the Senate beneath the swords of self-appointed executioners of his country's vengeance ? No! nothing of all this. What means, then, this abrupt and fearful silence ? What unlooked for calamity has quelled the debates of the Senate and calmed the excitement of the people ? An old man, whose tongue once indeed was eloquent, but now through age had well nigh lost its cunning, has fallen into the swoon of death. He was not an actor in the drama of conquest-nor had his feeble voice yet mingled in the lofty argument

A grey-haired sire, whose eye

intent Was on the visioned future bent."

And now he has dreamed out at last the troubled dream of life. Sighs of unavailing grief ascend to Heaven. Panegyric, fluent in long-stifled praise, performs its office. The army and the navy pay conventional honors, with the pomp of national woe, and then the hearse moves onward. It rests appropriately, on its way, in the hall where independence was proclaimed, and again under the dome where freedom was born. At length the tomb of John Adams opens to receive a son, who also, born a subject of a king, had stood as a representative of his emancipated country, before prin.

when we

cipalities and powers, and had won by merit, and worn without reproach, the honors of the Republic.

From that scene, so impressive in itself, and impressive because it never before happened, and can never happen again, we have come up to this place surrounded with the decent drapery of public mourning, on a day set apart by authority, to recite the history of the citizen, who, in the ripeness of age, and fulness of honors, has thus descended to his rest. It is fit to do so, because it is by such exercises that nations regenerate their early virtues and renew their constitutions. All nations must perpetually renovate their virtues and their constitutions, or perish. Never was there more need to renovate ours than now, seem to be passing from the safe old policy of peace and moderation into a career of conquest and martial renown. Never was the duty of preserving our free institutions in all their purity, more obvious than it is now, when they have become beacons to mankind in what seems to be a general dissolution of their ancient social systems.

The history of John Quincy Adams is one that opens no new truth in the philosophy of virtue ; for there is no undiscovered truth in that philosophy. But it is a history that sheds marvellous confirmation on maxims which all mankind know, and yet are prone to undervalue and forget. The exalted character before us was formed by the combination of virtue, courage, assiduity, and modesty, under favorable con

« AnteriorContinuar »