these men laid down their lives, and for which the nation still demands the sacrifice of the precious blood of so many of her children?
Soon after the close of the Revolutionary War
, it was found that the confederacy, which had grown up during that memorable contest, was fast falling to pieces from its own weight.
The central power was too weak; it could only recommend to the different States such measures as seemed best; and it possessed no real power to legislate, because it lacked the executive force to compel obedience to its laws.
The national credit and self-respect had disappeared, and it was feared by the friends of human liberty throughout the world that ours was but another added to the long list of fruitless attempts at self-government.
The nation was evidently upon the brink of ruin and dissolution, when, some eighty years ago, many of the wisest and most patriotic of the land met to seek a remedy for the great evils which threatened to destroy the great work of the Revolution.
Their sessions were long, and often stormy: for a time the most sanguine doubted the possibility of a successful termination to their labors.
But from amidst the conflict of sectional interests, of party prejudices, and of personal selfishness, the spirit of wisdom and conciliation at length evoked the Constitution
, under which we have lived so long.
It was not formed in a day, but was the result of patient labor, of lofty wisdom, and of the purest patriotism.
It was at last adopted by the people of all the States,--although by some reluctantly,--not as being exactly what all desired, but as being the best possible under the circumstances.
It was accepted as giving us a form of government under which the nation might live happily and prosper, so long as the people should continue to be influenced by the same sentiments which actuated those who formed it, and which would not be liable