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[200] “the delegates appointed by the good people of these Colonies,” was the first general or national government which existed in America: and its very assembling was a declaration of Union, as its act, nearly two years afterwards, was a Declaration of Independence.

On the day, therefore, of the assembling of that Congress, the grand idea of American Union attained its full development, and expanded into action. That was the birthday of United America — the natal hour of our hallowed Union. We celebrate the Fourth of July for our Independence; but we take no note of the fifth of September for the Union, without which Independence would never have been achieved, or, perhaps, meditated.

Having thus traced back the stream of Union to its source, let us observe for a moment the character of the people who then commingled their fate, and the circumstances with which they were surrounded. They were, in language, lineage, and institutions, essentially one people, as they then organized and consolidated themselves into one nation. Nearly the whole body of them were immigrants from Great Britain, or their descendants. They all acknowledged allegiance to the British crown, from which they had received their possessions and their chartered privileges; and all looked to the common law of England for the regulation and maintenance of their individual rights of persons and property. Trade between the Colonies was unrestrained. An inhabitant of one Colony might inherit from an ancestor or kinsman dying in another. They were not only bound together by community of origin, but by ten thousand ties of kindred and affinity, interlaced through every city, village, and settlement, from the Piscataqua in the frigid North, to the St. Mary's in the flowery South. They were, with partial exceptions, of the same religious faith, and read in their common language the same Bible. The history of England was the history of their fathers and their ancestral institutions, and whatever of glory was there written was their common inheritance as Englishmen. They passed from Colony to Colony, and from point to point, as freemen, and were equally at home in every place, and equally protected everywhere by similar laws, framed and administered by themselves. There were among them no transmitted feuds or hereditary animosities, no strifes of rival leaders or wars of factions, no struggles for lawless supremacy of one Colony over another, no greed of conquest from each other: from all these curses, flowing from the unholy passions of men and of races, they enjoyed in their secluded home a happy exemption, through their essential unity. Subjected, as they were, to annoyances and perils from the savage foes around them, who long threatened their destruction, they united their forces in the common defence, and worked on bravely and sternly, in the common cause of securing for themselves and their posterity an abiding and peaceful home, under laws and institutions fit to nurture freemen. They were, in short, by every circumstance surrounding their homes, by their relations to each other, and by their own expressed assent, one people; separated, it is true, into thirteen several municipal organizations, having in many respects diverse interests, but still not the less in mind, in heart, and in destiny, one.

Now, my friends, you and I are descendants of that people.; and I ask you if it is not true — if you do not in your hearts know it to be true — that when, in the incipient stages of the Revolution through which they were called to struggle, they magnanimously put aside all local differences and jealousies, and with one impulse combined their efforts, their fortunes, their lives, their all, against fearful odds, for the redress of their common grievances at the hands of the mother country, and for the independence which they resolved to achieve, they evoked an already existing feeling of unity, and did, in the very essence of the term, form a full, unreserved, and practical Union of the people, intended by themselves to be perpetual? Did they not, as perfectly as any people ever did, constitute and declare themselves a single and undivided Nation? Is there in all history an instance of such a union among a people who did not feel themselves to be, in every important particular, the same people? Why, even before the Union was a fact in history, the feeling in the North in reference to it was expressed by James Otis, one of the leading patriots of Massachusetts, in the Convention of 1765, in the hope that a Union would be formed, which should “knit and work together into the very blood and bones of the original system every region as fast as settled;” and from distant South Carolina, great-hearted Christopher Gadsden answered back--“There ought to be no New England man, no New Yorker, known on the continent, but all of us Americans.” And in the very hour of the Union's birth-throes Patrick Henry flashed upon the Congress of 1774, these lightning words: “all America is thrown into one mass. Where are your landmarks — your boundaries of Colonies? They are all thrown down. The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I am not A Virginian, but an American.” And when, after the Union was a recorded and mighty fact in history, the united people through their Congress, organized the first form of government for the new-born nation, they solemnly wrote down in the Articles of their Confederation, “the Union shall be perpetual.” If any further evidence is desired of the character of the Union, and of the intention that it should endure forever, recur again to that first line of our noble Constitution, declaring itself to have been established “in order to form a more perfect Union” --more perfect in its principles and in its machinery, and more perfect in its adaptedness for perpetuity.

The question, What is the Union? is answered.

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