Hope, for a season, bade the world farewell.But our fathers, imbued with the spirit of liberty, which a free respiration of the air of the new world inspired, and goaded to desperation by the exactions of oppression, rolled the stone from the door of the sepulchre, where crucified and entombed liberty was slumbering, and it arose to light and life, to cheer, and bless, and give hope to the down-trodden humanity of earth; to emancipate the immortal mind from the slavery by which it was degraded. They asserted the simplest yet sublimest of political truths, that all men were created equal. They arraigned at the bar of a Christian world, trembling, tyrannous, stultified legitimacy, while asserting its impious dogma of Heaven-descended rulers, and they repudiated and laughed to scorn the fraudulent theories, base pretensions, and vain ceremonials of its political hierarchy. They declared in the broadest sense the right of man's self-government, and his capacity for its exercise, and sought release from a proud and haughty monarchy, that they might enjoy upon this continent a nation's independence, and found a system which recognized the equality of men, in which their theories were established. They trusted the future of their “lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to the chances of a great experiment, and while the timid faltered, the treacherous betrayed, the mercenary moaned, and the unbelieving derided; far-seeing patriotism pressed forward with an eye of faith, upon its mission of progress, until hope gave place to fruition; until expectation became success, until the most formidable power of earth learned the salutary lesson, that a proud nation mighty in armed men, and strong in the terrible material of war by sea and by land, could not conquer the everlasting truth. The experiment, so full of promise and yet so threatened with dangers, became an accomplished fact. Like a grain of mustard seed, sown in a subdued faith, it shot upward, and became an over-shadowing tree, so widespread and luxuriant, that the birds of the air could rest on its branches. Would that none of the evil omen had ever taken refuge there! Thus was planted the germ of liberty in this holy land of freedom. It was nurtured in the warm hearts' blood of patriots and watered by the tears of widows and of orphans; but for a time it was tremulous and slender, and, like a frail reed, it bowed before every breeze. Oh, what invocations ascended to Him “who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,” for that cherished shoot, that the “winds of Heaven might not visit it too roughly.” With the Fathers of Revolution, it was remembered at the morning and evening sacrifice. “When its leaves withered, they mourned, and when it rejoiced, they rejoiced with it.” But those who planted it, and watched over its spring-time with more than a father's solicitude, have gone up to loftier courts, and repose under the fadeless foliage of the tree of life. The gray-haired minister who craved for it God's blessings, has been wafted away like the prophets of old, in a chariot of fire, and the children who sported together on the grass beneath it, now slumber with their fathers. The last Revolutionary soldier who rejoiced in its pride and told with tears its early trials, “Shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won,” has been mustered into the service of his Lord and Master, where the tramp of cavalry, and the shock of armies, the neighing of chargers, and the blast of bugles, shall be heard no more. But the slender shoot of other times has become a giant in the world's extended forest. Its roots have sunk down deep in earth, its top has stretched beyond the clouds, and its branches have spanned the continent. Its form is graceful, its foliage is bright and beautiful, and its fruits have carried gladness to every quarter of the globe. The oppressed of other lands, finding, like the wearied dove, no rest amid the
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