As the poet-historian of the last generation says so plaintively, “History comes like a beggarly gleaner in the field, after Death, the great lord of the domain, has gathered the harvest, and lodged it in his garner, which no man may open.”
But we may safely infer that French debate and experience broadened and encouraged our fathers.
To that we undoubtedly owe, in some degree, the theoretical perfection, ingrafted on English practical sense and old forms, which marks the foundation of our republic.
English civil life, up to that time, grew largely out of custom, rested almost wholly on precedent.
For our model there was no authority in the record, no precedent on the file; unless you find it, perhaps, partially, in that Long Parliament bill with which Sir Harry Vane
would have outgeneralled Cromwell
, if the shameless soldier had not crushed it with his muskets.
Standing on Saxon
foundations, and inspired, perhaps, in some degree by Latin example, we have done what no race, no nation, no age, had before dared even to try. We have founded a republic on the unlimited suffrage of the millions.
We have actually worked out the problem that man, as God created him, may be trusted with self-government.
We have shown the world that a Church without a bishop, and a State without a king, is an actual, real, every-day possibility.
Look back over the history of the race; where will you find a chapter that precedes us in that achievement?
had her republics, but they were the republics of a few freemen and subjects and many slaves; and “the battle of Marathon
was fought by slaves, unchained from the door-posts of their masters' houses.”
had her republics: they were the republics of wealth and skill and family, limited and aristocratic.
The Swiss republics were groups of cousins.
had her republic, a republic of