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[110] earliest theorists of political independence from Great Britain, and had done their share, and more, in the Revolution. The rigors of their early creed had somewhat relaxed, as we have seen, by the end of the seventeenth century, and throughout the eighteenth there was a gradual progress toward religious liberalism. The population steadily increased, and New England's unremitting struggle with a not too friendly soil, her hardihood upon the seas, and her keenness in trade, became proverbial throughout the country. Her seaport towns were wealthy. The general standards of living remained frugal, but extreme poverty was rare. Her people still made, as in the earliest days of the colonies, silent and unquestioned sacrifices for education, and her chief seats of learning, Harvard and Yale, remained the foremost educational centers of America. But there was still scant leisure for the quest of beauty, and slender material reward for any practitioner of the fine arts. Oratory alone, among the arts of expression, commanded popular interest and applause. Daniel Webster's audiences at Plymouth in 1820 and at Bunker Hill in 1825 were not inferior to similar audiences of today in intelligence and in responsiveness. Perhaps they were superior. Appreciation

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