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All hearts first turn to the Fathers of the Republic. Their venerable forms rise before us, and we seem to behold them in the procession of successive generations. They come from the frozen rock of Plymouth, from the wasted bands of Raleigh, from the heavenly companionship of William Penn, from the anxious councils of the Revolution, and from all those fields of sacrifice, on which, in obedience to the Spirit of their Age, they sealed their devotion to duty with their blood. They seem to speak to us, their children: “Cease to vaunt yourselves of what you do, and of what has been done for you. Learn to walk humbly, and to think meekly of yourselves. Cultivate habits of self-sacrifice and of devotion to duty. May our words be always in your minds; never aim at aught which is not right, persuaded that, without this, every possession and all knowledge will become an evil and a shame. Strive to increase the inheritance which we have bequeathed; know, that, if we excel you in virtue, such a victory will be to us a mortification, while defeat will bring happiness. It is in this way that you may conquer us. Nothing is more shameful for a man, than to found his title to esteem, not on his own merits, but on the fame of his ancestors. The glory of the Fathers is doubtless to their children a most precious treasure; but to enjoy it without transmitting it to the next generation, and without adding to it yourselves, this is the height of imbecility. Following these counsels, when your days shall be finished on earth, you will come to join us, and we shall receive you as friends receive friends; but, if you neglect our words, expect no happy greeting then from us.” 1

Honor to the memory of our Fathers! May the turf lie gently on their sacred graves! But let us not in words only, but in deeds also, testify our reverence for their name. Let us imitate what in them was lofty, pure, and good; let us from them learn to bear hardship and privation. Let us, who now reap in strength what they sowed in weakness, study to enhance the inheritance we have received. To do this we must not fold our hands in slumber, nor abide content with the past. To each generation is committed its peculiar task; nor does the heart, which responds to the call of duty, find rest except in the world to come.

Be ours, then, the task which, in the order of Providence, has been cast upon us,! And what is this task? How shall we best perform the part assigned to us? What can we do to make our coming welcome to our Fathers in the skies, and to draw to our memory hereafter the homage of a grateful posterity? How can we add to the inheritance we have received? The answer to these questions cannot fail to interest all minds, particularly on this Anniversary of the birthday of our country. Nay, more; it becomes us on this occasion, as patriots and citizens, to turn our thoughts inward, as the good man dedicates his birthday to the consideration of his character, and the mode in which its vices may be corrected and its virtues strengthened. Avoiding, then, all exultation in the prosperity that has enriched our land, and in the extending influence of the blessings of freedom, let us consider

1 ‘The chief of this is borrowed almost literally from the words attributed by Plato to the Fathers of Athens, in the beautiful Funeral Discourse of the Menexenus.’

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