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as is usually the case with apologies, I have only made bad worse."
'MY DEAR MOther,
April 2, 1806.
"I have just received your last paquet, and am so rejoiced, I can hardly sit still enough to write. They were not half long enough to satiate me, and I am more hungry than before. Yesterday, in order to appease my hunger, I read over all the letters I have received this year past, to my great satisfaction.-You must not expect method nor legible writing. These qualifications are necessary in a billet of compliments, but in a letter to friends I despise them. However, if my good friends are fond of them, and prefer them to the rapid effusions of affection that will hardly wait the pen's motion, I will soon write a letter, that shall be as cold and as splendid as an ice-palace. You may usually observe my hand writing is much better at the beginning, than at the end of my letters; and this happens, because I gather warmth as I write. A letter to a friend, written with exact care, is like-" Madam, I hope I have the pleasure of seeing you in very good health,"-addressed to a mother, on meeting her after a year's absence.
"I did not recollect, that I made use of a billet to enclose my letters. However, I suppose it did just as well. Pray give my love to Phillips, (with the rest of the dear clan,) and tell him, that, instead of being a sign of poverty, it is the surest way to be rich, to save even the cover of a letter; besides, I have Papa's authority for using billets in that way."
These extracts show how he appreciated the relations of son and brother, and how just he was to all the claims, which these relations involve. His filial affection is among the loveliest traits in his character, and it never suffered any abatement, so long as he had a parent to love. He continued to appropriate, unasked, and of choice, the excess of his earnings above his expenditures, to the use of his parents, till the whole amount expended for his education had been reimbursed. By word and deed, in the thousand ways which affection suggests, he sought their comfort and happiness.
It was not till the third year of his residence in Portland, that he made his first appearance before a popular assembly. On the 4th of July, 1806, at the request of the municipal authorities of the town, he pronounced the anniversary oration, -a performance, which secured him unbounded applause, and which he was solicited, with great earnestness, to allow to be published; but no persuasion could induce him to give a copy. This production is eminently rich in imagery, and generally in sound political views. He shared with many wise and good men serious apprehensions for the result of the experiment making in our own country, whether a free government can be petuated. Those who recollect the circumstances of our country at the time, well know that there were many reasons for doubt; and that, in the view of all, an important crisis was approaching, which will account for, if not justify, the coloring in the following picture:
"The vessel of our republic, driven by the gales of faction, and hurried still faster by the secret current of luxury and vice, is following the same course, and fast approaching the same rocks, which have proved fatal to so many before us. Already may we hear the roaring of the surge; already do we begin to circle round the vortex which is soon to engulf us. Yet we see no danger. In vain does experience offer us the wisdom of past ages for our direction: In vain does the genius of history spread her chart, and point out the ruin towards which we are advancing In vain do the ghosts of departed governments, lingering round the rocks on which they perished, warn us of our approaching fate, and eagerly strive to terrify us from our course. It seems to be an immutable law of our nature, that nations, as well as individuals, shall learn wisdom by no experience but their own. That blind, that accursed infatuation, which ever appears to govern mankind when their most important interests are concerned, leads us, in defiance of reason, experience, and common sense, to flatter ourselves, that the same causes which have proved fatal to all other governments, will lose their pernicious tendency when exerted on our own."
Alluding to the reigning policy of our government in
relation to commerce, and to a navy as a means of national defence, and classing among its effects the blockade of our ports, the detention of our vessels, and the plundering of our property by every petty freebooter, he thus states and exposes the argument by which it had been defended:
"As some consolation under these accumulated evils, we have lately been told, that the United States are a land animal-an elephant, who is resistless on land, but has nothing to do with the dominion or navigation of the sea. Grant that they are so; yet if this elephant can neither cool his burning heat, nor quench his thirst, without losing his proboscis by the jaws of the shark or the tusks of the alligator, what does it avail him, that he is allowed to graze his native plains in safety?"
Some of his paragraphs seem less like the language of an ardent youth, than the prophetic warnings of the seer:
"That virtue, both in those who command, and those who obey, is absolutely essential to the existence of republics, is a maxim, and a most important one, in political science. Whether we retain a sufficient share of this virtue, to promise ourselves a long duration, you, my friends, must decide. But, should the period ever arrive, when luxury and intemperance shall corrupt our towns, while ignorance and vice pervade the country; when the press shall become the common sewer of falsehood and slander; when talents and integrity shall be no recommendation, and open dereliction of all principle no obstacle to preferment; when we shall entrust our liberties to men, with whom we should not dare to trust our property; when the chief seats of honor and responsibility in our government shall be filled by characters, of whom the most malicious ingenuity can invent nothing worse than the truth; when we shall see the members of our national councils, in defiance of the laws of God and their country, throwing away their lives in defence of reputations, which, if they ever existed, had long been lost; when the slanderers of Washington and the blas phemers of our God shall be thought useful laborers in
our political vineyard; when, in fine, we shall see our legislators sacrificing their senses, their reason, their oaths, and their consciences at the altar of party-then we may say, that virtue has departed, and that the end of our liberty draweth nigh."
After drawing a most striking and vivid contrast between the circumstances and prospects of the country as they existed at the time, and as they had been at a former period, he proceeds:
"The imperfect sketch of our situation, which has just been given, is not drawn for the sake of indulging in idle complaints, or querulous declamation; and still less is it intended to lead to a conclusion, that our case is desperate. But it is intended, if there be yet remaining one spark of that spirit, one drop of that blood, which animated and warmed the breasts of our fathers, to rouse it to vigorous and energetic exertions. It is to the want of such exertions, that we must ascribe the rapid and alarming spread of disorganizing and demoralizing principles among us; and we can, in fact, blame none but ourselves for the evils we suffer. Had we paid half that attention to the interests of our country and the preservation of liberty, that we have to the calls of indulgence, of pleasure, of avarice, never should we have seen the sun of American glory thus shorn of his beams, and apparently about to set forever. It is true, indeed, that when aroused by some particular interesting object, we have started from our slumbers, and seen the fiendlike form of faction sink beneath our efforts. But no sooner was the object of our exertions accomplished, than we returned to our couches, and while we were exulting in our strength, and rejoicing in our victory, suffered our indefatigable foe to regain all she had lost. It is not sudden and transient efforts, however vigorous and well-directed, that can preserve any state from destruction. There is in all popular governments a national tendency to degenerate, as there is in matter to fall; and nothing can counteract this tendency, and the continual endeavor of unprincipled men to increase it, but the most energetic and persevering exertions. On no easier terms can the blessings of freedom
be enjoyed; and if we think this price too great, it evinces that we are neither worthy nor capable of enjoying them.
"This inexcusable neglect, so fatal to our liberties, and so disgraceful to ourselves, is occasioned, in some measure, by the indulgence of hopes not less dangerous than they are groundless and delusive. We are told, that the torrent of licentiousness, which is rushing in upon us, is not a just cause for alarm; that it will cease of itself when it has run its career; and that the people, having learned wisdom by experience, will know how to prize the blessings of order, and return with alacrity to their former correct habits. True, it will cease when it has run its career; and so will the conflagration that destroys your dwelling; but will you, therefore, use no endeavors to extinguish it? Beware of indulging any hopes, but those which are founded on exertions. The torrent which approaches us, is the overwhelming deluge of Vesuvius or Ætna, which calcines or consumes what it cannot remove, leaves nothing behind it but a black sterility, and renders ages insufficient to repair the havoc of a day.
Away, then, with those idle hopes and frivolous excuses, which defraud us of the only moments in which our safety can be secured. Away with that indolence, so unworthy, so inconsistent with the character of freemen. This is the very crisis of our fate. We stand on the extremest verge of safety; a single step may plunge us headlong, never to rise. The immense wheel of revolution may be put in motion by a fly, though it would require more than mortal power to arrest its progress. Those who attempt to check its career, must fall the first victims to its ponderous weight; while those only, who urge it forward, and rejoice in the horrid devastation it occa sions, can be safe. But let us not, therefore, give way to despair. The same maxim, that bids us never presume, teaches us likewise never to despair. By neglecting the first of these precepts, we have begun our ruin; let us not complete it by neglecting the last. Let us endeavor to open those eyes whose sight is not totally extinguished by the virulence of the disease. The bright rays of truth