« AnteriorContinuar »
ble of helping the rest. But, as the spring came on, these recovered, and, having received some fresh supplies from their friends in England, they maintained their station, and laid the foundation of one of the noblest settlements in America, which from that time has proved an asylum for the Protestant Non-conformists under all their oppressions.
Extract from an Oration, delivered at Plymouth, Mass. 222
Dec. 1824, in commemoration of the landing of the Pilgrims.-E. EVERETT.
It is not by pompous epithets or lively antitheses, that the exploits of the pilgrims are to be set forth by their children. We can only do this worthily, by repeating the plain tale of their sufferings, by dwelling on the circumstances under which their memorable enterprise was executed, and by cherishing and uttering that spirit, which led them across the ocean, and guided them to the spot where we stand.We need no voice of artificial rhetoric to celebrate their
The bleak and deathlike desolation of nature proclaims, with touching eloquence, the fortitude and patience of the meek adventurers. On the bare and wintry fields around us, their exploits are written in characters, which will last, and tell their tale to posterity, when brass and marble have crumbled into dust.
The occasion which has called us together is certainly one to which no parallel exists in the history of the world. Other countries, and our own also, have their national festivals. They commemorate the birthdays of their illustrious children ; they celebrate the foundation of important institutions : momentous events, victories, reformations, revolutions, awaken, on their anniversaries, the grateful and patriotic feelings of posterity. But we commemorate the birthday of all New England; the foundation, not of one institution, but of all the institutions, the settlements, the establishments, the communities, the societies, the improvements, comprehended within our broad and happy borders.
Were it only as an act of rare adventure; were it a trait in foreign or ancient history ; we should fix upon the achievement of our fathers, as one of the noblest deeds in the annals of the world. Were we attracted to it by no
other principle than that sympathy we feel in all the fortunes of our race, it could lose nothing-it must gain-in the contrast, with whatever history or tradition has preserved to us of the wanderings and settlements of the tribes of man. A continent for the first time effectually explored ; a vast ocean traversed by men, women, and children, voluntarily exiling themselves from the fairest regions of the old world ; and a great nation grown up, in the space of two centuries, on the foundations so perilously laid by this pious band :-point me to the record, to the tradition, nay, to the fiction, of any thing, that can enter into competition with it. It is the language, not of exaggeration, but of truth and soberness, to say, that there is nothing in the accounts of Phenician, of Grecian, or of Roman colonization, that can stand in the comparison.
What new importance, then, does not the achievement acquire to our minds, when we consider that it was the deed of our fathers ; that this grand undertaking was accomplished on the spot where we dwell; that the mighty region they explored is our native land ; that the unrivalled enterprise they displayed is not merely a fact proposed to our admiration, but is the source of our being ; that their cruel hardships are the spring of our prosperity ; their amazing sufferings the seed, from which our happiness has sprung; that their weary banishment gave us a home; that to their separation from every thing which is dear and pleasant in life, we owe all the comforts, the blessings, the privileges, which make our lot the envy of mankind.
Second Extract, from the same.
It was not enough that our fathers were of England: the masters of Ireland, and the lords of Hindostan, are of England too. But our fathers were Englishmen, aggrieved, persecuted, and banished. It is a principle, amply borne out by the history of the great and powerful nations of the earth, and by that of none more than the country of which we speak, that the best fruits and choicest action of the com'mendable qualities of the national character, are to be found on the side of the oppressed few, and not of the triumphant
many. As, in private character, adversity is often requisite to give a proper direction and temper to strong qualities ; so the noblest traits of national character, even under the freest and most independent of hereditary governments, are commonly to be sought in the ranks of a protesting minority, or of a dissenting sect. Never was this truth more clearly illustrated than in the settlement of New England.
Could a common calculation of policy have dictated the terms of that settlement, no doubt our foundations would have been laid beneath the royal smile. Convoys and navies would have been solicited to waft our fathers to the coast; armies, to defend the infant communities; and the flattering patronage of princes and lords, to espouse their interests in the councils of the mother country. Happy, that our fathers enjoyed no such patronage ; happy, that they fell into no such protecting hands; happy, that our foundations were silently and deeply cast, in quiet insignificance, beneath a charter of banishment, persecution, and contempt; so that, when the royal arm was at length outstretched against us, instead of a submissive child, tied down by former graces, it found a youthful giant in the land, born amidst hardships, and nourished on the rocks, indebted for no favours, and owing no duty. From the dark portals of the star chamber, and in the stern text of the acts of uniformity, the pilgrims received a commission more efficient than any
that ever bore the royal seal. Their banishment to Holland was fortunate; the decline of their little company in the strange land was fortunate; the difficulties which they experienced in getting the royal consent to banish themselves to this wilderness were fortunate ; all the tears and heart-breakings of that ever-memorable parting at Delfthaven had the happiest influence on the rising destinies of New England. All this purified the ranks of the settlers. These rough touches of fortune brushed off the light, uncertain, selfish spirits. They made it a grave, solemn, self-denying expedition, and required of those who engaged in it, to be so too. They cast a broad shadow of thought and seriousness over the cause, and, if this sometimes deepened into melancholy and bitterness, can we find no apology for such a human weakness?
It is sad, indeed, to reflect on the disasters, which the little band of pilgrims encountered ;-sad to see a portion of them, the prey of unrelenting cupidity, treacherously embarked in an unsound, unseaworthy ship, which they are
soon obliged to abandon, and crowd themselves into one: vessel-one hundred persons, besides the ship's company, in a vessel of one hundred and eighty tons. One is touched at the story of the long, cold, and weary autumnal passage; of the landing on the inhospitable rocks at this dismal serson, where they are deserted, before long, by the ship which had brought them, and which seemed their only hold upon the world of fellow men,--a prey to the elements and to want, and fearfully ignorant of the numbers, the power, and the temper of the savage tribes, that filled the unexplored continent, upon whose verge they had ventured. But all this wrought together for good. These trials of wandering and exile, of the ocean, the winter, the wilderness, and the savage foe, were the final assurance of success. It was these that put far away from our fathers' cause all patrician softness, all hereditary claims to pre-eminence. No effeminate nobility crowded into the dark and austere ranks of the pilgrims; no Carr nor Villiers would lead on the ill-provided band of despised Puritans; no well-endowed clergy were on the alert to quit their cathedrals, and set up a pompous hierarchy in the frozen wilderness; no craving governors were anxious to be sent over to our cheerless El Dorados of ice and of snow. No; they could not say they had encouraged, patronised, or helped the pilgrims: their own cares, their own labours, their own councils, their own blood, contrived all, achieved all, bore all, sealed all. They could not afterwards fairly pretend to reap where they had not strown: and, as our fathers reared this broad and solid fabric with pains and watchfulness, unaided, barely tolerated, it did not fall when the favour, which had always been withholden, was changed into wrath ; when the arm, which had never supported, was raised to destroy.
Methinks I see it now, that one solitary, adventurous vese sel, the May-Flower of a forlorn hope, freighted with the prospects of a future state, and bound across the unknown
I behold it pursuing, with a thousand misgivings, the uncertain, the tedious voyage. Suns rise and set, and weeks and months pass, and winter surprises them on the deep, but brings them not the sight of the wished-for shore. I see them now scantily supplied with provisions, crowded almost to suffocation in their ill-stored prison, delayed by calms, pursuing a circuitous route ;---and now driven in fury before the raging tempest, on the high and giddy waves. The awful voice of the storm howls through the rigging
the labouring masts seem straining from their base; the dismal sound of the pumps is heard ; the ship leaps, as it were, madly, from billow to billow; the ocean breaks, and settles with ingulfing floods over the floating deck, and beats, with deadening, shivering weight, against the stage gered vessel. I see them, escaped from these perils, pursuing their all but desperate undertaking, and landed, at last
a five months' passage, on the ice-clad rocks of Ply. mouth-weak and weary from the voyage, poorly armed, scantily provisioned, depending on the charity of their ship master for a draught of beer on board, drinking nothing but water on shore, --without shelter, without means,-surrounded by hostile tribes. Shut now the volume of history, and tell me, on any, principle of human probability, what shall be the fate of this handful of adventurers.-Tell me, man of military science, in how many months were they all swept off by the thirty savage tribes, enumerated within the early limits of New England ? Tell me, politician, how long did this shadow of a colony, on which your conventions and treaties had not smiled, languish on the distant coast ? Student of history, compare for me the baffled projects, the deserted settlements, the abandoned adventures, of other times, and find the parallel of this. Was it the winter's storm, beating upon the houseless heads of women and children; was it hard labour and spare meals; was it disease; was it the tomahawk; was it the deep malady of a blighted hope, a ruined enterprise, and a broken heart, aching, in its last moments, at the recollection of the loved and left, beyond the sea ;-was it some, or all of these united, that hurried this forsaken company to their melancholy fate ?-And is it possible that neither of these causes, that not all combined, were able to blast this bud of hope ? Is it possible, that, from a beginning so feeble, so frail, so worthy, not so much of admiration as of pity, there has gone forth a progress so steady, a growth so wonderful, an exparsion so ample, a reality so important, a promise, yet to be fulfilled, so glorious ?
I do not fear that we shall be accused of extravagance in the enthusiasm we feel at a train of events of such astonishing magnitude, novelty and consequence, connected, by associations so intimate, with the day we now hail, with the events we now celebrate, with the pilgrim fathers of New England. Victims of persecution ! how wide an em. pire acknowledges the sway of your principles ! Apostles