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The Words Of George Washington

( Originally Published 1916 )



BY DANIEL WEBSTER

Delivered at the laying of the cornerstone of the new wing of the Capitol at Washington, July 4, 1851.

Washington ! Methinks I see his venerable form now before me. He is dignified and grave; but concern and anxiety seem to soften the lineaments of his countenance. The government over which he presides is yet in the crisis of experiment. Not free from troubles at home, he sees the world in commotion and arms all around him. He sees that imposing foreign powers are half disposed to try the strength of the recently established American Government. Mighty thoughts, mingled with fears as well as with hopes, are struggling within him. He heads a short procession over these then naked fields; he crosses yonder stream on a fallen tree; he ascends to the top of this eminence, whose original oaks of the forest stand as thick around him as if the spot had been devoted to Druidical worship, and here he performs the appointed duty of the day.

And now, if this vision were a reality; if Washington now were actually amongst us, and if he could draw around him the shades of the great public men of his own day, patriots and warriors, orators and statesmen, and were to address us in their presence, would he not say to us :

" Ye men of this generation, I rejoice and thank God for being able to see that our labors, and toils, and sacrifices, were not in vain. You are prosperous, you are happy, you are grateful. The fire of liberty burns brightly and steadily in your hearts, while duty and the law restrain it from bursting forth in wild and destructive conflagration. Cherish liberty, as you love it; cherish its securities, as you wish to preserve it. Maintain the Constitution which we labored so painfully to establish, and which has been to you such a source of inestimable blessings. Preserve the Union of the States, cemented as it was by our prayers, our tears, and our blood. Be true to God, to your country, and to your duty. So shall the whole Eastern world follow the morning sun, so contemplate you as a nation ; so shall all generations honor you, as they honor us; and so shall that Almighty power which so graciously protected us, and which now protects you, shower its everlasting blessings upon you and your posterity ! "

Great Father of your Country ! We need your words; we feel their force, as if you now uttered them with lips of flesh and blood. Your example teaches us, your affectionate addresses teach us, your public life teaches us, your sense of the value of the blessings of the Union. Those blessings our fathers have tasted, and we have tasted, and still taste. Nor do we intend that those who come after us shall be denied the same high function. Our honor, as well as our happiness, is concerned. We cannot, we dare not, we will not, betray our sacred trust. We will not filch from posterity the treasure placed in our hands to be transmitted to other generations. The bow that gilds the clouds in the heavens, the pillars that uphold the firmament, may disappear and fall away in the hour appointed by the will of God; but, until that day comes, or so long as our lives may last, no ruthless hand shall under-mine that bright arch of Union and Liberty which spans the continent from Washington to California!



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