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The Principles of the Revolution

( Originally Published 1927 )

WHEN we speak of the glory of our fathers, we mean not that vulgar renown to be attained by physical strength; nor yet that higher fame, to be acquired by intellectual power. Both often exist without lofty thought, pure intent, or generous purpose. The glory which we celebrate was strictly of a moral and religious character : righteous as to its ends ; just as to its means.

The American Revolution had its origin neither in ambition, nor avarice, nor envy, nor in any gross passion; but in the nature and relation of things, and in the thence-resulting necessity of separation from the parent state. Its progress was limited by that necessity. Our fathers displayed great strength and great moderation of purpose. In difficult times they conducted it with wisdom; in doubtful times, with firmness ; in perilous times, with courage ; under oppressive trials, erect ; amidst temptations, unseduced ; in the dark hour of danger, fearless ; in the bright hour of prosperity, faithful.

It was not the instant feeling and pressure of despotism that roused them to resist, but the principle on which that arm was extended. They could have paid the impositions of the British government, had they been increased a thousandfold; but payment acknowledged right, and they spurned the consequences 0f that acknowledgment. But, above all, they realized that those burdens, though light in them-selves, would to coming ages to us, their posterity be heavy, and probably insupportable. They preferred to meet the trial in their own times, and to make the sacrifices in their own persons, that we and our descendants, their posterity, might reap the harvest and enjoy the increase.

Generous men, exalted patriots, immortal statesmen ! For this deep moral and social affection, for this elevated self-devotion, this bold daring, the multi-plying millions of your posterity, as they spread back-ward to the lakes, and from the lakes to the mountains, and from the mountains to the western waters, shall annually, in all future time, come up to the temples of the Most High, with song and anthem, and thanksgiving; with cheerful symphonies and hallelujahs, to repeat your names ; to look steadfastly on the brightness of your glory ; to trace its spreading rays to the points from which they emanate ; and to seek in your character and conduct a practical illustration of public duty in every occurring social exigency.

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