Page images




THIS scene is new to me, a stranger in Ohio, and it must be in a degree surprising even to yourselves. On these banks of the Scioto, where the elk, the buffalo, and the hissing serpent haunted not long ago, I see now mills worked by mute mechanical laborers, and warehouses rich in the merchandise of many climes. Steeds of vapor on iron roads, and electrical messengers on pathways which divide the air, attest the concentration of many novel forms of industry, while academic groves, spacious courts, and majestic domes, exact the reverence always eminently due to the chosen seats of philosophy, religion, and government.

What a change, moreover, has, within the same short period, come over the whole country that we love so justly and so well. High arcs of latitude and longitude have shrunk into their chords, and American language, laws, religion, and authority, once confined to the Atlantic coast, now prevail from the northern lakes to the southern gulf, and from the stormy eastern sea to the tranquil western


Nevertheless, it is not in man's nature to be content with present attainment or enjoyment. You say to me, therefore, with excusable impatience, "Tell us, not what our country is, but what she shall be. Shall her greatness increase? Is she immortal?"

I will answer you according to my poor opinion. But I pray you first, most worthy friends, to define the greatness and immortality you so vehemently desire.

1 Oration at the Dedication of Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, September 14, 1853.

If the Future which you seek consists in this: that these thirtyone states shall continue to exist for a period as long as human foresight is allowed to anticipate after-coming events; that they shall be all the while free; that they shall remain distinct and independent in domestic economy, and nevertheless be only one in commerce and foreign affairs; that there shall arise from among them and within their common domain even more than thirty-one other equal states alike free, independent, and united; that the borders of the federal republic, so peculiarly constituted, shall be extended so that it shall greet the sun when he touches the tropic, and when he sends his glancing rays toward the polar circle, and shall include even distant islands in either ocean; that our population, now counted by tens of millions, shall ultimately be reckoned by hundreds of millions; that our wealth shall increase a thousand fold, and our commercial connections shall be multiplied, and our political influence be enhanced in proportion with this wide development, and that mankind shall come to recognize in us a successor of the few great states which have alternately borne commanding sway in the world-if this, and only this, is desired, then I am free to say that if, as you will readily promise, our public and private virtues shall be preserved, nothing seems to me more certain than the attainment of this future, so surpassingly comprehensive and magnificent.

Indeed, such a future seems to be only a natural consequence of what has already been secured. Why, then, shall it not be attained? Is not the field as free for the expansion indicated as it was for that which has occurred? Are not the national resources immeasurably augmented and continually increasing? With telegraphs and railroads crossing the Detroit, the Niagara, the St. Johns and the St. Lawrence rivers, with steamers on the lakes of Nicaragua, and a railroad across the isthmus of Panama, and with negotiations in progress for passages over Tehuantepec and Darien, with a fleet in Hudson's bay and another at Bhering's straits, and with yet another exploring the La Plata, and with an armada at the gates of Japan, with Mexico ready to divide on the question of annexation, and with the Sandwich islands suing to us for our sovereignty, it is quite clear to us that the motives to enlargement are even more active than they ever were heretofore, and that the public energies, instead of being relaxed, are gaining new vigor.

Is the nation to become suddenly weary, and so to waver and fall off from the pursuit of its high purposes? When did any vigorous nation ever become weary even of hazardous and exhausting martial conquests? Our conquests, on the contrary, are chiefly peaceful, and thus far have proved productive of new wealth and strength. Is a paralysis to fall upon the national brain? On the contrary, what political constitution has ever, throughout an equal period, exhibited greater elasticity and capacity for endurance?

Is the union of the states to fail? Does its strength indeed grow less with the multiplication of its bonds? Or does its value diminish with the increase of the social and political interests which it defends and protects? Far otherwise. For all practical purposes bearing on the great question, the steam engine, the iron road, the electric telegraph, all of which are newer than the Union, and the metropolitan press, which is no less wonderful in its working than they, have already obliterated state boundaries and produced a physical and moral centralism more complete and perfect than monarchical ambition ever has forged or can forge. Do you reply, nevertheless, that the Union rests on the will of the several states, and that, no matter what prudence or reason may dictate, popular passion may become excited and rend it asunder? Then I rejoin, When did the American people ever give way to such impulses? They are, practically, impassive. You remind me that faction has existed, and that only recently it was bold and violent. I answer, that it was emboldened by popular timidity, and yet that even then it succumbed. Loyalty to the Union is not, in one or many states only, but in all the states, the strongest of all public passions. It is stronger, I doubt not, than the love of justice or even the love of equality, which have acquired a strength here never known among mankind before. A nation may well despise threats of sedition that has never known but one traitor, and this will be learned fully by those who shall hereafter attempt to arrest any great national movement by invoking from their grave the obsolete terrors of disunion.

But you apprehend foreign resistance. Well, where is our enemy? Whence shall he come? Will he arise on this continent? Canada has great resources, and begins to give signs of a national spirit. But Canada is not yet independent of Great Britain. And she will be quite too weak to be formidable to us when her emancipation shall

« PreviousContinue »