Daniel Webster: America Rests Upon Gratitude For Our Government Of And For The People

‘When, from the long distance of a hundred years, they shall look back upon us, they shall know, at least, that we possessed…gratitude for what our ancestors have done for our happiness.’

Daniel Webster: America Rests Upon Gratitude For Our Government Of And For The People

Nov 28, 2019

 

This excerpt from “The First Settlement of New England” by famed American orator and U.S. Sen. Daniel Webster is selected from the “What So Proudly We Hail” collection of Thanksgiving original documents and information about them. The collection introduces the speech: “In 1820, the bicentennial of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Rock—well before Thanksgiving became a national holiday—the great statesman, orator, and United States Senator Daniel Webster (1782–1852) delivered this oration (excerpted) at the landing site.”

The online What So Proudly We Hail curricula, extended from a worthy book of the same name, includes videos, poems, discussion guides, and other excellent resources for families, schools, and civic organizations.

Standing in relation to our ancestors and our posterity, we are assembled on this memorable spot, to perform the duties which that relation and the present occasion impose upon us. We have come to this Rock, to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labors; our admiration of their virtues; our veneration for their piety; and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty, which they encountered the dangers of the ocean, the storms of heaven, the violence of savages, disease, exile, and famine, to enjoy and to establish.

And we would leave here, also, for the generations which are rising up rapidly to fill our places, some proof that we have endeavored to transmit the great inheritance unimpaired; that in our estimate of public principles and private virtue, in our veneration of religion and piety, in our devotion to civil and religious liberty, in our regard for whatever advances human knowledge or improves human happiness, we are not altogether unworthy of our origin.

There is a local feeling connected with this occasion, too strong to be resisted; a sort of genius of the place, which inspires and awes us. We feel that we are on the spot where the first scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were first placed; where Christianity, and civilization, and letters made their first lodgement, in a vast extent of country, covered with a wilderness, and peopled by roving barbarians. We are here, at the season of the year at which the event took place.

The imagination irresistibly and rapidly draws around us the principal features and the leading characters in the original scene. We cast our eyes abroad on the ocean, and we see where the little barque, with the interesting group upon its deck, made its slow progress to the shore. We look around us, and behold the hills and promontories where the anxious eyes of our fathers first saw the places of habitation and of rest. We feel the cold which benumbed, and listen to the winds which pierced them.

Beneath us is the Rock, on which New England received the feet of the Pilgrims. We seem even to behold them, as they struggle with the elements, and, with toilsome efforts, gain the shore. We listen to the chiefs in council; we see the unexampled exhibition of female fortitude and resignation; we hear the whisperings of youthful impatience, and we see, what a painter of our own has also represented by his pencil, chilled and shivering childhood, houseless, but for a mother’s arms, couchless, but for a mother’s breast, till our own blood almost freezes.

The mild dignity of CARVER and of BRADFORD; the decisive and soldierlike air and manner of STANDISH; the devout BREWSTER; the enterprising ALLERTON; the general firmness and thoughtfulness of the whole band; their conscious joy for dangers escaped; their deep solicitude about danger to come; their trust in Heaven; their high religious faith, full of confidence and anticipation; all of these seem to belong to this place, and to be present upon this occasion, to fill us with reverence and admiration . . .

‘It Rests on No Other Foundation Than Their Assent’

The nature and constitution of society and government in this country are interesting topics, to which I would devote what remains of the time allowed to this occasion. Of our system of government the first thing to be said is, that it is really and practically a free system. It originates entirely with the people and rests on no other foundation than their assent.

To judge of its actual operation, it is not enough to look merely at the form of its construction. The practical character of government depends often on a variety of considerations, besides the abstract frame of its constitutional organization. Among these are the condition and tenure of property; the laws regulating its alienation and descent; the presence or absence of a military power; an armed or unarmed yeomanry; the spirit of the age, and the degree of general intelligence. In these respects it cannot be denied that the circumstances of this country are most favorable to the hope of maintaining a government of a great nation on principles entirely popular.

In the absence of military power, the nature of government must essentially depend on the manner in which property is holden and distributed. There is a natural influence belonging to property, whether it exists in many hands or few; and it is on the rights of property that both despotism and unrestrained popular violence ordinarily commence their attacks. Our ancestors began their system of government here under a condition of comparative equality in regard to wealth, and their early laws were of a nature to favor and continue this equality.

A republican form of government rests not more on political constitutions, than on those laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property. Governments like ours could not have been maintained, where property was holden according to the principles of the feudal system; nor, on the other hand, could the feudal constitution possibly exist with us.

Our New England ancestors brought hither no great capitals from Europe; and if they had, there was nothing productive in which they could have been invested. They left behind them the whole feudal policy of the other continent. They broke away at once from the system of military service established in the Dark Ages, and which continues, down even to the present time, more or less to affect the condition of property all over Europe. They came to a new country.

There were, as yet, no lands yielding rent, and no tenants rendering service. The whole soil was unreclaimed from barbarism. They were themselves, either from their original condition, or from the necessity of their common interest, nearly on a general level in respect to property. Their situation demanded a parcelling out and division of the lands, and it may be fairly said, that this necessary act fixed the future frame and form of their government.

The character of their political institutions was determined by the fundamental laws respecting property. The laws rendered estates divisible among sons and daughters. The right of primogeniture, at first limited and curtailed, was afterwards abolished. The property was all freehold. The entailment of estates, long trusts, and the other processes for fettering and tying up inheritances, were not applicable to the condition of society, and seldom made use of . . . .

‘Every Feeling of Humanity Must Forever Revolt’

I deem it my duty on this occasion to suggest, that the land is not yet wholly free from the contamination of a traffic, at which every feeling of humanity must forever revolt,—I mean the African slave trade. Neither public sentiment, nor the law, has hitherto been able entirely to put an end to this odious and abominable trade.

At the moment when God in his mercy has blessed the Christian world with a universal peace, there is reason to fear, that, to the disgrace of the Christian name and character, new efforts are making for the extension of this trade by subjects and citizens of Christian states, in whose hearts there dwell no sentiments of humanity or of justice, and over whom neither the fear of God nor the fear of man exercises a control.

In the sight of our law, the African slave trader is a pirate and a felon; and in the sight of Heaven, an offender beyond the ordinary depth of human guilt. There is no brighter page of our history, than that which records the measures which have been adopted by the government at an early day, and at different times since, for the suppression of this traffic; and I would call on all the true sons of New England to cooperate with the laws of man, and the justice of Heaven.

If there be, within the extent of our knowledge or influence, any participation in this traffic, let us pledge ourselves here, upon the rock of Plymouth, to extirpate and destroy it. It is not fit that the land of the Pilgrims should bear the shame longer.

I hear the sound of the hammer, I see the smoke of the furnaces where manacles and fetters are still forged for human limbs. I see the visages of those who by stealth and at midnight labor in this work of hell, foul and dark, as may become the artificers of such instruments of misery and torture.

Let that spot be purified, or let it cease to be of New England. Let it be purified, or let it be set aside from the Christian world; let it be put out of the circle of human sympathies and human regards, and let civilized man henceforth have no communion with it . . .

‘The Voice of Acclamation and Gratitude’

The hours of this day are rapidly flying, and this occasion will soon be passed. Neither we nor our children can be expected to behold its return. They are in the distant regions of futurity, they exist only in the all-creating power of God, who shall stand here a hundred years hence, to trace, through us, their descent from the Pilgrims and to survey, as we have now surveyed, the progress of their country, during the lapse of a century.

We would anticipate their concurrence with us in our sentiments of deep regard for our common ancestors. We would anticipate and partake the pleasure with which they will then recount the steps of New England’s advancement. On the morning of that day, although it will not disturb us in our repose, the voice of acclamation and gratitude, commencing on the Rock of Plymouth, shall be transmitted through millions of the sons of the Pilgrims, till it lose itself in the murmurs of the Pacific seas.

We would leave for consideration of those who shall then occupy our places, some proof that we hold the blessings transmitted from our fathers in just estimation; some proof of our attachment to the cause of good government, and of civil and religious liberty; some proof of a sincere and ardent desire to promote every thing which may enlarge the understandings and improve the hearts of men.

And when, from the long distance of a hundred years, they shall look back upon us, they shall know, at least, that we possessed affections, which, running backward and warming with gratitude for what our ancestors have done for our happiness, run forward also to our posterity, and meet them with cordial salutation, ere yet they have arrived on the shore of Being.

Advance, then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as you rise in your long succession, to fill the places which we now fill, and to taste the blessings of existence where we are passing, and soon shall have passed, our own human duration.

We bid you welcome to this pleasant land of the fathers. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies and the verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great inheritance which we have enjoyed.

We welcome you to the blessings of good government and religious liberty. We welcome you to the treasures of science and the delights of learning. We welcome you to the transcendent sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of kindred, and parents, and children. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational existence, the immortal hope of Christianity, and the light of everlasting Truth!

Photo By Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14597125217/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/popularhistoryof00brya/popularhistoryof00brya#page/n471/mode/1upNo restrictionsLink

 

https://thefederalist.com/2019/11/28/daniel-webster-america-rests-upon-gratitude-for-our-government-of-and-for-the-people/

Olaudah Equiano’s Argument Against Slavery Was His Life Experience

The Igbo writer wrote honestly about the brutality of his experience—and of the Christian faith that sustained him.
ERIC WASHINGTON

Olaudah Equiano’s Argument Against Slavery Was His Life Experience

The word of God was sweet to my taste, yea sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. Christ was revealed to my soul as the chiefest among ten thousand,” wrote an 18th-century British seaman in 1789 as he reflected on his conversion that occurred five years previously. This Christian was a previously enslaved man known as Gustavus Vassa, who, through writing his own life story, became the founder of a literary movement known as slave narratives. His work was published under his birth name: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.

A resident of London during the 1780s, Equiano became involved in British abolitionism and was a vocal opponent of the slave trade and slavery until his death in 1797. His Interesting Narrative served as the foremost abolitionist writing of the day because he was an African voice that described the violence and degradation of the slave trade and of slavery itself. Equiano’s narrative spurred nine English editions through 1794 and was published in Dutch, French, and Russian.

Distinguishing itself from the arguments of abolitionists Thomas Clarkson and John Newton, Equiano’s Christian argument against the slave trade and slavery proved historically unique because he wrote about the horror of slavery, having experienced it firsthand. In his memoir, he drew connections between his traumatic life experiences and meeting God:

Now every leading providential circumstance that happened to me, from the day I was taken from my parents to that hour, was then, in my view, as if it had but just then occurred. I was sensible of the invisible hand of God, which guided and protected me, when in truth I knew it not: still the Lord pursued me.

Life in Igboland

Much of what we know today about Equiano comes through his own words. According to his Interesting Narrative, the author was born in what is now eastern Nigeria, in Igboland, in 1745. (Note: While historians have questioned his account, after reading their arguments and doing my own assessment of the documents, I am inclined to trust the veracity of Equiano’s story.) Unlike accounts of enslaved people that begin in the Western Hemisphere, Equiano introduces his readers to his homeland and people and focuses on the type of government established in his Igbo village, as well as his community’s marriage customs, arts, and agriculture.

According to Equiano, one of the Igbo community’s key beliefs was in a “Creator of all things” who “governs events, especially our deaths and captivity.” It was this Igbo predestinarian conviction among Igbos that likely made it easier for Equiano to accept the Christian doctrine of the Providence of God and is a major theme of the work.

His writings also compare Igbo and ancient Israelite practices, noting Igbo circumcision, and suggest that Igbo and Jewish naming practices are similar because the two cultures name their children in light of an important event or a notable circumstance surrounding one’s birth. In fact, the text goes so far as to argue that Igbos—all Africans in fact—originated from the Jews.

As one of only a handful of 18th-century Afro-British writers, Equiano makes the countercultural argument that Igbos (and Africans) are equal image-bearers to Europeans, and they live in functioning societies complete with a sexual division of labor, a robust system of justice, and a complex religious system. Equiano’s description of his people contains none of the stereotypes that Europeans employed to paint Africans as savages. Further, he refutes the idea that darker skin denoted inferiority, instead, drawing upon European writings that argued that climate produced dark skin. He also turns to the Bible, citing Acts 17:26: “God ‘who hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.’”

The End of Innocence

Equiano was 11 years old when Igbo-speaking slave catchers stole him and his sister away from their home. But he wasn’t immediately shipped off to the British colonies. Instead, he worked as a slave in numerous households in what is now Nigeria before reaching the coast. While enslaved in his homeland, kidnappers kept Equiano separated from his sister. In his memoir, he writes that he grew to the point where he yearned for death. While he did not record any harsh thoughts he had about his African masters and mistresses, Equiano had choice words for African slave catchers and called them “uncircumcised.”

After about half a year, Equiano arrived on the west coast of Africa, where he was sold once more to European slave traders, and then boarded a slave ship bound for the Caribbean. Equiano refers to his treatment by European slave traders in the Middle Passage as “a new refinement in cruelty” and paints a picture of a harrowing journey on board a slave ship.

No other slave narrative offers an account of the ship ride as lengthy or descriptive as Equiano’s; he describes the filthy living conditions he and fellow Africans endured, the suicide of a couple of captives, and other types of cruelties hurled at him and his shipmates. At the end of his account of the Middle Passage, Equiano pauses his narrative and addresses the reader: “Might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you?”

The slave vessel carried Equiano to Barbados, the eastern-most Caribbean island and an inglorious port of entry for thousands of captive Africans. Equiano remained in Barbados for only two weeks before embarking on another voyage to Virginia. He remained there briefly before he was purchased by Michael Henry Pascal, a lieutenant in the British Royal Navy. Under the ownership of Pascal, Equiano traveled to England, was baptized into the Church of England in 1759, and learned that his baptized state afforded him his freedom.

But this legality did little for Equiano. After serving his master for a number of years—even serving in the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War)—Pascal decided to sell Equiano. Upon learning this, Equiano protested, arguing that Pascal had no right to sell him because he had “been baptized; and by the laws of the land no man has a right to sell me.” Unfortunately for Equiano, there was no law; he once more had to swallow the bitter pill of slavery in the Atlantic World. About a century before, British colonies had ruled that baptism had no bearing on the status of an enslaved African. Early in his time as an enslaved boy on a ship, Equiano became obsessed with learning how to read after he saw English people onboard pouring over books. During a stay in London in the late 1750s, Equiano worked for two sisters who sent him to school where he began to learn to read and write.

After living on the confines of Navy vessels in the Atlantic during the Seven Years’ War, Equiano was sold to a Quaker who transported goods and enslaved people throughout the Caribbean and in North America. Equiano initially worked on his owner’s small ship, traveling to different Caribbean ports to sell fruit, tumblers, and other items to Europeans. While Europeans often sought to cheat him out of his money, Equiano nevertheless soon amassed enough money to purchase his freedom in 1766.

Though Equiano gained his freedom in the Caribbean, he was also simultaneously confronted with the reality of the unimaginable violence perpetrated against slaves. As Equiano later recorded in his writings, this was a place where slave women were raped and where one slave was punished by being staked to the ground and having hot wax poured on his back. Although free, Equiano himself was nearly beat to death after visiting a local physician’s slave.

Equiano later recounted a conversation he had with a Mr. Drummond who boasted of selling 41,000 Africans into slavery. Drummond had once cut off a slave’s leg who had attempted to run away. Equiano confronted his action, asking Drummond how he would answer to God, and how did that accord with the Golden Rule. Drummond tersely responded that “answering was a thing for another world,” but his action prevented the slave and others from running away.

God’s Plan for Equiano

In 1773, Equiano returned to London after a harrowing voyage during which he almost died. His near-death drowning experience had turned his mind to his eternal destiny, and he later wrote that the voyage had “caused me to reflect deeply on my eternal state, and to seek the Lord with full purpose of heart ere it was too late.” He also explained that he “was determined to work out” his “own salvation, and in so doing procure a title to heaven.”

Equiano began attending Anglican churches and Quaker meetings, he studied Roman Catholic teachings, and he even considered Judaism. He then consented to just read the four Gospels “and whatever sect or party I found adhering thereto such” he “would join.”

The following year, Equiano attempted to help a formerly enslaved person win back his freedom after the man’s former master illegally re-enslaved him. Despite his efforts and those of other abolitionists, the man was taken back to the West Indies where he died.

Equiano was miserable after this news. He wrote, “Suffering much by villains in the late cause, and being much concerned about the state of my soul, these things … brought me very low; so that I became a burden to myself, and viewed all things around me as emptiness and vanity, which could give no satisfaction to a troubled conscience.”

It in the midst of his depression, Equiano returned to the sea, traveling back to England. During the voyage, he became introspective and began considering the ways in which God had predestined every good and bad step of his life: “I was from early years a predestinarian, I thought whatever fate had determined must ever come to pass.”

Through the cultural worldview he had learned as a child, Equiano found God at work in his life when he been enslaved and when he had been rescued from near-death experiences. He had survived these things to be able to finally receive the grace offered to him by Christ.

Though Equiano desired to return to Africa, he never did. “Whether the love of one’s country be real or imaginary, or a lesson of reason, or an instinct of nature, I still look back with pleasure on the first scenes of my life, though the pleasure has been for the most part mingled with sorrow,” he wrote. Though he admired England and its people and was a committed Christian, he was still an Igbo whom God had chosen. Equiano lent his voice and his pen to the cause of suppressing Britain’s role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In 1797, he died in England, around the age of 52, without seeing the goal come to fruition. Yet the seeds he planted eventually bore fruit when Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807.

Eric Michael Washington is an associate professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. His research interests are in African history and the history of Africans in the Atlantic World.

 

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VIDEO A Tale of Two Revolutions

May 10, 2019 by Dr Jerry Newcombe

Could a contrast between the American Revolution and the French Revolution be relevant to today’s conflicts? I think so. The attempt to demote historic icons, like George Washington, is a case in point.

George Washington grew up as a gentleman farmer in Virginia and was a fourth generation slave-owner. But by the end of his life, he had decided slavery was immoral and so at his death, he freed his slaves and made provision for them.

But in our day—where the alleged “right to not be offended” often seems to trump the constitutional right to free speech—some are calling for images of George Washington to be torn down, like statues of Confederates.

The dailywire.com (5/2/19) reports on how “George Washington High School” in Northern California is contemplating tearing down two 1930’s panels featuring George Washington because the pair of murals allegedly “traumatizes students and community members.”

This is in San Francisco, so the outcome seems likely.

How long will our historical iconoclasm last? The cultural Marxists are working overtime to cut Americans off from our history.

I believe that despite his flaws, including being a slave-owner, there are many heroic aspects of our first president. Dr. Peter Lillback and I wrote, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, which puts all this in context. Recently we discussed Washington and slavery.

Our founders fought the American Revolution, led by Washington, so that we could enjoy our God-given rights. Though slow in coming, recognition of those God-given rights eventually gave the slaves their freedom. What is happening in the culture wars today is a revival of the French Revolution, which waged war against God.

France in 1789 fought against injustice, even in the church; but their godless “cure” ended up being worse than the disease. The French Revolution was anti-God and pro-tyranny—leading to death in the streets. The American Revolution was pro-God and pro-freedom.

America’s founders mentioned God four times in the Declaration of Independence. They identified King George III’s tyranny as illegitimate—because he was violating our God-given rights. The founders, with a firm reliance on the Lord, laid down “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” in support for their declaration as a new nation.

When George Washington first read the Declaration to his troops, one of his first acts was to hire Christian chaplains—systematically, throughout the army. He felt that if we were to win this war, it would only be with God’s help.

And he and the other colonists felt that God did help. To paraphrase Washington in his First Inaugural Address, no people should be more grateful to the Lord than we Americans because God aided us at every step to become an independent nation.

Consider a few further contrasts between the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

Our framers signed the Constitution in “the year of our Lord” 1787. The French Revolutionaries got rid of the Christian calendar; and so they declared 1791 as Year 1 of their new non-Christian calendar.

The French Revolutionaries desecrated Notre Dame Cathedral, disallowing Christian worship there and placed a half-naked woman on the altar, calling her “Reason,” whom they worshiped.

In contrast, our founders hired Christian chaplains for the military and also for the House and Senate. Since there weren’t enough church buildings in Washington, D. C., they held Christian worship services in the Capitol building. Presidents Jefferson and Madison attended those services.

The French Revolution eventually consumed its own. Since then, France has had 17 different governments, while the U.S. still lives under one—the Constitution.

I predict that today’s social justice warriors, who are consuming our past heroes, will one day be consumed themselves by future revolutionaries. Future generations could look back at us and say things like:

“You had 4D sonograms documenting the humanity of the unborn and yet you allowed millions of abortions on demand?”

or

“Science has documented genuine differences between men and women, yet you allowed boys who claimed to be girls to compete and dominate in sports, winning valuable scholarships?”

Every generation has its flaws and blind spots. Our generation has yet to recognize its own.

Slavery was evil. Thank God for those strong Christians who defeated it. Thank God for William Wilberforce’s Christian anti-slavery crusade, which took him about five decades to complete. That crusade inspired abolition here in America. Interestingly, in his day, Wilberforce was sometimes called “the George Washington of Humanity.” Both men worked hard to liberate others.

Slavery has plagued humanity from the beginning of time and can even be found in some places today, places where the gospel of Christ has no sway.

Too bad the children of the French Revolution are rising up today to cut us off from our past heroes. There is a reason Washington continues to be a hero to millions. Enough with the historical revisionism.

###

Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written/co-written 31 books, e.g., The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, American Amnesia: Is American Paying the Price for Forgetting God?, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback)   djkm.org  @newcombejerry      www.jerrynewcombe.com

 

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