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favorable impression if Washington had delivered it orally before Congress ?
What elements of persuasion, as distinguished from common sense and argument, do you find in this address ?
What reason is there for calling Washington “The Father of his Country”?
WEBSTER'S FIRST BUNKER HILL ADDRESS
June 17, 1825
THERE came to the United States of America in 1815 a remarkable period of peace and prosperity. The War for Independence had been carried to a successful conclusion and the thirteen original states under enlarged Federal authority had been drawn into a well-organized union. Minor difficulties with France or England had been removed through war or diplomacy. At this happy time, state after state was added to the Union. In territory, in population, in wealth, in education, unexampled progress was made. It was a period when undisturbed by rumors of war, for the anti-slavery contest had not yet become critical, Americans turned again at their leisure, as in the colonial days, to consider the fundamental principles of government and sought to shape anew their expanding political ideals.
It was fitting, therefore, that when a vast assemblage of Americans met at Bunker Hill on June 17, 1825, to lay the corner stone of a monument commemorating the heroic deeds of the men of 1776, that Daniel Webster, the orator of the day, should use the occasion to inspire his countrymen with the spirit of true patriotism. He reminded his hearers of the power of public opinion to make right supreme over might, and he urged them to emulate the example of their forefathers, that the young and growing nation—"the last hope of mankind "-might have a beneficent effect on the progress of the world.
This oration is the finest example of commemorative address, ancient or modern, that the world has seen. It was not a speech, that in a dramatic crisis moved men to perform an act or make a decision that would turn the course of history to a new direction; but not on that account should its influence be belittled. It helped to shape American ideals. It formulated and made dynamic the first fifty years of American history, and recorded for all time some of the dearly-purchased principles of democracy.
The occasion in itself was most impressive. It was a mild June morning. Rain the previous day had brought to trees and grass their brightest green. Overhead was a sky almost cloudless; and in the distance shimmered the blue harbor, the scene of the Boston Tea Party. The great audience was gathered on the very eminence where the Battle of Bunker Hill had been fought. At the left was marked the spot where Warren fell. On the platform beside Webster was Lafayette, most beloved among the distinguished foreigners who had come to America during the Revolution to serve in the cause of freedom. Nearby were forty survivors of the battle, some of them dressed in their old uniforms—men who were now aged and feeble.
When the orator arose to speak the vast assemblage was silent with reverent attention. Never was occasion more fit for a great commemorative address.
ORATION ON THE LAYING OF THE CORNERSTONE OF THE BUNKER HILL
THIS uncounted multitude before me and around me proves the feeling which the occasion has excited. These thousands of human faces, glowing with sympathy and joy, and from the impulses of a common gratitude turned reverently to heaven in this spacious temple of the firmament, proclaim that the day, the place, and the purpose of our assembling have made a deep impression on our hearts.
If, indeed, there be anything in local association fit to affect the mind of man, we need not strive to repress the emotions which agitate us here. We are among the sepulchres of our fathers. We are on ground, distinguished by their valor, their constancy, and the shedding of their blood. We are here, not to fix an uncertain date in our annals, nor draw into notice an obscure and unknown spot. If our humble purpose had never been conceived, if we ourselves had never been born, the 17th of June, 1775, would have been a day on which all subsequent history would have poured its light, and the eminence where we stand a point of attraction to the eyes of successive generations. But we are Americans. We live in what may be called the early age of this great
Continent; and we know that our posterity, through all time, are here to enjoy and suffer the allotments of humanity. We see before us a probable train of great events; we know that our own fortunes have been happily cast; and it is natural, therefore, that we should be moved by the contemplation of occurrences which have guided our destiny before many of us were born, and settled the condition in which we should pass that portion of our existence which God allows to men on earth.
We do not read even of the discovery of this continent, without feeling something of a personal interest in the event; without being reminded how much it has affected our own fortunes and our own existence. It would be still more unnatural for us, therefore, than for others, to contemplate with unaffected minds that interesting, I may say that most touching and pathetic scene, when the great discoverer of America stood on the deck of his shattered bark, the shades of night falling on the sea, yet no man sleeping; tossed on the billows of an unknown ocean, yet the stronger billows of alternate hope and despair tossing his own troubled thoughts; extending forward his harassed frame, straining westward his anxious and eager eyes, till Heaven at last granted him a moment of rapture and ecstacy, in blessing his vision with the sight of the unknown world.
Nearer to our times, more closely connected with our fates, and therefore still more interesting to our feelings and affections, is the settlement of our own country by colonists from England. We cherish every memorial of these worthy ancestors; we celebrate their patience and fortitude; we admire their daring enterprise; we teach our children to venerate their piety; and we are justly proud of being descended from men who have set the world an example of founding civil institutions on the great and united principles of human freedom and human knowledge. To us, their children, the story of their labors and sufferings can never be without its interest. We shall not stand unmoved on the shore of Plymouth, while the sea continues to wash it; nor will our brethren in another early and ancient colony forget the place of its first establishment, till their river shall cease to flow