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tude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this
way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that syren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided ; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the
past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received ?
Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love ? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial
array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission! Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains, which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we any thing new to offer upon the subject ? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find, which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you,
, sir, deceive ourselves longer. Sir, we have done every thing that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of
peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending—if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon, until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained—we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope
with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot ? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for
The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable—and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace-but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale, that sweeps from the north, will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have ? dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
Is life so
SPEECH OF WILLIAM LIVINGSTON,
GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
TO THE LEGISLATURE OF THAT STATE, IN THE YEAR 1777.
GENTLEMEN, , Having, already, laid before the assembly, by messages, the several matters that have occurred to me, as more particularly demanding their attention, during the present session, it may seem less necessary to address you in the more ceremonious form of a speech. But, conceiving it my duty to the state, to deliver my sentiments on the present situation of affairs, and the eventful contest between Great Britain and America, which could not, with any propriety, be conveyed in occasional messages, you will excuse my giving you the trouble of attending for that purpose.
After deploring with you the desolation spread through this state, by an unrelenting enemy who have, indeed, marked their progress with a devastation unknown to civilized nations, and evincive of the most implacable vengeance, I heartily congratulate you upon that subsequent series of success, wherewith it hath pleased the Almighty to crown the American arms; and particularly on the important enterprize against the enemy' at Trenton and the signal victory obtained over them at Princeton, by the gallant troops under the command of his excellency general Washington. Considering the contemptible figure they make at present, and the disgust they have given to many of their own confederates amongst us, by their more than Gothic ravages, (for thus doth the great Disposer of events often deduce good out of evil,) their irruption into our dominion will probably redound to the public benefit. It has certainly enabled us the more effectually to distinguish our friends from our enemies. It has winnowed the chaff from the grain. It has discriminated the temporizing politician, who, at the first appearance of danger, was determined to secure his idol, property, at the hazard of the general weal, from the persevering patriot, who, having embarked his all in the common cause, chooses rather to risk, rather to lose that all, for the preservation of the more estimable treasure, liberty, than to possess it, (enjoy it he certainly could not,) upon the ignominious terms of tamely resigning his country and posterity to perpetual servitude. It has, in a word, opened the eyes of those who were made to believe, that their impious merit, in abetting our persecutors, would exempt them from being involved in the general calamity. But as the rapacity of the enemy was boundless, their havoc was indiscriminate, and their barbarity unparalleled. They have plundered friends and foes. Effects, capable of division, they have divided. Such as were not, they have destroyed. They have warred upon decrepit age; warred upon defenceless youth. They have committed hostilities against the professors of literature, and the ministers of religion; against public records, and private monuments, and books of improvement, and papers of curiosity, and against the arts and sciences. They have butchered the wounded, asking for quarter; mangled the dying, weltering in their blood; refused to the dead the rites of sepulture; suffered prisoners to perish for want of sustenance; violated the chastity of women ; disfigured private dwellings of taste and elegance; and, in the rage of impiety and barbarism, profaned and prostrated edifices dedicated to Almighty God.