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04 July, 2013

Jefferson and Adams are Gone

"ADAMS and JEFFERSON, I have said, are no more. As human beings, indeed, they are no more. They are no more, as in 1776, bold and fearless advocates of independence; no more, as at subsequent periods, the head of the government; nor more, as we have recently seen them, aged and venerable objects of admiration and regard. They are no more. They are dead. But how little is there of the great and good which can die! To their country they yet live, and live for ever. They live in all that perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth; in the recorded proofs of their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep-engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of mankind. They live in their example; and they live, emphatically, and will live, in the influence which their lives and efforts, their principles and opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of men, not only in their own country but throughout the civilized world. 
A superior and commanding human intellect, a truly great man, when Heaven vouchsafes so rare a gift, is not a temporary flame, burning brightly for a while, and then giving place to returning darkness. It is rather a spark of fervent heat, as well as radiant light, with power to enkindle the common mass of human kind; so that when it glimmers in its own decay, and finally goes out in death, no night follows, but it leaves the world all light, all on fire from the potent contact of its own spirit. Bacon died; but the human understanding, roused by the touch of his miraculous wand to a perception of the true philosophy and the just mode of inquiring after truth, has kept on its course successfully and gloriously. Newton died; yet the courses of the spheres are still known, and they yet move on by the laws which he discovered, and in the orbits which he saw, and described for them, in the infinity of space.

No two men now live, fellow-citizen, perhaps it may be doubted whether any two men have ever lived in one age, who, more than those we now commemorate, have impressed on mankind their own opinions more deeply into the opinions of others, or given a more lasting direction to the current of human thought. Their work doth not perish with them. The tree which they assisted to plant will flourish, although they water it and protect it no longer; for it has struck its roots deep, it has sent them to the very centre; no storm, not of foce to burth the orb, can overturn it; its branches spread wide; they stretch their protecting arms braoder and broader, and its top is destined to reach the heavens.


We are not deceived. There is no delusion here. No age will come in which the American Revolution will appear less than it is, one of the greatest events in human history. No age will come in which it shall cease to be seen and felt, on either continent, that a mighty step, a great advance, not only in American affairs, but in human affairs, was made on the 4th of July, 1776. And no age will come, we trust, so ignorant or so unjust as not to see and acknowledge the efficient agency of those we now honor in producing that momentous event."


-Daniel Webster, "Adams and Jefferson," delivered on 2nd of August, 1826 at Faneuil Hall, in Boston, Massachusetts, the event being a commemoration of the lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who had died earlier that year within five hours of each other. Their last day in mortality was July 4th.  




Statue of John Adams in front of the Quincy city hall.
Image source. 
            Statue of Thomas Jefferson in the national Jefferson Memorial.
Image source.  

1 comment:

Greg R. Lawson said...

I commented below on Facebook yesterday,

"As we celebrate our 4th of July, we should reflect long and hard on our capacity to self-govern. It is difficult and for many, the urge to live free but without responsibility looms large. Sadly, for them (and all who care for real freedom) this is a contradiction that cannot stand, much like the Lincolnian House divided. America remains free but, absent a major renewal, it will not be for long. For as Benjamin Franklin said when asked what form of government we have, 'a republic if you can keep it.' Past generations manager to keep it. Ours may well be in danger of failing to do so. It is still a choice. America is great both because of its ideals and because of its uniquely blessed geography, but for all the margin for error that affords us, it is not infinite and my generation must take steps to replenish the promises of our Founding Fathers. Veneration of the past is not enough, action today must be taken last the Declaration made 237 years ago today could be an epitaph for our generation and its meaning understood conceptually, but unable to actually be imbibed."