Item of the Day: Oration, In Honor of the Election of President Jefferson, and the peaceable Acquisition of Louisiana (1804)
Full Title: Oration, In Honor of the Election of President Jefferson, and The Peaceable Acquisition of Louisiana, Delivered at the National Festival, in Hartford, on the 11th of May, 1804 by Abraham Bishop. Printed for the General Committee of Republicans. From Sidney's Press, 1804.
We are not convened to do homage to a tyrant, nor to parade the virtues of a President and Senate for life, nor to bow before a First Consul, nor to bed the knee before a host of privileged orders; but we have assembled to pay our annual respects to a President, whom the voice of his country has called to the head of the freest and happiest nation on earth.
While Providence is giving to Britons a solemn commentary on the burning of our towns and the murder of our brethren, we are enjoying the fruits of a glorious defence against the passive obedience, which her insatiate court attempted to impose on us, as a punishment for the high misdemeanors of having descended from themselves, of having fought liberty of mind and conscience in this new world, and of having resolved to be free.
While France is learning, under awful impressions, the danger of delegating power without limit, and of trusting to ambition and the sword what ought to remain in the sacred deposit of peace and legislative counsel, the people of most of our States enjoy the full benefit of free elections, and derive from them all the blessings, which the best state of society admits.
While symptoms of death have seized on the governments of the eastern continent, and are hurrying them to that grave, which has buried all the ancient empires, we, are in youth, advancing to maturity rapidly, as a found constitution well guarded, and the best nourishment well administered can advance us.
The history of the world teaches that nations, like men, must decay. Ours will not forever escape the fate of others. Wealth, luxury, vice, aristocracies will attack us in our decline: these are evils of society, never to be courted, but to be put to as distant a day as possible. -- The season of national youth, of vigor, of pure principles and fair prospects is peculiarly a season of joy. -- We have lived at a period, more eventful than any which can recur. Having passed the dark season of our revolution, having witnessed the birth of our empire, having combated the tendency of an administration, which fought to rank us with nations, whose systems of eternal war and debt we abhorred, which publicly approved the doctrines of the old school, and in every measure founded our retreat to the runins of the old world, we have lived to see a real republic, combining all the blessings for which our fathers professed to embrace this country, and distressing none but the enemies of civil and religious liberty.
. . .
Uniform respect for the sovereign people and for peace has characterized our President: his ears have been open to the voice of the people, who called him to his high office, and he has waited till that voice was distinctly expressed. In the present case the southern people called loudly for the acquisition, republicans were united in sentiment, and federalists declared that Louisiana was worth the price of blood. -- To kings and the lovers of a President and Senate for life be it left to shed blood for territory; our President saw in amicable negociation a prospect of gaining the desired possession. -- He might have marshaled armies and bid defiance to the mighty power of France -- the blood of your sons and brothers might have flown like the waters of the Ohio and reddened the Mississippi, and this would have been the only export ever acquired -- the banks of that majestic river would have furnished another scene of whitened bones, and this would have been the only right of deposit ever secured! Louisiana would have remained the proud possession of France, and land of citadels, from which all the southern world would have been successfully annoyed. The wilderness, now blossoming as the rose, and filled with the shouts of republican husbandmen, would have been restored to beasts of prey. The rice of blood would indeed have been paid, but the object forever defeated!
. . .
To federalists this territory, for which they would have shed blood, now seems a barren waste, where no verdure quickens; but to us it appears fruitful, abounding in broad rivers and streams, producing whatever is necessary to our commerce with foreign nations. We see in Louisiana an assurance of long life to our cause. The Atlantic states, as they advance to that condition of society, where wealth and luxury tend to vice and aristocracies, will yield to that country accessions of enterprizing men. The spirit of faction, which tends to concentrate, will be destroyed by this diffusion. We see in this acquisition the enterprize, which it excites, the fraternity which it promises, an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, without fear of an alien act, destroying the germs of war and opening the spring of that century of seasons, which exhibits the whole western continent detached from the wars of the eastern, from its kings, its first consuls, and nobles, from vast plans of dominion by conquest, a country producing the best and making it the interest of all nations to trade with us, promising a rich addition of revenue to expedite a legal oblivion to a detested funding system.
. . .
We have before rejoiced that the aristocratic factions of our country were humbled -- that the energetic measures of the reign of terror were at an end, and that in the person of our first magistrate was expressed the public sentiment in favor of the principles of our revolution. While greater lamentation and woe have been heard among federalists than was founded in Ramah, because they had lost not only their first-born, but nearly the whole of their family, we have rejoiced in the constant increase of confidence in our administration, produced by a conviction of the integrity and utility of its measures. The people of other nations are born to see some hereditary potentate over them, scattering death and desolation, wasting their substance, dragging their children to the slaughter, and conducting as if they had been sent on earth merely to curse every portion of it, to which their power extended -- but we see at our head a man, whom the people have literally delighted to honor, whose life has been republican and whose services have been devoted to an experimental illustration of that political system which the philosophers of the east always considered visionary. He is demonstrating that a republican government is the strongest on earth and the will of the people, faithfully expressed, forms the most perfect system of laws and policy: A talk far more elevated than that of making marble pincushions.*
In the acquisition which we celebrate, he has exhibited the characteristic difference of system between the parties. Federalists would have shed blood for Louisiana, he preferred to purchase it from the right owners. They love the expensive and energetic measures of the old school, he prefers the pure, peaceful principles, the truth and value of which were sealed by the ceaseless labors and dangers of an army of freemen.
This acquisition did not rise as would a palace from the midst of ruins, but it arose naturally from a course of measures, having for their basis peace, economy, equal rights and honest friendship for all nations. Union in these sentiments has produced a festival from Orleans to New Hampshire, and it must add not a little to the occasion that this last state is substantially added to the republican force. Massachusetts and Connecticut are the solitary mourners over the remains of federalism.
*See Mr. Daggett's oration, where the republican system of Mr. Jefferson is represented to be as idle and visionary as would be an attempt to make pincushions from marble.