From the discovery of the New World, the mercantile spirit has been rapidly gaining upon its old antagonist; and the establishment upon these shores of our Republic, whose union was the immediate result of commercial necessities, whose independence found its original impulse in commercial oppression, and of whose Constitution the regulation of commerce was the first leading idea, may be regarded as the epoch at which the martial spirit finally lost its supremacy, which, it is believed and trusted, it can never again acquire.
From the year 1789 to the year 1860 no nation has ever known a more unbounded prosperity, a fuller space of happiness. In the short space of seventy years, within the turn of a single life, the nation, poor, weak and despised, raised itself to the pinnacle of power and of glory.
I could not omit to urge on every man to remember that self-government politically can only be successful if it be accompanied by self-government personally; that there must be government somewhere; and that, if the people are indeed to be sovereigns, they must exercise their sovereignty over themselves individually, as well as over themselves in the aggregateregulating their own lives, resisting their own temptations, subduing their own passions, and voluntarily imposing upon themselves some measure of that restraint and discipline which, under other systems, is supplied from the armories of arbitrary powerthe discipline of virtue in the place of the discipline of slavery.
In what region of the earth ever so remote from us, in what corner of creation ever so far out of the range of our communication, does not some burden lightened, some bond loosened, some yoke lifted, some labor better remunerated, some new hope for despairing hearts, some new light or new liberty for the benighted or the oppressed, bear witness this day, and trace itself, directly or indirectly, back to the impulse given to the world by the successful establishment and operation of free institutions on this American continent?
Our country, whether bounded by the St. John and the Sabine, or however otherwise bounded or described, and be the measurements more or lessstill our country, to be cherished in all our hearts, to be defended by all our hands.
Without Virginia, as we must all acknowledgewithout her Patrick Henry among the people, her Lees and Jefferson in the forum, and her Washington in the fieldI will not say that the cause of American liberty and American independence must have been ultimately defeatedno, no, there was no ultimate defeat for that cause in the decrees of the Most High; but it must have been delayed, postponed, perplexed, and to many eyes and hearts rendered seemingly hopeless.