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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The American Revolution
By Edward Everett (1794–1865)
 
From the Lexington Oration, April 20, 1835

FELLOW-CITIZENS! The history of the Revolution is familiar to you. You are acquainted with it, in the general and in its details. You know it as a comprehensive whole, embracing within its grand outline the settlement and the colonization of the country,—the development, maturity, and rupture of the relations between Great Britain and America. You know it in the controversy carried on for nearly a hundred and fifty years between the representatives of the people and the officers of the crown. You know it in the characters of the great men who signalized themselves as the enlightened and fearless leaders of the righteous and patriotic cause. You know it in the thrilling incidents of the crisis, when the appeal was made to arms. You know it—you have studied it—you revere it, as a mighty epoch in human affairs; a great era in that order of Providence, which from the strange conflict of human passions and interests, and the various and wonderfully complicated agency of the institutions of men in society,—of individual character, of exploits, discoveries, commercial adventure, the discourses and writings of wise and eloquent men,—educes the progressive civilization of the race. Under these circumstances it is scarcely possible to approach the subject in any direction with a well-grounded hope of presenting it in new lights, or saying anything in which this intelligent and patriotic audience will not run before me, and anticipate the words before they drop from my lips. But it is a theme that can never tire nor wear out. God grant that the time may never come, when those who at periods however distant shall address you on the 19th of April, shall have anything wholly new to impart. Let the tale be repeated from father to son till all its thrilling incidents are as familiar as household words; and till the names of the brave men who reaped the bloody honors of the 19th of April, 1775, are as well known to us as the names of those who form the circle at our firesides…. In the lives of individuals there are moments which give a character to existence—moments too often through levity, indolence, or perversity, suffered to pass unimproved; but sometimes met with the fortitude, vigilance, and energy due to their momentous consequences. So, in the life of nations, there are all-important junctures when the fate of centuries is crowded into a narrow space,—suspended on the results of an hour. With the mass of statesmen, their character is faintly perceived, their consequences imperfectly apprehended, the certain sacrifices exaggerated, the future blessings dimly seen; and some timid and disastrous compromise, some faint-hearted temperament, is patched up, in the complacency of short-sighted wisdom. Such a crisis was the period which preceded the 19th of April. Such a compromise the British ministry proposed, courted, and would have accepted most thankfully; but not such was the patriotism nor the wisdom of those who guided the councils of America, and wrought out her independence. They knew that in the order of that Providence in which a thousand years are as one day, a day is sometimes as a thousand years. Such a day was at hand. They saw, they comprehended, they welcomed it; they knew it was an era. They met it with feelings like those of Luther when he denounced the sale of indulgences, and pointed his thunders at once—poor Augustine monk—against the civil and ecclesiastical power of the Church, the Quirinal and the Vatican. They courted the storm of war as Columbus courted the stormy billows of the glorious ocean, from whose giddy curling tops he seemed to look out, as from a watch-tower, to catch the first hazy wreath in the west which was to announce that a new world was found. The poor Augustine monk knew and was persuaded that the hour had come, and he was elected to control it, in which a mighty revolution was to be wrought in the Christian church. The poor Genoese pilot knew in his heart that he had as it were but to stretch out the wand of his courage and skill, and call up a new continent from the depths of the sea;—and Hancock and Adams, through the smoke and flames of the 19th of April, beheld the sun of their country’s independence arise, with healing in his wings.  1
  And you, brave and patriotic men, whose ashes are gathered in this humble place of deposit, no time shall rob you of the well-deserved meed of praise! You too perceived, not less clearly than the more illustrious patriots whose spirit you caught, that the decisive hour had come. You felt with them that it could not, must not be shunned. You had resolved it should not. Reasoning, remonstrance had been tried; from your own town-meetings, from the pulpit, from beneath the arches of Faneuil Hall, every note of argument, of appeal, of adjuration, had sounded to the foot of the throne, and in vain. The wheels of destiny rolled on; the great design of Providence must be fulfilled; the issue must be nobly met or basely shunned. Strange it seemed, inscrutable it was, that your remote and quiet village should be the chosen altar of the first great sacrifice. But so it was; the summons came and found you waiting; and here in the centre of your dwelling-places, within sight of the homes you were to enter no more, between the village church where your fathers worshiped and the grave-yard where they lay at rest, bravely and meekly, like Christian heroes, you sealed the cause with your blood. Parker, Munroe, Hadley, the Harringtons, Muzzy, Brown:—alas! ye cannot hear my words; no voice but that of the archangel shall penetrate your urns; but to the end of time your remembrance shall be preserved! To the end of time, the soil whereon ye fell is holy; and shall be trod with reverence, while America has a name among the nations!  2
 
 
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