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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 New-Englander’s Character
By Rufus Choate (1799–1859)
From Address Delivered at the Ipswich Centennial, 1834

I HOLD it to have been a great thing, in the first place, that we had among us, at that awful moment when the public mind was meditating the question of submission to the tea tax, or resistance by arms, and at the more awful moment of the first appeal to arms,—that we had some among us who personally knew what war was. Washington, Putnam, Stark, Gates, Prescott, Montgomery, were soldiers already. So were hundreds of others of humbler rank, but not yet forgotten by the people whom they helped to save, who mustered to the camp of our first Revolutionary armies. These all had tasted a soldier’s life. They had seen fire, they had felt the thrilling sensations, the quickened flow of blood to and from the heart, the mingled apprehension and hope, the hot haste, the burning thirst, the feverish rapture of battle, which he who has not felt is unconscious of one-half of the capacities and energies of his nature; which he who has felt, I am told, never forgets. They had slept in the woods on the withered leaves or the snow, and awoke to breakfast upon birch-bark and the tender tops of willow-trees. They had kept guard on the outposts on many a stormy night, knowing perfectly that the thicket half a pistol-shot off was full of French and Indian riflemen.  1
  I say it was something that we had such men among us. They helped discipline our raw first levies. They knew what an army is, and what it needs, and how to provide for it. They could take that young volunteer of sixteen by the hand, sent by an Ipswich mother, who after looking upon her son equipped for battle from which he might not return, Spartan-like, bid him go and behave like a man—and many, many such shouldered a musket for Lexington and Bunker Hill—and assure him from their own personal knowledge that after the first fire he never would know fear again, even that of the last onset. But the long and peculiar wars of New England had done more than to furnish a few such officers and soldiers as these. They had formed that public sentiment upon the subject of war which re-united all the armies, fought all the battles, and won all the glory of the Revolution. The truth is that war in some form or another had been, from the first, one of the usages, one of the habits, of colonial life. It had been felt from the first to be just as necessary as planting or reaping—to be as likely to break out every day and every night as a thunder-shower in summer, and to break out as suddenly. There have been nations who boasted that their rivers or mountains never saw the smoke of an enemy’s camp. Here the war-whoop awoke the sleep of the cradle; it startled the dying man on his pillow; it summoned young and old from the meeting-house, from the burial, and from the bridal ceremony, to the strife of death. The consequence was that the steady, composed, and reflecting courage which belongs to all the English race grew into a leading characteristic of New England; and a public sentiment was formed, pervading young and old and both sexes, which declared it lawful, necessary, and honorable to risk life and to shed blood for a great cause,—for our family, for our fires, for our God, for our country, for our religion. In such a cause it declared that the voice of God himself commanded to the field. The courage of New England was the “courage of conscience.” It did not rise to that insane and awful passion, the love of war for itself. It would not have hurried her sons to the Nile, or the foot of the Pyramids, or across the great raging sea of snows which rolled from Smolensko to Moscow, to set the stars of glory upon the glowing brow of ambition. But it was a courage which at Lexington, at Bunker Hill, at Bennington, and at Saratoga, had power to brace the spirit for the patriot’s fight, and gloriously roll back the tide of menaced war from their homes, the soil of their birth, the graves of their fathers, and the everlasting hills of their freedom.  2

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