Secretary of State John Quincy Adams delivers a requested address on Independence Day.
She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama, the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
delivered at the request of
a committee of the citizens of
The City of Washington
on the occasion of reading
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Fourth of July, 1821.
UNTIL within a few days preceding that which we have again assembled to commemorate our fathers, the people of this union had constituted a portion of the British nation; a nation renowned in arts and arms, who, from a small island in the Atlantic ocean, had extended their dominion over considerable parts of every quarter of the globe. Governed themselves by a race of kings, whose title to sovereignty had originally been founded in conquest, spell-bound for a succession of ages under that portentous system of despotism and of superstition which, in the name of the meek and humble Jesus, had been spread over the Christian world, the history of this nation had, for a period of seven hundred years, from the days of the conquest till our own, exhibited a conflict almost continual, between the oppressions of power and the claims of right. In the theories of the crown and the mitre, man had no rights. Neither the body nor the soul of the individual was his own. From the impenetrable gloom of this intellectual darkness, and the deep degradation of this servitude, the British nation had partially emerged, The martyrs of religious freedom had consumed to ashes at the stake: the champions of temporal liberty had bowed their heads upon the scaffold; and the spirits of many a bloody day had left their earthly vesture upon the field of battle, and soared to plead the cause of liberty before the throne of Heaven. The people of Britain, through long ages of civil war, had extorted from their tyrants, not acknowledgments, but grants of right. With this concession they had been content to slop in the progress of human improvement. They received their freedom as a donation from their sovereigns; they appealed for their privileges to a sign manual and a seal; they held their title to liberty, like their title to lands, from the bounty of a man; and in their moral and political chronology, the great charter of Runnimead was the beginning of the world.