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to be proud of it that the great names of which they are the honored representatives are inscribed upon some of the most splendid pages of the New World's history, and will live forever in the grateful affection of the New World's heart. [Loud applause.)
WILLIAM H. SEWARD
A PIOUS PILGRIMAGE
(Speech of William H. Seward at a banquet held at Plymouth, Mass., December 21, 1855. Preceding this banquet Mr. Seward delivered an oration on “ The Pilgrims and Liberty.” The speech here given is his response to the toast proposed at the banquet, “ The Orator of the Day, eloquent in his tribute to the virtues of the Pilgrims; faithful, in his life, to the lessons they taught.”]
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:-The Puritans were Protestants, but they were not protestants against everybody and everything, right or wrong. They did not protest indiscriminately against everything they found in England. On the other hand, we have abundant indications in the works of genius and art which they left behind them that they had a reverence for all that is good and true; while they protested against everything that was false and vicious. They had a reverence for the good taste and the literature, science, eloquence, and poetry of England, and so I trust it is with their successors in this once bleak and inhospitable, but now rich and prosperous land. They could appreciate poetry, as well as good sense and good taste, and so I call to your recollection the language of a poet who had not loomed up at the time of the Puritans as he has since. It was addressed to his steed, after an ill-starred journey to Islingtontown. The poet said:
'Twas for your pleasure you came here,
Being a candid and frank man, as one ought to be who addresses the descendants of the Puritans, I may say that it was not at all for your pleasure that I came here. Though I may go back to gratify you, yet I came here for my own purposes. The time has passed away when I could make a distant journey from a mild climate to a cold though fair region, without inconvenience; but there was one wish, I might almost say there was only one wish of my heart that I was anxious should be gratified. I had been favored with many occasions to see the seats of empire in this western world, and had never omitted occasions to see where the seats of empire were planted, and how they prospered. I had visited the capital of my own and of many other American States. I had regarded with admiration the capital of this great Republic, in whose destinies, in common with you all, I feel an interest which can never die. I had seen the capitals of the British Empire, and of many foreign empires, and had endeavored to study for inyself the principles which have prevailed in the foundation of states and empires. With that view I had beheld a city standing where a migration from the Netherlands planted an empire on the bay of New York, at Manhattan, or perhaps more properly at Fort Orange. They sought to plant a commercial empire, and they did not fail; but in New York now, although they celebrate the memories and virtues of fatherland, there is no day dedicated to the colonization of New York by the original settlers, the immigrants from Holland. I have visited Wilmington, on Christina Creek, in Delaware, where a colony was planted by the Swedes, about the time of the settlement of Plymouth, and though the old church built by the colonists still stands there, I learned that there did not remain in the whole State a family capable of speaking the language, or conscious of bearing the name of one of the thirty-one original colonists.
I have stood on the spot where a treaty was made by William Penn with the aborigines of Pennsylvania, where a seat of empire was established by him, and, although the statue of the good man stands in public places, and his memory remains in the minds of men, yet there is no day set apart for the recollection of the time and occasion when civil and religious liberty were planted in that State. I went still farther south, and descending the James River, sought the first colony of Virginia at Jamestown. There remains nothing but the broken, ruined tower of a poor church built of brick, in which Pocahontas was married, and over the ruins of which the ivy now creeps. Not a human being, bond or
a free, is to be seen within a mile from the spot, nor a town or city as numerously populated as Plymouth, on the whole shores of the broad, beautiful, majestic river, between Richmond at the head, and Norfolk, where arms and the government have established fortifications. Nowhere else in America, then, was there left a remembrance by the descendants of the founders of colonies, of the virtues, the sufferings, the bravery, the fidelity to truth and freedom of their ancestors; and more painful still, nowhere in Europe can be found an acknowledgment or even a memory of these colonists. In Holland, in Spain, in Great Britain, in France, nowhere is there to be found any remembrance of the men they sent out to plant liberty on this continent. So on the way to the Mississippi, I saw where De Soto planted the standard of Spain, and, in imagination at least, I followed the march of Cortez in Mexico, and Pizarro in Peru; but their memory has gone out. Civil liberty perishes, and religious liberty was never known in South America; nor does Spain, any more than other lands, retain the memory of the apostles she sent out to convert the new world to a purer faith, and raise the hopes of mankind for the well-being of the future.
There was one only place, where a company of outcasts, men despised, contemned, reproached as malcontents and fanatics, had planted a colony, and that colony had grown and flourished; and there had never been a day since it was planted that the very town, and shore, and coast, where it was planted had not grown and spread in population, wealth, prosperity, and happiness, richer and stronger continually. It had not only grown and flourished like a vigorous tree, rejoicing in its own strength, but had sent out offshoots in all directions. Everywhere the descendants of these colonists were found engaged in the struggles for civil and religious liberty, and the rights of man.
I had found them by my side, the champions of humanity, upon whose stalwart arms I might safely rely.
I came here, then, because the occasion offered, and if I pretermitted this, it might be the last, and I was unwilling that any friend or any child, who might lean upon me, who reckoned upon my counsel or advice, should know that I had been such a truant to the cause of religious liberty and humanity, as never to have seen the Rock of Plymouth.
My mission being now accomplished, having shed tears in the first church of the Puritans, when the heartfelt benediction was pronounced over my unworthy head by that venerable pastor, I have only to ask that I be dismissed from further service with your kind wishes. I will hold the occasion ever dear to my remembrance, for it is here I have found the solution of the great political problem. Like Archimedes, I have found the fulcrum by whose aid I may move the world--the moral world and that fulcrum is Plymouth Rock.