JULY 4, 1876
Address by Hon. David Overmyer
"Breaths there a man with soul so dead
That never to himself has said
This is my own my native Land"
As one who has journied for many days through field and wood-land, marsh and fen, and
dismal desert waste, well up the mountain until his feet secure and firm rest on some proud expansive table land, and he breathes the
higher air and inhales the higher life of his greater altitude; looks back and with pensive gratitude gazes and gazes, through the
perious mazes of his march; then casts his eyes upon the cloud crowned peaks before him--So we in this Centenial of the Nations birth
would fain with fancy's fragile pace retrace the thorny paths our fathers trod.
Behold their sufferings, trials and defeats, their lofty courage, their exhaulted patriotism and their final
triumph, and feel ourselves the mighty triumph of their lives; and having studied well the meaning of their ways, their bloody days of
famine, death and shame, return to duty's post and by the quickened light of conscience thus awakened, percieve the course which destiny
decrees, which right approves and justice sanctions; and seeing dare like men and patriots to battle, despite the malefactor and the
knave, come to us, let him in what form he may.
On this proud great day, we sit at the feet of Clio, the muse of history, and listen to the wonderous, wonderous
story she tells. Wherefore lift up your eyes, ye children of free America, and you, all ye children of men, and behold the mighty
achievements of a century, while march in grand procession the vast events of an age. The history of the world furnishes no parallel to
the growth and development of the United States in population, in wealth, in law and art; in science and literature, in civilization.
One hundred years ago to this day, the Declaration of Independence, was promulgated at Philidelphia. Its intrepid
framers taking their lives in their hands; taking the risk of execution, attainder, and offically declaired infamy, when they signed their
ever memorable names to that brave, enduring proclamation of natural rights.
What wonder that the people welcomed it with booming cannon and wildest demonstrations of delight? what wonder that
the old sexton of the Continental Congress rang the great bell until the voice of liberty, seeking the "vast and wandering air," went out
with unfettered power, and bounding and vaulting, sped on, and on, over the whole land, and round and round the world.
What wonder that that old bell, the rifted relic, the stricken memento of freedoms greatest day, preserved through
the Century that has flown with more than filial tenderness, remains in that city whence its eloguent tongue proclaimed liberty to an
awakening world; the observed of all observers, revered by the loving children of freedom everywhere, its "wounded side" with mute, solemn
resistless eloquence speaking to the generations through the ages.
The first century has passed away, and with it those nobel spirits who watched by the cradle of liberty and nurtured
the embryo of human destiny when black faced tyrany and fowl oppresion sought to destroy it ere it quickened, and though their proud hearts
beat proud no more, and their faces are no more seen among men, their names are graven on the tablets of immortal glory; their mighty shadows
tower colossal on the canvass of history; their voices, weird but all-enchanting, are echoing down the aisles of time to their beloved
One hundred years ago, three millions of souls inhabited the Atlantic coast of North America, under the domenion of
Great Britain. They were divided into separtate colonies, and had no general government save the mother country. They were a simple, frugal
honest people, with no ambition save that of self-respect. They had never denied the authority of the crown had complied with all reasonable
demands, and in return for their fidelity, were treated like surfs and slaves.
Luxury and great wealth were unknown them, privation and poverty were the handmaids of economy and virtue. Science
had a few brave votaries; art was in its infancy, and literature had not yet begun its facile but powerful career. Without an organized
political existence, the colonists were without a name among the nations of the earth. Bordered by vast forests occupied by their primeval
inhabitants, environed by sinister shapes and awful adversaries before them to the right and left, were the howling wilderness and the
implacable. relentless, beleagured savage; behind them were the proud oppressor and the sea, while opposed to them were the organized public
sentiment, the controlling influence of the civilized world rock-rooted and ancient almost as the earth itself. Lowering and ominous clouds
o'rehung the land, the thunder of war was already heard in the sky. Lexington and Bunker Hill were rocking and smoking with the warm, wet
blood of fallen patriots; and along the horizen was seen the gathering storm, that ere long should hurl the lightening and hurricane of
enraged power upon the last refuge of liberty, the last ark of the covenant of human destiny.
Such was the condition when the Continental Congress published to the World--"That all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the persuit of happiness,--that
to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the goverened; that whenever
any form of government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute a new government,
laying its foundation on such principles and orgainizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and
happiness. And upon the event of the great issue, they pledged THEIR LIVES, THEIR FORTUNES AND THEIR SACRED HONOR.
Long, fierce and bloody was the struggle that ensued. "Long time in even scale the battle hung," until the lapse of
sanguinary years proved to a watching world that sword and faggot, fire and famine, desolation and death, were utterly powerless to prevail
against the grim fortitude, the uncomplaining solid faith, born of the spirit of liberty.
Peace came, but after the first burst of exhultation, it was so like the peace of death, that anxiety, doubt and
dispair took the place of rejoicing. The young men were slain in battle or had perished from disease and privation, and the old men were
bowed down in sorrow and in gloom. Brave and true hearts were broken, and once happy homes were in mourning. Gaunt famine and dire distress
hovered like evil spirits over the entire land.
The Colonial commerce was driven from the seas. Their was no currency in the country, save the declining obligations
of Congress and the Colonies. There was no government strong enough to sustain a National existance.
In 1776 the Continental Congress was a body without power, save such as the states were willing to recognize. It
was in the beginning little else than a convention or advisory council to suggest and recommend measures for the common good. The
exigencies of the times compelled this Congress to assume and exercise many powers of sovereignty; but long before the close of the
war, the states almost without exception, ignored acts and treated its recommendations with contempt.
Finally to obviate these difficulties and have something of a central government the articles of confederation were
formed but proved so lame, so weak and ineffectual, that the states which remained sovereign continued to treat the congress with contempt,
till it became apparent to all that in the quaint phrase of the day, the Confederation was "a mere rope of sand." In the light of experience,
it seems almost incredible that the name "Confederation", should have been adopted as the designation of a Union, suggestive as it is of
Meanwhile the public creditors remained unpaid. Among them were the officer and soldiers of the revolution, the
greater part of whom had lost their property by their long absence in the field, and by the incursions and spoilations of the enemy and were
now without means and unpaid by the country upon whose alter they had sacrificed all, and in rags and want they were plunged into the deepest
The country was greatly in debt, from debt contracted both by Congress and the states. No relief could be expected
except through the efforts of a central government. The Congress had no power to pay its dishonored obligation, for under Confederation,
Congress had no power of taxation, that power had been preserved to the states.
The people having throw off the yoke of a tyranical monarch, were morbidly and unreasonably jealous of every appearance
of governmental power or National control, looking with great distrust even upon the powerless articles of confederation.
The paper currency which had been issued as a military necessity during the war as time relied on and the day of
redemption Redemption if you please was prolonged and the prospect of payment became more and more uncertain, finally became destitute of
value and ceased to circulate altogether. And this to, in the face of the fact, that it was by law a legal tender, and severe penalties
were inflicted for refusing to take it. The credit of the country had thus descended and descended until it had reached the bottom of its
downward course and could descend no more.
Confidence was banished and the hour had come who tremendous darkness was fraught with greater perils to the future
than the violent sulphurous day of battle.
But the fathers were wise and just, as they were high and brave. Looking back over the flaming fields of the revolution
strewn with the wrecks of the conflict and a wide waste of human slaughter, looking at the stricken land, desolated by the ravages of war; they
resolved that the supreme sacrifice would not be in vain; that they would never cease from their efforts, nor rest in their graves, until they
had laid the foundation of a nation, united, powerful and prosperous as it was independent and free.
In 1787 eleven years after the Declaration of Independence, the convention which framed the constitution of the
United States assembled at Philidelphia and selected as its presiding officer that peerless patriot, sage and soldier, George Washington. There
in the name of "THE PEOPLE OF THE UNTIED STATES", in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide
for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, to themselves and their posterity, they did ordain and
establish the constitution of the United States of America. Instead of a Confederation, which had no executive or administrative department, and
whose judicial power, related only to arbitration between the states, and courts of maratime jurisdiction, the convention provided for a government
with all the departments necessary to the full exercise of all power that was then or might thereafter be delegated from the people; a government
clothed in the habilments of sovereignty; and that there might be no missunderstanding the fact, that this government was sovereign and henceforth
the states were to be regarded as local divisions of one Common Country, it was declared in the constitution that this constitution and the laws
of the United States which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, SHALL BE THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, and the judges in every
state, SHALL BE BOUND THEREBY, anything in the constitution or laws of ANY STATE TO THE CONTRARY NOT WITHSTANDING. The constitution required to
be ratified by nine of the original thirteen states before it could go in force. Something over a year elapsed before the required number ratified
but finally all gave their consent, and came into the Union, North Carolina and Rhode Island being the last. Thus from the bushes of the revolution
sprung the tree of liberty whose broad branches have grown and flourished until they reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Gulf of
Mexico and the Rio Grande, to be boundries of British America, furnishing shelter and protection to the people of every land who have flocked hither
from every shore, till they and their descendents joining the anthem of the children of Sires of the Century passed. Forty millions of tongues send
forth joyous songs of praise and grateful tribute to the silent generation of 1776.
The decades in the convention were characterized by the highest order of ability by deep research and profound learning and
I hesitate not to assert that the recognized leaders of the revolutionary period understood more concerning those fundamental principles which be at
the foundation of civil society, knew more of the science of government, and at the same time were activated by purer, more unselfish and disinterested
motives than any generation of statesmen that ever lived in any age or in any country.
Fierce and boistrous was the discussion in many state legislatures upon the adoption of the Constitution. In the Virginia
assembly. In the Virginia assembly, Patrick Henry resisted some of its provisions with a power, second only to that which he put forth in behalf of
the revolutionary war, when his great eloquence and dauntless courage filled England with apprehension, and roused the American people to a perfect
frenzy of patriotism. He was opposed by Edmond Randolph, the greatest lawyer of his day, whose profound reasoning and powerful logic prevailed over
the eloguence of Henry. As the reasoning and logic of Daniel Webster afterwards annihilated the elegant sophistry of Hayne, of the reasoning and logic
in favor of a central government over the states have ever been borne down with resistless power, all the cunning and destructive arguments in favor
of disintegration. Patrick Henry was far to wise not to see that the constitution once established forever terminated the sovereignty of the states,
and though he had been its strongest opponent, when after its adoption, there were rumors of a revolt, he declared to the discontented that they had
by adopting the constitution, taken upon them a law which was above all other law and to which obedience must be secured at all hazard and at every
Well did the patient patriots of the Revolution see the dangers that beset the pathway of the young Nation. They beheld
looming up in the distance the black repulsive form of human slavery, poisening all the air with its foul and horid breath, and with the giant strength
of infuriated diabolism striking terriffic blows at each fair thought and every lovely nobel priciple that they had nutured and cherished through the
storm of war. They saw this grim monster calling to her side that other daughter of darkness, that other mistress of destruction, that other mother
of the festering mildew, the corroding canker, and the withering blight; the accrused, ecerable, abominable and dambnable doctrine of state sovereignty.
They from their horid hair shook pestilence and war, and laughed to lap the courtry's sweetest blood, first having rent in twain the constitution.
So keenly did our fathers feel with prophet prescience, the dangerous and deadly influence of slavery, that even before the formation of the
constitution, which certain states ceded to the union the northwest territory, extending from the Mississippii eastward to the states, and from the
Ohio northward, congress ordained that this vast domain should be forever free, and that slavery should never exist in any state that might be formed
out of the soil of this free and noble realm.
Thus was freedom assured in that wide home of honest labor, whence sprung the stout mechanic and the hardy farmer who hearing
the agonizing shrieks of insulted and wounded liberty, flew to arms and purged the land of treason and slavery with a hurricanne of fire. For this
great measure in importance second only to the constitution itself posterity is indebted chiefly to Thomas Jefferson the originator of the decimal
currency and the mother of the decalartion of independence, long live his great illustrious name! Blessed ever Blessed be his immortal memory.
When we contemplate this great law we wonder why the constitution did not prohibit slavery, as the convention which framed
it was in session at the same time as the congress which passed the ordinance. But it was impossible at that time, no union under the constitution
could be effected without some concession to slavery, and the constitution indirectly recognized its legality by binding congress not to interfere
with the slave trade prior to 1828. This recognition of slavery was absolutely necessary in the formation of the union and the adoption of the
constitution by the requisite number of the states; it was a condition precedency to the existance of the nation; the birth mark upon the
Fate, wise, beneficent Fate decreed that the deep stain of slavery should be washed out in blood, that the shock of the
conflict should shake the continent from ocean to ocean, and send the tremor of death on the undulating wave far over the sea; that the love of
liberty expanded and deepened by the exercise of passion, and the instinct of freedom burned and seared into the human heart by the red flame of
war, might survive the cupidity of prosperity, the degeneracy of wealth, the sloth of security, and swelling the heart of the higher civilization
with the impulses of justice and benevolence, send blessings untold, showering down to the latest generations of men.
When the constitution was established, our fathers, true to themselves and the great destiny committed to their care,
chose as the first President of the Republic, him to whom is ascibed the honor "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his
countrymen;" whose unfading glory with each returning year; whose fame, as enduring as the everlasting mountains, as imperishable as the perpetual
sea, shall survive the mutations of men and nations, the razure of oblivion and the decay of time, and remain the adoration of mankind through
the countless ages yet to come.
In the year 1790 Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, the greatest financier of his time, whose genius
has shed the rays of its transcedent splendor upon the Constitution of this country, whose image is the central figure in that bright consetllation
of defenders and promulators of the Federal idea, whose bright grasping, penetrating mind pierced through and through the heresy of puny provencial
sovereignty; in the year 1790, this great patriot presented his plan for payment of the National debt, including the debts of the several states
incurred in the war for independence. Then as now there were not wanting creakers and malcontents who hated the cause for which the debt was made,
declared it should never be paid, and fondly hoped that it never would be paid, in order that the cause would stand disgraced in history.
But though the debt was far heavier on the wealth and population then in the country than our debt now is, be it said to
the white integrity, the spotless honor the United States of America, it was paid, paid the last farthing of it paid; not in the broken and
dishonored promise of the Continental Congress, but in the bright and glittering coin, whose firm and unyeiding worth can alone comport with the
majestic dignity of a free people.
One hundred years ago, no steam boat, steam ship or steam engine; no railroad and no telegraph were in the land; yea not
in the earth. Now the rivers and the oceans are covered by commerce propelled by steam; the entire continent is bound together by mighty bands
of steel, whose firm cohesion supplementing nature, and the nobelest people beneath the sun assure the stability and perpetuity of the Union.
And now the creations of the human mind borne upon the wings of the lightening fly to the uttermost parts of the earth. From continent to
continent, from shore to shore, fleet messages come fleeting through the sea and lay at our feet the records of the deeds of time as he speeds
upon his unwearied way. No pen can fitly capture, no tongue describe the marvelous career of the United States within the first century of
independence. During one-sixth of the time engaged in war, the Republic is a total stranger to defeat, and her proud banner borne by her
invincible sons, has waved for a hundred years with unsullied honor o'er land and sea. The bones of her heroic deat are strewn over the entire
Continent, on the shores of the Mediterranean, and in Asia's ancient land, and where the coral builds its home beneath the surging billows of the
main. Meanwhile the nation has prospered, the arts of peace have florished, and useful inventions have multiplied, and useful inventions have
multiplied until it would seem that the cunning of man could scarce concieve a new or undiscovered thing.
Under the benign influence of free institutions, the human mind emancipated from the thralls which in other lands enchain
it, emancipated from the censorship of government; from the still greater tyrany of imperious and Ancient customs and from the vampire clutch of
superstition, has mounted upon swift pinions, and traversed the boundless realms of thought. The fields of spectulative philosophy, the vast
empire of science it has explored. and with a candor and courage unexampled in the annals of time, it has laid-hold upon the laws of the Universe,
and tracing truth to its vast origins, has secularized religion, silenced the voice of dogmatic theology and subdued the elements, chaining its
captives to the car of life, and making their power subsidiary to man.
It has filled the world with amazement with its wonderful and multi-form works of art, rivaling in the diversity and
splendor of its achievements the fairy visions of Utopian dreams. It has taught the world lessons of wisdom in government concerning the rights
of man, which, though heard with scowls and angry mutterings, yet the nations have been compelled to learn and practice. It has given the world
culture original and brilliant with the breadth of justice the height of benevolence and the debth of humanity to man. It has established public
instruction bringing learning and culture to the home of poverty and sorrow purifying the hearts and brightening the intellects of the children
of all the people, and moulding a national character, which for originality, individuality, courage and worth surpasses the proudest product of
the subsequent period of earth.
Moreover America has shown her good will to man, by saying to her ancient enemy Great Britian, "Let us settle our disputes
in peace." and has softened the heart of the unconquerable savage by words and deeds of justice and paternal kindness. Columbia today sitting in
peace on her own proud shore, invites all nations in her one hundreth year and says to the eldest and greatest, "Bring hither all your works of
genius and of art; bring hither all your fruit of brain and time and toil and I will do the like, the great spirit of justice which sits enthroned
in the hearts of honor and manhood judge the greatest of us all and say if a nation ever found a better home than where she sits in glory and in
pride beneath the stary banner of the free.
When we contemplate in panoramic view the myriads of momentous deeds which deck like stars our country's record thru the
century past, we stand mute and solemn, wrapped in admiration and wonder, dazed by the sublime spectacle until the heart filled with gratitude
and thrilled to wild utterances, lifts up the voice in praise and thanksgiving to the Father of light, the giver of every good and perfect gift.
The history of the United States teaches lessons so grave and so instructive, that it were worse than madness to pass them
by unheaded. It teaches that while before the law all men are equal, the right of man to exercise the equal rights, thus given by the law, must
never be denied by any man; that justice and humanity will raise against us their accusing voices in high arraignment, until the law is made a
living truth, until the fierce intollerand prejudice of former caste shall be utterly eradicated, till every living soul under the dome of the
union sky is free as every other soul to do the bidding of its own intent, alone, unfettered, undismayed, uninjured, and secure, restrained by
the boundaries of the law alone. It teaches that honesty is the best policy in the affairs of nations as in the affairs of men, that the cannon's
mouth is cold, and peace reigns silent as a summer sea, yet circulating in the reins is the dull blast which time and rest will fill with germs
of war; and even though war should never come again, the great Republic cannot deny its words, violate its plighted honor and abase its great worth.
When its children ask for bread, it cannot safely give them a stone; when they ask for fish, it cannot with safety give them a serpent; when they
ask for promised gold, it cannot safely give them rags. When they ask for capital shall the Republic with comunistic, blind, destructive fury send
capital, that timid oldmaid of civilization, appalled to her secret chamber, there to remain till better days. More just and more enlightened men
shall say "Come forth and do the work of commerce and of trade while we protect you." When her children ask the republic for prosperity, shall
she slay confidence the mother of prosperity? No!No! The honor of the United States must be maintained not only for the sake of honor, which is
enough; not only for the sake of honor, without which there is no guarantee of future credit and hence no assurance of future safety--but also
because nature has so ordered it that in pursuing the path of honor alone we shall find prosperity and future happiness.
The history of the United States teaches us that we are a NATION, and not a mere league, compact or treaty between nations,
that unity is perpietuity and that disolvability is death. It teaches it in every line of the constitution, in every fact of its formation and
the abrogation of the confederation which was a league. It teaches it by the supremacy given in express terms to the Federal Government over the
nation by the admission into the union of twenty-seven of thrity-four states upon the terms prescribed by Congress. It teaches it by its record
of the sacrifices of millions of lives and billions of treasure in defense of the National existance and by the demonstrated truth of experience
that the doctrine of State sovereignty is eternal war with the life of the nation. The conflict between this heresy and the Federal ideal exists
in the very nature of things.
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