Press enter after choosing selection

Jefferson's Legacy

Jefferson's Legacy image Jefferson's Legacy image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

The Hon. John DeWitt Warner, member of congress from the Murray Hill district of New York City, who includes among his constituents Grover Cleveland, Levi P. Morton, Whitelaw Reid, the Vanderbilts, Rockefellows and others, made the speech of the evening at the Jeffersonian banquet on Thursday evening last at the rink in this city. He spoke very forcibly and was interrupted withj frequent and great applause, being tendered an ovation on ending his brilliant remarks. His speech was as follows: "July 4th, 1776, thestreets about Independence Hall, at Philadelphia, were packed with an expectant throng. As they waited, there broke the silence a peal from the belfry announcing that a nation was born. The waiting couriers struck spurs into their horses; and from steeple to steeple the bells rang the glad tidings across the land in a billow of sound, which, as night came on, was caught and passed by the fires flashing from hilltop to hilltop, ing the same glad news. Within the hall were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the twin pillars of the temple of liberty, whose cornerstone had just been laid. To Adams, self-confident, sure that he knew what was best for Massachusetts and her sister commonwealths, exultant that what he had so long planned was now a reality, there came, as in prophetic dream, the ringing cheers, the glad bursts of festal music, the salvos of cannon and the gleam of jubilee fires that, through countles? years to come, should greet the recurring anniversary of the day. But to Jef-' ferson. whose winged words had just been adopted as the first expression of our national life, there came the solemn reaiization of the measureless responsibility that in the name of the people he had thus welcomed; and silent and thoughtful, he listened then in spirit, as throughout his life he continued to do, for the voice of the people, too often unheard by impetuous and partisan leaders; but which - to his ear, the voice of God - inspired him with prophetic fire. For fifty years stirring events crowded each other in the lives of these two compatriots. Adams, methodical and headstrong, an aristocrat born a commoner, rendered service in those times that tried men's souls, which is neither to be depreciated nor forgotten. Jefferson, with surer instinct, rivaling him in service to their common cause, opposing and thwarting his plans for development of our national life, a typical Democrat, though born in the purple, personified the aspirations of the American people. Together they wrought, co-operating by opposition as well as by haimony. As each reached the zenith of his powers, each learned the worth of the other; as together they walked toward the sunset, glowing with promise for the nation they loved, the two men, old friends in mutual patriotism, old opponents iu mutual rivalry, and now again reconciled to each other, approached the dark river together. The first rounded cycle of fifty years of American independence was drawing to its close. July 4th, 1826, was at hand. In their widely distant homes, each had long feit the death angel hovering about him; each was ready to depart and only asked that he might be spared to greet the glorious anniversary, and each, as it approached, thought of the other as the one best entitled to share it. As midnight arrived the roar of cannon announced the completion of fifty years of American freedom. x-s the sun rose through the length and breadth of the land a glad people broke into tumultuous jubilee. Before the day had closed, ready to depart in peace af ter so auspicious a fulfillment of the hopes on which they had staked their lives, their fortunes and their honor, they had left the earth together. Never in the history of man has been recorded such another coincidence of time and circumstance. The fiftieth anniversary of American independence had been marked, and pendence Day consecrated auevv, by the passing of Adams and Jefferson. It would be supcrfluous for me here to detail the services which Jeffersou had reudered to his country. A strong supporter of its cause throughout the revolution, our Minister to France, then Washington's Secretary of State, then Vice-President ucder Adams, and then swept into the presidential chair by a great tide of popular feeling, declining a third term and so sealing the prohibition which Washington had suggested - these would have assured his fame. In this, however, he but shares the tribute with which, in common with his great compeers, he has been dowered by a grateful people. And on that fourth day of July, 1826, there was probably no man alive to whom it occurred that, at the end of another fifty years, the name of Adams would have become a memory for the historian and student, the personality of Washington would have merged into that of a tutelar deity, reverenced rather than known, while that of Jefferson would have been shrined in the living heart and soul of the people, eyery year more adequately known, more dearly loved till the day of all days in the year on which the American people should gather together in celebration of what was immortal in itself should be the day we celébrate - the birthday of Thomas Jefferson. The reason for this is not far to seek. Like Washington and Adams, great was the work that he did in his lifetime. Unlike them, greater by far was the inspiration he left behindhim. Their work in a large sense was finished when they died. His, in a larger sense, was but commenced when he left the earth. Great as' were their services, with every passing year they became more of the past. Long as he has been removed from active share in the development of our country, his ideas are nevertheless an ever greater and greater part of its best life. With his great cotemporaries their careers were benefactions long since enjoyed. With Jefferson it is the richer legacy of inspiration that he left his party which keeps his memory so green today. It needs not that I should dweil upon its details here. On the one hand, no Democrat could be silent if given an opportunity to speak of the ever increasing debt which his party owes to its founder. But, on other, thcre comes to the mind and heart of tach before me more of vivid remembrance and warm appreciation than I can express. I well know your memory will supply what I shall leave unsaid; and it needs not my words to stir the hearts already warmed with the fire he kindled. And yet I cannot resist the temptation to touch, however inadequately, some of the chords to which, since he moved them, the great heart of the nation has ever found itself attuned, and thus note in my own way how surely, though his body rests at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson belongs to the present and the future rather than to the past; how essentially he is living and leading today even more vigorously than when he walked on earth. Take up one by one the great issues of today. The principies of religious freedom under which he procured the disestablishment of the Episcopal church in Virginia, and secured the recognition in our Constitution of the freedora of each to worship God as he pleased, have overthrown interference with conscience, not raerely by law, but by prejudice as well. His plan of education for the state in which he lived has not merely succeeded there, but has become the normal upon which within the last twenty years has been resettled the higher education of our people. Ideal political independence has never been more clearly asserted than by Thomas Jefferson, when he assumed the democratie party to be made up, not of those who embraced an opinión because it was that of their party, bilt who belonged to that party because it battled for their principies; and when for himself he asserted that he should never be dictated to by any party in a matter where he was capable of thinking for himself, and that, if his salvation depended upon his bending his convictions to party demands, he should remain unredeemed. His denunciation of chattel slavery, and his analysis of the necessary relations of free labor to a free state, unheeded when they were made, have since been vindicated, the one in the blood and ashes of the civil war, and the other in the fast developing policy of the democratie party against combinations of capital to enslave labor. During Jefferson's active life, great as were his talents and services, a contemporary might have hesiiated as between himself and Hamilton, or others of his 'great coadjutors or rivals. to award the preeminence. Many an exigency, as it then arose, was well met by ents which he neither suggested nor approved. But as the confusión of detail is cleared away, and we look back upon those days in the clearing light of history, we see that while he was sketching the grand lines of the completed edifice which should last for all time, they were adjusting the scaffolds by which one or another block should be laid in place. One need not deprecíate the importance of their work in order to appreciate his. The essential difference between them is that their task was done, during their lives; while Jefferson's work, on the other hand, was that of the architect who plans for centuries to come. The history of our national parties is typical of this distinction. The Federalist, Whig and Republican parties, not to speak of many another that in its time has done its part, have been, one after another, discarded by the people because their work was finished. The Democratie party, which Jefferson founded, has remained and must remain living and efficiënt throughout our national life; since to it is intrusted the essential plan of our political structure. Such are some of the ties that bind us to Thomas Jefferson, and that make his memory a living presence today. But it would be an error to consider this the legacy that he has left to us. We have inherited, not so much his name, as the battle in which he fought; and we meet tonight, not so much in commemoration of the services that he rendered the generation to which he belonged, or even of the far greater ones for which each succeeding generation. and most of all that in which we live, is indebted to him; but rather, having enlisted in the never ending battle, to consécrate ourselves to the cause of human liberty to which he was dedicated, and to pledge each other, and our fellow citizens of every party in the length and breadth of this land, that the fight which he began is still and ever to be continued whenever and wherever there shall be an opponent left on the field. Land monopoly must be stricken down; labor must be protected from the corporate Frankensteins into which capital has aggregated itself; education must be as free throughout the land as in your own favored state; party machinery must be so adj usted as to move obedient to the people's will; the Procrustean bed to which our currency system has been bound must be broken; commerce must be enfranchised, that America may become the world's mart, and taxation readjusted till it shall be contributed by wealth and no longer extorted from necessity. Every step must be forward - of greater opportunity for our people - more freedom wherewith to use it, fewer restrictions and stronger freemen. Not more government the motto That the waiting world shall bless, But a nobler generation That shall need and suffer less; More true men, and not more rulers, Shall ward off impending fate, And the harmony of freemen Prove the only lasting state. It was but a few years since that, as one looked over the American landscape, Democratie principies seemed as scattered and lifeless as did the dry bones in the valley of Jehosophat, and to the inquiry, "Can these bones live?", even the most hopeful among us could only answer, as did the prophet E ze kiel, "Oh, Lord God, thou knowest." But as the voice of Tilden roused them they gathered together; as the clarión of Cleveland summoned them the sinews and the flesh came upon them. And now as the Democratie ïosts, an irresistible army, stand marshaled for battle, the spirit of our founder inspires us with victory. The sunset was bright with the jromise of it; the sunrise will glow with the light of it. There is left or us only to say whether we will hare the glory of it. The birthright is ours. In the name of Jef:erson let us claim it.


Ann Arbor Argus
Old News