Two difficult and important duties are assigned to man, and may constitute his true glory: to support misfortune and resign himself to it with firmness; to believe in goodness and trust himself to it with unbroken confidence. There is a spectacle not less noble or less improving, than that of a virtuous man struggling with adversity; it is that of a virtuous man at the head of a good cause, and giving assurance of its triumph. If there were ever a just cause, and one which deserved success, it was that of the English colonies in their struggle to become the United States of America. In their case, open insurrection had been preceded by resistance. This resistance was founded upon historical right and upon facts, upon natural right and upon opinions. It is the honorable distinction of England to have given to her colonies, in their infancy, the seminal principle of their liberty. Almost all of them, either at the time of their being planted or shortly after, received charters which conferred upon the colonists the rights of the mother country. And these charters were not a mere deceptive form, a dead letter, for they either established or recognized those powerful institutions, which impelled the colonists to defend their liberties and to control power by dividing it; such as the laying of taxes by vote, the election of the principal public bodies, trial by jury, and the right to meet and deliberate upon affairs of general interest. Thus the history of these colonies is nothing else than the practical and sedulous development of the spirit of liberty, expanding under the protecting influence of the laws and traditions of the country. Such, indeed, was the history of England itself. A Still more striking resemblance is presented in the fact, that the colonies of America, at least the greater part of them and the most considerable among them, either were founded, or received their principal increase, precisely at the period when England was preparing to sustain, or was already sustaining, those bold conflicts against the claims of absolute power, which were to confer upon her the honorable distinction of giving to the world the first example of a great nation, free and well governed. From 1578 to 1704, under Elizabeth, James the First, Charles the First, the Long Parliament, Cromwell, Charles the Second, James the Second, William the Third, and Queen Anne, the charters of Virginia, of Massachusetts, of Maryland, of Carolina, and of New York, were, one after another, recognized, contested, restrained, enlarged, lost, regained; incessantly exposed to those struggles and those vicissitudes, which are the condition, indeed the very essence, of liberty; for it is victory, and not peace, that free communities can lay claim to. At the same time with their legal rights, the colonists had also religious faith. It was not only as Englishmen, but as Christians, that they wished to be free; and their faith was more dear to them than their charters. Indeed, these charters were, in their eyes, nothing more than a manifestation and an image, however imperfect, of the great law of God, the Gospel. Their rights would not have been lost, even had they been deprived of their charters. In their enthusiastic state of mind, supported by divine favor, they would have traced these rights to a source superior and inaccessible to all human power; for they cherished sentiments more elevated than even the institutions themselves, over which they were so sensitively watchful.
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