The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, June 28, 1901, Page 2, Image 2

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    STATES may of right do. And, for the support of
this declaration, and In a "firm reliance upon tho
protection of Divine Providenc6, we mutually
pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and
our sacred honor. .
W
A Universal Charter.
The lato Moses Ooifc Tyler wrote an essay
on the Declaration of Independence, and that
essay should bo read "by every" American citi
zen. Mr. Tyler pointed out that what we call
criticism is "not the only valid test of the gen
uineness and worth of any piece of writing of
great practical interest to mankind." He said
that there is also "the test of actual use and
service in the world, in direct contact with the
common sense and the moral sense of large
masses of men under various conditions and
for a long period. No writing which iH not
essentially sound and true has ever survived
this test."
"Made the
Colonies
all Alive."
Mr. Tyler pointed out that from this test
tho Declaration of Independence "need not
shrink." "Probably no pub
lic paper," said Mr. Tyler,
"ever more perfectly satisfied
tho immediate purpose for
which it was sot forth. From
one end of the country to the other, and as fast
as it could he spread among the people, it was
greeted in public and in private with every
demonstration of approval and delight. To'ii
marvelous degrco it .quickened tho frieiicls of
tho revolution for their great task. 'This
Declaration,' wrote one of the signers but a
few days after it had been proclaimed, 'has
had a glorious effect has made these colonics
all alive.' 'With tho Independency of the
American states,' said another political leader
a few weeks later, 'a new era in politics has
commenced. Every consideration respecting
tho propriety or impropriety of a separation
from Britain is now entiroly out of tho ques
tion. Our future happiness or mis
cry, therefore, as a people, will depend entirely
upon ourselves.' Six years afterward, in a re
view of the whole struggle, a great American
scholar expressed his sense of the relation of
this document to it by saying that 'into the
monumontal act of Independence,' Jefferson
had 'poured the soul of the continent'."
Mr. Tyler then proceeded to show that the
influence of this state paper on the political
charaotor and conduct of the
The Temptation American peoplo siucc the
to Forget. close of tho Revolution has
been great beyond all calcula
tion. Ho said;
"For example, aftor we had achieved our own
national deliverance, and had advanced into that
enormous and somewhat corrupting material pros
perity which followed the adoption of tue constitu
tion, tho development of tho cotton interests, and
tue expansion of the republic into a trans-continental
power, wo fell, as is now most apparent, un
der an appalling national temptation the tempta
tion to forget, or to repudiate, or to refuse to ap
ply to the case of our human brethren in bondage,
the vevy principles which we ourselves had once
proclaimed as tho basis of overy rightful govern
ment, and as the ultimate source of our own claim
to an uatrammelo'l national life.
The Commoner.
"The prodigious service rendered to us In this
awful moral emergency by tho Declaration of in-'
dependence was, that its public
TbeDJgnjty repetition at least once every
of Human year in the hearing of vast
Nature. throngs of the American people,
In a form of almost religious
sanctity, those few great ideas as to the dignity of
human nature, and the sacredness of personality,
and tho indestructible rights of man as mere man,
with which wo had so gloriously identified the be
ginnings of. our national existence, and upon which
wo had proceeded to erect all our political institu
tions both for the nation and for the states. It did,
indeed, at last become very hard for us to listen
each year to the preamble of the Declaration of
Independence, and still to remain tho owners and
users and catchers of slaves; still harder, to ac
cept the doctrine that the righteousness and pros
perity of slavery Avas to be taken as the dominant
policy' of tho nation. The logic of Calhoun was as
flawless as usual, when ho concluded that the chief
obstruction in tho way of his system was the pre
amble of the Declaration of Independence. Had it
not been for the inviolable sacredness given by it
to those sweeping aphorisms about the natural
rights of man, it may be doubted whether, under
the vast practical inducements Involved, Calhoun
might not have succeeded in winning over an im
mense majority of tho American people to the sup
port of his compact and plausible scheme for mak
ing slavery the basis of the republic. It was the
preamble of the Declaration of Independence which
elected. Lincoln; which sent forth the Emancipation-
-Proclamation, which gave victory to Grant,'
which ratified the thirteenth amendment.
"Moreover, we cannot doubt that the perma
nent" effects of the great Declaration on the politi
cal and even the ethical ideals of
"the American people are wider
and deeper than can be meas
ured by our experience in grap
pling with any single political
problem; for they touch all tho spiritual springs
-of American national character, and they create,
for us and for all human beings, a new standard of
political justice and a new principle in the science
of government." Mr. Tyler called attention to the
fact that among all civilized peoples the one Amer
ican document best known is tho Declaration of
Independence and that thus the spectacle of so
vast and magnificent a political success has been
everywhere associated with the assertion of the
natural rights of man.
Spiritual Spring
of National
Character.
nn
Classical State
ment of Political
Truths.
The doctrines it contained.' says Buckle.
'were not merely welcomed by a majority of the
French nation, but even the gov
ernment itself was unable to
withstand the general feeling.
Its effect in hastening the ap
proach of the French revolution
was indeed most remarkable.' Else
where also in many lauds, among many peoples, it
has been appealed to again and again as an inspira
tion for political courage, as a model for political
conduct; and if, as tho brilliant English historian
just cited has afllrnied, 'that noble Declaration
ought to be hung up in the nursery of
every king, and blazoned on the porch of every
royal palace,' it is because it has become the classic
statement of political truths which must at last
abolish kings altogether, or else teach them to
identify their existence with the dignity and hap
piness of human nature."
Dealing with tho literary character of this
great state paper, Mr. Tyler gave a most beauti
ful description of that to which
The Literary he refers as "a stately and a
Character of a Great passionate chant of human free
State Paper, dom." MV. Tyler said: "Had
the Declaration of Independence
been, what many a revolutionary state paper is, a
clumsy, verbose, and vaporing production, not even'
the robust literary taste and the all-forgiving pa
triotism of tho American people could have en-,
dured tho weariness, tho nausea, of hearing its
repetition in ten thousand different places, at least
once overy year for so long a period. Nothing
which has not supremo literary merit has ever
triumphantly endured such an ordeal, or ever been
subjected to it.
The Declaration's.
Persistent
Fascination.
"No man can adequately explain the persistent
fascination which this state paper has Had, and
which it still has, for the Amer
ican people, or its undiminished
power over them, without taking
into account Its extraordinary
literary merits: its possession of "
the witchery of true substance wedded to perfect
form; its massiveness and incisiveness of thought;
Its art In tho marshaling of the topics with, which ,
it deals; its symmetry, its energy, the definfte
ness and limpidity of its statements; its exquisite1
diction at once terse, musical and electrical; and
as an essential part of this literary outfit, many of
those spiritual notes which can attract and en- ;
thrall our hearts veneration for God, veneration :
for man, veneration for principle, respect for public,
opinion, moral earnestness, moral courage, optim
ism, a stately and noble pathos finally, self-sacrificing
devotion to a cause so great as to be herein
identified with the happiness, not of one peoplo '
only, but of human nature itself.
The Most Pathetic
Utterance of
Any Age.
"Upon the whole, this is the most commanding
and the most pathetic utterance, in any age, in
any language, of national griev
ances and of national purposes;5
having a Demosthenic momen
tum of thought, and a fervor of
emotional appeal such as .T:yr
taeus might havo put into his war-songs. Indeed,
tho Declaration of Independence is a kind of war-'
song: it is a stately and a passionate chant oi
human freedom; it is a prose lyric of civil and
military heroism. Wo may be altogether sure that
no genuine development of literary taste among
tho American people in any period of our future
history can result in serious misfortune to this
particular specimen of American literature."
W
The Doctrine of Thrones.
The opponents of imperialism assert that
"it is the doctrine of thrones that man is too
ignorant to govern himself." Today the re
publican party is thoroughly committed to this
doctrine of thrones.
In a speech delivered in the House of Rep
resentatives in. 1818 Henry Clay pleaded for
South American independence from Spanish
rule. "It is the doctrine of thrones," said Mr.
Clay, "that man is too. ignorant to govern him
self. Their partisans assert his incapacity in
reference to all nations', if they cannot com
mand universal assent to the proposition it is
then demanded as to particular nations; and
our pride and. our presumption too often make
converts of us. I contend that it is to arraign
the disposition of Providence himself to sup
pose that he created beings incapable of gov
erning themselves and to be trampled on by
kings. Self-government is the natural govern
ment of man, and for proof I refer to the abor
igines of our own land. Were I to speculate
in hypothesis unfavorable to human liberty,
my speculations should be founded rather upon
tho vice, refinement or density of population.
Crowded together in compact masses, even if
they were philosophers the contagion of tho
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