In view of the protection which such a constitution affords, especially if it had been tested, for a period of eighty years, by all the inward strain of domestic evils, and all the outward pressure of invasion; by the influence of foreign envy, of intrigue, of hostility; by the debasing power of disloyalty, the incompetency of rulers, and the general degeneracy of human nature; I say, in view of all these untoward influences, the government which could still retain its majesty and power, still stretch its Aegis over every national and individual right—you would pronounce the best, both for ruler and people, that ever blessed a nation. And you would not hesitate to declare that man a traitor, who should attempt to weaken and destroy it!
Now we pretend to say that our government was thus formed by the choicest wisdom and patriotism of the world, with the largest liberty in view, under the restraint of law, giving equitable privilege to all its citizens, and so balancing its different departments that they are mutually a defence. We pretend to claim for our government the loftiest purpose, the most comprehensive views, and the best practical results. We claim for it justice, equality, and power. It does not stand out—a thing distinct from the people and the states. It is not an objective power only, but subjective; it is in every State and in every freeman. It is not in machinery, which can be set in motion and work out certain results, as if every part of it were iron or steel, and put into action by applied heat; but in men, in minds, in hearts, in the family circle, in the church, in every throb of patriotism, in every fibre of the husbandman and the artizan, in the pastor’s prayers, and the student’s living thoughts. It is in the nation like latent fire, like a hidden life—evoked in time of peril, and flashing along the telegraph, breathed in song, uttered in oratory, thundered from the cannon’s mouth, hung out in streaming banners whose “every hue was born in heaven,” felt in firm resolve, illustrated in response to the call of country and of law. Where is our government? Not at Washington alone. That is but its symbol. It is throughout all our Loyal States. It is enthroned on the granite hills of New Hampshire, sends its voice along the Alleghanies, and on the swelling floods of the Mississippi, and spreads its wing over the children of the West, even to the shores of Oregon. It lives in every cottage, and every mansion, and has a throne in every true, free, noble, Christian heart.
That it is a good government, you have only in imagination to blot from the face of the earth whatever has grown up under its protection and encouragement, by the will and the blessing of the Almighty, during the fourscore years of its existence; level all the cities, sink the commerce, prostrate the schools and churches, obliterate all the science, history and thought it has fostered, quench the light of oratory,