The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
--HENRY WARD BEECHER.
THE HISTORY OF LIBERTY
The event which we commemorate is all-important, not merely in our own annals, but in those of the world.
The sententious English poet has declared that "the proper study of mankind is man," and of all inquiries of a
temporal nature, the history of our fellow-beings is unquestionably among the most interesting. But not all the
chapters of human history are alike important. The annals of our race have been filled up with incidents which
concern not, or at least ought not to concern, the great company of mankind. History, as it has often been
written, is the genealogy of princes, the field-book of conquerors; and the fortunes of our fellow-men have
been treated only so far as they have been affected by the influence of the great masters and destroyers of our
race. Such history is, I will not say a worthless study, for it is necessary for us to know the dark side as well as
the bright side of our condition. But it is a melancholy study which fills the bosom of the philanthropist and
the friend of liberty with sorrow.
But the history of liberty--the history of men struggling to be free--the history of men who have acquired and
are exercising their freedom--the history of those great movements in the world, by which liberty has been
established and perpetuated, forms a subject which we cannot contemplate too closely. This is the real history
of man, of the human family, of rational immortal beings....
The trial of adversity was theirs; the trial of prosperity is ours. Let us meet it as men who know their duty and
prize their blessings. Our position is the most enviable, the most responsible, which men can fill. If this
generation does its duty, the cause of constitutional freedom is safe. If we fail--if we fail--not only do we
defraud our children of the inheritance which we received from our fathers, but we blast the hopes of the
friends of liberty throughout our continent, throughout Europe, throughout the world, to the end of time.
History is not without her examples of hard-fought fields, where the banner of liberty has floated triumphantly
on the wildest storm of battle. She is without her examples of a people by whom the dear-bought treasure has
been wisely employed and safely handed down. The eyes of the world are turned for that example to us....
Let us, then, as we assemble on the birthday of the nation, as we gather upon the green turf, once wet with
precious blood--let us devote ourselves to the sacred cause of constitutional liberty! Let us abjure the interests
and passions which divide the great family of American freemen! Let the rage of party spirit sleep to-day! Let
us resolve that our children shall have cause to bless the memory of their fathers, as we have cause to bless the
memory of ours!