Oration of Cassius Marcellus Clay – 1891

Excerpt from The Oration of Cassius Marcellus Clay – Before the Maumee Valley Historical and Monumental Association, of Toledo, Ohio, at Put-In-Bay Island, Lake Erie on 10th September 1891 – The Anniversary of the Capture of the British Fleet by Oliver Hazard Perry.

Oration of Cassius Marcellus Clay

MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES, AND GENTLEMEN:

The birth, maturity, and death of nations are the basis of history, and Pope well says, “The noblest study of mankind is man.”  The Almighty God has given to man the head of creation no higher quality than courage, held in common with the beasts that, by physical impulse, attack and defend to the death, but in addition thereto that moral courage which is not shared by the lower animals, which is ready to meet death in aid of good to mankind.  Not those who have died to destroy but to save nations are to be honored; and yet more worthy of immortality is he who not only saves a nation’s life, but its liberties.  There is no doubt evolution in nature is eternal advance to a higher plane of perfection.  As the dying vegetation fertilizes the soil for a superior growth, so the death of nations gives the material for higher civilization.  Thus the liberties of nations rise in new vestments of glory from age to age.

In [1776] England was the most advanced of all the ages in constitutional liberty, but when we went to war “for no taxation without representation,” and created a new nation, we reached a higher plane in the advance of civilization.

Thomas Jefferson was more than the author of our Declaration of Independence in 1776; he more than any American laid down the basis of our popular liberty.  On this day, standing on ground consecrated by him to freedom from chattel slavery forever, his name should be first mentioned among our moral heroes.  The grand result of an independent nation was not only equal taxation, but equality of property and religion by the abolition of primogeniture and the church-and-state theory of Great Britain, which principles have for the first time in history been practically made the bed-rock by Kentucky on August 3,1891, of her new constitution, by a majority of 139,415.

England, with Lord Chatham (William Pitt) and a few of her greatest and noblest intellects in favor of our independence, made peace on December 27, 1783.  But she submitted with ill grace to fate.  She claimed the right of inalienable allegiance, and stopped our vessels on the high seas, and took her once subjects, though now naturalized citizens of the United States, against our protest.   They took not only once British subjects, but native-born Americans, and held them in naval service or in bonds and imprisonment.  The war continuing between France and herself, she declared all the French coast on the Atlantic to be in a state of blockade, which, being unable to enforce, was contrary to the laws of nations.  Napoleon retaliated, and declared November 3, 1806 – known as the Berlin decree – all England and the British Islands blockaded.  Finally England decreed that all vessels trading with France should touch the English coast and get a permit, or be confiscated if caught on the seas. These intolerable usurpations at length drove the United States, under the leadership of Henry Clay, to declare war with England, June 12, 1812, James Madison being President.

Excerpt from The Oration of Cassius Marcellus Clay – 1891

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Further Reading and External Links

Cassius Marcellus Clay on Wikipedia

Cassius Marcellus Clay on the American History Blog