The Procession of Nations
Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, June 18, 1861
Looking backward down the line of history, in search of those prominent examples which create theories and illustrate deductions, we cannot fail to discover much that is useful to us in making up an estimate of our present national position, and the results which will naturally flow therefrom.
The consistency and leading characteristics of the past are the best guarantees of the future, and only confirm the hypothesis that nations, as well as nature, are guided by the Great Author, in strict obedience to general laws, and in exact fulfillment of His mighty designs.
All things terrestrial have hitherto been accomplished by development, even from the Creation. Growth is the inevitable means, the never-ending process by which we approach perfection. The mystery of vegetable life is but a type of the unvaried economy of nature. We see the same rule at work in the physical development of individuals from the cradle to the grave, and in the gradual perfection of intellect which culminates in the brain of the Philosopher, the Statesman and the Warrior.
Nations, too, are governed by this same law. They germinate and grow by slow gradations to the full stature of earthly powers, and finally disappear into the grave of history, carrying with them the seeds of new empires, which in their turn shall grow and ripen and be harvested.
And thus, age by age, they come and go, until the line of history is marked at intervals by the graves of dead empires. This procession which so many thousand years ago commenced its slow march in the East, has, to-day, in obedience to that same law of progression, nearly put a "girdle ,round the earth," and the American people now finds itself at the head of the column, slowly closing the small gap which exists between itself and the spot whence the march begun.
Looking backward, may we not glean lessons and gather hope for our national guidance and consolation? Can it be maintained that now, after more than four thousand years of recorded, steady progression, the march of nations, of civilization, of human development, of Christianity, shall be arrested short of its goal, and that the purposes of God in history shall be thwarted? Shall all this be done that injustice and oppression may be upheld and strengthened, that slavery may be perpetuated and its further extension guaranteed?
History never did work out the final reward of an unholy cause, and we are unprepared to admit that it is about to culminate in iniquity. All things in history work together for the accomplishment of some great purpose, and the very consistency of those results which have already transpired, justifies the prediction that our new "Empire of the West" has a mission and a destiny in the grand economy of the world which is yet very far short of its accomplishment.
Decay never intervenes, either in nature or nations, until the elements of growth are exhausted; and our people are concededly yet only upon the threshold of their capacity and resources. Unlike the older nations, wealth has not yet sapped our enterprise, nor has aristocracy crushed the ambition of the people. The sceptre of commercial and financial supremacy which has been handed down through a succession of ages from Tyre to London, is about to be transferred to our own metropolis, as the center to which all currents must tend—both of trade and finance.
Can anything show our vitality and strength as a people more conclusively than the mighty uprising of the North within the past few weeks? Like the rousing of a young giant, the exhibitions of our hitherto unknown, because untried strength, have astonished both ourselves and all beholders. Careless of its danger, and confident of its strength, the nation has not heeded the many warnings which have been sounded to it by those patriots whom we had placed as sentinels upon the high places of our Government. Suddenly awaking to a sense of our danger, only to find ourselves spoiled and threatened by our own brethren, we have reached out our hand with a power that is as crushing as it is unexpected to our foes.
We feel an abiding faith in the lessons of history, and an unbounded confidence in the successful demonstration of the problem of self-government which has been assigned to this people.
The diseases of treason and rebellion, which have lately come upon us, are but temporary, and must be thrown off, as youth casts off a fever, by our unimpaired vitality and the strength of our Constitution.
Our position in the front rank of the great procession of nations must and will be maintained in an unbroken line for centuries to come, and not until the full purpose of our destiny has been accomplished shall the epitaph of this people be written.