Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

Fourth of July

The bells ring; the cannon rouse the echoes along the river shore; the boys sally forth with shouts and little flags and crackers enough to frighten all the people they meet from sunrise to sunset. The orator is conning for the last time the speech in which he has vainly attempted to season with some new spice the yearly panegyric upon our country; its happiness and glory; the audience is putting on its best bib and tucker, and its blandest expression to listen.

And yet, no heart, we think, can beat to-day with one pulse of genuine, noble joy. Those who have obtained their selfish objects will not take especial pleasure in thinking of them to-day, while to unbiased minds must come sad thoughts of National Honor soiled in the eyes of other nations, of a great inheritance, risked, if not forfeited.

Much has been achieved in this country since the first Declaration of Independence. America is rich and strong; she has shown great talent and energy; vast prospects of aggrandizement open before her. But the noble sentiment which she expressed in her early youth is tarnished; she has shown that righteousness is not her chief desire, and her name is no longer a watchword for the highest hopes to the rest of the world. She knows this, but takes it very easily; she feels that she is growing richer and more powerful, and that seems to suffice her.

These facts are deeply saddening to those who can pronounce the words ‘My Country’ with pride and peace only so far as steadfast virtues, generous impulses find their home in that country. They cannot be satisfied with superficial benefits, with luxuries and the means of obtaining knowledge which are multiplied for them. They could rejoice in full hands and a busy brain, if the soul were expanding and the heart pure, but, the higher conditions being violated, what is done cannot be done for good.

Such thoughts shadow patriot minds as the cannon-peal bursts upon the ear. This year, which declares that the people at large consent to cherish and extend Slavery as one of our “domestic institutions,” takes from the patriot his

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