This day belongs not to America, but to the world. The results of the event it commemorates are the heritage of the peoples of every race and clime. We celebrate the emancipation of man. The preparation was the work of almost countless centuries; the realization was the revelation of one. The Cross on Calvary was hope; the cross raised on San Salvador was opportunity. But for the first, Columbus would never have sailed; but for the second, there would have been no place for the planting, the nurture, and the expansion of civil and religious liberty. … All hail, Columbus, discoverer, dreamer, hero, and apostle. We here, of every race and country, recognize the horizon which bounded his vision and the infinite scope of his genius. The voice of gratitude and praise for all the blessings which have been showered upon mankind by his adventure is limited to no language, but is uttered in every tongue. Neither marble nor brass can fitly form his statue. Continents are his monument, and unnumbered millions, present and to come, who enjoy in their liberties and happiness the fruits of his faith, will reverently guard and preserve, from century to century, his name and fame.
In between those two quotes is more than 5,000 words of oration, online courtesy of the History Channel. I've placed the whole thing below. You are invited to magine any public figure giving this speech in 2007.
The Columbian Oration Given By Chauncey Depew October 12, 1892
This day belongs not to America, but to the world. The results of the event it commemorates are the heritage of the peoples of every race and clime. We celebrate the emancipation of man. The preparation was the work of almost countless centuries; the realization was the revelation of one. The Cross on Calvary was hope; the cross raised on San Salvador was opportunity. But for the first, Columbus would never have sailed; but for the second, there would have been no place for the planting, the nurture, and the expansion of civil and religious liberty. Ancient history is a dreary record of unstable civilizations. Each reached its zenith of material splendor, and perished. The Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman Empires were proofs of the possibilities and limitations of man for conquest and intellectual development. Their destruction involved a sum of misery and relapse which made their creation rather a curse than a blessing. Force was the factor in the government of the world when Christ was born, and force was the source and exercise of authority both by Church and state when Columbus sailed from Palos. The Wise Men traveled from the East toward the West under the guidance of the Star of Bethlehem. The spirit of the equality of all men before God and the law moved westward from Calvary, with its revolutionary influence upon old institutions, to the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus carried it westward across the seas. The emigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, from Germany and Holland, from Sweden and Denmark, from France and Italy, from Spain and Portugal, under its guidance and inspiration, moved West, and again West, building states and founding cities until the Pacific limited their march. The exhibition of arts and sciences, of industries and inventions, of education and civilization, which the Republic of the United States will here present, and to which, through its Chief Magistrate, it invites all nations, condenses and displays the flower and fruitage of this transcendent miracle.
The anarchy and chaos which followed the breaking up of the Roman Empire necessarily produced the feudal system. The people, preferring slavery to annihilation by robber chiefs, became the vassals of territorial lords. The reign of physical force is one of perpetual struggle for the mastery. Power which rests upon the sword neither shares nor limits its authority. The king destroyed the lords, and the monarchy succeeded feudalism. Neither of these institutions considered or consulted the people. They had no part, but to suffer or die in this mighty strife of masters for the mastery. But the throne, by its broader view and greater resources, made possible the construction of the highways of freedom. Under its banner races could unite, and petty principalities be merged, law substituted for brute force, and right for might. It founded and endowed universities, and encouraged commerce. It conceded no political privileges, but unconsciously prepared its subjects to demand them.
Absolutism in the state, and intolerance in the Church, shackled popular unrest, and imprisoned thought and enterprise in the fifteenth century. The divine right of kings stamped out the faintest glimmer of revolt against tyranny, and the problems of science, whether of the skies or of the earth, whether of astronomy or geography, were solved or submerged by ecclesiastical decrees. The dungeon was ready for the philosopher who proclaimed the truths of the solar system, or the navigator who would prove the sphericity of the earth. An English Gladstone, or a French Gambetta, or a German Bismarck, or an Italian Garibaldi, or a Spanish Castelar, would have been thought a monster; and his death at the stake, or on the scaffold, and under the anathemas of the Church, would have received the praise and approval of kings and nobles, of priests and peoples. Reason had no seat in spiritual or temporal realms. Punishment was the incentive to patriotism, and piety was held possible by torture. Confessions of faith extorted from the writhing victim on the rack were believed efficacious in saving his soul from fires eternal beyond the grave. For all that humanity to”day cherishes as its best heritage and choicest gifts, there was neither thought nor hope.
Fifty years before Columbus sailed from Palos, Gutenberg and Faust had forged the hammer which was to break the bonds of superstition, and open the prison doors of the mind. They had invented the printing press and movable types. The prior adoption of a cheap process for the manufacture of paper at once utilized the press. Its first service, like all its succeeding efforts, was for the people. The universities and the schoolmen, the privileged and the learned few of that age, were longing for the revelation and preservation of the classic treasures of antiquity, hidden, and yet insecure, in monastic cells and libraries. But the first”born of the marvelous creation of these primitive printers of Mayence was the printed Bible. The priceless contributions of Greece and Rome to the intellectual training and development of the modern world came afterward, through the same wondrous machine. The force, however, which made possible America, and its reflex influence upon Europe, was the open Bible by the family fireside. And yet neither the enlightenment of the new learning, nor the dynamic power of the spiritual awakening, could break through the crust of caste which had been forming for centuries. Church and state had so firmly and dexterously interwoven the bars of privilege and authority that liberty was impossible from within. Its piercing light and fervent heat must penetrate from without.
Civil and religious freedom are founded upon the individual and his independence, his worth, his rights, and his equal status and opportunity. For his planting and development a new land must be found, where, with limitless areas for expansion, the avenues of progress would have no bars of custom or heredity, of social orders or privileged classes. The time had come for the emancipation of the mind and soul of humanity. The factors wanting for its fulfillment were the new world and its discoverer.
God always has in training some commanding genius for the control of great crises in the affairs of nations and peoples. The number of these leaders is less than the centuries, but their lives are the history of human progress. Though Caesar and Charlemagne, and Hildebrand and Luther, and William the Conqueror and Oliver Cromwell, and all the epoch makers prepared Europe for the event, and contributed to the result, the lights which illumine our firmament to”day are Columbus the discoverer, Washington the founder, and Lincoln the savior.
Neither realism nor romance furnishes a more striking and picturesque figure than that of Christopher Columbus. The mystery about his origin heightens the charm of his story. That he came from among the toilers of his time is in harmony with the struggles of our period. Forty”four authentic portraits of him have descended to us, and no two of them are the counterfeits of the same person. Each represents a character as distinct as its canvas. Strength and weakness, intellectuality and stupidity, high moral purpose and brutal ferocity, purity and licentiousness, the dreamer and the miser, the pirate and the puritan, are the types from which we may select our hero. We dismiss the painter, and piercing with the clarified vision of the dawn of the twentieth century the veil of four hundred years, we construct our Columbus.
The perils of the sea in his youth upon the rich argosies of Genoa, or in the service of the licensed rovers who made them their prey, had developed a skillful navigator and intrepid mariner. They had given him a glimpse of the possibilities of the unknown beyond the highways of travel, which roused an unquenchable thirst for adventure and research. The study of the narratives of previous explorers, and diligent questionings of the daring spirits who had ventured far toward the fabled West, gradually evolved a theory, which became in his mind so fixed a fact, that he could inspire others with his own passionate beliefs. The words ”that is a lie,’ written by him on the margin of nearly every page of a volume of the travels of Marco Polo, which is still to be found in a Genoese library, illustrate the skepticism of his beginning, and the first vision of the New World the fulfillment of his faith.
To secure the means to test the truth of his speculations, this poor and unknown dreamer must win the support of kings and overcome the hostility of the Church. He never doubted his ability to do both, though he knew of no man living who was so great in power, or lineage, or learning that he could accomplish either. Unaided and alone he succeeded in arousing the jealousies of sovereigns, and dividing the councils of the ecclesiastics. ”I will command your fleet and discover for you new realms, but only on condition that you confer on me hereditary nobility, the Admirality of the Ocean and the Vice”Royalty, and one”tenth of the revenues of the New World,’ were his haughty terms to King John of Portugal. After ten years of disappointment and poverty, subsisting most of the time upon the charity of the enlightened monk of the Convent of Rabida, who was his unfaltering friend, he stood before the throne of Ferdinand and Isabella, and rising to imperial dignity in his rage, embodied the same royal conditions in his petition. The capture of Granada, the expulsion of Islam from Europe, and the triumph of the Cross aroused the admiration and devotion of Christendom. But this proud beggar, holding in his grasp the potential promise, and dominion of El Dorado and Cathay, divided with the Moslem surrender the attention of sovereigns and of bishops. France and England indicated a desire to hear his theories and see his maps while he was still a suppliant at the gates of the camp of Castile and Aragon, the sport of its courtiers and the scoff of its confessors. His unshakable faith that Christopher Columbus was commissioned from heaven, by his name and by Divine command, to carry ”Christ across the sea’ to new continents and pagan peoples, lifted him so far above the discouragements of an empty purse and a contemptuous court that he was proof against the rebuffs of fortune or of friends. To conquer the prejudices of the clergy, to win the approval and financial support of the state, to venture upon that unknown ocean, which, according to the beliefs of the age, was peopled with demons and savage beasts of frightful shape, and from which there was no possibility of return, required the zeal of Peter the Hermit, the chivalric courage of the Cid, and the imagination of Dante. Columbus belonged to that high order of cranks who confidently walk where ”angels fear to tread,’ and often become the benefactors of their country or their kind.
It was a happy omen of the position which woman was to hold in America, that the only person who comprehended the majestic scope of his plans, and the invincible quality of his genius, was the able and gracious Queen of Castile. Isabella alone of all the dignitaries of that age shares with Columbus the honors of his great achievement. She arrayed her kingdom and her private fortune behind the enthusiasm of this mystic mariner, and posterity pays homage to her wisdom and faith.
The overthrow of the Mohammedan power in Spain would have been a forgotten scene, in one of the innumerable acts in the grand drama of history, had not Isabella conferred immortality upon herself, her husband, and their dual crown by her recognition of Columbus. The devout spirit of the queen and the high purpose of the explorer inspired the voyage, subdued the mutinous crew, and prevailed over the raging storms. They covered with the divine radiance of religion and humanity the degrading search for gold, and the horrors of its quest, which filled the first century of conquest with every form of lust and greed.
The mighty soul of the great admiral was undaunted by the ingratitude of princes and the hostility of the people, by imprisonment and neglect. He died as he was securing the means and preparing a campaign for the rescue of the Holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem from the infidel. He did not know what time has revealed, that while the mission of the crusaders, of Godfrey of Bouillon and Richard of the Lion Heart, was a bloody and fruitless romance, the discovery of America was the salvation of the world. The one was the symbol, the other the spirit; the one death, the other life. The tomb of the Savior was a narrow and empty vault, precious only for its memories of the supreme tragedy of the centuries, but the new continent was to be the home and temple of the living God.
The rulers of the Old World began with partitioning the New. To them the discovery was expansion of Empire, and grandeur to the throne. Vast territories, whose properties and possibilities were little understood, and whose extent was greater than the kingdoms of the sovereigns, were the gifts to court favorites, and the prizes of royal approval. But individual intelligence and independent conscience found here haven and refuge. They were the passengers upon the caravels of Columbus, and he was unconsciously making for the port of civil and religious liberty. Thinkers who believed men capable of higher destinies and larger responsibilities, and pious people who preferred the Bible to that union of Church and state where each serves the other for the temporal benefit of both, fled to these distant and hospitable lands from intolerable and hopeless oppression at home. It required three hundred years for the people thus happily situated to understand their own powers and resources, and to break bonds which were still reverenced or loved, no matter how deeply they wounded or how hard they galled.
The nations of Europe were so completely absorbed in dynastic difficulties and devastating wars, with diplomacy and ambitions, that if they heard of they did not heed the growing democratic spirit and intelligence in their American Colonies. To them these provinces were sources of revenue, and they never dreamed that they were also schools of liberty. That it exhausted three centuries under the most favorable conditions for the evolution of freedom on this continent, demonstrates the tremendous strength of custom and heredity when sanctioned and sanctified by religion. The very chains which fettered became inextricably interwoven with the habits of life, the associations of childhood, the tenderest ties of the family, and the sacred offices of the Church from the cradle to the grave. It clearly proves that if the people of the Old World and their descendants had not possessed the opportunities afforded by the New for their emancipation, and mankind had never experienced and learned the American example, instead of living in the light and glory of nineteenth century conditions they would still be struggling with mideaeval problems.
The northern continent was divided between England, France, and Spain, and the southern between Spain and Portugal. France, wanting the capacity for colonization, which still characterizes her, gave up her western possessions and left the English, who have the genius of universal empire, masters of North America. The development of the experiment in the English domain makes this day memorable. It is due to the wisdom and courage, the faith and virtue of the inhabitants of this territory that government of the people, for the people, and by the people was inaugurated, and has become a triumphant success. The Puritan settled in New England and the Cavalier in the South. They represented the opposites of spiritual and temporal life and opinions. The processes of liberty liberalized the one and elevated the other. Washington and Adams were the new types. Their union in a common cause gave the world a republic both stable and free. It possessed conservatism without bigotry, and liberty without license. It founded institutions strong enough to resist revolution, and elastic enough for indefinite expansion to meet the requirements in government of ever enlarging areas of population, and the needs of progress and growth. It was nurtured by the toleration and patriotism which bound together in a common cause the Puritans of New England and the Catholics of Maryland, the Dutch Reformers of New York and the Huguenots of South Carolina, the Quakers and Lutherans of Pennsylvania, and the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and religionists of all and opposite opinions in the other Colonies.
The Mayflower, with the Pilgrims, and a Dutch ship laden with African slaves, were on the ocean at the same time, the one sailing for Massachusetts, and the other for Virginia. This company of saints, and first cargo of slaves, represented the forces which were to peril and rescue free government. The slaver was the product of the commercial spirit of Great Britain and the greed of the times to stimulate production in the Colonies. The men who wrote in the cabin of the Mayflower the first charter of freedom, a government of just and equal laws, were a little band of protestants against every form of injustice and tyranny. The leaven of their principles made possible the Declaration of Independence, liberated the slaves, and founded the free commonwealths which form the Republic of the United States.
Platforms of principles, by petition or protest or statement, have been as frequent as revolts against established authority. They are a part of the political literature of all nations. The Declaration of Independence, proclaimed at Philadelphia, July Fourth, 1776, is the only one of them which arrested the attention of the world when it was published, and has held its undivided interest ever since. The vocabulary of the equality of man had been in familiar use by philosophers and statesmen for ages. It expressed noble sentiments, but their application was limited to classes or conditions. The masses cared little for them nor remembered them long. Jefferson's superb crystallization of the popular opinion, that ”all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ had its force and effect in being the deliberate utterance of the people. It swept away in a single sentence kings and nobles, peers and prelates. It was Magna Charta and the Petition of Rights, planted in the virgin soil of the American wilderness, and bearing richer and riper fruit. Under its vitalizing influence upon the individual, the farmer left his plow in the furrow, the lawyer his books and briefs, the merchant his shop, and the workman his bench, to enlist in the patriot army. They were fighting for themselves and their children. They embodied the idea in their Constitution in the immortal words with which that great instrument of liberty and order began:”We, the people of the United States, do ordain.’
The scope and limitations of this idea of freedom have neither been misinterpreted nor misunderstood. The laws of nature, in their application to the rise and recognition of men according to their mental, moral, spiritual, and physical endowments, are left undisturbed. But the accident of birth gives no rank and confers no privilege. Equal rights and common opportunity for all have been the spurs of ambition and the motors of progress. They have established the common schools, and built the public libraries. A sovereign people have learned and enforced the lesson of free education. The practice of government is itself a liberal education. People who make their own laws need no lawgivers. After a century of successful trial, the system has passed the period of experiment, and its demonstrated permanency and power are revolutionizing the governments of the world. It has raised the largest armies of modern times for self”preservation, and at the successful termination of the war returned the soldiers to the pursuits of peace. It has so adjusted itself to the pride and patriotism of the defeated that they vie with the victors in their support of and enthusiasm for the old flag and our common country. Imported anarchists have preached their baleful doctrines, but have made no converts. They have tried to inaugurate a reign of terror under the banner of the violent seizure and distribution of property, only to be defeated, imprisoned, and executed by the law made by the people and enforced by juries selected from the people, and judges and prosecuting officers elected by the people. Socialism finds disciples only among those who were its votaries before they were forced to fly from their native land, but it does not take root upon American soil. The state neither supports nor permits taxation to maintain the Church. The citizen can worship God according to his belief and conscience, or he may neither reverence nor recognize the Almighty. And yet religion has flourished, churches abound, the ministry is sustained, and millions of dollars are contributed annually for the evangelization of the world. The United States is a Christian country, and a living and practical Christianity is the characteristic of its people.
Benjamin Franklin, philosopher and patriot, amused the jaded courtiers of Louis XVI, by his talks about liberty, and entertained the scientists of France by bringing lightning from the clouds. In the reckoning of time, the period from Franklin to Morse and from Morse to Edison is but a span, and yet it marks a material development as marvelous as it has been beneficent. The world has been brought into contact and sympathy. The electric current thrills and unifies the people of the globe. Power and production, highways and transports, have been so multiplied and improved by inventive genius that within the century of our Independence sixty”four millions of people have happy homes and improved conditions within our borders. We have accumulated wealth far beyond the visions of the Cathay of Columbus, or the El Dorado of De Soto. But the farmers and freeholders, the savings”banks and shops, illustrate its universal distribution. The majority are its possessors and administrators. In housing and living, in the elements which make the toiler a self”respecting and respected citizen, in avenues of hope and ambition for children, in all that gives broader scope and keener pleasure to existence, the people of this Republic enjoy advantages far beyond those of other lands. The unequaled and phenomenal progress of the country has opened wonderful opportunities for making fortunes, and stimulated to madness the desire and rush for the accumulation of money. Material prosperity has not debased literature nor debauched the press; it has neither paralyzed nor repressed intellectual activity. American science and letters have received rank and recognition in the older centers of learning. The demand for higher education has so taxed the resources of the ancient universities as to compel the foundation and liberal endowment of colleges all over the Union. Journals, remarkable for their ability, independence, and power, find their strength, not in the patronage of government, or the subsidies of wealth, but in the support of a nation of newspaper readers. The humblest and poorest person has, in periodicals whose price is counted in pennies, a library larger, fuller, and more varied than was within the reach of the rich in the time of Columbus.
The sum of human happiness has been infinitely increased by the millions from the Old World who have improved their conditions in the New, and the returning tide of lesson and experience has incalculably enriched the Fatherlands. The divine right of kings has taken its place with the instruments of mediaeval torture among the curiosities of the antiquary. Only the shadow of kingly authority stands between the government of themselves, by themselves, and the people of Norway and Sweden. The union in one Empire of the states of Germany is the symbol of Teutonic power and the hope of German liberalism. The petty despotisms of Italy have been merged into a nationality which has centralized its authority in its ancient capitol on the hills of Rome. France was rudely roused from the sullen submission of centuries to intolerable tyranny by her soldiers returning from service in the American revolution. The wild orgies of the Reign of Terror were the revenges and excesses of a people who had discovered their power, but were not prepared for its beneficent use. She fled from herself into the arms of Napoleon. He too was a product of the American experiment. He played with kings as with toys, and educated France for liberty. In the processes of her evolution from darkness to light, she tried Bourbon, and Orleanist, and the third Napoleon, and cast them aside. Now in the fullness of time, and through the training in the school of hardest experience, the French people have reared and enjoy a permanent Republic. England of the Mayflower and of James II, England of George III, and of Lord North, has enlarged suffrage and is to”day animated and governed by the democratic spirit. She has her throne, admirably occupied by one of the wisest of sovereigns and best of women, but it would not survive one dissolute and unworthy successor. She has her hereditary Peers, but the House of Lords will be brushed aside the moment it resists the will of the people.
The time has arrived for both a closer union and greater distance between the Old World and the New. The former indiscriminate welcome to our prairies, and the present invitation to these palaces of art and industry, mark the passing period. Unwatched and unhealthy immigration can no longer be permitted to our shores. We must have a national quarantine against disease, pauperism, and crime. We do not want candidates for our hospitals, our poorhouses, or our jails. We cannot admit those who come to undermine our institutions or subvert our laws. But we will gladly throw wide our gates for, and receive with open arms, those who by intelligence and virtue, by thrift and loyalty, are worthy of receiving the equal advantages of the priceless gift of American citizenship. The spirit and object of this exhibition are peace and kinship.
Three millions of Germans, who are among the best citizens of the Republic, send greeting to the Fatherland, their pride in its glorious history, its ripe literature, its traditions and associations. Irish, equal in number to those who still remain upon the Emerald Isle, who have illustrated their devotion to their adopted country on many a battlefield, fighting for the Union and its perpetuity, have rather intensified than diminished their love for the land of the shamrock, and their sympathy with the aspirations of their brethren at home. The Italian, the Spaniard, and the Frenchman, the Norwegian, the Swede, and the Dane, the English, the Scotch, and the Welsh, are nonetheless loyal and devoted Americans because in this congress of their kin the tendrils of affection draw them closer to the hills and valleys, the legends and the loves associated with their youth.
Edmund Burke, speaking in the British Parliament with prophetic voice, said:”A great revolution has happened — a revolution made, not by chopping and changing of power in any of the existing states, but by the appearance of a new state, of a new species, in a new part of the globe. It has made as great a change in all the relations and balances and gravitations of power as the appearance of a new planet would in the system of a solar world.’ Thus was the humiliation of our successful revolt tempered to the motherland by pride in the state created by her children. If we claim heritage in Bacon, Shakspere, and Milton, we also acknowledge that it was for liberties guaranteed Englishmen by sacred charters our fathers triumphantly fought. While wisely rejecting throne and caste and privilege and an Established Church in their new”born state, they adopted the substance of English liberty and the body of English law. Closer relations with England than with other lands, and a common language rendering easy interchanges of criticisms and epithet, sometimes irritate and offend, but the heart of republican America beats with responsive pulsations to the hopes and aspirations of the people of Great Britain.
The grandeur and beauty of this spectacle are the eloquent witnesses of peace and progress. The Parthenon and the cathedral exhausted the genius of the ancient, and the skill of the mediaeval architects, in housing the statue or spirit of Deity. In their ruins or their antiquity they are mute protests against the merciless enmity of nations, which forced art to flee to the altar for protection. The United States welcome the sister republics of the southern and northern continents, and the nations and peoples of Europe and Asia, of Africa and Australia, with the products of their lands, of their skill, and of their industry, to this city of yesterday, yet clothed with royal splendor as the Queen of the Great Lakes. The artists and architects of the country have been bidden to design and erect the buildings which shall fitly illustrate the height of our civilization and the breadth of our hospitality. The peace of the world permits and protects their efforts in utilizing their powers for man's temporal welfare. The result is this Park of Palaces. The originality and boldness of their conceptions, and the magnitude and harmony of their creations, are the contributions of America to the oldest of the arts and the cordial bidding of America to the peoples of the earth to come and bring the fruitage of their age to the boundless opportunities of this unparalleled exhibition.
If interest in the affairs of this world is vouchsafed to those who have gone before, the spirit of Columbus hovers over us to”day. Only by celestial intelligence can it grasp the full significance of this spectacle and ceremonial.
From the first century to the fifteenth counts for little in the history of progress, but in the period between the fifteenth and the twentieth are crowded the romance and reality of human development. Life has been prolonged, and its enjoyment intensified. The powers of the air and the water, the resistless force of the elements, which in the time of the discoverer were the visible terrors of the wrath of God, have been subdued to the service of man. Art and luxuries which could be possessed and enjoyed only by the rich and noble, the works of genius which were read and understood only by the learned few, domestic comforts and surroundings beyond the reach of lord or bishop, now adorn and illuminate the homes of our citizens. Serfs are sovereigns and the people are kings. The trophies and splendors of their reign are commonwealths, rich in every attribute of the great states, and united in a Republic whose power and prosperity, and liberty and enlightenment, are the wonder and admiration of the world.
All hail, Columbus, discoverer, dreamer, hero, and apostle. We here, of every race and country, recognize the horizon which bounded his vision and the infinite scope of his genius. The voice of gratitude and praise for all the blessings which have been showered upon mankind by his adventure is limited to no language, but is uttered in every tongue. Neither marble nor brass can fitly form his statue. Continents are his monument, and unnumbered millions, present and to come, who enjoy in their liberties and happiness the fruits of his faith, will reverently guard and preserve, from century to century, his name and fame.