The Daily Telegraph - 1883-05-14

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Rev. D. D. Currie’s Sermon in the Centenary Church
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In the Centenary Church, last evening, Rev. D. D. Currie, the pastor, delivered a sermon on the United Empire Loyalists. His text was as followings:- One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh. – Eccles. 1:4 The book of Ecclesiastes is a sermon. The preacher was Solomon, the brilliant King in Jerusalem. “Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” is the text. Solomon was eminently fitted for the discussion of such a theme. He had had an intense experience of life. His position as “King over all Israel” gave him ample power and opportunity. He had succeeded to the throne of his royal father, David, when the kingdom was in its highest glory. He tried in every available way to bring out, for his own profit or pleasure, what there was in life. He made “great works.” He built houses. He planted vineyards. He laid out parks, and gardens, and orchards, and planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit. He had “servants and maidens, and possessions of great and small cattle, above all that had ever been in Jerusalem.” He was “increased more than all them that were in Jerusalem before him, and his wisdom remained with him.” He, moreover, makes the frank confession that “he gives us this testimony that so far as those things were concerned all is vanity of vanities, and that man’s true wisdom lies, not in the evanescent enjoyments of this life, nor in the fading honors of this world, but in the fear of God, and in the keeping of His commandments. In the beginning of Solomon’s discourse he ascends from the particular to the universal. He looks out over large intervals of time, and takes into view the great scope of things. Then he suggests that if we would have that wisdom which is more precious than gold, we must recognize how much more valuable the permanent is than the transient, inasmuch as the years of our lives roll rapidly by, and one generation passeth away, and another generation cometh. It is not our purpose now to consider the particular lessons which the wise man indicates in his discourse. But, standing, as we do, at the close of the first century of our history as a people in this county, it seems proper that we should take some such retrospect as King Solomon did, when he uttered the words of our text. What, we may ask, have been the movements, and what have been the general truths and results, bearing upon our history, during the era which culminated in the withdrawal, in the year 1783, from the Republic of the United States of the United Empire Loyalists? Our review will not be confined to a single generation, nor even to a century, but will, necessarily, include a period, of which we may say with the royal Hebrew preacher: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh. One hundred years ago to-day twenty vessels were riding at anchor in the harbor at the mouth of the River St. John. They had brought from New York and its vicinity about three thousand persons, including men, women and children, who had come to these shores because they cherished a most devoted attachment for British institutions. On Saturday, the tenth day of May, 1783, the leading vessel of the loyalist fleet arrived in the harbor. The other vessels of the fleet came to anchor here immediately thereafter. The men of that enterprise were occupied, during the eight days following, in making preparations for a residence on the shore. With great rapidity they constructed dwellings, necessarily very rough and very rude wherein to find temporary homes. On Sunday, the 18th day of May, those loyalist exiles, having brought their luggage, their furniture, and their other goods to the shore, took formal leave of those vessels that had brought them, and the germs of an empire; to this wilderness country. On that memorable day they took permanent possession of the soil whereon this city stands, in the name of the Sovereign of the Universe and of the Sovereign of England, and for the preservation and perpetuation of their long-cherished political and religious principles. The landing of those United Empire Loyalists will, I trust, be remembered, by the people of this city of St. John and of these Provinces, with ever fresh and ever enthusiastic interest, not only during the present week, but while one generation passeth away, and another generation cometh. It is the near proximity of this Sabbath day to the one hundredth anniversary of that event that leads me to the consideration of the theme which the occasion suggests. If we would obtain an accurate estimate of those loyalists of 1783, and of the principles by which they were actuated, and of the scenes in which they participated, we must look back from the mount of vision on which we stand to-day, as far, at least, as to the earliest settlement, by English-speaking people, of the eastern portion of the old thirteen colonies. The time of the occupancy of the soil of this continent by our forefathers may be divided into several clearly defined periods, during which one generation passed away, and another generation came. The primary period of that occupancy included three-score years and ten, from the time of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, in 1620, until the consummation of the union of the governments of the Pilgrim Fathers and of the Puritan Fathers in 1690. The first installment of the Puritan Fathers settled in New England in 1629. The more prominent men of both of those two classes of settlers had received a liberal education under English tutors. They cherished unhesitating reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the universe. They were devoted students of the oracles of God. They prayed daily for divine direction. They believed in a superintending Providence. And they were industrious, enterprising and energetic in pushing on the practical affairs of secular life. Both the Pilgrim Fathers and the Puritan Fathers had left England because of the prevailing political and religious turmoils of their time. They came to the new world to promote their own private interests; and, at the same time, to found, and establish, a new order of things, socially, politically, and religiously, wherein the liberty of the individual would be enjoyed, and the glory of God would be maintained. The Pilgrim Fathers established a colony at Plymouth Rock. The Puritan Fathers founded another colony, which they designated the Massachusetts Bay Company. The chief centre of the trade and commerce, and government of the Puritan colony was at Boston. Between the two peoples, who planted those colonies there were strong points of resemblance, and both possessed marked peculiarities, wherein they differed. Tor seventy years, from 1620 until 1690, the Pilgrim Fathers maintained a government separate from the Puritan Fathers, and independent of them. During the subsequent, and second period of seventy years, from the amalgamation of the two governments of the Pilgrims and of the Puritans, until the more manifest beginning of the struggle which led to the declaration of independence, namely, from 1690 until 1760, those two peoples dwelt together, in the peaceful and prosperous pursuits of their various aims and purposes. Yet, during all that period, the distinctive ideas, which the Pilgrims and the Puritans had so long held, touching the sentiment of loyalty, refused to blend. The second period of the English-speaking people in America includes a little more than seventy years, beginning in 1691, and continuing until the close of the second war between England and France, in 1763. During that era, beginning in 1691, the government in New England was carried on under a new charter, granted by the Parliament of the mother-country, and which was sometimes called the Second Royal Charter. This was a period of marked development throughout the colonies of the crown. Wide areas of the wilderness were being reclaimed from the forest, and were being converted into fertile, and productive, and remunerative fields. Villages were appearing here and there. Towns and cities were growing in population and in prosperity, all along the coast, from Massachusetts to Georgia, and on the banks of the more accessible rivers. During the latter part of this period there were occasionally, collisions, of a more or less sanguinary character, between the English colonists and their French and Indian neighbors. Twice, during the time of which we speak, the conflicting interest of England and France had plunged those two countries into the deadly strife of war. The second war between England and France, beginning in 1756 and terminating in 1763, was eminently fruitful of results favorable to the colonies, and to British interests generally in America. In the year 1758, the French territories of Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island, became possessions of the British crown, through the capture of Louisburg, in the midsummer of that year. Nova Scotia, which then included New Brunswick, had been a colony of Great Britain since 1713. On the thirteenth day of September, 1759, the brilliant battle of the Plains of Abraham was fought. Then followed, as the inevitable result of that decisive victory, the surrender of Quebec. Then, on the tenth day of February, 1763, a treaty of peace was signed, at Paris. By that treaty the extinction of the French power in Canada was assured, and the boundaries of the British possessions in America were so enlarged, as to extend from Labrador to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The developments of civilized life in the colonies reacted upon the mother country in the development of her resources. In the time of Oliver Cromwell, 1658, England was but a second-class power when compared with France or Spain. How marvelous the change between that time and the present! London, to-day, with its four million inhabitants, is twice as large as Paris; but, in the earlier part of the seventeenth century, Paris, then a city of four hundred thousand, was twice as large as London. When the treaty of 1763, between England and France, was signed, the growth of the physical power of England had been so prodigious as to make her, indisputably, the foremost civilized nation in the world. This marvelous growth of the power and the prestige of England, in the century ending in 1763, was largely due to her commercial intercourse with her American colonies. Without the influence of those colonies, which now had become a factor of immense political importance, England never could, successfully, have dictated to France the terms of that invaluable treaty. While we turn away from the consideration of those eventful years, wherein our forefathers, more or less wisely and faithfully, played their part, we must remember that while one generation passeth away, another generation cometh. Other men succeeded them, and entered into their labors, and carried on their work. Our time will not permit us to dwell, at any considerable length, upon the stirring events of the twenty years, from 1763 until the severance of the loyalists from their old homes and life-long associations, and their settlement in the various parts of these Provinces. In the earlier part of that period of twenty years, an unpropitious spirit obtained, in reference to the colonists, in the minds of many of the leading English people, and unwise councils prevailed in their parliament. King George the third came to the throne of England as a descendant of the House of Hanover, and under the terms of the Act of Settlement. That Statute is a perpetual reminder to the sovereigns of Great Britain that they do not wear their crown by divine right, but by the will of the people, in whom is the fountain of political power. Yet, no sooner had George the third ascended the throne than he sought to raise the royal prerogative to a point at which even a Stuart king would scarcely have presumed to aim. His attention was early directed toward his colonies. Lord Halifax was among the first to suggest the taxation of the colonies, for the relief of the tax-payers of the fatherland. But to George Grenville, brother-in-law of Lord Chatham, is to be attributed the carrying of the Stamp Act through parliament. The passage of that Act set America in a blaze and developed, in overt acts, colonial resistance to Imperial legislation. The burning question of “taxation without representation” was hushed into comparative quiet by the repeal of the act, but it was kept alive by a supplementary clause, which was made part of the act of repeal, and which provided that parliament had the right to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever. Subsequently, when the seals of the Colonial Department came into the hands of that brilliant young orator, Charles Townshend, England adopted that political policy which ended in the loss of the old thirteen colonies. The king was the prime mover in the attempt to tax the colonial people. He enlisted in that service such men as Lord Halifax, George Grenville, Charles Townshend, Lord North and Lord Mansfield. The views of the colonists were ably and eloquently represented and defended by such men as Lord Chatham, Lord Camden, Edmund Burke and Charles James Fox, whose names shine with a luster than which there is none brighter in the parliamentary history of England. The spirit which was cherished by the ministry of the day toward the colonists found expression in other acts of parliament besides the Stamp Act, which were greatly irritating to the colonial mind. That ministry failed to comprehend, while they were attempting to force their obnoxious measures upon the freedom-loving spirit of the colonial population, that they were trying to coerce the sons of English sires, in whose veins ran as good blood as heart of Englishman ever knew, and that such an attempt must involve fatal, disastrous and irreparable consequences. To us, in these times, it seems marvelous indeed that those political leaders should have so sadly blundered as not to perceive that they were trying to reduce brave British hearts to a kind of political servitude, whereas they should have remembered that, not only in old England, but all over the area of America, and all around this great planet, Britons never can be slaves. In the earlier part of the quarrel between the parliament and the colonists the old spirit of disloyalty, was confined chiefly to the vicinity of Massachusetts Bay. The people generally throughout the thirteen colonies were loyal to the throne and to the King of England. Meanwhile, the arbitrary spirit of the parliament was still preserved. The situation was discussed in speeches, in sermons, in conversation, and by the press, everywhere. The colonists admitted that they were bound by their allegiance to the King, but they never acknowledged allegiance to parliament. So far as external trade was concerned they acknowledge, up to the time of their last appeal to the King for redress, the right of the parliament to legislate upon all matters connected with navigation and foreign trade; but denied the right of parliament to interfere on questions of internal trade or local taxation. They had uniformly denied that parliament had the right to make laws for them. And herein was precisely the point of the prevailing controversy. But allegiance to the King did exist, and had been generally acknowledged; and, down to 1775, the most solemn assurances had been given that there was no intention to break that allegiance, or to throw it off. As the quarrel was prolonged the resistance of the people became more pronounced; and, in growing numbers, they assumed the attitude of antagonism to British rule; and after long waiting, in vain, for redress, their antagonism involved disloyalty to the King himself. A climax was reached in the declaration of independence, by the Congress, at Philadelphia, on the fourth of July, 1776. As the purpose of that declaration was to sever the tie of allegiance which bound the colonies to the King, it was, necessarily, founded on acts of the crown itself, as its justifying causes. The Parliament was ignored in the declaration, not being so much as mentioned in the whole instrument. There was a clear and obvious necessity for holding the King responsible for those measures which were the ground of separation, and hence the declaration of independence had a personal application to him. Without seeming to utter a disloyal sentiment toward the government of Great Britain, it may, without hesitancy, be acknowledged that it is now admitted by all standard English-speaking historians, on both sides of the Atlantic, that the success of the American revolutionists involved a great gain for constitutional liberty; and that all English-speaking people, of the present time are, as a result of that success, enjoying larger liberties, and more beneficent self-government, than, otherwise, they would have possessed. The contemplation of the stern and stubborn developments, of the period under review, is full of strange and sorrowful interest to the lover of English institutions. How sharply defined those developments stand out! Here we have a ministry of the crown, weaker in the knowledge of political science, and in administrative skill, than any ministry had been since the infatuated reign of James the second. Here, again, we have the fascinating dream of the thoughtful colonists, of an empire that would include the fatherland, and all the colonies, everywhere, under one king and under one banner, dissipated by the blundering of the ministry and the parliament. And, here, moreover, we have the mother country in a fierce and protracted conflict with her own children, which involved the loss to the crown of her thirteen magnificent colonies which involved, also, the augmenting two-fold of her national debt, by adding upwards of six hundred million dollars thereto; and which was the only war in which England ever engaged that proved to be seriously disastrous to her interests. A portion of the population of the colonies, in whom the principles of the Pilgrim Fathers were still cherished, proclaimed their loyalty to the idea of an United British Empire, and their loyalty to the throne and to the King of England, notwithstanding the deplorable faults of the Parliament. For their adhesion to the old flag that had braved, a thousand years, the battle and the breeze, and to all of which that flag was the symbol, those Loyalists accepted the peril of life, and the peril of property, which that adhesion involved. They left their smiling homes. They left the plough mid-furrow. They left the standing corn. They grasped the sword. They carried the musket. They stood in the deadly breech. They scaled redoubts, and climbed ramparts, amid storms of shot and shell. And, on many a well-fought field, they poured out their generous life-blood in devotion to their cause. Then when the seven years war was over, and the scattered and broken band was brought together, naught remained for those who never could surrender their principles, but to escape, as exiles, to another land very much as the Pilgrim Fathers had done, a hundred and sixty years before, and for purposes, substantially, if not quite, identical. In the spring-time of 1783, when the genial sun was filling the heavens with his arrows, and giving promise of the coming summer, the Loyalists who were destined to be the founders of this city and this Province, were crowded into the twenty vessels which were placed at their disposal. Out from the harbor of New York they sailed. Out over the ocean they set their course. Hitherward they came, leaving the struggles, the sacrifices, and the sorrows of the past behind them; and not knowing the things that should befall them here. A divinity was bearing them on in its irresistible sweep. They were brought here by that providence in whose hand are all our ways, to found another country and another government among the people of the earth. And now we, their descendants, and our fellow-citizens, who have come to us from various nationalities, form part of a Dominion, which, though latest born into the family of the nations, will yet compete, as one generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, in honorable rivalry, with the strongest and grandest of them all. During the century that has elapsed, since the union of the Pilgrims and the Puritans under one government, there had been more or less of a breaking down of the political partition walls that had separated those two classes. Through intermarriages, and other causes, there had been a commingling, to a great extent, of the diverse elements. The passing away of another generation, or two, would probably have almost obliterated the dividing lines between them. The outbreak of the conflict, however, led to the revival and more pronounced manifestation of the sentiment of loyalty in the minds of many, and led to an antipathy of British connexion in the minds of others. Those sentiments, as the struggle went on between the Loyalists and the Revolutionists, became on both sides more and more intensified. The more prominent Loyalists who came to these Provinces were intensely loyal to the King; while, for the most part, they had a commendable fear of God, with a becoming reverence for his house and services, and with, perhaps, an inadequately developed regard for the rights and privileges of the individual. Those were the men upon whom devolved, chiefly, the laying of the foundations of the social, political, commercial, and religious fabric of these Provinces. They gave themselves to this work with brave hearts and diligent hands. They began the subjugation of the soil. They selected sites whereupon towns and cities might spring up and grow. They built houses and ships, and roads, and bridges. They erected churches for the services and worship of God. They embarked in commercial enterprises. They established governments. They inaugurated courts of justice. The day at first was small and feeble. Their dwellings were for a time necessarily unpretentious in size and appearance, and were provided with only the scantiest conveniences for comfort. The possession of an abundance of gold and silver would not avail in those days to command, except to a moderate extent, either the luxuries or the comforts of life. But the work went on. And, when, at the end of a half century after the landing of the Loyalists, it was manifest that one generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, great had been the growth. Within the half century of which we have just spoken, there had existed in the more prominent governmental, and religious circles, a feeling of exclusiveness, which led to the confining of the best patronage of the government, for the most part, within certain social limits, and within narrow ecclesiastical boundaries. You have an illustration of this bigotry and sectarian narrowness in the fact that, for the first half century after the establishment of the government of this Province, ministers of the Methodist Church, and ministers of the Baptist and of other churches, were deprived, by Act of the Legislature, of the privilege of performing the right of marriage under any circumstances. If, however, the more prominent men of the first half century of our colonial history manifested their loyalty rather in the direction of attachment for the sovereign, than in respect for the rights of the people, we must remember that such a preference was a natural result of the adoption on their part of the Royalist cause, and of their limited views of the principles of true and broad statesmanship. The lapse of time and growing political intelligence, only, were needed, to having the desired changes. The time is past. The changes are here. That generation has passed away; and another generation has come. And, happily, we live in a better day. It was apparent at the beginning of the second half of the century that has now reached its completion, that new ideas had found their way into the popular thought of the time. The schoolmaster was abroad. Colleges were being established. Newspapers were abounding. The science of government was becoming better understood. It was becoming increasingly manifest that the days of exclusiveness and of irresponsibility, must give way to larger liberty, and that the government for the time being, must be carried on for the benefit of the people, and accordingly to the well-understood wishes of the people, and with a clear recognition of its responsibility to the people. Those changes were secured, but not without sharp, protracted, and sometimes malignant political contests. Within this last half century, now almost fully rounded out, and within the present week to be completed, our growth in trade, and commerce, and manufactures, our extension as regards our religious affairs, our social prosperity, and the general development of the resources of the country, have been, upon the whole, worthy of our peculiar but promising beginning. How vast the work that has been accomplished throughout the world during these hundred years! What heroes have appeared, and disappeared! What battles have been fought and what victories have been won! How great has been the enlargement of the area of English civilization! What developments in letters, in art, and in science! How encouraging has been the success of the missionary operations of the churches! What triumphs have been achieved for the growing empire of the Saviour of the world! What changes have taken place in our own land! Carleton, and Ludlow, and Putnam, brave Loyalists of our earlier period have been, for long years, slumbering in the dust. Of the legislators of the first half of the century now closed, who contended for the inauguration of broader political principles, we may mention Charles Simonds, William Crane, Stephen Humbert, Philip Palmer, William Botsford, John M. Wilmot, William B. Chandler, James B. Uniacke, Hugh Bell, and Herbert Huntington. The time would fail me to speak of other loyal men, who were fellow-laborers with those just mentioned, and whose names are worthy of enduring preservation in our political history. With the passing away of the generation in which they lived, they have followed their predecessors into that land whence no inhabitant comes to us again. Of the many honorable statesmen of our own generation we may mention Egerton Ryerson and Robert Baldwin, of Ontario; Louis Joseph Papineau and Louis Hypolite Lafontaine, of Quebec; Joseph Howe, and Lawrence O’Connor Doyle, of Nova Scotia; Lemuel Allan Wilmot and Charles Fisher, of New Brunswick; and Thomas D’Arcy McGee, poet, orator, and statesman, and the proto-martyr of the Dominion. These all have joined the fathers on the other side of the flood, where the generation does not pass away, that another generation may come. Those worthy men possessed that loyalty, which, in the heart and the understanding of an Englishman, is a reasonable and consistent attachment to the guardian of the laws, and includes a comprehensive recognition of the rights of the people. They willingly extended the respect due to the office of a good ruler into an affection for the person of the sovereign. They loved the old land, and its name, its memories, its institutions, its standard, and its flag. But as the years have rolled by, like wave after wave, into eternity, they, one by one, have disappeared from amongst us. Bravely, and well, did they toil for the public good. They were inspired with a purpose nobler far than a desire to accumulate the perishable treasures of earth. And in their lives and deeds we have a heritage which is costlier than gold. Those generations are gone, and with them have passed away the faithful men, to whom, under Providence, we owe our national existence and privileges. Upon us rests, to-day, the responsibility of preserving, and perpetuating, the principles which they have handed down to us, They call to us to be faithful to our trust. By their sacrifices of many kinds; by their hardships through the long war; by their surrender of their old homes with their loved associations; and by their faithful adherence to duty, in evil report and in good report, they, being dead, yet speak, and call to us to be faithful in our day. Yea, moreover, the grander men of all time speak to-day to the people of this young and rising land. Greece calls to us by the quivering lips of her poisoned, dying Demosthenes; Rome speaks to us in the mute eloquence of her mangled Tully. The Republic of the United States pleads with us in the loyalty to his convictions of the murdered Lincoln, and to the patient endurance for the right of the living and the dying Garfield. Let us, then, who have entered into the labors of our Loyalist fathers, and who so happily enjoy, in this day, the fruits of those labors, cherish and preserve and embalm the precious memories of their loyalty to the rights of mankind, their loyalty to the King of Kings, and their loyalty to the throne and to the Sovereign of England.