Speech by Congressman Thomas W. Ferry (R-Michigan) on July 4, 1876, in Philadelphia

Researched by James R. Heintze. All rights reserved.

Editor's note: this address was presented at Independence Square by Ferry in place of President Grant who declined to attend the event. Ferry quotes from the Declaration of Independence. Address printed in "City of the Declaration," New York Times, 5 July 1876, 3.


Citizens of our Centennial: The regretful absence of the President of the United States casts on me the honor of presiding on this eventful occasion. Much as I value the official distinction, I prize much more the fact that severally we hold, and successfully we maintain, the right to the prouder title of American citizen. It ranks all others. It make office, unmakes officers, and creates States. One hundred years ago, in yonder historical structure, heroic statesmen sat, and gravely chose between royal rule and popular sovereignty. Inspired with the spirit which animated the Roman sage who, on the midst of Mars Hill, declared that of one blood were made all nations of men, those Continental sages echoed in the midst of Independence Hall their immortal declaration that all men are created free and equal. Appealing to the god of justice and of battle for the rectitude and firmness of their purpose, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the abstract principle of the freedom and equality of the human race. Today, in this rounding hour of a century, appealing to the same God of justice and of peace, we praise Him for, and pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to maintain, the spirit of that declaration now made universal by the fundamental law of the land. We, the people of the United States, in this Centennial memorial, pay double tribute to the Most High, one of grateful acknowledgment of the fulfilled pledge of our fathers to overthrow royalism, and the other of joyful assurance of the fulfilling pledge of their sons to uphold republicanism. The great powers of the earth honor the spirit of American fidelity to the cause of human freedom by the exhibition of their wares and the presence of their titled peers, to grace and dignify the world's homage paid to the Centennial genius of American liberty. Three millions of people grown to forty-three millions; and thirteen Colonies enlarge to a nation of thirty-seven States with the thirty-eighth, the Centennial State, forsaking eight Territories, and on the threshold of the Union abiding executive admission; these attest the forecast and the majesty of the Declaration of 1776. It was nothing short of the utterance of the sovereignty of manhood and the worth of American citizenship. Its force is fast supplanting the assumption of the divine right of Kings by virtue of the supreme law of the nation, that the people alone hold the sole owner to rule. Nations succeed each other in following the example of this Republic, and the force of American institutions bids fair to bring about a general reversal of the source of political power. When that period shall come, Great Britain, so magnanimous in presence on this auspicious era, will then, if not before, praise the events when American Independence was won under Washington, and when freedom and equality of races were achieved under Lincoln and Grant.

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