W0339 DR CALVIN MCQUESTEN, SCHOOL ESSAY: WAS THE HOMAGE PAID TO LAFAYETTE EXPEDIENT.
Jan 1 2000
Was the homage paid La Fayette expedient. In pursuing this subject, sufficient we refer you to the precedents of those that have gone before us. The question before us is so plain that it scarcely needs an argument to decide it. Were we but for a moment, to [?] attention from present to past wants, should we look into the records of nations of ancient or modern date, and since the causes that have conspired to raise them in the eyes of surrounding nations, we every where find, that, loyalty is the prominent characteristick [sic], in the features of every nation, that, has ever risen to any degree of eminence, in the scale of empire. And we are taught from their precepts and examples, that nothing is more conducive to the interest of a nation, than loyalty in the hearts of its subjects. It is the first principle of human nature. Wherever knowledge or refinement has preoccupied the mind, there we see a respectful homage paid to superiors, and a due acknowledgment of gratitude to benefactors. And if gratitude is due from man to man, if there is any respect to be paid to virtue, if there is any homage due to those who have become eminent in due preservation, this is increased by the greatness and effect of the effort, by the sacrifice of the deliverer and the distress of the delivered.
And is not this obligation increased, when great and inestimable blessings are bestowed, by those on whom the sufferers held no claim. Actuated by no sinister views, but by disinterested benevolence, they leave their native home, they sacrifice all that their hearts hold dear, jeopardize their lives and rescue a people from bondage and death. If such men are not worthy of unfeigned fealty, then I acknowledge that the homage paid to La Fayette was derogatory to the dignity of the nation. But on the other hand, if no law of nature, if no direct command, has forbidden us to [?], to revere the man, who, out of love to one Country, left his own, and in the ardor of his soul pressed onward to one aid; at that critical time when we were brought down by the overwhelming power of a domineering prince; and sinking under the cruel oppression of that haughty monarch, who, held us as a diamond in his right hand, whose only object was his own how different was the aggrandizement. But he came, as a star character of that purpose, whose [?] soul impelled him venerable man, from the east across the Atlantic to enter this American, Eden to receive the desparing spirits of our fathers & aided them with his council, to rekindled a flame that was destined to burn till every foe should droop and writhe before it. Yes and like a father to our fathers, his feeling heart was touched with sympathy at all their woes, and largely participated with them in all their distresses. And who can deny that he was as mean in the hand of him who rules the destiny of nations, of gaining that freedom which we now enjoy. And when the object of his mission was accomplished and the olive branch of peace had cast its shadow over this happy land, crowded with laurels of [?], he sought his own native shores. And after a absence of forty years his head silvered over with age, his limbs trembling with infirmity, but with a heart glowing with love, he again visits the land, which (I might almost say) he redeemed.
Was it our duty to receive him with coldness and indifference? To bid him no hearty welcome? To give him no place in our afections [sic], but leave him to mourn over graves of those whom he loved, and to weep over their degenerate sons. So it reasons, let conscience answer. I admit that much was done for his reception; and much ought to have been done. It was the free will offering of hearts enlightened by truth, and worsened with sincere affection. He exhibited such kindness in his heart, that it excited a corresponding feeing [sic] in ours, and that heart must be sunk in apathy, and buried in forgetfulness, that could feel indifferent, towards one so worthy, so deserving of our esteem. I have heard much said against the extragance [extravagance], expense, and splendid preparation and evil consequences that have ensued. However, this may appear to some, who are ever looking the dark side of the question, whose eyes are ever watching for evil, and passing over every thing of a moral nature, yet, to an unprejudiced mind it will appear in every different light. Though his entertainments were attended with some expense, yet this was defrayed by the rich and affluent and it could in no wise be detrimental to community. I shall say but little, in regard to the political and moral influences, that such ways, and such distinguished expressions of gratitude, as were paid to LaFayette, may have, upon the nations in general. It is certain it is calculated to excite in them a spirit of patriotism and philanthropy, to keep alive the flame of liberty, to eleveate them to a manly and martial spirit, without which, it is impossible for a nation to support her dignity, or defend her rights. And I am well aware that, there may be objections raised against this, that it is not justifiable to cultivate a war-like spirit, and in a certain degree I am willing to acknowledge it is not. Just so far as it tends to prevent needless quarrels and seditions it is far from right. Could there be any other means devised whereby we might perpetuate our [?] freedom, and [?] immutable, those sacred rights and privileges which we as a people enjoy without recourse to [?]; then might the sword be forever sheathed and military prowess forever eradicated from the [??]. But to prove that cannot be, we need only trace what the character of man has been, and reflect that he is still the same.
1 For more examples of Dr. Calvin McQuesten's school work see the following documents:
W0346, W0349, W0350, W0351, W0353.