On February 22, 1832, the 100th birthday of George Washington, members of Congress and guests from across the union gathered in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the occasion. Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster was asked by the Committee of Arrangements to deliver the address.
In the course of that address, The Character of Washington, Senator Webster delivered several stern and sobering warnings to futurity:
“Gentlemen, the spirit of human liberty and of free government, nurtured and grown into strength and beauty in America, has stretched its course into the midst of the nations. Like an emanation from Heaven, it has gone forth, and it will not return void- It must change, it is fast changing, the face of the earth. Our great, our high duty is to show, in our own example, that this spirit is a spirit of health as well as a spirit of power; that its benignity is as great as its strength ; that its efficiency to secure individual rights, social relations, and moral order, is equal to the irresistible force with which it prostrates principalities and powers. The world, at this moment, is regarding us with a willing, but something of a fearful admiration. Its deep and awful anxiety is to learn whether free states may be stable, as well as free; whether popular power may be trusted, as well as feared; in short, whether wise, regular, and virtuous selfgovernment is a vision for the contemplation of theorists, or a truth established, illustrated, and brought into practice in the country of Washington.”[i]