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An Inheritance of American Liberty

Adrian Smith 3rd Dist

On July 4, 1851, the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the federal government embarked on a project to add two major wings to the U.S. Capitol Building and enlarge its dome. In the ensuing decade, through Congress’ most contentious years then the first three years of the Civil War, construction carried on. In December 1863, the Statue of Freedom was installed on the now completed dome, signifying confidence the Union would be preserved at a fateful moment in American history.

As it relates to freedom, opportunity, and enduring national bonds, the U.S. Capitol Building is the most iconic architecture in the world. Each year on Independence Day, we gather across the country with friends and family to hail the triumph of the American values it represents. Despite the challenging division we currently experience, these values have stood the test of time, bringing people together from across our land and across the globe.

173 years ago, at the laying of the cornerstone for the Capitol expansion, the great American statesman and then-Secretary of State Daniel Webster delivered remarks extolling the brilliant legacy passed down by the Founding Fathers which has since influenced the world for the better many times over. I’ve shared excerpts from his impassioned words below.

U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster
Address at the laying of the cornerstone of the addition to the Capitol
July 4, 1851

This declaration, made by most patriotic and resolute men, trusting in the justice of their cause and the protection of Heaven, and yet made not without deep solicitude and anxiety, has now stood for seventy-five years, and still stands. It was sealed in blood. It has met dangers and overcome them. It has had enemies and conquered them. It has had detractors and abashed them all. It has had doubting friends, but it has cleared all doubts away. And now, today, raising its august form higher than the clouds, twenty millions of people contemplate it with hallowed love. And the world beholds it, and the consequences which have followed from it, with profound admiration. This anniversary animates, and gladdens, and unites all American hearts. On other days of the year we may be party men, indulging in controversies, more or less important to the public good. We may have likes and dislikes, and we may maintain our political differences, often with warm, and sometimes with angry feelings. But today, we are Americans all, and all nothing but Americans.

Every man's heart swells within him. Every man's port and bearing becomes somewhat more proud and lofty as he remembers that seventy-five years have rolled away, and that the great inheritance of liberty is still his: his, undiminished and unimpaired, his in all its original glory, his to enjoy, his to protect, and his to transmit to future generations.

I have said, gentlemen, that our inheritance is an inheritance of American liberty. That liberty is characteristic, peculiar, and altogether our own. Nothing like it existed in former times, nor was known in the most enlightened states of antiquity... it then known that, on this day, the Union of the United States of America stands firm, that their Constitution still exists unimpaired and with all its original usefulness and glory, growing every day stronger and stronger in the affections of the great body of the American people and attracting more and more the admiration of the world. And all here assembled, whether belonging to public life or to private life, with hearts devoutly thankful to Almighty God for the preservation of the liberty and happiness of the country, unite in sincere and fervent prayers that this deposit and the walls and arches, the domes and towers, the columns and entablatures now to be erected over it may endure forever! God save the United States of America.

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