The Melancholy Walk of Death – Boston Massacre Oration Excerpts

Dr. Joseph Warren (1741-1775)

in by Warren

 Date:  March 6, 1775

“Approach we then the melancholy walk of death.  Hither let me call the gay companion; here let him drop a farewell tear upon that body which so late he saw vigorous and warm with social mirth; hither let me lead the tender mother to weep over her beloved son: come widowed mourner, here satiate thy grief; behold thy murdered husband gasping on the ground, and to complete the pompous show of wretchedness, bring in each hand thy infant children to bewail their father’s fate.  Take heed, ye orphan babes, lest, whilst your streaming eyes are fixed upon the ghastly corpse, your feet glide on the stones bespattered with your father’s brains.  Enough!  This tragedy need not be heightened by an infant weltering in the blood of him that gave it birth.  Nature, reluctant shrinks already from the view, and the chilled blood rolls slowly backward in its fountain.  We wildly stare about, and with amazement, ask, who spread this ruin round us?  What wretch has dared deface the image of his God?  Has haughty France, or cruel Spain, sent forth her myrmidons?  Has the grim savage rused again from the far distant wilderness?  Or does some fiend, fierce from the depth of hell, with all the rancorous malice, which the apostate damned can feel, twang her destructive bow, and hurl her deadly arrows at our breast?  No, none of these; but, how astonishing!…”
“Hardships and dangers (though we forever strive to shun them) have frequently called forth such virtues, as have commanded the applause and reverence of an admiring world.  Our country loudly calls you to be circumspect, vigilant, active, and brave.”

Source:  Joseph Warren, “Boston Massacre Oration” In John Collins Warren Papers,  Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 28 handwritten and numbered ms pages.  Joseph Warren, An Oration; Delivered March Sixth, 1775: At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston; to Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770 Boston: Edes and Gill.  The speech was reprinted many times during the Revolutionary and Early Republic periods.  Additional excerpts are here and here.

Commentary:  Recalling tragedy on the streets of Boston, Warren put into words core values defining liberty and imparting an aspirational view for America.

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