Faithful servants

Daily Reading for July 4 • Independence Day

The 4th of July has been celebrated in Philadelphia in the manner I expected. The military men . . . ran away with all the glory of the day. Scarcely a word was said of the solicitude and labors and fears and sorrows and sleepless nights of the men who projected, proposed, defended, and subscribed the Declaration of Independence. Do you recollect your memorable speech upon the day on which the vote was taken? Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants?. . . .

I visited the late Reverence Mr. Marshall of this city in his last illness. A few days before his death he thanked me affectionately for my services to him and his family, and afterwards said some kind of flattering things to me upon the pursuits and labors of my life. I replied to the letter by saying that I had aimed to do all the good I could to my fellow citizens, but that I had been so much thwarted and opposed that I did not know that any of my labors had ever been attended with success. “Well, well,” said this dying saint, “remember your Saviour at the day of judgment will not say, ‘Well done, thou successful, but well done thou faithful servant.’ You have been ‘faithful,’ Doctor, and that is enough.”

From a letter from Dr. Benjamin Rush to John Adams, July 20, 1811. Quoted in Letters of a Nation: A Collection of Extraordinary American Letters, edited by Andrew Carroll (Kodansha International, 1997).

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