Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

could be devised. We see not how there wrong. Your doctrine, in its ultimate can be any escape from this conclusion effects, as we conceive, would be the even on the lower hypothesis which our means of multiplying the number of argument required, but which we have those who would be reckless of man's wronged these good men in adopting on physical good; and your poison for the their behalf, instead of supposing them soul would exhibit its final effect in the to have had supreme reference to religion, destruction of the body. We forbid your as an end, and not as a means to some- teaching our children that there is no thing below itself. , Would they not be God. sf guilty of disobedience in this bound, on this supposition, to keep out respect, we banish you from our State; all influences foreign or hostile to the ac and if, under pretence of maintaining quisition of those habits and those prin- your rights of conscience, you persist in ciples; or, in other words, to keep out returning and committing the offence, we atheism and infidelity with far more shall visit you with such sorer punishrigor than they would exercise towards ments as the wickedness and most dethe man whu injured the present physi- structive consequences of your crime cal health by poisoning wells, or by the may seem to us to deserve. Our children, sale of bad provisions? And that, too, at all events, must be protected from the if they should choose thus to regard it, danger of atheism. If you tell us that on physical grounds; because the one pro error may safely be indulged, provided duces a physical mischief, comparatively reason is left free to combať it,” we are partial, iemporary, and easily remedied, willing to run no such risk, any more while the other gives birth to an evil than we would permit you to introduce ever tending to reproduce itself, and to among us a pestilential disease, if it were render all prevention of itself and its in our power to prevent it, simply betemporal consequences more and more cause there may possibly exist among us difficult, until this moral pestilence has the means of cure. Besides, we are not so caused the final destruction of that phys- certain that, in the present state of the huical system into which it is allowed « to man race, reason, and religion, and virtue eat like a canker.”. Now suppose that would gain as favorable a hearing in the there should come into their society an minds of the young, when left to themavowed atheist, claiming free discussion, selves, as the allurements of vice and liand contending that he has the same right centious pleasure, aided by the powerful to inculcate his sentiments that another auxiliary doctrine that there is no God, has to circulate the pious and religious and, of course, no accountability. Would tract. To state the case in the most fa- not these men reason correctly? Taking vorable light, let us imagine him no vul- their circumstances, as we have stated gar, scoffing blasphemer, but one who them, can there be discovered any fallacy assumes to make use of serious philo. whatever in their premises, or the consophical argument. In the light of the clusion to which they are supposed to above principles, what must be the reply have arrived ? of those whose retreat is thus invaded? Aha! says our man of human rights, Might they not say to him--Here is no who has been “watching for our haltabsolute right in the case. Your right ing,” we knew we should catch you at to discuss matters of this nature must last. Your disguise is off. With all depend on the right or wrong, the good your display of candor, and show of aror bad tendencies of the matters them- gument; with all your circumlocutions, selves. We refuse to listen to you our your cautious and indirect approaches to selves, and we forbid your speaking to a subject you would not dare to face diour children. We say this as heads of rectly, we have all along well known single families, and as the civil guardi- where you would finally come out. It ans of associated families. You are a seems then, you are for reviving blue worse offender, even against the physical laws, and persecuting inen for their regood of society, than the man we ligious opinions. You would imprison, have punished for selling unwholesome or banish, at least, if you dared not put provisions, and that, too, not on the to death, the atheist, or infidel, or blasground that you are directly destroying phemer, or by whatever other name of the moral health of the soul: this posi- opprobrium you may choose to designate tion we might take, but we would rather the honest and conscientious man who place ourselves on one that comes nearer denied one particle of your narrow creed. to the standard of your own right and We admit, in all seriousness, that there

is some difficulty in parrying such an at- the opposing school, although in the optack as this, or in resisting the argument posite extreme, and regard as a self-evi. from consequences, which should apply dent matter of duty, what they, on the the same reasoning, not only to atheism, other hand, would treat as an infringebut to deism, to intidelity in all its aspects, ment of human rights, too palpable to be to liberalism also, to transcendentalism, to- discussed. It is sufficient, in the present gether with the various shades and differ- stage of our argument, to say, that we ences of Christian sects, until there was are not such a nation as has been desincluded everything which the most cribed. We have in all these respects bigoted religionist might deem hostile to most serious disorders, which, however, the true interests of mankind. We are may ultimately be the means of great aware with what force all this may be and unmingled good. The rigid doctrine retorted, by a skillful antagonist, and yet laid down in our supposed case, although it is hard to discover the fallacy which it may seem faultless in theory, cannot, led us, in the above case, to the odious in its full extent, or in anything like its and unpopular conclusion.

full extent, be applied to our present state. In reference to such a state of society We may lawfully make an effort to prevent as we have been just considering, homo- the diversity becoming greater ; but as at geneous as to race, and of like religious present constituted, even in our separate faith, we cannot help regarding it as State polities, we resemble more a congestrictly and inevitably applicable. If ries of tribes, and tongues, and religions, men thus believed and felt, it would cer than one single homogeneous people. tainly be not only their duty, but their We believe that there is a disposition to highest duty, to make the uncorrupted assimilate ; that there is also, in every preservation, to their posterity, of that mixed people, if unaffected by continual religion and that morality, the most outward disturbing causes, a natural tensacred object of their political institu- dency to nationalism in race and religion, tions; and we have seen that they might as well as in language. We have good consistently do this on grounds that were grounds for hoping that this feeling and irrespective of the interests of a future love of nationality, which God has given life, except so far as a regard to these for the highest purposes, may in timelatter should be employed as means for if not sooner destroyed by them—blend the promotion of physical good in the into one these internal discords, and propresent world.

duce one_common, well-attempered har. In maintaining such a conclusion, it mony. This must be the result, or the might be inferred that every nation ought State is gone; for history has repeatedly to be homogeneous, or, in other words, shown that a nation cannot long exist strictly a gens, and keep itself so; that composed of heterogeneous, unharmonizit ought to have one pure religious faith, ing elements. May we not, however, as the national soul; and that the State believe that something better is reserved had become too large, or had assumed an for us, and that for some glorious finale unnatural heterogeneous and self.de- of national harmony, Providence has structive character, when it had within brought into combination, and preserved its bosom different races and creeds, in combination, our apparent Babel ? fundamentally varying in respect to the Whilst, however, we admit all the dif. highest truths. The same position may ficulties of our present position, there is also be assumed, in respect to one true no need so to magnify them, as to do and pure code of morals. It would even away altogether the all-important princi. be applicable to a philosophy regarded as ple for which we contend, and for which presenting the true elements of a state of we would ever zealously contend, as the well-being; and this, too, on the ground, prime element of national life, never to be that when differences of opinion on any lost sight of or abandoned, although the subject are viewed as of no account, it difficulties were to be a thousand fold must be because the subject itself has greater than they really are. We have come to be regarded as one of utter in- not the homogeneity of the Purilans, ei. difference.

ther in Church or State ; and yet we still But we would frankly admit the im- have that without which no nation can mense difficulties that, in given circum- long exist, any more than a body without stances, may lie in the way of reducing a soul-namely, a national religion. Let this fair theory to practice. We must no one be alarmed at this, or call up the not run into an error similar to that of dreaded ideas of Church and State, of

fire and faggots, with all the horrors not among these the proclamations of of the Romish inquisition. We are not our governors for days of fasting and now discussing the question as involving thanksgiving, nor the practice of daily merely an abstract principle; neither are prayer in our legislative assemblies. we recommending any new and peculiar These are mere incidental matters, and feature in legislation. We are dealing do not, like the others, so enter into the with matters of fact. We speak of a very spirit of our institutions, that they fixed fact, as Mr. Cushing would style it, cannot be removed without violent diswhich is fundamental even to our consti- ruptions extending through the whole tution or fundamental law, and which system. The first, by being put upon legislation must recognize, either by way the ground of recommendations merely, of countenancing or opposing—a fixed would look rather like a denial of relifact, towards which the general course gion as being actually a part or rather and spirit of the law cannot be neutral, the foundation of the law; and the praceven although it may never have been the tice and mode of appointing Congressubject of specific enactment in the statute sional Chaplains from party office-seek. book. This fact is, that we are, as yet, ers and on party grounds, would, unless a Christian nation. Whatever may be greatly reformed, better exhibit our naour other differences, we meet on the tional Christianity in the breach than in broad ground of a common professed the observance of the custom. But what Christianity; not in the narrow sense of is of far more account than this, Christibeing established by law, but as forming anity furnishes the sanctions to our laws; the basis on which the law itself is esta- it is taken as an avowed guide by the blished. We say this, not merely because best of our legislators; it enters into the it is the religion of a majority. We all reasonings of our Courts, both from the know that it is far more. Such is its bench and the bar. It is associated with universality that there is no impropriety our most sacred historical reminiscences. in calling it the creed of the nation, even It was the avowed and cherished religion on the score of numbers. But in another of our fathers. It has never, as yet, been aspect it may with still more propriety be repudiated by their sons. Our national called the national religion. It is as yet, existences were most certainly founded and notwithstanding all the efforts of infi- upon it as the common law of the mother delity and false philosophy, the quicken- country, and this foundation has never ing spirit of our institutions. It enters been expressly or impliedly removed by into the habits and modes of thinking of any positive legislation of an opposing our people. Although very seldom men kind. To speak against it, to revile it, tioned in the statute book, it pervades it or to attempt to bring it into disrepute, has as an invisible spiritual atmosphere. It been declared by our supreme judicial is recognized in the oath, in the yet pre- authority an offence indictable at common vailing ideas of punishment, in statutes law, on the ground that whoever assails against various species of immorality, Christianity assails the foundations of and in the yet continued observance, by the law itself; and that, therefore, the our legislative, judicial and executive au. punishment of such a crime by the law thorities, of a sacred day. We reckon is an act of self-defence.*

* We feel that we have been guilty of no extravagance in the utterance of these sentiments, when we recollect that they are in substance the same with those maintained by Daniel Webster in his famous speech on the 'Girard Will case, before the Supreme Court of the United States. We hope, also, that our Democratic Whigs will not be offended, (to avoid Loco-foco censure on these points we have no great anxiety,) if we refer to that good old federalist and most healthy-minded jurist, the venerable Chancellor Kent. We do this with the more confidence because his decision, embodying the sentiments above expressed, is yet unrepealed and unreversed, and therefore the existing law of our State. We refer to the case of the People vs. Ruggles, viii. Johnson's Reports, p. 290. Judge Kent, in his decision in this case, declared that “Christianity in its enlarged sense, as a religion revealed and taught in the Bible, is part and parcel of the law of the land. The statute for preventing immorality (he continues) consecrates the first day of the week as holy time, and considers the violation of it as immoral. The act concerning oaths recognizes the common law mode of administering an oath by laying the hand on and kissing the gospel. Surely, then, we are bound to conclude that those wicked and malicious words, writings and actions, which go to vilify those gos. pels, continue, as at common law, to be an offence against the public peace and safety. They are inconsistent with the reverence due the oath, and tend to lessen, in the public

We are, then, still a religious people. vidual, a position of indifference between We have a national creed and we are not religion and irreligion, or, as the issue is yet, in this respect, an exception among now made up for us, between Christi. all other nations of ancient or modern anity and infidelity. It may occupy a times. That national religion is the middle ground, or a position of indifferChristian. The mere fragments of open ence between various sects of a comand avowed infidel sects no more militate mon fundamental faith; especially if against this conclusion, or take away our their differences relate not so much to national Christian character, than the those religious doctrines of national acfact that there may be a few monarchists countability, national retribution, and inamong us should justly prevent our being dividual obligation, as to rights and forms styled a republican nation, or the few and modes of worship. But this is far foreign dialects in our land should forbid from being the relation of those two the Anglo-Saxon from being regarded as great antagonistic principles, which, in our national language.

these latter days, are so desperately strivThis, then, being matter of fact, not ing for the dominion of the human soul, created by law, but being fundamental to and pressing every other influence into the law itself—and we take the term here the conflict. These have no common in its largest sense, as including not only region on which to locate the punctum written constitutions and statutes, butalso indifferens. Between these there can be all that enters into what may be styled the no peace. Eternal strife must be the law legal life or action of our political organ- of both, until one or the other is finally ism)—legislation, as we have said, or the made to yield ; and no institution that is general course of our government, can no not utterly alien to humanity can long more be indifferent or neutral in respect maintain even an apparent neutrality beto it, than in regard to any other import- tween them. Infidelity is not a variety, ant national fact which enters deeply but the antithesis, of belief. It is not now into the thoughts, feelings, customs, the even a sect of what is styled natural reinner and outer life of the great and al- ligion. One must be a very snperficial most universal body of the people. It is student of the philosophical history of fundamental to the constitution as the the last century, not to have seen, that constitution is fundamental to the laws. this has had its day and has passed Legislation has not created this fact, as away forever. There is no more any we have observed ; but it is this which, such thing as religious or moral deism. in a great measure, makes legislation As the smoke of former conflicts clears what it is. We may very truly say, that up, we see the two mortal foes beginning very few of our institutions would have to assume their true forms, and their true been what they now are, if our ancestors, positions. It is Christianity and Athewho have transmitted them to us, had ism every day taking a position of more not been Christians. This being so, we direct antagonism, and marshaling their are, as a nation, compelled to make our forces face to face. Infidelity is rapidly choice in respect to it.

assuming this form of atheism, although The prime sophism of the opposing there may be an attempt to disguise the school is found in the premise so modestly transition under a transcendental panthe and quietly assumed by them, that there ism, or what may more appropriately be can be, either in State or an individual, described as a seeming religious natural. or in a State any more than in an indi- ism. The question is fast coming down mind, its religious sanction.” After showing, most conclusively, that the free toleration which the constitution allows of religious or irreligious belief, is not at all inconsistent with the national recognition of Christianity, he thus proceeds—"Nor are we bound by any expressions in the constitution, as some have strangely supposed, either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet and the Grand Lama; and for this plain reason, that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of these impostors.” Again, in another part of the same admirable decision, he continues—“ And shall we form an exception, in this respect, to the rest of the civil. ized world? No government among any of the polished nations of antiquity, and none of the institutions of modern Europe (a single and monitory case excepted) ever haze arded such a bold experiment upon the solidity of the public morals, as to permit with impunity and under the sanction of their tribunals, the general religion of the country to be openly insulted and defamed. The very idea of jurisprudence with the ancient lawgivers and philosophers embraced the religion of the country. Jurisprudentia est divinarum atque humanarum rerum notitia.-Cicero de Leg., 12.”

to this—Bible, or no Bible--Revelation, most dignified body, which, of all others, or blank irreligion. As well might we should represent the pure and abstract suppose a punctum indifferens, a state of reason of the State, or that “mind withindifference, or some tertium quid, between out passion,” which the master spirit of being and not-being. There never was a antiquity gives as the truest definition of case to which our Saviour's declaration law. It is before that department of our was more applicable--" He that is not for national organism, where, whatever may me is against me, and he that gathereth be the fluctuating and irrational desires of not with me scattereth abroad.

the popular mass, there should ever be a Let us carefully analyze these positions communion with eternal truth and eterthat are of late revived and put forth nal righteousness-a department, which, with so much boldness. “ The law,” as performing the office of head to the says one, “ knows no religion ; the State body, should be ever employed in keeping has no concern with matters of faith.” in order, instead of exciting, the more The State, then, knows no God, no retri- animal and irrational portions of the bution, and, of course, no true morality. system, It is in fact before our national It does not exist as a moral and respon- Boudry, or assembly of wise men, our sible agent. There is, aside from the Senate, our eldership-a body supposed merest expediency, no real right and to be raised far above all the disturbing wrong in any of its acts. In the regu- influences which operate on the rest of the lation of its conduct towards its own community—a body which the people, citizens, or towards other States, it re- with a wise self-distrust, are supposed cognizes no considerations drawn from the to have selected to think for them, and invisible, the eternal, and the immutable. not merely to represent their most un. In its highest proceedings it has relation reasoning propensities. The orator is only to the temporary, the expedient, one of these very elders of the land, who, the economical. It has nothing to do according to Tully's noble definition of with principle. It has no conscience, the Legislator and the Judge, should be no duties, no accountability; for each ever lex loquens, the speaking organ of of these when carried out to their le- the law and the conscience of the State. gitimate limits must terminate in the Such is the scene, and such the speaker. recognition of a spiritual and supernatu. The subject is the awfully solemn one of ral world, together with an invisible war, with all the tremendous consegovernment, of which—as the fountain quences that must follow a deadly strife of all other legitimate governments—the between two of the most powerful law is Eternal Truth, and the lawgiver nations on the earth. Now, what may the Eternal God.

be supposed to be the nature of this Of all nations we most need the se- speech, and of the considerations appealed curity to human rights, which can alone to? It is just such, we reply, as might be drawn from considerations like these. be expected from some common haOf all people on the face of the earth, we ranguer addressing a democratic masshave the most need of a national con- meeting in the Park. It abounds in the science to regulate, and keep steady to most trivial, yet mischievous declamation, the law of right, that sovereign power adapted and designed to enkindle into which nowhere is so absolute as among action all the elements of party and naourselves. Nothing could more strik- tional animosity. It addresses itself to ingly show the value of this doctrine of the most animal and irrational part of a national accountability as a vital part our nature. It is full of appeals to our of the national religion, than the manner absurd and excessive national vanity. It in which the most important measures are repeats, ad nauseam, the most stale dediscussed by some who would be thought clarations of patriotism, designed only to to be our greatest men. We have a most disguise the most reckless demagoguism; clear illustration of this in a late speech and indulges, from beginning to end, in delivered by one who has been a candi- the most empty gasconade about national date for the highest and most responsible honor. Nowhere, however, is there the station, and who aspires to become the least allusion to such a thing as a national executive organ of the nation's will. The conscience, or a national moral accountascene to which we refer is before that bility.*

* As this article was originally intended for the January number of the American Review, reference was had to an event then fresh in the minds of its readers, and which, it is presumed, is not yet forgotten. Since that time, much has taken place to show the truth of the views here presented, and the immense importance of what we

« ElőzőTovább »