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Title: Speeches, Addresses, and Occasional Sermons, Volume 3 (of 3)
Author: Parker, Theodore, 1810-1860
Language: English
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court
of the District of Massachusetts.



SPEECH OF MR. WEBSTER                                 PAGE 1


IN BOSTON, MAY 29, 1850                                   38


PRESIDENT TAYLOR.--Preached at the Melodeon, on
Sunday, July 14, 1850                                     87


TIMES.--Preached at the Melodeon, on Sunday, September
22, 1850                                                 131


FOR THANKSGIVING DAY.--Preached at the Melodeon,
November 28, 1850                                        180


at the Melodeon, on Fast Day, April 10, 1851             230


July 6, 1851                                             292


Address delivered at Waterville, August 8, 1849          346



Mr. President and Fellow Citizens: It is an important occasion which has
brought us together. A great crisis has occurred in the affairs of the
United States. There is a great question now before the people. In any
European country west of Russia and east of Spain, it would produce a
revolution, and be settled with gunpowder. It narrowly concerns the
material welfare of the nation. The decision that is made will help
millions of human beings into life, or will hinder and prevent millions
from being born. It will help or hinder the advance of the nation in
wealth for a long time to come. It is a question which involves the
honor of the people. Your honor and my honor are concerned in this
matter, which is presently to be passed upon by the people of the
United States. More than all this, it concerns the morality of the
people. We are presently to do a right deed, or to inflict a great wrong
on others and on ourselves, and thereby entail an evil upon this
continent which will blight and curse it for many an age.

It is a great question, comprising many smaller ones:--Shall we extend
and foster Slavery, or shall we extend and foster Freedom? Slavery, with
its consequences, material, political, intellectual, moral; or Freedom,
with the consequences thereof?

A question so important seldom comes to be decided before any generation
of men. This age is full of great questions, but this of Freedom is the
chief. It is the same question which in other forms comes up in Europe.
This is presently to be decided here in the United States by the
servants of the people, I mean, by the Congress of the nation; in the
name of the people; for the people, if justly decided; against them, if
unjustly. If it were to be left to-morrow to the naked votes of the
majority, I should have no fear. But the public servants of the people
may decide otherwise. The political parties, as such, are not to pass
judgment. It is not a question between whigs and democrats; old party
distinctions, once so sacred and rigidly observed, here vanish out of
sight. The party of Slavery or the party of Freedom is to swallow up all
the other parties. Questions about tariffs and banks can hardly get a
hearing. On the approach of a battle, men do not talk of the weather.

Four great men in the Senate of the United States have given us their
decision; the four most eminent in the party politics of the nation--two
great whigs, two great democrats. The Shibboleth of their party is
forgotten by each; there is a strange unanimity in their decision. The
Herod of free trade and the Pilate of protection are "made friends,"
when freedom is to be crucified. All four decide adverse to freedom; in
favor of slavery; against the people. Their decisions are such as you
might look for in the politicians of Austria and Russia. Many smaller
ones have spoken on this side or on that. Last of all, but greatest, the
most illustrious of the four, so far as great gifts of the understanding
are concerned, a son of New England, long known, and often and
deservedly honored, has given his decision. We waited long for his
words; we held our peace in his silence; we listened for his counsel.
Here it is; adverse to freedom beyond the fears of his friends, and the
hopes even of his foes. He has done wrong things before, cowardly things
more than once; but this, the wrongest and most cowardly of them all: we
did not look for it. No great man in America has had his faults or his
failings so leniently dealt with; private scandal we will not credit,
public shame we have tried to excuse, or, if inexcusable, to forget. We
have all of us been proud to go forward and honor his noble deeds, his
noble efforts, even his noble words. I wish we could take a mantle big
and black enough, and go backward and cover up the shame of the great
man who has fallen in the midst of us, and hide him till his honor and
his conscience shall return. But no, it cannot be; his deed is done in
the face of the world, and nothing can hide it.

We have come together to-night in Faneuil Hall, to talk the matter over,
in our New England way; to look each other in the face; to say a few
words of warning, a few of counsel, perhaps something which may serve
for guidance. We are not met here to-night to "calculate the value of
the Union," but to calculate the worth of freedom and the rights of man;
to calculate the value of the Wilmot Proviso. Let us be cool and
careful, not violent, not rash; true and firm, not hasty or timid.

Important matters have brought our fathers here many times before now.
Before the Revolution, they came here to talk about the Molasses Act, or
the Sugar Act, or the Stamp Act, the Boston Port Bill, and the long list
of grievances which stirred up their manly stomachs to the Revolution;
afterwards, they met to consult about the Embargo, and the seizure of
the Chesapeake, and many other matters. Not long ago, only five years
since, we came here to protest against the annexation of Texas. But
before the Revolution or after it, meetings have seldom been called in
Faneuil Hall on such solemn occasions as this. Not only is there a great
public wrong contemplated, as in the annexation of Texas, but the
character and conduct of a great public servant of the people come up to
be looked after. This present conduct of Mr. Webster is a thing to be
solemnly considered. A similar thing once happened before. In 1807, a
senator from Massachusetts was disposed to accept a measure the
President had advised, because he had "recommended" it "on his high
responsibility." "I would _not consider_," said the senator, "I would
_not deliberate_, I would _act_."[1] He did so; and with little
deliberation, with small counsel, as men thought at the time, he voted
for the Embargo, and the Embargo came. This was a measure which doomed
eight hundred thousand tons of shipping to rot at the wharf. It touched
the pockets of New England and all the North. It affected the daily
meals of millions of men. There was indignation, deep and loud
indignation; but it was political in its nature and personal in its
form; the obnoxious measure was purely political, not obviously immoral
and unjust. But, long as John Quincy Adams lived, much as he did in his
latter years for mankind, he never wholly wiped off the stain which his
conduct then brought upon him. Yet it may be that he was honest in his
vote; it may have been an error of judgment, and nothing more; nay,
there are men who think it was no error at all, but a piece of political

A senator of Massachusetts has now committed a fault far greater than
was ever charged upon Mr. Adams by his most inveterate political foes.
It does not directly affect the shipping of New England and the North: I
wish it did. It does not immediately concern our daily bread; if it were
so, the contemplated wrong would receive a speedy adjustment. But it
concerns the liberty of millions of men yet unborn.

Let us look at the matter carefully.

Here is a profile of our national action on the subject now before the

In 1774, we agreed to import no more slaves after that year, and never
finally repealed this act of agreement.

In 1776, we declared that all men are created equal, and endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In 1778, we formed the Confederacy, with no provision for the surrender
of fugitive slaves.

In 1787, we shut out slavery from the Northwest Territory for ever, by
the celebrated proviso of Mr. Jefferson.

In 1788, the Constitution was formed, with its compromises and

In 1808, the importation of slaves was forbidden. But,

In 1803, we annexed Louisiana, and slavery along with it.

In 1819, we annexed Florida, with more slavery.

In 1820, we legally established slavery in the territory west of the
Mississippi, south of 36 deg. 30 min.

In 1845, we annexed Texas, with three hundred and twenty-five thousand
five hundred and twenty square miles, as a slave State.

In 1848, we acquired, by conquest and by treaty, the vast territory of
California and New Mexico, containing five hundred and twenty-six
thousand and seventy-eight square miles. Of this, two hundred and four
thousand three hundred and eighty-three square miles are south of the
slave line--south of 36 deg. 30 min. Here is territory enough to make
more than thirty slave States of the size of Massachusetts.

At the present day, it is proposed to have some further action on the
matter of slavery. Connected with this subject, four great questions
come up to be decided:--

1. Shall four new slave States at any time be made out of Texas? This is
not a question which is to be decided at present, yet it is one of great
present importance, and furnishes an excellent test of the moral
character and political conduct of politicians at this moment. The
other questions are of immediate and pressing concern. Here they are:--

2. Shall Slavery be prohibited in California?

3. Shall Slavery be prohibited in New Mexico?

4. What laws shall be passed relative to fugitive slaves?

Mr. Webster, in this speech, defines his position in regard to each of
these four questions.

1. In regard to the new States to be made hereafter out of Texas, he
gives us his opinion, in language well studied, and even with an excess
of caution. Let us look at it, and the resolution which annexed Texas.
That declares that "new States ... not exceeding four in number, in
addition to said State of Texas ... may hereafter, by the consent of
said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be
entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution.
And such States ... shall be admitted with or without slavery, as the
people of each State asking admission may desire."

I will not stop to consider the constitutionality of the joint
resolution which annexed Texas. Mr. Webster's opinion on that subject is
well known. But the resolution does two things: 1. It confers a power,
the power to make four new States on certain conditions; a qualified
power, restricted by the terms of the act. 2d. It imposes an
obligation, namely, the obligation to leave it to the people of the new
State to keep slaves or not, when the State is admitted. The words _may
be_, etc., indicate the conferring of a power: the words _shall be_,
etc., the imposing of an obligation. But as the power is a qualified
power, so is the obligation a qualified obligation; the _shall be_ is
dependent on the _may be_, as much as the _may be_ on the _shall_.
Admitting in argument what Mr. Webster has denied, that Congress had the
constitutional right to annex Texas by joint resolution, and also that
the resolution of one Congress binds the future Congress, it is plain
Congress may admit new States from Texas, on those conditions, or refuse
to admit them. This is plain, by any fair construction of the language.
The resolution does not say, they _shall_ be formed, only "_may_ be
formed," and "shall be entitled to admission, under the provisions of
the Federal Constitution"--not in spite of those provisions. The
provisions of the Constitution, in relation to the formation and
admission of new States, are well known, and sufficiently clear.
Congress is no more bound to admit a new slave State formed out of
Texas, than out of Kentucky. But Mr. Webster seems to say that Congress
is bound to make four new States out of Texas, when there is sufficient
population to warrant the measure, and a desire for it in the States
themselves, and to admit them with a Constitution allowing slavery. He
says, "Its guaranty is, that new States shall be made out of it,... and
that such States ... may come in as slave States," etc. Quite the
contrary. It is only said they "_may be_ formed," and admitted "under
the provisions of the Constitution." The _shall be_ does not relate to
the fact of admission.

Then he says, there is "a solemn pledge," "that if she shall be divided
into States, those States may come in as slave States." But there is no
"solemn pledge" that they _shall come_ in at all. I make a "solemn
pledge" to John Doe, that if ever I give him any land, it shall be a
thousand acres in the meadows on Connecticut River; but it does not
follow from this that I am bound to give John Doe any land at all. This
solemn pledge is worth nothing, if Congress says to new States, You
shall not come in with your slave Constitution. To make this
"stipulation with Texas" binding, it ought to have provided that "new
States ... shall be formed out of the territory thereof ... such States
shall be entitled to admission, in spite of the provisions of the
Constitution." Even then it would be of no value; for as there can be no
moral obligation to do an immoral deed, so there can be no
constitutional obligation to do an unconstitutional deed. So much for
the first question. You see that Mr. Webster proposes to do what we
never stipulated to do, what is not "so nominated in the bond." He
wrests the resolution against freedom, and for the furtherance of the
slave power!

2 and 3. Mr. Webster has given his answer to the second and third
questions, which may be considered as a single question, Shall slavery
be legally forbidden by Congress in California and New Mexico? Mr.
Webster is opposed to the prohibition by Congress. Here are his words:
"Now, as to California and New Mexico, I hold slavery to be excluded
from those territories by a law even superior to that which admits and
sanctions it in Texas. I mean the law of nature, of physical geography,
the law of the formation of the earth."... "I will say further, that if
a resolution or a law were now before us to provide a territorial
government for New Mexico, I would not vote to put any prohibition into
it whatever. The use of such a prohibition would be idle, as it respects
any effect it would have upon the territory: and I would not take pains
to reaffirm an ordinance of nature, nor to reënact the will of God."
"The gentlemen who belong to the Southern States would think it a taunt,
an indignity; they would think it an act taking away from them what they
regard as a proper equality of privilege" ... "a plain theoretic wrong,"
"more or less derogatory to their character and their rights."

"African slavery," he tells us, "cannot exist there." It could once
exist in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Very little of this territory
lies north of Mason and Dixon's line, the northern limit of Maryland;
none above the parallel of forty-two degrees; none of it extends fifty
miles above the northern limit of Virginia; two hundred and four
thousand three hundred and fifty-three square miles of it lie south of
the line of the Missouri Compromise, south of 36° 30´. Almost all of it
is in the latitude of Virginia and the Carolinas. If slavery can exist
on the west coast of the Atlantic, I see not why it cannot on the east
of the Pacific, and all the way between. There is no reason why it
cannot. It will, unless we forbid it by positive laws, laws which no man
can misunderstand. Why, in 1787, it was thought necessary to forbid
slavery in the Northwest Territory, which extends from the Ohio River to
the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude.

Not exclude slavery from California and New Mexico, because it can never
exist there! Why, it was there once, and Mexico abolished it by positive
law. Abolished, did I say! We are not so sure of that; I mean, not sure
that the Senate of the United States is sure of it. Not a month before
Mr. Webster made this very speech, on the 13th and 14th of last
February, Mr. Davis, the Senator from Mississippi, maintained that
slavery is not abolished in California and New Mexico. He denies that
the acts abolishing slavery in Mexico were made by competent powers;
denies that they have the force of law. But even if they have, he tells
us, "Suppose it be conceded that by law it was abolished--could that law
be perpetual? Could it extend to the territory after it became the
property of the United States? Did we admit territory from Mexico,
subject to the Constitution and laws of Mexico? Did we pay fifteen
million dollars for jurisdiction over California and New Mexico, that it
might be held subordinate to the laws of Mexico?" The Commissioners of
Mexico, he tells us, did not think that "we were to be bound by the
edicts and statutes of Mexico." They pressed this point in the
negotiation, "the continuation of their law for the exclusion of
slavery;" and Mr. Trist told them he could not make a treaty on that
condition; if they would "offer him the land covered a foot thick with
pure gold, upon the single condition that slavery should be excluded
therefrom, I could not entertain the offer for a moment." Does not Mr.
Webster know this? He knows it too well.

But Mr. Davis goes further. He does not think slavery is excluded by
legislation stronger than a joint resolution. This is his language: "I
believe it is essential, on account of the climate, productions, soil,
and the peculiar character of cultivation, that we shall, during its
first settlement, have that slavery [African slavery] in a part, at
least, of California and New Mexico." Now on questions of "A law of
nature and physical geography," the Senator from Mississippi is as good
authority as the Senator from Massachusetts, and a good deal nearer to
the facts of the case.

In the House of Representatives, Mr. Clingman, of North Carolina,
amongst others, wants New Mexico for slave soil. Pass the Wilmot Proviso
over this territory, and the question is settled, disposed of for ever.
Omit to pass it, and slavery will go there, and you may get it out if
you can. Once there, it will be said that the "Compromises of the
Constitution" are on its side, and we have no jurisdiction over the
slavery which we have established there.

Hear what Mr. Foote said of a similar matter on the 26th of June, 1848,
in his place in the Senate: "Gentlemen have said this is not a practical
question, that slaves will never be taken to Oregon. With all deference
to their opinion, I differ with them totally. I believe, if permitted,
slaves would be carried there, and that slavery would continue, at
least, as long as in Maryland or Virginia. ['The whole of Oregon' is
north of forty-two degrees.] The Pacific coast is totally different in
temperature from the Atlantic. It is far milder.... Green peas are eaten
in the Oregon city at Christmas. Where is the corresponding climate to
be found on this side the continent? Where we sit--near the
thirty-ninth? No, sir; but to the south of us." "The latitude of Georgia
gives, on the Pacific, a tropical climate." "The prohibition of slavery
in the laws of Oregon was adopted for the express purpose of excluding
slaves." "A few had been brought in; further importations were expected;
and it was with a view to put a stop to them, that the prohibitory act
was passed."

Now, Mr. Foote of Mississippi--"Hangman Foote," as he has been
called--understands the laws of the formation of the earth as well as
the distinguished senator from Massachusetts. Why, the inhabitants of
that part of the Northwest Territory, which now forms the States of
Indiana and Illinois, repeatedly asked Congress to allow them to
introduce slaves north of the Ohio; and but for the ordinance of '87,
that territory would now be covered with the mildew of slavery!

But I have not yet adduced all the testimony of Mr. Foote. Last year, on
the 23d of February, 1849, he declared: "No one acquainted with the vast
mineral resources of California and New Mexico, and who is aware of the
peculiar adaptedness of slave labor to the development of mineral
treasures, can doubt for a moment, that were slaves introduced into
California and New Mexico, being employed in the mining operations there
in progress, their labor would result in the acquisition of pecuniary
profits not heretofore realized by the most successful cotton or sugar
planter of this country?" Does not Mr. Webster know this? Perhaps he did
not hear Mr. Foote's speech last year; perhaps he has a short memory,
and has forgotten it. Then let us remind the nation of what its Senator
forgets. Not know this--forget it? Who will credit such a statement? Mr.
Webster is not an obscure clergyman, busy with far different things, but
the foremost politician of the United States.

But why do I mention the speeches of Mr. Foote, a year ago? Here is
something hardly dry from the printing-press. Here is an advertisement
from the "Mississippian" of March 7th, 1850, the very day of that
speech. The "Mississippian" is published at the city of Jackson, in



     "Citizens of the slave States, desirous of emigrating to
     California with their slave property, are requested to send
     their names, number of slaves, and period of contemplated
     departure, to the address of 'SOUTHERN SLAVE COLONY,'
     Jackson, Miss....

     "It is the desire of the friends of this enterprise to
     settle in the richest mining and agricultural portions of
     California, and to have the uninterrupted enjoyment of slave
     property. It is estimated that, by the first of May next,
     the members of this Slave Colony will amount to about five
     thousand, and the slaves to about ten thousand. The mode of
     effecting organization, &c., will be privately transmitted
     to actual members.

     "Jackson (Miss.), Feb. 24, 1850.     "dtf.

What does Mr. Webster say in view of all this? "If a proposition were
now here for a government for New Mexico, and it was moved to insert a
provision for the prohibition of slavery, I would not vote for it." Why
not vote for it? There is a specious pretence, which is publicly
proclaimed, but there is a real reason for it which is not mentioned!

In the face of all these facts, Mr. Webster says that these men would
wish "to protect the everlasting snows of Canada from the pest of
slavery by the same overspreading wing of an act of Congress." Exactly
so. If we ever annex Labrador--if we "re-annex" Greenland, and
Kamskatka, I would extend the Wilmot Proviso there, and exclude slavery
forever and forever.

But Mr. Webster would not "reaffirm an ordinance of nature," nor
"reënact the will of God." I would. I would reaffirm nothing else, enact
nothing else. What is justice but the "ordinance of nature?" What is
right but "the will of God?" When you make a law, "Thou shalt not kill,"
what do you but "reënact the will of God?" When you make laws for the
security of the "unalienable rights" of man, and protect for every man
the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are you not
re-affirming an ordinance of nature? Not reënact the will of God? Why, I
would enact nothing else. The will of God is a theological term; it
means truth and justice, in common speech. What is the theological
opposite to "The will of God?" It is "The will of the devil." One of the
two you must enact--either the will of God, or of the devil. The two
are the only theological categories for such matters. _Aut Deus aut
Diabolus._ There is no other alternative, "Choose you which you will

So much for the second and third questions. Let us now come to the last
thing to be considered. What laws shall be enacted relative to fugitive
slaves? Let us look at Mr. Webster's opinion on this point.

The Constitution provides--you all know that too well--that every person
"held to service or labor in one State,... escaping into another, shall
be delivered up." By whom shall he be delivered up? There are only three
parties to whom this phrase can possibly apply. They are,

1. Individual men and women; or,

2. The local authorities of the States concerned; or,

3. The Federal Government itself.

It has sometimes been contended that the Constitution imposes an
obligation on you, and me, and every other man, to deliver up fugitive
slaves. But there are no laws or decisions that favor that construction.
Mr. Webster takes the next scheme, and says, "I always thought that the
Constitution addressed itself to the Legislatures of the States, or to
the States themselves." "It seems to me that the import of the passage
is, that the State itself ... shall cause him [the fugitive] to be
delivered up. That is my judgment." But the Supreme Court, some years
ago, decided otherwise, that "The business of seeing that these
fugitives are delivered up resides in the power of congress and the
national judicature." So the matter stands now. But it is proposed to
make more stringent laws relative to the return of fugitive slaves. So
continues Mr. Webster--"My friend at the head of the judiciary committee
has a bill on the subject now before the Senate, with some amendments to
it, which I propose to support, with all its provisions, to the fullest

Everybody knows the act of Congress of 1793, relative to the surrender
of fugitive slaves, and the decision of the Supreme Court in the "Prigg
case," 1842. But everybody does not know the bill of Mr. Webster's
"friend at the head of the judiciary committee." There is a bill
providing "for the more effectual execution of the third clause of the
second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United
States." It is as follows:--

     _"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives
     of the United States of America, in Congress assembled_,
     That when a person held to service or labor, in any State or
     Territory of the United States, under the laws of such State
     or territory, shall escape into any other of the said States
     or territories, the person to whom such service or labor may
     be due, his or her agent, or attorney, is hereby empowered
     to seize or arrest such fugitive from service or labor, and
     to take him or her before any Judge of the Circuit or
     District Courts of the United States, or before any
     commissioner or clerk of such courts, or marshal thereof, or
     before any postmaster of the United States, or collector of
     the customs of the United States, residing or being within
     such State wherein such seizure or arrest shall be made;
     and, upon proof to the satisfaction of such judge,
     commissioner, clerk, postmaster, or collector, as the case
     may be, either by oral testimony or affidavit taken before
     and certified by any person authorized to administer an oath
     under the laws of the United States, or of any State, that
     the person so seized or arrested, under the laws of the
     State or territory, from which he or she fled, owes service
     or labor to the person claiming him or her, it shall be the
     duty of such judge, commissioner, clerk, marshal,
     postmaster, or collector, to give a certificate thereof to
     such claimant, his or her agent or attorney, which
     certificate shall be a sufficient warrant for taking and
     removing such fugitive from service or labor to the State or
     territory from which he or she fled.

     "Sec. 2. _And be it further enacted_, That when a person
     held to service or labor, as mentioned in the first section
     of this act, shall escape from such service or labor,
     therein mentioned, the person to whom such service or labor
     may be due, his or her agent or attorney, may apply to any
     one of the officers of the United States named in said
     section, other than a marshal of the United States, for a
     warrant to seize and arrest such fugitive; and upon
     affidavit being made before such officer (each of whom, for
     the purposes of this act, is hereby authorized to administer
     an oath or affirmation), by such claimant, his or her agent,
     that such person does, under the laws of the State or
     territory from which he or she fled, owe service or labor to
     such claimant, it shall be and is hereby made the duty of
     such officer, to and before whom such application and
     affidavits are made to issue his warrant to any marshal of
     any of the courts of the United States, to seize and arrest
     such alleged fugitive, and to bring him or her forthwith, or
     on a day to be named in such warrant, before the officer
     issuing such warrant, or either of the other officers
     mentioned in said first section, except the marshal to whom
     the said warrant is directed, which said warrant or
     authority, the said marshal is hereby authorized and
     directed in all things to obey.

     "Sec. 3. _And be it further enacted_, That upon affidavit
     made as aforesaid, by the claimant of such fugitive, his
     agent or attorney, after such certificate has been issued,
     that he has reason to apprehend that such fugitive will be
     rescued by force from his or their possession, before he can
     be taken beyond the limits of the State in which the arrest
     is made, it shall be the duty of the officer making the
     arrest, to retain such fugitive in his custody, and to
     remove him to the State whence he fled, and there to deliver
     him to said claimant, his agent or attorney. And to this
     end, the officer aforesaid is hereby authorized and required
     to employ so many persons as he may deem necessary to
     overcome such force, and to retain them in his service, so
     long as circumstances may require. The said officer and his
     assistants, while so employed, to receive the same
     compensation, and to be allowed the same expenses as are now
     allowed by law, for transportation of criminals, to be
     certified by the judge of the district within which the
     arrest is made, and paid out of the treasury of the United
     States: _Provided_, That before such charges are incurred,
     the claimant, his agent, or attorney, shall secure to said
     officer payment of the same, and in case no actual force be
     opposed, then they shall be paid by such claimant, his agent
     or attorney.

     "Sec. 4. _And be it further enacted_, When a warrant shall
     have been issued by any of the officers under the second
     section of this act, and there shall be no marshal or deputy
     marshal within ten miles of the place where such warrant is
     issued, it shall be the duty of the officer issuing the
     same, at the request of the claimant, his agent, or
     attorney, to appoint some fit and discreet person, who shall
     be willing to act as marshal, for the purpose of executing
     said warrant; and such persons so appointed shall, to the
     extent of executing such warrant, and detaining and
     transporting the fugitive named therein, have all the power
     and the authority, and he, with his assistants, entitled to
     the same compensation and expenses, provided in this act, in
     cases where the services are performed by the marshals of
     the courts.

     "Sec. 5. _And be it further enacted_, That any person who
     shall knowingly and wilfully obstruct or hinder such
     claimant, his agent, or attorney, or any person or persons
     assisting him, her or them, in so serving or arresting such
     fugitive from service or labor, or shall rescue such
     fugitive from such claimant, his agent, or attorney, when so
     arrested, pursuant to the authority herein given or
     declared, or shall aid, abet, or assist such person so owing
     service or labor, to escape from such claimant, his agent,
     or attorney, or shall harbor or conceal such person, after
     notice that he or she was a fugitive from labor, as
     aforesaid, shall, for either of the said offences, forfeit
     and pay the sum of one thousand dollars, which penalty may
     be recovered by, and for the benefit of, such claimant, by
     action of debt in any court proper to try the same, saving,
     moreover, to the person claiming such labor or service, his
     right of action for, on account of, the said injuries, or
     either of them.

     "Sec. 6. _And be it further enacted_, That when such person
     is seized and arrested, under and by virtue of the said
     warrant, by such marshal, and is brought before either of
     the officers aforesaid, other than said marshal, it shall be
     the duty of such officer to proceed in the case of such
     person, in the same way that he is directed and authorized
     to do, when such person is seized and arrested by the person
     claiming him, or by his or her agent, or attorney, and is
     brought before such officer or attorney, under the
     provisions of the first section of this act."

This is the bill known as "Mason's Bill," introduced by Mr. Butler of
South Carolina, on the 16th of January last. This is the bill which Mr.
Webster proposes to support, "with all its provisions to the fullest
extent." It is a Bill of abominations, but there are "some amendments
to it," which modify the bill a little. Look at them. Here they are. The
first provides in addition to the fine of one thousand dollars for
aiding and abetting the escape of a fugitive, for harboring and
concealing him, that the offender "shall also be imprisoned twelve
months." The second amendment is as follows--"And in no trial or hearing
under this act shall the testimony of such fugitive be admitted in

These are Mr. Mason's amendments, offered on the twenty-third of last
January. This is the bill, "with some amendments," which Mr. Webster
says, "I propose to support, with all its provisions, to the fullest
extent." Mr. Seward's bill was also before the Senate--a bill granting
the fugitive slave a trial by jury in the State where he is found, to
determine whether or not he is a slave. Mr. Webster says not a word
about this bill. He does not propose to support it.

Suppose the bill of Mr. Webster's friend shall pass Congress, what will
the action of it be? A slave-hunter comes here to Boston, he seizes any
dark-looking man that is unknown and friendless, he has him before the
postmaster, the collector of customs, or some clerk or marshal of some
United States court, and makes oath that the dark man is his slave. The
slave-hunter is allowed his oath. The fugitive is not allowed his
testimony. The man born free as you and I, on the false oath of a
slave-hunter, or the purchased affidavit of some one, is surrendered to
a southern State, to bondage life-long and irremediable. Will you say,
the postmaster, the collector, the clerks and marshals in Boston would
not act in such matters? They have no option; it is their official
business to do so. But they would not decide against the unalienable
rights of man--the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
That may be, or may not be. The slave-hunter may have his "fugitive"
before the collector of Boston, or the postmaster of Truro, if he sees
fit. If they, remembering their Old Testament, refuse to "bewray him
that wandereth," the slave-hunter may bring on his officer with him from
Georgia or Florida; he may bring the custom-house officer from Mobile or
Wilmington, some little petty postmaster from a town you never heard of
in South Carolina or Texas, and have any dark man in Boston up before
that "magistrate," and on his decision have the fugitive carried off to
Louisiana or Arkansas, to bondage for ever. The bill provides that the
trial may be had before any such officer, "residing or being" in the
State where the fugitive is found!

There were three fugitives at my house the other night. Ellen Craft was
one of them. You all know Ellen Craft is a slave; she, with her husband,
fled from Georgia to Philadelphia, and is here before us now. She is not
so dark as Mr. Webster himself, if any of you think freedom is to be
dealt out in proportion to the whiteness of the skin. If Mason's bill
passes, I might have some miserable postmaster from Texas or the
District of Columbia, some purchased agent of Messrs. Bruin & Hill, the
great slave-dealers of the Capitol, have him here in Boston, take Ellen
Craft before the caitiff, and on his decision hurry her off to bondage
as cheerless, as hopeless, and as irremediable as the grave!

Let me interest you in a scene which might happen. Suppose a poor
fugitive, wrongfully held as a slave--let it be Ellen Craft--has escaped
from Savannah in some northern ship. No one knows of her presence on
board; she has lain with the cargo in the hold of the vessel. Harder
things have happened. Men have journeyed hundreds of miles bent double
in a box half the size of a coffin, journeying towards freedom. Suppose
the ship comes up to Long Wharf, at the foot of State Street. Bulk is
broken to remove the cargo; the woman escapes, emaciated with hunger,
feeble from long confinement in a ship's hold, sick with the tossing of
the heedless sea, and still further etiolated and blanched with the
mingling emotions of hope and fear. She escapes to land. But her
pursuer, more remorseless than the sea, has been here beforehand; laid
his case before the official he has brought with him, or purchased here,
and claims his slave. She runs for her life, fear adding wings. Imagine
the scene--the flight, the hot pursuit through State Street, Merchants'
Row--your magistrates in hot pursuit. To make the irony of nature still
more complete, let us suppose this shall take place on some of the
memorable days in the history of America--on the 19th of April, when our
fathers first laid down their lives "in the sacred cause of God and
their country;" on the 17th of June, the 22d of December, or on any of
the sacramental days in the long sad history of our struggle for our own
freedom! Suppose the weary fugitive takes refuge in Faneuil Hall, and
here, in the old Cradle of Liberty, in the midst of its associations,
under that eye of Samuel Adams, the bloodhounds seize their prey!
Imagine Mr. Webster and Mr. Winthrop looking on, cheering the
slave-hunter, intercepting the fugitive fleeing for her life. Would not
that be a pretty spectacle?

Propose to support that bill to the fullest extent, with all its
provisions! Ridiculous talk! Does Mr. Webster suppose that such a law
could be executed in Boston? that the people of Massachusetts will ever
return a single fugitive slave, under such an act as that? Then he knows
his constituents very little, and proves that he needs "Instruction."[2]

"Slavery is a moral and religious blessing," says somebody in the
present Congress. But it seems some thirty thousand slaves have been
blind to the benefits--moral and religious benefits--which it confers,
and have fled to the free States. Mr. Clingman estimates the value of
all the fugitive slaves in the North at $15,000,000. Delaware loses
$100,000 in a year in this way; her riches taking to themselves not
wings, but legs. Maryland lost $100,000 in six months. I fear Mr.
Mason's bill and Mr. Webster's speech will not do much to protect that
sort of "property" from this kind of loss. Such action is prevented "by
a law even superior to that which admits and sanctions it in Texas."

Such are Mr. Webster's opinions on these four great questions. Now,
there are two ways of accounting for this speech, or, at least, two ways
of looking at it. One is, to regard it as the work of a statesman
seeking to avert some great evil from the whole nation. This is the way
Mr. Webster would have us look at it, I suppose. His friends tell us it
is a statesmanlike speech--very statesmanlike. He himself says _Vera pro
gratis_[3]--true words in preference to words merely pleasing. _Etsi
meum ingenium non moneret necessitas cogit_--Albeit my own humor should
not prompt the counsel, necessity compels it. The necessity so cogent is
the attempt to dissolve the Union, in case the Wilmot Proviso should be
extended over the new territory. Does any man seriously believe that
Mr. Webster really fears a dissolution of this Union undertaken and
accomplished on this plea, and by the Southern States? I will not insult
the foremost understanding of this continent by supposing he deems it
possible. No, we cannot take this view of his conduct.

The other way is to regard it as the work of a politician, seeking
something beside the permanent good of a great nation. The lease of the
Presidency is to be disposed of for the next four years by a sort of
auction. It is in the hands of certain political brokers, who "operate"
in presidential and other political stock. The majority of those brokers
are slaveholders or pro-slavery men; they must be conciliated, or they
will "not understand the nod" of the candidate--I mean of the man who
bids for the lease. All the illustrious men in the national politics
have an eye on the transaction, but sometimes the bid has been taken for
persons whose chance at the sale seemed very poor. General Cass made his
bid some time ago. I think his offer is recorded in the famous
"Nicholson Letter." He was a Northern man, and bid Non-intervention--The
unconstitutionality of any intervention with slavery in the new
territory. Mr. Clay made his bid, for old Kentucky "never tires," the
same old bid that he has often made--a Compromise. Mr. Calhoun did as he
has always done. I will not say he made any bid at all; he was too sick
for that, too sick for any thought of the Presidency. Perhaps at this
moment the angel of death is dealing with that famed and remarkable man.
Nay, he may already have gone where "The servant is free from his
master, and the weary are at rest;" have gone home to his God, who is
the Father of the great politician and the feeblest-minded slave. If it
be so, let us follow him only with pity for his errors, and the prayer
that his soul may be at rest. He has fought manfully in an unmanly
cause. He seemed sincerely in the wrong, and spite of the badness of the
cause to which he devoted his best energies, you cannot but respect the

Last of all, Mr. Webster makes his bid for the lease of "that bad
eminence," the Presidency. He bids higher than the others, of course, as
coming later; bids Non-intervention, Four new slave States in Texas,
Mason's Bill for Capturing Fugitive slaves, and Denunciation of all the
Anti-slavery movements of the North, public and private. That is what he
bids, looking to the southern side of the board of political brokers.
Then he nods northward, and says, The Wilmot Proviso is my "thunder;"
then timidly glances to the South and adds, But I will never use it.

I think this is the only reasonable way in which we can estimate this
speech--as a bid for the Presidency. I will not insult that mighty
intellect by supposing that he, in his private heart, regards it in any
other light. Mr. Calhoun might well be content with that, and say
"Organize the territories on the principle of that gentleman, and give
us a free scope and sufficient time to get in--we ask nothing but that,
and we never will ask it."

Such are the four great questions before us; such Mr. Webster's answers
thereunto; such the two ways of looking at his speech. He decides in
advance against freedom in Texas, against freedom in California, against
freedom in New Mexico, against freedom in the United States, by his
gratuitous offer of support to Mr. Mason's bill. His great eloquence,
his great understanding, his great name, give weight to all his words.
Pains are industriously taken to make it appear that his opinions are
the opinions of Boston. Is it so? [Cries of No, No.] That was rather a
feeble cry. Perhaps it is the opinion of the prevailing party in Boston.
[No, No.] But I put it to you, Is it the opinion of Massachusetts? [Loud
cries of No, No, No.] Well, so I say, No; it is not the opinion of

       *       *       *       *       *

Before now, servants of the people and leaders of the people have proved
false to their employers, and betrayed their trust. Amongst all
political men who have been weighed in the balance, and found wanting,
with whom shall I compare him? Not with John Quincy Adams, who, in 1807,
voted for the embargo. It may have been the mistake of an honest
intention, though I confess I cannot think so yet. At any rate, laying
an embargo, which he probably thought would last but a few months, was a
small thing compared with the refusal to restrict slavery, willingness
to enact laws to the disadvantage of mankind, and the voluntary support
of Mason's iniquitous bill. Besides, Mr. Adams lived a long life; if he
erred, or if he sinned in this matter, he afterwards fought most
valiantly for the rights of man.

Shall I compare Mr. Webster with Thomas Wentworth, the great Earl of
Strafford, a man "whose doubtful character and memorable end have made
him the most conspicuous character of a reign so fertile in
recollections?" He, like Webster, was a man of large powers, and once
devoted them to noble uses. Did Wentworth defend the "Petition of
Right?" So did Webster many times defend the great cause of liberty. But
it was written of Strafford, that "in his self-interested and ambitious
mind," patriotism "was the seed sown among thorns!" "If we reflect upon
this man's cold-blooded apostasy on the first lure to his ambition, and
on his splendid abilities, which enhanced the guilt of that desertion,
we must feel some indignation at those who have palliated all his
iniquities, and embalmed his memory with the attributes of patriot
heroism. Great he surely was, since that epithet can never be denied
without paradox to so much comprehension of mind, such ardor and
energy, such courage and eloquence, those commanding qualities of soul,
which, impressed upon his dark and stern countenance, struck his
contemporaries with mingled awe and hate ... But it may be reckoned a
sufficient ground for distrusting any one's attachment to the English
Constitution, that he reveres the name of Strafford." His measures for
stifling liberty in England, which he and his contemporaries
significantly called "Thorough" in the reign of Charles I., were not
more atrocious, than the measures which Daniel Webster proposes himself,
or proposes to support "to the fullest extent." But Strafford paid the
forfeit--tasting the sharp and bitter edge of the remorseless axe. Let
his awful shade pass by. I mourn at the parallel between him and the
mighty son of our own New England. Would God it were not thus!

For a sadder parallel, I shall turn off from the sour features of that
great British politician, and find another man in our own fair land.
This name carries us back to "the times that tried men's souls," when
also there were souls that could not stand the rack. It calls me back to
"The famous year of '80;" to the little American army in the highlands
of New York; to the time when the torch of American liberty which now
sends its blaze far up to heaven, at the same time lighting the northern
lakes and the Mexique Bay, tinging with welcome radiance the eastern and
the western sea, was a feeble flame flickering about a thin and hungry
wick, and one hand was raised to quench in darkness, and put out
forever, that feeble and uncertain flame. Gentlemen, I hate to speak
thus. I honor the majestic talents of this great man. I hate to couple
his name with that other, which few Americans care to pronounce. But I
know no deed in American history, done by a son of New England, to which
I can compare this, but the act of Benedict Arnold!

Shame that I should say this of any man; but his own motto shall be
mine--VERA PRO GRATIS--and I am not responsible for what he has made the
TRUTH; certainly, _meum ingenium non moneret, necessitas cogit_!

I would speak with all possible tenderness of any man, of every man; of
such an one, so honored, and so able, with the respect I feel for
superior powers. I would often question my sense of justice, before I
dared to pronounce an adverse conclusion. But the Wrong is palpable, the
Injustice is open as the day. I must remember, here are twenty millions,
whose material welfare his counsel defeats; whose honor his counsel
stains; whose political, intellectual, moral growth he is using all his
mighty powers to hinder and keep back. "_Vera pro gratis. Necessitas
cogit. Vellem, equidem, vobis placere, sed multo malo vos salvos esse,
qualicunque erga me animo futuri estis._"

Let me take a word of warning and of counsel from the same author; yes,
from the same imaginary speech of Quintus Capitolinis, whence Mr.
Webster has drawn his motto:--_Ante portas est bellum: si inde non
pellitur, jam intra mænia erit, et arcem et Capitolium scandet, et in
domos vestras vos persequetur._ The war [against the extension of
Slavery, not against the Volscians, in this case] is before your very
doors: if not driven thence, it will be within your walls [namely, it
will be in California and New Mexico]; it will ascend the citadel and
the capitol [to wit, it will be in the House of Representatives and the
Senate]; and it will follow you into your very homes [that is, the curse
of Slavery will corrupt the morals of the nation].

_Sedemus desides domi, mulierum ritu inter nos altercantes; præsenti
We [the famous Senators of the United States] sit idle at home,
wrangling amongst ourselves like women [to see who shall get the lease
of the Presidency], glad of the present truce [meaning that which is
brought about by a compromise], not perceiving that for this brief
cessation of trouble, a manifold war will follow [that is, the "horrid
internecine war" which will come here, as it has been elsewhere, if
justice be too long delayed]!

It is a great question before us, concerning the existence of millions
of men. To many men in politics, it is merely a question of party
rivalry; a question of in and out, and nothing more. To many men in
cities, it is a question of commerce, like the establishment of a bank,
or the building of one railroad more or less. But to serious men, who
love man and love their God, this is a question of morals, a question of
religion, to be settled with no regard to party rivalry, none to
fleeting interests of to-day, but to be settled under the awful eye of
conscience, and by the just law of God.

Shall we shut up slavery or extend it? It is for us to answer. Will you
deal with the question now, or leave it to your children, when the evil
is ten times greater? In 1749, there was not a slave in Georgia; now,
two hundred and eighty thousand. In 1750, in all the United States, but
two hundred thousand; now, three millions. In 1950, let Mr. Webster's
counsels be followed, there will be thirty millions. Thirty millions!
Will it then be easier for your children to set limits to this crime
against human nature, than now for you? Our fathers made a political,
and a commercial, and a moral error--shall we repeat it? They did a
wrong; shall we extend and multiply the wrong? Was it an error in our
fathers; not barely a wrong--was it a sin? No, not in them; they knew it
not. But what in them to establish was only an error, in us to extend or
to foster is a sin!

Perpetuate Slavery, we cannot do it. Nothing will save it. It is girt
about by a ring of fire which daily grows narrower, and sends terrible
sparkles into the very centre of the shameful thing. "Joint
resolutions" cannot save it; annexations cannot save it--not if we
re-annex all the West Indies; delinquent representatives cannot save it;
uninstructed senators, refusing instructions, cannot save it, no, not
with all their logic, all their eloquence, which smites as an earthquake
smites the sea. No, slavery cannot be saved; by no compromise, no
non-intervention, no Mason's Bill in the Senate. It cannot be saved in
this age of the world until you nullify every ordinance of nature, until
you repeal the will of God, and dissolve the union He has made between
righteousness and the welfare of a people. Then, when you displace God
from the throne of the world, and instead of his eternal justice,
reënact the will of the Devil, then you may keep Slavery; keep it
forever, keep it in peace. Not till then.

The question is, not if slavery is to cease, and soon to cease, but
shall it end as it ended in Massachusetts, in New Hampshire, in
Pennsylvania, in New York; or shall it end as in St. Domingo? Follow the
counsel of Mr. Webster--it will end in fire and blood. God forgive us
for our cowardice, if we let it come to this, that three millions or
thirty millions of degraded human beings, degraded by us, must wade
through slaughter to their unalienable rights.

Mr. Webster has spoken noble words--at Plymouth, standing on the
altar-stone of New England; at Bunker Hill, the spot so early reddened
with the blood of our fathers. But at this hour, when we looked for
great counsel, when we forgot the paltry things which he has often done,
and said, "Now he will rouse his noble soul, and be the man his early
speeches once bespoke," who dared to fear that Olympian head would bow
so low, so deeply kiss the ground? Try it morally, try it
intellectually, try it by the statesman's test, world-wide justice; nay,
try it by the politician's basest test, the personal expediency of
to-day--it is a speech "not fit to be made," and when made, not fit to
be confirmed.

    "We see dimly in the distance what is small and what is great,
    Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate;
    But the soul is still oracular; amid the market's din,
    List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within--
    'They enslave their children's children, who make compromise with sin.'"


[1] Mr. John Quincy Adams.

[2] Alas, a single year taught me the folly of this confidence in
Boston! See No. VI. of this volume.

[3] Motto of Mr. Webster's speech.



Mr. President,--If we look hastily at the present aspect of American
affairs, there is much to discourage a man who believes in the progress
of his race. In this republic, with the Declaration of Independence for
its political creed, neither of the great political parties is hostile
to the existence of slavery. That institution has the continual support
of both the whig and democratic parties. There are now four eminent men
in the Senate of the United States, all of them friends of slavery. Two
of these are from the North, both natives of New England; but they
surpass their southern rivals in the zeal with which they defend that
institution, and in the concessions which they demand of the friends of
justice at the North. These four men are all competitors for the
Presidency. Not one of them is the friend of freedom; he that is
apparently least its foe, is Mr. Benton, the Senator from Missouri. Mr.
Clay, of Kentucky, is less effectually the advocate of slavery than Mr.
Webster, of Massachusetts. Mr. Webster himself has said, "There is no
North," and, to prove it experimentally, stands there as one mighty
instance of his own rule.

In the Senate of the United States, only Seward and Chase and Hale can
be relied on as hostile to slavery. In the House, there are Root and
Giddings, and Wilmot and Mann, and a few others. "But what are these
among so many?"

See "how it strikes a stranger." Here is an extract from the letter of a
distinguished and learned man,[4] sent out here by the King of Sweden to
examine our public schools: "I have just returned from Washington, where
I have been witnessing the singular spectacle of this free and
enlightened nation being buried in sorrow, on account of the death of
that great advocate of slavery, Mr. Calhoun. Mr. Webster's speech seems
to have made a very strong impression upon the people of the South, as I
have heard it repeated almost as a lesson of the catechism by every
person I have met within the slave territory. It seems now to be an
established belief, that slavery is not a _malum necessarium_, still
less an evil difficult to get rid of, but desirable soon to get rid of.
No, far from that; it seems to be considered as quite a natural, most
happy, and essentially Christian institution!"

Not satisfied with keeping an institution which the more Christian
religion of the Mohammedan Bey of Tunis has rejected as a "sin against
God," we seek to extend it, to perpetuate it, even on soil which the
half-civilized Mexicans made clear from its pollutions. The great organs
of the party politics of the land are in favor of the extension; the
great political men of the land seek to extend it; the leading men in
the large mercantile towns of the North--in Boston, New York, and
Philadelphia--are also in favor of extending slavery. All this is plain.

But, Sir, as I come up here to this Convention year after year, I find
some signs of encouragement. Even in the present state of things, the
star of hope appears, and we may safely and reasonably say, "Now is our
salvation nearer than when we first believed" in anti-slavery. Let us
look a little at the condition of America at this moment, to see what
there is to help or what to hinder us.

First, I will speak of the present crisis in our affairs; then of the
political parties amongst us; then of the manner in which this crisis is
met; next of the foes of freedom; and last, of its friends. I will speak
with all coolness, and try to speak short. By the middle of anniversary
week, men get a little heated; I am sure I shall be cool, and I think I
may also be dull.

There must be unity of action in a nation, as well as in a man, or there
cannot be harmony and welfare. As a man "cannot serve two masters"
antagonistic and diametrically opposed to one another, as God and
Mammon, no more can a nation serve two opposite principles at the same

Now, there are two opposite and conflicting principles recognized in the
political action of America: at this moment, they contend for the
mastery, each striving to destroy the other.

There is what I call the American idea. I so name it, because it seems
to me to lie at the basis of all our truly original, distinctive and
American institutions. It is itself a complex idea, composed of three
subordinate and more simple ideas, namely: The idea that all men have
unalienable rights; that in respect thereof, all men are created equal;
and that government is to be established and sustained for the purpose
of giving every man an opportunity for the enjoyment and development of
all these unalienable rights. This idea demands, as the proximate
organization thereof, a democracy, that is, a government of all the
people, by all the people, for all the people; of course, a government
after the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for
shortness' sake, I will call it the idea of Freedom.

That is one idea; and the other is, that one man has a right to hold
another man in thraldom, not for the slave's good, but for the master's
convenience; not on account of any wrong the slave has done or
intended, but solely for the benefit of the master. This idea is not
peculiarly American. For shortness' sake, I will call this the idea of
Slavery. It demands for its proximate organization, an aristocracy, that
is, a government of all the people by a part of the people--the masters;
for a part of the people--the masters; against a part of the people--the
slaves; a government contrary to the principles of eternal justice,
contrary to the unchanging law of God. These two ideas are hostile,
irreconcilably hostile, and can no more be compromised and made to
coalesce in the life of this nation, than the worship of the real God
and the worship of the imaginary Devil can be combined and made to
coalesce in the life of a single man. An attempt has been made to
reconcile and unite the two. The slavery clauses of the Constitution of
the United States is one monument of this attempt; the results of this
attempt--you see what they are, not order, but confusion.

       *       *       *       *       *

We cannot have any settled and lasting harmony until one or the other of
these ideas is cast out of the councils of the nation: so there must be
war between them before there can be peace. Hitherto, the nation has not
been clearly aware of the existence of these two adverse principles; or,
if aware of their existence, has thought little of their irreconcilable
diversity. At the present time, this fact is brought home to our
consciousness with great clearness. On the one hand, the friends of
freedom set forth the idea of freedom, clearly and distinctly, demanding
liberty for each man. This has been done as never before. Even in the
Senate of the United States it has been done, and repeatedly during the
present session of Congress. On the other hand, the enemies of freedom
set forth the idea of slavery as this has not been done in other
countries for a long time. Slavery has not been so lauded in any
legislative body for many a year, as in the American Senate in 1850.
Some of the discussions remind one of the spirit which prevailed in the
Roman Senate, A. D. 62, when about four hundred slaves were crucified,
because their master, Pedanius Secundus, a man of consular dignity, was
found murdered in his bed. I mean to say, the same disregard of the
welfare of the slaves, the same willingness to sacrifice them--if not
their lives, which are not now in peril, at least their welfare, to the
convenience of their masters. Anybody can read the story in Tacitus,[5]
and it is worth reading, and instructive, too, at these times.

Here are some of the statements relative to slavery made in the
thirty-first Congress of the United States. Hearken to the testimony of
the Hon. Mr. Badger, of North Carolina:

     "It is clear that this institution [slavery] not only was
     not disapproved of, but was expressly recognized, approved,
     and its continuance sanctioned by the divine lawgiver of the

     "Whether an evil or not, it is not a sin; it is not a
     violation of the divine law.

     "What treatment did it receive from the founder of the
     gospel dispensation? It was approved, first negatively,
     because, in the whole New Testament, there is not to be
     found one single word, either spoken by the Saviour, or by
     any of the evangelists or apostles, in which that
     institution is either directly or indirectly condemned; and
     also affirmatively." This he endeavors to show, by quoting
     the passages from St. Paul, usually quoted for that purpose.
     Nothing would be easier than for St. Paul to have
     said--'Slaves, be obedient to your heathen masters; but I
     say to you, feeling masters, emancipate your slaves; the law
     of Christ is against that relation, and you are bound,
     therefore, to set them at liberty.' No such word is spoken.

Thus far goes the Hon. Senator Badger, of North Carolina.

Mr. Brown, of Mississippi, goes further yet. He knows what some men
think of slavery, and tells them, "Very well, think so; but keep your
thoughts to yourselves." He is not content with bidding the "Freest and
most enlightened nation in the world," be silent on this matter: he is
not content, with Mr. Badger, to declare that if an evil, it is not a
sin, and to find it upheld in the Old Testament, and allowed in the New
Testament; he tells us that he "regards slavery as a great moral,
social, political and religious blessing--a blessing to the slave, and a
blessing to the master."

Thus, the issue is fairly made between the two principles. The
contradiction is plain. The battle between the two is open, and in sight
of the world.

But this is not the first time there has been a quarrel between the idea
of slavery and the idea of freedom in America. The quarrel has lasted,
with an occasional truce, for more than sixty years. In six battles,
slavery has been victorious over freedom.

1. In the adoption of the Constitution supporting slavery.

2. In the acquisition of Louisiana, as slave territory.

3. In the acquisition of Florida as slave territory.

4. In making the Missouri Compromise.

5. In the annexation of Texas as a slave State.

6. In the Mexican war--a war, mean and wicked, even amongst wars.

Since the Revolution, there have been three instances of great national
importance, in which freedom has overcome slavery; there have been three

1. In prohibiting slavery from the Northwest Territory, before the
adoption of the Constitution.

2. In prohibiting the slave-trade in 1808. I mean, in prohibiting the
African slave-trade; the American slave-trade is still carried on in the
capital of the United States.

3. The prohibition of slavery in Oregon may be regarded as a third
victory, though not apparently of so much consequence as the others.

Now comes another battle, and it remains to be decided whether the idea
of slavery or the idea of freedom is to prevail in the territory we have
conquered and stolen from Mexico. The present strife is to settle that
question. Now, as before, it is a battle between freedom and slavery;
one on which the material and spiritual welfare of millions of men
depends; but now the difference between freedom and slavery is more
clearly seen than in 1787; the consequences of each are better
understood, and the sin of slavery is felt and acknowledged by a class
of persons who had few representatives sixty years ago. It is a much
greater triumph for slavery to prevail now, and carry its institutions
into New Mexico in 1850, than it was to pass the pro-slavery provisions
of the Constitution in 1787. It will be a greater sin now to extend
slavery, than it was to establish it in 1620, when slaves were first
brought to Virginia.

Ever since the adoption of the Constitution, protected by that shield,
mastering the energies of the nation, and fighting with that weapon,
slavery has been continually aggressive. The slave-driver has coveted
new soil; has claimed it; has had his claim allowed. Louisiana, Florida,
Texas, California and New Mexico are the results of Southern aggression.
Now the slave-driver reaches out his hand towards Cuba, trying to clutch
that emerald gem set in the tropic sea. How easy it was to surrender to
Great Britain portions of the Oregon Territory in a high northern
latitude! Had it been south of 36° 30´, it would not have been so easy
to settle the Oregon question by a compromise. So when we make a
compromise there, "the reciprocity must be all on one side."

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us next look at the position of the political parties with respect
to the present crisis. There are now four political parties in the land.

1. There is the Government party, represented by the President, and
portions of his Cabinet, if not the whole of it. This party does not
attempt to meet the question which comes up, but to dodge and avoid it.
Shall Freedom or Slavery prevail in the new territory? is the question.
The government has no opinion; it will leave the matter to be settled by
the people of the territory. This party wishes California to come into
the Union without slavery, for it is her own desire so to come; and does
not wish a territorial government to be formed by Congress in New
Mexico, but to leave the people there to form a State, excluding or
establishing slavery as they see fit. The motto of this party is
inaction, not intervention. King James I. once proposed a question to
the Judges of England. They declined to answer it, and the King said,
"If ye give no counsel, then why be ye counsellors?" The people of the
United States might ask the government, "If ye give us no leading, then
why be ye leaders?" This party is not hostile to slavery; not opposed to
its extension.

       *       *       *       *       *

2. Then there is the Whig Party. This party has one distinctive idea;
the idea of a Tariff for Protection; whether for the protection of
American labor, or merely American capital, I will not now stop to
inquire. The Whig Party is no more opposed to slavery, or its extension,
than the Government party itself.

However there are two divisions of the whigs, the Whig Party South, and
the Whig Party North. The two agree in their ideas of protection, and
their pro-slavery character. But the Whig Party South advocates Slavery
and Protection; the Whig Party North, Protection and Slavery.

In the North there are many whigs who are opposed to slavery, especially
to the extension of slavery; there are also many other persons, not of
the whig party, opposed to the extension of slavery; therefore in the
late electioneering campaign, to secure the votes of these persons, it
was necessary for the whig party North to make profession of
anti-slavery. This was done accordingly, in a general form, and in
special an attempt was made to show that the whig party was opposed to
the extension of slavery.

Hear what Senator Chase says on this point. I read from his speech in
the Senate, on March 26, 1850:--

     "On the whig side it was urged, that the candidate of the
     Philadelphia Convention was, if not positively favorable to
     the Proviso, at least pledged to leave the matter to
     Congress free from Executive influence, and ready to approve
     it when enacted by that body."

General Cass had written the celebrated "Nicholson Letter," in which he
declared that Congress had no constitutional power to enact the Proviso.
But so anxious were the Democrats of the North to assume an anti-slavery
aspect,--continues Mr. Chase,--that

     "Notwithstanding this letter, many of his friends in the
     free States persisted in asserting that he would not, if
     elected, veto the Proviso; many also insisted that he
     regarded slavery as excluded from the territories by the
     Mexican laws still in force; while others maintained that he
     regarded slavery as an institution of positive law, and
     Congress as constitutionally incompetent to enact such law,
     and that therefore it was impossible for slavery to get into
     the territories, whether Mexican law was in force or not."

This, says Mr. Chase, was the whig argument:--

     "Prohibition is essential to the certain exclusion of
     slavery from the territories. If the democratic candidate
     shall be elected, prohibition is impossible, for the veto
     will be used: if the whig candidate shall be elected,
     prohibition is certain, provided you elect a Congress who
     will carry out your will. Vote, therefore, for the whigs."

Such was the general argument of the whig party. Let us see what it was
in Massachusetts in special. Here I have documentary evidence. This is
the statement of the Whig Convention at Worcester in 1848, published
shortly before the election:--

     "We understand the whig party to be committed in favor of
     the principles contained in the ordinance of 1787, the
     prohibition of slavery in territory now free, and of its
     abolition wherever it can be constitutionally effected."

They professed to aim at the same thing which the free soil party aimed
at, only the work must be done by the old whig organization. Free soil
cloth must be manufactured, but it must be woven in the old whig mill,
with the old whig machinery, and by the old whig weavers. See what the
Convention says of the democratic party:--

     "We understand the democratic party to be pledged to decline
     any legislation upon the subject of slavery, with a view
     either to its prohibition or restriction in places where it
     does not exist, or to its abolition in any of the
     territories of the United States."

There is no ambiguity in that language. Men can talk very plain when
they will. Still there were some that doubted; so the great and famous
men of the party came out to convince the doubters that the whigs were
the men to save the country from the disgrace of slavery.

Here let me introduce the testimony of Mr. Choate. This which follows is
from his speech at Salem. He tells us the great work is, "The passage of
a law to-day that California and New Mexico shall remain forever free.
That is ... an object of great and transcendent importance:... we should
go up to the very limits of the Constitution itself ... to defeat the
always detested, and forever-to-be detested object of the dark ambition
of that candidate of the Baltimore Convention, who has consented to
pledge himself in advance, that he will veto the future law of freedom!"
"Is there a whig upon this floor who doubts that the strength of the
whig party next March will extend freedom to California and New Mexico,
if by the Constitution they are entitled to freedom at all? Is there a
member of Congress that would not vote for freedom?" [_Sancta
simplicitas! Ora pro nobis!_] "Is there a single whig constituency, in
any free State in this country, that would return any man that would not
vote for freedom? Do you believe that Daniel Webster himself could be
returned, if there was the least doubt upon this question?"

That is plain speech. But, to pass from the special to the particular,
hear Mr. Webster himself. What follows is from his famous speech at
Marshfield, September, 1848.

     "General Cass (he says) will have the Senate; and with the
     patronage of the government, with the interest that he, as a
     Northern man, can bring to bear, coöperating with every
     interest that the South can bring to bear, we cry _safety_
     before we are out of the woods, if we feel that there is no
     danger as to these new territories!" "In my judgment, the
     interests of the country and the feelings of a vast majority
     of the people require that a President of these United
     States shall be elected, who will neither use his official
     influence to promote, nor who feels any disposition in his
     heart to promote, the further extension of slavery in this
     country, and the further influence of it in the public

Speaking of the free soil party and the Buffalo platform, he says--"I
hold myself to be as good a free soil man as any of the Buffalo
Convention." Of the platform he says--"I can stand upon it pretty well."
"I beg to know who is to inspire into my breast a more resolute and
fixed determination to resist, unyieldingly, the encroachments and
advances of the slave power in this country, than has inspired it, ever
since the day that I first opened my mouth in the councils of the

If such language as this would not "deceive the very elect," what was
more to the point, it was quite enough to deceive the electors. But now
this language is forgotten; forgotten in general by the whig party
North; forgotten in special by those who seemed to be the exponents of
the whig party in Massachusetts; forgotten at any rate by the nine
hundred and eighty-seven men who signed the letter to Mr. Webster; and
in particular it is forgotten by Mr. Webster himself, who now says that
it would disgrace his own understanding to vote for the extension of the
Wilmot Proviso over the new territory!

There were some men in New England who did not believe the statements of
the whig party North in 1848, because they knew the men that uttered the
sentiments of the whig party South. The leaders put their thumbs in the
eyes of the people, and then said, "Do you see any dough in our faces?"
"No!" said the people, "not a speck." "Then vote our ticket, and never
say we are not hostile to slavery so long as you live."

At the South, the whig party used language somewhat different. Here is a
sample from the New Orleans Bee:--

     "General Taylor is from birth, association, and conviction,
     identified with the South and her institutions; being one of
     the most extensive slaveholders in Louisiana--and supported
     by the slaveholding interest, as opposed to the Wilmot
     Proviso, and in favor of securing the privilege to the
     owners of slaves to remove with them to newly acquired

       *       *       *       *       *

3. Then there is the Democratic party. The distinctive idea of the
democrats is represented by the word anti-protection, or revenue tariff.
This party, as such, is still less opposed to slavery than the whigs;
however, there are connected with it, at the North, many men who oppose
the extension of slavery. This party is divided into two divisions, the
democratic party South, and the democratic party North. They agree in
their idea of anti-protection and slavery, differing only in the
emphasis which they give to the two words. The democrats of the South
say Slavery and Anti-protection; the democrats North, Anti-protection
and Slavery. Thus you see, that while there is a specific difference
between democrats and whigs, there is also a generic agreement in the
matter of slavery. According to the doctrine of elective affinities,
both drop what they have a feeble affinity for, and hold on with what
their stronger affinity demands. The whigs and democrats of the South
are united in their attachment to slavery, not only mechanically, but by
a sort of chemical union.

Mr. Cass's Nicholson letter is well known. He says Congress has no
constitutional right to restrict slavery in the territories. Here is the
difference between him and General Taylor. General Taylor does not
interfere at all in the matter. If Congress puts slavery in, he says,
Very well! If Congress puts slavery out, he says the same, Very well!
But if Congress puts slavery out, General Cass would say, No. You shall
not put it out. One has the policy of King Log, the other that of King
Serpent. So far as that goes, Log is the better king.

So much for the democratic party.

       *       *       *       *       *

4. The Free Soil party opposes slavery so far as it is possible to do,
and yet comply with the Constitution of the United States. Its idea is
declared by its words,--No more slave territory. It does not profess to
be an anti-slavery party in general, only an anti-slavery party subject
to the Constitution. In the present crisis in the Congress of the United
States, it seems to me the men who represent this idea, though not
always professing allegiance to the party, have yet done the nation good
and substantial service. I refer more particularly to Messrs. Chase,
Seward and Hale in the Senate, to Messrs. Root, Giddings and Mann in the
House. Those gentlemen swear to keep the Constitution; in what sense and
with what limitations, I know not. It is for them to settle that matter
with their own consciences. I do know this, that these men have spoken
very noble words against slavery; heroic words in behalf of freedom. It
is not to be supposed that the free soil party, as such, has attained
the same convictions as to the sin of slavery, which the anti-slavery
party has long arrived at. Still they may be as faithful to their
convictions as any of the men about this platform. If they have less
light to walk by, they have less to be accountable for. For my own part,
spite of their short-comings, and of some things which to me seem wrong
in the late elections in New England, I cannot help thinking they have
done good as individuals, and as a party; it seems to me they have done
good both ways. I will honor all manly opposition to slavery, whether it
come up to my mark, or does not come near it. I will ask every man to be
true to his conscience, and his reason, not to mine.

In speaking of the parties, I ought not to omit to say a word or two
respecting some of the most prominent men, and their position in
reference to this slavery question. It is a little curious, that of all
the candidates for the Presidency, Mr. Benton, of Missouri, should be
the least inclined to support the pretensions of the Slave Power. But so
it is.

Of Mr. Cass, nothing more need be said at present; his position is
defined and well known. But a word must be said of Mr. Clay. He comes
forward, as usual, with a "Compromise." Here it is, in the famous
"Omnibus Bill." In one point it is not so good as the Government scheme.
General Taylor, as the organ of the party, recommends the admission of
California, as an independent measure. He does not huddle and lump it
together with any other matters; and in this respect, his scheme is more
favorable to freedom than the other; for Mr. Clay couples the admission
of California with other things. But in two points Mr. Clay's bill has
the superiority over the General's scheme.

1. It limits the Western and Northern boundaries of Texas, and so
reduces the territory of that State, where slavery is now established by
law. Yet, as I understand it, he takes off from New Mexico about seventy
thousand square miles, enough to make eight or ten States like
Massachusetts, and delivers it over to Texas to be slave soil; as Mr.
Webster says, out of the power of Congress to redeem from that scourge.

2. It does not maintain that Congress has no power to exclude slavery in
admitting a new State; whereas, if I understand the President in his
Message, he considers such an act "An invasion of their rights."[6]

Let us pass by Mr. Clay, and come to the other aspirant for the

At the Philadelphia Convention, Mr. Webster, at the most, could only get
one half the votes of New England; several of these not given in
earnest, but only as a compliment to the great man from the North. Now,
finding his presidential wares not likely to be bought by New England,
he takes them to a wider market; with what success we shall one day see.

Something has already been said in the newspapers and elsewhere, about
Mr. Webster's speech. No speech ever delivered in America has excited
such deep and righteous indignation. I know there are influential men in
Boston, and in all large towns, who must always have somebody to sustain
and applaud. They some time since applauded Mr. Webster, for reasons
very well known, and now continue their applause of him. His late speech
pleases them; its worst parts please them most. All that is as was to
be expected; men like what they must like. But, in the country, among
the sober men of Massachusetts and New England, who prize Right above
the political expediency of to-day, I think Mr. Webster's speech is read
with indignation. I believe no one political act in America, since the
treachery of Benedict Arnold, has excited so much moral indignation, as
the conduct of Daniel Webster.

But I pass by his speech, to speak of other things connected with that
famous man. One of the most influential pro-slavery newspapers of
Boston, calls the gentlemen who signed the letter to him, the
"Retainers" of Mr. Webster. The word is well chosen and quite
descriptive. This word is used in a common, a feudal, and a legal sense.
In the common sense, it means one who has complete possession of the
thing retained; in the feudal sense, it means a dependent or vassal, who
is bound to support his liege lord; in the legal sense, it means the
person who hires an attorney to do his business; and the sum given to
secure his services, or prevent him from acting for the opposite party,
is called a retaining fee. I take it the word "Retainers," is used in
the legal sense; certainly it is not in the feudal sense, for these
gentlemen do not owe allegiance to Mr. Webster. Nor is it in its common
sense, for events have shown that they have not a "complete possession"
of Mr. Webster.

Now, a word about this letter to him. Mr. Webster's retainers--nine
hundred and eighty-seven in number--tell him, "You have pointed out to a
whole people the path of duty, have convinced the understanding, and
touched the conscience of a nation." "We desire, therefore, to express
to you our entire concurrence in the sentiments of your speech, and our
heartfelt thanks for the inestimable aid it has afforded towards the
preservation and perpetuation of the Union."

They express their entire concurrence in the sentiments of his speech.
In the speech, as published in the edition "revised and corrected by
himself," Mr. Webster declares his intention to support the famous
fugitive slave bill, and the amendments thereto, "with all its
provisions, to the fullest extent." When the retainers express their
"entire concurrence in the sentiments of the speech," they express their
entire concurrence in that intention. There is no ambiguity in the
language; they make a universal affirmation--(_affirmatio de omni_). Now
Mr. Webster comes out, by two agents, and recants this declaration. Let
me do him no injustice. He shall be heard by his next friend, who wishes
to amend the record, a correspondent of the Boston Courier, of May

     "The speech now reads thus:--'My friend at the head of the
     Judiciary Committee has a bill on the subject, now before
     the Senate, with some amendments to it, which I propose to
     support, with all its provisions, to the fullest extent.'
     Changing the position of the word _which_, and the sentence
     would read thus:--'My friend at the head of the Judiciary
     Committee has a bill on the subject, now before the Senate,
     which, with some amendments to it, I propose to support,
     with all its provisions, to the fullest extent.'"

"Call you that backing your friends?" Really, it is too bad, after his
retainers have expressed their "entire concurrence in the sentiments of
the speech," for him to back out, to deny that he entertained one of the
sentiments already approved of and concurred in! Can it be possible, we
ask, that Mr. Webster can resort to this device to defend himself,
leaving his retainers in the lurch? It does not look like him to do such
a thing. But the correspondent of the Courier goes on as follows:--

     "We are authorized to state, first--That Mr. Webster did not
     revise this portion of his speech, with any view to examine
     its exact accuracy of phrase; and second--That Mr. Webster,
     at the time of the delivery of the speech, had in his desk
     three amendatory sections,... and one of which provides
     expressly for the right of trial by jury."

But who is the person "authorized to state" such a thing? Professor
Stuart informs the public that it "comes from the hand of a man who
might claim a near place to Mr. Webster, in respect to talent,
integrity, and patriotism."

Still, this recantation is so unlike Mr. Webster, that one would almost
doubt the testimony of so great an unknown as is the writer in the
Courier. But Mr. Stuart removes all doubt, and says--"I merely add, that
Mr. Webster himself has personally assured me that his speech was in
accordance with the correction here made, and that he has now in his
desk the amendments to which the corrector refers." So the retainers
must bear the honor, or the shame, whichsoever it may be, of
volunteering the advocacy of that remarkable bill.

When Paul was persecuted for righteousness' sake, how easily might "the
offence of the cross" have been made to cease, by a mere transposition!
Had he pursued that plan, he need not have been let down from the wall
in a basket: he might have had a dinner given him by forty scribes, at
the first hotel in Jerusalem, and a doctor of the law to defend him in a

But, alas! in Mr. Webster's case, admitting the transposition is real,
the transubstantiation is not thereby effected; the transfer of the
_which_ does not alter the character of the sentence to the requisite
degree. The bill, which he volunteers to advocate, contains provisions
to this effect: That the owner of a fugitive slave may seize his
fugitive, and, on the warrant of any "judge, commissioner, clerk,
marshal, postmaster, or collector," "residing or being" within the State
where the seizure is made, the fugitive, without any trial by jury,
shall be delivered up to his master, and carried out of the State. Now,
this is the bill which Mr. Webster proposes "to support, with all its
provisions, to the fullest extent." Let him transfer his _which_, it
does not transubstantiate his statement so that he can consistently
introduce a section which "provides expressly for the right of trial by
jury." This attempt to evade the plain meaning of a plain statement, is
too small a thing for a great man.

I make no doubt that Mr. Webster had in his desk, at the time alleged, a
bill designed to secure the trial by jury to fugitive slaves, prepared
as it is set forth. But how do you think it came there, and for what
purpose? Last February Mr. Webster was intending to make a very
different speech; and then, I make no doubt, it was that this bill was
prepared, with the design of introducing it! But I see no reason for
supposing, that when he made his celebrated speech, he intended to
introduce it as an amendment to Mr. Mason's or Butler's bill. It is said
that he will present it to the Senate. Let us wait and see.[7]

But, since the speech at Washington, Mr. Webster has said things at
Boston, almost as bad. Here they are; extracts from his speech at the
Revere House. I quote from the report in the Daily Advertiser. "Neither
you nor I shall see the legislation of the country proceed in the old
harmonious way, until the discussions in Congress and out of Congress
upon the subject, to which you have alluded [the subject of slavery],
shall be, in some way, suppressed. Take that truth home with you--and
take it as truth." A very pretty truth that is to take home with us,
that "discussion" must be "suppressed!"

Again, he says:--

     "Sir, the question is, whether Massachusetts will stand to
     the truth against temptation [that is the question]! whether
     she will be just against temptation! whether she will defend
     herself against her own prejudices! She has conquered every
     thing else in her time; she has conquered this ocean which
     washes her shore; she has conquered her own sterile soil;
     she has conquered her stern and inflexible climate; she has
     fought her way to the universal respect of the world; she
     has conquered every one's prejudices but her own. The
     question now is, whether she will conquer her own

The trumpet gives no uncertain sound; but before we prepare ourselves
for battle, let us see who is the foe. What are the "prejudices"
Massachusetts is to conquer? The prejudice in favor of the American
idea; the prejudice in favor of what our fathers called self-evident
truths; that all men "are endowed with certain unalienable rights;" that
"all men are created equal," and that "to secure these rights,
governments are instituted amongst men." These are the prejudices
Massachusetts is called on to conquer. There are some men who will do
this "with alacrity;" but will Massachusetts conquer her prejudices in
favor of the "unalienable rights of man?" I think, Mr. President, she
will first have to forget two hundred years of history. She must efface
Lexington and Bunker Hill from her memory, and tear the old rock of
Plymouth out from her bosom. These are prejudices which Massachusetts
will not conquer, till the ocean ceases to wash her shore, and granite
to harden her hills. Massachusetts has conquered a good many things, as
Mr. Webster tells us. I think there are several other things we shall
try our hand upon, before we conquer our prejudice in favor of the
unalienable rights of man.

There is one pleasant thing about this position of Mr. Webster. He is
alarmed at the fire which has been kindled in his rear. He finds
"considerable differences of opinion prevail ... on the subject of that
speech," and is "grateful to receive ... opinions so decidedly
concurring with" his own,--so he tells the citizens of Newburyport. He
feels obliged to do something to escape the obloquy which naturally
comes upon him. So he revises his speech; now supplying an omission, now
altering a little; authorizes another great man to transpose his
relative pronoun, and anchor it fast to another antecedent; appeals to
amendments in the senatorial desk, designed to secure a jury trial for
fugitive slaves; derides his opponents, and compares them with the
patriots of ancient times. Here is his letter to the citizens of
Newburyport--a very remarkable document. It contains some surprising
legal doctrines, which I leave others to pass upon. But in it he
explains the fugitive slave law of 1793, which does not "provide for the
trial of any question whatever by jury, in the State in which the arrest
is made." "At that time," nobody regarded any of the provisions of that
bill as "repugnant to religion, liberty, the Constitution, or humanity;"
and he has "no more objections to the provisions of this law, than was
seen to them" by the framers of the law itself. If he sees therein
nothing "repugnant to religion, liberty, the Constitution, or humanity,"
then why transpose that relative pronoun, and have an amendment "which
provides expressly for the right of trial by jury?"

     "In order to allay excitement," he answers, "and remove
     objections." "There are many difficulties, however,
     attending any such provision [of a jury trial]; and a main
     one, and perhaps the only insuperable one, has been created
     by the States themselves, by making it a penal offence in
     their own officers, to render any aid in apprehending or
     securing such fugitives, and absolutely refusing the use of
     their jails for keeping them in custody, till a jury could
     be impanelled, witnesses summoned, and a regular trial be

Think of that! It is Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York,
which prohibit the fugitive from getting a trial for his freedom, before
a jury of twelve good men and true! But Mr. Webster goes on: "It is not
too much to say, that to these State laws is to be attributed the actual
and practical denial of trial by jury in these cases." Generally, the
cause is thought to precede the effect, but here is a case in which,
according to Mr. Webster, the effect has got the start of the cause, by
more than fifty years. The fugitive slave law of Congress, which allowed
the master to capture the runaway, was passed in 1793; but the State
laws he refers to, to which "is to be attributed the actual and
practical denial of trial by jury in these cases," were not passed till
after 1840. "To what base uses may we come at last!" Mr. Webster would
never have made such a defence of his pro-slavery conduct, had he not
been afraid of the fire in his rear, and thought his retainers not able
to put it out. He seems to think this fire is set in the name of
religion: so, to help us "Conquer our prejudices," he cautions us
against the use of religion, and quotes from the private letter of "One
of the most distinguished men in England," dated as late as the 29th of
January--"Religion is an excellent thing in every matter except in
politics: there it seems to make men mad." In this respect, it seems
religion is inferior to money, for the Proverbs tell us that money
"answereth all things;" religion, it seems, "answereth all things,"
except politics. Poor Mr. Webster! If religion is not good in politics,
I suppose irreligion is good there; and, really, it is often enough
introduced there. So, if religion "seems to make men mad" in politics, I
suppose irreligion makes them sober in politics. But Mr. Webster, fresh
from his transposition of his own relative, explains this: His friend
ascribes the evils not to "true and genuine religion," but to "that
fantastic notion of religion." So, making the transposition, it would
read thus: "That fantastical notion of religion," "is an excellent thing
in any matter except politics." Alas! Mr. Webster does not expound his
friend's letter, nor his own language, so well as he used to expound the
Constitution. But he says, "The religion of the New Testament is as sure
a guide to duty in politics, as in any other concern of life." So, in
the name of "Conscience and the Constitution," Professor Stuart comes
forward to defend Mr. Webster, "by the religion of the New Testament;
that religion which is founded on the teachings of Jesus and his
apostles." How are the mighty fallen!

Mr. Webster makes a "great speech," lending his mighty influence to the
support and extension of slavery, with all its attendant consequences,
which paralyze the hand of industry, enfeeble the thinking mind, and
brutify the conscience which should discern between right and wrong;
nine hundred and eighty-seven of his retainers in Boston, thank him for
reminding them of their duty. But still the fire in his rear is so hot,
that he must come on to Boston, talk about having discussion suppressed,
and ask Massachusetts to conquer her prejudices. That is not enough. He
must go up to Andover, and get a minister to defend him, in the name of
"Conscience and the Constitution," supporting slavery out of the Old
Testament and New Testament. "To what mean uses may we not descend!"

There is a "short and easy method" with Professor Stuart, and all other
men who defend slavery out of the Bible. If the Bible defends slavery,
it is not so much the better for slavery, but so much the worse for the
Bible. If Mr. Stuart and Mr. Webster do not see that, there are plenty
of obscurer men that do. Of all the attacks ever made on the Bible, by
"deists" and "infidels," none would do so much to bring it into
disrepute, as to show that it sanctioned American slavery.

It is rather a remarkable fact, that an orthodox minister should be on
Mr. Webster's paper, endorsing for the Christianity of slavery.

Let me say a word respecting the position of the Representative from
Boston. I speak only of his position, not of his personal character. Let
him, and all men, have the benefit of the distinction between their
personal character, and official conduct. Mr. Winthrop is a consistent
whig; a representative of the idea of the whig party North, Protection
and Slavery. When he first went into Congress, it was distinctly
understood that he was not going to meddle with the matter of slavery;
the tariff was the thing. All this was consistent. It is to be supposed
that a Northern whig will put the mills of the North before the black
men of the South: and "Property before persons," might safely be writ on
the banner of the whig party, North or South.

Mr. Winthrop seems a little uneasy in his position. Some time ago he
complained of a "Nest of vipers" in Boston, who had broken their own
teeth in gnawing a file; meaning the "vipers" in the free soil party, I
suppose, whose teeth, however, have a little edge still left on them. He
finds it necessary to define his position, and show that he has kept up
his communication with the base-line of operations from which he
started. This circumstance is a little suspicious.

Unlike Mr. Webster, Mr. Winthrop seems to think religion is a good thing
in politics, for in his speech of May 7th, he says--"I acknowledge my
allegiance to the whole Constitution of the United States.... And
whenever I perceive a plain conflict of jurisdiction and authority
between the Constitution of my country and the laws of my God, my course
is clear. I shall resign my office, whatever it may be, and renounce all
connection with public service of any sort." That is fair and manly. He
will not hold a position under the Constitution of the United States
which is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Universe. But he
says--"There are provisions in the Constitution [of the United States,
he means, not of the universe], which involve us in painful obligations,
and from which some of us would rejoice to be relieved; and this [the
restoration of fugitive slaves], is one of them. But there is none,
none, in my judgment, which involves any conscientious or religious
difficulty." So he has no "conscientious or religious" objection to
return a fugitive slave. He thinks the Constitution of the United States
"avoids the idea that there can be property in man," but recognizes
"that there may be property in the service or labor of man." But when it
is property in the service of man without value received by the servant,
and a claim which continues to attach to a man and his children forever,
it looks very like the idea of property in man. At any rate, there is
only a distinction in the words, no difference in the things. To claim
the sum of the accidents, all and several of a thing, is practically to
claim the thing.

Mr. Winthrop once voted for the Wilmot Proviso, in its application to
the Oregon Territory. Some persons have honored him for it, and even
contended that he also was a free soiler. He wipes off that calumny by
declaring, that he attached that proviso to the Oregon bill for the
purpose of defeating the bill itself. "This proviso was one of the means
upon which I mainly relied for the purpose." "There can be little
doubt," he says, "that this clause had its influence in arresting the
bill in the other end of the capitol," where it was "finally lost." That
is his apology for appearing to desire to prevent the extension of
slavery. It is worth while to remember this.

Unlike Mr. Webster, he thinks slavery may go into New Mexico. "We may
hesitate to admit that nature has everywhere [in the new territory]
settled the question against slavery." Still he would not now pass the
proviso to exclude slavery. It "would ... unite the South as one man,
and if it did not actually rend the Union asunder, would create an
alienation and irritation in that quarter of the country, which would
render the Union hardly worth preserving." "Is there not ample reason
for an abatement of the northern tone, for a forbearance of northern
urgency upon this subject, without the imputation of tergiversation and

Here I am reminded of a remarkable sentence in Mr. Webster's speech at
Marshfield, in relation to the northern men who helped to annex Texas.
Here it is:--

     "For my part, I think that Dough-faces is an epithet not
     sufficiently reproachful. Now, I think such persons are
     dough-faces, dough-heads, and dough-souls, that they are all
     dough; that the coarsest potter may mould them at pleasure
     to vessels of honor or dishonor, but most readily to vessels
     of dishonor."

The Representative from Boston, in the year 1850, has small objection to
the extension of slave soil. Hearken to his words:--

     "I can never put the question of extending slave soil on the
     same footing with one of directly increasing slavery and
     multiplying slaves. If a positive issue could ever again be
     made up for our decision, whether human beings, few or many,
     of whatever race, complexion or condition, should be freshly
     subjected to a system of hereditary bondage, and be changed
     from free men into slaves, I can conceive that no bonds of
     union, no ties of interest, no cords of sympathy, no
     consideration of past glory, present welfare, or future
     grandeur, should be suffered to interfere, for an instant,
     with our resolute and unceasing resistance to a measure so
     iniquitous and abominable. There would be a clear,
     unquestionable moral element in such an issue, which would
     admit of no compromise, no concession, no forbearance
     whatever.... A million of swords would leap from their
     scabbards to assert it, and the Union itself would be
     shivered like a Prince Rupert's dress in the shock.

     "But, Sir, the question whether the institution of slavery,
     as it already exists, shall be permitted to extend itself
     over a hundred or a hundred thousand more square miles than
     it now occupies, is a different question.... It is not, in
     my judgment, such an issue that conscientious and religious
     men may not be free to acquiesce in whatever decision may be
     arrived at by the constituted authorities of the country....
     It is not with a view of cooping up slavery ... within
     limits too narrow for its natural growth;... it is not for
     the purpose of girding it round with lines of fire, till its
     sting, like that of the scorpion, shall be turned upon
     itself,... that I have ever advocated the principles of the
     Ordinance of 1787."

Mr. Mann, I think, is still called a whig, but no member of the free
soil party has more readily or more ably stood up against the extension
of slavery. His noble words stand in marvellous contrast to the
discourse of the representative from Boston. Mr. Mann represents the
country, and not the "metropolis." His speech last February, and his
recent letter to his constituents, are too well known, and too justly
prized, to require any commendation here. But I cannot fail to make a
remark on a passage in the letter. He says, if we allow Mr. Clay's
compromise to be accepted, "Were it not for the horrible consequences
which it would involve, a roar of laughter, like a _feu de joie_, would
run down the course of the ages." He afterwards says--"Should the South
succeed in their present attempt upon the territories, they will
impatiently await the retirement of General Taylor from the executive
chair to add the 'State of Cuba' ... to this noble triumph." One is a
little inclined to start such a laugh himself at the idea of the South
waiting for that event before they undertake that plan!

Mr. Mann says: "If no moral or religious obligation existed against
holding slaves, would not many of those opulent and respectable
gentlemen who signed the letter of thanks to Mr. Webster, and hundreds
of others, indeed, instead of applying to intelligence offices for
domestics, go at once to the auction room, and buy a man or a woman with
as little hesitancy or compunction as they now send to Brighton for
beeves?" This remark has drawn on him some censures not at all merited.
There are men enough in Boston, who have no objection to slavery. I know
such men, who would have been glad if slavery had been continued here.
Are Boston merchants unwilling to take mortgages on plantations and
negroes? Do northern men not acquire negroes by marrying wealthy women
at the South, and keep the negroes as slaves? If the truth could be
known, I think it would appear that Dr. Palfrey had lost more reputation
in Boston than he gained, by emancipating the human beings which fell to
his lot. But here is a story which I take from the Boston Republican. It
is worth preserving as a monument of the morals of Boston in 1850, and
may be worth preserving at the end of the century:--

     "A year or two since, a bright-looking mulatto youth, about
     twenty years of age, and whose complexion was not much, if
     any, darker than that of the great 'Expounder of the
     Constitution,' entered the counting-room, on some errand
     for his master, a Kentuckian, who was making a visit here. A
     merchant on one of our principal wharves, who came in and
     spoke to him, remarked to the writer that he once owned this
     'boy' and his mother, and sold them for several hundred
     dollars. Upon my expressing astonishment to him that he
     could thus deal in human flesh, he remarked that 'When you
     are among the Romans, you must do as the Romans do.' I know
     of others of my northern acquaintances, and good whigs too,
     who have owned slaves at the South, and who, if public
     opinion warranted it, would be as likely, I presume, to buy
     and sell them at the North."

I have yet to learn that the controlling men of this city have any
considerable aversion to domestic slavery.[8]

Mr. Mann's zeal in behalf of freedom, and against the extension of
slavery, has drawn upon him the indignation of Mr. Webster, who is
grieved to see him so ignorant of American law. But Mr. Mann is able to
do his own fighting.

       *       *       *       *       *

So much for the political parties and their relation to the matters at
issue at this moment. Still, there is some reason to hope that the
attempt to extend slavery, made in the face of the world, and supported
by such talent, will yet fail; that it will bring only shame on the men
who aim to extend and perpetuate so foul a blight. The fact that Mr.
Webster's retainers must come to the rescue of their attorney; that
himself must write letters to defend himself, and must even obtain the
services of a clergyman to help him--this shows the fear that is felt
from the anti-slavery spirit of the North. Depend upon it, a politician
is pretty far gone when he sends for the minister, and he thinks his
credit failing when he gets a clergyman on his paper to indorse for the
Christian character of American slavery.

Here I ought to speak of the party not politicians, who contend against
slavery not only beyond the limits of the Constitution, but within those
limits; who are opposed not only to the extension, but to the
continuance of slavery; who declare that they will keep no compromises
which conflict with the eternal laws of God,--of the Anti-slavery party.
Mr. President, if I were speaking to whigs, to democrats, or to free
soil men, perhaps I might say what I think of this party, of their
conduct, and their motives; but, Sir, I pass it by, with the single
remark, that I think the future will find this party where they have
always been found. I have before now attempted to point out the faults
of this party, and before these men; that work I will not now attempt a
second time, and this is not the audience before which I choose to chant
its praises.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are several forces which oppose the anti-slavery movement at this
day. Here are some of the most important.

The Demagogues of the Parties are all or nearly all against it. By
demagogue I mean the man who undertakes to lead the people for his own
advantage, to the harm and loss of the people themselves. All of this
class of men, or most of them, now support slavery--not, as I suppose,
because they have any special friendship for it, but because they think
it will serve their turn. Some noble men in politics are still friends
of the slave.

The Demagogues of the Churches must come next. I am not inclined to
attribute so much original power to the churches as some men do. I look
on them as indications of public opinion, and not sources thereof--not
the wind, but only the vane which shows which way it blows. Once the
clergy were the masters of the people, and the authors of public opinion
to a great degree; now they are chiefly the servants of the people, and
follow public opinion, and but seldom aspire to lead it, except in
matters of their own craft, such as the technicalities of a sect, or the
form of a ritual. They may lead public opinion in regard to the "posture
in prayer," to the "form of baptism," and the like. In important matters
which concern the welfare of the nation, the clergy have none or very
little weight. Still, as representatives of public opinion, we really
find most of the clergy, of all denominations, arrayed against the
cause of Eternal Justice. I pass over this matter briefly, because it is
hardly necessary for me to give any opinion on the subject. But I am
glad to add, that in all denominations here in New England, and perhaps
in all the North, there are noble men, who apply the principles of
justice to this question of the nation, and bear a manly testimony in
the midst of bad examples. Some of the theological newspapers have shown
a hostility to slavery and an attachment to the cause of liberty which
few men expected; which were quite unknown in those quarters before. To
do full justice to men in the sects who speak against this great and
popular sin of the nation, we ought to remember that it is harder for a
minister than for almost any other man to become a reformer. It is very
plain that it is not thought to belong to the calling of a minister,
especially in a large town, to oppose the actual and popular sins of his
time. So when I see a minister yielding to the public opinion which
favors unrighteousness, and passing by, in silence and on the other
side, causes which need and deserve his labors and his prayers, I
remember what he is hired for, and paid for,--to represent the popular
form of religion; if that be idolatry, to represent that. But when I see
a minister oppose a real sin which is popular, I cannot but feel a great
admiration for the man. We have lately seen some examples of this.

Yet, on the other side, there are some very sad examples of the
opposite. Here comes forward a man of high standing in the New England
churches, a man who has done real service in promoting a liberal study
of matters connected with religion, and defends slavery out of what he
deems the "Infallible word of God,"--the Old Testament and New
Testament. Well, if Christianity supports American slavery, so much the
worse for Christianity, that is all. Perhaps I ought not to say, _if_
Christianity supports slavery. We all know it does not, never did, and
never can. But if Paul was an apologist for slavery, so much the worse
for Paul. If Calvinism or Catholicism supports slavery, so much the
worse for them, not so much the better for Slavery! I can easily
understand the conduct of the leaders of the New York mob: considering
the character of the men, their ignorance and general position, I can
easily suppose they may have thought they were doing right in disturbing
the meetings there. Considering the apathy of the public authorities,
and the attempt, openly made by some men,--unluckily of influence in
that city,--to excite others to violence, I have a good deal of charity
for Rynders and his gang. But it is not so easy to excuse the
conspicuous ecclesiastical defenders of slavery. They cannot plead their
ignorance. Let them alone, to make the best defence they can.

The Toryism of America is also against us. I call that man a Tory, who
prefers the accidents of man to the substance of manhood. I mean one
who prefers the possessions and property of mankind to man himself, to
reason and to justice. Of this Toryism we have much in America, much in
New England, much in Boston. In this town, I cannot but think the
prevailing influence is still a Tory influence. It is this which is the
support of the demagogues of the State and the Church.

Toryism exists in all lands. In some, there is a good deal of excuse to
be made for it. I can understand the Toryism of the Duke of Medina
Sidonia, and of such men. If a man has been born to great wealth and
power, derived from ancestors for many centuries held in admiration and
in awe; if he has been bred to account himself a superior being, and to
be treated accordingly, I can easily understand the Toryism of such a
man, and find some excuse for it. I can understand the Tory literature
of other nations. The Toryism of the "London Quarterly," of "Blackwood,"
is easily accounted for, and forgiven. It is, besides, sometimes adorned
with wit, and often set off by much learning. It is respectable Toryism.
But the Toryism of men who only know they had a grandfather by
inference, not by positive testimony; who inherited nothing but their
bare limbs; who began their career as tradesmen or mechanics,--mechanics
in divinity or law as well as in trade,--and get their bread by any of
the useful and honorable callings of life--that such men, getting rich,
or lifting their heads out of the obscurity they were once in, should
become Tories, in a land, too, where institutions are founded on the
idea of freedom and equity and natural justice--that is another thing.
The Toryism of American journals, with little scholarship, with no wit,
and wisdom in homoeopathic doses; the Toryism of a man who started
from nothing, the architect of his own fortune; the Toryism of a
Republican, of a Yankee, the Toryism of a Snob,--it is Toryism reduced
to its lowest denomination, made vulgar and contemptible; it is the
little end of the tail of Toryism. Let us loathe the unclean thing in
the depth of our soul, but let us pity the poor Tory; for he, also, in
common with the negro slave, is "A man and a brother."

Then the Spirit of Trade is often against us. Mr. Mann, in his letter,
speaks of the opposition made to Wilberforce by the "Guinea merchants"
of Liverpool, in his attempts to put an end to the slave-trade. The
Corporation of Liverpool spent over ten thousand pounds in defence of a
traffic, "the worst the sun ever shone upon." This would seem to be a
reflection upon some of the merchants of Boston. It seems, from a
statement in the Atlas, that Mr. Mann did not intend his remarks to
apply to Boston, but to New York and Philadelphia, where mass meetings
of merchants had been held, to sustain Mr. Clay's compromise
resolutions. Although Mr. Mann did not apply his remarks to Boston, I
fear they will apply here as well as to our sister cities. I have yet to
learn that the letter of Mr. Webster's retainers was any less well
adapted to continue and extend slavery, than the resolutions passed at
New York and Philadelphia. I wish the insinuations of Mr. Mann did not
apply here.

One of the signers of the letter to Mr. Webster incautiously betrayed, I
think, the open secret of the retainers when he said--"I don't care a
damn how many slave States they annex!" This is a secret, because not
avowed; open, because generally known, or at least believed, to be the
sentiment of a strong party in Massachusetts. I am glad to have it also
expressed; now the issue is joined, and we do not fight in the dark.

It has long been suspected that some inhabitants of Boston were engaged
in the slave-trade. Not long since, the brig "Lucy Anne," of Boston, was
captured on the coast of Africa, with five hundred and forty-seven
slaves on board. This vessel was built at Thomaston in 1839; repaired at
Boston in 1848, and now hails from this port. She was commanded by one
"Captain Otis," and is owned by one "Salem Charles." This, I suppose, is
a fictitious name, for certainly it would not be respectable in Boston
to extend slavery in this way. Even Mr. Winthrop is opposed to that, and
thinks "a million swords would leap from their scabbards to oppose it."
But it may be that there are men in Boston who do not think it any worse
to steal men who were born free, and have grown up free in Africa, and
make slaves of them, than to steal such as are born free in America,
before they are grown up. If we have the Old Testament decidedly
sustaining slavery, and the New Testament never forbidding it; if, as we
are often told, neither Jesus nor his early followers ever said a word
against slavery; if scarcely a Christian minister in Boston ever
preaches against this national sin; if the Representative from Boston
has no religious scruples against returning a fugitive slave, or
extending slavery over a "hundred or a hundred thousand square miles" of
new territory; if the great Senator from Massachusetts refuses to vote
for the Wilmot Proviso, or reaffirm an ordinance of nature, and reënact
the will of God; if he calls on us to return fugitive slaves "with
alacrity," and demands of Massachusetts that she shall conquer her
prejudices; if nine hundred and eighty-seven men in this vicinity, of
lawful age,[9] are thankful to him for enlightening them as to their
duty, and a professor of theology comes forward to sanction American
slavery in the name of religion--why, I think Mr. "Salem Charles," with
his "Captain Otis," may not be the worst man in the world, after all!
Let us pity him also, as "A man and a brother."

       *       *       *       *       *

Such is the crisis in our affairs; such the special issue in the general
question between freedom and slavery; such the position of parties and
of great men in relation to this question; such the foes to freedom in

On our side, there are great and powerful allies. The American idea is
with us; the spirit of the majority of men in the North, when they are
not blindfolded and muzzled by the demagogues of State and Church. The
religion of the land, also, is on our side; the irreligion, the
idolatry, the infidelity thereof, all of that is opposed to us. Religion
is love of God and love of man: surely, all of that, under any form,
Catholic or Quaker, is in favor of the unalienable rights of man. We
know that we are right; we are sure to prevail. But in times present and
future, as in times past, we need heroism, self-denial, a continual
watchfulness, and an industry which never tires.

Let us not be deceived about the real question at issue. It is not
merely whether we shall return fugitive slaves without trial by jury. We
will not return them with trial by jury! neither "with alacrity," nor
"with the solemnity of judicial proceedings!" It is not merely whether
slavery shall be extended or not. By and by there will be a political
party with a wider basis than the free soil party, who will declare
that the nation itself must put an end to slavery in the nation; and if
the Constitution of the United States will not allow it, there is
another Constitution that will. Then the title, Defender and expounder
of the Constitution of the United States, will give way to
this,--"Defender and expounder of the Constitution of the Universe," and
we shall reaffirm the ordinance of nature, and reënact the will of God.
You may not live to see it, Mr. President, nor I live to see it; but it
is written on the iron leaf that it must come; come, too, before long.
Then the speech of Mr. Webster, and the defence thereof by Mr. Stuart,
the letter of the retainers and the letters of the retained, will be a
curiosity; the conduct of the whigs and democrats an amazement, and the
peculiar institution a proverb amongst all the nations of the earth. In
the turmoil of party politics, and of personal controversy, let us not
forget continually to move the previous question, whether Freedom or
Slavery is to prevail in America. There is no attribute of God which is
not on our side; because, in this matter, we are on the side of God.

Mr. President: I began by congratulating you on the favorable signs of
the times. One of the most favorable is the determination of the South
to use the powers of government to extend slavery. At this day, we
exhibit a fact worse than Christendom has elsewhere to disclose; the
fact that one sixth part of our population are mere property; not men,
but things. England has a proletary population, the lowest in Europe; we
have three million of proletaries lower than the "pauper laborers" of
England, which the whig protectionists hold up to us in terror. The
South wishes to increase the number of slaves, to spread this blot, this
blight and baneful scourge of civilization over new territory.
Hot-headed men of the South declare that, unless it is done, they will
divide the Union; famous men of the North "cave in," and verify their
own statements about "dough-faces" and "dough-souls." All this is
preaching anti-slavery to the thinking men of the North; to the sober
men of all parties, who prefer Conscience to cotton. The present session
of Congress has done much to overturn slavery. "Whom the gods destroy
they first make mad."


[4] Mr. Silgeström.

[5] Annal. Lib. XIV. cap. 42, _et seq._

[6] Executive Documents: House of Representatives, No. 17, p. 3.

[7] Since the delivery of the above, Mr. Webster has introduced his
bill, providing a trial by jury for fugitive slaves. If I understand it,
Mr. Webster does not offer it as a substitute for the Judiciary Bill on
the subject, does not introduce it as an amendment to that or to any
thing else. Nay, he does not formally introduce it--only lays it before
the Senate, with the desire that it may be printed! The effect it is
designed to produce, it is very easy to see. The retainers can now
say--See! Mr. Webster himself wishes to provide a trial by jury for
fugitives! Some of the provisions of the bill are remarkable, but they
need not be dwelt on here.

[8] While this is passing through the press, I learn that several
wealthy citizens of Boston are at this moment owners of several hundreds
of slaves. I think they would lose reputation among their fellows if
they should set them free.

[9] It has since appeared that several of those persons were at the
time, and still are, holders of slaves. Their conduct need excite no



Last Sunday, on a day near the national anniversary, something was said
of the relation which the American citizen bears to the State, and of
the duties and rights which belong to that relation. Since then an event
has occurred which suggests another topic of a public nature, and so I
invite your attention to a discourse of the general position and duties
of an American ruler, and in special of the late President Taylor. It is
no pleasant task to rise to speak so often on such themes as this, but
let us see what warning or guidance we can gather from this occasion.

       *       *       *       *       *

In order that a man should be competent to become a complete political
ruler and head of the American people, he ought to be distinguished
above other men in three particulars.

First, he ought to have just political ideas in advance of the people,
ideas not yet organized into institutions in the State. Then he will be
a leader in ideas.

Next, he ought to have a superior power of organizing those ideas, of
putting them into institutions in the State. Then he will be a leader in
the matter of organizing ideas.

Then he ought to have a superior power of administering the institutions
after they are made. Then he will be a leader in the matter of
administering institutions.

An eminent degree of these three qualities constitutes genius for
statesmanship, genius, too, of a very high order. A man who really and
efficiently leads in politics must possess some or all of these
qualities; without them, or any of them, he can only seem to lead. He
and the people both may think he is the leader, and call him so; but he
that shall lead others aright, must himself be on the right road and in
advance of them. To perform the functions of a leader of men, the man
must be eminently just also, true to the Everlasting Right, the Law of
God; otherwise he can never possess in the highest degree, or in a
competent degree, the power of ideas, of organization, of
administration. A man eminently just, and possessing these three
qualities is a leader by nature; if he is also put into the conventional
position of leader, then he bears the same relation to the people,
which the captain of a ship, skilful and competent, would bear to the
ship's company who were joint owners with him, and had elected him to
his office, expecting that he would serve them as captain while he held
the office of captain.

The complete and perfect leader must be able to originate just political
ideas, to organize them justly, to administer the organization with
justice. But these three powers are seldom united in the same man; so,
practically, the business of leading, and therefore of ruling, is
commonly distributed amongst many persons; not concentrated in one man's
hands. I think we have as yet had no statesman in America who has
enjoyed each and all of these three talents in an eminent degree. No man
is so rich as mankind. Any one of them is a great gift, entitling the
man to distinction; but the talent for administration is not very rare.
It is not difficult to find a man of good administrative ability with no
power to invent, none to organize the inventions of other men. How many
men can work all day with oxen yoked to a plough; how few could invent a
plough or tame wild cattle. It is not hard to find men capable of
managing political machinery, of holding the national plough and
conducting the national team, when both are in the field, and there is
the old furrow to serve as guide. That is all we commonly look for in an
American politician. He is to follow the old constitutional furrow, and
hold the old plough, and scatter a little democratic or whig seed,
furnished by his party, not forgetting to give them the handsel of the
crop. That is all we commonly look for in an American politician,
leaving it for some bright but obscure man in the mass of the people to
discover a new idea, and to devise the mode of its organization. Then
the politician, perched aloft on his high place and conspicuous, holds
the string of the kite which some unknown men have thought out, made up,
and hoisted with great labor; he appears to be the great man because he
sits and holds the string, administering the kite, and men look up and
say, "See there, what a great man he is! Is not this the foremost man of
the age?"

In this way the business of ruling the nation is made a matter of mere
routine, not of invention or construction. The ruler is to tend the
public mill; not to make it, or to mend it; not to devise new and better
mills, not even to improve the old one. We may be thankful if he does
not abuse and leave it worse than he found it. He is not to gather the
dam, only to shut the gate at the right time, and at the right time open
it; to take sufficient toll of all comers, and now and then make a
report of the grinding, or of what he sees fit to communicate to the
owners of the mill. As it is a part of the written Constitution of the
land that all money bills shall originate with the House of
Representatives, so it is a part of the unwritten custom that political
ideas in advance of the people shall not originate with the nominal
rulers of the nation, but elsewhere. One good thing results from this:
we are not much governed, but much let alone. The American form of
government has some great merits; this I esteem the greatest; that it
lets the people alone so much. In forming ourselves into a State, we
agreed with one another not to meddle and make politically with
individuals so much as other nations had done.

It is a long time since we have had a man of large genius for politics
at the head of affairs in America. I think we could not mention more
than one who had any genius for just political ideas in advance of the
people. Skilful administrators we have had in great abundance in
politics as in other matters. Nature herself seems democratic in her
action here, and all our great movements appear to be brought about by
natural power diffused amongst many men of talent, not by natural power
condensed into a single man of genius. So long as this is the case, the
present method of letting alone is the best one. The American nation has
marched on without much pioneering on the part of its official rulers,
no one of them for a long time being much in advance of the million; and
while it is so it is certainly best that the million are very much left
to themselves. But if we could have a man as much in advance of the
people in all these three qualities, and especially in the chief
quality--as the skilful projector of a cotton mill is in advance of the
girls who tend the looms, in all that relates to the projection of a
cotton mill,--then we should know what it was to have a real leader, a
ruler who could be the schoolmaster of the nation, not ruling over our
bodies by fear, but in the spirit of love, setting us lessons which we
could not have devised, nor even understand without his help; one who
preserves all the good of the old, and adds thereto much new good not
seen before, and so instructs and helps forward the people. But as the
good God has not sent such a man, and he is not to be made by men, only
found, nor in the least helped in any of those three qualities by all
the praise we can pour on him; so it comes to pass that an ordinary
ruler is a person of no very great consequence. His importance is
official and not personal, and as only the person dies, not the office,
the death of such an one is not commonly an affair of much significance.
Suppose after Mr. Tyler or Mr. Polk had taken the oath of office, he had
appointed a common clerk, a man of routine and experience, as his
factotum, with power to affix the presidential name to necessary
documents, and then had quietly and in silence departed from this life,
how much would the nation have lost? A new and just political idea; an
organization thereof? No such thing. If the public press had kept the
secret, we should not have found out their death till this time. The
obscure clerk could tend the mill as well as his famous master who would
not be missed.

Louis XIV. said, "The State! That is I." He was the State. So when the
ruler dies, the State is in peril. If the King of Prussia, the Emperor
of Russia or Austria, or the Pope of Rome were to die, there would be a
revolution, and nobody knows what would come of it; for there the ruler
is master of the people, who are subjects, not citizens, and the old
master dying, it is not easy to yoke the people to the chariot of a new
one. Here the people are the State; and though the power of General
Taylor was practically greater than that of any monarch in Europe, save
Nicholas, William, and Ferdinand, yet at his death all the power passes
into the hands of his successor, with no noise, no tumult, not even the
appearance of a street constable. I think that was a sublime sight--the
rule over twenty millions of people, jealous of their rights, silently,
by due course of law, passes into the hands of another man at dead of
night, and the next morning the nation is just as safe, just as quiet
and secure as before, no fear of change perplexing them. That was a
sublime sight--one of the fair things which comes of a democracy. Here
the ruler is servant, and the people master; so the death of a
President, like Mr. Van Buren, or any of his successors, Harrison or
Tyler or Polk, would really have been a very unimportant event; not so
momentous as the death of one of the ablest doctors in Boston, for
should the physician die, your chance of life is diminished by that
fact. If Dr. Channing had died at the age of forty, before he wrote his
best works, his death would have been a greater calamity than that of
any or all of the four Presidents just named, as soon as their inaugural
address was delivered; for Dr. Channing had some truths to tell, which
there was nobody else to deliver at that time. No President since
Jefferson, I think, has done the nation so much good as the opening of
the Erie Canal in New York, or the chief railroads in Massachusetts, or
the building up of any one of the half dozen large manufacturing towns
in New England. Mr. Cunard, in establishing his line of Atlantic
steamers, did more for America than any President for five-and-twenty
years. The discovery of the properties of sulphuric ether, the devising
of the magnetic telegraph, was of more advantage to this nation, than
the service of any President for a long time. I think I could mention a
few men in Boston, any one of whom has been of more service than four or
five Presidents; and, accordingly, the death of any one of those would
be a greater calamity than the demise of all those Presidents the day
after election. With us the President is only one spoke in the wheel,
and if that is broken we always have a spare spoke on hand, and the
wheel is so made that without stopping the mill, the new spoke drops
into the place of the old one and no one knows the change till told
thereof. If Mr. Polk had really been the ablest man in the land, a
creator and an organizer, his death would have been a public calamity,
and the whole nation would have felt it, as Boston or New York would
feel the loss of one of its ablest manufacturers or merchants, lawyers
or doctors. That would deprive us of the services of a man which could
not be supplied. We have always spare men of routine, but not spare men
of genius. Dr. Channing has been missed ever since his death, and the
churches of Boston, poor enough before, are the poorer for his absence.
So has John Quincy Adams, old as he was, been missed in the House of
Representatives. The enemy of freedom may well rejoice that his voice is
still. But who misses General Harrison or Mr. Polk? What interest
languishes in consequence of their departure? What idea, what right,
lost thereby a defender? If Sir Robert Peel were to die, the British
nation would feel the loss.

We attach a false importance to the death of a President. Great
calamities were apprehended at the death of General Harrison. But what
came? Whigs went out of office and democrats went into office. Had
Jefferson died before the Declaration of Independence, or Washington any
time after it, or before the termination of his official service, or
John Adams before the end of the war, that would have been a great
calamity; for I know not where we should have found another Jefferson,
to see so distinctly, and write down so plain the great American idea,
or another Washington to command an army without money, without
provisions, without hats and shoes, as that man did. The death of Samuel
Adams, in 1760, would have been a terrible misfortune to America. But
the death of General Harrison only made a change in the Cabinet, not in
the country; it affected the politicians more than the people.

We are surrounded in the world with nations ruled by kings, who are the
masters of the people; hard masters too! When they die the people mourn,
not always very wisely, not always sincerely, but always with ceremony.
The mourning for George IV. and William IV. in England, I doubt not, was
more splendid and imposing than that for Edward the Confessor and Oliver
Cromwell; and that for Louis XV. outdid that for Henry IV. In a
monarchy, men always officially mourn their king, whether it be King
Log, or King Snake, or King Christian; we follow the example of those
States. If some of the men, whose death would be the greatest calamity,
should die, the newspapers would not go into mourning; we should not
have a day of fasting set apart; no minister would think it "An
inscrutable providence;" only a few plain country people would come
together and take up the dust, disenchanted of the genius which gave it
power over other and animated clay, to lay it down in the ground. There
would be no Catafalques in the street; but the upper mountain-tops would
miss that early sun which kissed their foreheads, while all below the
world was wrapped in drowsy mist, and the whole race of man would be
losers by the fading out of so much poetry, or truth, or justice, love
and faith.

       *       *       *       *       *

The office of President of the United States is undeniably one of great
importance. If you put in it a great man, one with ability to invent, to
organize and to administer, he has a better opportunity to serve mankind
than most kings of Europe. I know of no position in the world more
desirable for a really great man, a man with a genius for statesmanship,
a million-minded man, than to take this young, daring, hopeful nation,
so full of promise, so ready for work, and lead them forward in the way
of political righteousness, giving us ideas, persuading us to build
institutions thereof, and make the high thought of a man of genius the
common life of a mighty nation, young as yet and capable of taking any
lesson of national nobility which the most gifted man can devise; to be
the ruler, not over Russian serfs, but American freemen, citizens, not
subjects; to be the schoolmaster for twenty millions, and they such
promising pupils, loving hard lessons; and the men that set them, the
most enterprising race of persons in the world, who have already
learned something of Christianity and the idea of personal freedom,--why
that is a noble ambition. I do not wonder that a man of great powers
should covet this great position, and feel a noble dissatisfaction and
unrest until he found himself there, gravitating towards it as naturally
as the Mississippi to the ocean. Put in it such men as I point to, one
with the intellect of a Webster, the conscience of a Channing, the
philanthropy of much humbler men; let him aim at the welfare of the
nation and mankind; let him have just political ideas in advance of the
nation, and, in virtue thereof, ability to solve the terrible social and
political questions of this age; careless of his popularity and
reputation, but careful of his conscience and his character, let him
devote himself to the work of leading this people, and what an office is
that of President of the United States in the middle of the nineteenth
century! He would make this nation a society for mutual improvement
twenty millions strong; not King Log, not King Stork, but King Good-man,
King Christian if you will, he would do us a service, dignifying an
office which was itself a dignity.

But if it be so noble for such a man, working with such an aim, for such
an end; when a little man is in that office, with no ideas in advance of
the people, and incapable of understanding such as have them; with no
ability to organize the political ideas not yet organized, and applied
to life; a man of routine; not ruling for the nation, but the ruler of a
party and for a party, his ambition only to serve the party; an ordinary
man, surrounding himself with other ordinary men; with ordinary habits,
ordinary aims, ordinary means, and aiming at the ordinary ends of an
adventurer; careless of his conscience and character, but careful of his
party-popularity and temporary reputation,--why the office becomes
painful to think of; and the officer, his state is not kingly, it is
vulgar and mean, and low! So the lighthouse on the rocks of Boston
harbor, is a pleasant thing to see and to imagine, with its great lamp
looking far out to sea, and shining all night long, a star of special
providence; seen afar off, when stormy skies shut other stars from
sight, it assures the mariner of his whereabouts, guides the whaler and
the Indiaman safe into port and peace, bringing wealth to the merchant,
and a husband to the lingering wife, almost a widow in the cheating
sea's delay and her own heart-sickness from hope so long deferred. But
take away the great lamp, leaving all else; put in its place a little
tallow candle of twenty to the pound, whose thin glitter could not be
seen a mile off, spite of the burnished reflectors at its side, and
which requires constant picking and trimming to keep the flame alive,
and at its best estate flickers with every flutter of the summer
wind,--what would the lighthouse be to look upon or to imagine? What a
candlestick for what a candle! Praise it as much as you will; flatter
it in the newspapers; vote it "adequate" and the "tallest beacon in the
world;" call it the "Pharos of America;" it is all in vain; at the best,
it can only attract moths and mosquitoes on a serene night; and when the
storm thunders on that sepulchral rock, it is no light at all; and the
whaler may be split asunder, and the Indiaman go to the grave, and the
wealth of the merchant be scattered as playthings for the sea, and the
bones of the mariner may blanch the bottom of the deep, for all the aid
which that thin dazzle can furnish, spite of its lofty tower and loftier

To rule a bank, a factory, or a railroad, when the officer is chosen for
business and not charity, to command a packet-ship or a steamboat, you
will get a man of real talent in his line of work; one that has some
history, who has made his proof-shot, and shown that he has some mettle
in him. But to such a pass has the business of ruling a nation arrived,
that, of all the sovereigns of Christian Europe, it is said not more
than two, Nicholas of Russia, and Oscar of Sweden, would have been
distinguished if born in private stations. The most practical and
commercial nation in the world, possessing at this moment a power more
eminently great than that of the Roman empire in its palmy time, has for
a ruler a quite ordinary woman, who contributes neither ideas nor
organizations, and probably could not administer wisely the affairs of a
single shire in the island. In this respect, the highest stations of
political life seem to have become as barren as the Dead Sea. In
selecting our rulers in America, it is long since we have had a man of
large powers, even of the sort which the majority of men appreciate in a
contemporary. I have sometimes thought men were selected who were
thought not strong enough to hurt us much, forgetting that a weak man
may sometimes hurt us as much more than a strong one would.

       *       *       *       *       *

After all this preliminary, let me now say something of the late
President Taylor, only further premising that I am here to tell the
truth about him, so far as I know it, and nothing more or less. I am not
responsible for the facts of the case, only for the correct statement
thereof. There have been men who were not disposed to do him justice;
there were men enough to flatter and overpraise him while alive, and
there will probably be enough of such now that he is dead. Much official
panegyric has there been already, and much more is in prospect. I think
I need not be called on for any contribution of that sort. I wish to
weigh him in an even balance, neither praising nor blaming without
cause. To eulogize is one thing; to deal justly, another and quite

       *       *       *       *       *

ZACHARY TAYLOR was born on the 24th of November, 1784, in Orange county,
Virginia. His father, Richard Taylor, was a soldier during a part of
the Revolutionary War, had a colonel's commission in 1779, and appears
to have been a valuable officer and a worthy man. In 1785 he removed to
Kentucky, where he resided until his death. He was a farmer, a man of
property and influence in Kentucky, then a new country. He was one of
the framers of the Constitution of that State; several times in the
Legislature, and the first collector of the port of Louisville, then a
port of entry.

Zachary, the third son, followed the business of farming until he was
more than twenty-three years of age. During his childhood he received
such an education as you can imagine in a new and wild country like
Kentucky sixty years ago. However, it is said his father took great
pains with his education, and he enjoyed the instruction of a
schoolmaster from Connecticut, who is still living. Hence it is plain
the best part of his education must have come, not from the
schoolmaster, but from the farm, the woods, and the connection with his
parents and their associates. What a man learns at school, even in
Boston, is but a small part of his education. In General Taylor's case,
it is probable that things had much more to do with his culture than
words. Men nursed on Greek and Latin would probably have called him an
uneducated man; with equal justice he might call many a scholar an
uneducated man. To speak and write with grammatical accuracy is by no
means the best test of education.

Fondness for a military life is natural in a man born and bred as he
was, living in a country where the vicinity of the Indians made every
man a Quaker or a soldier.

About 1808, volunteers were raised in the West to oppose the expected
movements of Aaron Burr, a traitor to his country, a bold, bad man, who
had been the candidate of the federalists for the Presidency; perhaps
the worst man we had had in politics up to that time. Mr. Taylor joined
one of the companies of volunteers. In 1808 he was appointed Lieutenant
in the army of the United States, joined the forces, was soon sent to
New Orleans, was seized with the yellow fever, and returned home.

In 1810 he was married to Miss Margaret Smith, of Maryland.

In 1811 he was employed in expeditions against the Indians in the
Northwest of the United States. Here he was under the command of General

In 1812 he was made Captain, and had the command of a block-house and
stockade called Fort Harrison, on the Wabash river, soon after the
declaration of war against England. This place was attacked by a strong
body of Indians. Captain Taylor with less than fifty men, defended it
with vigor and success. In consequence of his services on that occasion,
he was promoted to the rank of Brevet Major. During the rest of the war,
he continued in service on the frontiers, and seems to have done his
duty faithfully as a soldier.

After the war was over, in 1815, the army was diminished to a peace
establishment, and Major Taylor reduced to the rank of Captain. In
consequence of this, he withdrew from the army, but, after a few months,
returned, and was then, or subsequently, restored to his former rank as
Major. For several years he was employed in such various military
services, in the west and south-west, as must be performed in a time of
peace. In 1819 he was made Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1832 he became
Colonel, and in that year, with a command of four hundred men, he served
under General Atkinson, in the expedition against the Sacs and other
Indians led by the celebrated Black Hawk. Afterwards he was intrusted
with the command of Fort Crawford, where he remained till 1836, when he
was ordered to Florida, to fight against the Seminole Indians.

It was here that he made use of the bloodhounds to hunt the poor savages
from their hiding-places in the woods. You know what Mr. Pitt once said
of the Spanish use of this weapon in the sixteenth century, but the
animals imported from Cuba, where they had been trained to hunt runaway
slaves, were of no value when put upon the track of red men. I do not
know who originated the scheme of employing the bloodhounds. It has
often been ascribed to General Taylor, and with good reason, I believe,
has it been denied that he was the author of that plan. It was of no
great honor to the nation, let who would invent it; and few men will be
sorry that it did not turn out well.

It was thought Colonel Taylor displayed a good deal of skill, in
contending with the Indians in Florida, and, accordingly, he was made
Brevet Brigadier-General, in 1838. After finishing the conquest of the
Indians, he left Florida, in 1840. It is said that fighting against the
Indians is a good school for a soldier. General Taylor served long at
this work, and served faithfully. In the Florida war, his conduct as
General is said to have been noble.

In 1840, he was made Commander of that portion of the American army in
the south-west of the United States, and in 1841, removed his family
from Kentucky to Baton Rouge, in Louisiana, which has since been his
home. In 1845 he was ordered to Texas, and had command of the "Army of
Occupation," and subsequently of the "Army of Invasion." In the war
against Mexico, it is thought by competent judges that he displayed a
good deal of military skill. He was beloved by his soldiers, and seems
to have won their confidence, partly by success, partly by military
talent, but also in part by his character, which was frank, honest, just
and unpretending. I have heard of no instance in the whole war, in which
cruelty is chargeable upon him. Several anecdotes are related of his
kindliness, generosity, and openness of heart. No doubt they are true.
War is a bloody trade; it makes one shudder to think of it in its
terrible details; but the soldier is not necessarily a malignant or a
cruel man; that bloody and profane command, so well known, uttered in
the heat of conflict, when the battle seemed to waver, does not imply
any peculiar cruelty or ill-will. It is only one of the accidents of
war, which shows more clearly what its substance is.

I am no judge of warlike operations and of military skill, and therefore
shall not pretend to pass judgment on matters which I know I do not
understand; I shall not inquire as to the military value of the laurels
he won at Resaca de la Palma, at Monterey, and at Buena Vista. But, in
our judgment, we ought to remember one circumstance: that is, the
inferiority of the Mexicans. They were beaten, I think, in every
considerable battle throughout the whole war; no matter who commanded.
General Scott landed at Vera Cruz, captured the city, and the far-famed
Castle of St. Juan d'Ulloa, garrisoned by four thousand three hundred
and ninety soldiers, and the American loss amounted to thirteen men
killed, and sixty-three hurt! General Scott took possession of the great
port of the nation, with less than twenty thousand soldiers, with only
about fifteen thousand troops; marched nearly two hundred miles into the
interior, fighting his way, and garrisoning the road behind him,
sometimes even subsisting his army in the country which he conquered as
he went on; and finally took the capital, a city with nearly two hundred
thousand inhabitants, with less than six thousand soldiers. Suppose an
army of that size were to land at Newburyport, with the intention of
marching to Worcester, not two hundred miles, but only fifty or sixty,
how many do you think would ever reach the spot? Why, suppose the
American men did nothing, there are women enough in Massachusetts to
throw every soldier into the Merrimac!

I do not believe that this inferiority of the Mexican arises so much
from the superior bravery of the Americans; almost any male animal will
fight on small provocation; your Mexican male, as well as your American,
on as small provocation, and as desperately. But the American soldier
was always well armed, furnished with every thing that modern science
makes terrible in war; well clad, well fed, well paid, he went
voluntarily to the work. The Mexicans were ill armed, ill clad, ill fed,
often not paid at all, and sometimes brought to fight against their

The difference does not end here: the main reliance of the Mexican
government, the regular soldiers, the Presidiales, were men who seemed
to have most of the vices of old garrison soldiers, with most of the
faults of new recruits; or, as another has said, himself a soldier in
the war, "All the vices engendered in a garrison life; all the
cowardice which their constant defeats by the Indians had created; all
the laziness contracted in an idle monotonous existence, and very little
military skill." The new levies came unwillingly, and were often only
"food for powder." On the American side was a small body of veteran
soldiers, low and coarse men--it is the policy of America to have the
rank and file of our army in peace composed usually of such--but full of
brute courage; accustomed to all sorts of hardships and exposure; under
a discipline rigorous and almost perfect; wonted to danger, and weaned
from fear; careless of life almost to desperation; full of confidence in
their commander, and of contempt for their foe. The volunteers brought
with them the characteristic ardor of Americans, their confidence of
success, their contempt of toil and of danger; familiar with fire-arms
from their youth, they soon learned the discipline of the camp.

You see what a difference this makes between the two armies; but the
chief superiority of the American soldiers was this--they came from a
country where there is a complete national unity of action. So the
government could trust the army, and the army the government; the
soldiers had confidence in their commander, confidence in their country,
confidence in their cause; while the Mexicans had no national unity of
action, the people little confidence in the government, the government
as little in the people; the nation but little trust in the army, and
the army little in the nation; the soldiers had great fear of the enemy,
little faith in their officers, and the officers little in their men.
Did you ever see a swarm of bees when the queen bee was dead, and moths
had invaded the hive? The Mexicans were much in the same state. The
result was what had readily been foreseen: at the battle of Buena Vista,
on the one side, there were twenty-one thousand five hundred and
fifty-three Mexicans; on the other, four thousand seven hundred and
fifty-nine American soldiers, of which only four hundred and seventy-six
were regulars. Yet the American loss, in killed, wounded and missing,
was but seven hundred and forty-six, while that of the Mexican army was
nearly two thousand men lost. If the Mexicans had done the same
proportionate execution, every American would have been killed long
before night.

All these things ought to be taken into account, in making up our mind
about the difficulty of the enterprise. Still, after this allowance is
made, it must be confessed the American invasion of Mexico was a
remarkable undertaking, distinguished for its boldness, not to say its
rashness, and almost unparalleled in the history of modern wars. It
certainly did require great coolness, courage, and prudence, on the part
of General Taylor, to conduct his part of the expedition. He had those
qualities, but it has not yet been proved or shown to be probable, that
he had the nobler qualities which make a great General. The kind of
warfare he was engaged in, does not bring to light the high qualities of
a man like Gustavus Adolphus, Frederick the Great, or Napoleon. Perhaps
General Taylor had them, but they did not appear.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Mexican war was unfortunate for the administration which carried it
on, for the political party which caused the war. The success of General
Taylor attracted the attention of the people, and the obscure soldier
took popular rank before the President of the United States.
Unconsciously the vicarious suitor, courting public favor for his
master, won good graces for himself. The political party which began the
war, was eclipsed by the triumph of its own soldier; and the slave-power
which projected the war seems likely to be ruined by the success of the

It has been said, that he was averse to the Mexican war which he fought
in; I know not whether this be true or false. But if true, it deserves
to be remembered in his defence, that the soldier is only an active
tool, as much the instrument of his employer as the spade of the workman
whose foot crowds it into the ground. The soldier, high or low, must
obey the men who have the official right to command him, his free-will
merging in that of his superior. If General Taylor had thought the
Mexican war unjust and wicked, and in consequence had resigned his
commission, he would have been covered with obloquy and contempt in the
eyes of military men, and the officials of government. Most of the
newspapers of the land would have attacked him, called him a coward, a
traitor and a fanatic; their condemnation would have been worth as much
as their praise is now. In estimating his character we ought to remember
this fact, for few men do more than their office demands of them, or
more than public opinion can approve.

Such was the success of General Taylor in war, at the head of a few
thousand men, that public attention was turned towards him, and in a few
months the obscure frontier soldier was the most prominent man in the
nation. In 1848 he received the nomination of the Whig Convention at
Philadelphia, for President, and in due time was elected.

His election was certainly one of the most remarkable that ever took
place in America. It is worth while to look at it for a moment. There
was nothing very remarkable in the man to entitle him to that eminent
distinction; if there were, the nation was very slow in finding it out.
He was a farmer till about twenty-four years old; then a common
Lieutenant four years more. In the next twenty years he got no higher
than to the rank of a "Frontier Colonel;" he attained that dignity in
fact, at the age of forty-eight. He was not made General till the
fifty-fifth year of his age. But for the Mexican war, I suppose he
would, at this day, be as obscure as any other General in the United
States' army; nobody would think he was the "Second Washington," "first
in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen," as
his creatures have declared. Other military men have been chosen to the
presidency. But Washington was much more than a soldier; in "a time that
tried men's souls" to the utmost, he had carried the nation through
eight years of most perilous warfare, more by his character than any
eminent military skill, and so had become endeared to the hearts of the
people as no American had ever been before. General Jackson, at first
educated as a lawyer, was a man of large talents, distinguished as a
Governor, as a Senator, and as a Judge of the Supreme Court of
Tennessee, before he was elected President, or nominated for that
office. General Harrison, a man of small abilities, surely not more than
a third-rate politician in Ohio, was yet familiar with the routine of
political affairs. He had been a member of the Legislature of Ohio, of
both branches of the Congress of the United States, and Minister to
Colombia. General Taylor, with an education very imperfect, had passed
his life, from twenty-four to sixty-four, on the frontiers and in the
army; had never held any civil office; had seldom voted, and though an
excellent officer in the sphere of duty he had occupied, did not appear
to be the most promising man in the nation to select for its highest
and most difficult office. The defence of a log-house in 1812 against a
troop of Indians, the conquest of Black Hawk, the rout of the Seminoles,
the gaining of half-a-dozen battles in Mexico, at the head of a few
thousand soldiers, does not seem exactly an adequate schooling to
prepare a common man to lead and rule twenty million Americans with the
most complicated government in the world. It certainly was surprising,
that he should be nominated for that office; and more so, that the
nomination should be confirmed by the people. It is not surprising, that
the distinguished Senator of Massachusetts should call this "A
nomination not fit to be made;" the wonder is, he deemed it fit to be
confirmed. In selecting him for our chief, the nation went hap-hazard,
and made a leap in the dark. No prudent man in Boston would hire a cook
or a coachman with such inadequate recommendations as General Taylor had
to prove his fitness for his place. Had a sensible man on election day
asked the nation, "What do you know about the man you vote for?" the
people would have been sadly puzzled to seek for an answer. The reasons
which led to his selection were partly special, and partly of a general
and popular character. It is instructive for us to look at them, now
that we can do it coolly.

I suppose this was the special cause of his nomination: The leaders of
the whig party thought they could not elect either of their most
prominent men. If they went before the people with nothing but their
idea,--The protection of property by a tariff, and a Representative of
that idea, however able and well trained, they feared defeat; such as
they had met with in the last campaign, when the democratic party, with
a man almost unknown to the people, a tricky lawyer from Tennessee, had
yet carried the day against one of the oldest and ablest politicians in
the country. So the whig leaders availed themselves of the temporary
popularity of a successful General to give an accidental triumph to
their party, and apparently to their idea. That I think was the specific
reason which led the politicians to nominate him. Doubtless there were
other private reasons, weighty to certain individuals, that need not be
touched upon.

But the general reasons, which gave him weight with the mass of the
people and secured his election, ought to be stated for our serious

1. There was no one of the great leaders of either party whom the people
had much confidence in. I am sorry to say so, but I do not think there
is much in any of them to command the respect of a nation, and make us
swear fealty to those men. There were two candidates of the whig party;
from one of them you might expect a compromise; from the other you were
not certain even of that. The democratic candidate had not a name to
conjure with. The free soil candidate--was he a man to trust in such
times as these? Did you see your king and chief in any one of those four
men? Was any one of them fit to be the political schoolmaster of this
nation? What "ground and lofty tumbling" have we had from all four of

2. General Taylor was not mixed up with the grand or petty intrigues of
the parties, their quarrels and struggles for office. Men knew little
about him; if little good, certainly little not good; little evil in
comparison with any of the others. Sometimes you take a man whom you do
not know, in preference to an old acquaintance whom you have known too
long and too well to trust.

3. Then General Taylor had shown himself a rough, honest, plain,
straight-forward man, and withal mild and good-natured. Apparently,
there was much in him to attract and deserve the good-will of the
nation. His likeness went abroad through the country like a
proclamation; it was the rude, manly, firm, honest, good-natured, homely
face of a backwoodsman. His plain habits, plain talk, and modest
demeanor reminded men of the old English ballad of "The King and the
Miller" and the like, and won the affections of honest men. I doubt not
the fact that General Harrison had once lived in a log cabin, and, other
things failing, did drink "hard cider," gave him thousands of votes. The
candidate was called "Old Rough and Ready," and there was not a clown
in field or city but could understand all that was meant by those terms.
Even his celebrated horse contributed to his master's election, and drew
votes for the President by the thousand.

4. Then he was a successful soldier. The dullest man in the Alleghany
mountains, or in the low lanes of New York and Boston, or the silliest
behind the counters of a city shop, can understand fighting, and
remember who won a battle. It is wholly needless for such to inquire
what the battle was fought for. Hence military success is always popular
with the multitude, and will be, I suppose, for some ages in America as
everywhere else. Our churches know no God but the "Lord of hosts," "A
man of war!"

5. Then he was a southern man, and all our masters must be from the
South, or of it, devoted to its peculiar institution. If he had been
born in Barnstable county, and owned a little patch of yellow sand at
Cape Cod, and had the freeman's hatred of slavery, even Churubusco and
Buena Vista would not have given him the votes of the Convention, and
his war-horse might have lived till this day, he would not have carried
his master to the presidency. He was a slaveholder, as seven Presidents
had been before him, holding office for eight-and-forty years. There are
some men at the North, chiefly in the country towns, who think it is not
altogether right for a man to steal his brother; such men were to be
propitiated. So it was diligently rumored abroad in the North, that the
candidate was "opposed to slavery," that he would "probably emancipate
his slaves as soon as he was elected." I am told that some persons who
heard such a story, actually believed it; I think nobody who told it
believed any such thing. The fact that he was a slaveholder, that he had
lately purchased one hundred and fourteen men, women, and children, and
kept them at hard work for his advantage, showed the value of such a
story; and the opposite statement, publicly and industriously circulated
at the South, that he loved slavery, desired its extension, and hated
the Wilmot Proviso, shows the honesty of some of the men at the North,
who, knowing these facts, sought to keep them secret.

These seem to have been the chief reasons which procured his nomination
and election. It is easy to see that such a man, though as honest as
Washington, must be eminently unfit for the high office of President of
the United States. He knew little or nothing of the political history of
the country, or of the political questions then up for solution; little
or nothing of the political men. He had the honesty to confess it. He
declared that he was not fit for the office, not acquainted with the
political measures of the day, and only consented to be brought from his
obscurity, when great men told him he was the only man that could "save
the Union." He was no statesman, and knew nothing of politics, less
than the majority of the more cultivated mechanics, merchants and
farmers. He was a soldier, and knew something of fighting, at least of
fighting Indians and Mexicans. If you should take a man of the common
abilities, intellectual and moral, the common education, a farmer from
Northfield, a skipper from Provincetown, a jobber from Boston, a
bucket-maker from Hingham, and appoint him Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court of Massachusetts, with the duty of selecting all his associate
Judges, I think he would be about as competent for the office as General
Taylor for the post he was elected to. In such a case as I have
supposed, the new "Judge" must depend on other men, who will tell him
what to do; his only safety would be in relying on their advice. Then
they would be the Chief Justice, not he.

Under such circumstances, the leaders of one party nominated him. I must
confess such an act, committed by such men, seems exceedingly rash. It
was done by the very men who ought, above all others, to have known
better. This is one of the many things we have had, which show thinking
men how little we can rely on our political chiefs. The nomination once
made, the election followed. The wise men told the multitude: "You must
vote for him," and the multitude voted. You know how angry men were if
you did not believe in his fitness for the office; how it became a test
of "patriotism" to believe in him. Now the good man is cold in death,
how base all that seems!

When such a man under such circumstances comes into such an office, you
do not know whether the deeds which receive his official sanction, the
papers published under his name, the speeches he delivers, and the
messages he sends, are his or not his. It is probable that he has little
to do with them; they are his officially, not personally; he writes
State papers by their signature. Some of his speeches were undoubtedly
made for him. You know it once happened that a speech, alleged to have
been made by him at a public meeting, was sent on by telegraph, and
published by the party organ, in one of our great cities, and he was
taken sick before the meeting was held, and could not speak at all. That
speech betrayed the trick of the administration: it was a speech he had
never heard of. From this one act judge of many more. In his arduous
office, he must choose advisers, but he wants advisers to advise him to
choose advisers. Much will depend on his first step; that must needs be
in the dark.

Since this is so, I shall pass over his brief administration with very
few words. I do not know how much it was the administration of General
Taylor, or how far it was that of his Cabinet. I do not know who made
the Cabinet. The messages, in his official term, were as good as usual;
but who made the messages? One thing is clear: he promised to be the
President of the country, not of a party; to remove no man from office
except for reasons not political. Neither promise was kept. It was plain
that other elements interfered and counteracted the honest intentions of
that honest man. General Jackson rewarded his "friends" and punished his
"enemies," men who voted against him. Mr. Jefferson had done the same.
But I doubt if the administration of either of these men was so
completely a party administration as that of General Taylor. Men were
continually removed from office purely for political reasons. The
general character of his appointments to office, you can judge of better
than I. It seems to me the removal of subordinate officers from their
station on account of their vote is one great evil in the management of
our institutions. Of what consequence is it whether the postmaster at
Eastham or West-Newton, the keeper of the lighthouse at Cape Anne, or
the Clay Pounds of Truro, or the district attorney in Boston, or the
tide-waiters at Nantucket are "good whigs," or not good whigs?

       *       *       *       *       *

What shall I say of the character of the man who has left this high
office; of him on the whole? Some men can be as eloquent on a ribbon as
on a Raphael. They find no difficulty in calling General Taylor "The
second Washington." I like the first Washington too much to call any
one by that name lightly. General Harrison was the "Second Washington"
ten years ago. General Jackson ten years before that. I think there is
another "Second Washington" getting ready, and before the century ends
we shall perhaps have five or six of this family. But the world does not
breed great men every day. I must confess it, I have not seen any thing
very great in General Taylor, though I have diligently put my eye to the
magnifying glasses of his political partisans; neither have I seen any
thing uncommonly mean and little in him, though I have also looked
through the minifying glasses of his foes. To be a frontier soldier for
forty years, to attain the rank of Colonel at the age of forty-eight,
after twenty-four years of service, to become a Brigadier-General at
fifty-four, is no great thing. To defend a log-house, to capture Black
Hawk, to use bloodhounds in war, and to extirpate the Seminole Indians
from the everglades of Florida, to conquer the Mexicans at Churubusco
and Monterey, does not require very high qualities of mind and heart.
But in all the offices he ever held, he appears to have done his
official duty openly and honestly. He was a good officer, a plain,
blunt, frank, open, modest man. No doubt he was "rough and ready;" his
courage was never questioned. His integrity is above suspicion. All this
is well known. But is all this enough to make a great man in the middle
of this century; a great man in America, and for such an office? Judge
for yourselves.

I sincerely believe that he was more of a man than his political
supporters thought him; that he had more natural sagacity, more common
sense, more firmness of purpose, and very much more honesty than they
expected or desired. Rumors reach me that he was not found quite so
manageable as his "friends" and admirers had hoped; that he had some
conscience and a will of his own. It seems to me that he honestly
intended to be an honest and impartial ruler, the President of his
country; that he took Washington for his general model; that he never
sought the office, and at first did not desire it, but when he came to
it endeavored to deserve well of his country and do well by mankind. But
with the best intentions, what could such a man do, especially with such
foes, and more especially with such friends.

It is said he was a religious man: sometimes that means that a man loves
God and loves men; sometimes that he is superstitious, formal,
hypocritical, that he does not love men, and is afraid of God, or of a
devil. I do not know in which sense the word is used in reference to
him. But it appears to me that he was a man of veracity, honest,
upright, and downright too; a good father, a good husband, a good
friend, faithful to his idea of duty; very plain, very unpretending,
mild and yet firm, good-natured, free and easy. There were many that
loved him; a rare circumstance among politicians. He was a temperate
man, also, remarkably temperate, and such temperance as his is not a
very common virtue in high political and social stations in America, as
we all know too well.

These are all the good qualities I can make out his title to. I suppose
there are some ten thousand men in Massachusetts that are his equals in
all these qualities, as honest, as able, and as patriotic as he. It is
hardly worth while to worship those qualities in a President which are
not rare in farmers, and traders, and butchers and mechanics.

There are two things which seem to me decidedly wrong in his public
career. His partisans at the North claimed that he was hostile to
slavery. I never could find any reason for that opinion: at the South
his friends insisted that he was the decided friend of slavery. When his
opinion was asked on this matter, he remained steadily and
pertinaciously silent. To me this does not seem honest or manly.

Then he was a slaveholder, not by compulsion, as some pretend they hold
men in bondage, not by inheritance. He was a slaveholder from choice,
and only three years ago bought one hundred and fourteen human beings
and kept them as his slaves. This fact must be considered in estimating
the character and value of the man. I know that Money is the popular god
of America; that slaveholding is one of the canonical forms of
worshipping that god, sanctioned by the Constitution and the laws and
the legislature of the land, by its literature and by its churches. I
know men in Boston, who would have no more scruple in buying and selling
a black man as a slave, or a white man if they could catch and keep him,
than they would have of buying a cow at Brighton. There are men in
Massachusetts that have grown rich by the slave-trade. It does not hurt
their reputation; it is no impeachment of their religious character. Now
I do not expect a frontier colonel, busy in fighting Indians half his
life, dogging them with Cuban bloodhounds, to be more enlightened on
such a matter than merchants, manufacturers, lawyers, ministers and
professors of theology in New England. It may be that he had the same
opinion as Professor Stuart, that slavery was allowed in the New
Testament and sanctioned in the Old Testament; such a good thing that
Paul and James said never a word against it. We should not judge such a
man as you would judge a Unitarian Minister in Boston or Doctors of
Divinity at Andover. Born as he was, bred as he had been, living in a
camp, sustained by the public opinion of the Press, the State and the
Church, it would not be surprising if it had never occurred to him that
it was wrong to steal men. But the fact is to be taken into the account
in determining the elevation of his character.

It is now plain that he found the office of President a heavy burden;
that it cost him his life. It seems to me the conduct of some of our
public men towards him was ungenerous, not to say unjust and shameful.
An honest man, he looked for honest foes and honest friends; but his
hardest battles were fought after he had ceased to be a soldier.

Well, he has gone to his rest and his recompense. To his family the
affliction is sudden, painful and terrible. What vicissitudes in their
life--from the obscurity of their former home to the glaring publicity
of that high station; then in so brief a time the honored and
well-beloved head is silent and cold forever! The nation may well drop
its tears of sympathy for those whom its election has robbed of a father
and a husband; the ghastly honors of the office are poor recompense for
the desolation it has brought into a quiet and once happy home.

He has gone to his reward. He leaves the government in the hands of an
obscure man, whom the nation knows very little of, whom no one would
ever have thought of making President; a man selected certainly for no
eminence of faculty, intellectual or moral. There is some cause to fear,
perhaps some little for hope.[10] Two very important questions are now
before the nation: Shall we extend over the territory conquered from
Mexico the awful blight which now mildews the material welfare of the
South, and curses with a threefold ban the intellect, the conscience and
the religion of the land? Shall Congress pass that infamous fugitive
slave measure, known as Mr. Mason's bill, with Mr. Webster's indorsement
on it? I know not how his death will affect these things. Who knows the
intentions of the late President? or those of his successor? He has
power to bless, he may use it only to curse the land. Let us wait and
see. The fact that the "Great Compromiser" now represents the
Administration in the Senate, the rumor of the appointment of the
Senator of Boston to the highest place in the Cabinet, are things of ill
omen for freedom, and bid us fear the worst. However, it may be that
this event will affect the politicians more than the people.

Last Tuesday night General Taylor ceased to be mortal. His soul went
home to God. He that fought against the Mexican and the Indian has gone
to meet the God of the red man as well as the white. He who claimed to
own the body and the soul of more than a hundred of his fellow
creatures, enriched by the unrequited toil, which they unwillingly gave
him when stung by the lash of his hireling overseers, has gone home to
the Father of negro slaves, who is no respecter of persons; gone where
the servant is free from his master. Black and white, conqueror and
vanquished, the bond and the free, alike come up before the Infinite
Father, whose perfect justice is perfect love; and there the question
is, "What hast thou done with the talent committed unto thee?" The same
question is asked of the President; the same of the slave; yea, it will
one day be asked of you and me!

"An old man, wearied with the storms of State," now only asks a little
earth for charity. Costly heathen pageants there will be in these
streets to his memory, and politicians will, I suppose, hold their
drunken and profane debauch over his grave, as over the tomb of that
far-famed friend of freedom who died two years ago. But he has ceased to
be mortal. The memory of his battle-fields faded from before his dying
sight. Power rests no longer in his hands; victory perches on another
banner. His ear is still, and his heart is cold. How hollow sounds the
voice of former flattery! His riches go to other men; his slaves will be
called by his name no more; the scourge that goads them to unpaid toil
is now owned by another man. His fame goes back to such as gave; the
accident of an accident succeeds him in the presidential chair; only the
man, not the officer, goes home to God, with what of goodness and piety
he had won. His manhood is all that he can carry out of the world;
elected or rejected, a conqueror or conquered, it is now the same to
him; and it may be the humblest female slave who only earned the bread
which her master only ate, and got an enforced concubinage for pay,
takes rank in heaven far before the man whom the nation honored with its
highest trust, and for whom the official Senate and low-browed Church
send out their hollow groans.

    "The glories of our birth and State
      Are shadows, not substantial things.
    There is no armor against fate:
      Death lays his icy hand on kings.
        Sceptre and crown
        Must tumble down,
    And in the dust be equal made,
    With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

    "Some men with swords may reap the field,
      And plant fresh laurels where they kill;
    But their strong arms at last must yield,
      They tame but one another still.
        Early or late
        They stoop to fate,
    And must give up their murmuring breath,
    When they, pale captives, creep to death.

    "The garlands wither on his brow:
      Then boast no more his mighty deeds,
    Upon death's purple altar now,
      See where the victor victim bleeds.
        All heads must come
        To the cold tomb,
    Only the actions of the just
    Smell sweet and blossom in the dust."

If he could speak to us from his present position, methinks he would
say: Countrymen and friends! You see how little it availed you to
agitate the land and put a little man in a great place. It is not the
hurrah of parties that will "save the Union," it is not "great men." It
is only Justice. Remember that Atheism is not the first principle of a
Republic; remember there is a law of God, the higher law of the
universe, the Everlasting Right; I thought so once, and now I know it.
Remember that you are accountable to God for all things; that you owe
justice to all men, the black not less than the white; that God will
demand it of you, proud, wicked nation, careful only of your gold,
forgetful of God's high law! Before long each of you shall also come up
before the Eternal. Then and there it will not avail you to have
compromised truth, justice, love, but to have kept them. Righteousness
only is the salvation of a State; that only of a man.


[10] The above was written in July, 1851. Since then the ground of hope
has wholly vanished; the ground for fear remains alone. The following
statement may suggest a thought the other side of the ocean, if no shame
on this side among politicians and their priests:

Elisha Brazealle, a planter of Jefferson county in the State of
Mississippi, was taken sick, and as he lay oppressed with a loathsome
disease, a slave of his, a bright mulatto or quadroon, nursed him, and,
as was believed, through her nursing, saved him from death. He was a man
of feeling and did not forget her kindness, but took her to Ohio and
there educated her. She made rapid progress, and soon became his wife.
He made or caused to be made a legal and sound deed of emancipation, and
had it legally and formally recorded in Ohio and Mississippi. Lawyers,
in both States, said she was free, safe, and that no power in the South,
or elsewhere, could legally deprive her or her children of freedom.

Mr. Brazealle returned to Mississippi with his wife; they had a son, and
named him John Munroe Brazealle. After some years Mr. Brazealle sickened
and died, leaving a will in which he recited the deed of emancipation,
declared his intention to ratify it, and devised all his property to his
son, acknowledging him in the will to be such.

Some poor and distant relations of his in North Carolina, whom he did
not know, and for whom he did not care, hearing of his death, went on to
Mississippi and claimed the property devised by Mr. Brazealle to his
son. They instituted a suit for the recovery of the property. The case
came before William L. Sharkey, "Chief Justice of the High Court of
Errors and Appeals" for that State. It is reported in Howard's
Mississippi Reports, Vol. II. p. 837, _et seq._ Judge Sharkey declared
the act of emancipation "An offence against morality, pernicious and
detestable as an example," set aside the will, gave to those distant
relations the property which Mr. Brazealle had devised to his son, and
in addition declared that son and his mother to be slaves. Here is his
own language:--

"The state of the case shows conclusively that the contract had its
origin in an offence against morality, pernicious and detestable as an
example."... "The consequence [of the decision] is, that the negroes
John Munroe and his mother, are still slaves, and a part of the estate
of Elisha Brazealle." "John Munroe being a slave cannot take the
property as devised; and I apprehend it is equally clear that it cannot
be held in trust for him."

While these volumes are in the press, I learn that Mr. Fillmore has
appointed Judge Sharkey to the honorable and lucrative post of Consul to


22, 1850.

ACTS 24: 16.

"Herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence
toward God and toward men."

There are some things which are true, independent of all human opinions.
Such things we call facts. Thus it is true that one and one are equal to
two, that the earth moves round the sun, that all men have certain
natural unalienable rights, rights which a man can alienate only for
himself, and not for another. No man made these things true; no man can
make them false. If all the men in Jerusalem and ever so many more, if
all the men in the world, were to pass a unanimous vote that one and one
were not equal to two, that the earth did not move round the sun, that
all men had not natural and unalienable rights, the opinion would not
alter the fact, nor make truth false and falsehood true.

So there are likewise some things which are right, independent of all
human opinions. Thus it is right to love a man and not to hate him, to
do him justice and not injustice, to allow him the natural rights which
he has not alienated. No man made these things right; no man can make
them wrong. If all the men in Jerusalem and ever so many more, if all
the men in the world, were to pass a unanimous vote that it was right to
hate a man and not love him, right to do him injustice and not justice,
right to deprive him of his natural rights not alienated by himself, the
opinion would not alter the fact, nor make right wrong and wrong right.

There are certain constant and general facts which occur in the material
world, the world of external perception, which represent what are called
the laws of matter, in virtue of which things take place so and not
otherwise. These laws are the same everywhere and always; they never
change. They are not made by men, but only discovered by men, are
inherent in the constitution of matter, and seem designed to secure the
welfare of the material world. These natural laws of matter, inherent in
its constitution, are never violated, nor can be, for material nature is
passive, or at least contains no element or will that is adverse to the
will of God, the ultimate Cause of these laws as of matter itself. The
observance of these laws is a constant fact of the universe; "the most
ancient heavens thereby are fresh and strong." These laws represent the
infinity of God in the world of matter, His infinite power, wisdom,
justice, love and holiness.

So there are likewise certain constant and general facts which occur in
what may be called the spiritual world, the world of internal
consciousness. They represent the laws of spirit--that is of the human
spirit--in virtue of which things are designed to take place so and not
otherwise. These laws are the same everywhere and always; they never
change. They are not made by men, but only discovered by men. They are
inherent in the constitution of man, and as you cannot conceive of a
particle of matter without extension, impenetrability, figure and so on,
no more can you conceive of man without these laws inhering in him. They
seem designed to secure the welfare of the spiritual world. They
represent the infinity of God in the world of man, His infinite power,
wisdom, justice, love and holiness. But while matter is stationary,
bound by necessity, and man is progressive and partially free, to the
extent of a certain tether, so it is plain that there may be a will in
the world of man adverse to the will of God, and thus the laws of man's
spirit may be violated to a certain extent. The laws of matter depend
for their execution only on the infinite will of God, and so cannot be
violated. The laws of man depend for their execution also on the finite
will of man, and so may be broken.[11]

Let us select a portion of these laws of the human spirit; such as
relate to a man's conduct in dealing with his fellow men, a portion of
what are commonly called moral laws, and examine them. They partake of
the general characteristics mentioned above; they are universal and
unchangeable, are only discovered and not made by man, are inherent in
man, designed to secure his welfare, and represent the infinity of God.
These laws are absolutely right; to obey them is to be and do absolutely
right. So being and doing, a man answers the moral purpose of his
existence, and attains moral manhood. If I and all men keep all the laws
of man's spirit, I have peace in my own heart, peace with my brother,
peace with my God; I have my delight in myself, in my brother, in my
God, they theirs and God His in me.

What is absolutely right is commonly called justice. It is the point in
morals common to me and all mankind, common to me and God, to mankind
and God; the point where all duties unite--to myself, my brethren, and
my God; the point where all interests meet and balance--my interests,
those of mankind, and the interests of God. When justice is done, all is
harmony and peaceful progress in the world of man; but when justice is
not done, the reverse follows, discord and confusion; for injustice is
not the point where all duties and all interests meet and balance, not
the point of morals common to mankind and me, or to us and God.

We may observe and study the constant facts of the material world, thus
learn the laws they represent, and so get at a theory of the world which
is founded on the facts thereof. Such a theory is true; it represents
the thought of God, the infinity of God. Then for every point of theory
we have a point of fact. Instead of pursuing this course we may neglect
these constant facts, with the laws they represent, and forge a theory
which shall not rest on these facts. Such a theory will be false and
will represent the imperfection of men, and not the facts of the
universe and the infinity of God.

In like manner we may study the constant facts of the spiritual world,
and, in special, of man's moral nature, and thereby obtain a rule to
regulate our conduct. If this rule is founded on the constant facts of
man's moral nature, then it will be absolutely right, and represent
Justice, the thought of God, the infinity of God, and for every point of
moral theory we shall have a moral fact. Instead of pursuing that
course, we may forge a rule for our conduct, and so get a theory which
shall not rest on those facts. Such a rule will be wrong, representing
only the imperfection of men.

In striving to learn the laws of the universe, the wisest men often go
astray, propound theories which do not rest upon facts, and lay down
human rules for the conduct of the universe, which do not agree with its
nature. But the universe is not responsible for that; material nature
takes no notice thereof. The opinion of an astronomer, of the American
academy, does not alter a law of the material universe, or a fact
therein. The philosophers once thought that the sun went round the
earth, and framed laws on that assumption; but that did not make it a
fact; the sun did not go out of his way to verify the theory, but kept
to the law of God, and swung the earth round him once a year, say the
philosophers what they might say, leaving them to learn the fact and
thereby correct their theory.

In the same way, before men attain a knowledge of the absolute right,
they often make theories which do not rest upon the facts of man's moral
nature, and enact human rules for the conduct of men which do not agree
with the moral nature of man. These are rules which men make and do not
find made. They are not a part of man's moral nature, writ therein, and
so obligatory thereon, no more than the false rules for the conduct of
matter are writ therein, and so obligatory thereon. You and I are no
more morally bound to keep such rules of conduct, because King Pharaoh
or King People say we shall, than the sun is materially bound to go
round the earth every day, because Hipparchus and Ptolemy say it does.
The opinion or command of a king, or a people, can no more change a fact
and alter a law of man's nature, than the opinion of a philosopher can
do this in material nature.

We learn the laws of matter slowly, by observation, experiment, and
induction, and only get an outside knowledge thereof, as objects of
thought. In the same way we might study the facts of man's moral nature,
and arrive at rules of conduct, and get a merely outside acquaintance
with the moral law as something wholly external. The law might appear
curious, useful, even beautiful, moral gravitation as wonderful as
material attraction. But no sense of duty would attach us to it. In
addition to the purely intellectual powers, we have a faculty whose
special function it is to discover the rules for a man's moral conduct.
This is Conscience, called also by many names. As the mind has for its
object absolute truth, so conscience has for its object absolute
justice. Conscience enables us not merely to learn the right by
experiment and induction, but intuitively, and in advance of experiment;
so, in addition to the experimental way, whereby we learn justice from
the facts of human history, we have a transcendental way, and learn it
from the facts of human nature, from immediate consciousness.

It is the function of conscience to discover to men the moral law of
God. It will not do this with infallible certainty, for, at its best
estate, neither conscience nor any other faculty of man is absolutely
perfect, so as never to mistake. Absolute perfection belongs only to the
faculties of God. But conscience, like each other faculty, is relatively
perfect,--is adequate to the purpose God meant it for. It is often
immature in the young, who have not had time for the growth and ripening
of the faculty, and in the old, who have checked and hindered its
development. Here it is feeble from neglect, there from abuse. It may
give an imperfect answer to the question, What is absolutely right?

Now, though the conscience of a man lacks the absolute perfection of
that of God, in all that relates to my dealing with men, it is still the
last standard of appeal. I will hear what my friends have to say, what
public opinion has to offer, what the best men can advise me to, then I
am to ask my own conscience, and follow its decision; not that of my
next friend, the public, or the best of men. I will not say that my
conscience will always disclose to me the absolutely right, according to
the conscience of God, but it will disclose the relatively right, what
is my conviction of right to-day, with all the light I can get on the
matter; and as all I can know of the absolute right, is my conviction
thereof, so I must be true to that conviction. Then I am faithful to my
own conscience, and faithful to my God. If I do the best thing I can
know to-day, and to-morrow find a better one and do that, I am not to be
blamed, nor to be called a sinner against God, because not so just
to-day as I shall be to-morrow. I am to do God's will soon as I know it,
not before, and to take all possible pains to find it out; but am not to
blame for acting childish when a child, nor to be ashamed of it when
grown up to be a man. Such is the function of conscience.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having determined what is absolutely right, by the conscience of God, or
at least relatively right, according to my conscience to-day, then it
becomes my duty to keep it. I owe it to God to obey His law, or what I
deem his law; that is my duty. It may be uncomfortable to keep it,
unpopular, contrary to my present desires, to my passions, to my
immediate interests; it may conflict with my plans in life; that makes
no difference. I owe entire allegiance to my God. It is a duty to keep
His law, a personal duty, my duty as a man. I owe it to myself, for I am
to keep the integrity of my own consciousness; I owe it to my brother,
and to my God. Nothing can absolve me from this duty, neither the fact
that it is uncomfortable or unpopular, nor that it conflicts with my
desires, my passions, my immediate interests, and my plans in life. Such
is the place of conscience amongst other faculties of my nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

I believe all this is perfectly plain, but now see what it leads to. In
the complicated relations of human life, various rules for the moral
conduct of men have been devised, some of them in the form of statute
laws, some in the form of customs, and, in virtue of these rules,
certain artificial demands are made of men, which have no foundation in
the moral nature of man; these demands are thought to represent duties.
We have the same word to describe what I ought to do as subject to the
law of God, and what is demanded of me by custom, or the statute. We
call each a duty. Hence comes no small confusion: the conventional and
official obligation is thought to rest on the same foundation as the
natural and personal duty. As the natural duty is at first sight a
little vague, and not written out in the law-book, or defined by custom,
while the conventional obligation is well understood, men think that in
case of any collision between the two, the natural duty must give way to
the official obligation.

For clearness' sake, the natural and personal obligation to keep the law
of God as my conscience declares it, I will call Duty; the conventional
and official obligation to comply with some custom, keep some statute,
or serve some special interest, I will call Business. Here then are two
things--my natural and personal duty, my conventional and official
business. Which of the two shall give way to the other,--personal duty
or official business? Let it be remembered that I am a man first of all,
and all else that I am is but a modification of my manhood, which makes
me a clergyman, a fisherman, or a statesman; but the clergy, the fish,
and the State, are not to strip me of my manhood. They are valuable in
so far as they serve my manhood, not as it serves them. My official
business as clergyman, fisherman, or statesman, is always beneath my
personal duty as man. In case of any conflict between the two, the
natural duty ought to prevail and carry the day before the official
business; for the natural duty represents the permanent law of God, the
absolute right, justice, the balance-point of all interests; while the
official business represents only the transient conventions of men, some
partial interest; and besides the man who owes the personal duty, is
immortal, while the officer who performs the official business, is but
for a time. At death, the man is to be tried by the justice of God, for
the deeds done, and character attained, for his natural duty, but he
does not enter the next life as a clergyman, with his surplice and
prayer-book, or a fisherman, with his angles and net, nor yet as a
statesman, with his franking privilege, and title of honorable and
member of Congress. The officer dies, of a vote or a fever. The man
lives forever. From the relation between a man and his occupation, it is
plain, in general, that all conventional and official business is to be
overruled by natural personal duty. This is the great circle, drawn by
God, and discovered by conscience, which girdles my sphere, including
all the smaller circles, and itself included by none of them. The law of
God has eminent domain everywhere, over the private passions of Oliver
and Charles, the special interests of Carthage and of Rome, over all
customs, all official business, all precedents, all human statutes, all
treaties between Judas and Pilate, or England and France, over all the
conventional affairs of one man or of mankind. My own conscience is to
declare that law for me, yours for you, and is before all private
passions, or public interests, the decision of majorities, and a world
full of precedents. You may resign your office, and escape its
obligations, forsake your country, and owe it no allegiance, but you
cannot move out of the dominions of God, nor escape where conscience has
not eminent domain.

See some examples of a conflict between the personal duty and the
official business. A man may be a clergyman, and it may be his official
business to expound and defend the creed which is set up for him by his
employers, his bishop, his association, or his parish, to defend and
hold it good against all comers; it may be, also, in a certain solemn
sort, to please the audience, who come to be soothed, caressed, and
comforted,--to represent the average of religion in his society, and so
to bless popular virtues and ban unpopular vices, but never to shake off
or even jostle with one of his fingers the load of sin, beloved and
popular, which crushes his hearers down till they are bowed together and
can in nowise lift themselves up; unpopular excellence he is to call
fanaticism, if not infidelity. But his natural duty as a man, standing
in this position, overrides his official business, and commands him to
tell men of the false things in their creed, of great truths not in it;
commands him to inform his audience with new virtue, to represent all of
religion he can attain, to undo the heavy burdens of popular sin,
private or national, and let the men oppressed therewith go free.
Excellence, popular or odious, he is to commend by its own name, to
stimulate men to all nobleness of character and life, whether it please
or offend. This is his duty, however uncomfortable, unpopular, against
his desires, and conflicting with his immediate interests and plans of
life. Which shall he do? His official business, and pimp and pander to
the public lust, with base compliance serving the popular idols, which
here are Money and Respectability, or shall he serve his God? That is
the question. If the man considers himself substantially a man, and
accidentally a clergyman, he will perform his natural duty; if he counts
the priesthood his substance, and manhood an accident of that, he will
do only his official business.

I may be a merchant, and my official business may be to buy, and sell,
and get gain; I may see that the traffic in ardent spirits is the
readiest way to accomplish this. So it becomes my official business to
make rum, sell rum, and by all means to induce men to drink it. But
presently I see that the common use of it makes the thriving unthrifty,
the rich less wealthy, the poor miserable, the sound sick, and the sane
mad; that it brings hundreds to the jail, thousands to the almshouse,
and millions to poverty and shame, producing an amount of suffering,
wretchedness, and sin, beyond the power of man to picture or conceive.
Then my natural duty as man is very clear, very imperative. Shall I
sacrifice my manhood to money?--the integrity of my consciousness to my
gains by rum-selling? That is the question. And my answer will depend on
the fact, whether I am more a man or more a rum-seller. Suppose I
compromise the matter, and draw a line somewhere between my natural duty
as man, and my official business as rum-seller, and for every three
cents that I make by iniquity, give one cent to the American Tract
Society, or the Board for Foreign Missions, or the Unitarian
Association, or the excellent Society for promoting the Gospel among the
Indians (and others) in North America. That does not help the matter;
business is not satisfied, though I draw the line never so near to
money; nor conscience, unless the line comes up to my duty.

I am a citizen, and the State says, "You must obey all the statutes made
by the proper authorities; that is your official business!" Suppose
there is a statute adverse to the natural law of God, and the
convictions of my own conscience, and I plead that fact in abatement of
my obligation to keep the statute, the State says, "Obey it, none the
less, or we will hang you. Religion is an excellent thing in every
matter except politics; there it seems to make men mad." Shall I keep
the commandment of men, or the law of my God?

A statute was once enacted by King Pharaoh for the destruction of the
Israelites in Egypt; it was made the official business of all citizens
to aid in their destruction: "Pharaoh charged all his people saying,
Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter
ye shall save alive." It was the official business of every Egyptian who
found a Hebrew boy to throw him into the Nile,--if he refused, he
offended against the peace and dignity of the kingdom of Egypt, and the
form of law in such case made and provided. But if he obeyed, he
murdered a man. Which should he obey, the Lord Pharaoh, or the Lord God?
That was the question. I make no doubt that the priests of Osiris, Orus,
Apis, Isis, and the judges, and the justices of the peace and quorum,
and the members of Congress of that time said, "Keep the king's
commandment, oh ye that worship the crocodile and fear the cat, or ye
shall not sleep in a whole skin any longer!" So said every thing that
loveth and maketh a lie.

King Charles II. made a statute some one hundred and ninety years ago,
to punish with death the remnant of the nine-and-fifty judges who had
brought his father's head to the block, teaching kings "that they also
had a joint in their necks." He called on all his subjects to aid in the
capture of these judges. It was made their official business as citizens
to do so; a reward was offered for the apprehension of some of them
"alive or dead;" punishment hung over the head of any who should harbor
or conceal them. Three of these regicides, who had adjudged a king for
his felony, came to New England. Many Americans knew where they were,
and thought the condemnation of Charles I. was the best thing these
judges ever did. With that conviction ought they to have delivered up
these fugitives, or afforded them shelter? In time of peril, when
officers of the English government were on the lookout for some of these
men, a clergyman in the town where one of them was concealed, preached,
it is said, on the text "Bewray not him that wandereth," an occasional
sermon, and put the duty of a man far before the business of a citizen.
When Sir Edmund Andros was at New Haven looking after one of the judges,
and attended public worship in the same meeting-house with the
fugitive, the congregation sung an awful hymn in his very ears.[12]

Would the men of Connecticut have done right, bewraying him that
wandered, and exposing the outcast, to give up the man who had defended
the liberties of the world and the rights of mankind against a
tyrant,--give him up because a wanton king, and his loose men and loose
women, made such a commandment? One of the regicides dwelt in peace
eight-and-twenty years in New England, a monument of the virtue of the

Of old time the Roman statute commanded the Christians to sacrifice to
Jupiter; they deemed it the highest sin to do so, but it was their
official business as Roman citizens. Some of them were true to their
natural duty as men, and took the same cross Jesus had borne before
them; Peter and John had said at their outset to the
authorities--"Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto
you more than unto God, judge ye." The Emperor once made it the official
business of every citizen to deliver up the Christians. But God made it
no man's duty. Nay, it was each man's duty to help them. In such cases
what shall a man do? You know what we think of men who comply basely,
and save their life with the loss of their soul. You know how the
Christian world honors the saints and martyrs, who laid down their lives
for the sake of truth and right; a handful of their dust, which was
quieted of its trouble by the headsman's axe seventeen hundred years
ago, and is now gathered from the catacombs of Saint Agnes at Rome--why
it is enough to consecrate half of the Catholic churches in New England.
As I have stood among their graves, have handled the instruments with
which they tasted of bitter death, and crumbled their bones in my
hands,--I keep their relics still with reverend awe--I have thought
there was a little difference between their religion, and the pale
decency that haunts the churches of our time, and is afraid lest it lose
its dividends, or its respectability, or hurt its usefulness, which is
in no danger.

Do I speak of martyrs for conscience' sake? To-day is St. Maurice's day,
consecrated to him and the "Thebæan legion." Maurice appears to have
been a military tribune in the Christian legion, levied in the Thebais,
a part of Egypt. In the latter part of the third century this legion was
at Octodurum, near the little village of Martigni, in Valais, a Swiss
Canton, under the command of Maximian, the associate emperor, just then
named Herculeus, going to fight the Bagaudæ. The legion was ordered to
sacrifice to the Gods after the heathen fashion. The soldiers refused;
every tenth man was hewn down by Maximian's command. They would not
submit, and so the whole legion, as the Catholic story tells us,
perished there on the 22d of September, fifteen hundred and fifty-three
years ago this day. Perhaps the account is not true; it is probable that
the number of martyrs is much exaggerated, for six thousand soldiers
would not stand still and be slaughtered without striking a blow. But
the fact that the Catholic church sets apart one day in the calendar to
honor this alleged heroism, shows the value men put on fidelity to
conscience in such cases.

Last winter a bill for the capture of fugitive slaves was introduced
into the Senate of the United States of America; the Senator who so ably
represented the opinions and wishes of the controlling men of this city,
proposed to support that bill, "with all its provisions to the fullest
extent;" that bill, with various alterations, some for the better,
others for the worse, has become a law--it received the vote of the
Representative from Boston, who was not sent there, I hope, for the
purpose of voting for it. That statute allows the slaveholder, or his
agent, to come here, and by summary process seize a fugitive slave, and,
without the formality of a trial by jury, to carry him back to eternal
bondage. The statute makes it the official business of certain
magistrates to aid in enslaving a man; it empowers them to call out
force enough to overcome any resistance which may be offered, to summon
the bystanders to aid in that work. It provides a punishment for any one
who shall aid and abet, directly or indirectly, and harbor or conceal
the man who is seeking to maintain his natural and unalienable right to
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He may be fined a thousand
dollars, imprisoned six months, and be liable to a civil action for a
thousand dollars more!

This statute is not to be laid to the charge of the slaveholders of the
South alone; its most effective supporters are northern men; Boston is
more to be blamed for it than Charleston or Savannah, for nearly a
thousand persons of this city and neighborhood, most of them men of
influence through money if by no other means, addressed a letter of
thanks to the distinguished man who had volunteered to support that
infamous bill, telling him that he had "convinced the understanding and
touched the conscience of the nation." A man falls low when he consents
to be a slave, and is spurned for his lack of manhood; to consent to be
a catcher of fugitive slaves is to fall lower yet; but to consent to be
the defender of a slave-catcher--it is seldom that human nature is base
enough for that. But such examples are found in this city! This is now
the law of the land. It is the official business of judges,
commissioners and marshals, as magistrates, to execute the statute and
deliver a fugitive up to slavery; it is your official business and mine,
as citizens, when legally summoned, to aid in capturing the man. Does
the command make it any man's duty? The natural duty to keep the law of
God overrides the obligation to observe any human statute, and
continually commands us to love a man and not hate him, to do him
justice, and not injustice, to allow him his natural rights not
alienated by himself; yes, to defend him in them, not only by all means
legal, but by all means moral.

Let us look a little at our duty under this statute. If a man falls into
the water and is in danger of drowning, it is the natural duty of the
bystanders to aid in pulling him out, even at the risk of wetting their
garments. We should think a man a coward who could swim, and would not
save a drowning girl for fear of spoiling his coat. He would be
indictable at common law. If a troop of wolves or tigers were about to
seize a man, and devour him, and you and I could help him, it would be
our duty to do so, even to peril our own limbs and life for that
purpose. If a man undertakes to murder or steal a man, it is the duty of
the bystanders to help their brother, who is in peril, against wrong
from the two-legged man, as much as against the four-legged beast. But
suppose the invader who seizes the man is an officer of the United
States, has a commission in his pocket, a warrant for his deed in his
hand, and seizes as a slave a man who has done nothing to alienate his
natural rights--does that give him any more natural right to enslave a
man than he had before? Can any piece of parchment make right wrong, and
wrong right?

The fugitive has been a slave before: does the wrong you committed
yesterday, give you a natural right to commit wrong afresh and
continually? Because you enslaved this man's father, have you a natural
right to enslave his child? The same right you would have to murder a
man because you butchered his father first. The right to murder is as
much transmissible by inheritance as the right to enslave! It is plain
to me that it is the natural duty of citizens to rescue every fugitive
slave from the hands of the marshal who essays to return him to bondage;
to do it peaceably if they can, forcibly if they must, but by all means
to do it. Will you stand by and see your countrymen, your
fellow-citizens of Boston, sent off to slavery by some commissioner?
Shall I see my own parishioners taken from under my eyes and carried
back to bondage, by a man whose constitutional business it is to work
wickedness by statute? Shall I never lift an arm to protect him? When I
consent to that, you may call me a hireling shepherd, an infidel, a wolf
in sheep's clothing, even a defender of slave-catching if you will; and
I will confess I was a poor dumb dog, barking always at the moon, but
silent as the moon when the murderer came near.

I am not a man who loves violence. I respect the sacredness of human
life. But this I say, solemnly, that I will do all in my power to rescue
any fugitive slave from the hands of any officer who attempts to return
him to bondage. I will resist him as gently as I know how, but with such
strength as I can command; I will ring the bells, and alarm the town; I
will serve as head, as foot, or as hand to any body of serious and
earnest men, who will go with me, with no weapons but their hands, in
this work. I will do it as readily as I would lift a man out of the
water, or pluck him from the teeth of a wolf, or snatch him from the
hands of a murderer. What is a fine of a thousand dollars, and jailing
for six months, to the liberty of a man? My money perish with me, if it
stand between me and the eternal law of God. I trust there are manly men
enough in this house to secure the freedom of every fugitive slave in
Boston, without breaking a limb or rending a garment.

One thing more I think is very plain, that the fugitive has the same
natural right to defend himself against the slave-catcher, or his
constitutional tool, that he has against a murderer or a wolf. The man
who attacks me to reduce me to slavery, in that moment of attack
alienates his right to life, and if I were the fugitive, and could
escape in no other way, I would kill him with as little compunction as I
would drive a mosquito from my face. It is high time this was said. What
grasshoppers we are before the statute of men! what Goliaths against
the law of God! What capitalist heeds your statute of usury when he can
get illegal interest? How many banks are content with six _per cent._
when money is scarce? Did you never hear of a merchant evading the
duties of the custom-house? When a man's liberty is concerned, we must
keep the law, must we? betray the wanderer, and expose the outcast?[13]

In the same manner the natural duty of a man overrides all the special
obligations which a man takes on himself as a magistrate by his
official oath. Our theory of office is this: The man is sunk in the
magistrate; he is _un homme couvert_; his individual manhood is covered
up and extinguished by his official cap; he is no longer a man, but a
mere president, general, governor, representative, sheriff, juror, or
constable; he is absolved from all allegiance to God's law of the
universe when it conflicts with man's law of the land; his official
business as a magistrate supersedes his natural duty as a man. In
virtue of this theory, President Polk, and his coadjutors in Congress
and out of it, with malice aforethought and intent to rob and to kill,
did officially invade Mexico, and therein "slay, kill, and murder" some
thousands of men, as well Americans as Mexicans. This is thought right
because he did it officially. But the fact that he and they were
magistrates, doing official business, did not make the killing any the
less a wrong than if he and they had been private men, with General
Lopez and not General Taylor to head or back them. The official killing
of a man who has not alienated his right to life, is just as much a
violation of the law of God, and the natural duty of a man, as the
unofficial killing of such a person. Because you and I and some other
foolish people put a man in a high office, and get him to take an oath,
does that, all at once, invest him with a natural right to kill anybody
he sees fit; to kill an innocent Mexican? All his natural rights he had
before, and it would be difficult to ascertain where the people could
find the right to authorize him to do a wrong. A man does not escape
from the jurisdiction of natural law and the dominion of God by
enlisting in the army, or by taking the oath of the President; for
justice, the law paramount of the universe, extends over armies and

A little while ago a murderer was hanged in Boston, by the Sheriff of
Suffolk county, at the command of the Governor and Council of
Massachusetts, by the aid of certain persons called grand and petit
jurors, all of them acting in their official capacity, and doing the
official business they had sworn to do. If it be a wrong thing to hang a
man, or to take his life except in self-defence, and while in imminent
peril, then it is not any less a wrong because men do it in their
official character, in compliance with their oath. I am speaking of
absolute wrong, not merely what is wrong relatively to the man's own
judgment, for I doubt not that all those officers were entirely
conscientious in what they did, and therefore no blame rests on them.
But if a man believes it wrong to take human life deliberately, except
in the cases named, then I do not see how, with a good conscience, he
can be partaker in the death of any man, notwithstanding his official

Let me suppose a case which may happen here, and before long. A woman
flies from South Carolina to Massachusetts to escape from bondage. Mr.
Greatheart aids her in her escape, harbors and conceals her, and is
brought to trial for it. The punishment is a fine of one thousand
dollars and imprisonment for six months. I am drawn to serve as a juror,
and pass upon this offence. I may refuse to serve, and be punished for
that, leaving men with no scruples to take my place, or I may take the
juror's oath to give a verdict according to the law and the testimony.
The law is plain, let us suppose, and the testimony conclusive.
Greatheart himself confesses that he did the deed alleged, saving one
ready to perish. The judge charges, that if the jurors are satisfied of
that fact, then they must return that he is guilty. This is a nice
matter. Here are two questions. The one, put to me in my official
capacity as juror, is this: "Did Greatheart aid the woman?" The other,
put to me in my natural character as man, is this: "Will you help punish
Greatheart with fine and imprisonment for helping a woman obtain her
unalienable rights?" I am to answer both. If I have extinguished my
manhood by my juror's oath, then I shall do my official business and
find Greatheart guilty, and I shall seem to be a true man; but if I
value my manhood, I shall answer after my natural duty to love a man and
not hate him, to do him justice, not injustice, to allow him the natural
rights he has not alienated, and shall say "Not guilty." Then foolish
men, blinded by the dust of courts, may call me forsworn and a liar;
but I think human nature will justify the verdict.[14]

 In cases of this kind, when justice is on one side and the court on
the other, it seems to me a conscientious man must either refuse to
serve as a juror, or else return a verdict at variance with the facts
and what courts declare to be his official business as juror; but the
eyes of some men have been so long blinded by what the court declares
is the law, and by its notion of the juror's function, that they will
help inflict such a punishment on their brother, and the judge decree
the sentence, in a case where the arrest, the verdict and the sentence
are the only wrong in which the prisoner is concerned. It seems to me it
is time this matter should be understood, and that it should be known
that no official oath can take a man out of the jurisdiction of God's
natural law of the universe.

A case may be brought before a commissioner or judge of the United
States, to determine whether Daniel is a slave, and therefore to be
surrendered up. His official business, sanctioned by his oath, enforced
by the law of the land, demands the surrender; his natural duty,
sanctioned by his conscience, enforced by absolute justice, forbids the
surrender. What shall he do? There is no serving of God and Mammon both.
He may abandon his commission and refuse to remain thus halting between
two opposites. But if he keeps his office, I see not how he can renounce
his nature and send back a fugitive slave, and do as great a wrong as to
make a free man a slave!

Suppose the Constitution had been altered, and Congress had made a law,
making it the business of the United States' commissioners to enslave
and sell at public outcry all the red-haired men in the nation, and
forbid us to aid and abet their escape, to harbor and conceal them under
the same penalties just now mentioned; do you think any commissioner
would be justified before God by his oath in kidnapping the red-haired
men, or any person in punishing such as harbored or concealed them, such
as forcibly took the victims out of the hand of officials who would work
mischief by statute? Will the color of a hair make right wrong, and
wrong right?

Suppose a man has sworn to keep the Constitution of the United States,
and the Constitution is found to be wrong in certain particulars: then
his oath is not morally binding, for before his oath, by his very
existence, he is morally bound to keep the law of God as fast as he
learns it. No oath can absolve him from his natural allegiance to God.
Yet I see not how a man can knowingly, and with a good conscience, swear
to keep what he deems wrong to keep, and will not keep, and does not
intend to keep.

It seems to me very strange that men so misunderstand the rights of
conscience and their obligations to obey their country. Not long ago, an
eminent man taunted one of his opponents, telling him he had better
adhere to the "higher law." The newspapers echoed the sneer, as if there
were no law higher than the Constitution. Latterly, the democratic
party, even more completely than the whig party, seems to have forgotten
that there is any law higher than the Constitution, any rights above
vested rights.[15]

An eminent theologian of New England, who has hitherto done good and
great service in his profession, grinding off the barb of Calvinism,
wrote a book in defence of slave-catching, on "Conscience and the
Constitution," a book which not only sins against the sense of the
righteous in being wicked, but against the worldliness of the world in
being weak,--and he puts the official business of keeping "a compact"
far before the natural duty of keeping a conscience void of offence, and
serving God. But suppose forty thieves assemble on Fire Island, and make
a compact to rob every vessel wrecked on their coast, and reduce the
survivors to bondage. Suppose I am born amongst that brotherhood of
pirates, am I morally bound to keep that compact, or to perform any
function which grows out of it? Nay, I am morally bound to violate the
compact, to keep the pirates from their plunder and their prey. Instead
of forty thieves on Fire Island, suppose twenty millions of men in the
United States make a compact to enslave every sixth man--the dark
men--am I morally bound to heed that compact, or to perform any function
which grows out of it? Nay, I am morally bound to violate the compact,
in every way that is just and wise. The very men who make such a compact
are morally discharged from it as soon as they see it is wrong. The
forty Jews who bound themselves by wicked oath to kill Paul before they
broke their fast,--were they morally bound to keep their word? Nay,
morally bound to break it.

I will tell you a portion of the story of a fugitive slave whom I have
known. I will call his name Joseph, though he was in worse than Egyptian
bondage. He was "owned" by a notorious gambler, and once ran away, but
was retaken. His master proceeded to punish him for that crime, took him
to a chamber, locked the door, and lighted a fire; he then beat the
slave severely. After that he put the branding-iron in the fire, took a
knife,--I am not telling of what took place in Algiers, but in
Alabama,--and proceeded to cut off the ears of his victim! The owner's
wife, alarmed at the shrieks of the sufferer, beat down the door with a
sledge-hammer, and prevented that catastrophe. Afterwards, two slaves of
this gambler, for stealing their master's sheep, were beaten so that
they died of the stripes. The "Minister" came to the funeral, told the
others that those were wicked slaves, who deserved their fate; that they
would never "rise" in the general resurrection, and were not fit to be
buried! Accordingly their bodies were thrown into a hole and left there.
Joseph ran away again; he came to Boston; was sheltered by a man whose
charity never fails; he has been in my house, and often has worshipped
here with us. Shall I take that man and deliver him up?--do it "with
alacrity?" Shall I suffer that gambler to carry his prey from this city?
Will you allow it--though all the laws and constitutions of men give the
commandment? God do so unto us if we suffer it.[16]

This we need continually to remember: that nothing in the world without
is so sacred as the Eternal Law of God; of the world within nothing is
more venerable than our own conscience, the permanent, everlasting
oracle of God. The Urim and Thummim were but Jewish or Egyptian toys on
the breast-plate of the Hebrew priest; the Delphic oracle was only a
subtle cheat, but this is the true Shekinah and presence of God in your
heart: as this

      ----"pronounces lastly on each deed,
    Of so much fame in heaven expect your meed."

If I am consciously and continually false to this, it is of no avail
that I seem loyal to all besides; I make the light that is in me
darkness, and how great is that darkness! The centre of my manhood is
gone, and I am rotten at my heart. Men may respect me, honor me, but I
am not respectable, I am a base, dishonorable man, and like a tree,
broad-branched, and leafed with green, but all its heart gnawed out by
secret worms, at some slight touch one day, my rotten trunk will fall
with horrid squelch, bringing my leafy honors to dishonored dust, and
men will wonder that bark could hide such rottenness and ruin.

But if I am true to this Legate of God, holding his court within my
soul, then my power to discover the just and right will enlarge
continually; the axis of my little life will coincide with the life of
the infinite God, His Conscience and my own be one. Then my character
and my work will lie in the plane of his Almighty action; no other will
in me, His infinite wisdom, justice, holiness, and love, will flow into
me, a ceaseless tide, filling with life divine and new the little
creeklets of my humble soul. I shall be one with God, feel His delight
in me and mine in Him, and all my mortal life run o'er with life divine
and bless mankind. Let men abhor me, yea, scourge and crucify, angels
are at hand; yes, the Father is with me!

       *       *       *       *       *

How we mistake. Men think if they can but get wickedness dignified into
a statute, enrolled in the capitol, signed by the magistrates, and
popular with the people, that all is secure. Then they rejoice, and at
their "Thanksgiving dinner," say with the short-lived tyrant in the
play, after he had slain the rightful heirs of England's throne, and set
his murderous hoof on justice at every step to power,--

    "Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer" ...

and think that Sin sits fast and rides secure.[17] But no statute of men
is ever fixed on man till it be first the absolute, the right, the law
of God. All else lasts but its day, forever this, forever still the
same. By "previous questions," men may stop debate, vote down minorities
with hideous grin, but the still small voice of Justice will whisper in
the human heart, will be trumpet-tongued in history to teach you that
you cannot vote down God.

 In your private character, if you would build securely, you must build
on the natural law of God, inherent in your nature and in his; if the
nation would build securely, it must build so. Out of their caprice,
their selfishness, and their sin, may men make statutes, to last for a
day, built up with joyous huzzas, and the chiming of a hundred guns, to
come down with the curses of the multitude, and smitten by the thunder
of God; but to build secure, you must build on the Justice of the
Almighty. The beatitudes of Jesus will outlast the codes of all the
tyrants of the old world and the new. So I have seen gamblers hurry and
huddle up their booths at a country muster, on the unsmoothed surface of
a stubble-field, foundation good enough for such a structure, not a post
plumb, to endure a single day of riot, drunkenness, and sin; but to
build a pyramid which shall outlast empires, men lay bare the bosom of
the primeval rock, and out of primeval rock they build thereon their
well-joined work, outlasting Syria, Greece, Carthage, Rome, venerable to
Time, and underneath its steadfast foot the earthquakes pass all
harmlessly away.

All things conspire to overturn a wrong. Every advance of man is hostile
to it. Reason is hostile; religion is its deadly foe; the new-born
generation will assail it, and it must fall. Of old it was written,
"Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not prosper," and the
world's wide walls, from the remotest bounds of peopled space, laugh
out their loud and long "Amen!" Let Iniquity be never so old and
respectable, get all the most eminent votes, have the newspapers on her
side, guns fired at her success, it all avails nothing; for this is
God's world, not a devil's, and His eternal word has gone forth that
Right alone shall last forever and forever.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oh, young man, now in the period of the passions, reverence your
Conscience. Defer that to no appetite, to no passion, to no foolish
compliance with other men's ways, to no ungodly custom, even if become a
law. Ask always "Is it right for me?" Be brave and self-denying for
conscience' sake. Fear not to differ from men; keeping your modesty,
keep your integrity also. Let not even your discretion consume your
valor. Fear not to be scrupulously upright and pure; be afraid neither
of men's hate, nor even of their laugh and haughty scorn, but shudder at
the thought of tampering with your sense of right, even in the smallest
matters. The Flesh will come up with deceitful counsels--the Spirit
teaching the commandments of God; give both their due. Be not the
senses' slave, but the soul's free man.

Oh brother man, who once wert young, in the period of ambition, or
beyond it, if such a time there be, can you trust the selfishness, the
caprice, the passions, and the sin of men, before your own conscience,
renounce the law of God for the customs of men? When your volcanic
mountain has been capped with snow, Interest, subtler than all the
passions of the flesh, comes up to give her insidious counsel. "On our
side," says she, "is the applause of men; feasting is with us; the wise
and prudent are here also, yea, the ancient and honorable, men much
older than thy father; and with gray hairs mottling thy once auburn
head, wilt thou forsake official business, its solid praise, and certain
gain, for the phantom of natural duty, renounce allegiance to warm human
lies for the cold truth of God remote and far!" Say, "Get thee behind
me," to such counsellors; "I will not stain my age by listening to your
subterranean talk."

Oh, brother man, or old or young, how will you dare come up before your
God and say: "Oh Lord, I heard, I heard thy voice in my soul, at times
still and small, at times a trumpet talking with me of the Right, the
Eternal Right, but I preferred the low counsels of the flesh; the
commands of Interest I kept; I feared the rich man's decorous rage; I
trembled at the public roar, and I scorned alike my native duty and thy
natural law. Lo, here is the talent Thou gavest me, my sense of right. I
have used each other sense, this only have I hid; it is eaten up with
rust, but thus I bring it back to Thee. Take what is thine!" Who would
dare thus to sin against infinite Justice? Who would wish to sin against
it when it is also infinite Love, and the law of right is but the
highway on which the Almightiness of the Father comes out to meet his
prodigal, a great way off, penitent and returning home, or unrepentant
still, refusing to be comforted, and famishing on draff and husks, while
there is bread of heavenly life enough and yet to spare, comes out to
meet us, to take us home, and to bless us forever and forever?


[11] The terms _laws of the human spirit_, _spiritual laws_, &c., are
sometimes used to denote exclusively those laws which man _must_ keep,
not merely what he _ought_ to keep, laws in relation to which man has no
more freedom than a mass of marble. The words are used above in a
different sense.


Why dost thou, Tyrant, boast abroad thy wicked works to praise?
Dost thou not know there is a God, whose mercies last alwaies?

   *   *   *   *

On mischiefe why sett'st thou thy minde, and wilt not walke upright?
Thou hast more lust false tales to find, than bring the truth to light.
Thou dost delight in fraud and guile, in mischiefe, bloud and wrong.
Thy lips have learned the flattering stile, oh false deceitful tongue.

Therefore shall God for aye confound, and pluck thee from thy place;
Thy seed root out from off the ground, and so shall thee deface.
The just, when they behold thy fall, with feare shall praise the Lord;
And in reproach of thee withall, crie out with one accord:--

"Behold the man that woulde not take the Lord for his defence;
But of his goods his God did make, and trust his corrupt sense.
But I, as olive, fresh and green, shall spring and spread abroad;
For why? my trust all times hath been, upon the living God!

"For this therefore will I give praise to Thee with heart and voyce;
I will set forth Thy name alwayes, wherein Thy saints rejoyce."

_Psalm lii. in Sternhold and Hopkins._

[13] It has been said that the fugitive slave law cannot be executed in
Boston. Let us not be deceived. Who would have thought a year ago, that
the Senator of Boston would make such a speech as that of last March,
that so many of the leading citizens of Boston would write such a letter
of approval, that such a bill could pass Congress, and a man be found in
this city (Mr. Samuel A. Eliot) to vote for it and get no rebuke from
the people! Yet a single man should not endure the shame alone, which
belongs in general to the leading men of the city. The member for Boston
faithfully represented the public opinion of his most eminent
constituents, lay and clerical. Here is an account of what took place in
New York since the delivery of the sermon.

[From the New York Tribune.]


"The following case, which occurred yesterday, is one of peculiar
interest, from the fact of its being the first case under the new
Fugitive Slave Law. It will be noticed that there is very little of the
'law's delay' here; the proceedings were as summary as an Arkansas court
audience could desire.

"U. S. COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE--Before Commissioner
Gardiner.--_Examination as to James Hamlet, charged to be a fugitive
slave, the property of Mary Brown, of Baltimore._--No person was present
as counsel for accused, and only one colored man. He is a light mulatto.
The marshal said Mr. Wood had been there. The commissioner said they
would go on, and if counsel came in, he would read proceedings.

"_Thomas J. Clare_ (a man with dark eyes and hair), sworn.--Am thirty
years of age; clerk for Merchant's Shot Manufacturing Company in
Baltimore; know James Hamlet; he is slave of Mary Brown, a mother-in-law
of mine, residing in Baltimore; have known Hamlet about twenty years; he
left my mother-in-law about two years ago this season, by absenting
himself from the premises, the dwelling where he resided in Baltimore;
she is entitled to his services; he is a slave for life; she never
parted with him voluntarily; she came into possession of him by will
from John G. Brown, her deceased husband; the written paper shown is an
extract from his will; she held him under that from the time she
inherited him till he escaped, as I have testified; this is the man
(pointing to Hamlet, a light mulatto man, about twenty-four or
twenty-five years of age, looking exceedingly pensive).

"_Gustavus Brown_, sworn.--Am twenty-five years of age; reside in New
York; clerk with A. M. Fenday, 25 Front street; resided before coming
here in Baltimore; I know James Hamlet; I have known him since a boy; he
is a slave to my mother; he is a slave for life; my mother inherited him
under the will of my father; he left her service by running away, I
suppose; absenting himself from the house in the city of Baltimore,
about two years since; I have seen him several times, within the last
six months, in the city; first time I saw him was in April last; my
mother is still entitled to possession of him; she never has parted with
him; the man sitting here (Hamlet) is the man.

"Mr. Asa Child, Counsellor at Law, here came into the room, and took his
seat; he said he had been sent to this morning, through another, by a
gentleman with whom Hamlet had lived in this city (Mr. S. N. Wood), but
he had no directions in the matter; he merely came to see that the law
is properly administered, and supposed it would be without him.

"Mr. Child was then shown the law, the power of attorney to Mr. Clare,
the affidavit of Mr. Clare on which Hamlet was arrested--and the
testimony thus far.

"_Mr. Clare_, cross-examined by Mr. Child.--I married Mrs. Brown's
daughter about seventeen years ago; Hamlet has always lived with us in
the family: I am in her family now, and was at the time he went away;
think he is about twenty-eight years of age (he looks much younger than
that--his features are very even, as those of a white person of the
kind); he occasionally worked at the shot tower where I worked; he was
hired there as a laborer, and Mrs. Brown got the benefit of him--that
is, when I had no other use for him; he had formerly been employed as a
drayman; after I married into the family some year or two, we lived
together, I furnishing the house; such wages as I got for the man it was
returned to Mrs. Brown, to be used as she saw fit; I was her agent to
get employment for him as I could; I had him in various occupations; I
have a power of attorney; I have no further interest in him than he is
her property, and we wish to get him back to Maryland again, where he

"_Mr. Brown_, cross-examined.--Left home 27th March last. Was home when
Hamlet went away. At the time he was engaged at the shot tower business.

"Mr. Child said he had no further questions to ask. He supposed the
rules of the law had been complied with.

"Mr. Gardiner, the commissioner, then said, I will deliver the fugitive
over to the marshal, to be delivered over to the claimant.

"Mr. Child suggested if that was the law. The commissioner then said he
would hand him, as the law said, to the claimant, and if there should be
any danger of rescue, he would deliver him to the United States Marshal.

"The United States Marshal said he had performed his duty in bringing
him in.

"Mr. Clare said he would demand such aid from the United States Marshal,
as would secure the delivery of the man to his owner in Baltimore.

"Mr. Child suggested that it must be an affidavit that he apprehends a
rescue. Mr. Clare said that he did so apprehend.

"Mr. Talmadge, the marshal, said he would have to perform his duty, if
called upon.

"Mr. Child replied he supposed he would, but there were doubts as to the

"The necessary papers were made out by the commissioner, Mr. Clare
swearing he feared a rescue, and Hamlet was delivered to him, thence to
the United States Marshal, and probably was conveyed with all possible
despatch to Baltimore, a coach being in waiting at the door; and he was
taken off in irons, an officer accompanying the party."

Here is the charge of Judge McLean in a similar case.

"No earthly power has a right to interpose between a man's conscience
and his Maker. He has a right, an inalienable and absolute right, to
worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. For this he
alone must answer, and he is entirely free from all human restraint to
think and act for himself.

"But this is not the case when his acts affect the rights of others.
Society has a claim upon all its citizens. General rules have been
adopted in the form of laws, for the protection of the rights of persons
and things. These laws lie at the foundation of the social compact, and
their observance is essential to the maintenance of civilization. In
these matters the law, and not conscience, constitutes the rule of
action You are sworn to decide this case according to the law and
testimony; and you become unfaithful to the solemn injunctions you have
taken upon yourselves, when you yield to an influence which you call
conscience, that places you above the law and the testimony.

"Such a rule can only apply to individuals; and when assumed as a basis
of action on the rights of others, it is utterly destructive of all law.
What may be deemed a conscientious act by one individual, may be held
criminal by another. In view of one, the act is meritorious; in the view
of the other, it should be punished as a crime. And each has the same
right, acting under the dictates of his conscience, to carry out his own
view. This would overturn the basis of society. We must stand by the
law. We have sworn to maintain it. It is expected that the citizens of
the free States should be opposed to slavery. But with the abstract
principles of slavery we have nothing to do. As a political question
there could be no difference of opinion among us on the subject. But our
duty is found in the Constitution of the Union, as construed by the
Supreme Court. The fugitives from labor we are bound, by the highest
obligations, to deliver up on claim of the master being made; and there
is no State power which can release the slave from the legal custody of
his master.

"In regard to the arrest of fugitives from labor, the law does not
impose active duties on our citizens generally. They are not prohibited
from exercising the ordinary charities of life towards the fugitive. To
secrete him or convey him from the reach of his master, or to rescue him
when in legal custody, is forbidden; and for doing this a liability is
incurred. This gives to no one a just ground of complaint. He has only
to refrain from an express violation of the law, which operates to the
injury of his neighbor."

He seems to think the right to hold slaves as much a natural right as
the absolute right to worship God according to the "dictates of
conscience." One man has an unalienable right to liberty, other men an
unalienable right to alienate and take it from him!

Here is something in a different spirit from a Boston newspaper.


     "This infamous bill has finally passed both branches of
     Congress.[A] My opinion on this subject may have little
     weight with those who voted for it, but may help sustain the
     sinking spirit of some poor disconsolate one, who, having
     fled from the land of oppressors, is anxiously looking to
     see if there is any one who will give him a cheering look,
     or a kind reception, or who dares to give him a crust of
     bread, or a cup of water, and help him on his way.

     "Allow me to say to such an one, that if pursued by the
     merciless slaveholder, and every other door in Boston is
     shut against him, there is a door that will be open at No. 2
     Beach street, and that the fear of fines and imprisonment
     will be ineffectual when the pursuer shall demand his
     victim. If he enters before the fleeing captive is safe, it
     will be at his peril. I am opposed to war, and all the
     spirit of war; even to all preparations for what is called
     self-defence in times of peace; yet I should resist the
     pursuer, and not allow him to enter my dwelling until he was
     able to tread me under his feet. I will not trample upon any
     law, either of my own State, or of the nation, that does not
     conflict with my conscientious duty to my God; but Jesus has
     commanded, saying, 'All things whatsoever ye would that men
     should do to you, do ye even so to them.'

     "If, for no crime, I had been taken and sold, and deprived
     of all the rights of my manhood, and degraded to the rank of
     a beast of burden; not only deprived of the opportunity to
     labor for the support of my wife and children, but even
     deprived of their kind sympathy and companionship, whenever
     the interest or will of my oppressors should require it; and
     I should, at the peril of my life, flee from my oppressors,
     and they should pursue me to the dwelling of some poor
     disciple of Jesus, it may be that of a colored man, and I
     should beg of him to protect me, and help me to escape from
     the pursuer's grasp, should I not hope, if he was a
     Christian, he would give me bread and water, and help me on
     my way, regardless of the fines and imprisonment that such a
     kind act might render him liable to? Could I expect to meet
     the approbation of my Lord, if I did not do as much for the
     fleeing slave? Can there be a Christian, in this land of the
     Pilgrims, who will not do it, and besides, do all in his
     power to prevent any one of those Senators or
     Representatives in Congress who voted for that infamous bill
     from ever again misrepresenting any portion of the friends
     of freedom, in Boston or elsewhere? It is said, this is a
     law of the land, and must be obeyed: to such I would say,
     'Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto men
     more than unto God, judge ye,'

     "I prefer to obey God, if in so doing I must break the laws
     of men and be punished, rather than violate the laws of God
     and obey the laws of men, to escape fines and imprisonments,
     or even death.

     "Boston, Sept. 23, 1850.

      T. GILBERT."

Here is yet more:


     "MESSRS. EDITORS:--The bold and manly avowal of your
     correspondent, Mr. T. Gilbert, in last evening's Traveller,
     in commenting upon what he very justly denominates the
     'infamous fugitive slave bill,' is but the very echoing of
     thousands of hearts equally true to the cause of freedom,
     and who seek the elevation of the down-trodden sons and
     daughters of American slavery. That gentleman, acting upon
     the dictates of an enlightened patriotism, and in deep
     sympathy with the fleeing captive, has the courage to avow
     his determination to throw wide open his door, and offers to
     make his house--even though he should stand alone among his
     fellow-citizens--an asylum to the fugitive slave, in his
     retreat from the prison-house of bondage. The paramount
     claims which he awards to the Divine law over that which is
     but human, and therefore necessarily imperfect, commend his
     spirited letter to the consideration of all those that have
     in any way aided in the passage of a bill at variance with
     the first principles of civil freedom, and in direct
     hostility to the instruction of that great Teacher who hath
     commanded us to 'Do unto others as we would that they should
     do unto us.' That the determination of your correspondent
     may be true and unfaltering, is the hearty prayer of one, at
     least, of his fellow-citizens, who is ready at all times to
     cooperate in making an asylum for the fugitive slave, even
     though bonds and imprisonments should prove the penalty.


     "Boston, Sept. 26, 1850."

Here follow some characteristic remarks on the terror which the
fugitives here in Boston feel in apprehension of being torn from their
families and their freedom.


"The colored people had a grand time last evening, at Zion's Chapel in
Church street. Their object was to denounce the fugitive slave law; and
this was done with hearty good-will, or, we should say, malediction.

"The steam would have been well up, without any extraneous elements of
excitement; but what added a special interest to the occasion, and
raised the temperament to blood-heat, was the announcement, made by Mr.
Downing, that the wife of James Hamlet (the fugitive slave who was
returned to his owner in Baltimore, a few days since, under a process of
law), had died yesterday, of grief and convulsions.

"This filled the measure of indignation which burned in the bosoms of
all present, against a law which, besides its other abominations, could
produce such fatal effects. In the fever of the moment, a contribution
was called for, to defray the expense of her funeral, and about twenty
dollars was collected.

"Shortly after, information was received that it was all a mistake about
her dying of convulsions, or in any other way; and that she was as well
as ever. This was a damper upon the enthusiasm of the occasion, but the
money was already collected, and seeing it could not be applied just now
to defray her funeral expenses, it was very properly decided to apply it
to her living expenses. The meeting adjourned.

"Mrs. Hamlet was in our office yesterday, accompanied by her mother and
a colored man. She appeared to be in good health (though of course
distressed at the misfortune of her husband), and we hope she will live
a thousand years. She certainly shall, if his return will have that
effect."--_N. Y. Journal of Commerce._

I print these passages, hoping that some hundred years hence they may be
found in some old library, and valued as monuments of the state of
Christianity in the free States in the year 1850.

    [A] I call this bill _infamous_, because by it the man or
    woman who is charged with being a slave is deprived of all
    the means of self-defence allowed to those who are charged
    with crimes, and to be delivered up summarily, without the
    right of trial by jury, or any other proper means of proving
    the charge groundless. Is it a worse crime to be a slave than
    a thief or a murderer?


There are two theories of the function of the jury in criminal trials.
One I will call the theory of the Government; the other the theory of
the People. The first has of late been insisted on in certain courts,
and laid down by some judges in their charges to the jury. The second
lies, perhaps dimly, in the consciousness of the people, and may be
gathered from the conduct of juries in trials where the judges' law
would do obvious injustice to the prisoner.

I. According to the theory of the Government. The judge is to settle the
law for the jury. This involves two things:

1. He is to declare the law denouncing punishment on the alleged crime.

2. To declare what constitutes the crime. Then the jury are only to
determine whether the prisoner did the deed which the judge says
constitutes the crime. He, exclusively, is to decide what is the law,
and what deed constitutes the crime; they only to decide if the prisoner
did the deed. For example, to take a case which has not happened yet, to
my knowledge: John Doe is accused of having eaten a Medford cracker; and
thereupon, by direction of the Government, has been indicted by a grand
jury for the capital offence of treason, and is brought before a
traverse jury for trial. The judge tells the jury, 1. That eating a
Medford cracker constitutes the crime of treason. 2. That there is a law
denouncing death on that crime. Then the jury are to hearken to the
evidence, and if it is proved to their satisfaction that John Doe ate
the Medford cracker, they are to return a verdict of guilty. They are
only to judge of the matter of fact, and take the law on the judge's

II. According to the theory of the People, in order to render their
verdict, the jury are to determine three things:

1. Did the man do the deed alleged?

2. If so, Is there a legal and constitutional statute denouncing
punishment upon the crime? Here the question is twofold: (_a_) as to the
deed which constitutes the crime, and (_b_) as to the statute which
denounces the crime.

3. If all this is settled affirmatively, then, Shall this man suffer the
punishment thus legally and constitutionally denounced?

For example: John Doe is accused of having eaten a Medford cracker, is
indicted for treason, and brought to trial; the judge charges as above.
Then the jury are to determine:

1. Did John Doe eat the Medford cracker in the manner alleged?

2. If so: (_a_) Does that deed constitute the crime of treason? and
(_b_) Is there a legal and constitutional statute denouncing the
punishment of death on that crime?

3. If so likewise, Shall John Doe suffer the punishment of death?

The first question, as to the fact, they are to settle by the evidence
presented in open court, according to the usual forms, and before the
face of the prisoner; the testimony of each witness forms one element of
that evidence. The jury alone are to determine whether the testimony of
the witnesses proves the fact.

The second question, (_a_) as to the deed which constitutes the crime,
and (_b_) as to the law which denounces the crime, they are to settle by
evidence; the testimony of the Judge, of the States' Attorney, of the
Prisoner's counsel, each forms an element of that evidence. The jury
alone are to determine whether that testimony proves that the deed
constitutes the crime, and that there is a law denouncing death against
it; and the jury are to remember that the judge and the attorney who are
the creatures of the Government, and often paid to serve its passions,
may be, and often have been, quite as partial, quite as unjust, as the
prisoner's counsel.

The third question, as to punishing the prisoner, after the other
questions are decided against him, is to be settled solely by the mind
and conscience of the jury. If they know that John Doe did eat the
Medford cracker; that the deed legally constitutes the crime of treason,
and that there is a legal and constitutional statute denouncing death on
that crime, they are still to determine, on their oath as jurors, on
their manhood as men, Whether John Doe shall suffer the punishment of
death. They are jurors to do justice, not injustice; what they think is
justice, not what they think injustice.

The Government theory, though often laid down in the charge, is seldom
if ever practically carried out by a judge in its full extent. For he
does not declare on his own authority what is the law and what
constitutes the crime, but gives the statutes, precedents, decisions and
the like; clearly implying by this very course that the jury are not to
take his authority barely, but his reasons if reasonable.

In the majority of cases, the statute and the ruling of the court come
as near to real justice as the opinion of the jury does; then if they
are satisfied that the prisoner did the deed alleged, they return a
verdict of guilty with a clear conscience, and subject the man to what
they deem a just punishment for an unjust act. Their conduct then seems
to confirm the Government theory of the jurors' function. Lawyers and
others sometimes reason exclusively from such cases, and conclude such
is the true and actual theory thereof. But when a case occurs, wherein
the ruling of the judge appears wrong to the jury; when he declares
legal and constitutional what they think is not so; when he declares
that a trifling offence constitutes a great crime; when the statute is
manifestly unjust, forbidding what is not wrong, or when the punishment
denounced for a real wrong is excessive, or any punishment is provided
for a deed not wrong, though there is no doubt of the facts, the jury
will not convict. Sometimes they will acquit the prisoner; sometimes
fail to agree. The history of criminal trials in England and America
proves this. In such cases the jury are not false to their function and
jurors' oath, but faithful to both, for the jurors are the
"country"--the justice and humanity of men.

Suppose some one should invent a machine to be used in criminal trials
for determining the testimony given in court. Let me call it a
Martyrion. This instrument receives the evidence and determines and
reports the fact that the prisoner did, or did not, do the deed alleged.
According to the government theory, the Martyrion would perfectly
perform all the functions of the jury in a criminal case; but would any
community substitute the machine for the jury of "twelve good men and
true?" If the jury is to be merely the judge's machine, it had better be
of iron and gutta-percha than of human beings.

In Philadelphia, some years ago, a man went deliberately and shot a
person who had seduced his sister under circumstances of great atrocity.
He was indicted for wilful murder. There was no doubt as to the fact,
none as to the law, none as to the deed which constituted that crime.
The jury returned, "Not guilty"--and were justified in their verdict. In
1850, in New Jersey, a man seduced the wife of another, under
circumstances even more atrocious. The husband, in open day, coolly and
deliberately shot the seducer; was tried for wilful murder. Here, too,
there was no doubt of the fact, of the law, or the deed which
constituted the crime of murder; but the jury, perfectly in accordance
with their official function, returned "Not guilty."

The case of William Penn in 1670, who was tried under the Conventicle
Act, is well known. The conduct of many English juries who would not
condemn a fellow-creature to death for stealing a few pounds of money,
is also well known, and shows the value of this form of trial to protect
a man from a wicked law. I think most men will declare the verdict of
"Not guilty" in the case of J. P. Zenger, tried for high treason in New
York in 1735, a righteous judgment, made in strict accordance with the
official function of the jurors; but it was plainly contrary to the
evidence as well as to the ruling of the court.

See Mr. Parker's Defence, p. 76, _et seq._ for further remarks on the
Function of the Jury (Boston, 1855).

[15] So it appeared in September, 1851; but since then the whig party
has vindicated its claim to the same bad eminence as the democratic

[16] The person referred to fled away from Boston, and in one of the
British provinces found the protection for his unalienable rights, which
could not be allowed him in New England.

[17] This refers to a speech of Mr. Webster, occasioned by the passage
of the fugitive slave law.




Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

We come together to-day, by the Governor's proclamation, to give thanks
to God for our welfare, not merely for our happiness as individuals or
as families, but for our welfare as a people. How can we better improve
this opportunity, than by looking a little into the condition of the
people? And accordingly I invite your attention to a Sermon of the State
of this Nation. I shall try to speak of the Condition of the nation
itself, then of the Causes of that condition, and, in the third place,
of the Dangers that threaten, or are alleged to threaten, the nation.

       *       *       *       *       *

First, of our Condition. Look about you in Boston. Here are a hundred
and forty thousand souls, living in peace and in comparative prosperity.
I think, without doing injustice to the other side of the water, there
is no city in the old world, of this population, with so much
intelligence, activity, morality, order, comfort, and general welfare,
and, at the same time, with so little of the opposite of all these. I
know the faults of Boston, and I think I would not disguise them; the
poverty, unnatural poverty, which shivers in the cellar; the unnatural
wealth which bloats in the parlor; the sin which is hid in the corners
of the jail; and the more dangerous sin which sets up Christianity for a
pretence; the sophistry which lightens in the newspapers, and thunders
in the pulpit:--I know all these things, and do not pretend to disguise
them; and still I think no city of the old world, of the same
population, has so much which good men prize, and so little which good
men deplore.

See the increase of material wealth; the buildings for trade and for
homes; the shops and ships. This year Boston will add to her possessions
some ten or twenty millions of dollars, honestly and earnestly got.
Observe the neatness of the streets, the industry of the inhabitants,
their activity of mind, the orderliness of the people, the signs of
comfort. Then consider the charities of Boston; those limited to our own
border, and those which extend further, those beautiful charities which
encompass the earth with their sweet influence. Look at the schools, a
monument of which the city may well be proud, in spite of their defects.

But Boston, though we proudly call it the Athens of America, is not the
pleasantest thing in New England to look at; it is the part of
Massachusetts which I like the least to look at, spite of its
excellence. Look further, at the whole of Massachusetts, and you see a
fairer spectacle. There is less wealth at Provincetown, in proportion to
the numbers, but there is less want; there is more comfort; property is
more evenly and equally distributed there than here, and the welfare of
a country never so much depends upon the amount of its wealth, as on the
mode in which its wealth is distributed. In the State, there are about
one hundred and fifty thousand families--some nine hundred and
seventy-five thousand persons, living with a degree of comfort, which, I
think, is not anywhere enjoyed by such a population in the old world.
They are mainly industrious, sober, intelligent, and moral. Every thing
thrives; agriculture, manufactures, commerce. "The carpenter encourages
the goldsmith; he that smites the anvil, him that smootheth with the
hammer." Look at the farms, where intelligent labor wins bread and
beauty both, out of the sterile soil and climate not over-indulgent.
Behold the shops all over the State; the small shops where the shoemaker
holds his work in his lap, and draws his thread by his own strong
muscles; and the large shops where machines, animate with human
intelligence, hold, with iron grasp, their costlier work in their lap,
and spin out the delicate staple of Sea Island cotton. Look at all this;
it is a pleasant sight. Look at our hundreds of villages, by river,
mountain, and sea; behold the comfortable homes, the people well fed,
well clad, well instructed. Look at the school-houses, the colleges of
the people; at the higher seminaries of learning; at the poor man's real
college further back in the interior, where the mechanic's and farmer's
son gets his education, often a poor one, still something to be proud
of. Look at the churches, where, every Sunday, the best words of Hebrew
and of Christian saints are read out of this Book, and all men are
asked, once in the week, to remember they have a Father in heaven, a
faith to swear by, and a heaven to live for, and a conscience to keep. I
know the faults of these churches. I am not in the habit of excusing
them; still I know their excellence, and I will not be the last man to
acknowledge that. Look at the roads of earth and iron which join
villages together, and make the State a whole. Follow the fisherman from
his rocky harbor at Cape Ann; follow the mariner in his voyage round the
world of waters; see the industry, the intelligence, and the comfort of
the people. I think Massachusetts is a State to be thankful for. There
are faults in her institutions and in her laws, that need change very
much. In her form of society, in her schools, in her colleges, there is
much which clamors loudly for alteration,--very much in her churches to
be christianized. These changes are going quietly forward, and will in
time be brought about.

I love to look on this State, its material prosperity, its increase in
riches, its intelligence and industry, and the beautiful results that
are seen all about us to-day. I love to look on the face of the people,
in halls and churches, in markets and factories; to think of our great
ideas; of the institutions which have come of them; of our schools and
colleges, and all the institutions for making men wiser and better; to
think of the noble men we have in the midst of us, in every walk of
life, who eat an honest bread, who love mankind, and love God, who have
consciences they mean to keep, and souls which they intend to save.

The great business of society is not merely to have farms, and ships,
and shops,--the greater shops and the less,--but to have men; men that
are conscious of their manhood, self-respectful, earnest men, that have
a faith in the living God. I do not think we have many men of genius. We
have very few that I call great men; I wish there were more; but I think
we have an intelligent, an industrious, and noble people here in
Massachusetts, which we may be proud of.

Let us go a step further. New England is like Massachusetts in the main,
with local differences only. All the North is like New England in the
main; this portion is better in one thing; that portion worse in another
thing. Our ideas are their ideas; our institutions are the same. Some of
the northern States have institutions better than we. They have added to
our experience. In revising their constitutions and laws, or in making
new ones, they go beyond us, they introduce new improvements, and those
new improvements will give those States the same advantage over us,
which a new mill, with new and superior machinery, has over an old mill,
with old and inferior machinery. By and by we shall see the result, and
take counsel from it, I trust.

All over the North we find the same industry and thrift, and similar
intelligence. Here attention is turned to agriculture, there to mining;
but there is a similar progress and zeal for improvement. Attention is
bestowed on schools and colleges, on academies and churches. There is
the same abundance of material comfort. Population advances rapidly,
prosperity in a greater ratio. Everywhere new swarms pour forth from the
old hive, and settle in some convenient nook, far off in the West. So
the frontier of civilization every year goes forward, further from the
ocean. Fifty years ago it was on the Ohio; then on the Mississippi; then
on the upper Missouri: presently its barrier will be the Rocky
Mountains, and soon it will pass beyond that bar, and the tide of the
Atlantic will sweep over to the Pacific--yea, it is already there! The
universal Yankee freights his schooner at Bangor, at New Bedford, and at
Boston, with bricks, timber, frame-houses, and other "notions," and by
and by drops his anchor in the smooth Pacific, in the Bay of St.
Francis. We shall see there, ere long, the sentiments of New England,
the ideas of New England, the institutions of New England; the
school-house, the meeting-house, the court-house, the town-house. There
will be the same industry, thrift, intelligence, morality, and religion,
and the idle ground that has hitherto borne nothing but gold, will bear
upon its breast a republic of men more precious than the gold of Ophir,
or the rubies of the East.

Here I wish I could stop. But this is not all. The North is not the
whole nation; New England is not the only type of the people. There are
other States differing widely from this. In the southern States you find
a soil more fertile under skies more genial. Through what beautiful
rivers the Alleghanies pour their tribute to the sea! What streams
beautify the land in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi! There
genial skies rain beauty on the soil. Nature is wanton of her gifts.
There rice, cotton, and sugar grow; there the olive, the orange, the
fig, all find a home. The soil teems with luxuriance. But there is not
the same wealth, nor the same comfort. Only the ground is rich. You
witness not a similar thrift. Strange is it, but in 1840, the single
State of New York alone earned over four million dollars more than the
six States of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and
Mississippi! The annual earnings of little Massachusetts, with her seven
thousand and five hundred square miles, are nine million dollars more
than the earnings of all Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina! The
little county of Essex, with ninety-five thousand souls in 1840, earned
more than the large State of South Carolina, with five hundred and
ninety-five thousand.

In those States we miss the activity, intelligence, and enterprise of
the North. You do not find the little humble school-house at every
corner; the frequent meeting-house does not point its taper finger to
the sky. Villages do not adorn the margin of the mountain, stream and
sea; shops do not ring with industry; roads of earth and iron are poorer
and less common. Temperance, morality, comfort are not there as here. In
the slave States, in 1840, there were not quite three hundred and two
thousand youths and maidens in all the schools, academies, and colleges
of the South; but in 1840, in the free States of the North there were
more than two million two hundred and twelve thousand in such
institutions! Little Rhode Island has five thousand more girls and boys
at school than large South Carolina. The State of Ohio alone has more
than seventeen thousand children at school beyond what the whole fifteen
slave States can boast. The permanent literature of the nation all comes
from the North; your historians are from that quarter--your Sparkses,
your Bancrofts, your Hildreths, and Prescotts, and Ticknors; the poets
are from the same quarter--your Whittiers, and Longfellows, and Lowells,
and Bryants; the men of literature and religion--your Channings, and
Irvings, and Emersons--are from the same quarter! Preaching--it is
everywhere, and sermons are as thick almost as autumnal leaves; but who
ever heard of a great or famous clergyman in a Southern State? of a
great and famous sermon that rang through the nation from that quarter?
No man. Your Edwards of old time, and your Beechers, old and young, your
Channing and Buckminster, and the rest, which throng to every man's
lips--all are from the North. Nature has done enough for the South;
God's cup of blessing runs over--and yet you see the result! But there
has been no pestilence at the South more than at the North; no
earthquake has torn the ground beneath their feet; no war has come to
disturb them more than us. The government has never laid a withering
hand on their commerce, their agriculture, their schools and colleges,
their literature and their church.

Still, letting alone the South and the North as such, not considering
either exclusively, we are one nation. What is a nation? It is one of
the great parties in the world. It is a sectional party, having
geographical limits; with a party organization, party opinions, party
mottoes, party machinery, party leaders, and party followers; with some
capital city for its party head-quarters. There has been an Assyrian
party, a British, a Persian, an Egyptian, and a Roman party; there is
now a Chinese party, and a Russian, a Turkish, a French, and an English
party; these are also called nations. We belong to the American party,
and that includes the North as well as the South; and so all are
brothers of the same party, differing amongst ourselves--but from other
nations in this, that we are the American party, and not the Russian nor
the English.

We ought to look at the whole American party, the North and South, to
see the total condition of the people. Now at this moment there is no
lack of cattle and corn and cloth in the United States, North or South,
only they are differently distributed in the different parts of the
land. But still there is a great excitement. Men think the nation is in
danger, and for many years there has not been so great an outcry and
alarm amongst the politicians. The cry is raised, "The Union is in
danger!" and if the Union falls, we are led to suppose that every thing
falls. There will be no more Thanksgiving days; there will be anarchy
and civil war, and the ruin of the American people! It is curious to see
this material plenty, on the one side, and this political alarm and
confusion on the other. This condition of alarm is so well known, that
nothing more need be said about it at this moment.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let me now come to the next point, and consider the Causes of our
present condition. This will involve a consideration of the cause of our
prosperity and of our alarm.

1. First, there are some causes which depend on God entirely; such as
the nature of the country, soil, climate, and the like; its minerals,
and natural productions; its seas and harbors, mountains and rivers. In
respect to these natural advantages, the country is abundantly favored,
but the North less so than the South. Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama,
certainly have the advantage over Maine, New Hampshire and Ohio. That I
pass by; a cause which depends wholly on God.

2. Then again, this is a wide and new country. We have room to spread.
We have not to contend against old institutions, established a thousand
years ago, and that is one very great advantage. I make no doubt that in
crossing the ocean, our fathers helped forward the civilization of the
world at least a thousand years; I mean to say, it would have taken
mankind a thousand years longer to reach the condition we have attained
in New England, if the attempt had of necessity been made on the soil of
the old world and in the face of its institutions.

3. Then, as a third thing, much depends on the peculiar national
character. Well, the freemen in the North and South are chiefly from the
same race, this indomitable Caucasian stock; mainly from the same
composite stock, the tribe produced by the mingling of Saxon, Danish and
Norman blood. That makes the present English nation, and the American
also. This is a very powerful tribe of men, possessing some very noble
traits of character; active and creative in all the arts of peace;
industrious as a nation never was before; enterprising, practical; fond
of liberty, fond also of law, capable of organizing themselves into
great masses, and acting with a complete concert and unity of action. In
these respects, I think this tribe, which I will call the English tribe,
is equal to any race of men in the world that has been or is; perhaps
superior to any race that has been developed hitherto. But in what
relates to the higher reason and imagination, to the affections and to
the soul, I think this tribe is not so eminent as some others have been.
North and South, the people are alike of Anglo-Norman descent.

4. Another cause of our prosperity, which depends a great deal on
ourselves, is this--the absence of war and of armies. In France, with a
population of less than forty millions, half a million are constantly
under arms. The same state of things prevails substantially in Austria,
Prussia, and in all the German States. Here in America, with a
population of twenty millions, there is not one in a thousand that is a
soldier or marine. In time of peace, I think we waste vast sums in
military preparations, as we did in actual war not long since. Still,
when I compare this nation with others, I think we have cause to
felicitate ourselves on the absence of military power.

5. Again, much depends on the past history of the race; and here there
is a wide difference between the different parts of the country. New
England was settled by a religious colony. I will not say that all the
men who came here from 1620 to 1650 were moved by religious motives; but
the controlling men were brought here by these motives, and no other.
Many who cared less for religious ideas, came for the sake of a great
moral idea, for the sake of obtaining a greater degree of civil freedom
than they had at home. Now the Pilgrims and the Puritans are only a
little ways behind us. The stiff ruff, the peaked beard, the
"Prophesying book" are only six or seven generations behind the youngest
of us. The character of the Puritans has given to New England much of
its present character and condition. They founded schools and colleges;
they trained up their children in a stern discipline which we shall not
forget for two centuries to come. The remembrance of their trials, their
heroism, and their piety affects our preaching to-day, and our politics
also. The difference between New England and New York, from 1750 to
1790, is the difference between the sons of the religious colony and the
sons of the worldly colony. You know something of New York politics
before the Revolution, and also since the Revolution; the difference
between New York and New England politics at that time, is the
difference between the sons of religious men and the sons of men who
cared very much less for religion.

Just now, when I said that all the North is like New England, I meant
substantially so. The West is our own daughter. New England has helped
people the western part of the State of New York; and the best elements
of New England character mingling with others, its good qualities will
appear in the politics of that mighty State.

The South, in the main, had a very different origin from the North. I
think few if any persons settled there for religion's sake; or for the
sake of freedom in the State. It was not a moral idea which sent men to
Virginia, Georgia and Carolina. "Men do not gather grapes of thorns."
The difference of the seed will appear in the difference of the crop. In
the character of the people of the North and South, it appears at this
day. The North is not to be praised, nor the South to be blamed for
this; they could not help it: but certainly it is an advantage to be
descended from a race of industrious, moral and religious men; to have
been brought up under their training, to have inherited their ideas and
institutions,--and this is a circumstance which we make quite too little
account of. I pass by that.

6. There are other causes which depend on ourselves entirely. Much
depends on the political and social organization of the people. There is
no denying that government has a great influence on the character of the
people; on the character of every man. The difference between the
development of England and the development of Spain at this day, is
mainly the result of different forms of government; for three centuries
ago the Spaniards were as noble a race as the English.

A government is carried on by two agencies: the first is public opinion,
and the next is public law,--the fundamental law which is the
Constitution, and the subsidiary laws which carry out the ideas of the
Constitution. In a government like this, public opinion always precedes
the laws, overrides them, takes the place of laws when there are none,
and hinders their execution when they do not correspond to public
opinion. Thus the public opinion of South Carolina demands that a free
colored seaman from the North shall be shut up in jail, at his
employer's cost. The public opinion of Charleston is stronger than the
public law of the United States on that point, stronger than the
Constitution, and nobody dares execute the laws of the United States in
that matter. These two things should always be looked at, to understand
the causes of a nation's condition--the public opinion, as well as the
public law. Let me know the opinions of the men between twenty-five and
thirty-five years of age, and I know what the laws will be.

Now in public opinion and in the laws of the United States, there are
two distinct political ideas. I shall call one the Democratic, and the
other the Despotic idea. Neither is wholly sectional; both chiefly so.
Each is composed of several simpler ideas. Each has enacted laws and
established institutions. This is the democratic idea: That all men are
endowed by their Creator with certain natural rights, which only the
possessor can alienate; that all men are equal in these rights; that
amongst them is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness; that the business of the government is to preserve for every
man all of these rights until he alienates them.

This democratic idea is founded in human nature, and comes from the
nature of God who made human nature. To carry it out politically is to
execute justice, which is the will of God. This idea, in its
realization, leads to a democracy, a government of all, for all, by all.
Such a government aims to give every man all his natural rights; it
desires to have political power in all hands, property in all hands,
wisdom in all heads, goodness in all hearts, religion in all souls. I
mean the religion that makes a man self-respectful, earnest, and
faithful to the infinite God, that disposes him to give all men their
rights, and to claim his own rights at all times; the religion which is
piety within you, and goodness in the manifestation. Such a government
has laws, and the aim thereof is to give justice to all men; it has
officers to execute these laws, for the sake of justice. Such a
government founds schools for all; looks after those most who are most
in need; defends and protects the feeblest as well as the richest and
most powerful. The State is for the individual, and for all the
individuals, and so it reverences justice, where the rights of all, and
the interests of all, exactly balance. It demands free speech; every
thing is open to examination, discussion, "agitation," if you will.
Thought is to be free, speech to be free, work to be free, and worship
to be free. Such is the democratic idea, and such the State which it
attempts to found.

The despotic idea is just the opposite:--That all men are _not_ endowed
by their Creator with certain natural rights which only the possessor
can alienate, but that one man has a natural right to overcome and make
use of some other men for his advantage and their hurt; that all men are
_not_ equal in their rights; that all men have _not_ a natural right to
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that government is _not_
instituted to preserve these natural rights for all.

This idea is founded on the excess of human passions, and it represents
the compromise between a man's idleness and his appetite. It is not
based on facts eternal in human nature, but on facts transient in human
nature. It does not aim to do justice to all, but injustice to some; to
take from one man what he ought not to lose, and give to another what he
ought not to get.

This leads to aristocracy in various forms, to the government of all by
means of a part and for the sake of a part. In this state of things
political power must be in few hands; property in few hands; wisdom in
few heads; goodness in few hearts, and religion in few souls. I mean the
religion which leads a man to respect himself and his fellow men; to be
earnest, and to trust in the infinite God; to demand his rights of other
men and to give their rights to them.

Neither the democratic nor the despotic idea is fully made real anywhere
in the world. There is no perfect democracy, nor perfect aristocracy.
There are democrats in every actual aristocracy; despots in every actual
democracy. But in the Northern States the democratic idea prevails
extensively and chiefly, and we have made attempts at establishing a
democratic government. In the Southern States the despotic idea
prevails extensively and chiefly, and they have made attempts to
establish an aristocratic government. In an aristocracy there are two
classes: the people to be governed, and the governing class, the
nobility which is to govern. This nobility may be movable, and depend on
wealth; or immovable, and depend on birth. In the Southern States the
nobility is immovable, and depends on color.

In 1840, in the North there were ten million free men, and in the South
five million free men and three million slaves. Three eighths of the
population have no human rights at all--privileges as cattle, not rights
as men. There the slave is protected by law, as your horse and your ox,
but has no more human rights.

Here, now, is the great cause of the difference in the condition of the
North and South; of the difference in the material results, represented
by towns and villages, by farms and factories, ships and shops. Here is
the cause of the difference in schools, colleges, churches, and in the
literature; the cause of the difference in men. The South, with its
despotic idea, dishonors labor, but wishes to compromise between its
idleness and its appetite, and so kidnaps men to do its work. The North,
with its democratic idea, honors labor; does not compromise between its
idleness and its appetite, but lays its bones to the work to satisfy its
appetite; instead of kidnapping a man who can run away, it kidnaps the
elements, subdues them to its command, and makes them do its work. It
does not kidnap a freeman, but catches the winds, and chains them to its
will. It lays hands on fire and water, and breeds a new giant, which
"courses land and ocean without rest," or serves while it stands and
waits, driving the mills of the land. It kidnaps the Connecticut and the
Merrimac; does not send slave-ships to Africa, but engineers to New
Hampshire; and it requires no fugitive slave law to keep the earth and
sea from escaping, or the rivers of New England from running up hill.

This is not quite all! I have just now tried to hint at the causes of
the difference in the condition of the people, North and South. Now let
me show the cause of the agitation and alarm. We begin with a sentiment;
that spreads to an idea; the idea grows to an act, to an institution;
then it has done its work.

Men seek to spread their sentiments and ideas. The democratic idea tries
to spread; the despotic idea tries to spread. For a long time the nation
held these two ideas in its bosom, not fully conscious of either of
them. Both came here in a state of infancy, so to say, with our fathers;
the democratic idea very dimly understood; the despotic idea not fully
carried out, yet it did a great mischief in the State and church. In the
Declaration of Independence, writ by a young man, only the democratic
idea appears, and that idea never got so distinctly stated before. But
mark you, and see the confusion in men's minds. That democratic idea was
thus distinctly stated by a man who was a slaveholder almost all his
life; and unless public rumor has been unusually false, he has left some
of his own offspring under the influence of the despotic and not the
democratic idea; slaves and not free men.

In the Constitution of the United States these two ideas appear. It was
thought for a long time they were not incompatible; it was thought the
great American party might recognize both, and a compromise was made
between the two. It was thought each might go about its own work and let
the other alone; that the hawk and the hen might dwell happily together
in the same coop, each lay her own eggs and rear her own brood, and
neither put a claw upon the other.

In the mean time each founded institutions after its kind; in the
Northern States, democratic institutions; in the Southern, aristocratic.
What once lay latent in the mind of the nation has now become patent.
The thinking part of the nation sees the difference between the two.
Some men are beginning to see that the two are completely incompatible,
and cannot be good friends. Others are asking us to shut our eyes and
not see it, and they think that so long as our eyes are shut, all things
will go on peacefully. Such is the wisdom of the ostrich.

At first the trouble coming from this source was a very little cloud,
far away on the horizon, not bigger than a man's hand. It seemed so in
1804, when the brave senator from Massachusetts, a Hartford Convention
Federalist, a name that calls the blood to some rather pale cheeks
now-a-days, proposed to alter the Constitution of the United States, and
cut off the North from all responsibility for slavery. It was a little
cloud not bigger than a man's hand; now it is a great cloud which covers
the whole hemisphere of heaven, and threatens to shut out the day.

In the last session of Congress, ten months long, the great matter was
the contest between the two ideas. All the newspapers rung with the
battle. Even the pulpits now and then alluded to it; forgetting their
decency, that they must preach "only religion," which has not the least
to do with politics and the welfare of the State.

Each idea has its allies, and it is worth while to run our eye over the
armies and see what they amount to. The idea of despotism has for its

1. The slaveholders of the South with their dependents; and the servile
class who take their ideas from the prominent men about them. This
servile class is more numerous at the South than even at the North.

2. It has almost all the distinguished politicians of the North and
South; the distinguished great politicians in the Congress of the
nation, and the distinguished little politicians in the Congresses of
the several States.

3. It has likewise the greater portion of the wealthy and educated men
in many large towns of the North; with their dependents and the servile
men who take their opinions from the prominent class about them. And
here, I am sorry to say, I must reckon the greater portion of the
prominent and wealthy clergy, the clergy in the large cities. Once this
class of men were masters of the rich and educated; and very terrible
masters they were in Madrid and in Rome. Now their successors are doing
penance for those old sins. "It is a long lane," they say, "which has no
turn," and the clerical has had a very short and complete turn. When I
say the majority of the clergy in prominent situations in the large
cities, are to be numbered among the allies of the despotic idea, and
are a part of the great pro-slavery army, I know there are some noble
and honorable exceptions, men who do not fear the face of gold, but
reverence the face of God.

Then on the side of the democratic idea there are:

1. The great mass of the people at the North; farmers, mechanics, and
the humbler clergy. This does not appear so at first sight, because
these men have not much confidence in themselves, and require to be
shaken many times before they are thoroughly waked up.

2. Beside that there are a few politicians at the North who are on this
side; some distinguished ones in Congress, some less distinguished ones
in the various legislatures of the North.

3. Next there are men, North and South, who look at the great causes of
the welfare of nations, and make up their minds historically, from the
facts of human history, against despotism. Then there are such as study
the great principles of justice and truth, and judge from human nature,
and decide against despotism. And then such as look at the law of God,
and believe Christianity is sense and not nonsense; that Christianity is
the ideal for earnest men, not a pretence for a frivolous hypocrite.
Some of these men are at the South; the greater number are in the North;
and here again you see the difference between the son of the Planter and
the son of the Puritan.

Here are the allies, the threefold armies of Despotism on the one side,
and of Democracy on the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now it is not possible for these two ideas to continue to live in peace.
For a long time each knew not the other, and they were quiet. The men
who clearly knew the despotic idea, thought, in 1787, it would die "of a
rapid consumption:" they said so; but the culture of cotton has healed
its deadly wound, at least for the present. After the brief state of
quiet, there came a state of armed neutrality. They were hostile, but
under bonds to keep the peace. Each bit his thumb, but neither dared say
he bit it at the other. Now the neutrality is over; attempts are made to
compromise, to compose the difficulty. Various peace measures were
introduced to the Senate last summer; but they all turned out war
measures, every one of them. Now there is a trial of strength between
the two. Which shall recede? which be extended? Freedom or Slavery? That
is the question; refuse to look at it as we will,--refrain or refrain
not from "political agitation," that is the question.

In the last Congress it is plain the democratic idea was beaten.
Congress said to California, "You may come in, and you need not keep
slaves unless you please." It said, "You shall not bring slaves to
Washington for sale, you may do that at Norfolk, Alexandria, and
Georgetown, it is just as well, and this 'will pacify the North.'" Utah
and New Mexico were left open to slavery, and fifty thousand or seventy
thousand square miles and ten million dollars were given to Texas lest
she should "dissolve the Union,"--without money or men! To crown all,
the Fugitive Slave Bill became a law.

I think it is very plain that the democratic idea was defeated, and it
is easy to see why. The three powers which are the allies of the
despotic idea, were ready, and could act in concert--the Southern
slaveholders, the leading politicians, the rich and educated men of the
Northern cities, with their appendages and servile adherents. But since
then, the conduct of the people in the North, and especially in this
State, shows that the nation has not gone that way yet. I think the
nation never will; that the idea of freedom will never be turned back in
this blessed North. I feel sure it will at last overcome the idea of

I come to this conclusion, firstly, from the character of the tribe:
this Anglo-Norman-Saxon tribe loves law, deliberation, order, method; it
is the most methodical race that ever lived. But it loves liberty, and
while it loves law, it loves law chiefly because it keeps liberty; and
without that it would trample law under foot.

See the conduct of England. She spent one hundred millions of dollars in
the attempt to wipe slavery from the West Indies. She keeps a fleet on
the coast of Africa to put down the slave-trade there--where we also
have, I think, a sloop-of-war. She has just concluded a treaty with
Brazil for the suppression of the slave-trade in that country, one of
her greatest achievements in that work for many years.

See how the sons of the Puritans, as soon as they came to a
consciousness of what the despotic idea was, took their charters and
wiped slavery clean out, first from Massachusetts, and then from the
other States, one after another. See how every Northern State, in
revising its Constitution, or in making a new one, declares all men are
created equal, that all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness.

Then the religion of the North demands the same thing. Professors may
try to prove that the Old Testament establishes slavery; that the New
Testament justifies the existence of slavery; that Paul's epistle to
Philemon was nothing more than another fugitive slave law, that Paul
himself sent back a runaway; but it does not touch the religion of the
North. We know better. We say if the Old Testament does that and the New
Testament, so much the worse for them both. We say, "Let us look and see
if Paul was so benighted," and we can judge for ourselves that the
professor was mistaken more than the apostle.

Again, the spirit of the age, which is the public opinion of the
nations, is against slavery. It was broken down in England, France,
Italy, and Spain; it cannot stand long against civilization and good
sense; against the political economy and the religious economy of the
civilized world. The genius of freedom stands there, year out, year in,
and hurls firebrands into the owl's nest of the prince of darkness,
continually,--and is all this with no effect?

Besides that, it is against the law of God. That guides this universe,
treating with even-handed justice the great geographical parties,
Austrian, Roman, British, or American, with the same justice wherewith
it dispenses its blessings to the little local factions that divide the
village for a day, marshalling mankind forward in its mighty progress
towards wisdom, freedom, goodness towards men, and piety towards God.

Of the final issue I have no doubt; but no man can tell what shall come
to pass in the mean time. We see that political parties in the State are
snapped asunder: whether the national party shall not be broken up, no
man can say. In 1750, on the 28th day of November, no man in Old England
or New England could tell what 1780 would bring forth. No man, North or
South, can tell to-day what 1880 will bring to pass. He must be a bold
man who declares to the nation that no new political machinery shall be
introduced, in the next thirty years, to our national mill. We know not
what a day shall bring forth, but we know that God is on the side of
right and justice, and that they will prevail so long as God is God.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, then, to let alone details, and generalize into one all the causes
of our condition, this is the result: We have found welfare just so far
as we have followed the democratic idea, and enacted justice into law.
We have lost welfare just so far as we have followed the despotic idea,
and made iniquity into a statute. So far as we have reaffirmed the
ordinance of nature and reënacted the will of God, we have succeeded. So
far as we have refused to do that, we have failed. Of old it was
written, "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any

       *       *       *       *       *

And now a word of our dangers. There seems no danger from abroad; from
any foreign State, unless we begin the quarrel; none from famine. The
real danger, in one word, is this--That we shall try to enact injustice
into a law, and with the force of the nation to make iniquity obeyed.

See some of the special forms of injustice which threaten us, or are
already here. I shall put them into the form of ideas.

1. One, common among politicians is, that the State is for a portion of
the people, not the whole. Thus it has been declared that the
Constitution of the United States did not recognize the three million
slaves as citizens, or extend to them any right which it guarantees to
other men. It would be a sad thing for the State to declare there was a
single child in the whole land to whom it owed no protection. What,
then, if it attempts to take three millions from under its shield? In
obedience to this false idea, the counsel has been given, that we must
abstain from all "Political agitation" of the most important matter
before the people. We must leave that to our masters, for the State is
for them, it is not for you and me. They must say whether we shall
"agitate" and "discuss" these things or not. The politicians are our
masters, and may lay their fingers on our lips when they will.

2. The next false idea is,--That government is chiefly for the
protection of property. This has long been the idea on which some men
legislated, but on the 19th day of this month, the distinguished
Secretary of State, in a speech at New York, used these words: "The
great object of government is the protection of property at home and
respect and renown abroad." You see what the policy must be where the
government is for the protection of the hat, and only takes care of the
head so far as it serves to wear a hat. Here the man is the accident,
and the dollar is the substance for which the man is to be protected. I
think a notion very much like this prevails extensively in the great
cities of America, North and South. I think the chief politicians of the
two parties are agreed in this--That government is for the protection of
property, and every thing else is subsidiary. With many persons politics
are a part of their business; the state-house and the custom-house are
only valued for their relation to trade. This idea is fatal to a good

Think of this, that "The great object of government is the protection of
property." Tell that to Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, and Washington,
and the older Winthrops, and the Bradfords and Carvers! Why! it seems as
if the buried majesty of Massachusetts would start out of the ground,
and with its Bible in its hand say--This is false!

3. The third false idea is this--That you are morally bound to obey the
statute, let it be never so plainly wrong and opposed to your
conscience. This is the most dangerous of all the false ideas yet named.
Ambitious men, in an act of passion, make iniquity into a law, and then
demand that you and I, in our act of prayer, shall submit to it and make
it our daily life; that we shall not try to repeal and discuss and
agitate it! This false idea lies at the basis of every despot's throne,
the idea that men can make right wrong, and wrong right. It has come to
be taught in New England, to be taught in our churches--though seldom
there, to their honor be it spoken, except in the churches of commerce
in large towns--that if wrong is law, you and I must do what it demands,
though conscience declares it is treason against man and treason against
God. The worst doctrines of Hobbes and Filmer are thus revived.

I have sometimes been amazed at the talk of men who call on us to keep
the fugitive slave law, one of the most odious laws in a world of odious
laws--a law not fit to be made or kept. I have been amazed that they
should dare to tell us the law of God, writ on the heavens and our
hearts, never demanded we should disobey the laws of men! Well, suppose
it were so. Then it was old Daniel's duty at Darius's command to give up
his prayer; but he prayed three times a day, with his windows up. Then
it was John's and Peter's duty to forbear to preach of Christianity; but
they said, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you
more than unto God, judge ye." Then it was the duty of Amram and
Jochebed to take up their new-born Moses and cast him into the Nile, for
the law of king Pharaoh, commanding it, was "constitutional," and
"political agitation" was discountenanced as much in Goshen as in
Boston. But Daniel did not obey; John and Peter did not fail to preach
Christianity; and Amram and Jochebed refused "passive obedience" to the
king's decree! I think it will take a strong man all this winter to
reverse the judgment which the world has passed on these three cases.
But it is "innocent" to try.

However, there is another ancient case, mentioned in the Bible, in which
the laws commanded one thing and conscience just the opposite. Here is
the record of the law:--"Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees
had given a commandment, that if any one knew where he [Jesus] were, he
should show it, that they might take him." Of course, it became the
official and legal business of each disciple who knew where Christ was,
to make it known to the authorities. No doubt James and John could
leave all and follow him, with others of the people who knew not the law
of Moses, and were accursed; nay the women, Martha and Mary, could
minister unto him of their substance, could wash his feet with tears,
and wipe them with the hairs of their head. They did it gladly, of their
own free will, and took pleasure therein, I make no doubt. There was no
merit in that--"Any man can perform an agreeable duty." But there was
found one disciple who could "perform a disagreeable duty." He went,
perhaps "with alacrity," and betrayed his Saviour to the marshal of the
district of Jerusalem, who was called a centurion. Had he no affection
for Jesus? No doubt; but he could conquer his prejudices, while Mary and
John could not.

Judas Iscariot has rather a bad name in the Christian world: he is
called "The son of perdition," in the New Testament, and his conduct is
reckoned a "transgression;" nay, it is said the devil "entered into
him," to cause this hideous sin. But all this it seems was a mistake;
certainly, if we are to believe our "republican" lawyers and statesmen,
Iscariot only fulfilled his "constitutional obligations." It was only
"on that point," of betraying his Saviour, that the constitutional law
required him to have any thing to do with Jesus. He took his "thirty
pieces of silver"--about fifteen dollars; a yankee is to do it for ten,
having fewer prejudices to conquer--it was his legal fee, for value
received. True, the Christians thought it was "the wages of iniquity,"
and even the Pharisees--who commonly made the commandment of God of none
effect by their traditions--dared not defile the temple with this "price
of blood;" but it was honest money. It was as honest a fee as any
American commissioner or deputy will ever get for a similar service. How
mistaken we are! Judas Iscariot is not a traitor; he was a great
patriot; he conquered his "prejudices," performed "a disagreeable duty"
as an office of "high morals and high principle;" he kept the "law" and
the "Constitution," and did all he could to "save the Union;" nay, he
was a saint, "not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." "The law of
God never commands us to disobey the law of man." _Sancte Iscariote ora
pro nobis._

It is a little strange to hear this talk in Boston, and hear the
doctrine of passive obedience to a law which sets Christianity at
defiance, taught here in the face of the Adamses, and Hancock, and
Washington! It is amazing to hear this talk, respecting such a law,
amongst merchants. Do they keep the usury laws? I never heard of but one
money-lender who kept them,[18] and he has been a long time dead, and I
think he left no kith nor kin! The temperance law,--is that kept? The
fifteen gallon law,--were men so very passive in their obedience to
that, that they could not even "agitate?" yet it violated no law of
God--was not unchristian. When the government interferes with the
rumsellers' property, the law must be trod under foot; but when the law
insists that a man shall be made a slave, I must give up conscience in
my act of prayer, and stoop to the vile law men have made in their act
of passion!

It is curious to hear men talk of law and order in Boston, when the
other day one or two hundred smooth-faced boys, and youths beardless as
girls, could disturb a meeting of three or four thousand men, for two
hours long; and the chief of the police, and the mayor of the city stood
and looked on, when a single word from their lips might have stilled the
tumult and given honest men a hearing.[19]

Talk of keeping the fugitive slave law! Come, come, we know better. Men
in New England know better than this. We know that we ought not to keep
a wicked law, and that it must not be kept when the law of God forbids!

But the effect of a law which men cannot keep without violating
conscience, is always demoralizing. There are men who know no higher law
than the statute of the State. When good men cannot keep a law that is
base, some bad ones will say, "Let us keep no law at all,"--then where
does the blame lie? On him that enacts the outrageous law.

The idea that a statute of man frees us from obligation to the law of
God, is a dreadful thing. When that becomes the deliberate conviction of
the great mass of the people, North or South, then I shall despair of
human nature; then I shall despair of justice, and despair of God. But
this time will never come.

One of the most awful spectacles I ever saw, was this: A vast multitude
attempting, at an orator's suggestion, to howl down the "Higher law,"
and when he said, "Will you have this to rule over you?" they answered,
"Never!" and treated the "Higher law" to a laugh and a howl! It was done
in Faneuil Hall;[20] under the eyes of the three Adamses, Hancock, and
Washington; and the howl rung round the venerable arches of that hall! I
could not but ask, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a
vain thing? the rulers of the earth set themselves, and kings take
counsel against the Lord and say, 'Let us break his bands asunder, and
cast off his yoke from us.'" Then I could not but remember that it was
written, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall
have them in derision. He taketh up the isles as a very little thing,
and the inhabitants of the earth are as grasshoppers before Him." Howl
down the law of God at a magistrate's command! Do this in Boston! Let us
remember this--but with charity.

Men say there is danger of disunion, of our losing fealty for the
Constitution. I do not believe it yet! Suppose it be so. The
Constitution is the machinery of the national mill; and suppose we agree
to take it out and put in new; we might get worse, very true, but we
might get better. There have been some modern improvements; we might
introduce them to the State as well as the mill. But I do not believe
there is this danger. I do not believe the people of Massachusetts think
so. I think they are strongly attached to the Union yet, and if they
thought "the Union was in peril--this day," and every thing the nation
prizes was likely to be destroyed, we should not have had a meeting of a
few thousands in Faneuil Hall, but the people would have filled up the
city of Worcester with a hundred thousand men, if need be; and they
would have come with the cartridge-box at their side, and the firelock
on their shoulder. That is the way the people of Massachusetts would
assemble if they thought there was real danger.

I do not believe the South will withdraw from the Union, with five
million free men, and three million slaves. I think Massachusetts would
be no loser, I think the North would be no loser; but I doubt if the
North will yet allow them to go if so disposed. Do you think the South
is so mad as to wish it?

But I think I know of one cause which may dissolve the Union--one which
ought to dissolve it, if put in action: that is, a serious attempt to
execute the fugitive slave law, here and in all the North. I mean an
attempt to recover and take back all the fugitive slaves in the North,
and to punish, with fine and imprisonment, all who aid or conceal them.
The South has browbeat us again and again. She has smitten us on the one
cheek with "Protection," and we have turned the other, kissing the rod;
she has smitten that with "Free trade." She has imprisoned our citizens;
driven off, with scorn and loathing, our officers sent to ask
constitutional justice. She has spit upon us. Let her come to take back
the fugitives--and, trust me, she "will wake up the lion."

In my humble opinion, this law is a wedge--sharp at one end, but wide at
the other--put in between the lower planks of our Ship of State. If it
be driven home, we go to pieces. But I have no thought that that will be
done quite yet. I believe the great politicians, who threatened to drive
it through the gaping seams of our argosy, will think twice before they
strike again. Nay, that they will soon be very glad to bury the wedge
"Where the tide ebbs and flows four times a day." I do not expect this
of their courage, but of their fears; not of their justice--I am too old
for that--but of their concern for property, which it is the "great
object of government" to protect.

I know how some men talk in public, and how they act at home. I heard a
man the other day, at Faneuil Hall, declare the law must be kept, and
denounce, not very gently, all who preached or prayed against it, as
enemies of "all law." But that was all talk, for this very man, on that
very day, had violated the law; had furnished the golden wheels on which
fugitives rode out of the reach of the arms which the marshal would have
been sorry to lift. I could tell things more surprising--but it is not
wise just now![21]

I do not believe there is more than one of the New England men who
publicly helped the law into being, but would violate its provisions;
conceal a fugitive; share his loaf with a runaway; furnish him golden
wings to fly with. Nay, I think it would be difficult to find a
magistrate in New England, willing to take the public odium of doing the
official duty.[22] I believe it is not possible to find a regular jury,
who will punish a man for harboring a slave, for helping his escape, or
fine a marshal or commissioner for being a little slow to catch a
slave.[23] Men will talk loud in public meetings, but they have some
conscience after all, at home. And though they howl down the "Higher
law" in a crowd, yet conscience will make cowards of them all, when they
come to lay hands on a Christian man, more innocent than they, and send
him into slavery forever! One of the commissioners of Boston talked loud
and long, last Tuesday, in favor of keeping the law. When he read his
litany against the law of God, and asked if men would keep the "Higher
law," and got "Never" as the welcome, and amen for response--it seemed
as if the law might be kept, at least by that commissioner, and such as
gave the responses to his creed. But slave-hunting Mr. Hughes, who came
here for two of our fellow-worshippers,[24] in his Georgia newspaper,
tells a different story. Here it is, from the "Georgia Telegraph," of
last Friday. "I called at eleven o'clock at night, at his [the
commissioner's] residence, and stated to him my business, and asked him
for a warrant, saying that if I could get a warrant, I could have the
negroes [William and Ellen Craft] arrested. He said the law did not
authorize a warrant to be issued: that it was my duty to go and arrest
the negro without a warrant, and bring him before him!" This is more
than I expected. "Is Saul among the prophets?" The men who tell us that
the law must be kept, God willing, or against His will--there are
Puritan fathers behind them also; Bibles in their houses; a Christ
crucified, whom they think of; and a God even in their world, who
slumbers not, neither is weary, and is as little a respecter of
parchments as of persons! They know there is a people, as well as
politicians, a posterity not yet assembled, and they would not like to
have certain words writ on their tombstone. "Traitor to the rights of
mankind," is no pleasant epitaph. They, too, remember there is a day
after to-day; aye, a forever; and, "Inasmuch as ye have not done it unto
one of the least of these my brethren, ye have not done it unto me," is
a sentence they would not like to hear at the day of judgment.[25]

Much danger is feared from the "political agitation" of this matter.
Great principles have never been discussed without great passions, and
will not be, for some time, I suppose. But men fear to have this
despotic idea become a subject of discussion. Last spring, Mr. Webster
said here in Boston, "We shall not see the legislation of the country
proceed in the old harmonious way, until the discussion in Congress and
out of Congress, upon the subject [of slavery] shall be in some manner
suppressed. Take that truth home with you!" We have lately been told
that political agitation on the subject must be stopped. So it seems
this law, like that which Daniel would not keep, is one that may not be
changed, and must not be talked of.

Now there are three modes in which attempts may be made to stop the

1. By sending

    "----troops, with guns and banners,
    Cut short our speeches and our necks,
    And break our heads to mend our manners."

That is the Austrian way, which has not yet been tried here, and will
not be.

2. By sending lecturers throughout the land, to stir up the people to be
quiet, and agitate them till they are still; to make them sign the
pledge of total abstinence from the discussion of this subject. That is
not likely to effect the object.

3. For the friends of silence to keep their own counsel--and this seems
as little likely to be tried, as the others to succeed.

Strange is it to ask us to forbear to talk on a subject which involves
the welfare of twenty million men! As well ask a man in a fever not to
be heated, and a consumptive person not to cough, to pine away and turn
pale. Miserable counsellors are ye all, who give such advice. But we
have seen lately the lion of the democrats, and the lamb of the whigs,
lie down together, joined by this opinion, so gentle and so loving, all
at once, that a little child could lead them, and so "fulfil the sure
prophetic word." Yes, we have seen the Herod of one party, and the
Pilate of the other, made friends for the sake of crucifying the freedom
of mankind.

But there is one way in which, I would modestly hint, that we might stop
all this talk "in Congress and out of Congress," that is, to "discuss"
the matter till we had got at the truth, and the whole truth; then to
"agitate" politically, till we had enacted justice into law, and carried
it out all over the North, and all over the South. After that there
would be no more discussion about the fugitive slave bill, than about
the "Boston port bill;" no more agitation about American slavery, than
there is about the condition of the people of Babylon before the flood.
I think there is no other way in which we are likely to get rid of this

       *       *       *       *       *

Such is our condition, such its causes, such our dangers. Now, for the
lesson, look a moment elsewhere. Look at continental Europe, at Rome,
Austria, Prussia, and the German States--at France. How uncertain is
every government! France--the stablest of them all! Remember the
revolution which two years ago shook those States so terribly, when all
the royalty of France was wheeled out of Paris in a street cab. Why are
those States so tottering? Whence those revolutions? They tried to make
iniquity their law, and would not give over the attempt! Why are the
armies of France five hundred thousand strong, though the nation is at
peace with all the world? Because they tried to make injustice law! Why
do the Austrian and German monarchs fear an earthquake of the people?
Because they tread the people down with wicked laws! Whence came the
crushing debts of France, Austria, England? From the same cause: from
the injustice of men who made mischief by law!

It is not for men long to hinder the march of human freedom. I have no
fear for that, ultimately,--none at all, simply for this reason, that I
believe in the Infinite God. You may make your statutes; an appeal
always lies to the higher law, and decisions adverse to that get set
aside in the ages. Your statutes cannot hold Him. You may gather all the
dried grass and all the straw in both continents; you may braid it into
ropes to bind down the sea; while it is calm, you may laugh, and say,
"Lo, I have chained the ocean!" and howl down the law of Him who holds
the universe as a rosebud in his hand--its every ocean but a drop of
dew. "How the waters suppress their agitation," you may say. But when
the winds blow their trumpets, the sea rises in its strength, snaps
asunder the bonds that had confined his mighty limbs, and the world is
littered with the idle hay! Stop the human race in its development and
march to freedom? As well might the boys of Boston, some lustrous night,
mounting the steeples of this town, call on the stars to stay their
course! Gently, but irresistibly, the Greater and the Lesser Bear move
round the pole; Orion, in his mighty mail, comes up the sky; the Bull,
the Ram, the Heavenly Twins, the Crab, the Lion, the Maid, the Scales,
and all that shining company, pursue their march all night, and the new
day discovers the idle urchins in their lofty places, all tired, and
sleepy, and ashamed.

It is not possible to suppress the idea of freedom, or forever hold down
its institutions. But it is possible to destroy a State; a political
party with geographical bounds may easily be rent asunder. It is not
impossible to shiver this American Union. But how? What clove asunder
the great British party, one nation once in America and England? Did not
our fathers love their father-land? Aye. They called it home, and were
loyal with abundant fealty; there was no lack of piety for home. It was
the attempt to make old English injustice New England law! Who did
it,--the British people? Never. Their hand did no such sacrilege! It was
the merchants of London, with the "Navigation Act;" the politicians of
Westminster with the "Stamp Act;" the tories of America, who did not die
without issue, that for office and its gold would keep a king's unjust
commands. It was they, who drove our fathers into disunion against their
will. Is here no lesson? We love law, all of us love it; but a true man
loves it only as the Safeguard of the Rights of Man. If it destroy these
rights, he spurns it with his feet. Is here no lesson? Look further

Do you know how empires find their end? Yes, the great States eat up the
little. As with fish, so with nations. Aye, but how do the great States
come to an end? By their own injustice, and no other cause. They would
make unrighteousness their law, and God wills not that it be so. Thus
they fall; thus they die. Look at these ancient States, the queenliest
queens of earth. There is Rome, the widow of two civilizations,--the
Pagan and the Catholic. They both had her, and unto both she bore
daughters and fair sons. But, the Niobe of Nations, she boasted that her
children were holier and more fair than all the pure ideas of justice,
truth, and love, the offspring of the eternal God. And now she sits
there, transformed into stone, amid the ruins of her children's bones.
At midnight I have heard the owl hoot in the coliseum and the forum,
giving voice to desolation; and at midday I have seen the fox in the
palace where Augustus gathered the wealth, the wit, the beauty and the
wisdom of a conquered world; and the fox and the owl interpreted to me
the voice of many ages, which came to tell this age, that though hand
join in hand, the wicked shall not prosper.

Come with me, my friends, a moment more, pass over this Golgotha of
human history, treading reverent as you go, for our feet are on our
mothers' grave, and our shoes defile our fathers' hallowed bones. Let us
not talk of them; go further on, look and pass by. Come with me into the
Inferno of the nations, with such poor guidance as my lamp can lend. Let
us disquiet and bring up the awful shadows of empires buried long ago,
and learn a lesson from the tomb.

Come, old Assyria, with the Ninevitish dove upon thy emerald crown! What
laid thee low? "I fell by my own injustice. Thereby Nineveh and Babylon
came, with me, also, to the ground."

Oh queenly Persia, flame of the nations, wherefore art thou so fallen,
who troddest the people under thee, bridgedst the Hellespont with ships,
and pouredst thy temple-wasting millions on the western world? "Because
I trod the people under me, and bridged the Hellespont with ships, and
poured my temple-wasting millions on the western world. I fell by my own

Thou muselike, Grecian queen, fairest of all thy classic sisterhood of
States, enchanting yet the world with thy sweet witchery, speaking in
art, and most seductive song, why liest thou there with beauteous yet
dishonored brow, reposing on thy broken harp? "I scorned the law of God;
banished and poisoned wisest, justest men; I loved the loveliness of
flesh, embalmed it in the Parian stone; I loved the loveliness of
thought, and treasured that in more than Parian speech. But the beauty
of justice, the loveliness of love, I trod them down to earth! Lo,
therefore have I become as those Barbarian States--as one of them!"

Oh manly and majestic Rome, thy sevenfold mural crown, all broken at thy
feet, why art thou here? It was not injustice brought thee low; for thy
great book of law is prefaced with these words, justice is the
unchanging, everlasting will to give each man his right! "It was not the
saint's ideal: it was the hypocrite's pretence! I made iniquity my law.
I trod the nations under me. Their wealth gilded my palaces,--where thou
mayst see the fox and hear the owl,--it fed my courtiers and my
courtezans. Wicked men were my cabinet counsellors, the flatterer
breathed his poison in my ear. Millions of bondmen wet the soil with
tears and blood. Do you not hear it crying yet to God? Lo here have I my
recompense, tormented with such downfall as you see! Go back and tell
the new-born child, who sitteth on the Alleghanies, laying his either
hand upon a tributary sea, a crown of thirty stars about his youthful
brow--tell him that there are rights which States must keep, or they
shall suffer wrongs! Tell him there is a God who keeps the black man and
the white, and hurls to earth the loftiest realm that breaks His just,
eternal law! Warn the young Empire that he come not down dim and
dishonored to my shameful tomb! Tell him that justice is the unchanging,
everlasting will to give each man his right. I knew it, broke it, and am
lost. Bid him to know it, keep it, and be safe!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"God save the Commonwealth!" proclaims the Governor. God will do his
part,--doubt not of that. But you and I must help Him save the State.
What can we do? Next Sunday I will ask you for your charity; to-day I
ask a greater gift, more than the abundance of the rich, or the poor
widow's long remembered mite. I ask you for your justice. Give that to
your native land. Do you not love your country? I know you do. Here are
our homes and the graves of our fathers; the bones of our mothers are
under the sod. The memory of past deeds is fresh with us; many a
farmer's and mechanic's son inherits from his sires some cup of manna
gathered in the wilderness, and kept in memory of our exodus; some
stones from the Jordan, which our fathers passed over sorely bested and
hunted after; some Aaron's rod, green and blossoming with fragrant
memories of the day of small things when the Lord led us--and all these
attach us to our land, our native land. We love the great ideas of the
North, the institutions which they founded, the righteous laws, the
schools, the churches too--do we not love all these? Aye. I know well
you do. Then by all these, and more than all, by the dear love of God,
let us swear that we will keep the justice of the Eternal Law. Then are
we all safe. We know not what a day may bring forth, but we know that
Eternity will bring everlasting peace. High in the heavens, the
pole-star of the world, shines Justice; placed within us, as our guide
thereto, is Conscience. Let us be faithful to that

    "Which though it trembles as it lowly lies,
    Points to the light that changes not in heaven."


[18] The late Mr. John Parker.

[19] This took place at a meeting in Faneuil Hall to welcome Mr. George

[20] At the "Union meeting" two days before the delivery of this sermon.

[21] Nor even yet. November 24, 1851.

[22] Subsequent events have shown the folly of this statement.
Clergymen, it is said, are wont to err, by overrating the moral
principle of men. See the next sermon.

[23] Recent experiments fortunately confirm this, and, spite of all the
unjust efforts to pack a jury, none has yet been found to punish a man
for such a "Crime."

[24] Mr. William Craft, and Mrs. Ellen Craft.

[25] This also appears to have been a mistake. Still I let the passage
stand, though it is apparently not at all true.



My Friends,--This is a day of Public Humiliation and Prayer. We have one
every year. It is commonly in the city churches only a farce, because
there is no special occasion for it, and the general need is not felt.
But such is the state of things in the Union at this moment, and
particularly in Boston, that, if it were not a custom, it would be a
good thing, even if it were for the first time in the history of our
country, to have such a day for Humiliation and Prayer, that we consider
the state of the nation, and look at our conduct in reference to the
great principles of religion, and see how we stand before God; for these
are times that try men's souls.

Last Sunday, I purposely disappointed you, and turned off from what was
nearest to your heart and was nearest to mine,--a subject that would
have been easy to preach on without any preparation. Then I asked you
to go to the Fountain of all strength, and there prepare yourselves for
the evils that we know not of. To-day, the Governor has asked us to come
together, and consider, in the spirit of Christianity, the public sins
of the community, to contemplate the value of our institutions, and to
ask the blessing of God on the poor, the afflicted, and the oppressed. I
am glad of this occasion; and I will improve it, and ask your attention
to a sermon of The Chief Sins of this People.

I have said that these are times that try men's souls. This is such an
occasion as never came before, and, I trust, never will again. I have
much to say to you, much more than I intend to say to-day, much more
than there are hours enough in this day to speak. Many things I shall
pass by. I shall detain you to-day somewhat longer than is my wont; but
do not fear, I will look out for your attention. I simply ask you to be
calm, to be composed, and to hear with silence what I have to say.

To understand these things, we must begin somewhat far off.

The purpose of human life is to form a manly character, to get the best
development of body and of spirit,--of mind, conscience, heart, soul.
This is the end: all else is the means. Accordingly, that is not the
most successful life in which a man gets the most pleasure, the most
money or ease, the most power of place, honor, and fame; but that in
which a man gets the most manhood, performs the greatest amount of human
duty, enjoys the greatest amount of human right, and acquires the
greatest amount of manly character. It is of no importance whether he
win this by wearing a hod upon his shoulders, or a crown upon his head.
It is the character, and not the crown, I value. The crown perishes with
the head that wore it; but the character lives with the immortal man who
achieved it; and it is of no consequence whether that immortal man goes
up to God from a throne or from a gallows.

Every man has some one preponderating object in life,--an object that he
aims at and holds supreme. Perhaps he does not know it. But he thinks of
this in his day-dreams, and his dreams by night. It colors his waking
hours, and is with him in his sleep. Sometimes it is sensual pleasure
that he wants; sometimes money; sometimes office, fame, social
distinction; sometimes it is the quiet of a happy home, with wife and
children, all comfortable and blessed; sometimes it is excellence in a
special science or art, or department of literature; sometimes it is a
special form of philanthropy; and sometimes it is the attainment of
great, manly character.

This supreme object of desire is sometimes different at different times
in a man's life, but in general is mainly the same all through. For "The
child is father of the man," and his days bound each to each, if not by
natural piety, then by unnatural profaneness. This desire may act with
different intensity in the active and passive periods, in manhood and in
age. It is somewhat modified by the season of passion, and by the season
of ambition.

If this object of special desire be worthy, so is the character in
general; if base, so is the man. For this special desire becomes the
master-motive in the man; and, if strong, establishes a unity in his
consciousness, and calls out certain passions, appetites, powers of mind
and conscience, heart and soul; and, in a long life, the man creates
himself anew in the image of his ideal desire. This desire, good or bad,
which sways the man, is writ on his character, and thence copied into
the countenance; and lust or love, frivolity or science, interest or
principle, mammon or God, is writ on the man. Still this unity is seldom
whole and complete. With most men there are exceptional times, when they
turn off a little from their great general pursuit. Simeon the Stylite
comes down from his pillar-top, and chaffers in the market-place with
common folks. Jeffries is even just once or twice in his life, and
Wilkes is honorable two or three times. Even when the chief desire is a
high and holy one, I should not expect a man to go through life without
ever committing an error or a sin. When I was a youngster, just let
loose from the theological school, I thought differently; but at this
day, when I have felt the passions of life, and been stirred by the
ambitions of life, I know it must be expected that a man will stumble
now and then. I make allowances for that in myself, as I do in others.
These are the exceptional periods in a man's life,--the eddies in the
stream. The stream runs down hill all the time, though the eddy may for
a time apparently run up.

Now, as with men, so it is with nations. The purpose of national life is
to bring forth and bring up manly men, who do the most of human duty,
have the most of human rights, and enjoy the most of human welfare. So
that is not the most successful nation which fills the largest space,
which occupies the longest time, which produces the most cattle, corn,
cotton, or cloth, but that which produces the most men. And, in
reference to men, you must count not numbers barely, but character quite
as much. That is not the most successful nation which has an exceptional
class of men, highly cultured, well-bodied, well-minded, well-born,
well-bred, at the one end of society; and at the other a mighty
multitude, an instantial class, poor, ill-born, ill-bred, ill-bodied,
and ill-minded too, as in England; but that is the most successful
nation which has the whole body of its people well-born, well-bred,
well-bodied, and well-minded too; and those are the best institutions
which accomplish this best; those worst, which accomplish it least. The
government, the society, the school, or the church, which does this
work, is a good government, society, school, or church; that which does
it not, is good for nothing.

As with men, so with nations. Each has a certain object of chief desire,
which object prevails over others. The nation is not conscious of
it,--less so, indeed, than the individual; but, silently, it governs the
nation's life. Sometimes this chief desire is the aggrandizement of the
central power,--the monarchy: it was so once in France; but, God be
praised! is not so now. Then devotion to the king's person was held as
the greatest national excellence, and disrespect for the king was
treason, the greatest national crime. The people must not dare to
whisper against their king. Sometimes it is the desire to build up an
aristocracy. It was once so in Venice. It may be an aristocracy of
priests, of soldiers, of nobles, or an aristocracy of merchants.
Sometimes it is to build up a middle class of gentry, as in Basel and
Berne. It may be a military desire, as in ancient Rome; it may be
ecclesiastical ambition, as in modern Rome; or commercial ambition, as
in London and many other places.

The chief object of desire is not always the same in the course of a
nation's history. A nation now greatens the centripetal power,
strengthening the king and weakening the people; now it greatens the
centrifugal power, weakening the king and strengthening the people. But,
commonly, you see some one desire runs through all the nation's history,
only modified by its youth, or manhood, or old age, and by
circumstances which react upon the nation as the nation acts upon them.

This chief object of desire may be permanent, and so govern the whole
nation for all its history. Or it may be, on the other hand, a transient
desire, which is to govern it for a time. In either case, it will appear
prominently in the controlling classes; either in the classes which
control all through, or in such as last only for a time. Thus the
military desire appeared chiefly in the patricians of old Rome, and not
much in the plebeians; the commercial ambition appeared in the nobles of
Venice; the ecclesiastical in the priests of modern Rome, where the
people care little for the church, though quite as much perhaps as it

As the chief desire of the individual calls out appetites and passions,
which are the machinery of that desire, and reconstructs the man in its
image; so the desire of a nation, transient or permanent, becoming the
master-motive of the people, calls out certain classes of men, who
become its exponents, its machinery, and they make the constitution,
institutions, and laws to correspond thereto.

As with one man, so with the millions, there may be fluctuations of
purpose for a time. I cannot expect that one man, or many men, will
always pursue an object without at some time violating fundamental
principles. I might have thought so once. But as I live longer, and see
the passion and the ambition of men, see the force of circumstances, I
know better. No ship sails across the ocean with a straight course,
without changing a sail: it frequently leaves its direct line, now
"standing" this way, now that; and the course is a very crooked one,
although, as a whole, it is towards the mark.

America is a young nation, composite, not yet unified; and it is,
therefore, not quite so easy to say what is the chief desire of the
people; but, if I understand American history, this desire is the Love
of Individual Liberty. Nothing has been so marked in our history as
this. We are consciously, in part, yet still more unconsciously, aiming
at democracy,--at a government of all the people, by all the people, and
for the sake of all the people. Of course that must be a government by
the higher law of God, by the Eternal Justice to which you and I and all
of us owe reverence. We all love freedom for ourselves; one day we shall
love it for every man,--for the tawny Indian and the sable Negro, as
much as for you and me. This love of freedom has appeared in the ideas
of New England,--and New England was once America; it was once the soul,
although not the body of America. It appeared in its political action
and its ecclesiastical action, in the State and in the church, and in
all the little towns. In general, every change in the constitution of a
free State makes it more democratic; every change in local law is for
democracy, not against it. We have broken with the old feudal
tradition,--broken forever with that. I think this love of individual
liberty is the specific desire of the people. If we are proud of any
thing, it is of our free institutions. I know there are men who are
prouder of wealth than of any thing else: by and by I shall have a word
to say of them. But in Massachusetts, New England, in the North, if we
should appeal to the great body of the people, and "poll the house," and
ask of all what they were proudest of, they would not say, of our
cattle, or cotton, or corn, or cloth; but it is of our freedom, of our
men and women. Leaving out of the calculation the abounding class, which
is corrupt everywhere, and the perishing class, which is the vassal as
it is the creature of the abounding class, and as corrupt and selfish
here as everywhere, we shall find that seven-eighths of the people of
New England are eminently desirous of this one thing. This desire will
carry the day in any fifty years to come, as it has done in two hundred
and fifty years past. The great political names of our history are all
on its side: Washington, the Adamses--both of them, God bless
them!--Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, these were all friends of liberty. I
know the exceptions in the history of some of these men, and do not deny
them. Other American names, dear to the people, are of the same stamp.
The national literature, so far as we have any national literature, is
democratic. I know there is what passes for American literature, because
it grows on American soil, but which is just as far from being
indigenous to America as the orange is from being indigenous to Cape
Cod. This literature is a poor, miserable imitation of the feudal
literature of old Europe. Perhaps it is now the prominent literature of
the time. One day America will take it and cast it out from her. The
true American literature is very poor, is very weak, is almost miserable
now; but it has one redeeming quality,--it is true to freedom, it is
true to democracy.

In the Revolution this desire of the nation was prominent, and came to
consciousness. It was the desire of the most eminent champions of
liberty. At one time in the history of the nation, the platform of
speakers was in advance of the floor that was covered by the people at
large, because at that time the speakers became conscious of the idea
which possessed the hearts of the people. That is the reason why John
Hancock, the two Adamses, and Jefferson, came into great prominence
before the people. They were more the people than the people themselves;
more democratic than the democrats. I know, and I think it must be quite
plain in our history, that this has been the chief desire of the people.
If so, it determines our political destination.

However, with nations as with men, there are exceptional desires; one of
which, with the American nation at present, is the desire for wealth.
Just now, that is the most obvious and preponderate desire in the
consciousness of the people. It has increased surprisingly in fifty
years. It is the special, the chief desire of the controlling class. By
the controlling class, I mean what are commonly called "our first men."
I admit exceptions, and state the general rule. With them every thing
gives way to money, and money gives way to nothing, neither to man nor
to God.

See some proofs of this. There are two ways of getting money; one is by
trade, the other is by political office. The pursuit of money, in one or
the other of these ways, is the only business reckoned entirely
"commendable" and "respectable." There are other callings which are very
noble in themselves, and deemed so by mankind; but here they are not
thought "commendable" and "respectable," and accordingly you very seldom
see young men, born in what is called "the most respectable class of
society," engaged in any thing except the pursuit of money by trade or
by office. There are exceptions; but the sons of "respectable men," so
called, seldom engage in the pursuit of any thing but money by trade or
office. This is the chief desire of a majority of the young men of
talent, ambition, and education. Even in colleges more respect is paid
to money than to genius. The purse is put before the pen. In the
churches, wealth is deemed better than goodness or piety. It names
towns and colleges; and he is thought the greatest benefactor of a
university who endows it with money, not with mind. In giving name to a
street in Boston, you call the wealthy end after a rich man, and only
the poor end after a man that was good and famous. Money controls the
churches. It draws veils of cotton over the pulpit window, to color "the
light that cometh from above." As yet the churches are not named after
men whose only virtue is metallic, but the recognized pillars of the
churches are all pillars of gold. Festus does not tremble before Paul,
but Paul before Festus. The pulpit looks down to the pews for its
gospel, not up to the eternal God. Is there a rich pro-slavery man in
the parish? The minister does not dare read a petition from an oppressed
slave asking God that his "unalienable rights" be given him. He does not
dare to ask alms for a fugitive. St. Peter is the old patron saint of
the Holy Catholic Church. St. Hunker is the new patron saint of the
churches of commerce, Catholic and Protestant.

Money controls the law as well as the gospel. The son of a great man and
noble is forgotten if the father dies poor; but the mantle of the rich
man falls on the son's shoulders. If the son be only half so manly as
his sire, and twice as rich, he is sure to be doubly honored. Money
supplies defects of character, defects of culture. It is deemed better
than education, talent, genius, and character, all put together. Was it
not written two thousand years ago in the Proverbs, it "answereth all
things?" Look round and see. It does not matter how you get or keep it.
"The end justifies the means." Edmund Burke, or somebody else, said
"Something must be pardoned to the spirit of liberty." Now it is
"Something must be pardoned" to the love of money, nothing "to the
spirit of liberty." We find that rich men will move out of town on the
last day of April, to avoid taxation on the first day of May. That is
nothing. It is very "respectable," very "honorable," indeed! I do not
believe that there is any master-carpenter or master-blacksmith in
Boston who would not be ashamed to do so. But men of the controlling
classes do not hesitate! No matter how you get money. You may rent
houses for rum-shops and for brothels; you may make rum, import rum,
sell rum, to the ruin of the thousands whom you thereby bring down to
the kennel and the almshouse and the jail. If you get money by that, no
matter: it is "clean money," however dirtily got.

A merchant can send his ships to sea, and in the slave-trade acquire
gold, and live here in Boston, New York, or Philadelphia; and his gold
will be good sterling gold, no matter how he got it! In political
office, if you are a Senator from California or Oregon, you may draw
"constructive mileage," and pay yourself two or three thousand dollars
for a journey never made from home, and two or three thousand more back
to your home. So you filch thousands of dollars out of the public purse,
and you are the "Honorable Senator" just as before. You have got the
money, no matter how. You may be a Senator from Massachusetts, and you
may take the "trust fund," offered you by the manufacturers of cotton,
and be bound as their "retained attorney," by your "retaining fee," and
you are still "the Honorable Senator from Massachusetts," not hurt one
jot in the eyes of the controlling classes. If you are Secretary of
State, you may take forty or fifty thousand dollars from State Street
and Wall Street, and suffer no discredit at all. At one end of the Union
they will deny the fact as "too atrocious to be believed" at this end
they admit it, and say it was "honorable in the people to give it," and
"honorable in the Secretary to take it."

    "Alas! the small discredit of a bribe
    Scarce hurts the master, but undoes the scribe."

It would sound a little strange to some people, if we should find that
the judges of a court had received forty or fifty thousand dollars from
men who were plaintiffs in that Court. You and I would remember that a
gift blindeth the eyes of the prudent, how much more of the profligate!
But it would be "honorable" in the plaintiffs to give it; "honorable" in
the judges to take it!

Hitherto I have called your attention to the proofs of the
preponderance of money. I will now point you to signs, which are not
exactly proofs, of this immediate worship of money. See these signs in

When the Old South Church was built, when Christ's Church in Salem
Street, when King's Chapel, when Brattle Square Church, they were
respectively the costliest buildings in town. They were symbols of
religion, as churches always are; symbols of the popular esteem for
religion. Out of the poverty of the people, great sums of money were
given for these "Houses of God." They said, like David of old, It is a
shame that we dwell in a palace of cedars, and the Ark of the Most High
remains under the curtains of a tent. How is it now? A crockery shop
overlooks the roof-tree of the church where once the eloquence of a
Channing enchanted to heaven the worldly hearts of worldly men. Now a
hotel looks down on the church which was once all radiant with the sweet
piety of a Buckminster. A haberdasher's warehouse overtops the church of
the Blessed Trinity; the roof of the shop is almost as tall as the very
tower of the church. These things are only symbols. Let us compare
Boston, in this respect, with any European city that you can name; let
us compare it with gay and frivolous Vienna, the gayest and most
frivolous city of all Europe, not setting Paris aside. For though the
surface of life in Paris sparkles and glitters all over with radiant
and iridescent and dazzling bubbles, empty and ephemeral, yet underneath
there flows a stream which comes from the great fountain of nature, and
tends on to the ocean of human welfare. No city is more full of deep
thought and earnest life. But in Vienna it is not so. Yet even there,
above the magnificence of the Herrengasse, above the proud mansions of
the Esterhazys and the Schwartzenbergs and the Lichtensteins, above the
costly elegance of the imperial palace, St. Stephen's Church lifts its
tall spire, and points to God all day long and all the night, a still
and silent emblem of a power higher than any mandate of the Kings of
earth; ay, to the Infinite God. Men look up to its cross overtowering
the frivolous city, and take a lesson! Here, Trade looks down to find
the church.

I am glad that the churches are lower than the shops. I have said it
many times, and I say it now. I am glad they are less magnificent than
our banks and hotels. I am glad that haberdashers' shops look down on
them. Let the outward show correspond to the inward fact. If I am
pinched and withered by disease, I will not disguise it from you by
wrappages of cloth; but I will let you see that I am shrunken and
shrivelled to the bone. If the pulpit is no nearer heaven than the
tavern-bar, let that fact appear. If the desk in the counting-room is to
give law to the desk in the church, do not commit the hypocrisy of
putting the pulpit-desk above the counting-room. Let us see where we

       *       *       *       *       *

The consequence of such causes as are symbolized by these facts must
needs appear in our civilization. Men tell us there is no law higher
than mercantile! Do you wonder at it? It was said in deeds before words;
the architecture of Boston told it before the politicians. Money is the
god of our idolatry. Let the fact appear in his temples. Money is master
now, all must give way to it,--that to nothing: the church, the State,
the law, is not for man, but money.

Let the son of a distinguished man beat a watchman, knowing him to be
such, and be brought before a Justice (it would be "levying war" if a
mulatto had done so to the marshal); he is bailed off for two hundred
dollars. But let a black man have in his pockets a weapon, which the
Constitution and laws of Massachusetts provide that any man may have if
he please, he is brought to trial and bound over for--two hundred
dollars, think you? No! but for six hundred dollars! three times as much
as is required of the son of the Secretary of State for assaulting a

 The Secretary of State publicly declared, a short time since, that
"The great object of government is the protection of property at home,
and respect and renown abroad." I thank him for teaching us that word!
That is the actual principle of the American government.

In all countries of the world, struggles take place for human rights.
But in all countries there is a class who desire a privilege for
themselves adverse to the rights of mankind: they are commonly richer
and abler-minded than the majority of men; they can act in concert.
Between them and mankind there is a struggle. The quarrel takes various
forms. The contest has been going on for a long time in Europe. There,
it is between the aristocracy of birth, and the aristocracy of wealth;
for there it is not money, but birth, that makes noble. In this struggle
the aristocracy of birth is gradually giving way to the aristocracy of
gold. A long and brilliant rent-roll makes up for a short and obscure

In that great movement for human freedom which has lasted a thousand
years, the city has generally represented Right in its conflict with
Might. So, in the middle ages, the city, the home of the trader, of the
mechanic, of the intelligent man, was democratic. There freedom got
organized in guilds of craftsmen. But the country was the home of the
noble and his vassals, the haughty, the ignorant, and the servile. Then
the country was aristocratic. It was so in the great struggles between
the king and the people in England and France, in Italy and Holland.

In America there is no nobility of birth--it was the people that came
over, not monarchy, not aristocracy; they did not emigrate. The son of
Guy Fawkes and the son of Charlemagne are on the same level. I know in
Boston some of the descendants of Henri Quatre, the greatest king of
France. I know also descendants of Thomas Wentworth, "the great Earl of
Strafford;" and yet they are now obscure and humble men, although of
famous birth. I do not say it should not be so; but such is the fact.
Here the controversy is not between distinguished birth and money; it is
between money on the one hand, and men on the other; between capital and
labor; between usurped privilege and natural right. Here, the cities, as
the seat of wealth, are aristocratic; the country, as the seat of labor,
is democratic. We may see this in Boston. Almost all the journals in the
city are opposed to a government of all the people, by all the people,
for all the people. Take an example from the free soil movement, which,
so far as it goes, is democratic. I am told that of the twenty-one
journals in Massachusetts that call themselves "democratic," eighteen
favor the free soil movement, more or less; and that the three which do
not are all in the cities. The country favors the temperance movement,
one of the most democratic of all; for rum is to the aristocracy of
gold, what the sword once was to the aristocracy of blood; the castles
of the baron, and the rum-shops of the capitalist, are alike fortresses
adverse to the welfare of mankind. The temperance movement finds little
favor in the cities.

In the country he who works with manly hands is held in esteem; in the
city, in contempt. Here laboring men have no political influence, and
little confidence in themselves. They have been accustomed to do as they
were told,--to do as their "masters" bid.

I call a man a Tory who, for himself or for others, seeks a privilege
adverse to the rights of mankind; who puts the accidents of men before
the substance of manhood. I may safely say the cities, in the main, are
Tory towns; that Boston, in this sense, is a Tory town. They are so,
just as in the middle ages the cities were on the other side. This is
unavoidable in our form of civilization just now. Accordingly, in all
the great cities of the North, slavery is in the ascendant: but, as soon
as we get off the pavement, we come upon different ideas; freedom
culminates and rises to the meridian.

In America the controlling class in general are superior to the majority
in money, in consequent social standing, in energy, in practical
political skill, and in intellectual development; in virtue of these
qualities, they are the controlling class. But in general they are
inferior to the majority of men in justice, in general humanity, and in
religion,--in piety and goodness. Respectability is put before Right;
Law before Justice; Money before God. With them religion is compliance
with a public hearsay and public custom; it is all of religion, but
piety and goodness; its chief sacrament is bodily presence in a
meeting-house; its only sacrifice, a pew-tax. I know there are
exceptions, and honor them all the more for being so very exceptional:
they are only enough to show the rule.

In the main, this controlling class governs the land by two instruments:
the first is the Public Law; the next is Public Opinion. The law is what
was once public opinion, or thought to be; is fixed, written, and
supposed to be understood by somebody. Public opinion is not written,
and not fixed; but the opinion of the controlling class overrides and
interprets the law,--bids or forbids its execution. Public opinion can
make or unmake a law; interpret as it chooses, and enforce or forbid its
execution as it pleases.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such being the case, and such being the chief transient national desire
just now, the controlling class consider the State as a machine to help
them make money. A great politician, it is said, once laid down this
rule,--"Take care of the rich, and the rich will take care of the
poor." Perhaps he did not say that, though he did say that "The great
object of government is the protection of property at home, and respect
and renown abroad." Such being the case, laws are made accordingly, and
institutions are modified accordingly. Let me give an example. In all
the towns of New England, town-money is raised by taxes on all the
people, and on all the property. The rich man is taxed according to his
riches, and the poor man according to his poverty. But the national
money is raised by taxation not in proportion to a man's wealth. A
bachelor in New England, with a million dollars, pays a much smaller
national tax than a carpenter who has no money at all, but only ten
children, the poor man's blessing. The mechanic, with a family of
twelve, pays more taxes than the Southern planter owning a tract of land
as wide as the town of Worcester, with fifteen hundred slaves to till
it. This, I say, is not an accident. It is the work of politicians, who
know what they are about, and think a blunder is worse than a sin; and,
sin as they may, they do not commit such blunders as that.

This controlling class, with their dependents, their vassals, lay and
clerical--and they have lay as well as clerical vassals, and more
numerous, if less subservient--keep up the institution of slavery. Two
hundred years ago, that was the worst institution of Europe. Our
fathers, breaking with feudal institutions in general, did not break
with this: they brought it over here. But when the nation, aroused for
its hour of trial, rose up to its great Act of Prayer, and prayed the
Declaration of Independence, all the nation said "Amen" to the great
American idea therein set forth. Every Northern State reaffirms the
doctrine that "All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator
with unalienable rights, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness." But in spite of this, and of the consciousness that it is
true, while the Northern States have cast out this institution, the
Southern States have kept it. The nation has adopted, extended, and
fostered it. This has been done, notwithstanding the expectation of the
people in 1787 that it would soon end. It has been done against the
design of the Constitution, which was "to form a more perfect Union,
establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common
defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of
liberty;" against the idea of America, that "All men have an equal and
unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;"
against all religion, all humanity, all right, ay, and against the
conscience of a majority of the people.

Well, a law was passed last September, that would have been atrocious
two hundred years ago: you all know it. I have no words to describe it
by. For the last two hundred years, the English race has not invented
an adjective adequate to describe it. The English language is used up
and broken down by any attempt to describe it. That law was not the
desire of the people; and, could the nation have been polled North and
South, three fourths would have said "No!" to the passage of that law.
It was not passed to obtain the value of the slaves escaped, for in
seven months twenty slaves have not been returned! It was not a measure
looking to legal results, but it was a political measure, looking to
political results: what those results will be we shall see in due time.

       *       *       *       *       *

In America the controlling class is divided into two great parties: one
is the Slave Power in the States of the South; the other is the Money
Power in the cities of the North. There are exceptional men in both
divisions--men that own slaves, and yet love freedom and hate slavery.
There are rich men in Northern cities who do the same; all honor to
them. But in general it is not so; nay, it is quite otherwise. They are
hostile to the great idea of America. Let me speak with the nicety of
theological speech. These two divisions are two "Persons" in one
"Power;" there is only one "Nature" in both, one "Will." If not the same
nature, it is a like nature: Homoi-ousia, if not Homo-ousia! The
Fugitive Slave Law was the act of the two "Persons," representing the
same "Nature," and the same "Will." It was the result of a union of the
Slave Power of the South with the Money Power of the North: the
Philistines and the Hebrews ploughed with the same heifer.

There is sometimes an excuse or a palliation for a wicked deed. There
was something like one for the "Gag Law," the "Alien and Sedition Law,"
although there is no valid excuse for either of these laws, none to
screen their author from deserved reproach. There is no excuse for the
Fugitive Slave Law; there was no occasion for it.

You all know how it was brought about; you remember the speech of Mr.
Webster on the 7th of March, 1850, a day set apart for the blessed
Martyrs, Saints Perpetua and Felicitas. We all know who was the author
of that law. It is Mr. Webster's Fugitive Slave Law! It was his
"thunder," unquestioned and unquestionable. You know what a rapid change
was wrought in the public opinion of the controlling classes, soon after
its passage. First the leading whigs went over. I will not say they
changed their principles, God knows, not I, what principles they have, I
will only say they altered their "resolutions," and ate their own words.
True, the whigs have not all gone over. There are a few who still cling
to the old Whig-tree, after it has been shaken and shaken, and thrashed
and thrashed, and brushed and brushed, by politicians, as apple-trees in
autumn. There are still a few little apples left, small and withered no
doubt, and not daring to show their dishonored heads just now, but still
containing some precious seeds that may do service by and by. Whig
journal after journal went over; politician after politician "caved in"
and collapsed. At the sounding of the rams' horns of slavery, how quick
the Whig Jericho went down! Its fortresses of paper resolutions rolled
up and blew away. Of course, men changed only after "logical
conviction." Of course, nobody expected a "reward" for the change, at
least only in the world to come. Were they not all Christians? True, on
the 17th of June last, seventy-five years after the battle of Bunker
Hill, Mr. Webster said in the Senate, that if the North should vote for
the Fugitive Slave Bill, a Tariff was expected. But that was of no
moment, no more than worldly riches to "the elect." Of course, a man has
a right to change his opinions every ten minutes, if he has a good and
sufficient reason. Of course, these men expected no offices under this
or any future President! But presently the Fugitive Slave Law became a
Whig doctrine, a test of party fidelity and fitness for office!

You all remember the "Union" meeting in Boston. On that occasion,
democrats "of the worst kind" suddenly became "respectable." The very
democratic prince of devils was thought to be as good a "gentleman" as
any in the city.

It was curious to see the effect of the Fugitive Slave Law on the
democratic party. Democrat after democrat "caved in;" journal after
journal went over; horse, foot, and dragoons, they went over. The
Democratic party North, and American Slavery South, have long been
accustomed to accommodate themselves with the same nag after the old
fashion of "ride and tye." In the cities, democrats went over in tribes;
entire Democratic Zabulons and Nephthalims, whole Galilees of Democratic
Gentiles, all at once saw great Whig light; and to them that sat in the
shadow of Freedom, Slavery sprung up.

That portion of the Whig party which did not submit, became as meek, ay,
became meeker even than the beast which the old prophet in the fable is
alleged to have ridden; for, though beaten again and again,--because
alarmed at seeing the angel of Freedom that bars the way before the
great Whig Balaam, who has been bidden by his master to go forth and
curse the people of the Lord,--it dares not open its mouth and say,
"What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three

       *       *       *       *       *

But when such a law is hostile to the feelings of a majority of the
people, to their conscience and their religion, how shall we get the law
executed? That is a hard matter. In Russia and in Austria it would be
very easy. Russia has an army five hundred or eight hundred thousand
strong; and that army is ready. But here there is no such army. True,
the President asked Congress to give him greater power, and the answer
came from the Slave party South, not from the Money party North, "No!
you have more now than you know how to use." Failing in this attempt,
what was to be done that the law might be executed? Two things must be
done: A false idea must persuade the people to allow it to be done; Base
men must be found to do it. A word upon each point.

       *       *       *       *       *

I. The false idea is set on foot, that the people are morally bound to
obey any law which is made until it is repealed. General Haynau wrote a
letter, not long ago, to the subalterns in the Austrian army, and thus
quoth he: "You are bound to obey the law. It is none of your business
whether the law is constitutional or not; that is our affair." So went
it with our officers here. We are told that there is "no such thing as a
higher law," "no rule of conduct better than that enacted by the law of
the land." Conscience is only to tell you to keep the statutes. Religion
consists in "fearing God and serving the king." You are told that
religion bids you to "fear God and keep the commandments," no matter
what these commandments may be. No matter whether it be King Ahab, or
King Peter the Cruel: you are told,--"Mr. Republican, what right have
you to question the constitutionality or justice of any thing? Your
business is to keep the law." Religion is a very excellent thing, quotes
Mr. Webster, except when it interferes in politics; then it makes men

It is instructive to see the different relations which religion has
sustained to law, at different periods of the world's history. At some
other time I may dwell more at length upon this; now I will say but one
word. At the beginning, religion takes precedence of law. Before there
is any human government, man bows himself to the Source of law, and
accepts his rule of conduct from his God. By and by, some more definite
rule is needed, and wise men make human laws; but they pretend to derive
these from a divine source. All the primitive lawgivers, Moses, Minos,
Zaleucus, Numa, and the rest, speak in the name of God. For a long time,
law comes up to religion for aid and counsel. At length law and
religion, both imperfect, are well established in society, religion
being the elder sister; both act as guardians of mankind. Institution
after institution rises up, all of them baptized by religion and
confirmed by law, taking the sacrament from the hands of each. At length
it comes to pass that law seeks to turn religion out of doors.
Politicians, intoxicated with ambition, giddy with power, and sometimes
also drunk with strong drink, make a statute which outrages all the
dictates of humanity, and then insist that it is the duty of sober men
to renounce religion for the sake of keeping the wicked statute of the
politicians. All tyrants have done so!

In the North, the majority of men think that the law of man is
subordinate to religion--the statutes of man beneath the law of God;
that as ethics, personal morals, are amenable to conscience, so
politics, national morals, are amenable to the same conscience; and that
religion has much to do with national as with individual life. Depend
upon it, that idea is the safeguard of the State and of the law. It will
preserve it, purify it, and keep it; but it will scourge every wicked
law out of the temple of justice with iron whips, if need be. Depend
upon it, when we lose our hold of that idea, all hope of order is gone.
But there is no danger; we are pretty well persuaded, that the law of
God is a little greater than the statute of an accidental president
unintentionally chosen for four years. When we think otherwise, we may
count our case hopeless, and give up all.

But with the controlling class of men it is not so. They tell us that we
must keep any law, constitutional or not, legal or not, just or unjust:
first, that we must submit passively, and let the government execute it;
next, we must actively obey it, and with alacrity when called upon to
execute it ourselves. This doctrine is the theory advanced in most of
the newspapers of Boston. It is preached in some of the pulpits, though,
thank God! not in all.

This doctrine appears in the charge of the Judge of the Circuit Court to
the grand jury.[27] I believe that judge to be a good and excellent and
honorable man; I never heard a word to the contrary, and I am glad to
think that it is so.[28] I have to deal only with his opinions; not with
his theoretic doctrines of law, of which latter I profess to know
nothing; but with the theoretic doctrines of morality he lays down. Of
morality I do profess to know something.

He says some excellent things in his charge, which I am glad were said.
He is modest in some places, and moderate in others. He does not think
that a dozen black men taking a fugitive out of court are guilty of
"levying war," and therefore should be hanged, drawn, and quartered, if
you can catch them. All honor to his justice. He does not say, as the
Secretary of State, that we must suppress discussion and stop agitation.
He says we may agitate as much as we have a mind to; may not only speak
against a law, but may declaim against it, which is to speak strongly. I
thank the judge for this respect for the Constitution. But with regard
to the higher and lower law, he has some peculiar opinions. He supposes
a case: that the people ask him, "Which shall we obey, the law of man or
the law of God?" He says, "I answer, obey both. The incompatibility
which the question assumes does not exist."

So, then, here is a great general rule, that between the "law of man"
and the "will of God" there is no incompatibility, and we must "obey
both." Now let us see how this rule will work.

If I am rightly informed, King Ahab made a law that all the Hebrews
should serve Baal, and it was the will of God that they should serve the
Lord.--According to this rule of the judge, they must "obey both." But
if they served Baal, they could not serve the Lord. In such a case,
"what is to be done?"--We are told that Elijah gathered the prophets
together; "and he came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye?
If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." Our
modern prophet says, "Obey both. The incompatibility which the question
assumes does not exist." Such is the difference between Judge Elijah and
Judge Peleg.

Let us see how this rule will work in other cases; how you can make a
compromise between two opposite doctrines. The king of Egypt commanded
the Hebrew nurses, "When you do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew
women, if it be a son ye shall kill him." I suppose it is plain to the
Judge of the Circuit Court that this kind of murder, killing the
new-born infants, is against "the will of God;" but it is a matter of
record that it was according to "the law of man." Suppose the Hebrew
nurses had come to ask Judge Sprague for his advice. He must have said,
"Obey both!" His rule is a universal one.

Another decree was once made as it is said, in the Old Testament, that
no man should ask any petition of any God for thirty days, save of the
king, on penalty of being cast into the den of lions. Suppose Daniel--I
mean the old Daniel, the prophet--should have asked him, What is to be
done? Should he pray to Darius or pray to God? "Obey both!" would be the
answer. But he cannot, for he is forbid to pray to God. We know what
Daniel did do.

The elders and scribes of Jerusalem commanded the Christians not to
speak or to teach at all in the name of Jesus; but Peter and John asked
those functionaries, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken
unto you more than unto God, judge ye." Our judge must have said, There
is no "incompatibility;" "obey both!" What "a comfortable Scripture"
this would have been to poor John Bunyan! What a great ethical doctrine
to St. Paul! He did not know such Christianity as that. Before this time
a certain man had said, "No man can serve two masters." But there was
one person who made the attempt, and he also is eminent in history. Here
was "the will of God," to do to others as you would have others do to
you: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Here is the record of "the law of
man:" "Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a
commandment, that, if any man knew where he [Jesus] were, he should show
it that they might take him." Judas, it seems, determined to "obey
both,"--"the law of man" and "the will of God."--So he sat with Jesus at
the Last Supper, dipped his hand in the same dish, and took a morsel
from the hand of Christ, given him in token of love. All this he did to
obey "the will of God." Then he went and informed the Commissioner or
Marshal where Jesus was. This he did to obey "the law of man." Then he
came back, and found Christ,--the agony all over, the bloody sweat wiped
off from his brow, presently to bleed again,--the Angel of Strength
there with him to comfort him. He was arousing his sleeping disciples
for the last time, and was telling them, "Pray, lest ye enter into
temptation."--Judas came and gave him a kiss. To the eleven it seemed
the friendly kiss, obeying "the will of God." To the Marshal it also
seemed a friendly kiss,--obeying "the law of man." So, in the same act,
he obeys "the law of God" and "the will of man," and there is no

Of old it was said, "Thou canst not serve God and mammon." He that said
it, has been thought to know something of morals,--something of

Till the fugitive slave law was passed, we did not know what a great
saint Iscariot was. I think there ought to be a chapel for him, and a
day set apart in the calendar. Let him have his chapel in the navy-yard
at Washington. He has got a priest there already. And for a day in the
calendar--set apart for all time the seventh of March!

Let us look at some other things in that Judge's address to the grand
jury. "Unjust and oppressive laws may indeed be passed by human
government. But if infinite and inscrutable Wisdom permits political
society ... to establish such laws, may not the same Wisdom permit and
require individuals ... to obey them?" Ask the prophets in such a case,
if they would have felt themselves permitted and required to obey them!
Ask the men who were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they
might obtain a better resurrection; who had trial of cruel mockings and
scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; who were stoned and
sawn asunder; who were slain with the sword; who wandered about in
sheep-skins and goat-skins, destitute, afflicted, and tormented, of whom
the world was not worthy! Ask the apostles, who thanked God they were
counted worthy to suffer shame in the name of Christ! Ask Paul, who was
eight times publicly beaten, thrice shipwrecked; and in perils of
waters, of robbers, of the heathen, of false brethren--that worst of all
peril! Nay, ask Christ; let the Crucified reply,--whether, when a
wicked law is made, and we are commanded to keep it, God means we
should! Ask the men who, with their ocean-wearied feet, consecrated the
rock of Plymouth forever! Ask the patriots of the Revolution! What do
they say? I will not give the answer. Even the martyred Jesuits say No.
Who is it that says Yes? Judas and the Judge. Let them go--each "to his
own place." Let me say no more of them.

This attempt to keep the people down by false doctrine, is no new thing.
But to say that there is no law higher than what the State can make, is
practical atheism. It is not a denial of God in his person; that is only
speculative atheism. It is a denial of the functions and attributes of
God; that is real atheism. If there is no God to make a law for me, then
there is no God for me.

The law of the land is so sacred, it must override the law of God, must
it? Let us see if all the laws of the United States are kept everywhere.
Let a black man go to South Carolina in a ship, and we shall see. Let
the British minister complain that South Carolina puts British subjects
in jail, for the color of their skin. Mr. Secretary Clayton tells him,
We cannot execute the laws of the United States in South Carolina. Why
not? Because the people of South Carolina will not allow it!

Are the laws of Massachusetts kept in Boston, then? The usury law says,
Thou shalt not take more than six per cent. on thy money. Is that kept?
There are thirty-four millions of banking capital in Massachusetts, and
I think that every dollar of this capital has broken this law within the
past twelve months; and yet no complaint has been made. There are three
or four hundred brothels in this city of Boston, and ten or twelve
hundred shops for the sale of rum. All of them are illegal: some are as
well known to the police as is this house; indeed, a great deal more
frequented by some of them, than any house of God. Does anybody disturb
them? No! I have a letter from an alderman who furnishes me with facts
of this nature, who says, that "Some of the low places are prosecuted,
some broken up." Last Saturday night, the very men who guarded Mr. Sims,
I am told, were playing cards in his prison-house, contrary to the laws
of Massachusetts. In Court Square, in front of the court-house, is a
rum-shop, one of the most frequented in the city, open at all hours of
the day, and, for aught I know, of the night too. I never passed when
its "fire was quenched," and its "worm" dead. Is its owner prosecuted?
How many laws of Massachusetts have been violated this very week, in
this very city, by the slave-hunters here, by the very officers of the
State? What is the meaning of this? Every law which favors the
accumulation of money, must be kept; but those which prohibit the
unjust accumulation of money by certain classes--they need not be

No doubt it would be a great pity to have the city government careful to
keep the laws of the city,--to suppress rum-shops, and save the citizens
from the almshouse, the jail, and the gallows. Such laws may be executed
at Truro and Wellfleet; but it is quite needless for the officers of
"The Athens of America," to attend to the temperance laws.[30]--What a
pity for the magistrates of Boston to heed the laws of the State! No; it
is the fugitive slave law that they must keep.

       *       *       *       *       *

II. A great deal of pains has been taken to impress the people with
their "moral duty to obey the fugitive slave law." To carry it out,
government needs base men; and that, my brothers, is a crop which never
fails. Rye and wheat may get blasted many times in the course of years;
the potato may rot; apples and peaches fail. But base men never fail.
Put up your black pirate-flag in the market-place, offer "money and
office," and they will come as other carrion-vultures to their prey. The
olive, the fig, and the orange are limited in their range; even Indian
corn and oats will not grow everywhere; but base men are indigenous all
the world over, between the tropics, and under a polar sky. No bad
scheme ever failed for lack of bad men to carry it out. Do you want to
kill Baptists and Quakers in Boston? There are the men for you. To hang
"witches" at Salem? There are hangmen in plenty on Gallows Hill. Would
James the Second butcher his subjects? He found his "human" tools ready.
Would Elizabeth murder the Puritans and Catholics? There was no lack of
ruffians. Would bloody Mary burn the Protestants? There were more
executioners than victims. Would the Spanish Inquisition torture and put
to death the men for whom Christ died? She found priests and
"gentlemen," ready for their office. Would Nero murder the Christians,
and make a spectacle of their sufferings? Rome is full of scoundrels to
do the deed, and teems with spectators rushing to the amphitheatre at
the cry of "Christians to the Lions!" all finding a holiday in their
brothers' agony. Would the high-priests crucify the Son of man? They
found a commissioner to issue the mandate, a marshal to enforce it, a
commissioner to try him by illegal process,--for the process against
Christ was almost as unconstitutional as that against Sims,--they found
a commissioner ready to condemn Christ, against his own conscience,
soldiers ready to crucify him. Ay! and there was a Peter to deny him,
and a Judas to betray, and now there is a judge with his legal ethics,
to justify the betrayal! I promised not to speak of Judas or the judge
again, but they will come up before me! It is true, that, if in Boston,
some judicial monster should wish to seethe a man in a pot of scalding
water, he would find another John Boilman in Boston, as Judge Jeffries
found one in England, in 1686.

The churches of New England, and the North, have had their trials. In my
time they have been tried in various ways. The temperance reformation
tried them. They have had perils on account of slavery. The Mexican war
tried them; the fugitive slave law has put them to the rack. But, never
in my day, have the churches been so sorely tried, nor done so well as
now. The very letter of the New Testament on the one side, and of the
Old Testament on the other, both condemned the law; the spirit of them
both was against all slavery.

There are two great sects in Christendom,--the churches of Christianity,
and the churches of commerce. The churches of Christianity always do
well: they think that religion is love to God, and love to man. But the
churches of commerce, which know no higher law, what should they do?
Some of the ministers of the churches of commerce were wholly silent.
Why so? The poor ministers were very modest all at once. Now, modesty is
a commendable virtue; but see how it works. Here is a man who has given
his mind ten, twenty, or thirty years to the study of theology, and
knows every Hebrew particle of the Old Testament, and every Greek
particle of the New Testament, as well as he knows the Lord's Prayer;
every great work on the subject of Christianity, from Nicodemus down to
Norton. Let him come out and say that the Old Testament was written like
other books; let him say that the miracles of the Old and New Testament
are like the miracles of the Popish legends; then, ministers in their
pulpits, who never studied theology or philosophy, or pretended to
study, only to know, the historical development of religion in the
world,--they will come down instantly upon our poor man, call his
doctrines "false," and call him an "infidel," an "atheist." But let a
rich parishioner, or a majority of the rich parishioners, be in favor of
the fugitive slave law, and all at once the minister is very modest
indeed. He says to his people, by silence or by speech, "I do not
understand these things; but you, my people, who all your lives are
engaged in making money and nothing else, and worship mammon and nothing
else, you understand them a great deal better than I do. My modesty
forbids me to speak. Let us pray!"[31]

Some ministers have been silent; others have spoken out in favor of the
lower law, and in derision of the higher law. Here is a famous minister,
the very chief of his denomination, reported in the newspapers to have
said that he would surrender his own mother to slavery rather than have
the Union dissolved! I believe him this time. A few years ago, that
minister printed, in the organ of his sect, that the existence of God
was "not a certainty!" He did not mean to say that he doubted or
disbelieved it, only that it was "not a certainty!" I should suppose
that he had gone further in that direction, and thought the
non-existence of God was "a certainty." But he is not quite original in
this proposed sacrifice. He has been preceded and outbid by a Spanish
Catholic. Here is the story in Señor de Castro's History of the Spanish
Protestants, written this very year. I can tell the story shorter than
it is there related. In 1581, there lived a man in Valladolid, who had
two Protestant daughters, being himself a Catholic. The Inquisition was
in full blast, and its fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than
before. This man, according to the commandment of the priests and Pope,
complained to the inquisitors against his daughters, who were summoned
to appear before them. They were tried, and condemned to be burned
alive, at his suggestion. He furnished the accusation, brought forward
the evidence, and was the only witness in the case. That was not all.
After this condemnation, he went round his own estates, and from
selected trees cut down morsels of wood, and carried them to the city
to use in burning his own daughters. He was allowed to do this, and of
course the priest commended him for his piety and love of God! Thus, in
1581, in Valladolid, a father at noon-day, with wood from his own
estate, on his own complaint and evidence, with his own hands, burned
his two daughters alive; and the Catholic Church said, Well done! Now,
in my opinion, the Hidalgo of Valladolid a little surpasses the
Unitarian Doctor of Divinity. I do not know what "recompense of reward"
the Spanish Hidalgo got for his deed; but the American divine, for his
offer, has been put into "one of the priests' offices, that he might eat
a piece of bread." He has been appointed, as the newspapers say, a
Chaplain of the Navy at Washington. Verily he has his reward.

But there have been found men in Boston to go a little further. Last
Thanksgiving Day, I said it would be difficult to find a magistrate in
Boston to take the odium of sending a fugitive back to slavery. I
believed, after all, men had some conscience, although they talked about
its being a duty to deliver up a man to bondage. Pardon me, my country,
that I rated you too high! Pardon me, town of Boston, that I thought
your citizens all men! Pardon me, lawyers, that I thought you had been
all born of mothers! Pardon me, ruffians, who kill for hire! I thought
you had some animal mercy left, even in your bosom! Pardon me, United
States' commissioners, marshals, and the like, I thought you all had
some shame! Pardon me, my hearers, for such mistakes. One commissioner
was found to furnish the warrant! Pardon me, I did not know he was a
commissioner; if I had, I never would have said it!

Spirits of tyrants, I look down to you! Shade of Cain, you great first
murderer, forgive me that I forgot your power, and did not remember that
you were parent of so long a line! And you, my brethren, if hereafter I
tell you that there is any limit of meanness or wickedness which a
Yankee will not jump over, distrust me, and remind me of this day, and I
will take it back!

Let us look at the public conduct of any commissioner who will send an
innocent man from Boston into slavery. I would speak of all men
charitably; for I know how easy it is to err, yea, to sin. I can look
charitably on thieves, prowling about in darkness; on rumsellers, whom
poverty compels to crime; on harlots, who do the deed of shame that holy
woman's soul abhors and revolts at; I can pity the pirate, who scours
the seas doing his fiendish crimes--he is tempted, made desperate by a
gradual training in wickedness. The man, born at the South, owning
slaves, who goes to Africa and sells adulterated rum in exchange for men
to retail at Cuba,--I cannot understand the consciousness of such a man;
yet I can admit that by birth and by breeding he has become so
imbruted, he knows no better. Nay, even that he may perhaps justify his
conduct to himself. I say I think his sin is not so dreadful as that of
a commissioner in Boston who sends a man into slavery. A man commits a
murder, inflamed by jealousy, goaded by desire of great gain, excited by
fear, stung by malice, or poisoned by revenge, and it is a horrid thing.
But to send a man into slavery is worse than to murder him. I should
rather be slain than enslaved. To do this, inflamed by no jealousy,
goaded by no desire of great gain,--only ten dollars!--excited by no
fear, stung by no special malice, poisoned by no revenge,--I cannot
comprehend that in any man, not even in a hyena. Beasts that raven for
blood do not kill for killing's sake, but to feed their flesh. Forgive
me, O ye wolves and hyenas! that I bring you into such company. I can
only understand it in a devil!

When a man bred in Massachusetts, whose Constitution declares that "All
men are born free and equal;" within sight of Faneuil Hall, with all its
sacred memories; within two hours of Plymouth Rock; within a single hour
of Concord and Lexington; in sight of Bunker Hill,--when he will do such
a deed, it seems to me that there is no life of crime long enough to
prepare a man for such a pitch of depravity; I should think he must have
been begotten in sin, and conceived in iniquity, and been born "with a
dog's head on his shoulders;" that the concentration of the villany of
whole generations of scoundrels would hardly be enough to fit a man for
a deed like this!

You know the story of Thomas Sims. He crept on board a Boston vessel at
Savannah. Perhaps he had heard of Boston, nay, even of Faneuil Hall, of
the old Cradle of Liberty, and thought this was a Christian town, at
least human, and hoped here to enjoy the liberty of a man. When the ship
arrived here, the first words he spoke were, "Are we up there?" He was
seized by a man who at the court-house boasted of his cruelty towards
him, who held him by the hair, and kept him down, seeking to kidnap and
carry him back into slavery. He escaped!

But a few weeks pass by: the man-stealers are here; the commissioner
issues his warrant; the marshals serve it in the night. Last Thursday
night,--when odious beasts of prey, that dare not face the light of
heaven, prowl through the woods,--those ruffians of the law seized on
their brother-man. They lie to the bystanders, and seize him on a false
pretence. There is their victim--they hold him fast. His faithless knife
breaks in his hand; his coat is rent to pieces. He is the slave of
Boston.[32] Can you understand his feelings? Let us pass by that. His
"trial!" Shall I speak of that? He has been five days on trial for more
than life, and has not seen a judge! A jury? No,--only a commissioner! O
justice! O republican America! Is this the liberty of Massachusetts?

Where shall I find a parallel with men who will do such a deed,--do it
in Boston? I will open the tombs, and bring up most hideous tyrants from
the dead. Come, brood of monsters, let me bring you up from the deep
damnation of the graves wherein your hated memories continue for all
time their never-ending rot. Come, birds of evil omen! come, ravens,
vultures, carrion-crows, and see the spectacle! come, see the meeting of
congenial souls! I will disturb, disquiet, and bring up the greatest
monsters of the human race! Tremble not, women; tremble not, children;
tremble not, men! They are all dead! They cannot harm you now! Fear the
living, not the dead.

Come hither, Herod the wicked. Thou that didst seek after that young
child's life, and destroyedst the Innocents! Let me look on thy face!
No; go! Thou wert a heathen! Go, lie with the Innocents thou hast
massacred. Thou art too good for this company!

Come, Nero! Thou awful Roman Emperor! Come up! No; thou wast drunk with
power! schooled in Roman depravity. Thou hadst, besides, the example of
thy fancied gods! Go, wait another day. I will seek a worser man.

Come hither, St. Dominic! come, Torquemada!--Fathers of the Inquisition!
Merciless monsters, seek your equal here! No; pass by! You are no
companions for such men as these! You were the servants of atheistic
popes, of cruel kings. Go to, and get you gone. Another time I may have
work for you,--not now; lie there and persevere to rot. You are not yet
quite wicked and corrupt enough for this comparison. Go, get ye gone,
lest the sun turn back at sight of ye!

Come up, thou heap of wickedness, George Jeffries!--thy hands deep
purple with the blood of thy murdered fellow men! Ah, I know thee! awful
and accursed shade! Two hundred years after thy death, men hate thee
still, not without cause! Let me look upon thee! I know thy history.
Pause and be still, while I tell it to these men.

Brothers, George Jeffries "began in the sedition line." "There was no
act, however bad, that he would not resort to to get on." "He was of a
bold aspect, and cared not for the countenance of any man." "He became
the avowed, unblushing slave of the court, and the bitter persecutor and
unappeasable enemy of the principles he had before supported." He "was
universally insolent and over-bearing." "As a judge, he did not consider
the decencies of his post, nor did he so much as affect to be
impartial, as became a judge." His face and voice were always unamiable.
"All tenderness for the feelings of others, all self-respect were
obliterated from his mind." He had "a delight in misery, merely as
misery," and "that temper which tyrants require in their worst
instruments." "He made haste to sell his forehead of brass and his
tongue of venom to the court." He had "more impudence than ten carted
street-walkers;" and was appropriately set to a work "which could be
trusted to no man who reverenced law, or who was sensible of shame." He
was a "Commissioner" in 1685. You know of the "Bloody assizes" which he
held, and how he sent to execution three hundred and twenty persons in a
single circuit. "The whole country was strewed with the heads and limbs
of his victims." Yet a man wrote that "A little more hemp might have
been usefully employed." He was the worst of the English judges. "There
was no measure, however illegal, to the execution of which he did not
devotedly and recklessly abandon himself." "During the Stuart reigns,
England was cursed by a succession of ruffians in ermine, who, for the
sake of court favor, wrested the principles of law, the precepts of
religion, and the duties of humanity; but they were all greatly
outstripped by Jeffries." Such is his history.

Come, shade of a judicial butcher! Two hundred years thy name has been
pilloried in face of the world, and thy memory gibbeted before mankind!
Let us see how thou wilt compare with those who kidnap men in Boston! Go
seek companionship with them! Go claim thy kindred, if such they be! Go
tell them that the memory of the wicked shall rot,--that there is a God;
an Eternity; ay! and a Judgment too! where the slave may appeal against
him that made him a slave, to Him that made him a man.

What! Dost thou shudder? Thou turn back? These not thy kindred! Why dost
thou turn pale, as when the crowd clutched at thy life in London Street?
It is true, George Jeffries, and these are not thy kin. Forgive me that
I should send thee on such an errand, or bid thee seek companionship
with such--with Boston hunters of the slave! Thou wert not base enough!
It was a great bribe that tempted thee! Again I say, pardon me for
sending thee to keep company with such men! Thou only struckst at men
accused of crime; not at men accused only of their birth! Thou wouldst
not send a man into bondage for two pounds! I will not rank thee with
men who, in Boston, for ten dollars, would enslave a negro now! Rest
still, Herod! Be quiet, Nero! Sleep, St. Dominic, and sleep, O
Torquemada! in your fiery jail! Sleep, Jeffries, underneath "the altar
of the church" which seeks with Christian charity to hide your hated

"But," asks a looker-on, "What is all this for?" Oh! to save the Union.
"A precious Union which needs a saving such as this! And who are to rend
the Union asunder?" Why, men that hate slavery and love freedom for all
mankind. "Is this the way to make them love the Union and slavery, and
hate freedom for all mankind?" We know none better. "What sort of a
measure is this fugitive slave law?" Oh! it is a "peace measure." Don't
you see how well it works? how quiet the city? in the country not a
mouse stirring? There will not be a word against the peace measure in
all New England on this Fast Day. Blessed are the peace-makers, saith
Lord! "But you have great warrant for such deeds?" Oh yes, the best in
the world,--the example of Washington. He also "saved the Union." "So
men blaspheme."

Let me tell you a little of that great man. Shortly after the passage of
the law of 1793, a favorite female slave of Washington's wife ran away
from the President of the new republic, and went into New Hampshire. She
lived at Portsmouth. Washington wrote to Mr. Whipple, a United States'
marshal, I think, or, at any rate, an officer of the United States,
saying that he should like to have the woman sent back to him, if it
could be done without tumult, and without shocking the principles and
the feelings of the people. He added that the slave was a favorite of
his wife. Mr. Whipple wrote back, and said,--It cannot be done without
tumult, nor without shocking the principles and feelings of the people.
Washington said no more! The woman died at a great age, a few years ago,
at Portsmouth. That was the example of Washington,--the man who at his
death freed his slaves! Would to God he had done it before! But they
that come at the eleventh hour shall never be cast out from my charity.

       *       *       *       *       *

See what is the consequence of this measure! See what has been the
condition of Boston for the past week! Read the mingled truth and lies
in the newspapers; look at men's faces in the street; listen to their
talk; see the court-house in chains; see one hundred policemen on guard,
and three companies of military picketed in Faneuil Hall; behold the
people shut out from the courts--I will not say of justice! See the
officers of Massachusetts made slave-hunters--against the law;
constitutional rights struck down--against the law; sheriffs refusing to
serve writs--against the law; see the great civil rights our fathers
gained five hundred years ago, the trial by jury, by our "peers," by the
"law of the land," all cloven down; the writ of "personal replevin" made
null--no sheriff daring to execute a law made to suit such a case as
this, made but eight years ago! Where is your high Sheriff? Where is
your Governor? See the judges of Massachusetts bend beneath that chain;
see them bow down, one by one, and kneel, and creep, and cringe, and
crouch, and crawl, under the chain! Note the symbol! That was the chain
on the neck of the Commonwealth, visible on the necks of the judges as
they entered the Bastile of Boston,--the Barracoon of Boston! A few
years ago, they used to tell us, "Slavery is an abstraction;" "we at the
North have nothing to do with it," Now liberty is only an abstraction!
Here is a note just handed me in the pulpit:--

     "Marshal Tukey told me this morning, that his orders were
     _not merely to keep the peace_, but to _assist the United
     States' marshal in detaining and transporting the slave_;
     that he _knew he was violating the State law, as well as I
     did_; but it was not his responsibility, but that of the
     Mayor and Aldermen. I thought you might like to know this."

Well, my brethren, I know Boston has seen sad days before now. When the
stamp act came here in our fathers' time, it was a sad day; they tolled
the bells all over town, and Mayhew wished "they were cut off that
trouble you." It was a sad day when the tea came here, although, when it
went down the stream, all the hills of New England laughed. And it was a
sadder day still, the 17th of June, 1775, when our fathers fought and
bled on yonder hill, all red from battle at Concord and Lexington, and
poured sheeted death into the ranks of their enemies, while the
inhabitants of this town lifted up their hands, but could not go to
assist their brethren in the field; and when, to crown all their
sadness, they saw four hundred of the houses of their sister town go up
in flames to heaven, and could not lend a helping hand! A sadder day
when they fired one hundred guns in Boston for the passage of the
fugitive slave law. It was the saddest day of all, when a man was
kidnapped in Boston by the men of Boston, and your court-house hung with

It was not from the tyrants of the other side of the world that this
trouble came!

If you could have seen what I have this morning, at sunrise, one hundred
of the police of this city, contrary to the laws of the State, drilling
with drawn swords, to learn to guard a man whilst he should be carried
into bondage! And who do you suppose was at their head? A man bearing an
honorable name--Samuel Adams! Tell it not in Massachusetts; let not your
children hear of this, lest they curse the mothers that bore them. It is
well that we should have a day of fasting and humiliation and prayer,
when such things are done here.

Well, my brethren, these are only the beginning of sorrows. There will
be other victims yet; this will not settle the question. What shall we
do? I think I am a calm man and a cool man, and I have a word or two to
say as to what we shall do. Never obey the law. Keep the law of God.
Next I say, resist not evil with evil; resist not now with violence. Why
do I say this? Will you tell me that I am a coward? Perhaps I am; at
least I am not afraid to be called one. Why do I say, then, do not now
resist with violence? Because it is not time just yet; it would not
succeed. If I had the eloquence that I sometimes dream of, which goes
into a crowd of men, and gathers it in its mighty arm, and sways them as
the pendent boughs of yonder elm shall be shaken by the summer breeze
next June, I would not give that counsel. I would call on men, and lift
up my voice like a trumpet through the whole land, until I had gathered
millions out of the North and the South, and they should crush slavery
forever, as the ox crushes the spider underneath his feet. But such
eloquence is given to no man. It was not given to the ancient Greek who
"shook the arsenal and fulmined over Greece." He that so often held the
nobles and the mob of Rome within his hand, had it not. He that spoke as
never man spake, and who has since gathered two hundred millions to his
name, had it not. No man has it. The ablest must wait for time! It is
idle to resist here and now. It is not the hour. If in 1765 they had
attempted to carry out the Revolution by force, they would have failed.
Had it failed, we had not been here to-day. There would have been no
little monument at Lexington "sacred to liberty and the rights of
mankind," honoring the men who "fell in the cause of God and their
country." No little monument at Concord; nor that tall pile of eloquent
stone at Bunker Hill, to proclaim that "Resistance to tyrants is
obedience to God." Success is due to the discretion, heroism, calmness,
and forbearance of our fathers: let us wait our time. It will
come--perhaps will need no sacrifice of blood.

Resist, then, by peaceful means; not with evil, but with good. Hold the
men infamous that execute this law; give them your pity, but never give
them your trust, not till they repent. Then swiftly forgive. Agitate,
discuss, petition, and elect to office men whom you can trust; not men
who never show their face in the day of darkness and of peril. Choose
men that are men.

I suppose that this man will be carried back to slavery. The law of the
United States has been cloven down; the law of Massachusetts cloven
down. If we have done all that we can we must leave the result to God.
It is something that a man can only be kidnapped in Boston by riding
over the law, and can only be tried in a court-house surrounded by
chains, when the crouching judges crawl under the iron of slavery to
enter their house of bondage; that even on Fast Day it is guarded by one
hundred police, and three companies of military are picketed in Faneuil
Hall--the "Sims Brigade!"[33]

The Christians saw Christ crucified, and looked on from afar; sad, but
impotent. The Christians at Rome saw their brethren martyred, and could
not help them: they were too weak. But the blood of martyrs is the seed
of the church. To-day is St. Bademus' Day: three hundred and seventy-six
years after Christ, that precious saint was slain because he would not
keep the commandment of the king. By crucified redeemers shall mankind
be saved. If we cannot prevent crucifixion, let us wait for the

Shall I ask you to despair of human liberty and rights? I believe that
money is to triumph for the present. We see it does in Boston,
Philadelphia, New York, and Washington: see this in the defence of
bribery; in the chains of the court-house; in the judges' pliant necks;
in the swords of the police to-day; see it in the threats of the press
to withdraw the trade of Boston from towns that favor the unalienable
rights of man!

Will the Union hold out? I know not that. But, if men continue to
enforce the fugitive slave law, I do not know how soon it will end; I do
not care how soon the Union goes to pieces. I believe in Justice and the
Law of God; that ultimately the right will prevail. Wrong will prevail
for a time, and attract admiration. I have seen in a haberdasher's
shop-window the figure of a wooden woman showily arrayed, turning round
on a pivot, and attracting the gaze of all the passers-by; but ere long
it is forgotten. So it will be with this transient love of slavery in
Boston; but the love of right will last as long as the granite in New
Hampshire hills. I will not tell you to despair of freedom because
politicians are false; they are often so. Despair of freedom for the
black man! No, never. Not till heaven shakes down its stars; nay, not
till the heart of man ceases to yearn for liberty; not till the eternal
God is hurled from his throne, and a devil takes his place! All the arts
of wicked men shall not prevail against the Father; nay, at last, not
against the Son.

The very scenes we have witnessed here,--the Court-House in chains,--the
Laws of Massachusetts despised,--the Commonwealth disgraced,--these
speak to the people with an eloquence beyond all power of human speech.
Here is great argument for our cause. This work begets new foes to every
form of wrong. There is a day after to-day,--an eternity after
to-morrow. Let us be courageous and active, but cool and tranquil, and
full of hope.

These are the beginning of sorrows; we shall have others, and trials.
Continued material prosperity is commonly bad for a man, always for a
nation. I think the time is coming when there will be a terrible contest
between liberty and slavery. Now is the time to spread ideas, not to
bear arms. I know which will triumph: the present love of thraldom is
only an eddy in the great river of the nation's life; by and by it will
pass down the stream and be forgot. Liberty will spread with us, as the
spring over the New England hills. One spot will blossom, and then
another, until at last the spring has covered the whole land, and every
mountain rejoices in its verdant splendor.

O Boston! thou wert once the prayer and pride of all New England men,
and holy hands were laid in baptism on thy baby brow! Thou art
dishonored now; thou hast taken to thy arms the enemies of men. Thou
hast betrayed the slave; thy brother's blood cries out against thee from
the ground. Thou art a stealer of mankind. In thy borders, for long
years, the Cradle of Liberty has been placed. The golden serpent of
commerce has twined its snaky folds about it all, and fascinated into
sleep the child. Tread lightly, soldiers: he yet may wake. Yes, in his
time this child shall wake, and Boston shall scourge out the memory of
the men who have trodden her laws under foot, violated the dearest
instincts of her heart, and profaned her religion. I appeal from
Boston, swollen with wealth, drunk with passion, and mad against
freedom--to Boston in her calm and sober hour.

O Massachusetts, noble State, the mother that bore us all; parent of
goodly institutions and of noble men, whose great ideas have blessed the
land!--how art thou denied, dishonored, and brought low! One of thine
own hired servants has wrought this deed of shame, and rent the bosom
which took him as an adopted son. Shall it be always thus? I conjure
thee by all thy battle-fields,--by the remembrance of the great men born
of thee, who battled for the right, thy Franklin, Hancock, the
Adamses--three in a single name,--by thine ideas and thy love of
God,--to forbid forever all such deeds as this, and wipe away thy deep

America, thou youngest born of all God's family of States! thou art a
giant in thy youth, laying thine either hand upon thine either sea; the
lakes behind thee, and the Mexique bay before. Hast thou too forgot thy
mission here, proud only of thy wide-spread soil, thy cattle, corn, thy
cotton, and thy cloth? Wilt thou welcome the Hungarian hero, and yet
hold slaves, and hunt poor negroes through thy land? Thou art the ally
of the despot, thyself out-heathening the heathen Turk. Yea, every
Christian king may taunt thee with thy slaves. Dost thou forget thine
own great men,--thy Washington, thy Jefferson? forget thine own proud
words prayed forth to God in thy great act of prayer? Is it to protect
thy wealth alone that thou hast formed a State? and shall thy wealth be
slaves? No, thou art mad. It shall not be. One day thou wilt heed the
lessons of the past, practise thy prayer, wilt turn to God, and rend out
of thy book the hated page where Slavery is writ. Thy sons who led thee
astray in thy madness, where shall they appear?

And thou our God, the Father of us all, Father and Mother too, Parent of
freemen, Parent also of the slave, look down upon us in our sad estate.
Look down upon thy saints, and bless them; yea, bless thy sinners too;
save from the wicked heart. Bless this town by thy chastisement; this
State by thine afflictions; this nation by thy rod. Teach us to resist
evil and with good, till we break the fetters from every foot, the
chains from every hand, and let the oppressed go free. So let thy
kingdom come; so may thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


[26] The above paragraph refers to cases which had then recently
occurred, and were known to everybody.

[27] Mr. Peleg Sprague.

[28] The above paragraph was written in April, 1851, and was only
historical, not also prophetic.

[29] It was well known that the laws of Massachusetts were violated, but
no prosecution of the offenders was ever begun. The committee to whom
the matter was referred, thought that the Supreme Court of Massachusetts
was not to be trusted to vindicate the laws of the State, against
kidnappers in Boston.

[30] In November, 1851, the City Marshal reports to the Board of
Aldermen, the following facts:--There are fifteen hundred places in
Boston, where intoxicating drinks are sold, in violation of the laws of

    Kept by Americans,                       490
    Kept by foreigners,                     1010
    Open on Sunday,                          979
    Groceries that keep intoxicating drink,  469
    Other places,                           1031

All the "First class hotels," except four, have open bars, for the sale
of intoxicating drink. The government of Boston, which violated the laws
of Massachusetts, to kidnap a man, and deliver him to his tormentors,
asks the city marshal to give such information as is calculated to check
the progress of crime and intemperance. He reports--"Execute the laws!"
In 1851, Boston has the honor of kidnapping one of her inhabitants, and
sending him to slavery, and of supporting fifteen hundred rum-shops, in
continual violation of the laws of Massachusetts.

[31] While these volumes are getting printed, one of the sectarian
newspapers of Boston publishes the following paragraph:--

"The English railways are all in use on the Sabbath, and all evidently
under a curse. Their stock is ruinously low. Three hundred and fifty
millions of dollars have been embarked in these enterprises, and the
average dividends which they pay is but three per cent. And more than
this, a large number of fatal accidents have occurred of late. While we
regret that the business men of England, who control these lines, have
not wisdom enough to see the folly of making haste to be rich, in
defiance of the ordinances of God, we rejoice that so many of the
railroad operators in this country, rest on the Sabbath day, according
to the commandment." See note [B]** on p. 267.

[32] The tattered garment is still kept as a melancholy monument of the
civilization of Boston in the middle of the nineteenth century.

[33] Mr. Sims was sent off to bondage in the barque Acorn by the city
authorities of Boston. I believe he is the first man ever returned as a
fugitive slave from Massachusetts by the form of law since the adoption
of the Constitution. Arrived at Savannah, he was immediately conducted
to prison. His mother and other relatives were not allowed to see him.
He was cruelly and repeatedly scourged. Meantime the citizens of Boston,
who had aided in kidnapping him, and had accompanied him to Savannah,
were publicly feasted by the inhabitants of Georgia. The present fate of
Mr. Sims is unknown to me.

Nov. 27th, 1851.




Righteousness exalteth a Nation.

This is the first Sunday after the anniversary of the national
birth-day. It seems proper, on this occasion, to go beyond matters
merely personal, and affecting us only as individuals. I will speak of
the duties of man in a wider sphere; of political affairs. So I ask your
attention to a Sermon of the Safeguards of Society. I choose this
subject, because some men profess a fear that American society is in
danger, and because some persons are busily teaching doctrines which
seem hostile to the very design of society itself. I shall not speak of
politics as economy, but as morality, and look at the affairs of State
from a religious point of view.

We are often told, that human society is of divine
appointment,--society meaning the mass of men living together in a
certain fellowship. If this means that man is by nature a social being,
and in their progressive development men must unite and form societies,
then, it is true, society is of divine appointment. But so is a farm;
for man is by nature and position an agricultural being, and in their
progressive development men make farms and practise agriculture.
Agriculture is as necessary as society.--But it does not follow from
this, that the Egyptian, the Flemish, or the American mode of
agriculture is of divine appointment, and men bound by God to practise
that, or to limit themselves thereto; and it no more follows that the
Egyptian, the Flemish, or the American mode of society is of divine
appointment, and men bound by God to limit themselves to it. It would be
thought ridiculous to claim divinity for Dutch farming, or any other
special mode of farming; but it is just as ridiculous to claim divinity
for Dutch society, or any other society. The farm and the society are
alike and equally the work of men.

Then we are often told, that human government is of divine appointment,
and men morally bound to submit to it,--government being used as a
collective term to include the political, ecclesiastical, and social
establishments of a people, and the officers who administer them. If
this means, that, at a certain stage of man's progressive political
development, it is necessary to have certain political, ecclesiastical,
and social establishments, such as a monarchy or an aristocracy, with
persons to administer them, then it is true, and government is of divine
appointment.--But the fence of a farm is just as necessary to
agriculture, at a certain stage of agricultural development, as
government to society. However, it does not follow from this, that a
stone-wall or a rail-fence is of divine appointment; and it no more
follows that a monarchy or an aristocracy is of divine appointment. It
would be thought ridiculous for a farmer to claim divinity for his
fence; it is just as absurd for a politician to claim it for his
government. Both are alike and equally the work of men.

Again it is said that human statutes are of divine appointment, and
therefore binding on the conscience of men. If this means, that, at a
certain stage of social and political development, men must form certain
rules for social and political conduct, then it is true, and human
statutes are of divine appointment. But rules for agricultural conduct
are just as necessary for the farm and the garden as political rules for
society and the State, and so equally divine.--But it does not follow
from this, that the agricultural rules for the farm and the garden laid
down by Columella the Roman, or Cobbett the Briton, are of divine
appointment; and it no more follows that the political rules for society
and the State laid down by the men of New England or the men of New
Holland,--by men "fore-ordained" at birth to be lawgivers, or by men
"elected" in manhood to make laws,--are of divine appointment. It would
be thought ridiculous for a British farmer to claim divinity for
Tusser's "Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry;" but it is just as
absurd for a British politician to claim divinity for the British
Constitution, or the statutes of the realm. Rules for farming the land
and rules for farming the people are alike and equally the work of men.

Still further, it is said that human officers to execute the statutes,
administer the government, and sustain society, are also of divine
appointment; and hence we are morally bound to employ, honor, and obey
them. If this means, that at a certain stage of man's social, political,
and legal development, it is necessary to have certain persons whose
official business it shall be to execute those statutes, then it is
true, and human officers are of divine appointment. But it is just as
necessary to have certain persons, whose official business it shall be
to execute the rules for farming the land; and so the agricultural
officers are just as much of divine appointment as the political. But it
does not follow that ploughman Keith and reaper Gibson are such by the
grace of God, and therefore we are morally bound to employ, honor, and
obey them; and it no more follows that King Ferdinand or President
Fillmore are such by the grace of God, and we morally bound to employ,
honor, and obey them. It would be thought ridiculous for Keith and
Gibson to claim divinity for their function of ploughman or reaper; but
it is equally absurd for Fillmore and Ferdinand to claim divinity for
their function of president or king. The farm-office and the
state-office are alike and equally the work of men.

Yet it is often taught that society, government, statutes, and officers
are peculiarly and especially of divine appointment, in a very different
sense from that mentioned just now; and therefore you and I are morally
bound to respect all the four. We are told this by men who would be
astonished if any one should claim divine appointment for farm-fences,
rules of husbandry, for ploughmen and reapers.--This is sometimes done
by persons who know no better.

In conformity with that fourfold claim of divinity for things of human
appointment, we are told that the great safeguard of man's social
welfare is this,--Entire subordination of the individual to the
community, subordination in mind and conscience, heart and soul; entire
submission to the government; entire obedience to the statute; entire
respect for the officer; in short, the surrender of the individual to
the State, of his mind to the public opinion, of his conscience to the
public statute, of his religion to some bench of attorneys, and his will
to the magistrate. This fourfold subordination of the individual is
demanded, no matter what the community, the government, the statutes,
or the officers may be.--Let us look a little more narrowly into this
matter, and see what is the purpose, the end, and aim of individual
human life, and of social human life; then we may be the better able to
determine what are the safeguards thereof.

       *       *       *       *       *

What is man here on earth to accomplish? He is to unfold and perfect
himself, as far as possible, in body and spirit; to attain the full
measure of his corporeal and spiritual powders, his intellectual, moral,
affectional, and religious powers; to develop the individual into a
complete man. That, I take it, is the purpose, the end, the scope, and
final cause of individual life on earth. Accordingly, that is the best
form of individual life which does this most completely; that worst
which does it least. He is the most fortunate man who gets the greatest
development of his body and his spirit in all their several and
appropriate functions: all else is means thereto, and this the end
thereof. Ease, wealth, honor, fame, power, and all the outward things
men wish for, and all such things as are valuable, are means to this
end, no more. Wise men do not account him lucky who comes into the world
born to riches, distinction, thrones of power; but him who goes out of
it wise, just, good, and holy.

Accordingly, all else is to be subordinated to the attainment of this
purpose; this to nothing. But what faculties of the individual are to
rule and take precedence? The highest over the lowest; the lasting over
the transient; the eternal over the perishing. I will wound my hand to
save my head, subordinating the less to the greater. Not barely to live,
but to live nobly, is my purpose. I will wound or sacrifice my body to
save the integrity of my spirit, to defend the rights of my mind, of my
conscience, of my affections, of my religious faculty--my soul.
Conscience, when awakened, commands this. Prophets of the Old Testament,
and apostles of the New Testament, martyrs of all the churches under
heaven, are historical witnesses to this instinct of human nature.
Millions of soldiers have been found ready to sacrifice the life of
their body to the integrity of their spirit: they would die, but not

Man is social by nature: gregarious by instinct, he is social with
self-conscious will. To develop the individual into the perfect man, men
must mix and mingle. Society is the condition of individual development.
Moses or Newton, living all alone, would not have attained the human
dignity of a clown or a savage; they would never have mastered
articulate speech: the gregarious elephant, the lonely eagle, would
surpass these men, born to the mightiest genius. Society, companionship
of men, is both a necessity and a comfort, a good in itself, a means to
other good.

As the great purpose of human life is to develop the individual into
the complete and perfect man in body and spirit, so the purpose of
society is to help furnish the means thereto; to defend each, and
furnish him an opportunity and all possible help to become a complete
and perfect man. Individuals are the monads, the primitive atoms, of
which society is composed: its power, its perfection, depend primarily
on the power and perfection of the individuals, as much so as the weight
of a pendulum or of Mount Sheehallin depends on the primitive atoms
thereof. Destroy the individuality of those atoms, human or
material,--all is gone. To mar the atom is to mar the mass. To preserve
itself, therefore, society is to preserve the individuality of the

Such is its general purpose: this involves several particulars. One is
purely negative in its form,--To prevent men from hurting one another.
In early ages, that was the chief business of society which men had
become conscious of. Society was recognized as an instrument to help
accomplish two things: first, to defend itself against other societies
or collections of men, and so preserve the integrity of the mass. This
was done by means of armies, forts, fleets, and all the artillery of
war. The next thing was, within itself, to defend the many feeble from
the few that are strong, or the few strong from the many weak; to
preserve the integrity of the individuals, the atoms which compose the
mass. This was done by statutes of prohibition, declaring, "Thou shalt
not." This defence from foreign or domestic harm involves two things:
first, the protection of the person, the substance of the community or
the individual; and, next, the protection of the property, the accident
of the social or individual person. All this may be comprised in one
term as the negative function of society, appearing in two modes, as it
protects from foreign or domestic hurt. This function is performed
consciously: one community says to other communities, "You shall not
hurt me," and to its own members, "You must not hurt one another," and
knows what it is about in so doing. Some of the nations of Europe have
scarcely got beyond this; their government seems to acknowledge no
function but this negative one.

Then comes the positive function of society. That is, To furnish
opportunities for the mass, as such, to develop itself; and the
individual, as such, to develop himself, individually and socially, and
exercise all his faculties in his own way; subject only to this rule,
that he hurts nobody else. See how this is done abroad between society
and society. This community agrees with others, that they, mutually,
shall not only not injure each other, but positively help one another.
"Protect my citizens by your statutes, whilst in your land; and I will
do the same with yours," says Belgium to France. That is agreed upon.
"Let my ships into your harbors," says England, "come whence they may,
and with what they may bring; and I will do the same by yours." America
says, "Agreed;" and it is so to the good of both. Thus each Christian
nation secures for itself opportunities for development in all other
Christian countries, and so helps the person, and also his property.
This is done by treaties; and each nation has its ministers and consuls
to lie abroad, and help accomplish this work. This is the foreign part
of the positive function of society, and is destined to a great
expansion in times to come.

See how it is done at home, and the whole furnishes positive helps to
the special parts. Society establishes almshouses, hospitals, schools,
colleges, churches, and post-offices; coins money as a standard measure
of all values; builds roads of earth, of water, or of iron; carries
letters; surveys the land; prints books telling of its minerals, plants,
and living things that swim or creep or fly or walk; puts light-houses
along the coast, and breakwaters to protect a port. Thus society
furnishes its members a positive help for the mind, body, and estate;
helps the individual become a complete and perfect man, by affording him
facilities for the development of his substance, and the possession of
his accidents. This is the domestic part of the positive function of
society. Some men, as the socialists in France, wish to extend it much
further, making the government patriarchal to bless,--not, as of old,
despotic to curse. This also is done with a distinct self-consciousness
of the immediate end and the means thereto.

But the greater part of this positive work is done with no such distinct
consciousness thereof: it is brought about by the men living together;
is done, not by government, but by society. The presence of numbers
increases the intellectual temperature, so to say, and quickens the
social pulse. Machines are invented, science extended, new truths in
morals and religion are found out, literature and art create new
loveliness, and men become greater and more noble, while society takes
no heed; and so all are helped. The government often only checks this

By most subtle contrivances, though not of you and me, a provision is
made for the great. Without willing it, we prepare a cradle for every
giant, ready to receive him soon as he is born. A young woman has a rare
genius for music; no legal and constitutional provision has been made
for her, society having no instinctive and prophetic consciousness of
such an advent; but men with music in their souls, and spell-bound by
their ears, are drawn together, and encourage her sweet soul into all
the wildest, sweetest, and most bewildering witchery of song. If some
lad of marvellous genius is born in the woods, men seek him out, and
train him up with the accumulated wisdom of ten thousand years, that
this newest diamond from the mine of God may be appropriately set. So
it is with a thousand other things; and thus society calls out the
dainties of the cook, the machine of the inventor, the orator's
persuasive power, the profound thought of the thinker, the poet's vision
and his faculty divine, the piety of the highest saint God sends. Thus,
spite of all the Herods in Jerusalem, a crown is got ready for him that
is born King of the world; wise men are always waiting for the star
which goes before the new-born Son of God; and, though that star stand
still over a stable, they are ready on the spot with their myrrh, their
frankincense, and their gold. Society has its shepherds watching their
flock, and its angels to proclaim the glad tidings of great joy to all

While society, in its positive function, thus helps the strong, it
provides also for the weak, and gives them the benefit of the strong
man's protection: thus the individuality of the ablest and the most
feeble is defended at the same time. This is done in part by private
charity; in part also by the organized public charity. The sick, the
poor, the crazy, the lame, the blind, the deaf, are sacredly cared for.
Even the fool is not left in his folly, but the wisdom of society
watches over his impotent and wretched brain. Thus the two extremes of
the human race are provided for: the man of vast genius and a tough body
gets his culture and his place; and from his station in the senate, the
pulpit, or the closet, sends out his thunder, his lightning, or his
sunshine over all the land, to save the people and to bless; while the
lame man, the lunatic woman, the blind boy, the poor and sickly little
girl, born with the scrofulous worm feeding on her cheek,--all have the
benefit of the manifold power of society. The talent of a Webster, the
genius of an Emerson, the frailty of an unacknowledged child left on the
doorstone at night, to die next month in the almshouse, all have their
place in the large cradle of society, whose coverlet wraps them
all,--the senator, the poet, and the fool. Attend a meeting of the
alumni of Harvard College, of the heads of the railroads or factories of
New England, a convention of merchants, naturalists, metaphysicians, of
the senate of the nation, you see how society gives place and protection
to the best heads in the State. Then go to some house of industry, and
see the defence afforded for the worst; you see what a wonderful
contrivance society itself is. I say a contrivance, yet it is not the
contrivance chiefly of Solon or Charlemagne, but of Almighty God; a
contrivance for three things,--To prevent men from hurting one another
in person or property; to give the strong and the weak the advantage of
living together; and thus to enable each to have a fair chance for the
development of his person and the acquisition of property. The mechanism
of society, with its statical and dynamical laws, is the most marvellous
phenomenon in the universe. Thereby we are continually building wiser
than we know, or rather the providence of the Father builds by us, as by
the coral insect of Pacific Seas, foundations for continents which we
dream not of.

       *       *       *       *       *

These three things are the general end of society, and indispensable to
the purpose of life. To attain them, there must be a certain amount of
individual variety of action, a certain amount of social unity of
action; and the two must be to a certain degree balanced into
equilibrium. The larger the amount of individual variety and social
unity of action, the more complete the equilibrium of the two, the more
completely is the purpose of individual and social life accomplished and
attained: the atom is not sacrificed to the mass, nor the mass to the
atom; the individual gains from being a citizen, the citizen from his
individuality; all are the better for each, and each for all.

To accomplish this purpose, men devise certain
establishments,--institutions, constitutions, statutes--human machinery
for attaining the divine end in the individual and the social form. But
here is the condition of existence which all these establishments must
conform to. Every thing in nature has a certain constant mode of action:
this, we call a law of nature. The laws of nature are universal,
unchangeable, and perfect as God, whose mind they in part express. To
succeed in any thing, we must find out and keep the natural laws
relating thereto. There are such laws for the individual,--constant
modes of action which belong to human nature, writ therein by God. My
mind and conscience are the faculties by which I learn these laws.
Conscience perceives by instinct; mind sees afterwards by experiment.
There are also such laws for society, constant modes of action, which
belong to human nature in its social form. They are also written in the
nature of man. The mind and conscience of the individuals who make up
the society are the faculties by which these laws likewise are found
out. These laws, constant modes of individual or social action, are the
sole and exclusive basis of human establishments which help attain the
end of individual and social life. What conforms to these natural rights
is called right; what conforms not, is wrong. A mill-dam or a monument
must conform to the statical laws of matter, or not serve the purpose it
was meant for; a mill or a steam-engine must conform to the dynamical
laws of matter, or it is also useless. So all the social establishments
of mankind, designed to further the positive or negative functions of
society, must conform to the laws of human nature, or they will fail to
achieve the purposes of individual and social life.

As I come to individual self-consciousness, I give utterance to these
natural laws, or my notion of them, in certain rules of conduct which I
make for myself. I say, "This will I do, for it is right; that will I
not do, for it is wrong." These are my personal resolutions, personal
statutes. I make them in my high act of prayer, and in my common life
seek to conform thereto. When I rise higher, in another act of prayer
which has a greater experience for its basis and so represents more
life, I shall revise the old rules of conduct, and make new ones that
are better. The rules of conduct derive all their objective and real
value from their conformity with the law of God writ in my nature; all
their subjective and apparent value, from their conformity to my notions
of the law of God. The only thing which makes it right, and an
individual moral duty for me to keep my resolutions, is, that they
themselves are right, or I believe them so. Now, as I see they are
wrong, or think I see it, I shall revise or change them for better.
Accordingly, I revise them many times in my life: now by a gradual
change, the process of peaceful development; now by a sudden change,
under conviction of sin, in penitence for the past, and great concern of
mind for the future, by the process of personal revolution. But these
rules of conduct are always provisional,--my ladder for climbing up to
the purposes of individual life. I will throw them away as soon as I can
get better. They are amenable subjectively to my notion of right, and
objectively to right itself,--to conscience and to God.

As the individuals, all, the majority, or some controlling men, come to
social self-consciousness, they express these natural laws, or their
notion thereof, in certain rules of social conduct. They say, "This
shall all men do, for it is right; that shall no man do, for it is
wrong." The nation makes its social resolutions, social statutes, in its
act of prayer; for legislation is to the State what prayer is to the
man,--often an act of penitence, of sorrow, of fear, and yet of faith,
hope, and love. When it rises higher, it revises and makes better rules
of conduct: they derive all their objective and real value from their
conformity with the law of God; all their subjective and apparent value,
from their conformity with the nation's notion thereof. The only thing
which makes it right, and a social moral duty for society, or any of its
members, to keep these social statutes, is that they are right, or
thought so. In the progress of society, its rules of conduct get revised
a good many times: now it is done by gradual, peaceful development; now
by sudden and stormy revolutions, when society is penitent for the sin
of the past, and in great anxiety and concern of mind through fear of
the future. These social statutes are only provisional, to help men
climb up to the purpose of social life. They are all amenable
subjectively to the notion of right; objectively to right itself,--to
the conscience of the individuals and to God.

Then society appoints officers whose special conventional function is to
see to the execution of these social rules of conduct. They are legally
amenable to the rules of conduct they are to carry out; socially
amenable to the community that appoints them; individually amenable to
their own conscience and to God.

To sum up all this in one formula: Officers are conventionally amenable
to society; society, with its officers and its rules of conduct,
amenable to the purpose of society; the design of individual life, to
the individuals that compose it; individuals, with their rules of
conduct, amenable each to his own conscience; and all to the law of the
universe, to the Eternal Right, which represents the conscience of God.
So far as society is right, government right, statutes right, officers
right, all may justly demand obedience from each: for though society,
government, statutes, and officers are mere human affairs, as much so as
farms, fences, top-dressing, and reapers, and are as provisional as
they; yet Right is divine, is of God, not merely provisional and for
to-day, but absolute and for eternity. So, then, the moral duty to
respect the government, to keep the statutes, to obey the officers, is
all resolvable into the moral duty of respecting the integrity of my own
nature, of keeping the eternal law of nature, of obeying God. If
government, statutes, officers, command me to do right, I must do it,
not because commanded, but because it is right; if they command me to
do wrong, I must refuse, not because commanded, but because it is wrong.
There is a constitution of the universe: to keep that is to preserve the
union between man and man, between man and God. To do right is to keep
this constitution: that is loyalty to God. To keep my notion of it is
loyalty to my own soul. To be false to my notion thereof is treason
against my own nature; to be false to that constitution is treason
against God. The constitution of the universe is not amenable to men:
that is the law of God, the higher law, the constant mode of action of
the infinite Father of all. In that He lives and moves, and has His

       *       *       *       *       *

It is now easy to see what are the Safeguards of society, the things
which promote the end and aim of society,--the development of the body
and spirit of all men after their law,--and thus help attain the purpose
of individual life. I will mention three of these safeguards, in the
order of their importance.

First of all, is Righteousness in the People: a religious determination
to keep the law of God at all hazards; a sacred and inflexible reverence
for right; a determined habit of fidelity each to his own conscience.
This, of course, implies a hatred of wrong; a religious and determined
habit of disobeying and resisting every thing which contradicts the law
of God, of disobeying what is false to this and our conscience. There is
no safeguard for society without this. It is to man what
impenetrability, with the other primary qualities, is to matter. All
must begin with the integral atoms, with the individual mind and
conscience; all be tried by that test, personal integrity, at last. What
is false to myself I must never do,--at no time, for no consideration,
in nowise. This is the doctrine of the higher law; the doctrine of
allegiance to God; a doctrine which appears in every form of religion
ever taught in the world; a doctrine admitted by the greatest writers on
the foundation of human law, from Cicero to Lord Brougham. Even Bentham
comes back to this. I know it is now-a-days taught in the United States,
that, if any statute is made after the customary legal form, it is
morally binding on all men, no matter what the statute may be; that a
command to kidnap a black man and sell him into slavery, is as much
morally binding as a command for a man to protect his own wife and
child. A people that will practically submit to such a doctrine is not
worthy of liberty, and deserves nothing but law, oppressive law,
tyrannical law; and will soon get what it deserves. If a people has this
notion, that they are morally bound to obey any statute legally made,
though it conflict with public morals, with private conscience, and with
the law of God, then there is no hope of such a people; and the sooner
a tyrant whips them into their shameful grave, the better for the world.
Trust me, to such a people the tyrant will soon come. Where the carcass
is thither will the vultures be gathered together. Let no man put
asunder the carrion and the crow. So much for the first and
indispensable safeguard.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next is derivative therefrom, Righteousness in the Establishments of
the People. Under this name I include three things, namely,
institutions, constitutions, and statutes. Institutions are certain
modes of operation, certain social, ecclesiastical, or political
contrivances for doing certain things. Thus an agricultural club is a
social institution to help farming; a private school is a social
institution for educating its pupils; a church is an ecclesiastical
institution for the promotion of religion; an aristocracy is a political
institution for governing all the people by means of a few, and for the
sake of a few; a congress of senators and representatives is a
legislative institution for making statutes; a jury of twelve men is a
judicial institution to help execute the statutes; universal suffrage is
a democratic institution for ruling the State.

Constitutions are fundamental rules of conduct for the nation, made by
the highest human authority in the land, and only changeable thereby,
determining what institutions shall be allowed, how administered, by
whom and in what manner statutes shall be made.

Statutes are particular rules of conduct to regulate the action of man
with man, of individuals with the State, and of the State with

Statutes are amenable to the constitutions; the constitutions to the
institutions; they to the people; all subjectively to the conscience of
the individual, and objectively to the conscience of God.

Establishments are the machinery which a people contrives wherewith to
carry out its ideas of the right or the expedient. In the present state
of mankind, they are indispensable to accomplish the purpose of
individual life. There are indeed a few men who for their good conduct,
after they are mature, require no human laws whatever. They regulate
themselves by their idea of right, by their love of truth, of justice,
of man and God. They see the law of God so clear that they need no
prohibitive statutes to restrain them from wrong. They will not lie nor
steal, though no statutes forbid, and all other men both lie and steal;
not if the statutes command falsehood and theft. These men are saints.
The wealth of Athens could not make Aristides unjust. Were all men like
Jesus of Nazareth, statutes forbidding wrong would be as needless as
sails to a shark, a balloon to a swallow, or a railroad to the lightning
of heaven. This is always a small class of men, but one that continually
increases. We all look to the time when this will include all men. No
man expects to find law books and courts in the kingdom of heaven.

Then there is a class, who need these statutes as a well-known rule of
conduct to encourage them to do right, by the assurance that all other
men will likewise be made to do so, even if not willing. They see the
law of God less clear and strong, and need human helps to keep it. This
class comprises the majority of mankind. The court-house helps them,
though they never use it; the jail helps them, though never in it. These
are common men. They are very sober in Connecticut; not very sober in

Then there is a third class who will do wrong, unless they are kept from
it by punishment or the fear thereof. They do not see the law of God, or
will not keep it if they do. The court-house helps them; so does the
jail, keeping them from actual crime while there, deterring while out of
it. Take away the outward restraints, their seeming virtue falls to
pieces like a barrel without its hoops. These are knaves. I think this
class of men will continually diminish with the advance of mankind; that
the saints will grow common, and the knaves get scarce. Good
establishments promote this end; those of New England, especially the
schools, help forward this good work, to convert the knaves to common
men, to transfigure the common men to saints. Bad establishments, like
many in Austria, Ireland, and South Carolina, produce the opposite
effect: they hinder the development of what is high and noble in man,
and call out what is mean and low; for human laws are often instruments
to debauch a nation.

If a nation desires to keep the law of God, good establishments will
help the work; if it have none such, it must make them before it can be
at peace. They are as needful as coats and gowns for the body. Sometimes
the consciousness of the people is far in advance of its establishments,
and there must be a revolution to restore the equilibrium. It is so at
Rome, in Austria and Prussia. All these countries are on the brink of
revolution, and are only kept down by the bayonet. It was so here
seventy-five years ago, and our fathers went through fire and blood to
get the establishments they desired. They took of the righteousness in
the people, and made therefrom institutions, constitutions, and
statutes. So much for the second and derivative safeguard.

       *       *       *       *       *

The third is Righteousness in the Public Officers, good men to
administer the establishments, manage the institutions, expound and
enforce the constitutions and execute the statutes, and so represent the
righteousness of the people. In the hands of such men as see the purpose
of social and individual life, and feel their duty to keep the integrity
of their conscience and obey the law of God, even bad establishments
are made to work well, and serve the purpose of human life; because the
man puts out the evil of the institution, constitution, or statute, and
puts his own righteousness in its place. There was once a judge in New
England who sometimes had to administer bad laws. In these cases, he
told the jury, "Such is the law, common or enacted; such are the
precedents; such the opinions of Judge This and Judge That; but justice
demands another thing. I am bound by my oath as judge to expound to you
the law as it is; you are bound by oath as jurors to do justice under
it; that is your official business here to-day." Such a man works well
with poor tools; with good ones he would work much better. By the action
of such men, aided by public opinion which they now follow and now
direct, without any change of legislation, there is a continual progress
of justice in the establishments of a nation. Bad statutes are dropped
or corrected, constitutions silently ameliorated, all institutions made
better. Thus wicked laws become obsolete. There is a law in England
compelling all men to attend church. Nobody enforces it.

Put a bad man to administer the establishments, one who does not aim at
the purpose of society, nor feel bound to keep the higher law of God,
the best institutions, constitutions, statutes, become ineffectual,
because the man puts out the good thereof, and puts in his own evil.
The best establishments will be perverted to the worst of purposes. Rome
had all the machinery of a commonwealth; with Cæsar at the head it
became a despotism. In 1798, France had the establishments of a
republic; with Napoleon for first consul, you know what it became: it
soon was made an empire, and the Constitution was trodden under foot. In
1851, France has the institutions of a democracy; with Louis Napoleon as
chief, you see what is the worth of the provisions for public justice.
What was the Constitution of England good for under the thumb of Charles
I. and James II.? What was the value of the common law, of the trial by
jury, of Magna Charta, "such a fellow as will have no sovereign," with a
George Jeffries for Judge, a James II. for king, and such juries as
corrupt sheriffs brought together? They were only a mockery. What were
the charters of New England against a wicked king and a corrupt cabinet?
Connecticut went out of the court and into the Charter Oak for
self-preservation. What were all the institutions of Christianity when
Alexander VI. dishonored the seat even of the Pope?

Put a saint, who feels his duty to keep the law of God, in office, even
bad rules will work well. But put a man who recognizes no law of God,
not into a jail, but in a great office; give him courts and courtiers,
fleets and armies, nay, only newspapers and "union committees" to serve
him, you see what will be done. The resolute determination of the
people to obey the law of God, the righteousness of their
establishments, will be of small avail, frustrated by the wickedness of
the men in power. The English Parliament once sent a fleet to aid the
Huguenots at Rochelle. King Charles I. gave the admiral secret orders to
surrender his ships to the enemy he was sent to oppose! The purpose of
all human life may be as foully betrayed by wicked men in a high place.
In a monarchy, the king is answerable for it with his neck; in a
republic there is the same danger; but, where all seems to proceed from
the people, it may be more difficult to do justice to a wicked officer.
So much for the third safeguard, also derivative from the first.

To make a good house, you want good materials,--solid stone, sound
bricks, sound timber; a good plan, and also good builders. So, as
safeguards of society, to achieve its purpose, you want good
material,--a righteous people who will be faithful to their own
conscience, and obey God and reverence the law of nature; a good
plan,--righteous establishments, institutions, constitutions, statutes
conformable to the laws of God; and you want good builders,--righteous
officers to represent the eternal justice of the Father. You want this
threefold righteousness.

       *       *       *       *       *

How are we provided with these three safeguards just now? Have we this
Righteousness in the People?--which is the first thing. Perhaps there is
no nation with a higher reverence for justice, and more desire to keep
the law of God; at least we have been told so, often enough. I think the
nation never had more of it than now; never so much. But here are whole
classes of men who practically seem to have no reverence for God's law;
who declare there is no such thing; whose conduct is most shamefully
unrighteous in all political matters. They seek to make us believe there
is no law above the caprice of man. Of such I will speak by and by.

It is plain there is not righteousness enough in the people to hinder us
from doing what we know is contrary to the law of God. Thus, we keep one
sixth part of the people in a state of slavery. This we do in violation
of our own axiom, declared to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, endowed by their Creator with the unalienable right to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have here three millions of
slaves: if things go on as now, there will be twelve millions before the
century ends. We need not say we cannot help it. Slavery in America is
as much our work as democracy, as free schools, as the Protestant form
of religion. At the Declaration, we might have made the slaves free; at
the time of the Confederation; at the formation of the Constitution. But
no! there was not righteousness enough in the people to resist the
temptation of eating the bread which others earn. American slavery has
always been completely in the power of the American people. We may
abolish it any time we will. We might have restricted it to the old
States, which had it before, and so have kept it out of Kentucky,
Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and all that mighty
realm west of the great river. No! we took pains to extend it there. We
fought with Mexico to carry slavery into the "Halls of the Montezumas,"
whence a half-barbarous people drove it away. We long to seize on Cuba,
and yet other lands, to plant there our "American institution." We are
indignant when Austria unjustly seizes an American in Hungary, and hales
him to prison; but have nothing to say when slave States systematically
confine the colored freemen of the North, or when Georgia offers a large
reward for the head of a citizen of Boston. We talk of the "pauper labor
of Europe." It is pauper labor, very much of it. I burn with indignation
at the men who keep it so. But it is not slave labor. Paupers spin
cotton at Manchester, and at Glasgow, say the whigs. Who raises cotton
at South Carolina and Mississippi? The spoil of the slave is in our
houses. We are a republic, but the only nation of the Christian world
whose fields are tilled by chattel slaves. To such a degree has
covetousness blinded the eyes of the whole nation. In saying all this,
I will not say that we are less righteous than other nations. No other
people has had the same temptation. It has been too great for America.
Slavery is loved as well in Boston as in New Orleans. The love of
liberty is strong with us; but it is liberty for ourselves we love, not
for our brother man whom we can oppress and enthrall. This vice is not
confined to the South. I look on some of the clergymen of the North as
only chaplains of the slave-driver.

Look at the next safeguard of society. Setting aside the institution of
slavery, and the statutes relating thereto, I think we have the most
righteous Establishments in the world. By no means perfect, they produce
the greatest variety of action in the individuals, the greatest unity of
action in society, and afford an opportunity to achieve the purpose of
social and individual life. Here is the great institution of democracy,
the government of all, by all, and for all, resting on the American
idea, that all men have natural rights which only the possessor can
alienate; that all are equal in their rights; that it is the business of
government to preserve them all for each man. Under this great
institution of a free State, there naturally come the church, the
school, the press,--all free. In politics, and all depending thereon, we
are coming to recognize this principle, that restraint is only to be
exercised for the good of all, the restrainer and the restrained.

Let me single out two excellent institutions, not wholly American,--The
contrivance for making laws, and that for executing them. To make laws,
the people choose the best men they can find and confide in, and set
them to this work. They aim to take all the good of past times, of the
present times, and add to it their private contribution of justice. Each
State Legislature is a little political academy for the advancement of
jural science and art. They get the wisest and most humane men to aid
them. Then after much elaboration the law is made. If it works well in
one State it is soon tried in others; if not, it is repealed and ceases
to be. The experience of mankind has discovered no better way than this
of popular legislation, for organizing the ideal justice of the people
into permanent forms. If there is a man of moral and political genius in
the community, he can easily be made available to the public. The
experiment of popular legislation has been eminently successful in

Then, still further, we have Officers chosen by the people for a limited
time, to enforce the laws when made,--the Executive; others to expound
them,--the Judiciary. It is the official business of certain officers to
punish the man who violates the laws. In due and prescribed form, they
arrest the man charged with the offence. Now, two things are desirable:
one to protect society, in all its members, from injury by any one
acting against its just laws; the other is, to protect the man
complained of from being hurt by government when there is no law
against him, or when he has not done the deed alleged, or from an unjust
punishment, even if it be legal. In despotic countries, little is
thought of this latter; and it goes hard with a man whom the government
complains of, even if there is no positive statute against the crime
charged on him, or when he is innocent of the deed alleged. Nothing can
screen him from the lawful punishment, though that be never so unjust.
The statute and its administration are a rule without mercy. But in
liberal governments a contrivance has been devised to accomplish both
these purposes,--the just desire of society to execute its laws; the
just desire of the individual to have justice done. That is the trial by
a jury of twelve men, not officers of the government, but men taken for
this purpose alone from the bosom of the community, with all their human
sympathies and sense of responsibility to God about them. The jury are
to answer in one word "Guilty" or "Not guilty." But it is plain they are
to determine three things: first, Did the prisoner do the deed alleged,
and as alleged? next, if so, Is there a legal and constitutional statute
forbidding it, and decreeing punishment therefor? and then, if so, Shall
the prisoner for that deed suffer the punishment denounced by that

Human statutes partake of human imperfections. See the checks against
sudden, passionate, or unjust legislation. We choose legislators, and
divide them into two branches, a Senate and a House of Representatives,
each to aid and check the other. If a bill pass one house, and seem
unjust to the other, it is set aside. If both approve of it, a third
person has still a qualified negative; and, if it seems unjust to him,
he sets it aside. If it passes this threefold ordeal, it becomes a
statute of the land. See the checks in the execution of the laws which
relate to offences. Before they can be brought against any man, in any
matter beyond a trifle, a jury of his peers indict him for the offence.
Then, before he can be punished, twelve men of his peers must say with
one accord, "You shall inflict the penalties of the statute upon this

This trial by jury has long been regarded as one of the most important
of the secondary safeguards of society. It has served to defend the
community against bad citizens, and the citizens against an evil
establishment,--bad institutions, bad constitutions, bad statutes;
against evil officers, bad rulers, bad judges, bad sheriffs. If the
community has much to fear from bad citizens, here is the offensive
armor, and the jury do not bear the sword in vain. If its citizens have
much to fear from a wicked government, oppressive, grasping, tyrannical,
desirous of pretending law where there is none, declaring "ship-money"
and other enormities constitutional, or pressing a legal statute beyond
justice, making it treason to tell of the wickedness of officers,--here
is the defensive armor, and the jury do not bear in vain the shield of
the citizen. Sometimes the citizens have more to fear from the
government than from all other foes. Louis XIV. was a great robber, and
plundered and murdered more of his subjects than all the other alleged
felons in the sixteen millions of Frenchmen. The honest burghers of
Paris had more to fear from the monarch in the Tuileries than from the
murderer in the Faubourg St. Antoine, or the cut-purse in the Rue St.
Jacob. Charles I. was a more dangerous enemy to our fathers in England
and America than all the other thieves and murderers in the realm. What
were all the Indians in New England, for peril to its Christian
citizens, compared to Charles II. and his wicked brother? What was a
foot-pad to Henry VIII.? He plundered a province, while the robber only
picked a pocket.

The trial by jury has done manly service. It was one of the first
bulwarks of human society, then barbarous and feeble, thrown up by the
Germanic tribe which loved order, but loved justice too. It is a line of
circumvallation against the loose, unorganized wickedness of the private
ruffian; a line of contravallation also against the organized wickedness
of the public government. It began before there were any regular courts
or written laws; and, ever since, it has done great service when
corrupt men in high places called a little offence "treason"; when
corrupt judges sought to crush down the people underneath oppressive
laws to advance themselves; and when corrupt witnesses were ready to
"enlarge" their testimony so as to "dispatch" the men accused; yea, to
swear black was black, and then, when the case seemed to require it,
swear white was black. Any man who reads the history of England under
the worst of kings, the worst of ministers, the worst of judges, and
with the worst of witnesses, and compares it with other nations, will
see the value of the trial by jury as a safeguard of the people. The
bloody Mary had to punish the jurors for their verdict of acquittal,
before she could accomplish her purposes of shame. George III., wishing
to collect a revenue in the American colonies, without their consent or
any constitutional law, found the jury an obstacle he could not pass
over. Attorneys might try John Hancock for smuggling in his "sloop
Liberty:" no jury would convict. The tea, a vehicle of unjust taxation,
went floating out of Boston Bay in a most illegal style. No attempt was
made to try the offenders; the magistrates knew there was a jury who
would not convict men for resisting a wicked law. Men must be taken
"over seas for trial" by a jury of their enemies, before the wicked laws
of a wicked ministry could be brought upon the heads of the resolute men
of America.

It is of great importance to keep this institution pure; to preserve its
spirit, with such expansion as the advance of mankind requires.
Otherwise, the laws may be good, the constitutions good, institutions
good, the disposition of the people good; but, with a wicked minister in
the cabinet, a wicked judge on the bench, a wicked attorney at the bar,
and a wicked witness to forswear himself on the stand,--and all these
can easily be had; you can purchase your wicked witnesses; nay,
sometimes one will volunteer and "enlarge his testimony,"--a man's life
and liberty are not safe for a moment. The administration may grasp any
man at will. The minister represents the government; the judge, the
attorney, all represent the government. It has often happened that all
these had something to gain by punishing unjustly some noble man who
opposed their tyranny, and they used their official power to pervert
justice and ruin the State, that they might exalt themselves. The jury
does not represent the government, but "the country;" that is, the
justice, the humanity, the mercy of mankind. This is its great value.

Have we the third safeguard, Righteous Officers? I believe no nation
ever started with nobler officers than we chose at first. But I think
there has been some little change from Washington down through the
Tylers and the Polks to the present administration. John Adams, in
coming to the presidency, found his son in a high office, and asked his
predecessor if it were fit for the President to retain his own son in
office. Washington replied, It would be wrong for you to appoint him;
but I hope he will not be discharged from office, and so the country be
deprived of his valuable services, merely "because he is your son!" What
a satire is this on the conduct of men in power at this day! We have had
three "second General Washingtons" in the presidential chair since 1829;
two new ones are now getting ready, "standing like greyhounds in the
slips, straining upon the start," for that bad eminence. These three
past and two future "Washingtons" have never displayed any very
remarkable family likeness to the original--who left no descendant--in
this particular.[35] I pass over the general conduct of our executive
and judicial officers, which does not seem to differ much from that of
similar functionaries in England, in France, in Italy, Austria, Turkey,
and Spain. But I must speak of some special things in the conduct of
some of these persons,--things which ought to be looked at on such a
day as this, and in the light of religion. Attempts have lately been
made in this city to destroy the juror's power to protect the citizen
from the injustice of government,--attempts to break down this safeguard
of individual liberty. We have seen a judge charge the grand jury, that,
in case of conflict between the law of God and the statutes made by men,
the people must "obey both." Then we have seen an attempt made by the
government to get a partial jury, who should not represent the country,
but should have prejudices against the prisoner at the bar. We have seen
a man selected as foreman of the jury who had previously, and before
witnesses, declared that all the persons engaged in the case which was
to come before him, "ought to be hung." We have seen a man expelled from
the jury, after he had taken the juror's oath, because he declared that
he had "a general sympathy with the down-trodden and oppressed here and
everywhere," and so did not seem likely to "dispatch" the prisoner, as
the government desired. This is not all: the judge questions the jurors
before their oath, and refuses to allow any one to be impanelled who
doubts the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law. Even this is not
the end: he charges the jury thus selected, packed, picked, and
winnowed, that they are to take the law as he lays it down; that they
are only judges of the fact, he exclusively of the law; and, if they
find that the prisoner did the deed alleged, then they must return him
"Guilty" of the offence charged.

I am no lawyer: I shall not speak here with reference to usages and
precedents of the past, only with an eye to the consequences for the
future. If the court can thus select a jury to suit itself, mere
creatures of its own, what is the use of a jury to try the fact? See the
consequences of this decision, that no man shall serve as juror who
doubts the constitutionality of a law, and that the jurors are not
judges of the law itself, as well as the fact. Let me suppose some cases
which may happen. The Constitution of the United States provides that
Congress shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion. Suppose that
Congress should pass a law to punish any man with death who should pray
to the "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." The government wishes to punish an
obnoxious orthodox minister for violating this "form of law." It is
clearly unjust; but the judge charges the grand jury they are to "obey
both" the laws of God and the statutes of men. The grand jury indict the
man. He is brought for trial. The law is obviously unconstitutional; but
the judge expels from the jury all who think the law is
unconstitutional. He selects the personal enemies of the accused, and
finds twelve men foolish enough or wicked enough to believe it is
constitutional to do what the Constitution declares must not be done;
and then proceeds to trial, selecting for foreman the man who has said,
"All men that thus pray ought to be hung!" What is the value of your
Constitution? The jury might convict, the judge sentence, the President
issue his warrant, and the man be hanged in twenty-four hours, for doing
a deed which the Constitution itself allows, and Christendom daily
practises, and the convictions of two hundred million men require!

It is alleged the jury must not judge of the law, but only of the fact.
See the consequences of this principle in several cases. The Secretary
of State has declared the rescuing of Shadrach was "treason," and, of
course, punishable with death. Suppose the court had charged the jury,
that to rescue a man out of the hands of an incompetent officer--an
offence which in Boston has sometimes been punished with a fine of five
dollars--was "levying war" against the United States, and they were only
to find if the prisoner did the deed; and, if so, return a verdict of
guilty. Suppose the jury are wicked enough to accept his charge, where
is the protection of the citizen? The government may say, to smuggle
goods into Boston harbor is "levying war" and hang a man for treason who
brings on shore an ounce of camphor in his pocket without paying duties!
Is not the jury, in such a case, to judge what the law makes
treason?--to decide for itself?

There was once a law making it felony without benefit of clergy to read
the Bible in the English language. Suppose the government, wishing to
make away with an obnoxious man, should get him indicted next term for
this offence, and the judge should declare that the old law is still in
force. Is the jury not to judge whether we live under the bloody Mary,
or the constitution of Massachusetts?--whether what was once law is so
now? If not, then the laws of King Darius or King Pharaoh may be revived
whenever Judge Hategood sees fit, and Faithful must hang for it.[36]

Suppose the judge makes a law himself, declaring that, if any one speaks
against the justice of the court, he shall be whipped with forty stripes
save one, and gets a man indicted under it and brought to trial--is the
jury not to judge if there be such a law? Then we might as well give up
all legislation, and leave all to the "discretion of the court."

A judge of the United States Court was once displaced on account of
mental imbecility. Was Judge Simpleton to determine what was law, what
not, for a jury of intelligent men?

Another judge, not long ago, in Boston, in his place in court, gave an
opinion in a most important affair, and was drunk when he gave it. I do
not mean he was horizontally drunk, but only so that his friends feared
"he would break down in court, and expose himself." Was the opinion of a
drunken judge to be taken for law by sober men?

Suppose the judge is not a simpleton nor a drunkard, but is only an
ordinary lawyer and a political partisan, and appointed to his office
because he is a fawning sycophant, and will interpret the law to suit
the ambition of the government--a thing that has happened in this city.
Is he to lay down the law for the jurors who aim only to live in
honorable morality, to hurt no one, and give every man his due?

Suppose the attorneys at the bar know the law better than the attorney
on the bench,--a thing that daily happens,--are not the jurors to
decide for themselves?

I have chosen fictitious cases to try the principle. Extreme cases make
shipwreck of a wicked law, but are favoring winds to bring every just
statute into its happy harbor at the last. Will you say we are not
likely to suffer from such usurpation? You know what we have suffered
within three months past. God only knows what is to come. But no man is
ever to seek for a stick if he wishes to beat a dog, or for a cross if
he would murder his Saviour. The only way to preserve liberty is by
eternal vigilance: we must be jealous of every president, every
minister, every judge, every officer, from a king to the meanest
commissioner he appoints to kidnap men. You have seen the attempts made
to sap and undermine one of the most valuable safeguards of our social
welfare,--seen that it excited very little attention; and I wish to warn
you of the danger of a false principle. I have waited for this day to
speak on this theme. Executive tyranny, with soldiers at its command,
must needs be open in its deeds of shame. It may waste the money of the
public which cleaves to the suspected hands of its officers: it is not
so easy to get the necks of those it hates; for we have no star-chamber
of democracy, and here the executive has not many soldiers at command,
must ask before it can get them. It did ask, and got "No" for answer.
Legislative tyranny must needs be public, and is easily seen. But
judicial tyranny is secret, subtle, unseen in its action; and all
experience shows it is one of the most dangerous forms of tyranny. A
corrupt judge poisons the wells of human society.[37] Scroggs and
Jeffries are names deservedly hated by mankind, and there are some
American names likely to be added to them. The traditionary respect
entertained here for an office which has been graced by some of the
noblest men in the land, doubles our danger.

But an attack is made on another safeguard of society, yet more
important. We have been told that there is no law higher than a human
statute, no law of God above an act of the American Congress. You know
how this doctrine of the supremacy of the lower law has been taught in
the high places of the State, in the high places of the church, and in
the low places of the public press. You know with what sneers men have
been assailed who appealed to conscience, to religion, and said, "The
law of God is supreme; above all the enactments of mortal men." You have
been witness to attempts to howl down the justice of the Almighty. We
have had declamation and preaching against the law of God. It is said
the French Assembly, some fifty or sixty years ago, voted that there
should be no public worship of God; that there was no God to worship;
but it was left for politicians and preachers of America, in our time,
to declare that there is no law above the caprice of mortal men. Did the
French "philosophers" decree speculative atheism? the American "wise
men" put it in practice. They deny the function of God. "He has nothing
to do with mankind." This doctrine is one of the foulest ever taught,
and tends directly to debauch the conscience of the people. What if
there were no law higher than an act of Parliament? what would become of
the Parliament itself? There is such a thing conceivable as personal,
speculative atheism. I think it is a very rare thing. I have never known
an atheist: for, with all about us speaking of God; all within us
speaking of him; every telescope revealing the infinite Mind in nebulæ
resolved to groups of systems of suns; every microscope revealing the
infinite Father, yea, Mother of the world, in a drop of water, a grain
of perishing wood, or an atom of stone; every little pendulum revealing
his unchanging law on a small scale; and this whole group of solar
systems, in its slow and solemn swing through heavenly space, disclosing
the same law on a scale which only genius at first can comprehend,--it
is not easy to arrive at personal, speculative atheism. It would be a
dreadful thing, the stark denial of a God. To say there is no infinite
Mind in finite matter, no order in the universe, in providence only a
fate, no God for all, no Father for any, only an inextinguishable
nothing that fills the desert and illimitable ether of space and time,
the whence and whither of all that are,--such a belief is conceivable;
but I do not believe that there is a single atheist living on the whole
round world. There is no general danger of personal, speculative
atheism. When M. Lalande declared that he saw no God through his
telescope, though he meant not to deny the real God of nature, the world
rang with indignation at an astronomer undevout and mad. But practical,
political atheism has become a common thing in America, in New England.
This is not a denial of the essence of God and his being, but of his
function as Supreme Ruler of the church, of the State, of the people, of
the universe. Of that there is danger. The devil of ambition tempts the
great man to it; the devil of covetousness, the little man. Both strike
hands, and say, "There is no higher law;" and low men lift up their mean
foreheads in the pulpits of America and say, "It is the voice of a God,
and not of a man. There is no higher law." The greatest understanding of
this land, with haughty scorn, has lately said, "The North Mountain is
very high; the Blue Ridge, higher still; the Alleghanies higher than
either; and yet this 'higher law' ranges further than an eagle's flight
above the highest peaks of the Alleghanies."[38] The impious taunt was
received with "laughter" by men who have long acted on the maxim that
there is no law of God, and whose State is impoverished by the attempt
to tread His law under foot. I know men in America have looked so long
at political economy that they have forgotten political morality, and
seem to think politics only national housekeeping, and he the best ruler
who buys cheapest and sells dearest. But I confess I am amazed when
statesmen forget the lessons of those great men that have gone before
us, and built up the social state, whose "deep foundations have been
laid with prayer." What! is there no law above the North Mountain; above
the Blue Ridge; higher than the Alleghanies? Why, the old Hebrew poet
told us of One "which removeth the mountains, and they know not; which
overturneth them in his anger; which alone spreadeth out the heavens,
and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Lo! he goeth by me, and I see
him not; he passeth on also, but I perceive him not." Yes, there is
One--his law "an eagle's flight above the Alleghanies"--who humbleth
himself to behold the things that are in heaven, whose strong hand
setteth fast the mountains; yea, One who hath weighed the mountains in
scales; before whom all nations are as a very little thing. Yes, Father
in heaven! before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst
formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting,
thou art God. Yea, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.
Thy name alone is excellent; thy glory above the earth and heaven!

No higher law for States than the poor statutes they enact!

    "Among the assemblies of the great
    A greater Ruler takes his seat;
    The God of heaven as Judge surveys
    These 'gods of earth' and all their ways:--
    'Why will you frame oppressive laws?
    Or why support the unrighteous cause?
    When will you once defend the poor,
    That foes may vex the saints no more?'
    They know not, Lord, nor will they know;
    Dark are the ways in which they go;
    Their name of 'earthly gods' is vain,
    For they shall fall and die like men."

It would be a great calamity for this nation to lose all of its mighty
riches, and have nothing left but the soil we stand on. But, in seven or
eight generations, it would all be restored again; for all the wealth of
America has been won in less time. We are not two hundred and fifty
years from Jamestown and Plymouth. It would be a great misfortune to
lose all the foremost families of the nation. But England lost hers in
the War of the Roses; France, in her Revolution. Nature bore great men
anew, and fresh families sprung up as noble as the old. But, if this
generation in America could believe that there was no law of God for you
and me to keep,--say the acts of Congress what they might say,--no law
to tame the ambition of men of mountain greatness, and curb the eagle's
flight of human tyranny, that would be a calamity which the nation would
never recover from. No! then religion would die out; affection fall
dead; conscience would perish; intellect give up the ghost, and be no
more. No law higher than human will! No watchmaker can make a long
pendulum vibrate so quick as a short. In this very body there is that
law. I wake and watch and will; my private caprice turns my hand, now
here, now there. But who controls my breath? Who bids this heart beat
all day long, and all the night, sleep I or wake? Whose subtle law holds
together these particles of flesh, of blood, and bone in marvellous
vitality? Who gives this eye its power to see, and opens wide the portal
of the ear? and who enchants, with most mysterious life, this wondrous
commonwealth of dust I call myself? It is the same Hand whose law is
"higher than the Blue Ridge," an "eagle's flight above the Alleghanies."
Who rules the State, and, out of a few stragglers that fled here to New
England for conscience sake, built up this mighty, wealthy State? Was
it Carver and Winthrop who did all this; Standish and Saltonstall? Was
it the cunning craftiness of mightiest men that consciously, well
knowing what they did, laid the foundations of our New England State and
our New England Church? Why, the boys at school know better. It was the
eternal God whose higher law the Pilgrim and the Puritan essayed to
keep, not knowing whereunto the thing would grow. Shall the fool say in
his heart there is no God? He cannot make a hair grow on his head but by
the eternal law of his Father in heaven. Will the politician say there
is no law of God for States? Ask the sorrowing world; let Austria and
Hungary make reply. Nay, ask the Southern States of America to show us
their rapid increase in riches, in civilization; to show us their
schools and their scholars, their literature, their science, and their
art! No law of God for States! It is writ on the iron leaf of destiny,
"Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a curse to any people." Let
the wicked hand of the South join with the Northern wicked hand,
iniquity shall not prosper. But the eye of the wicked shall fail; they
shall not escape; their hope shall be as giving up the ghost, because
their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes
of his glory. Their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall
go up as dust, if they cast away the law of the Lord, and despise the
word of the Holy One.

In America the people are strongly attached to the institutions,
constitutions, and statutes of the land. On the whole, they are just
establishments. If not, we made them ourselves, and can make them better
when we will. The execution of laws is also popular. Nowhere in the
world is there a people so orderly, so much attached to law, as the
people of these Northern States. But one law is an exception. The people
of the North hate the fugitive slave law, as they have never hated any
law since the stamp act. I know there are men in the Northern States who
like it,--who would have invented slavery, had it not existed long
before. But the mass of the Northern people hate this law, because it is
hostile to the purpose of all just human law, hostile to the purpose of
society, hostile to the purpose of individual life; because it is
hostile to the law of God,--bids the wrong, forbids the right. We
disobey that, for the same reason that we keep other laws: because we
reverence the law of God. Why should we keep that odious law which makes
us hated wherever justice is loved? Because we must sometimes do a
disagreeable deed to accomplish an agreeable purpose? The purpose of
that law is to enable three hundred thousand slaveholders to retake on
our soil the men they once stole on other soil! Most of the city
churches of the North seem to think that is a good thing. Very well: is
it worth while for fifteen million freemen to transgress the plainest
of natural laws, the most obvious instincts of the human heart, and the
plainest duties of Christianity, for that purpose? The price to pay is
the religious integrity of fifteen million men; the thing to buy is a
privilege for three hundred thousand slaveholders to use the North as a
hunting-field whereon to kidnap men at our cost. Judge you of that

       *       *       *       *       *

But I must end this long discourse. The other day I spoke of the vices
of passion: great and terrible evils they wrought. They were as nothing
to the vices of calculation. Passion was the flesh, ambition the devil.
There are vices of democracy, vices of radicalism; very great vices they
are too. You may read of them in Hume and Alison. They are painted black
as night and bloody as battle in tory journals of England, and the more
vulgar tory journals of America. Democracy wrought terrible evils in
Britain in Cromwell's time; in France at her Revolution. But to the
vices, the crimes, the sins of aristocracy, of conservatism,--they are
what the fleeting lust of the youth is to the cool, hard, calculating,
and indomitable ambition of the grown man. Radicalism pillaged Governor
Hutchinson's house, threw some tea into the ocean; conservatism set up
its stamp act, and drove America into revolution. Radicalism helped
Shadrach out of court; conservatism enacted the fugitive slave bill.
Radicalism sets up a republic that is red for six months; conservatism
sets up a red monarchy covered with blood for hundreds of years. Judge
you from which we have the most to fear.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such are the safeguards of society; such our condition. What shall we
do? Nobody would dare pretend to build a church except on righteousness;
that is, the rock of ages. Can you build a state on any other
foundation--that house upon the sand? What should you think of a
minister of the church who got his deacons together, and made a creed,
and said, "There is no higher law; no law of God. You, laymen, must take
our word for your guidance, and do just as we bid you, and violate the
plainest commands of conscience?" What would be atheism in a minister of
the church,--is that patriotism in a minister of the state? A bad law is
a most powerful instrument to demoralize and debauch the people. If it
is a law of their own making, it is all the worse. There is no real and
manly welfare for a man, without a sense of religious obligation to God;
none in a family, none in a church, none in a state. We want
righteousness in the people, in their establishments, in their officers.
I adjure you to reverence a government that is right, statutes that are
right, officers that are right; but to disobey every thing that is
wrong. I entreat you by your love for your country, by the memory of
your fathers, by your reverence for Jesus Christ, yea, by the deep and
holy love of God which Jesus taught, and you now feel.


[34] See note on Function of the Jury, above, p. 165.

[35] In these times of political corruption, when a postmaster in a
country village is turned out of office for voting for a representative
to Congress who exposed the wickedness of a prominent member of the
cabinet, it is pleasant to read such letters as those of Washington to
Benjamin Lincoln, March 11, 1789, and to Bushrod Washington, July 27,
1789, in Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. ix. p. 477, _et seq._,
and x. p. 73, _et seq._

[36] In the Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan gives a case which it is probable
was fictitious only in the names of the parties. Faithful was indicted
before Lord Hategood for a capital offence. Mr. Envy testified. Then the
judge asked him, Hast thou any more to say? Envy replied: "My Lord, I
could say much more, only I would not be tedious to the court. Yet, if
need be, when the other gentlemen have given in their evidence, rather
than any thing should be wanting that will dispatch him, I will enlarge
my testimony against him."

Lord Hategood stated the law--there were three statutes against the
prisoner: 1. The act of King Pharaoh, in 1 Exodus 22; 2. That of King
Nebuchadnezzar in 3 Daniel 6; and 3. That of King Darius in 6 Daniel 7.
The jury took "the law from the ruling of the court," and, having been
carefully packed, to judge from the names, and all just men expelled
from their number, they readily found such a verdict as the government
had previously determined upon.

The same thing, _mutatis mutandis_, has been attempted in America, in
Boston, and we may fear that in some instances it will succeed.

[37] Since the first publication of this sermon we have seen
eight-and-thirty men indicted for treason under the fugitive slave law,
because they resisted the attempt to kidnap one of their number, and
killed one of the kidnappers. This indictment was found at the
instigation of an officer of the government, who adds new infamy to the
name of the great first murderer.

[38] Speech at Capon Springs.



Men of a superior culture get it at the cost of the whole community, and
therefore, at first owe for their education. They must pay back an
equivalent, or else remain debtors to mankind, debtors forever; that is,
beggars or thieves, such being the only class that are thus perpetually
in debt and a burden to the race.

It is true that every man, the rudest Prussian boor, as well as Von
Humboldt, is indebted to mankind for his culture, to their past history
and their existing institutions, to their daily toil. Taking the whole
culture into the account, the debt bears about the same ratio to the
receipt in all men. I speak not of genius, the inborn faculty which
costs mankind nothing, only of the education thereof, which the man
obtains. The Irishman who can only handle his spade, wear his garments,
talk his wild brogue, and bid his beads, has four or five hundred
generations of ancestors behind him, and is as long descended, and from
as old a stock, as the accomplished patrician scholar at Oxford and
Berlin. The Irishman depends on them all, and on the present generation
for his culture. But he has obtained his development with no special
outlay and cost of the human race. In getting that rude culture, he has
appropriated nothing to himself which is taken from another man's share.
He has paid as he went along, so he owes nothing in particular for his
education; and mankind has no claim on him as for value received. But
the Oxford graduate has been a long time at school and college; not
earning, but learning; living therefore at the cost of mankind, with an
obligation and an implied promise to pay back when he comes of age and
takes possession of his educated faculties. He therefore has not only
the general debt which he shares with all men, but an obligation quite
special and peculiar for his support while at study.

This rule is general, and applies to the class of educated men with some
apparent exceptions, and a very few real ones. Some men are born of poor
but strong-bodied parents, and endowed with great abilities; they
inherit nothing except their share of the general civilization of
mankind, and the onward impulse which that has given. These men devote
themselves to study; and having behind them an ancestry of
broad-shouldered, hard-handed, stalwart, temperate men, and
deep-bosomed, red-armed and industrious mothers, they are able to do the
work of two or three men at the time. Such men work while they study;
they teach while they learn; they hew their own way through the wood by
superior strength and skill born in their bones, with an axe themselves
have chipped out from the stone, or forged of metal, or paid for with
the result of their first hewings. They are specially indebted to nobody
for their culture. They pay as they go, owing the academic ferryman
nothing for setting them over into the elysium of the scholar.

Only few men ever make this heroic and crucial experiment. None but poor
men's sons essay the trial. Nothing but poverty has whips sharp enough
to sting indolent men, even of genius, to such exertion of the manly
part. But even this proud race often runs into another debt: they run up
long scores with the body, which must one day be paid "with aching head
and squeamish heart-burnings." The credit on account of the hardy
fathers, is not without limit. It is soon exhausted; especially in a
land where the atmosphere, the institutions, and the youth of the people
all excite to premature and excessive prodigality of effort. The body
takes a mortgage on the spendthrift spirit, demands certain regular
periodic payments, and will one day foreclose for breach of condition,
impede the spirit's action in the premises, putting a very disagreeable
keeper there, and finally expel the prodigal mortgagor. So it often
happens, that a man, who in his youth scorned a pecuniary debt to
mankind, and would receive no favor even to buy culture with, has yet,
unconsciously and against his will, contracted debts which trouble him
in manhood, and impede his action all his life; with swollen feet and
blear eyes famous Griesbach pays for the austere heroism of his
penurious and needy youth. The rosy bud of genius, on the poor man's
tree, too often opens into a lean and ghastly flower. Could not Burns
tell us this?

With the rare exceptions just hinted at, any man of a superior culture
owes for it when obtained. Sometimes the debt is obvious: a farmer with
small means and a large family sends the most hopeful of his sons to
college. Look at the cost of the boy's culture. His hands are kept from
work that his mind may be free. He fares on daintier food, wears more
and more costly garments. Other members of the family must feed and
clothe him, earn his tuition-fees, buy his books, pay for his fuel and
room-rent. For this the father rises earlier than of old, yoking the
oxen a great while before day of a winter's morning, and toils till long
after dark of a winter's night, enduring cold and hardship. For this the
mother stints her frugal fare, her humble dress; for this the brothers
must forego sleep and pastime, must toil harder, late and early both;
for this the sisters must seek new modes of profitable work, must wear
their old finery long after it is finery no more. The spare wealth of
the family, stinted to spare it, is spent on this one youth. From the
father to the daughters, all lay their bones to extraordinary work for
him; the whole family is pinched in body that this one youth may go
brave and full. Even the family horse pays his tax to raise the
education fee.

Men see the hopeful scholar, graceful and accomplished, receiving his
academic honors, but they see not the hard-featured father standing
unheeded in the aisle, nor the older sister in an obscure corner of the
gallery, who had toiled in the factory for the favored brother, tending
his vineyard, her own not kept, who had perhaps learned the letters of
Greek to hear him recite the grammar at home. Father and sister know not
a word of the language in which his diploma is writ and delivered. At
what cost of the family tree is this one flower produced? How many
leaves, possible blossoms, yea, possible branches have been absorbed to
create this one flower, which shall perpetuate the kind, after being
beautiful and fragrant in its own season? Yet, while these leaves are
growing for the blossom's sake, and the life of the tree is directed
thither with special and urgent emphasis, the difference between branch
and blossom, leaf and petal, is getting more and more. By and by the two
cannot comprehend each other; the acorn has forgotten the leaf which
reared it, and thinks itself of another kin. Grotius, who speaks a host
of languages, talking with the learned of all countries, and of every
age, has forgot his mother tongue, and speech is at an end with her that
bore him. The son, accomplished with many a science, many an art, ceases
to understand the simple consciousness of his father and mother. They
are proud of him--that he has outgrown them; he ashamed of them when
they visit him amid his scholarly company. To them he is a philosopher;
they only clowns in his eyes. He learns to neglect, perhaps to despise
them, and forgets his obligation and his debt. Yet by their rudeness is
it that he is refined. His science and literary skill are purchased by
their ignorance and uncouthness of manner and of speech. Had the
educational cost been equally divided, all had still continued on a
level; he had known no Latin, but the whole family might have spoken
good English. For all the difference which education has made betwixt
him and his kinsfolk he is a debtor.

In New England you sometimes see extremes of social condition brought
together. The blue-frocked father, well advanced, but hale as an October
morning, jostles into Boston in a milk-cart, his red-cheeked
grand-daughter beside him, also coming for some useful daily work, while
the youngest son, cultured at the cost of that grand-daughter's sire and
by that father's toil, is already a famous man; perhaps also a proud
one, eloquent at the bar, or powerful in the pulpit, or mighty in the
senate. The family was not rich enough to educate all the children after
this costly sort; one becomes famous, the rest are neglected, obscure,
and perhaps ignorant; the cultivated son has little sympathy with them.
So the men that built up the cathedrals of Strasbourg and Milan slept in
mean hutches of mud and straw, dirty, cold, and wet; the finished tower
looks proudly down upon the lowly thatch, all heedless of the cost at
which itself arose.

It is plain that this man owes for his education; it is plain whom he
owes. But all men of a superior culture, though born to wealth, get
their education in the same way, only there is this additional mischief
to complicate the matter: the burden of self-denial is not borne by the
man's own family, but by other fathers and mothers, other brothers and
sisters. They also pay the cost of his culture, bear the burden for no
special end, and have no personal or family joy in the success; they do
not even know the scholar they help to train. They who hewed the
topstone of society are far away when it is hoisted up with shouting.
Most of the youths now-a-days trained at Harvard College are the sons of
rich men, yet they also, not less, are educated at the public charge;
beneficiaries not of the "Hopkins' Fund," but of the whole community.
Society is not yet rich enough to afford so generous a culture to all
who ask, who deserve, or who would pay for it a hundred-fold. The
accomplished man who sits in his well-endowed scholarship at Oxford, or
rejoices to be "Master of Trinity," though he have the estate of the
Westminsters and Sutherlands behind him, is still the beneficiary of the
public, and owes for his schooling.

In the general way among the industrious classes of New England, a boy
earns his living after he is twelve years old. If he gets the superior
education of the scholar solely by the pecuniary aid of his father or
others, when he is twenty-five and enters on his profession, law,
medicine, or divinity, politics, school-keeping, or trade, he has not
earned his Latin grammar; has rendered no appreciable service to
mankind; others have worked that he might study, and taught that he
might learn. He has not paid the first cent towards his own schooling;
he is indebted for it to the whole community. The ox-driver in the
fields, the pavior in the city streets, the laborer on the railroad, the
lumberer in the woods, the girl in the factory, each has a claim on him.
If he despises these persons, or cuts himself off from sympathy with
them; if he refuses to perform his function for them after they have
done their possible to fit him for it; he is not only the perpetual and
ungrateful debtor, but is more guilty than the poor man's son who
forgets the family that sent him to college: for that family consciously
and willingly made the sacrifice, and got some satisfaction for it in
the visible success of their scheme, nay, are sometimes proud of the
pride which scorns them, while with the mass of men thus slighted there
is no return for their sacrifice. They did their part, faithfully did
it; their beneficiary forgets his function.

The democratic party in New England does not much favor the higher
seminaries of education. There has long been a suspicion against them in
the mass of the community, and among the friends of the public education
of the people a serious distrust. This is the philosophy of that
discontent: public money spent on the higher seminaries is so much taken
from the humbler schools, so much taken from the colleges of all for the
college of the few; men educated at such cost have not adequately repaid
the public for the sacrifice made on their account; men of superior
education have not been eminently the friends of mankind, they do not
eminently represent Truth, Justice, Philanthropy, and Piety; they do not
point men to lofty human life, and go thitherward in advance of mankind;
their superior education has narrowed their sympathies, instead of
widening; they use their opportunities against mankind, and not in its
behalf; think, write, legislate, and live not for the interest of
mankind, but only for a class; instead of eminent wisdom, justice,
piety, they have eminent cunning, selfishness, and want of faith. These
charges are matters of allegation; judge you if they be not also matters
of fact.

Now there is a common feeling amongst men that the scholar is their
debtor, and, in virtue of this, that they have a right to various
services from him. No honest man asks the aid of a farmer or a
blacksmith without intending to repay him in money; no assembly of
mechanics would ask another to come two hundred miles and give them a
month's work, or a day's work. Yet they will ask a scholar to do so.
What gratuitous services are demanded of the physician, of the minister,
of the man of science and letters in general! No poor man in Boston but
thinks he has a good claim on any doctor; no culprit in danger of
liberty or life but will ask the services of a lawyer, wholly without
recompense, to plead his cause. The poorest and most neglected class of
men look on every good clergyman as their missionary and minister and
friend; the better educated and more powerful he is, the juster and
greater do they feel their claim on him. A pirate in jail may command
the services of any Christian minister in the land. Most of the high
achievements in science, letters and art, have had no apparent pay. The
pay came beforehand: in general and from God, in the greater ability,
"the vision and the faculty divine," but in particular also and from
men, in the opportunity afforded them by others for the use and culture
thereof. Divinely and humanly they are well paid. Men feel that they
have this right to the services of the scholar, in part because they
dimly know that his superior education is purchased at the general cost.
Hence, too, they are proud of the few able and accomplished men, feeling
that all have a certain property therein, as having contributed their
mite to the accumulation, by their divine nature related to the men of
genius, by their human toil partners in the acquirements of the scholar.
This feeling is not confined to men who intellectually can appreciate
intellectual excellence. The little parish in the mountains, and the
great parish in the city, are alike proud of the able-headed and
accomplished scholar, who ministers to them; though neither the poor
clowns of the village nor the wealthy clowns of the metropolis could
enter into his consciousness and understand his favorite pursuits or
loftiest thought. Both would think it insulting to pay such a man in
full proportion to his work or their receipt. Nobody offers a salary to
the House of Lords: their lordship is their pay, and they must give
back, in the form of justice and sound government, an equivalent for all
they take in high social rank. They must pay for their nobility by being
noble lords.

       *       *       *       *       *

How shall the scholar pay for his education? He is to give a service for
the service received. Thus the miller and the farmer pay one another,
each paying with service in his own kind. The scholar cannot pay back
bread for bread, and cloth for cloth. He must pay in the scholar's kind,
not the woodman's or the weaver's. He is to represent the higher modes
of human consciousness; his culture and opportunities of position fit
him for that. So he is not merely to go through the routine of his
profession, as minister, doctor, lawyer, merchant, schoolmaster,
politician, or maker of almanacs, and for his own advantage; he is also
to represent truth, justice, beauty, philanthropy, and religion--the
highest facts of human experience; he must be common, but not vulgar,
and, as a star, must dwell apart from the vulgarity of the selfish and
the low. He may win money without doing this, get fame and power, and
thereby seem to pay mankind for their advance to him, while he rides
upon their neck; but as he has not paid back the scholar's cost and in
the scholar's way, he is a debtor still, and owes for his past culture
and present position.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such is the position of the scholar everywhere, and such his consequent
obligation. But in America there are some circumstances which make the
position and the duty still more important. Beside the natural
aristocracy of genius, talent, and educated skill, in most countries
there is also a conventional and permanent nobility based on royal or
patrician descent and immovable aristocracy. Its members monopolize the
high places of society, and if not strong by nature are so by position.
Those men check the natural power of the class of scholars. The
descendant of some famous chief of old time, takes rank before the
Bacons, the Shakspeares, and the Miltons of new families, born
yesterday, to-day gladdened and gladdening with the joy of their genius,
usurps their place, and for a time "shoves away the worthy bidden guest"
from the honors of the public board. Here there is no such class: a man
born at all is well born; with a great nature, nobly born; the career
opens to all that can run, to all men that wish to try; our aristocracy
is movable, and the scholar has scope and verge enough.

Germany has the largest class of scholars; men of talent, sometimes of
genius, of great working power, exceedingly well furnished for their
work, with a knowledge of the past and the present. On the whole, they
seem to have a greater power of thought than the scholars of any other
land. They live in a country where intellectual worth is rated at its
highest value. As England is the paradise of the patrician and the
millionnaire, so is Germany for the man of thought; Goethe and Schiller,
and the Humboldts took precedence of the mere conventional aristocracy.
The empire of money is for England; that of mind is for Germany. But
there the scholar is positively hindered in his function by the power of
the government, which allows freedom of thought, and by education tends
to promote it, yet not its correlative freedom of speech, and still
less the consequent of that--freedom of act. Revelations of new thought
are indeed looked for, and encouraged in certain forms, but the
corresponding revolution of old things is forbidden. An idea must remain
an idea; the government will not allow it to become a deed, an
institution, an idea organized in men. The children of the mind must be
exposed to die, or, if left alive, their feet are cramped, so that they
cannot go alone; useless, joyless, and unwed, they remain in their
father's house. The government seeks to establish national unity of
action, by the sacrifice of individual variety of action, personal
freedom; every man must be a soldier and a Christian, wearing the livery
of the government on the body and in the soul, and going through the
spiritual exercises of the church, as through the manual exercise of the
camp. In a nation so enlightened, personal freedom cannot be wholly
sacrificed, so thought is left free, but speech restricted by
censorship--speech with the human mouth or the iron lips of the press.
Now, as of old, is there a controversy between the temporal and the
spiritual powers, about the investiture of the children of the soul.

Then, on the other side, the scholar is negatively impeded by the
comparative ignorance of the people, by their consequent lack of
administrative power and self-help, and their distrust of themselves.
There a great illumination has gone on in the upper heavens of the
learned, meteors coruscating into extraordinary glory; it has hardly
dawned on the low valleys of the common people. If it shines there at
all, it is but as the Northern Aurora with a little crackling noise,
lending a feeble and uncertain light, not enough to walk with, and no
warmth at all; a light which disturbs the dip and alters the variation
of the old historical compass, bewilders the eye, hides the stars, and
yet is not bright enough to walk by without stumbling. There is a
learned class, very learned and very large, with whom the scholar
thinks, and for whom he writes, most uncouthly, in the language only of
the schools, and, if not kept in awe by the government, they are
contented that a thought should remain always a thought; while in their
own heart they disdain all authority but that of truth, justice, and
love, they leave the people subject to no rule but the priest, the
magistrate, and old custom, which usurp the place of reason, conscience,
and the affections. There is a very enlightened pulpit, and a very dull
audience. In America, it is said, for every dough-faced representative
there is a dough-faced constituency, but in Germany there is not an
intelligent people for each intelligent scholar. So on condition a great
thought be true and revolutionary, it is hard to get it made a thing.
Ideas go into a nunnery, not a family. Phidias must keep his awful Jove
only in his head; there is no marble to carve it on. Eichhorn and
Strauss, and Kant and Hegel, with all their pother among the learned,
have kept no boor from the communion-table, nor made him discontented
with the despotism of the State. They wrote for scholars, perhaps for
gentlemen, for the enlightened, not for the great mass of the people, in
whom they had no confidence. There is no class of hucksters of thought,
who retail philosophy to the million. The million have as yet no
appetite for it. So the German scholar is hindered from his function on
either hand by the power of the government, or the ignorance of the
people. He talks to scholars and not men; his great ideas are often as
idle as shells in a lady's cabinet.

In America all is quite different. There are no royal or patrician
patrons, no plebeian clients in literature, no immovable aristocracy to
withstand or even retard the new genius, talent, or skill of the
scholar. There is no class organized, accredited and confided in, to
resist a new idea; only the unorganized inertia of mankind retards the
circulation of thought and the march of men. Our historical men do not
found historical families; our famous names of to-day are all new names
in the State. American aristocracy is bottomed on money which no
unnatural laws make steadfast and immovable. To exclude a scholar from
the company of rich men, is not to exclude him from an audience that
will welcome and appreciate.

Then the government does not interfere to prohibit the free exercise of
thought. Speaking is free, preaching free, printing free. No
administration in America could put down a newspaper or suppress the
discussion of an unwelcome theme. The attempt would be folly and
madness. There is no "tonnage and poundage" on thought. It is seldom
that lawless violence usurps the place of despotic government. The chief
opponent of the new philosophy is the old philosophy. The old has only
the advantage of a few years; the advantage of possession of the ground.
It has no weapons of defence which the new has not for attack. What
hinders the growth of the new democracy of to-day?--only the old
democracy of yesterday, once green, and then full blown, but now going
to seed. Everywhere else walled gardens have been built for it to go
quietly to seed in, and men appointed, in God's name or the States', to
exterminate as a weed every new plant of democratic thought which may
spring up and suck the soil or keep off the sun, so that the old may
quietly occupy the ground, and undisturbed continue to decay and
contaminate the air. Here it has nothing but its own stalk to hold up
its head, and is armed with only such spines as it has grown out of its
own substance.

Here the only power which continually impedes the progress of mankind,
and is conservative in the bad sense, is Wealth, which represents life
lived, not now a-living, and labor accumulated, not now a-doing. Thus
the obstacle to free trade is not the notion that our meat must be
home-grown and our coat home-spun, but the money invested in
manufactures. Slavery is sustained by no prestige of antiquity, no
abstract fondness for a patriarchal institution, no special zeal for
"Christianity" which the churches often tell us demands it, but solely
because the Americans have invested some twelve hundred millions of
dollars in the bodies and souls of their countrymen, and fear they shall
lose their capital. Whitney's gin for separating the cotton from its
blue seed, making its culture and the labor of the slave profitable, did
more to perpetuate slavery than all the "Compromises of the
Constitution." The last argument in its favor is always this: It brings
money, and we would not lose our investment. Weapon a man with iron he
will stand and fight; with gold, he will shrink and run. The class of
capitalists are always cowardly; here they are the only cowardly class
that has much political or social influence. Here gold is the imperial
metal; nothing but wealth is consecrated for life: the tonsure gets
covered up or grown over; vows of celibacy are no more binding than
dicers' oaths; allegiance to the State is as transferable as a cent, and
may be alienated by going over the border; church-communion may be
changed or neglected; as men will, they sign off from Church and State;
only the dollar holds its own continually, and is the same under all
administrations, "safe from the bar, the pulpit and the throne."
Obstinate money continues in office spite of the proscriptive policy of
Polk and Taylor; the laws may change, South Carolina move out of the
nation, the Constitution be broken, the Union dissolved, still money
holds its own. That is the only peculiar weapon which the old has
wherewith to repel the new.

Here, too, the scholar has as much freedom as he will take; himself
alone stands in his own light, nothing else between him and the infinite
majesty of Truth. He is free to think, to speak, to print his word and
organize his thought. No class of men monopolize public attention or
high place. He comes up to the Genius of America, and she asks: "What
would you have, my little man?" "More liberty," lisps he. "Just as much
as you can carry," is the answer. "Pay for it and take it, as much as
you like, there it is." "But it is guarded!" "Only by gilded flies in
the daytime; they look like hornets, but can only buzz, not bite with
their beak, nor sting with their tail. At night it is defended by daws
and beetles, noisy but harmless. Here is marble, my son, not classic and
famous as yet, but good as the Parian stone; quarry as much as you will,
enough for a nymph or a temple. Say your wisest and do your best thing;
nobody will hurt you!"

Not much more is the scholar impeded by the ignorance of the people, not
at all in respect to the substance of his thought. There is no danger
that he will shoot over the heads of the people by thinking too high for
the multitude. We have many authors below the market; scarce one above
it. The people are continually looking for something better than our
authors give. No American author has yet been too high for the
comprehension of the people, and compelled to leave his writings "to
posterity after some centuries shall have passed by." If he has thought
with the thinkers and has something to say, and can speak it in plain
speech, he is sure to be widely understood. There is no learned class to
whom he may talk Latin or Sanscrit, and who will understand him if he
write as ill as Immanuel Kant; there is not a large class to buy costly
editions of ancient classics, however beautiful, or magnificent works on
India, Egypt, Mexico--the class of scholars is too poor for that, the
rich men have not the taste for such beauty--but there is an intelligent
class of men who will hear a man if he has what is worth listening to
and says it plain. It will be understood and appreciated, and soon
reduced to practice. Let him think as much in advance of men as he will,
as far removed from the popular opinion as he may, if he arrives at a
great truth he is sure of an audience, not an audience of
fellow-scholars, as in Germany, but of fellow-men; not of the children
of distinguished or rich men--rather of the young parents of such, an
audience of earnest, practical people, who, if his thought be a truth,
will soon make it a thing. They will appreciate the substance of his
thought, though not the artistic form which clothes it.

This peculiar relation of the man of genius to the people comes from
American institutions. Here the greatest man stands nearest to the
people, and without a mediator speaks to them face to face. This is a
new thing: in the classic nations oratory was for the people, so was the
drama, and the ballad; that was all their literature. But this came to
the people only in cities: the tongue travels slow and addresses only
the ear, while swiftly hurries on the printed word and speaks at once to
a million eyes. Thucydides and Tacitus wrote for a few; Virgil sang the
labors of the shepherd in old Ascræan verse, but only to the wealthy
wits of Rome. "I hate the impious crowd and stave them off," was the
scholar's maxim then. All writing was for the few. The best English
literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is
amenable to the same criticism, except the dramatic and the religious.
It is so with all the permanent literature of Europe of that time. The
same must be said even of much of the religious literature of the
scholars then. The writings of Taylor, of Barrow, and South, of Bossuet,
Massillon and Bourdaloue, clergymen though they were, speaking with a
religious and therefore a universal aim, always presuppose a narrow
audience of men of nice culture. So they drew their figures from the
schoolmen, from the Greek anthology, from heathen classics and the
Christian Fathers. Their illustrations were embellishments to the
scholar, but only palpable darkness to the people. This fact of writing
for a few nice judges was of great advantage to the form of the
literature thus produced, but a disadvantage to the substance thereof, a
misfortune to the scholar himself, for it belittled his sympathies and
kept him within a narrow range. Even the religious literature of the men
just named betrays a lack of freedom, a thinking for the learned and not
for mankind; it has breathed the air of the cloister, not the sky, and
is tainted with academic and monastic diseases. So the best of it is
over-sentimental, timid, and does not point to hardy, manly life. Only
Luther and Latimer preached to the million hearts of their
contemporaries. The dramatic literature, on the other hand, was for box,
pit and gallery; hence the width of poetry in its great masters; hence
many of its faults of form; and hence the wild and wanton luxuriance of
beauty which flowers out all over the marvellous field of art where
Shakspeare walked and sung. In the pulpit, excellence was painted as a
priest, or monk, or nun, loving nothing but God; on the stage, as a
soldier, magistrate, a gentleman or simpleman, a wife and mother, loving
also child and friend. Only the literature of the player and the singer
of ballads was for the people.

Here all is changed, every thing that is written is for the hands of the
million. In three months Mr. Macaulay has more readers in America than
Thucydides and Tacitus in twelve centuries. Literature, which was once
the sacrament of the few, only a shew-bread to the people, is now the
daily meat of the multitude. The best works get reprinted with great
speed; the highest poetry is soon in all the newspapers. Authors know
this, and write accordingly. It is only scientific works which ask for a
special public. But even science, the proudest of the day, must come
down from the clouds of the academy, lay off its scholastic garb, and
appear before the eyes of the multitude in common work-day clothes. To
large and mainly unlearned audiences Agassiz and Walker set forth the
highest teachings of physics and metaphysics, not sparing difficult
things, but putting them in plain speech. Emerson takes his majestic
intuitions of truth and justice, which transcend the experience of the
ages, and expounds them to the mechanics' apprentices, to the factory
girls at Lowell and Chicopee, and to the merchants' clerks at Boston.
The more original the speaker, and the more profound, the better is he
relished; the beauty of the form is not appreciated, but the original
substance welcomed into new life over the bench, the loom, and even the
desk of the counting-house. Of a deep man the people ask clearness also,
thinking he does not see a thing wholly till he sees it plain.

From this new relation of the scholar to the people, and the direct
intimacy of his intercourse with men, there comes a new modification of
his duty: he is to represent the higher facts of human consciousness to
the people, and express them in the speech of the people; to think with
the sage and saint, but talk with common men. It is easy to discourse
with scholars, and in the old academic carriage drive through the broad
gateway of the cultivated class; but here the man of genius is to take
the new thought on his shoulders and climb up the stiff, steep hill, and
find his way where the wild asses quench their thirst, and the untamed
eagle builds his nest. Hence our American scholar must cultivate the
dialectics of speech as well as thought. Power of speech without
thought, a long tongue in an empty head, calls the people together once
or twice, but soon its only echo is from an audience of empty pews.
Thought without power of speech finds little welcome here; there are not
scholars enough to keep it in countenance. This popularity of
intelligence gives a great advantage to the man of letters, who is also
a man. He can occupy the whole space between the extremes of mankind;
can be at once philosopher in his thought and people in his speech,
deliver his word without an interpreter to mediate, and, like King
Mithridates in the story, talk with the fourscore nations of his camp
each in his own tongue.

Further still, there are some peculiarities of the American mind, in
which we differ from our English brothers. They are more inclined to the
matter of fact, and appeal to history; we, to the matter of ideas, and
having no national history but of a revolution, may appeal at once to
human nature. So while they are more historical, fond of names and
precedents, enamoured of limited facts and coy towards abstract and
universal ideas, with the maxim, "Stand by the fixed," we are more
metaphysical, ideal, do not think a thing right because actual, nor
impossible because it has never been. The Americans are more
metaphysical than the English; have departed more from the old
sensational philosophy, have welcomed more warmly the transcendental
philosophy of Germany and France. The Declaration of Independence and
all the State Constitutions of the North begin with a universal and
abstract idea. Even preaching is abstract and of ideas. Calvinism bears
metaphysical fruit in New England.

This fact modifies still more the function of the duty of the scholar.
It determines him to ideas, to facts for the ideas they cover, not so
much to the past as the future, to the past only that he may guide the
present and construct the future. He is to take his run in the past to
acquire the momentum of history, his stand in the present and leap into
the future.

In this manner the position and duty of the scholar in America are
modified and made peculiar; and thus is the mode determined for him, in
which to pay for his education in the manner most profitable to the
public that has been at the cost of his training.

There is a test by which we measure the force of a horse or a
steam-engine: the raising of so many pounds through so many feet in a
given time. The test of the scholar's power is his ability to raise men
in their development.

In America there are three chief modes of acting upon the public,
omitting others of small account. The first is the power which comes of
National Wealth; the next, that of Political Station; the third, power
of Spiritual Wealth, so to say, eminent wisdom, justice, love, piety,
the power of sentiments and ideas, and the faculty of communicating them
to other men, and organizing them therein. For the sake of shortness,
let each mode of power be symbolized by its instrument, and we have the
power of the Purse, of the Office, and the Pen.

The Purse represents the favorite mode of power with us. This is natural
in our present stage of national existence and human development; it is
likely to continue for a long time. In all civilized countries which
have outgrown the period when the sword was the favorite emblem, the
Purse represents the favorite mode of power with the mass of men; but
here it is so with the men of superior education. This power is not
wholly personal, but extra-personal, and the man's centre of gravity
lies out of himself, less or more; somewhere between the man and his
last cent, the distance being greater or less as the man is less or
greater than the estate. This is wielded chiefly by men of little
education, except the practical culture which they have gained in the
process of accumulation. Their riches they get purposely, their training
by the way and accidentally. It is a singular misfortune of the country,
that, while the majority of the people are better cultivated and more
enlightened than any other population in the world, the greater part of
the wealth of the nation is owned by men of less education and
consequently of less enlightenment than the rich men of any leading
nation in Europe. In England and France the wealth of this generation is
chiefly inherited, and has generally fallen to men carefully trained,
with minds disciplined by academic culture. Here wealth is new, and
mainly in the hands of men who have scrambled for it adroitly and with
vigor. They have energy, vigor, forecast, and a certain generosity, but
as a class, are narrow, vulgar, and conceited. Nine tenths of the
property of the people is owned by one tenth of the persons, and these
capitalists are men of little culture, little moral elevation. This is
an accident of our position unavoidable, perhaps transient; but it is
certainly a misfortune that the great estates of the country, and the
social and political power of such wealth, should be mainly in the hands
of such men. The melancholy result appears in many a disastrous shape:
in the tone of the pulpit, of the press, and of the national politics;
much of the vulgarity of the nation is to be ascribed to this fact, that
wealth belongs to men who know nothing better.

The Office represents the next most popular mode of power. This also is
extra-personal, the man's centre of gravity is out of himself, somewhere
between him and the lowest man in the State; the distance depending on
the proportion of manhood in him and the multitude, if the office is
much greater than the man, then the officer's centre of gravity is
further removed from his person. This is sought for by the ablest and
best educated men in the land. But there is a large class of educated
persons who do not aspire to it from lack of ability, for in our form of
government it commonly takes some saliency of character to win the high
places of office and use respectably this mode of power, while it
demands no great or lofty talents to accumulate the largest fortune in
America. It is true the whirlwind of an election, by the pressure of
votes, may, now and then, take a very heavy body up to a great height.
Yet it does not keep him from growing giddy and ridiculous while there,
and after a few years lets him fall again into complete insignificance,
whence no Hercules can ever lift him up. A corrupt administration may do
the same, but with the same result. This consideration keeps many
educated men from the political arena; others are unwilling to endure
the unsavory atmosphere of politics, and take part in a scramble so
vulgar; but still a large portion of the educated and scholarly talent
of the nation goes to that work.

The power of the Pen is wholly personal. It is the appropriate
instrument of the scholar, but it is least of all desired and sought
for. The rich man sends his sons to trade, to make too much of
inheritance yet more by fresh acquisitions of superfluity. He does not
send them to literature, art or science. You find the scholar slipping
in to other modes of action, not the merchants and politicians migrating
into this. He longs to act by the gravity of his money or station, not
draw merely by his head. The Office carries the day before the Pen; the
Purse takes precedence of both. Educated men do not so much seek places
that demand great powers, as those which bring much gold. Self-denial
for money or office is common, for scholarship rare and unpopular. To
act by money, not mind, is the ill-concealed ambition of many a
well-bred man; the desire of this colors his day-dream, which is less
of wisdom and more of wealth, or of political station; so a first-rate
clergyman desires to be razed to a second-rate politician, and some
"tall admiral" of a politician consents to be cut down and turned into a
mere sloop of trade. The representative in Congress becomes a president
of an insurance office or a bank, or the agent of a cotton mill; the
judge deserts his station on the bench and presides over a railroad; the
governor or senator wants a place in the post-office; the historian
longs for a "chance in the custom-house." The Pen stoops to the Office,
that to the Purse. The scholar would rather make a fortune by a balsam
of wild cherry than write Hamlet or Paradise Lost for nothing; rather
than help mankind by making a Paradise Regained. The well-endowed
minister thinks how much more money he might have made had he speculated
in stocks and not theology, and mourns that the kingdom of heaven does
not pay in this present life fourfold. The professor of Greek is sorry
he was not a surveyor and superintendent of a railroad, he should have
so much more money; that is what he has learned from Plato and Diogenes.
We estimate the skill of an artist like that of a peddler, not by the
pictures he has made, but by the money. There is a mercantile way of
determining literary merit not by the author's books, but by his balance
with the publisher. No church is yet called after a man who is merely
rich, something in the New Testament might hinder that; but the
ministers estimate their brother minister by the greatness of his
position, not of his character; not by his piety and goodness, not even
by his reason and understanding, the culture he has attained thereby,
and the use he makes thereof, but by the wealth of his church and the
largeness of his salary; so that he is not thought the fortunate and
great minister who has a large outgo of spiritual riches, rebukes the
sins of the nation and turns many to righteousness, but he who has a
large material income, ministers, though poorly, to rich men, and is
richly paid for that function. The well-paid clergymen of a city tell
the professor of theology that he must teach "such doctrines as the
merchants approve," or they will not give money to the college, and he,
it, and "the cause of the Lord" will all come to the ground at the same
time and in kindred confusion. So blind Money would put out the heavenly
eyes of Science, and lead her also to his own ditch. It must not be
forgotten that there are men in the midst of us, rich, respectable and
highly honored with social rank and political power, who practically and
in strict conformity with their theory, honor Judas, who made money by
his treachery, far more than Jesus who laid down his life for men, whose
money is deemed better than manhood. It must indeed be so. Any outrage
that is profitable to the controlling portion of society is sure to be
welcome to the leaders of the State, and is soon pronounced divine by
the leaders of the church.

It would seem as if the Pen ought to represent the favorite mode of
power at a college; but even there the waters of Pactolus are thought
fairer than the Castalian, Heliconian spring, or "Siloa's brook that
flowed fast by the oracle of God." The college is named after the men of
wealth, not genius. How few professorships in America bear the names of
men of science or letters, and not of mere rich men! Which is thought
the greatest benefactor of a college, he who endows it with money or
with mind? Even there it is the Purse, not the Pen that is the symbol of
honor, and the University is "up for California," not Parnassus.

Even in politics the Purse turns the scale. Let a party wrestle never so
hard it cannot throw the dollar. Money controls and commands talent, not
talent money. The successful shopkeeper frowns on and browbeats the
accomplished politician, who has too much justice for the wharf and the
board of brokers; he notices that the rich men avert their eye, or keep
their beaver down, trembles and is sad, fearing that his daughter will
never find a fitting spouse. The Purse buys up able men of superior
education, corrupts and keeps them as its retained attorneys, in
congress or the church, not as counsel but advocate, bribed to make the
worse appear the better reason, and so help money to control the State
and wield its power against the interest of mankind. This is perfectly
well known; but no politician or minister, bribed to silence or to
speech, ever loses his respectability because he is bought by
respectable men,--if he get his pay. In all countries but this the
Office is before the Purse; here the State is chiefly an accessory of
the Exchange, and our politics only mercantile. This appears sometimes
against our will, in symbols not meant to tell the tale. Thus in the
House of Representatives in Massachusetts, a codfish stares the speaker
in the face--not a very intellectual looking fish. When it was put there
it was a symbol of the riches of the State, and so of the Commonwealth.
With singular and unconscious satire it tells the legislature to have an
eye "to the main chance," and, but for its fidelity to its highest
instincts and its obstinate silence, might be a symbol good enough for
the place.

Now after the Office and the Purse have taken their votaries from the
educated class, the ablest men are certainly not left behind. Three
roads open before our young Hercules as he leaves college, having
respectively as finger-post, the Pen, the Office, and the Purse. Few
follow the road of Letters. This need not be much complained of; nay it
might be rejoiced in, if the Purse and the Office in their modes of
power did represent the higher consciousness of mankind. But no one
contends it is so.

Still there are men who devote themselves to some literary callings
which have no connection with political office, and which are not
pursued for the sake of great wealth. Such men produce the greater part
of the permanent literature of the country. They are eminently scholars;
permanent scholars who act by their scholar-craft, not by the
state-craft of the politician, or the purse-craft of the capitalist. How
are these men paying their debt and performing their function? The
answer must be found in the science and the literature of the land.

American Science is something of which we may well be proud. Mr. Liebig
in Germany has found it necessary to defend himself from the charge of
following science for the loaves and fishes thereof, and he declares
that he espoused Chemistry not for her wealthy dower, not even for the
services her possible children might render to mankind, but solely for
her own sweet sake. Amongst the English race, on both sides of the
ocean, science is loved rather for the fruit than the blossom; its
service to the body is thought of more value than its service to the
mind. A man's respectability would be in danger, in America, if he loved
any science better than the money or fame it might bring. It is
characteristic of us that a scholar should write for reputation and
gold. Here, as elsewhere, the unprofitable parts of science fall to the
lot of poor men. When the rich man's son has the natural calling that
way, public opinion would dissuade him from the study of nature. The
greatest scientific attainments do not give a man so high social
consideration as a political office or a successful speculation--unless
it be the science which makes money. Scientific schools we call after
merely rich men, not men of wealthy minds. It is true we name streets
and squares, towns and counties after Franklin, but it is because he
keeps the lightning from factories, churches, and barns; tells us not
"to give too much for the whistle," and teaches "the way to make money
plenty in every man's pocket." We should not name them after Cuvier and
La Place.

Notwithstanding this, the scientific scholars of America, both the
home-born and the adopted sons, have manfully paid for their culture,
and done honor to the land. This is true of men in all departments of
science,--from that which searches the deeps of the sky to that which
explores the shallows of the sea. Individuals, States, and the nation
have all done themselves honor by the scientific researches and
discoveries that have been made. The outlay of money and of genius for
things which only pay the head and not the mouth of man, is beautiful
and a little surprising in such a utilitarian land as this. Time would
fail me to attend to particular cases.

Look at the Literature of America. Reserving the exceptional portion
thereof to be examined in a moment, let us study the instantial portion
of it, American Literature as a whole. This may be distributed into two
main divisions: First comes the Permanent Literature, consisting of
works not designed merely for a single and transient occasion, but
elaborately wrought for a general purpose. This is literature proper.
Next follows the Transient Literature, which is brought out for a
particular occasion, and designed to serve a special purpose. Let us
look at each.

The Permanent Literature of America is poor and meagre; it does not bear
the mark of manly hands, of original, creative minds. Most of it is
rather milk for babes than meat for men, though much of it is neither
fresh meat nor new milk, but the old dish often served up before. In
respect to its form, this portion of our literature is an imitation.
That is natural enough, considering the youth of the country. Every
nation, like every man, even one born to genius, begins by imitation.
Raphael, with servile pencil, followed his masters in his youth, but at
length his artistic eye attracted new-born angels from the calm
stillness of their upper heaven, and with liberal, free hand, with
masterly and original touch, the painter of the newness amazed the

The early Christian literature is an imitation of the Hebrew or the
classic type: even after centuries had passed by, Sidonius, though a
bishop of the church, and destined to become a saint, uses the old
heathen imagery, referring to Triptolemus as a model for Christian
work, and talks about Triton and Galatea, to the Christian Queen of the
Goths. Saint Ambrose is a notorious imitator of pagan Cicero. The
Christians were all anointed with Jewish nard; and the sour grapes they
ate in sacrament have set on edge their children's teeth till now. The
modern nations of Europe began their literature by the driest copies of
Livy and Virgil. The Germans have the most original literature of the
last hundred years. But till the middle of the past century their
permanent literature was chiefly in Latin and French, with as little
originality as our own. The real poetic life of the nation found vent in
other forms. It is natural therefore, and according to the course of
history, that we should begin in this way. The best political
institutions of England are cherished here, so her best literature, and
it is not surprising that we are content with this rich inheritance of
artistic toil. In many things we are independent, but in much that
relates to the higher works of man, we are still colonies of England.
This appears not only in the vulgar fondness for English fashions,
manners and the like, which is chiefly an affectation, but in the
servile style with which we copy the great or little models of English
literature. Sometimes this is done consciously, oftener without knowing

But the substance of our permanent literature is as faulty as its form.
It does not bear marks of a new, free, vigorous mind at work, looking at
things from the American point of view, and though it put its thought
in antique forms, yet thinking originally and for itself. It represents
the average thought of respectable men, directed to some particular
subject, and their average morality. It represents nothing more; how
could it while the ablest men have gone off to politics or trade? It is
such literature as almost anybody might get up if you would give him a
little time to make the preliminary studies. There is little in it that
is national; little individual and of the writer's own mind; it is
ground out in the public literary mill. It has no noble sentiments, no
great ideas, nothing which makes you burn; nothing which makes you much
worse or much better. You may feed on this literature all your days, and
whatsoever you may gain in girth, you shall not take in thought enough
to add half an inch to your stature.

Out of every hundred American literary works printed since the century
began, about eighty will be of this character. Compare the four most
conspicuous periodicals of America with the four great quarterlies of
England, and you see how inferior our literature is to theirs--in all
things, in form and in substance too. The European has the freedom of a
well-bred man--it appears in the movement of his thought, his use of
words, in the easy grace of his sentences, and the general manner of his
work; the American has the stiffness and limitations of a big, raw boy
in the presence of his schoolmaster. They are proud of being English,
and so have a certain lofty nationality which appears in their thought
and the form thereof, even in the freedom to use and invent new words.
Our authors of this class seem ashamed that they are Americans, and
accordingly are timid, ungraceful and weak. They dare not be original
when they could. Hence this sort of literature is dull. A man of the
average mind and conscience, heart and soul, studies a particular
subject a short time--for this is the land of brief processes--and
writes a book thereof, or thereon; a critic of the same average makes
his special study of the book, not its theme, "reviews" the work; is as
ready, and able to pass judgment on Bowditch's translation of La Place
in ten days after its appearance as ten years, and distributes praise
and blame, not according to the author's knowledge, but the critic's
ignorant caprice, and then average men read the book and the critique
with no immoderate joy or unmeasured grief. They learn some new facts,
no new ideas, and get no lofty impulse. The book was written without
inspiration, without philosophy, and is read with small profit. Yet it
is curious to observe the praise which such men receive, how soon they
are raised to the House of Lords in English literature. I have known
three American Sir Walter Scotts, half a dozen Addisons, one or two
Macaulays, a historian that was Hume and Gibbon both in one; several
Burnses, and Miltons by the quantity, not "mute," the more is the pity,
but "inglorious" enough; nay, even vain-glorious at the praise which
some penny-a-liner, or dollar-a-pager foolishly gave their cheap
extemporary stuff. In sacred literature it is the same: in a single
winter at Boston we had two American Saint Johns, in full blast for
several months. Though no Felix trembles, there are now extant in the
United States not less than six American Saint Pauls, in no manner of
peril except the most dangerous--of idle praise.

A living, natural, and full-grown literature contains two elements. One
is of mankind in general; that is human and universal. The other is of
the tribe in special, and of the writer in particular. This is national
and even personal: you see the idiosyncracy of the nation and the
individual author in the work. The universal human substance accepts the
author's form, and the public wine of mankind runs into the private
bottle of the author. Thus the Hebrew literature of the Old Testament is
fresh and original in substance and in form; the two elements are plain
enough, the universal and the particular. The staple of the Psalms of
David is human, of mankind, it is trust in God; but the twist, the die,
the texture, the pattern, all that is Hebrew--of the tribe, and
personal--of David, shepherd, warrior, poet, king. You see the pastoral
hill-sides of Judea in his holy hymns; nay, "Uriah's beauteous wife"
now and then sidles in to his sweetest psalm. The Old Testament books
smell of Palestine, of its air and its soil. The Rose of Sharon has
Hebrew earth about its roots. The geography of the Holy Land, its fauna
and its flora both, even its wind and sky, its early and its latter
rain, all appear in the literature of historian and bard. It is so in
the Iliad. You see how the sea looked from Homer's point of view, and
know how he felt the west wind, cold and raw. The human element has an
Ionian form and a Homeric hue. The ballads of the people in Scotland and
England are national in the same way; the staple of human life is
wrought into the Scottish form. Before the Germans had any permanent
national literature of this character, their fertile mind found vent in
legends, popular stories, now the admiration of the learned. These had
at home the German dress, but as the stories travelled into other lands,
they kept their human flesh and blood, but took a different garb and
acquired a different complexion from every country which they visited,
and, like the streams of their native Swabia, took the color of the soil
they travelled through.

The permanent and instantial literature of America is not national in
this sense. It has little that is American; it might as well be written
by some book-wright in Leipsic or London, and then imported. The
individuality of the nation is not there, except in the cheap, gaudy
binding of the work. The nationality of America is only stamped on the
lids, and vulgarly blazoned on the back.

Is the book a History? it is written with no such freedom as you should
expect of a writer, looking at the breadth of the world from the lofty
stand-point of America. There is no new philosophy of history in it. You
would not think it was written in a democracy that keeps the peace
without armies or a national jail. Mr. Macaulay writes the history of
England as none but a North-Briton could do. Astonishingly well-read,
equipped with literary skill at least equal to the masterly art of
Voltaire, mapping out his subject like an engineer, and adorning it like
a painter, you yet see, all along, that the author is a Scotchman and a
whig. Nobody else could have written so. It is of Mr. Macaulay. But our
American writer thinks about matters just as everybody else does; that
is, he does not think at all, but only writes what he reads, and then,
like the good-natured bear in the nursery story, "thinks he has been
thinking." It is no such thing, he has been writing the common opinion
of common men, to get the applause of men as common as himself.

Is the book of Poetry? the substance is chiefly old, the form old, the
allusions are old. It is poetry of society, not of nature. You meet in
it the same everlasting mythology, the same geography, botany, zoölogy,
the same symbols; a new figure of speech suggested by the sight of
nature, not the reading of books, you could no more find than a fresh
shad in the Dead Sea. You take at random eight or ten "American poets"
of this stamp, you see at once what was the favorite author with each
new bard; you often see what particular work of Shelley, or Tennyson, or
Milton, or George Herbert, or, if the man has culture enough, of Goethe,
or Uhland, Jean Paul, or Schiller, suggested the "American Original."
His inspiration comes from literature, not from the great universe of
nature or of human life. You see that this writer has read Percy's
Reliques, and the German Wunderhorn; but you would not know that he
wrote in a republic--in a land full of new life, with great rivers and
tall mountains, with maple and oak trees that turn red in the autumn,
amongst a people who hold town-meetings, have free schools for
everybody, read newspapers voraciously, who have lightning rods on their
steeples, ride in railroads, are daguerreotyped by the sun, and who talk
by lightning from Halifax to New Orleans, who listen to the whippoorwill
and the bobolink, who believe in Slavery and the Declaration of
Independence, in the devil and the five points of Calvinism. You would
not know where our poet lived, or that he lived anywhere. Reading the
Iliad, you doubt that Homer was born blind; but our bard seems to have
been deaf also, and for expressing what was national in his time, might
likewise have been dumb.

Is it a volume of Sermons? they might have been written at Edinburgh,
Madrid, or Constantinople as well as in New England; as well preached to
the "Homo Sapiens" of Linnæus, or the Man in the Moon, as to the special
audience that heard, or heard them not, but only paid for having the
things preached. There is nothing individual about them; the author
seems as impersonal as Spinoza's conception of God. The sermons are like
an almanac calculated for the meridian of no place in particular, for no
time in special. There is no allusion to any thing American. The author
never mentions a river this side of the Jordan; knows no mountain but
Lebanon, Zion, and Carmel, and would think it profane to talk of the
Alleghanies and the Mississippi, of Monadnock and the Androscoggin. He
mentions Babylon and Jerusalem, not New York and Baltimore; you would
never dream that he lived in a church without a bishop, and a state
without a king, in a democratic nation that held three million slaves,
with ministers chosen by the people. He is surrounded, clouded over, and
hid by the traditions of the "ages of faith" behind him. He never thanks
God for the dew and snow, only for "the early and the latter rain" of a
classic sacred land; a temperance man, he blesses God for the wine
because the great Psalmist did so thousands of years ago. He speaks of
the olive and the fig-tree which he never saw, not of the apple-tree and
the peach before his eyes all day long, their fruit the joy of his
children's heart. If you guessed at his time and place, you would think
he lived, not under General Taylor, but under King Ahab, or Jeroboam;
that his audience rode on camels or in chariots, not in steam-cars; that
they fought with bows and arrows against the children of Moab; that
their favorite sin was the worship of some graven image, and that they
made their children pass through the fire unto Moloch, not through the
counting-house unto Mammon. You would not know whether the preacher was
married or a bachelor, rich or poor, saint or sinner; you would probably
conclude he was not much of a saint, nor even much of a sinner.

The authors of this portion of our literature seem ashamed of America.
One day she will take her revenge. They are the parasites of letters,
and live on what other men have made classic. They would study the Holy
Land, Greece, Etruria, Egypt, Nineveh, spots made famous by great and
holy men, and let the native races of America fade out, taking no pains
to study the monuments which so swiftly pass away from our own
continent. It is curious that most of the accounts of the Indians of
North America come from men not natives here, from French and Germans;
and characteristic that we should send an expedition to the Dead Sea,
while wide tracts of this continent lie all untouched by the white man's
foot; and, also, that while we make such generous and noble efforts to
christianize and bless the red, yellow, and black heathens at the
world's end, we should leave the American Indian and Negro to die in
savage darkness, the South making it penal to teach a black man to write
or read.

Yet, there is one portion of our permanent literature, if literature it
may be called, which is wholly indigenous and original. The lives of the
early martyrs and confessors are purely Christian, so are the legends of
saints and other pious men: there was nothing like this in the Hebrew or
heathen literature; cause and occasion were alike wanting for it. So we
have one series of literary productions that could be written by none
but Americans, and only here: I mean the Lives of Fugitive Slaves. But
as these are not the work of the men of superior culture, they hardly
help to pay the scholar's debt. Yet all the original romance of America
is in them, not in the white man's novel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next is the Transient Literature, composed chiefly of speeches,
orations, state papers, political and other occasional pamphlets,
business reports, articles in the journals, and other productions
designed to serve some present purpose. These are commonly the work of
educated men, though not of such as make literature a profession. Taking
this department as a whole, it differs much from the permanent
literature; here is freshness of thought and newness of form. If
American books are mainly an imitation of old models, it would be
difficult to find the prototype of some American speeches. They "would
have made Quintilian stare and gasp." Take the State Papers of the
American government during the administration of Mr. Polk, the speeches
made in Congress at the same time, the State Papers of the several
States--you have a much better and more favorable idea of the vigor and
originality of the American mind, than you would get from all the bound
books printed in that period. The diplomatic writings of American
politicians compare favorably with those of any nation in the world. In
eloquence no modern nation is before us, perhaps none is our equal. Here
you see the inborn strength and manly vigor of the American mind. You
meet the same spirit which fells the forest, girdles the land with
railroads, annexes Texas and covets Cuba, Nicaragua, all the world. You
see that the authors of this literature are workers also. Others have
read of wild beasts; here are the men that have seen the wolf.

A portion of this literature represents the past, and has the vices
already named. It comes from human history and not human nature; as you
read it, you think of the inertia and the cowardliness of mankind;
nothing is progressive, nothing noble, generous or just, only
respectable. The past is preferred before the present; money is put
before men, a vested right before a natural right. Such literature
appears in all countries. The ally of despotism, and the foe of mankind,
it is yet a legitimate exponent of a large class of men. The leading
journals of America, political and commercial, or literary, are poor and
feeble; our reviews of books afford matter for grave consideration. You
would often suppose them written by the same hand which manufactures the
advertisements of the grand caravan, or some patent medicine; or when
unfavorable, by some of the men who write defamatory articles on the eve
of an election.

But a large part of this transient literature is very different in its
character. Its authors have broken with the traditions of the past; they
have new ideas, and plans for putting them in execution; they are full
of hope; are national to the extreme, bragging and defiant. They put the
majority before institutions; the rights of the majority before the
privilege of a few; they represent the onward tendency and material
prophecy of the nation. The new activity of the American mind here
expresses its purpose and its prayer. Here is strength, hope,
confidence, even audacity; all is American. But the great idea of the
Absolute Right does not appear, all is more national than human; and in
what concerns the nation, it is not justice, the point where all
interests are balanced, and the welfare of each harmonizes with that of
all, which is sought; but the "greatest good of the greatest number;"
that is, only a privilege had at the cost of the smaller number. Here is
little respect for universal humanity; little for the Eternal Laws of
God which override all the traditions and contrivances of men; more
reverence for a statute, or constitution, which is indeed the
fundamental law of the political State, but is often only an attempt to
compromise between the fleeting passions of the day and the Immutable
Morality of God. Amid all the public documents of the nation and the
several States, in the speeches and writings of favorite men, who
represent and so control the public mind, for fifty years, there is
little that "stirs the feelings infinite" within you; much to make us
more American, not more manly. There is more head than heart; native
intellect enough; culture that is competent, but little conscience, or
real religion. How many newspapers, how many politicians in the land go
at all beyond the whig idea of protecting the property now accumulated,
or the democratic idea of ensuring the greatest material good of the
greatest number? Where are we to look for the representative of justice,
of the unalienable rights of all the people and all the nations? In the
triple host of article-makers, speech-makers, lay and clerical, and
makers of laws, you find but few who can be trusted to stand up for the
unalienable rights of men; who will never write, speak, nor vote in the
interests of a party, but always in the interest of mankind, and will
represent the justice of God in the forum of the world.

This literature, like the other, fails of the high end of writing and of
speech: with more vigor, more freedom, more breadth of vision, and an
intense nationality, the authors thereof are just as far from
representing the higher consciousness of mankind, just as vulgar as the
tame and well-licked writers of the permanent literature. Here are the
men who have cut their own way through the woods, men with more than the
average intelligence, daring and strength, but with less than the
average justice which is honesty in the abstract, less than the average
honesty which is justice concentrated upon small particulars.

Examine both these portions of American literature, the permanent and
the fleeting--you see their educated authors are no higher than the rest
of men. They are the slaves of public opinion, as much as the gossip in
her little village. It may not be the public opinion of a coterie of
crones, but of a great party; that makes little odds, they are
worshippers of the same rank, idolaters of the same wealth; the
gossiping granny shows her littleness the size of life, while their
deformity is magnified by the solar microscope of high office. Many a
popular man exhibits his pigmy soul to the multitude of a whole
continent, idly mistaking it for greatness. They are swayed by vulgar
passions, seek vulgar ends, address vulgar motives, use vulgar means;
they may command by their strength, they cannot refine by their beauty
or instruct by their guidance, and still less inspire by any eminence of
manhood which they were born to or have won. They build on the
surface-sand for to-day, not on the rock of ages forever. With so little
conscience, they heed not the solemn voice of history, and respect no
more the prophetic instincts of mankind.

To most men the approbation of their fellows, is one of the most
desirable things. This approbation appears in the various forms of
admiration, respect, esteem, confidence, veneration and love. The great
man obtains this after a time, and in its highest forms, without seeking
it, simply by faithfulness to his nature. He gets it, by rising and
doing his work, in the course of nature, as easily and as irresistibly
as the sun gathers to the clouds the evaporation of land and sea, and
like the sun to shed it down in blessings on mankind. Little men seek
this, consciously or not knowing it, by stooping, cringing, flattering
the pride, the passion, or the prejudice of others. So they get the
approbation of men, but never of Man. Sometimes this is sought for by
the attainment of some accidental quality, which low-minded men hold in
more honor than the genius of sage or poet, or the brave manhood of some
great hero of the soul. In England though money is power, it is
patrician birth which is nobility, and valued most; and there,
accordingly, birth takes precedence of all, of genius and even of gold.
Men seek the companionship or the patronage of titled lords, and social
rank depends upon nobility of blood. The few bishops in the upper house
do more to give conventional respectability to the clerical profession
there, than all the solid intellect of Hooker, Barrow, and of South, the
varied and exact learning of philosophic Cudworth, the eloquence and
affluent piety of Taylor, and Butler's vast and manly mind. In America
social rank depends substantially on wealth, an accident as much as
noble birth, but movable. Here gold takes precedence of all,--of genius,
and even of noble birth.

                              "Though your sire
    Had royal blood within him, and though you
    Possess the intellect of angels too,
    'Tis all in vain;--the world will ne'er inquire
    On such a score:--Why should it take the pains?
    'Tis easier to weigh purses, sure, than brains."

Wealth is sought, not merely as a means of power but of nobility. When
obtained, it has the power of nobility: so poor men of superior
intellect and education, powerful by nature, not by position, fear to
disturb the opinion of wealthy men, to instruct their ignorance or
rebuke their sin. Hence the aristocracy of wealth, illiterate and
vulgar, goes unrebuked, and debases the natural aristocracy of mind and
culture which bows down to it. The artist prostitutes his pencil and his
skill, and takes his law of beauty from the fat clown, whose barns and
pigs and wife he paints for daily bread. The preacher does the same; and
though the stench of the rum-shop infests the pulpit, and death hews
down the leaders of his flock, the preacher must cry "Peace, peace," or
else be still, for rum is power! But this power of wealth has its
antagonistic force--the power of numbers. Much depends on the dollar.
Nine tenths of the property is owned by one tenth of all these men--but
much also on the votes of the million. The few are strong by money, the
many by their votes. Each is worshipped by its votaries, and its
approbation sought. He that can get the men controls the money too. So
while one portion of educated men bows to the rich, and consecrates
their passion and their prejudice, another portion bows, equally
prostrate, to the passions of the multitude of men. The many and the
rich have each a public opinion of their own, and both are tyrants. Here
the tyranny of public opinion is not absolutely greater than in England,
Germany or France, but is far greater in comparison with other modes of
oppression. It seems inherent in a republic; it is not in a republic of
noble men. But here this sirocco blows flat to the ground full many an
aspiring blade. Wealth can establish banks, or factories; votes can lift
the meanest man into the highest political place, can dignify any
passion with the name and force of human law; so it is thought by the
worshippers of both, seeking the approbation of the two, that public
opinion can make truth of lies, and right even out of foulest wrong.
Politicians begin to say, There is no law of God above the ephemeral
laws of men.

There are few American works of literature which appeal to what is best
in men; few that one could wish should go abroad and live. America has
grown beyond hope in population, the free and bond, in riches, in land,
in public material prosperity, but in a literature that represents the
higher elements of manliness far less than wise men thought. They looked
for the fresh new child; it is born with wrinkles and dreadfully like
his grandmother, only looking older and more effete. Our muse does not
come down from an American Parnassus, with a new heaven in her eye, men
not daring to look on the face of anointed beauty, coming to tell of
noble thought, to kindle godlike feelings with her celestial spark, and
stir mankind to noble deeds. She finds Parnassus steep and high and hard
to climb; the air austere and cold, the light severe, too stern for her
effeminate nerves. So she has a little dwelling in the flat and
close-pent town, hard by the public street; breathes its Boeotian
breath; walks with the money-lenders at high change; has her account at
the bank, her pew in the most fashionable church and least austere; she
gets approving nods in the street, flattery in the penny-prints,
sweetmeats and sparkling wine in the proper places. What were the
inspirations of all God's truth to her? He "taunts the lofty land with
little men."

       *       *       *       *       *

There still remains the Exceptional Literature; some of it is only
fugitive, some meant for permanent duration. Here is a new and different
spirit: a respect for human nature above human history, for man above
all the accidents of man, for God above all the alleged accidents of
God; a veneration for the eternal laws which He only makes and man but
finds; a law before all statutes, above all constitutions, and holier
than all the writings of human hands. Here you find most fully the
sentiments and ideas of America, not such as rule the nation now, but
which, unconsciously to the people, have caused the noble deeds of our
history, and now prophesy a splendid future for this young giant here.
These sentiments and ideas are brought to consciousness in this
literature. Here a precedent is not a limitation; a fact of history does
not eclipse an idea of nature; an investment is not thought more sacred
than a right. Here is more hope than memory; little deference to wealth
and rank, but a constant aspiration for truth, justice, love and piety;
little fear of the public opinion of the many or the few, rather a scorn
thereof, almost a defiance of it. It appears in books, in pamphlets, in
journals, and in sermons, sorely scant in quantity as yet. New and
fresh, it is often greatly deficient in form; rough, rude and uncouth,
it yet has in it a soul that will live. Its authors are often men of a
wide and fine culture, though mainly tending to underrate the past
achievements of mankind. They have little reverence for great names.
They value the Greek and Hebrew mind for no more than it is worth. With
them a wrong is no more respected because well descended, and supported
by all the riches, all the votes; a right, not less a right because
unjustly kept out of its own. These men are American all through; so
intensely national, that they do not fear to tell the nation of the
wrong it does.

The form of this literature is American. It is indigenous to our soil,
and could come up in no other land. It is unlike the classic literature
of any other nation. It is American as the Bible is Hebrew, and the
Odyssey is Greek. It is wild and fantastic, like all fresh original
literature at first. You see in it the image of republican
institutions--the free school, free state, free church; it reflects the
countenance of free men. So the letters of old France, of modern
England, of Italy and Spain reflect the monarchic, oligarchic, and
ecclesiastic institutions of those lands. Here appears the civilization
of the nineteenth century, the treasures of human toil for many a
thousand years. More than that, you see the result of a fresh contact
with nature, and original intuitions of divine things. Acknowledging
inspiration of old, these writers of the newness believe in it now not
less, not miraculous, but normal. Here is humanity that overleaps the
bounds of class and of nation, and sees a brother in the beggar, pirate,
slave, one family of men variously dressed in cuticles of white or
yellow, black or red. Here, too, is a new loveliness, somewhat akin to
the savage beauty of our own wild woods, seen in their glorious splendor
an hour before autumnal suns go down and leave a trail of glory
lingering in the sky. Here, too, is a piety somewhat heedless of
scriptures, liturgies, and forms, and creeds; it finds its law written
in nature, its glorious everlasting Gospel in the soul of man; careless
of circumcision and baptismal rites, it finds the world a temple, and
rejoices everywhere to hold communion with the Infinite Father of us
all, and keep a sacrament in daily life, conscious of immortality, and
feeding continually on angel's bread.

The writers of this new literature are full of faults; yet they are
often strong, though more by their direction than by native force of
mind; more, by their intuitions of the first good, first perfect and
first fair, than through their historical knowledge or dialectic power.
Their ship sails swift, not because it is sharper built, or carries
broader sails than other craft, but because it steers where the current
of the ocean coincides with the current of the sky, and so is borne
along by nature's wind and nature's wave. Uninvited, its ideas steal
into parlor and pulpit, its kingdom coming within men and without
observation. The shoemaker feels it as he toils in his narrow shop; it
cheers the maiden weaving in the mill, whose wheels the Merrimac is made
to turn; the young man at college bids it welcome to his ingenuous soul.
So at the breath of spring new life starts up in every plant; the
sloping hills are green with corn, and sunny banks are blue and fragrant
with the wealth of violets, which only slept till the enchanter came.
The sentiments of this literature burn in the bosom of holy-hearted
girls, of matrons and of men. Ever and anon its great ideas are heard
even in Congress, and in the speech of old and young, which comes
tingling into most unwilling ears.

This literature has a work to do, and is about its work. Let the old man
crow loud as he may, the young one will crow another strain, for it is
written of God, that our march is continually onward, and age shall
advance over age forever and forever.

Already America has a few fair specimens from this new field to show. Is
the work History? The author writes from the stand-point of American
democracy; I mean philanthropy, the celestial democracy, not the
satanic; writes with a sense of justice and in the interest of men;
writes to tell a nation's purpose in its deeds, and so reveal the
universal law of God, which overrules the affairs of States as of a
single man. You wonder that history was not before so writ that its
facts told the nation's ideas, and its labors were lessons, and so its
hard-won life became philosophy.

Is it poetry the man writes? It is not poetry like the old. The poet has
seen nature with his own eyes, heard her with his own mortal, bodily
ears, and felt her presence, not vicariously through Milton, Uhland,
Ariosto, but personally, her heart against his heart. He sings of what
he knows, sees, feels, not merely of what he reads in others' song.
Common things are not therefore unclean. In plain New England life he
finds his poetry, as magnets iron in the blacksmith's dust, and as the
bee finds dew-bright cups of honey in the common woods and common weeds.
It is not for him to rave of Parnassus, while he knows it not, for the
Soul of Song has a seat upon Monadnock, Wachusett, or Katahdin, quite as
high. So Scottish Burns was overtaken by the muse of poetry, who met him
on his own bleak hills, and showed him beauty in the daisy and the
thistle, and the tiny mouse, till to his eye the hills ran o'er with
loveliness, and Caledonia became a classic land.

Is it religion the author treats of? It is not worship by fear, but
through absolute faith, a never-ending love; for it is not worship of a
howling and imperfect God, grim, jealous and revengeful, loving but a
few, and them not well, but of the Infinite Father of all mankind,
whose universal providence will sure achieve the highest good of all
that are.

These men are few; in no land are they numerous, or were or will be.
There were few Hebrew Prophets, but a tribe of priests; there are but
few mighty bards that hover o'er the world; but here and there a sage,
looking deep and living high, who feels the heart of things, and utters
oracles which pass for proverbs, psalms and prayers, and stimulate a
world of men. They draw the nations, as conjoining moon and sun draw
waters shore-ward from the ocean-springs; and as electrifying heat they
elevate the life of men. Under their influence you cannot be as before.
They stimulate the sound, and intoxicate the silly, but in the heart of
noble youths their idea becomes a fact, and their prayer a daily life.

Scholars of such a stamp are few and rare, not without great faults. For
every one of them there will be many imitators, as for each lion a
hundred lion-flies, thinking their buzz as valiant as his roar, and
wondering the forest does not quake thereat, and while they feed on him
fancy they suck the breasts of heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such is the Scholars' position in America: such their duty, and such the
way in which they pay the debt they owe. Will men of superior culture
not all act by scholar-craft and by the Pen? It were a pity if they
did. If a man work nobly, the Office is as worthy, and the Purse as
blessed in its work. The Pen is power; the Office is power; the Purse is
power; and if the purse and office be nobly held, then in a high mode
the cultivated man pays for his bringing up, and honors with wide
sympathies the mass of men who give him chance to ride and rule. If not;
if these be meanly held, for self and not for man, then the scholar is a
debtor and a traitor too.

The scholar never had so fair a chance before; here is the noblest
opportunity for one that wields the Pen; it is mightier than the Sword,
the Office, or the Purse. All things concede at last to Beauty, Justice,
Truth and Love, and these he is to represent. He has what freedom he
will pay for and take. Let him talk never so heroic, he will find fit
audience, nor will it long be few. Men will rise up and welcome his
quickening words as vernal grass at the first rains of spring. A great
nation which cannot live by bread alone, asks for the bread of life;
while the State is young, a single great and noble man can deeply
influence the nation's mind. There are great wrongs which demand
redress; the present men who represent the Office and the Purse will not
end these wrongs. They linger for the Pen, with magic touch to abolish
and destroy this ancient serpent-brood. Shall it be only rude men and
unlettered who confront the dragons of our time which prowl about the
folds by day and night, while the scholar, the appointed guardian of
mankind, but "sports with Amaryllis in the shade, or with the tangles of
Neæra's hair?" The nation asks of her scholar better things than ancient
letters ever brought; asks his wonders for the million, not the few
alone. Great sentiments burn now in half-unconscious hearts, and great
ideas kindle their glories round the heads of men. Unconscious
electricity, Truth and Right, flashes out of the earth, out of the air.
It is for the scholar to attract this ground-lightning and this
lightning of the sky, condense it into useful thunder to destroy the
wrong, then spread it forth a beauteous and a cheering light, shedding
sweet influence and kindling life anew. A few great men of other times
tell us what may be now.

Nothing will be done without toil--talent is only power of work, and
genius greater power for higher forms of work--nothing without
self-denial; nothing great and good save by putting your idea before
yourself, and counting it dearer than your flesh and blood. Let it hide
you, not your obesity conceal the truth God gave you to reveal. The
quality of intellectual work is more than the quantity. Out of the
cloudy world Homer has drawn a spark that lasts three thousand years.
"One, but a lion," should be the scholar's maxim; let him do many things
for daily need; one great thing for the eternal beauty of his art. A
single poem of Dante, a book for the bosom, lives through the ages,
surrounding its author with the glory of genius in the night of time.
One Sermon on the Mount, compact of truths brought down from God, all
molten by such pious trust in Him, will stir men's hearts by myriads,
while words dilute with other words are a shame to the speaker, and a
dishonor to men who have ears to hear.

It is a great charity to give beauty to mankind; part of the scholar's
function. How we honor such as create mere sensuous loveliness! Mozart
carves it on the unseen air; Phidias sculptures it out from the marble
stone; Raphael fixes ideal angels, maidens, matrons, men, and his triple
God upon the canvas, and the lofty Angelo, with more than Amphionic
skill, bids the hills rise into a temple which constrains the crowd to
pray. Look, see how grateful man repays these architects of beauty with
never-ending fame! Such as create a more than sensuous loveliness, the
Homers, Miltons, Shakspeares, who sing of man in never-dying and
creative song--see what honors we have in store for such; what honor
given for what service paid! But there is a beauty higher than that of
art, above philosophy and merely intellectual grace: I mean the
loveliness of noble life; that is a beauty in the sight of man and God.
This is a new country, the great ideas of a noble man are easily spread
abroad; soon they will appear in the life of the people, and be a
blessing in our future history to ages yet unborn. A few great souls can
correct the licentiousness of the American press, which is now but the
type of covetousness and low ambition; correct the mean economy of the
State, and amend the vulgarity of the American church, now the poor
prostitute of every wealthy sin.

Oh ingenuous young maid or man, if such you are,--if not, then let me
dream you such; seek you this beauty, complete perfection of a man, and
having this, go hold the Purse, the Office, or the Pen, as suits you
best; but out of that life, writing, voting, acting, living in all
forms, you shall pay men back for your culture, and in the scholar's
noble kind, and represent the higher facts of human thought. Will men
still say, "This Wrong is consecrated; it has stood for ages and shall
stand for ever!" Tell them, "No. A wrong, though old as Sin, is not now
sacred, nor shall it stand!" Will they say, "This Right can never be;
that excellence is lovely but impossible!" Show them the fact, who will
not hear the speech; the deed goes where the word fails, and life
enchants where rhetoric cannot persuade.

Past ages offer their instruction, much warning and a little guidance,
many a wreck along the shore of time, a beacon here and there. Far off
in the dim distance, present as possibilities, not actual as yet, future
generations, with broad and wishful eyes, look at the son of genius,
talent, educated skill, and seem to say, "A word for us; it will not be
forgot!" Truth and Beauty, God's twin daughters, eternal both, yet ever
young, wait there to offer each faithful man a budding branch, in their
hands budding, in his to blossom and mature its fruit, wherewith he sows
the field of time, gladdening the millions yet to come.


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