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: [ANONYMOUS]: [ Untitled ] - Charles S. Hyneman, American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1 
American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, ed. Charles S. Hyneman and Donald Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983). 2 vols. Volume 1.
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The importance of public virtue for a self-governing people, and the importance of religion for public virtue, were constant themes during the founding era. This short piece, published in the September 17, 1764 issue of the Boston Gazette, is representative of many similar essays to be found in newspapers throughout the founding era.
To the PUBLISHERS, &c.
There is an inseparable connection between publick virtue and publick happiness: Individuals, we are assured, must render an account hereafter of every part of their moral conduct in this state; but communities, as their existence will cease with this world, can neither be rewarded or punish’d as such in the next: It therefore appears rational to conclude, that present rewards and punishments are distributed to them, according to their present moral behaviour. Hence we see the importance of morality to a community: It should engage the serious attention of every individual, and his endeavor, to do all that lies in his power in his own sphere to encourage and promote it; and I think it is worth consideration, whether the decay of morality, which is too visible among us, is not very much owing to too much laxness in family government: I am far from being austere in my principles of the government of a family: I believe that too rigid a restraint upon young folks is usually attended with bad effects in the end; yet I will venture to ask whether we are not in general in the opposite extreme, and whether there are not already some instances of the fatal consequences of it?
I believe it will be allowed by all christians, that a due observation of the Lord’s Day is one material branch of moral duty: The legislature of Great-Britain, and every subordinate legislature in her dominions, and to be sure the civil authority of this province, have always consider’d the first day of the week as wholly set apart for the purposes of devout religion: If then the supreme civil power; & if by far the greater part, if not every private individual, who is a serious christian, are not all mistaken in this matter, it must be very affecting to see the contempt that is cast, and the opposition that is made by some of our youth, to the good and wholesome laws of the province for the strict observation of that day. It is evident I think, that it is not only the particular law lately made that gives offence to these young people: let any one recollect four or five years ago, before this law was pass’d, what opposition was made to the Sabbath laws then in being: this his Honor the chief justice was pleas’d to observe upon in open court, the last Week: As much contempt was cast upon the justices of the peace who executed those laws then, as is now cast upon the gentlemen appointed to execute this: so that it rather seems to be an impatience in these thoughtless giddy youth under the restraint of any law at all: such restraint they cry out against as an attack upon their liberty: and so it is, upon a liberty to prophane a part of time which God Almighty at the creation of the world was pleas’d to pronounce holy: corrupt minds are apt to mistake all laws for reformation as an attack upon liberty: these young people it is to be fear’d are countenanced by some others, from whom as citizens at least, better things might be expected: but tis hoped their parents or masters will instruct them otherwise.
A good deal depends upon the youth of a country being train’d up to virtue and good manners: They are to act upon the stage of life, when the present generation is gone: It ought therefore to be the common concern of all—magistrates—ministers of the gospel & heads of families—all who have a regard for the future happiness of their country—and may I not say, all who wish that the Supreme Being, (who hath shown so much favor to New England in former and later times) may be honer’d by its posterity, to use all possible means to destroy vice & immorality of every kind, and to cultivate & promote the fear of God and a love to religion in the minds of our young people—I cannot help thinking that this chiefly depends upon the good government and instruction of families: public laws are made for the punishment and terror of evil doers: now, if every family was duly instructed and governed; if the youth were restrained by those who have the care of them at home, from acting in public, contrary to the declared mind of the public, there would be less occasion to put the laws in severe execution: but when the laws of God and man are openly violated, and those who are entrusted with the execution of them, are abused and insulted, it is high time for all orderly citizens to unite in a proper defence of them, and as openly to countenance them in bringing such notorious offenders to punishment—otherwise, what mischief may we not expect! The contagion will spread like the leprosy and infect the whole land! I should pity the father whose son should be bro’t to shame and the punishment of the law: but as I am a Father, and an aged father, I should in such a case willingly sacrifice my son, though it should bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.—Have not all civilized nations of the world regarded their morals, and made provision for the reformation of their manners? But what are all laws, if not animated by a laudable execution of them? The most solemn enacting clauses are but the image of authority while they remain in parchment.—Is there any one amongst us, who can look upon spreading vice, and think of the train of evils which must attend it, and not be inspired with [a] degree of zeal for a reformation? At this particular juncture especially, when we feel the just punishment of Heaven for our sins, and have reason to dread more? Are not our poor multiplied, and still multiplying and the charges upon others increasing? Are not our taxes heavy, and is not our trade labouring under new and intollerable burthens? Have we not trembled under severe judgments—fire, earthquake, sword and pestilence! and ought not these things to awaken our attention? When we shall be restored to virtue and sobriety, we may hope by the kind interposition of providence, to be eas’d of our present burthens, and have all our fears remov’d: but ’till then, what thoughtful man will expect it?—
I did not intend to have said so much upon a subject which seems to be more adapted to the pulpit, than a weekly newspaper: I shall conclude with a quotation from an author of great repute in England—
Think, what will become of us, if we suffer the laws for the reformation of manners to be broken, or born down: Think, if the wretches that debauch your children or servants, can find money, friends and advocates, to entangle the prosecutions, by increasing the difficulties and charge, and thereby make the law a terror to them that do well: Think, if those laws that fence about your property, and guard your peace, are so often violated now; if religion is not only neglected, but insulted, the Sabbath prophaned, and God blasphemed! If dissoluteness and debauchery now face the sun, and often out-brave both Heaven and the laws at once: Good God! What would it be if there were none to call for justice? if there were none to make the laws heard and felt, or sinners afraid by the due execution of them, which is their only significancy. The Devil would return upon us with seven spirits worse than the former. All future attempts for a reformation would be laughed out of countenance; and a flood of iniquity that has been long swelling on its dam, would at length bear down all before it. Vice would be triumphant: The very laws against immorality would become obsolete, or be voted a public nuisance, and an abridgement of the people’s liberty: Can any one profess a love to virtue and good manners, and not dread things coming to such a pass? or rather is it not of the last importance to prevent them?—