Front Page Titles (by Subject) 43: David Osgood, THE WONDERFUL WORKS OF GOD ARE TO BE REMEMBERED - Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 2 (1789-1805)
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43: David Osgood, THE WONDERFUL WORKS OF GOD ARE TO BE REMEMBERED - Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 2 (1789-1805) 
Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, 2 vols, Foreword by Ellis Sandoz (2nd ed. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). Vol. 2.
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THE WONDERFUL WORKS OF GOD ARE TO BE REMEMBERED
David Osgood (1747-1822). Osgood left the fields of his father’s farm at the age of nineteen, mastered a Latin grammar, and sixteen months later was admitted to Harvard, where he was graduated in the class of 1771. The Arminians complained that he was a Calvinist, and the Calvinists that he was Arminian. Eventually, on a controversial vote, he became the third minister of the First Congregational Parish of Medford, Massachusetts, and he remained there the rest of his life. A rough-cut man, short on the social amenities, he was a moderate patriot during the Revolution. He socialized little, catechized once a year, and never visited parishioners except on such formal church occasions as weddings and funerals. In later years he took to memorizing his sermons and repeating them now and again, a process restricted by one retentive congregation member who would raise his hand during a sermon to indicate with a number of fingers how many times he had heard it.
Osgood was an incandescent orator, however, sufficiently so to impress Daniel Webster, who commented on one sermon that “it was the most impressive eloquence it had ever been his fortune to hear” (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 17:574). Osgood was preeminently a political preacher: Of twenty-two published sermons, several of them widely reprinted, eleven were on political subjects. This Thanksgiving Day sermon brought Osgood instant celebrity for its attack on Governor Samuel Adams for failing to mention the federal government, whose 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation (by President Washington) was being observed. Osgood detected a Republican conspiracy—he even suspected secession—in this, and the hand of the Jacobins at work. The sermon went through six pamphlet reprintings (the second edition is given here), as well as newspaper reprintings, and it engendered a response covering the entire front page of a Republican newspaper, the Independent Chronicle (April 3, 1795), along with a number of other replies. A Federalist newspaper commented that Reverend Osgood knew “by the roaring of the Jacobins, that he [had] bitten them in a sore place” (Ibid., p. 575).
When asked about his practice of reading the text, closing the Bible, then removing his glasses and discoursing from memory, Osgood gave two reasons for this: “One, that he believed he could give his discourse greater effect by looking his auditors in the face—the other, that he wished to shew the Methodists and Baptists (of whom it seems he has a number in his own parish) either that preaching without notes was no proof of inspiration, or, that he was as much inspired as themselves” (Ibid., p. 577). An unknown commentator wrote:
There were passages in some of the sermons that we heard from the “old man eloquent,” that thrilled through our frames, and such as could not easily be resisted or forgotten. And when in the midst of what seemed commonplace he laid aside his spectacles and turned away from his manuscripts, we were sure that it would be followed by a burst of fiery eloquence, and we were not mistaken. He held the audience for some minutes in rapt attention, and we hardly knew whether we were in the body or out of the body, so completely were we entranced and caught up, as it were, into the third heaven (Ibid., p. 578).
Osgood died of angina pectoris on December 12, 1822. A 469-page volume of his sermons was published in 1824.
He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.
Psalm CXI. 4.
The works of God are usually distinguished into those of creation, and those of providence. By the former, we understand the stretching forth and garnishing of the heavens, the forming and replenishing of the earth, and the originating of the present order and course of nature. By the latter, are meant the continued preservation, the upholding and governing of all these things; and the superintending of all events, both in the natural and moral world. All these are great and wonderful works, worthy to be had in constant remembrance by every rational spectator. They make God to be remembered; nay, they are so many memorials of him, witnessing his eternal power and godhead, his overflowing benignity, and his care of, and kindness towards, his creatures.
They who have any taste for intellectual and moral pleasures, who are capable of relishing what is grand and sublime, will delight in prying into, and contemplating these great and wonderful works of creation and providence. To this purpose it is observed in the context, that the works of the Lord being great, honourable and glorious, they will be sought out or investigated by all them who have pleasure therein. By these works the Psalmist has special reference to the more signal dispensations of Providence in his dealings with his covenant people, the descendants of Abraham his friend. In these dispensations he set before them the most striking illustrations of his character and glorious perfections. They often saw him, on one occasion and another, triumphing over the false gods of the heathen around them, executing judgment upon their vain idols, and confounding their stupid worshippers. They saw his infinite power displayed in an almost continued series of miraculous operations; his justice in the exemplary punishment of cruel oppressors; his mercy in numberless affecting instances towards themselves; and his truth and faithfulness in the exact fulfilment of his promises and predictions. These things were intended to make lasting impressions on their minds—such as might not be easily or speedily effaced. The wonderful works of Providence are wrought for this very purpose, that, by beholding them, men may be so affected, as to have God continually in their thoughts, and thereby be led to fear and serve him.
The text may teach us, that the more signal mercies of heaven towards us, and those more remarkable deliverances which, at any time, have been wrought in our favour, ought to be gratefully remembered, and thankfully acknowledged by us. These things are some of the chief beauties and most brilliant pages in that book of Providence, which it highly concerns us daily to read and study. This book indeed contains the whole history of God’s dealings with mankind, from age to age; in which he displays his moral perfections to the view of his rational offspring. The clear light of eternity will show every part of this volume to be full of meaning; and such an explanation will then be given to those passages, which are now esteemed dark and mysterious, as will induce enraptured saints, with astonishment, to exclaim, O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! But while we dwell in this land of shadows and obscurity, we see only a small proportion of what God does; and having such limited views of his dispensations, it is no wonder if we be unable to comprehend the meaning of particular events.
There are many, however, which contain such striking illustrations of the divine attributes, especially of the divine mercy and goodness, that we can be at no loss about them. Not a few of these have fallen within our own observation; and many others our ears have heard, and our fathers have told us. God expects and requires, that we gather them up as a treasure, and carefully preserve them in our memories. They are in themselves memorable; and he hath done them, that they might be remembered by us. Of course, he is highly offended when men forget his works and the wonders which he hath shewed them. Such behaviour reflects upon the Divine Majesty, as though his method of governing the world, and his dealings with his creatures, were not worthy of our attention. The misery and destruction of men are, in some instances, attributed to their not regarding the work of the Lord, nor considering the operation of his hands. And it is certain, that the frequent review of the more striking dispensations of Providence is of excellent use to confirm us in the belief, and to excite us to the practice, of true religion. Through the weakness and darkness of their minds, and the strength of their corruptions, mankind are prone to unbelief. Some, under every advantage for light and conviction, do, notwithstanding, indulge to sceptical opinions: And they would generally, perhaps, be in danger of such opinions, and of calling in question the first principles and fundamental articles even of natural religion, the being, perfections, and moral government of the Deity; were it not for those less common appearances of his Providence, by which they are awakened to consider the manifold proofs of a Supreme Almighty Ruler working in the midst of them, and sitting as Governor and Judge among the nations.
At certain periods of time, through the several ages and among the different nations of the world, God breaks forth in signal and remarkable dispensations for the relief of the righteous, or for the punishment of the wicked. His providence is seen justifying its own procedure in vindicating and delivering oppressed innocence, or in precipitating prosperous guilt from its lofty seat. On these occasions, God is known by the glory that surrounds him. Beholding these extraordinary proofs of his presence and power, men are constrained to say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
And when we are once established in the belief of such a great and glorious Being, this faith will naturally prompt us to fear and serve him. Convinced of his power and justice by the awful manifestations of them in his works, we shall be led to stand in awe of him, and heedfully to shun whatever we apprehend to be offensive in his sight. Struck with the more signal displays of his mercy and goodness, and excited by them to the more fixed contemplation of his unbounded beneficence; we shall be satisfied, that our happiness must consist in the enjoyment of his favour. This persuasion will render us anxious to know what the Lord our God requires of us; and solicitous to approve ourselves to him, by a patient continuance in well-doing.
Our present trust in the divine mercy is also encouraged by the remembrance of former favours and deliverances. For this purpose, among others, the Israelites were enjoined to teach “their children the praises of the Lord, his strength, and his wonderful works—that the generation to come might know them—even the children which should be born: who should arise and declare them to their children; that they might set their hope in God.”
The honour of God, the interests of religion, and the comfort and consolation of good men, being all promoted by the memory of the divine dispensations; it is highly agreeable to reason, and consonant to scripture, that public days should be set apart, on which a whole people may unite in celebrating the goodness of God; recollecting the instances of his providential care of, and kindness towards, them; and talking of his wonderful works in their favour. Such institutions serve as pillars of remembrance, to revive and perpetuate a sense of our obligations to heaven. The thoughts of the great body of the people are so taken up about their own private affairs, that they are prone to pay but little attention to the concerns of the public. After the first impression is worn off, they soon forget, at least practically, national mercies and deliverances, as well as national judgments. They need to have their minds stirred up by way of remembrance. And when God, by a long and continued series of remarkable interpositions, has multiplied, blessed, and prospered any people—has, on one occasion and another, repeatedly rescued them from great and threatning dangers—put them in full possession of their rights and liberties, laws and religion; and from year to year continues them in the quiet enjoyment of these privileges, together with the usual bounties of his munificent providence; they cannot too frequently recollect, nor too fervently and gratefully acknowledge, these signal instances of the divine benignity. It surely becomes christian magistrates, and is a duty they owe to God, to call upon their subjects to unite in commemorating these wonderful works of heaven in their favour.
Our forefathers, from the first settlement of the country, esteemed certain seasons of the year as highly proper for special acts of devotion. At the opening of the spring, they judged it fit and suitable, to set apart a day for humiliation and prayer; that they might implore the divine blessing on the affairs of the ensuing season—that it might be rendered fruitful, healthy and prosperous. And after the reception of these mercies, at the close of the season, another day was set apart for public thanksgiving. To this custom of our pious and renowned ancestors the proclamation for the observance of this day expressly refers. To the friends of religion among us it must be highly agreeable, to join in making this day a grateful memorial of God’s providential kindness towards us; and especially, in recording the more signal mercies of the last revolving season.
He hath, says the proclamation, been pleased to favour us with a good measure of health, while others, whom we ought to pity and pray for, have been visited with contagious and mortal sickness. In the West-India Islands, in some of the southern states, and even in the neighbouring state of Connecticut, we have heard of an unusual mortality. But among ourselves, the instances of it have, as yet, fallen considerably short of the average number for the last twenty years. It is rare, indeed, that a year passes over us in which health is more generally enjoyed. Life is the basis of all our enjoyments in this world; and health is the balm of life. It sweetens and enhances all the comforts of life. It enables us to bear our part in the affairs of the world, and to partake of that rich profusion of good which a bountiful Providence sets before us. When therefore we see, or hear of, others from whom this blessing is withdrawn, it ought to excite our gratitude afresh, that to us it is still continued. On this day it becomes us, with increased love and thankfulness, to pay our vows to that Being who is the health of our countenance and the God of our lives; whose kind visitations uphold us in the land of the living, while many others, cut off by pining sickness, are continually sinking into the grave.
Next to the blessing of health, the proclamation mentions those of harvest: He hath smiled on our agricultural labours, and caused the earth to yield her increase. For the space of some weeks, at the opening of the spring, our prospect was melancholy. An early drought and a late frost, unusually severe, alarmed our apprehensions. But, from that period, we have rarely known, in this vicinity, a more fruitful season. Refreshing showers succeeding each other at short intervals, preceded and followed with a warm sun, have furnished a continued supply of grass for the cattle, and rendered the latter harvest, and the various productions of autumn, plentiful and abundant. In this respect also we record the rich bounty of Providence, and are constrained gratefully to acknowledge, that still “he leaveth not himself without witness, in that he continueth to do us good, to give us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
With the blessings already recounted the proclamation goes on to inform us, that He hath prospered our fishery, and in a great measure our merchandise, notwithstanding the depredations of unreasonable despoilers. The attack of these despoilers upon our commerce has undoubtedly been infamous, and such as ought to be execrated by all civilized nations. And were we to judge of the extent of the mischief which they have done us, from the representations in some of the public papers, and in the resolves of certain self-created societies, we might be led to conclude, that the trade of the country was annihilated, and all its merchants bankrupts. It is therefore, after such continued alarms through the season, some consolation to hear, from so high an authority, that, notwithstanding all our losses, disappointments and vexations, a great measure of commercial prosperity has been enjoyed. Of this, indeed, we have yet further evidence even ocular demonstration, in the splendid and princely appearance of many of our mercantile citizens, and in the high price of our country produce, enhanced to a degree, which (though oppressive and ruinous to a few individuals whose sole dependence is upon a fixed stipend) is yet exceedingly gainful to the great body of the community. Such prodigious exportations would not, and could not, be continued, did not the merchant, notwithstanding every risk, find his account in them.
What a claim upon our gratitude then is this, that, through the mercy of heaven, we are allowed to increase in wealth, in numbers and strength, at a time, when the nations of Europe are madly wasting, impoverishing and destroying each other. There the awakened jealousy of tyrants, tenacious of their usurped powers, and the ferocious zeal, the desperate fury of a mighty, though long oppressed nation, have set the world in a flame. These lusts consume the abundance of the seas and the treasures of the dry land, the productions both of nature and art: They lay waste the works and improvements of ages, and, so far as their power extends, render all the elements subservient to misery and ruin. What a blast do the follies and vices of men bring upon the rich blessings of heaven? For our continued exemption from these scenes of devastation and ruin, how fervent should be our gratitude to the supreme Disposer: In times past we have experienced them; and may heaven grant, that we may know them no more! As yet we hail each of the contending nations as our friends; and while they are mutually suffering such complicated evils from one another, these states present a common asylum for the distressed of all parties, who are almost daily arriving on our peaceful shores.
The enumeration of blessings in the proclamation concludes with adding, He hath continued to us the inestimable blessing of the Gospel, and our religious, as well as civil rights and liberties. For the former of these—the rich blessings of the gospel and our religious privileges—as they are primarily a supernatural grant from heaven, and comprise all our hopes and prospects for eternity; so no period, short of that endless duration, will be sufficient for adequate returns of adoration and praise. For the latter, our civil rights and liberties, we are, under Providence, and as the mean by which heaven has granted and continues them to us, indebted to a cause or source which, I am sorry to observe, is not mentioned, nor even referred to, in the proclamation—I mean the general or federal government. This omission is strange and singular, beyond any thing of the kind that I recollect to have seen since the first union of the states in the memorable year 1775. It has, to say the least, a strong appearance of disconnection with the general government, and an air of separate sovereignty and independence, as though we enjoyed not our civil rights in union with the other states under one common head.
Here then, I think it my duty, to remind you, that of all our political blessings for which we ought, on this day, to make our grateful acknowledgments to the divine goodness, our federal government is the greatest, the chief, and, in fact, the basis of the whole. Its form and constitution are by wise men universally admired. The wisdom, integrity, ability and success of its administration have commanded the respect and applause of the world. Its happy effects and consequences to ourselves, which we have known and experienced, have been great and estimable, beyond any other political good which we have ever enjoyed. By guarantying to each of the states a republican form of government, and the enjoyment of every right consistent with the rights of the whole, it becomes to them all their greatest security against the attempts both of internal faction and external invasion. In this view, it is their main pillar of support and bulwark of defence.
Previous to the adoption of this most excellent form of government—under the old confederation, these states presented to the world a many-headed monster, frightful and alarming to all the lovers of peace and good order. Each state claimed a negative on the resolves of the whole in Congress assembled; and the regulations of the several states respectively were continually interfering and clashing with each other. From this foundation for discord, parties and divisions were inevitable. In almost every state, many were disaffected towards their own immediate government. In some of the states, open rebellions existed. Things went on from bad to worse, till the administration of justice was suspended, the laws silenced—all public and private faith left without a support, and the obligation of promises and contracts set aside. Men could neither confide in the public, nor in one another. Industry wanted encouragement—trade languished—a general uneasiness prevailed; and we tottered on the brink of the most dreadful convulsions.
The federal government was no sooner organized, than it speedily rescued us from this eminently hazardous situation. It gave fresh vigor to each of the state governments; awed into submission the factious through all the states; restored the course of justice, and thereby established peace and good order among the citizens at large. It recovered the sinking credit of the nation, together with that of the respective states; and gave such a spring to commerce, agriculture, manufactures, and all those useful arts which supply the necessaries and conveniencies of life, that they have flourished to a degree incomparably beyond what had ever been known in this country before. In promoting these important ends of every good government, it exceeded the most sanguine expectations of its friends and patrons. So striking and manifest were its beneficial effects, that even its restless enemies were compelled to silence. This tide of public prosperity continued rising even after the commencement of the present troubles in Europe: The current of our trade flowed for a while with but little interruption, and with accumulated profit to our merchants and farmers.
In this prosperous situation of our affairs, a foreign incendiary appeared among us; the object of whose mission was, at all events, to draw us in for a share in the war of Europe. By fair negociation with the existing government, he had no hope of success. It was therefore necessary, that the government should be overthrown; or, at least, that the wise and good men entrusted with its administration, should be driven from the helm. Materials for either or both of these purposes were ready to his hand.
In every country there are some who envy the abilities of their superiours, and covet their stations; some constitutionally turbulent and uneasy, who can have pleasure in nothing but scenes of tumult and confusion; some who can make themselves conspicuous on no other occasions; and some in desperate circumstances, whose only hope of bettering them is in revolutions of government. Besides a proportion of all these, there has been in this country a large party, from the beginning, ill affected toward the federal government; and with these may be reckoned numbers of ignorant, though honest, people, who think the period arrived when the debt of gratitude ought to be paid to our allies. The passions, prejudices and opinions of these several classes of people prepared their minds to receive the impressions of an insidious minister.
He immediately put in practice the arts which had proved so dreadfully efficacious in his own country. His intrigues were suddenly and surprisingly extended. His very breath seemed to kindle the smothered embers of sedition from Georgia to Newhampshire. Presses through the states were engaged to forward his designs, by conveying torrents of slander and abuse against the great officers of government. Popular societies, unknown to the laws, were recommended and actually formed under the influence of demagogues well skilled in the business of faction. The British councils, as though in league to aid the attempts of Genet, perfidiously seized upon our trade, and thereby furnished (what as yet had been wanting) a plausible occasion for clamour to those who were seeking it, and a just ground of resentment and indignation to the most peaceable and well disposed. The passions of men were worked up to a degree of fury. Rash and violent measures were proposed and strenuously urged. Favoured by these circumstances of embarrassment to the government, the western counties in Pennsylvania embraced the opportunity to rise in rebellion.
Such, my hearers, have been the trials and dangers to which our peace, liberty, and all our political happiness, have been exposed. That the consequences have not, as yet, been more pernicious, we have abundant reason, this day, to thank and praise the Supreme Disposer. Our general government, with all our rights and privileges embarked, has been steering between Scylla and Charybdis: That we have not been dashed upon either, is owing to the good hand of God, influencing and directing the pilots.
The prospect is now more favourable. Through the wise and good conduct of the president, his ministers, and the men of sober judgment in Congress, we seem to have escaped many rocks and quicksands. With dignity and firmness they resisted the intrigues and machinations of an unworthy ambassador, till, at length, they obtained his removal. With respect to the nation from whom we have received unprovoked injuries, while they have been preparing for the dernier resort, by putting the country into a state of defence; they have sent forward to them the remonstrance of reason, truth and justice, that (if possible) they might prevent the dreadful calamity of war. A degree of success has already attended the negociation. The offending power now appears half ashamed of the wrongs which it hath committed against us; and is constrained to promise restitution. They have also, the present year, been successful against the hostile tribes of savages: And to suppress rebellion, have sent forth an army so numerous and powerful as affords the hopeful prospect of effecting the purpose without the effusion of blood. To the several democratic societies through the states, who have incessantly censured, misrepresented and calumniated all these measures of our federal rulers, they have opposed a dignified patience and moderation, worthy of their high stations and great abilities.
But as those societies, and the spirit of faction which they engender, nourish and spread among the people, are, in my view, the greatest danger which, at present, threatens the peace and liberties of our country, I shall close this discourse with a few strictures upon them.
In every country the men of ambition, who covet the chief seats in government, exert all their abilities to ingratiate themselves with the source of power. Under a monarchy they are the most servile courtiers at the levee of the prince. In a republic, the same men appear in the character of flaming patriots, profess the warmest zeal for liberty, and call themselves the friends of the people. In monarchies, their intrigues and factions are endless. But as the monarch himself is the main object of all their attempts, over whom they endeavour to extend their influence; their factions are usually limited to the precincts of the court, and rarely occasion any general convulsion in the empire. In a republic, the case is widely different: thousands and millions are the object whom they would influence. Of course, the more popular any government is, the more liable it is to be agitated and rent by parties and factions. Our’s is not the first republic which the world has seen. Some centuries before the christian era, the states of ancient Greece and Rome were so many republics. But through the intrigues of ambitious and designing men, influencing each one his party, they became so many hot beds of faction and dissention. Their worthiest and best characters, when such chanced to hold the reins of government, were soon hunted down; and the vilest of men took their places, and this in continual rotation. Civil wars frequently occurred; and as either party prevailed, proscriptions, banishments and massacres ensued. Precisely the same scenes are now exhibited in France. We all rejoiced at the downfall of despotism in that country: We considered it as the dawn of liberty to the world. But how soon was the fair morning overcast? They had no sooner adopted a popular government, than all the violence of faction broke out. A constitution, which the collected wisdom of the nation had been two years in framing, was, in a day or an hour, overset and demolished. From that time to this, their civil government has been nothing but a contest of parties, carried on with all the ferocity of barbarians. Previous to the revolution, it was said of the French, that so refined was their sensibility, so abhorrent of every appearance of cruelty, that they would not suffer tragedy to be acted at their theatres. Is it not astonishing, how so great a change in the morals and manners of a nation could be so suddenly effected? Faction alone accounts for it. Had the representatives of the nation been left to act their own judgment, uncontrouled by the leaders of faction, they would never have been guilty of those excesses and cruelties which chill all humane minds with horror. But how came those factious leaders by such a controuling power over the convention? Solely by means of those popular societies in which they presided, or over which they first gained an influence. These gave to faction its whole force.
On the same principles with those in France are founded the democratic societies in this country; and should they become numerous here, as they are there, they will infallibly have a similar effect. Their pretence is, to watch government—they mean the federal government. But this, like each of the state governments, is chosen by the nation at large; and, of course, every man in his individual capacity has an equal right and an equal interest in watching its measures. What presumption then is it, and what an usurpation of the rights of their brethren, for private associations, unauthorized by the laws, to arrogate this charge to themselves? Admitting the propriety of setting a watch upon Congress and the president; are not the state legislatures fully competent to the business? Is not their interest at stake, and their jealousy always awake, ready to notice any fault or error in the general government? What then is there for these private associations to do? Good they cannot do; and if they do any thing, it must be evil. And that they have done evil already, and are, in fact, the support of a pernicious and inveterate faction against the general government, among many other unquestionable proofs, the omission of our chief magistrate, just mentioned, is, to my mind, not an improbable one. For unless we suppose him to have fallen under the baneful influence of those societies, we know not how to account for his having hazarded a proclamation in which we are directed, neither to give thanks for any advantages enjoyed by means of that government, nor even to ask the blessing of heaven upon it.* As though its destruction were already decreed, it is treated as no longer the subject of prayer.
Should so melancholy an event as its overthrow ultimately take place, no cause at present appears so probable, as those ill-judged associations. To pull down and destroy good governments as well as bad, is their only tendency. In the nature of things they can have no other effect. In such a country as this, therefore, where, through the distinguishing mercy of heaven, we have obtained a government so admirably adapted to promote the general happiness, these irregular and unwarrantable associations ought to be guarded against and suppressed with a vigilance like that with which we extinguish a fire when it is kindling in a great city. Their meetings are so many collections of combustibles; and should they be generally extended, the whole country will be in a flame. The members of those societies, by virtue of this relation, necessarily become the mere tools and dupes of their artful leaders, who have their own ends to serve by all their professions of patriotism.
The moment a man is attached to a club, his mind is not free: He receives a bias from the opinions of the party: A question indifferent to him, is no longer indifferent, when it materially affects a brother of the society. He is not left to act for himself; he is bound in honour to take part with the society—his pride and his prejudices, if at war with his opinion, will commonly obtain the victory; and rather than incur the ridicule or censure of his associates, he will countenance their measures, at all hazards; and thus an independent freeman is converted into a mere walking machine, a convenient engine of party leaders.
In this way a few ambitious individuals are enabled to extend their influence; and as they rise in power and consequence, to infringe upon the liberty of the public.
Each individual member of the state should have an equal voice in elections; but the individuals of a club have more than an equal voice, because they have the benefit of another influence; that of extensive private attachments, which come in aid of each man’s political opinion. And just in proportion as the members of a club have an undue share of influence, in that proportion they abridge the rights of their fellow citizens. Every club therefore, formed for political purposes, is an aristocracy established over their brethren. It has all the properties of an aristocracy, and all the effects of tyranny. It is a literal truth, that the democratic clubs in the United States, while running mad with the abhorrence of aristocratic influence, are attempting to establish precisely the same influence under a different name. And if any thing will rescue this country from the jaws of faction, it must be either the good sense of a great majority of Americans, which will discourage private political associations, and render them contemptible; or the controling power of the laws of the country, which, in an early stage, shall demolish all such institutions, and secure to each individual, in the great political family, equal rights and an equal share of influence in his individual capacity.
But let us admit that no fatal consequences to government, and equal rights, will ensue from these institutions, still their effects on social harmony are very pernicious, and already begin to appear. A party spirit is hostile to all friendly intercourse; it inflames the passions; it sours the mind; it destroys good neighbourhood: it warps the judgment in judicial determinations: it banishes candor and substitutes prejudice; it restrains the exercise of benevolent affections; and in proportion as it chills the warm affections of the soul, it undermines the whole system of moral virtue. Were the councils of hell united to invent expedients for depriving men of the little portion of good they are destined to enjoy on this earth, the only measure they need adopt for this purpose, would be, to introduce factions into the bosom of the country. Faction begets disorder, force, rancorous passions, anarchy, tyranny, blood and slaughter.*
May the God of order and peace preserve us from such dreadful calamities! and to him shall be the glory forever.
[* ]This must appear the more extraordinary when we reflect, that at the time of issuing the proclamation, war with the savages raged on our frontiers, rebellion in the bosom of the country, and our situation, with respect to the powers of Europe, had become so critical, that we were actually fortifying and forming a numerous army.
[* ]The Revolution in France, by an American: a judicious and instructive pamphlet.