Front Page Titles (by Subject) 52: Tunis Wortman, A SOLEMN ADDRESS TO CHRISTIANS AND PATRIOTS - Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol. 2 (1789-1805)
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52: Tunis Wortman, A SOLEMN ADDRESS TO CHRISTIANS AND PATRIOTS - 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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A SOLEMN ADDRESS TO CHRISTIANS AND PATRIOTS
Tunis Wortman (d. 1822). Wortman’s background and activities before the 1790s are unknown. He appears first as a New York City lawyer and man of the Enlightenment, a French-style partisan of liberty, and an apostle of the millennial republic. He viewed the French Revolution as the continuation of the American Revolution and as the European phase of history’s progress toward universal peace. By 1801 disillusionment had set in, and Napoleon had shattered the dream. Wortman moved in the intellectual circle that included physician and author Elihu Hubbard Smith, law professor James Kent, and novelist Charles Brockden Brown. He served as the clerk of the city and county of New York from 1801 to 1807. Active in public affairs and in demand as an orator, he was the first secretary of the New-York Democratic Society and a member of both the Manumission Society and the Tammany Society; the latter he turned into a wing of the Jeffersonian Republican Party. Wortman viewed the Federalists as “antirepublican Anglophiles,” and he fought the Federalist opposition to the War of 1812 by starting a newspaper, The Standard of Union, in New York City; this was an effective organ of his support for President James Madison’s policies.
Aside from newspaper editorials, only four specimens of Wortman’s authorship survive, but they are ample displays of a fine writer with a powerful, well-educated mind. All were published between 1796 and 1801. In them we find him quoting a range of classical and modern writers including Plato, Cicero, Horace, Shakespeare (of whom he seems particularly fond), Gibbon, Locke, Montesquieu, Priestly, and Reid. The most substantial work is a 300-page book on political and constitutional theory entitled A Treatise Concerning Political Enquiry and the Liberty of the Press (New York, 1800; repr. Da Capo Press, 1970 [ed. Leonard W. Levy]). It was published with the help of Albert Gallatin, who sought subscriptions for it among Republican members of Congress. Leonard Levy calls it “Wortman’s great book” and “the book that Jefferson did not write but should have.” He compares it with Milton’s Areopagitica and Mill’s On Liberty and summarizes: “Wortman’s treatise is surely the preeminent American classic, because of its scope, fullness, philosophical approach, masterful marshalling of all the libertarian arguments, and uncompromisingly radical view” (Levy, Emergence of a Free Press [Oxford, 1985], pp. 328, 331–32).
A Solemn Address, his fourth piece, Wortman signed “Timoleon,” who is emblematic of saintly opposition to tyranny in Plutarch’s portrayal. It is a response to Serious Considerations (1800), written by Reverend William Linn, with the assistance of Dr. John M. Mason, and contains, according to Joseph Sabin, “stories calculated to ruin Jefferson among all pious people” (A Dictionary of Books Relating to America [29 vols., 1868–1936], 10:373; see the note to the preceding sermon by Mason, number 51). Wortman intends to counter the “false, scandalous, and malicious” attack of Jefferson launched by Linn, whom he compares to Judas Iscariot. He begins by quoting the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false-witness against thy neighbor.”
To the Reverend Dr. L——
“Thou shalt not bear false-witness against thy neighbour.”
—The ninth commandment.
I am not an admirer of dedications, nor will you, sir, be flatterd by the following. Your present situation, and the nature of the subject upon which I am about to remark, have rendered it proper that the ensuing observations should be particularly inscribed to yourself.
You are not only a divine, but also a party politician. For my own part, I think these two characters absolutely incompatible. From the minister of religion, we have a right [to] expect exemplary purity and sincerity. In the statesman, we constantly discover cunning, intrigue and duplicity: It remains for you to reconcile these opposite characters to each other.
You are a partizan of Mr. Pinckney; in the presence of your maker, I would tell you so. I allow you the rights of opinion as a man, but I cannot permit you, with impunity, to abuse the influence you possess with your congregation.
I am an advocate for religion, in its purity and truth; if I am an unworthy, yet I am, nevertheless, a sincere son of the church: I cannot tamely see that church and its heavenly doctrines prophaned to party purposes; my bosom burns with indignation at the attempts to render christianity the instrument of tyrants.
A pamphlet has lately made its appearance, entitled, “Serious Considerations.” I hesitate not, in the language of lawyers, to call it false, scandalous and malicious; it has the clerical mark upon it: Yet, I say not that you are the author, but I firmly declare that, by adopting its sentiments and declarations, you have rendered it your own.*
You are the author of a handbill, which you intended for a prayer; it recommends the pamphlet to which I have alluded: This handbill, or this prayer you gave to Mr. Van Hook, to be circulated among the consistory. There is a want of openness, in such procedure, unworthy of the upright mind; yet it evinces a sense of shame which I wish you to retain. There was a Judas Iscariot among the apostles; and history has furnished examples of priests who have betrayed their country; yet still there have been many famous pastors, who have maintained the dignity of the church, with zeal and fidelity. Alas! it has been left for you to demonstrate, that every minister is not, necessarily, a patriot and a gentleman.
For the present, sir, adieu! Weak men have believed that this country contains a Cæsar. Thanks to heaven they are deceived. I will not insult the ashes of the noble Julius, by comparing him with the ring-leader of a modern party: Be assured, that Cæsar is no more; his mighty spirit sleepeth in the dust. Hope not for the messiah of royalty. The diadem, and mitre, and tiara, cannot be restored, even by the worst man in America.
The following ideas cannot be new to you, at least they ought to be familiar; pardon me if I inform you, that many of your friends have regretted that those ideas have ceased to influence your conduct. From your interest, then, from your prudence, if not from your candor, let me expect an attentive perusal of my sentiments.
to my readers
In the ensuing observations, I shall consider your duties as christians and as patriots. I shall make it my task to establish the following propositions.
1st. That it is your duty, as christians, to maintain the purity and independence of the church, to keep religion separate from politics, to prevent an union between the church and the state, and to preserve your clergy from temptation, corruption and reproach.
2d. That as christians and patriots, it is equally your duty to defend the liberty and constitution of your country.
3d. Although I am a sincere and decided opponent of infidelity, yet as it respects a president of the United States, an enmity to the constitution is the most dangerous evil; inasmuch as christianity is secure by the force of its own evidence, and coming from God, cannot be destroyed by human power; but, on the contrary, the constitution, is vulnerable to the attacks of an ambitious and unprincipled executive.
4th. That Mr. Jefferson is in reality a republican, sincerely attached to the constitution of his country, amiable and irreproachable in his conduct as a man, and that we have every reason to believe him, in sincerity, a christian.
5th. That the charge of deism, contained in such pamphlet, is false, scandalous and malicious—that there is not a single passage in the Notes on Virginia, or any of Mr. Jefferson’s writings, repugnant to christianity; but on the contrary, in every respect, favourable to it—and further, that there is every reason to believe the story of Mazzei a base and ridiculous falsehood.
6th. That Mr. Adams is not a republican, agreeably to the true intent and meaning of the constitution of the United States.
7th. That a party has long existed, and still exists, hostile to the constitution, and with reason, suspected of favouring the interests of a foreign power—that Mr. Pinckney is the candidate of that party, and therefore cannot be a republican.
And lastly—that the interest of the people; the preservation of public liberty, and the safety of our present constitution, irresistibly demand that Mr. Jefferson should be elected president of the United States.
Christianity sprung from heaven. Hypocrisy is the offspring of hell. The former is productive of peace, & virtue, and life eternal; but the latter is an abomination in the sight of Almighty God, and has filled the world with crimes and blood, and misery, and desolation.
I address you upon the most solemn and momentous subjects which can interest the mind—religion and liberty. I consider you in the capacity of believers and patriots, as equally anxious to maintain every inestimable right which appertains to christians & to men. You have a religion which deserves your pious solicitude; but need I to remind you that you likewise have a country! Are you to be told that your duty, as christians, is irreconcilable with the sacred obligations which bind you to the state? Are you at this day to be solemnly and seriously called upon to sacrifice your freedom upon the altars of your God? No, my countrymen, your religion is inestimable and worthy of your care. Your civil constitution is also invaluable. It is the palladium of all your social blessings, & the peculiar gift of providence. Your obligations to your children, to your country, and to heaven, command you to defend that constitution. With a voice too powerful to be resisted, they conjure you to cling to, and fasten upon it, “with the last strong hold which grapples into life.”
I wish to impress your minds with a solemnity equal to the magnitude of the subject—to inspire you with a resolution to defend both your liberty and your faith. I intreat you to reflect, with equal seriousness, upon the duties which you owe to religion, and those which you owe to your country. In the course of these pages, I shall consider each of these sources of obligation. I shall equally investigate the duties which, as christians, you owe to religion, and those which, as citizens, are to be performed to the state.
First then, what are your principal duties, as christians, with respect to religion?
It is a primary duty to preserve that religion, pure, holy & unadulterated, unmixed with temporal pride and worldly ambition. The great author of christianity most expressly assured his ministers, that his kingdom is not of this world, and that it was impossible for them, at the same time, to serve God and Mammon: his divine wisdom foresaw that if they were led astray by the enticing riches and alluring objects of this world, they would prove but faithless pastors to his people. With the example of the pagan priests before his eyes, he dreaded the pollution of his celestial system, from the connection which he too evidently foresaw, would take place between his own ministers and the secular establishments; such is the obvious import of many of the most impressive precepts of the Saviour. The event has proved that his apprehensions have been too fatally verified.
It was not by precept alone; it was likewise by his illustrious example, that the founder of our religion enforced that salutary lesson. Carefully abstaining from all active agency in political affairs, and exclusively confining himself to the duties of his station, as priest of the most high God, he rendered unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s, and unto God, the things which are God’s. Meek and unassuming in his deportment, he intended by his life, to afford a standing example of conduct to be pursued by christian divines—disavowing all concerns with the affairs of state, he evidently considered an active agency in politics to be inconsistent with that purity and sanctity of character, which should appertain to ministers of the gospel.
It is essential to the interests of religion, that its teachers should be set apart, to the performance of their sacred duties. I have said it, and I earnestly repeat it; “they cannot serve God and Mammon.” The charge of their flocks requires all their pastoral care; their attention should always be directed heavenward; if they mingle too deeply in the affairs of this world, they are apt to become unmindful of the prospects of the next. If they look to temporal rewards, and to the riches of this globe, their minds become poisoned and perverted, and they are immediately reduced to the level of common men. We are in the habit of connecting the character of religion with that of the individuals who profess to be its teachers; however pure or excellent his doctrines, a clergyman, without practical piety, is a stumbling block to the people.
I have always attached the highest respectability to the character of a christian divine. I see and I feel that there is not an order of men in the community capable of rendering such signal services, or of inflicting such extensive injuries. If it is the duty of the clergy to watch over the conduct of their congregations, it is equally incumbent upon congregations, to be mindful of the conduct of their pastors—they should confine their ministers to the duties of their sacred calling, and above all things, beware how they permit them to acquire a political ascendancy.*
Clergymen are but men, in common with ourselves; they partake of every human infirmity and every human passion. If ambition is suffered to insinuate itself into the pulpit, it is more dangerous in proportion, as it has greater powers and opportunities of mischief. Let me ask any pious divine, if he is not sensible of possessing an undue ascendency over the minds of his hearers, if he should be so abandoned as to exercise it?
Let me not be told, that religion is in danger, and that we should therefore increase the powers and influence of the clergy. I say, and am ready to maintain, that religion is in greater danger, by permitting them to intermeddle with political concerns, than by confining them, with the utmost rigour, to the duties of their profession; as men and as citizens, they have an equal right to express their opinions and give their suffrages; but they should never be permitted to carry their politics into the sacred desk, and more especially, they should not be suffered to make religion an engine of politics.
I have ever been convinced, that a political divine is a dangerous character.† The more I read, and the more I reflect, the more thoroughly am I convinced of the truth of that position. There never will be wanting men, who by caresses and flattery & inflaming their passions, will make them the instruments of every crime, and the shameless tools of the greatest ambition; by this means religion becomes a solemn farce, and an impious mockery of God—and liberty, and government, & every thing valuable upon earth prostituted under the pretended mask of piety.
I am writing to sincere professors, and not to those who make religion a cloak for base and selfish purposes. Men of the latter description, are not to be moved by expostulation or argument; such men will court the “rocking of the battlements” if they could gain by the event; they would sit as unmoved spectators, and with steady eyes behold the destruction of law, and order, and liberty, and of the peace and constitution of their country, or rather they would assist in lighting the firebrand of death and desolation; but such men are not christians, they deserve not that honourable appellation: wherever they exist they are capable of every crime, no reasoning of mine can divert them from their purposes.
If you are real christians, anxious for the honor and purity and interest of the christian church, you will feel a steady determination, to preserve it free from corruption. Unless you maintain the pure and primitive spirit of christianity, and prevent the cunning and intrigue of statesmen from mingling with its institutions; you will become exposed to a renewal of the same dreadful and enormous scenes which have not only disgraced the annals of the church, but destroyed the peace, and sacrificed the lives of millions. It is by such scenes and by such dreadful crimes, that christianity has suffered; by such fatal and destructive enormities which, since the days of Constantine, have been perpetrated without intermission, that the church has become debased and polluted; in language similar to that of Joshua, we have reason to exclaim there is an accursed thing within the tabernacle. The blood of many an innocent Abel has stained the ephod, the vestments and the altar. Religion has suffered more from the restless ambition and impiety of the church of Rome, than from all the writings of a Voltaire, a Tindal, a Volney, or even the wretched blasphemies of Paine.*
We have years and volumes—we have a world of experience before us, in the sufferings and the miseries of ages—we read a lesson too impressive to be resisted: both as christians and as men, we are powerfully conjured to reject all attempts to promote an union between the church and the state—the very idea of such a union is insupportable. Neither directly or indirectly should we suffer it to be effected.
Religion and government are equally necessary, but their interests should be kept separate and distinct. No legitimate connection can ever subsist between them. Upon no plan, no system, can they become united, without endangering the purity and usefulness of both—the church will corrupt the state, and the state pollute the church. Christianity becomes no longer the religion of God—it becomes the religion of temporal craft and expediency and policy. Instead of being the sacred guide to lead mankind to heaven, it becomes the prostituted instrument of private cupidity and personal ambition. I am not to be told there is no longer danger in such an alliance; the danger has always existed, and as long as men retain their passions and vices, will exist in all its force. The church of Rome arose from the smallest beginnings. She commenced her career with professions of mildness, clemency and moderation, displaying at first the innocence and the harmlessness of the dove: she afterwards discovered the horrid fangs of the serpent, and exercised the unrelenting barbarity of a crocodile. The successors of St. Peter, no longer spiritual bishops, became a race of tyrants, more ferocious than Nero, a Domitian, and more pampered than Eliogabalus himself. They extended the arms of their authority into every European kingdom, and into every christian church. I need not revive the memory of the inquisition, or usurp the province of the historian, in painting the sufferings of the wretched Hugonots. It is for a moment only that I point to the fires of Smithfield, and to the massacre of St. Bartholomews—did this proceed from religion—from the mild and benevolent spirit of christianity? God of heaven, forbid the rash surmise! rescue thy ministers and thy altars from the odius imputation, and preserve thy church from the pollution and abomination which accompanies a connection with the state.
With the sincerity of a christian, I feel for the honour of religion. I feel for the pious character of christian divines.* I dread lest that character should be tarnished and debased, and deprived of its usefulness, by the unworthy conduct of some of its professors; the present moment is dangerous. Attempts have been made to unite the interests of religion, with the crimes and abuses, and corruptions of governments. There is reason to apprehend the consequences.
Men of weak minds, men of limited researches are apt to be misguided, they are prone to confound the abuses of the most excellent establishment with the establishment itself. The sincere friend of christianity, should be vigilent and guarded; he should be zealous in vindicating his religion, from the charge of participation in the intrigues and oppression of statesmen; the christian divine should be cautioned to pursue a prudent and temperate conduct, to keep aloof from the coalition of parties, and maintain a steady seat in the sanctuary unmoved and unruffled by the whirlwind and the tempest.
Whatever interested men may tell you, religion is not in danger. It is founded on a rock which has often been assailed, but cannot be shaken. It is a melancholy truth, that christianity has suffered more from the blind zeal and wicked perfidy of pretended friends, than from the open attack of its most inveterate foes. Why should religion have enemies? Let me ask what interest, or what motive mankind can have in opposing a system founded on truth and benevolence? It is no answer to say that such opposition springs entirely from the pride of philosophy, or from the corruption and perversity of our nature!
Experience suggests a more satisfactory but a more fatal reason; the crimes and abuses which have been committed in its name, cruelty and persecution, and intolerance have raised up an host of enemies, and accounts for the zeal, the bitterness and the vehemence of their opposition. It is the departure from the original purity of the system; the alliance with courts; the impurities and prophanity of spurious, amphibious, hermorphredite priests, the innumerable atrocities and persecutions, which have been perpetrated in the name of the most high, that has produced or encouraged the school of infidelity, and occasioned many an honest mind to believe that the establishment of christianity, is incompatible with civil freedom. Let me conjure you, then, to purify the altar, to keep things sacred from intermingling with things prophane, to maintain religion separate and apart from the powers of this world; and then, to use an expression similar to that of the infidel Rousseau, you will hasten the æra when all mankind shall bow at the feet of Jesus.
If I write with warmth, it is because I am interested in the subject, and feel its importance. I am not an unconcerned spectator of the events which distract and agitate the earth; equally a friend to religion and to civil freedom, I cannot endure the attempts which are making to oppose them in hostile array to each other; and to connect the existence of christianity with the safety of corrupt and oppressive establishments of government. I think, that the preservation of religion is separate and independent from all human establishments; its existence depends upon the energy & validity of its own evidence, its testimony both external & inherent speaks powerfully, & pleads irresistibly to the understanding & the heart. Our hopes, & fears, & interests, and reflections, are a sufficient pledge for the continuance of our faith; the moment you place the subject upon a different footing, you lessen its importance and prostitute its dignity, you open a door for every species of corruption, you expose your pastors to temptations incompatible with the integrity and purity of their character, you render religion an engine in the hands of any government for the time being; no matter what, you interpose an insurmountable gulph between piety and patriotism, and reduce the conscientious patriot to the dilemma of chusing between his country and his faith.
It is because I am the friend, and not the enemy of christianity, that I am the advocate of liberality and toleration. I have examined the evidences on both sides of the question, and know that the system is not in danger; it comes from heaven and cannot be shaken, it is proof against all the artillery of infidels, but alas! it is not proof against the mistaken zeal, and persecution, and prejudices of its friends. There was a time when discordant sectaries & churches were hurling their anathemas against each other with invincible jealousy and indignation, but now they are happily united against a common enemy; but still, I see, and deplore the same impolitic spirit, which committed the hapless heretic to the faggot, and plunged the sword of intolerance into the bosom of its unoffending victim. I have said it, and I ever will maintain, that this spirit never has been, and never will be of service to christianity; persecution may generate and multiply hypocrites, but will never produce a single convert; it steels, and irritates, and hardens the heart. It is the power of repulsion which disorganizes and splits asunder, it has not a single charm or attraction.
Mistake me not my readers, these observations are not levelled against any particular individual, or any particular church. Christians are all brethren, fellow labourers in one vineyard, and it is sincerely trusted joint inheriters of one glorious inheritance. I am pleading a great cause, that of civil and religious liberty; my earnestness proceeds not from passion, but from the sincerity of conviction; there may be possibly a mixture of enthusiasm in the manner, but upon such a subject, the want of enthusiasm would be coldness. I charge no one church with intolerance, but I say, that intolerance will creep into every church that becomes vested with temporal power; and, I say further, that almost every clergyman will become intolerant, who is either directly or indirectly connected with the state. I know not how it is, but there is something in the nature of zeal which poisons the mind, and produces the most bitter weeds, unless it is sown in a soil of uncommon urbanity; we need not open the volumes of ecclesiastical history, to prove this position, our own experience and observation of living men, and manners are abundantly sufficient; only observe the conduct of the great Athanasius, how greatly did his inflammatory disposition serve to foment the flares of animosity, which had been kindled in the church; look at the still greater Calvin, even this illustrious reformer, in the exuberance of his zeal, was contented with nothing less than the painful death of the miserable Servetus. If understandings so enlightened, so vast, I will add so sublime, are susceptible of intolerance and persecution, what shall we say of the common race of modern clergymen?
I respect the church of England, as it exists in America, it is my duty to respect it; I have no objections to the harmless title of bishop, disunited from exclusive privileges and baneful powers. But, how has that church persecuted every other denomination, that refused to conform with her religious rites and ceremonies. In America she is mild, and peaceable, and benevolent, because she is not a component part of the state, because she is unarmed with the destructive weapons of secular power. In England she had totally disfranchised the whole body of dissenters; before the revolution she pursued them to this, their last best refuge; armed with equal authority the demon of spiritual hierarchy, like a gigantic Colossus would have strode across the atlantic; but let such injuries for ever be buried in oblivion, or the recollection of them only revived for instructive and prudential purposes.
Would to God, that my feeble pen could inspire christians with that spirit of forbearance and moderation, which forms so amiable and essential a part of their system. Imbued with that clemency, and moderation, and charity, and love of man, which so eminently characterises the sacred pages of the gospel, religion would be seated upon an adamantine rock, and all mankind irresistibly attracted by her simplicity, her sincerity and her truth. Such is christianity when cloathed in the robes of righteousness, such her lovely, and pure, and dignified character, when arrayed with the smiles, and charms, and glory, and freshness of the morning; she comes blooming from the bosom of her heavenly author. But I cannot disguise my indignation, when I see her altars polluted and disgraced, when I see the sacred religion of truth and heaven, prostituted into a cloak to cover every indecency, every enormity & every crime; when I see men whose worldly ambition should have prevented their approaching even the vestibule of the temple, assuming the character, and officiating in the functions of priests of the most high, descend into the forum or comitia, and engage as political engines to influence the elections of the people; are such men serving the God of heaven, a sacrificing to the carnal and impious mammon? are they promoting the holy cause of religion, or pampering their own ambitious lusts? If I had the spear of Ithuriel, I would transfix them in their hypocrisy, and expose them as spectacles of deformity and guilt.
Believe me, this is not to promote the interests of christianity, nor to defend it against the dangers to which it may be exposed. I have asserted, and I repeat with energy, that the true source of apprehension, is from the corruptions which proceed from an intermingling connection with the states and not from the reasoning, the sophistry, or the ridicule of infidels. I cannot, I will not endure the idea that religion is to be defended by any weapon but argument alone. It is an insult to truth to deny the energy of its powers, or to insinuate a doubt that it is not invincible. This is the work of scepticism—it is the most dangerous species of infidelity. When I hear a man distrust the force of the evidences of christianity, I doubt the sincerity of his profession—I feel persuaded that he is not a christian from conviction. I have heard and examined the argument of infidels. I pity their delusion, but I will not compliment them with the persuasion that they are capable of overthrowing the citadel of the Catholic faith. In my turn, I have perused with no little attention, the writings of their principal champions—The delicate irony of Gibbon—the sarcastic asperity of Voltaire—the flowing eloquence of Rosseau—the arguments and specious subtilty of Hume, and Hobbes, and Tindal—the contemptible philosophy of Volney. Gracious heaven! is it possible that a learned christian can apprehend danger from the attacks of such feeble artillery? Will he dread the assertions of philosophers who have the ignorance and the impudence to declare “that christianity consists in the allegorical worship of the sun, under the cabalistical names of Chrisen, or Yesus, or Jesus”? Such a man will expose a want of magnanimity, and exhibit distrust more prejudicial to the truth and dignity of his cause, than all the feeble efforts of its enemies. An antidote may be found in thousands of invaluable volumes. Even Dr. Linn has asked, “whether that christianity which has withstood the roaring of the lion, shall now be afraid of the brayings of the ass.” I could mention only five writers who have refuted every argument which has ever been, or ever will or can be offered against christianity; and, perhaps, I need not inform the reader of research, that I refer to Grotius, Paley and Hartley, to West on the Resurrection, and Littleton on the conversion of St. Paul.
Let me then ask the sincere, the pious christian, whether he thinks his religion stands in need of additional support? and whether he will consent to prop his church, which from its nature, is permanent and eternal, with the transitory things of this world, which pass away like the empty shadow, and vanish like the morning clouds and evening dew? Whether he will corrupt the purity of christianity by a dangerous connection with the affairs of state? Whether he will subject the ministers of his congregation to temptation and reproach, by permitting them to intermeddle with political concerns, and to become the directors of his temporal affairs, as well as his spiritual guides? And lastly, whether he will consent to revive that spirit of intolerance and persecution, which has been the reproach of religion, so long disgraced the church, and occasioned such complicated desolation, misery and imposture?
And thou, O minister of the gospel! consecrated guardian of the honour and purity of the church! canst thou, with hands unclean, officiate in the sacred temple; and with mind unholy, approach the altars of thy God? The external appearance of sanctity—the lifeless image of religion, may deceive the world, but thou shalt tremble before the omniscient eye of the Almighty. Let not then the cross of thy Saviour be prostituted to the works of darkness and ambition, and to the ruin of thy country! weak and wretched mortal, the reward of thy iniquity will avail thee not: for in a few fleeting years, thou shalt be numbered with the dead. O, keep the leaven of unrighteousness from mingling with the Eucharist, and the bitter waters of Mara from poisoning the sacred cup!
I feel already that I am trespassing upon your attention; yet before I leave this part of my address, let me conjure you in the name of your country—in the name of liberty & the constitution—in the name of religion, & every principle that is sacred on earth or in heaven—I conjure you to beware how you permit your faith and attachment as christians, from interfering with your duties as citizens. The inevitable consequence of an union of the church with the state, will be the mutual destruction of both. Religion, instead of remaining an active and efficient director of faith and conduct, will be converted into an engine to promote the ruin of the constitution. Ambitious and aspiring men, who wish to subvert the liberties of the people, will represent their political opponents as atheists and infidels, and fasten upon your honest prejudices to render you the instruments of your own undoing. This is not the language of speculation. I see with indignation, that it has already been done. The pulpit and the press are at this moment engaged to effect the base designs of a political party. Is this the way to promote the interests of the church, by connecting it with party views and party operations? to unite its prosperity with the election of Jefferson, or Adams, or Pinckney? To render it obnoxious to those, who, from honest and patriotic views, espouse the part of the former candidate? Will you tell the patriot whose understanding convinces him that the liberty of the people, and the very existence of the constitution, depends upon the election of Mr. Jefferson, that he is placed in a dilemma in which he must either abjure his country or his religion? Yet all this and more, he has been told in a pamphlet, which, I am sorry to say, bears every inherent mark of having been written by a clergyman. It is a disgrace to the author, and a scandal to the church; and unless such practices are prevented for the future, the cause of christianity will suffer more from such mischievous attempts to connect it with politics, than from all the evils which the writer of it pretends to apprehend from the election of Mr. Jefferson.
Hitherto, then, I have only considered you in the character of christians, and endeavoured to discuss some of your principal duties, as it respects the preservation of religion; arguments and examples without number might be multiplied to prove to you the danger which would arise from the connection of the church* with the state; those which have been adduced, are sufficient to weigh with candid and unprejudiced minds, and I have already said that readers of another description are above the reach of either argument or example.
Such then, Americans, are some of your principal duties with respect to the church—but as christians, it is equally your duty to guard the state, to watch as well as to pray. I maintain it to be the sacred and imperious duty of every religious man, to preserve the rights, and liberties, and constitution of his country. If your civil privileges are once gone, my countrymen, what shall protect your religious ones? What shall prevent one domineering church from becoming the favourite, & like the rod of Aaron, devouring all the others? Such things have been, and nothing but the wisdom and virtue of the people can prevent them from happening again. I do not believe that Mr. Jefferson is a deist—there is nothing in the wretched pamphlet of ———, to convince me of that fact. It is a groundless calumny. If it was truth, it could be supported by better evidence. I shall presently bestow a few observations upon that contemptible production; but let us barely, for the sake of argument, imagine a case. Suppose, for a moment, that there are three candidates for the presidency—Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Pinckney—that Mr. Jefferson was in reality a deist, but a decided friend to the republican constitution of his country—that the two others were very pious & sincere christians, but secretly friends to aristocracy or monarchy, & hostile to the spirit of the present constitution, which of the three would be the most dangerous man? Mr. Jefferson, in such case, even if he had the intentions, could not be of the smallest disservice to religion: thanks to heaven, christianity has taken too deep a root to be capable of being shaken by the opinions, or even the enmity of any president. I know of no other method by which religion can be injured by any government in this country, except by its setting one powerful church above the heads of the rest. But this Mr. Jefferson is incapable of doing; for according to such position; he would be equally indifferent to all; in this sense, strange as it may appear, christianity would have much more to apprehend from a bigot than an infidel. But let us imagine for a moment, that an enemy to the constitution should be elected president of the United States. Gracious heaven! I shudder when I contemplate the picture! Our liberties prostituted—our religion at the mercy of one intolerant church—for every tyranny must & will have its establishment. Our civil constitution abandoned, or what is worse, mutilated, and distorted, and deformed into every protean shape; and the fruits of our glorious revolution—of the blood of our fathers, of the miseries of our families and our children—of the burning and ravaging of our towns, and of the desolation of our villages gone—gone forever!! These are serious—these are impressive considerations. Tell me christian! which of these alternatives is the most pregnant with calamity?
I am not a friend to the empty fripperies, and badinage, and extravagancies of modern philosophy, nor am I an advocate of the excesses and abuses of that revolution which now convulses France, and astonishes the civilized world. I declare to God, that I have no confidence in a nation which can change its government and its religion in a moment, and see the wear and tear of consciences and constitutions with the same apathy and unconcern as if they were suits of cloathes. I love my own government, because I see in it a liberal, rational and practicable form, not springing up by accident, like a mushroom in the night, but growing out of the habits, manners and ancient institutions of the people. I see in it a system of regular political architecture, modelled in the best order, proportioned in perfect symmetry, containing unity of design, and divested of every species of false ornament. It is the workmanship of a master in the art. It is the property of a people who are deserving of its blessings, because they know how to use and appreciate them. Such a people should not, and they will not be trifled with—they reverence their magistrates and pastors—they yield a generous, and noble, and willing obedience to the laws—they are conscious of the masterly beauties of their civil constitution, and determined to preserve them. Such a people uniformly acting from the bias of the judgment and understanding, with a wise, discretionate and sagacious subordination, can readily distinguish between the legitimate exercise, and the unwarrantable abuse of authority. I speak not only of the temporal, but also of the spiritual powers. My observations are equally applicable to statesmen and divines.
I know, and I feel, that there is a powerful conflict between old and new governments, and old and new philosophy, and that religion has been pressed and dragged into the warfare. I wish that the conflict may be confined to Europe, where it has originated. As it regards the collision between governments, I have very little prediliction either for the ancient or the new. To me they appear almost equally abominable. My blood should never be wasted in behalf of the Bourbons or the consuls. I know not how it happens that French and American liberty have been confounded: they have scarcely a common attribute. There is just as much analogy between an hospitable winters fire and the destructive flames and lava of Etna and Vesuvius. The liberty and religion of Washington is not the liberty and religion of Marat and Robespierre, and Anarchalis Cloots, that flaming “orator of the human race.” I make these observations, because some admirers of the Corinthian columns and capitals of the British constitution have endeavoured to trace a resemblance between French and American liberty. I abjure and renounce and anathematize all affiliation with the bacchanalian liberty of the great republic. Let it resist the ancient monarchies of Europe, and monster encounter monster, until they mutually perish. I love and admire that sober and rational liberty which exists in America, defined and established in an organized and regular constitution. It is the duty of religion to protect that liberty and that constitution. In the character of Christians, I solemnly call upon you to remember the obligations which bind you to your country.
Thus far I have addressed you in your religious characters, not because I suppose the duties of a christian and a patriot are incompatible with each other, but because the author of the pamphlet to which I allude, affects to consider a political subject exclusively in a theological view. Only attentive to the fancied interests of his church, he seems to have forgotten the existence of truth, of conscience, of country, and of God. To the attainment of his favourite object, and in the presence of heaven, I tell him, that the election of Mr. Pinckney is that object. He is willing to sacrifice every consideration, for the smiles of that great man, or for the mess of pottage from his table, this inglorious Esau is willing to barter his birthright, his freedom, and his country. But I am too proud to dwell upon personal restrictions. Let me in future consider you in the united relation of patriots and friends of religion. I call your serious attention to the situation of your country.
There are three candidates for the presidential chair—Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Pinckney. Originally the two former were usually considered as the only candidates; the last was viewed as a candidate for the office of vice-president, and for that only. But there was always a schism among the federalists upon that subject. The leaders most devoted to British politics intended from the beginning to take advantage of the principal defect in our constitution, which confers the presidency upon the candidate having the greatest number of votes, without designating the office for which they were intended, and by their intrigues to give their favourite the ascendency. Mr. Pinckney must therefore be considered as the third candidate, and as the candidate of the British party.
We are now to consider the character and opinions of each of those candidates; let us execute our task with impartiality, and confer the palm upon him to whom it is justly due.
As a learned and experienced statesmen, Mr. Jefferson rises superior to the level of his rivals; he is the author of the declaration of independence, which in point of energy, as a composition, is equal at least to the Philippics of Demosthenes; as a negociator, his abilities are universally acknowledged. His letters to Genet and Hammond, when secretary of state, are master-pieces, & elegant models of diplomatic correspondence. In those letters he vindicates the rights of his country, with the firmness of a patriot, the acuteness of a profound logician, & the extensive research of a scholar deeply read in the history and in the laws of nations, and possessing an intimate knowledge of the interests of his country; his talents, as a statesman are equal to any emergency; as a proficient in general science, the name of Jefferson would reflect a lustre upon any age or country. Such is the sage of Monticelli.
But, Mr. Jefferson is an invincible patriot, equally attached to the constitution of his country, and to the liberties of the people. In every situation of life, he has evinced the most unshaken fidelity. Mr. Jefferson is an American republican, and a federalist in the true and unadulterated sense of the term. Faithful to the original principles of our revolution, his conduct has been steady, uniform and consistent. Times and circumstances have changed, but he has ever remained, and still remains the same; he has not the versatility of little minds, which like the lightest feather are driven before the gentlest breeze; it is his political virtue and his unshaken attachment to the liberty and happiness of his country, which constitutes the principal glory of his character, and which has deservedly rendered him the favorite of the people.
When the little butterflies of party, have ceased to flutter, and the noisy puppies of the day, are choaked with rage and disappointment, to the honor of Mr. Jefferson, it will be remembered, that in this licentious age, when morality hath almost become an empty sound, the bitter and vigilant malevolence of his enemies, has not dared to cast a stigma upon the purity of his character. Believe me, my countrymen, their only sincere objection is, that he is a republican and a patriot; if he would only forsake his country, and enter into their plans of government, he might be a deist or an adulterer* or any thing else, with perfect impunity.
I have seen nothing to convince me that Mr. Jefferson is a deist. On the contrary from information, at least, as respectable as that of the author of the pitiful pamphlet, which I shall presently condescend to notice, my information is that he is a sincere professor of christianity—though not a noisy one. But, I will candidly confess to you, that if I had ever so sincere a conviction of his infidelity; my prejudices, if you will permit me to call them so, are not so strong as to sacrifice my country to their operation; believing as I do, that public liberty and the constitution, will not be safe under the administration of Mr. Adams or Mr. Pinckney; I cannot see that the christianity of either of them will atone for the loss of my political freedom. There may be some merit in sacrificing every thing to the sign or external symbol of the cross; but it is a merit to which I do not aspire. If the other candidates were republicans, and Mr. Jefferson a deist, then the religion of the former would turn the scale of opinion in their favor; but, I never will be duped by the christianity of any man that meditates the ruin of the constitution. I am not prepared to surrender my liberty civil and religious, the future happiness of my children, the prosperity of my country, the welfare of millions of human beings yet unborn, and every possession and enjoyment that is valuable to men, and patriots, and christians. I know, that my God requires not such a sacrifice; he that would not permit Abraham to give his son Isaac as a burnt offering, demands not that my country should be prostrated on the altars of his religion; the infernal rites of Moloch required human victims, and a priest of Moloch would delight in the sacrifice of hecatombs. But christianity is the religion of grace, & mercy, and justice, and liberty.
I shall now proceed to enter into a more critical examination, of the pamphlet entitled “Serious Considerations, &c.” and I request to be accompanied with a careful and patient attention. Be assured my readers, that politics and not religion is the object of the writer of that pamphlet, he writes as a partizan of Mr. Pinckney, and not as the advocate of evangelical purity and truth; he is not animated by a fervent love of religion, but excited and propelled by a deadly hatred to Mr. Jefferson. Such is the man, and such the character of his production.
Is surpassed by this caput mortuum of stupidity, frivolity and malice.
The professed intention of the pamphlet, is to prove Mr. Jefferson a deist; its real object, to ensure the election of Mr. Pinckney; assurances to the contrary are only evidences of depravity and falsehood; are you seriously to be told, that, if Mr. Jefferson is rejected, any other man except Mr. Adams or Mr. Pinckney, can possibly be appointed?
If Mr. Jefferson is a deist, and his rivals are enemies to the constitution, most unfortunate is our alternative; our views are confined, and our choice is limited. At this election, no other individual in existence can by the remotest possibility become your president; you would be driven to elect between an infidel and an enemy to the constitution. Has this writer dared to assure you, that Mr. Adams & Mr. Pinckney are republicans? Has he even attempted to prove that they are attached to public liberty, and determined to support our present happy and excellent constitution? Has he told you, that Mr. Adams has never expressed and written sentiments strongly favouring aristocratical orders, and distinctions in the state? Has he had the presumption to state, that Mr. Pinckney is not the candidate of the Anglo-federal, or, if you please, the British party in America? These are facts, which like the ghost of Banquo, have terror in their aspect; you cannot look upon them with a steady eye, unmoved. One of these men must be elected, one of them inevitably is destined to be your president; you have no other choice, no other alternative. If Mr. Adams and Mr. Pinckney are not republicans, then cease your songs to liberty, hang your harps upon the willows, and mourn the loss of departed freedom, gone for ever; professions of religion will avail you not; neither Moses, nor the prophets, nor the fathers, will protect your civil constitution.
But, what reason have we to believe that Mr. Jefferson is a deist? Nothing but the misrepresentation of his avowed and interested enemies. Remember that
Let us examine the subject with candor.
In order to establish the infidelity of this enlightened statesman and patriot, the author of the pamphlet relies upon certain inutilated passages of the “notes on Virginia,” and a pretended conversation, or rather a particular expression used in conversation with Mr. Mazzei.
Several passages in the notes upon Virginia, have been the subjects of animadversion; the first respecting the deluge, the second concerning the origin of the aborigenes of this country, the third relating to the Africans, or negroes, and the last, supposed to contain sentiments disrespectful to divine revelation. I shall proceed to examine those subjects in their order.
In the first place, Mr. Jefferson is supposed to deny the existence of an universal flood, such as Moses describes, and jews and christians equally believe. This is not the fact.
I do aver, that there is not a sentence in the notes upon Virginia, which either expressly, or even by implication denies the existence of such flood. By a recurrence to that work, we will readily perceive that the deluge is a topic collateral to the principal subject of discussion. In answer to questions either actually made, or supposed to have been asked by a learned foreigner, Mr. Jefferson is proceeding to describe the principal productions of his native state; while employed in this task; a remarkable and an interesting phenomenon arrests his attention, that is, the existence of petrified shells, or calcareous substances on the tops, or near the surfaces of the highest mountains. That circumstance “is considered by many both of the learned and the unlearned as proof of an universal deluge.” Mr. Jefferson, on the contrary, is inclined to believe that such fact alone, unsupported by higher authority, would not amount to proof of a deluge.
He then proceeds to state a reason, why the ordinary laws or common operations of nature are insufficient to produce an universal flood, that if the whole contents of the atmosphere were water, “it would cover the globe but 35 feet deep, but as these waters as they fell would naturally run into the seas, the superficial measure of which, is to that of the dry parts of the globe as two to one, the seas would be raised only 52[fr1/2] feet above their present level, and of course would overflow the lands to that height only.” He supposes that deluges beyond such extent, are out of the ordinary laws of nature, and he supposes right.
This is the only passage in the work of Mr. Jefferson relating to the Deluge—he concludes, “there is a wonder somewhere, and that it requires us to believe the creation of a body of water and its subsequent annihilation.”
Mr. Jefferson is writing in the character of a philosopher, and endeavouring, as a collateral point to his principal subject, to ascertain whether an universal deluge can be accounted for by the ordinary laws of nature? finding it impossible, how does he conclude? by denying it, by even insinuating a doubt? No—by terming it a “wonder,” or, in other words, a miracle.
The reasoning of Mr. Jefferson so far from being repugnant to the holy scriptures, or from expressing a disbelief of the fact which is there related, strongly demands an opposite interpretation. Philosophy, who is blind to many of the common occurrences in nature, can never account for the extraordinary or miraculous interpositions of Almighty power. It is for this reason that Mr. Jefferson, after attempting to investigate the subject wisely, abandons every hypothesis and confesses his own ignorance—in this sense he exclaims, that “Ignorance is preferable to error; and that he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.”
No sentiment can be more correct or prudent than that which I have last quoted; but even this sentiment has been distorted into a proof of infidelity. Mr. Jefferson confines the sentiment to philosophical subjects—he by no means extends it to the truth of revelation—he does not assert that it is best to disbelieve the existence of the Deluge; but that it is better to disbelieve every human hypothesis which would presumptuously endeavour to account for it, than to believe what is wrong.*
Yet, the Deluge is a wonder! a miraculous, a stupendous exertion of sovereign power! Who can account for it? Can man, weak man, conceive the manner in which it was effected? It would seem to require the creation of oceans of water and their subsequent annihilation! In the sense of Mr. Jefferson I make the exclamation, “Ignorance is better than error,” and with respect to every hypothesis which philosophy would introduce, “He is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.” But God, who created the heavens and the earth, can create an universe of water and destroy it at his pleasure.
I do therefore confidently aver, that there is not a single expression in that passage which furnishes a fair implication of “disrespect for divine revelation.” The position to be gathered from it is, that an universal flood cannot be accounted for from general laws. Had Mr. Jefferson on the contrary attempted to account for it from the ordinary operations of nature, and in the pride of philosophy exclaimed, “There is no wonder,” then there would have been reason to suspect his sentiments—but no, it was a wonder, it was an extraordinary miracle. It was one of those stupendous acts of power which the Deity upon peculiar occasions performs for the wisest purposes. Had it been an ordinary event it would have ceased to be a miracle. Could it have been accounted for from universal laws, it would no longer have been miraculous; and, unless we consider it in the light of a miracle, then I assert that we oppose the true intent and meaning of the holy scriptures. Mr. Jefferson therefore very wisely rejects every philosophical hypothesis upon the subject, and rests it upon its proper basis of testimony, to wit, the authority of the sacred writings. That such is the correct interpretation of the passage of Mr. Jefferson, I appeal to the decision of the learned and unprejudiced reader; and I earnestly request that the notes upon Virginia may be perused with the most critical attention. The text is before us—let us decide for ourselves—we have no manner of necessity for a commentary.
Secondly—with respect to the question—from whence did the first inhabitants of America originate? The sentiments of Mr. Jefferson have been most criminally misrepresented. The author of the pamphlet has omitted every passage in which a positive opinion is given, and states the sentiments of Mr. Jefferson to be diametrically opposite from what he himself has declared them. At this moment that wretched author shall stand convicted of the suppressio veri with the criminal intention of deceiving the people. Let the culprit be exposed. Mr. Jefferson shall speak for himself. In the name of truth I demand that he may be heard.
Great question (says Mr. Jefferson) has arisen from whence came those original inhabitants of America? Discoveries long ago made were sufficient to shew that a passage from Europe to America was always practicable, even to the imperfect navigation of ancient times. In going from Norway to Iceland—from Iceland to Greenland—from Greenland to Labrador—the first traject is the widest; and this having been practised from the earliest times, of which we have any account of that part of the earth. It is not difficult to suppose that the subsequent trajects may have been sometimes passed. Again—the late discoveries of Captain Cook coasting from Kamschatka to California have proved, that if the two continents of Asia and Africa be seperated at all, it is only by a narrow streight, so that from this side also inhabitants may have passed into America; and the resemblance between the Indians of America and the eastern inhabitants of Asia would induce us to conjecture that the former are the descendants of the latter, or the latter of the former, excepting indeed the Eskimaux, who from the same circumstance of resemblance and from identity of language, must be derived from the Greenlanders, and those probably from some of the northern parts of the old continent. (Notes on Virginia p.106 & 107—Phil. edition.)
Such are Mr. Jefferson’s own words upon the subject, it is the only passage in which he expressly declares his sentiments with respect to that important question. It is therefore evident that his opinion is diametrically opposite to what is attributed to him by that disingenuous and designing writer. From the decisive circumstances of resemblance, from the proximity, if not the junction of the two continents, and from similarity of language, he concludes, that the inhabitants of each continent proceeded from a common origin—why was this remarkable passage so carefully concealed? Most evidently for the purpose of imposing upon the reader. A writer who is capable of such unworthy subterfuges, possesses a weak head as well as a bad heart—he becomes entitled to no credit. No honest man would betray such fraud and insincerity, or voluntarily expose himself to degradation.
It is true that the great question, whether all mankind have proceeded from one common origin? has divided the learned world. The human species exhibit so great a variety in intellect, complexion and form, that it has often been doubted whether climate and education, or any moral or physical laws could have produced that diversity. Philosophers have considered the subject as open to discussion, and that they might safely venture to advocate either position without a violation or impeachment of theological faith—thus one side of the proposition has been maintained by Dr. Smith, and an opposite by Lord Kame: but we find that Mr. Jefferson, in supposing that the inhabitants of America and those of the old continent have proceeded from a common origin, has, in reality, adopted the opinion most accordant with the scriptures.
It is also true, that when viewing the subject entirely upon philosophical grounds, Mr. Jefferson supposes that similarity of language is the best human test from which we can trace the affinity of nations; for this reason he laments that the languages of so many Indian tribes have been suffered to expire—but we must remember that Mr. Jefferson had already expressed his sentiments in favour of a common origin in the most decisive terms—we cannot readily imagine that an author of his reputation would palpably contradict himself in the very next passage. What he afterwards advances is entirely a matter of speculation, and not the declaration of any contrary opinion; for even if we were to believe that a greater number of radical languages was an infallible test of antiquity, and that the Americans possessed a greater number and variety of such radical languages than the Asiatics, that postulate could only give rise to a contest for superior antiquity, and by no means decide the principal question of identity of origin.
It might further be remarked, that neither of those positions can be considered as an infallible indicium of the faith or infidelity of its advocates; divines themselves have differed with respect to their sense of inspiration, or rather as to the extent in which it is to be taken; thus some have been the advocates of plenary inspiration, others of partial inspiration only, & others again consider certain parts of scripture as entirely historical. I mention this circumstance, not as disbelieving the doctrine of plenary inspiration, not as questioning the decisive authority of Moses, but to shew that the subject has not been placed upon fair ground. If the writers assertions were true instead of false, still they would prove nothing; instead of believing that the Americans and Asiatics have proceeded from a common stock, Mr. Jefferson might have advocated a different opinion, and still have been a christian.
“Gallileo was sent to the inquisition, for affirming that the earth was a sphere”; there was a time, when Sir Isaac Newton would have provoked the horrors of an auto da fe, for believing that the sun is stationary. In the book of Joshua (chapt. 10, verses 12, 13 & 14), it is writen that the Israelitish captain commanded the sun to stand still on a particular day, that is to suppose it moves on every other occasion, otherwise the passage would have no meaning; yet all the learned world coincide in opinion with Gallileo and Sir Isaac notwithstanding the apparent authority of the scriptures to the contrary. Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton were both christians, still they pursued their philosophical speculations; if the adversary of Mr. Jefferson, believes the sun to be stationary, by adopting his own mode of reasoning, he is proved to be an infidel.
So far then Mr. Jefferson stands completely exculpated from the charge of infidelity; but a third passage occurs, upon which peculiar stress appears to have been laid—it is that which respects the distinction which nature or circumstances have interposed between black and white men: an expression as correct as it is innocent, has given rise to the accusation; but it vanishes at the first approach of liberal investigation.
The existence of negro slavery has long been considered as one of our greatest political evils; like all other crimes by the righteous dispensations of providence it has been inseparably accompanied by its own calamities. The day of retribution is rapidly approaching—slavery must have an end—but what is to become of the slaves? When I consider the situation of the southern states—when I perceive how numerous a proportion of their population is composed by black men—my mind misgives me—the most terrifying reflections rush upon my understanding: The evil exists within our bosom—how shall it be removed?
Shall slavery be continued for ever? that idea is equally debasing to the master and the slave—justice, humanity, and even policy forbid it—besides, the population of the negroes is nearly equal to that of the whites; and notwithstanding the hardships under which they labour, the former multiply as fast as the latter—what then shall secure the perpetual submission of the slave? But suppose that they are restored to freedom, what shall be their destiny? Shall they be banished to foreign climes? Whither shall they become transported? Will they quietly submit? In what region of the globe will they be received without resistance? Send them to Africa, from whence their fathers have been dragged, and you render them completely wretched. You impose upon them a sentence, if possible, more severe than slavery itself; you have changed their language, manners and religion; in Africa they would meet with beings similar indeed in complexion, but radically different in every other respect. Will you surrender to them a portion of your own territory separated by metes and bounds, and establish an independent empire in the neighbourhood of your republic? Or lastly, when they are free shall they continue among us; shall they be placed upon an equality with their former masters, and admitted to partake of all our privileges? More than all, shall they marry and co-habit, and intermingle with our sons and daughters, and the inhabitants of America become a motley and degenerate race of mulattoes?
It is against this last idea that Mr. Jefferson reasons with energy and sensibility. Incorporate the blacks into the state, and you incorporate eternal misery and degradation. “Deep rooted* prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections by the blacks of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end, but in the extermination of the one or the other race.” (Notes on Virginia.)
Reason, justice and religion require that negroes should be free. But they require not that we should expose ourselves to degeneracy: We may sincerely advocate the freedom of black men, and yet assert their moral and physical inferiority. It is our duty to assert their liberties, but it is not our duty to blend our form and colour and existence with theirs. Education and habit, nay, nature herself recoils at the idea. It is against this shocking idea that Mr. Jefferson reasons with all his powers; he calls them a different race of men, and with justice he terms them so. It is in the same sense that we are in the daily habit of terming the Eskimaux, the Hottentots, and the Arabs a different race from the inhabitants of Europe.
But does Mr. Jefferson deny that negroes are men? does he deny them the sacred privileges of humanity? He says with truth, that there is now a physical difference which interposes an insuperable barrier between us; my own feelings powerfully dictate that such is the case. The idea of intermingling is insupportable. We cannot intermingle without injury—I may add, without prostitution. Mr. Jefferson says, that there is a difference at present, but he has pretended to account for it by denying that they sprang from a common origin with ourselves? Does he introduce any hypothesis upon the subject hostile to divine revelation? Does he pretend to deny that the force of climate and cultivation through the lapse of centuries is insufficient to account for the dissimilarity? No, he does not—I defy all the tergiversation of his adversaries to fix the stigma upon him.
In justice to Mr. Jefferson, it must be mentioned, that though he contends for the inferiority of the blacks, he only argues against their cohabiting with us, and not against their freedom—his position, evident as it is, is advanced with exemplary diffidence and tenderness. In a subsequent passage he exclaims, with generous warmth,
Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep for ever!*
Is this the language of an infidel! this the zealous exclamation of an enemy to God? O fye sir, shame upon your head! How dare you attempt to deceive your congregation! Mr. Jefferson has reasoned against the universal prostitution of his countrymen—and would you, sir, with all your meekness and piety, and humility, mingle your blood with that of the blacks?
O doctor, doctor, what a hopeful progeny would you produce!
It is upon the expression “difference of race” that the “baseless fabrick” of sophistry has been erected, by confounding the term “race” with the word “genus,” or even “species.” Mr. Jefferson is represented to have stated the negroes as originally a distinct order of beings; but the expression “race” ex vi termini by no means conveys that idea; still less so, when its sense is regulated by the general intentions of Mr. Jefferson, the manner in which it is used, and the other parts of the passage into which it is incorporated.* The term in strictness signifies “a family, a generation, or a particular breed”; and in common parlance it is frequently used, if possible, in a more restricted sense. Thus every family may be correctly denominated a distinct race. The house of York and that of Lancaster formed a different race or dynasty of princes. The whole censure upon Mr. Jefferson is built upon an idle cavil with respect to this word. I appeal to the judicious reader, and refer to the work itself, whether the term race is not applied in the correct and limited sense in which I consider it, not as implying an original difference of ancestry, but as refering to the present difference of situation. Nothing is either more common or more proper, than to consider seperate nations, even of white men, as forming a distinct race. Thus the Romans and the Goths are termed a seperate race of men; and thus, from the three sons of Noah, Shem, and Ham, and Japhet, proceeded distinct races. Yet we do not deny their common origin, though time and circumstances have occasioned a total forgetfulness of consanguinity.
I feel that it is unnecessary to dwell any longer upon this passage—instead of impeaching Mr. Jefferson, the writer of the pamphlet has only succeeded in rendering himself ridiculous: there is yet one remaining passage to be discussed before I enter upon the consideration of it—permit me to offer a few remarks upon the base and idle story said to have been communicated by Mr. Mazzei.
It must already have been evident to the discerning reader, that the author of the pamphlet writes with a certain object in view, and that in the pursuit of such object he is regardless of truth or sincerity; he has fastened upon every opportunity to defame his political antagonist, not only by misrepresenting his sentiments, but by concealing the truth; by the manner in which he has conducted his work, he has forfeited all pretensions to credit.
The practice of that writer is not singular. The party to whom he is attached, has been in the constant habit of publishing assertions equally impudent and extravagant; the character of a patriot is so odious in their sight, that every calumny has been invented to blacken and defame it—ten thousand monstrous stories have been circulated and detected—the arrows have as often recoiled upon their masters—and yet they have the hardihood to continue the practice. Thus Mr. Gallatin, who is known to have descended from the most respectable parentage at Geneva, has been represented by turns as an itinerant vagabond, as a strolling fidler, and a shoe-black; such ridiculous tales never answer a good purpose, they disgust every sensible and liberal mind.
If the greatest liar in existence utters the most ridiculous falsehood against the most innocent man, you cannot resist him by reasoning, or refute his assertion by any syllogistical deduction; his tale is a matter of credit and not a matter of argument. The belief of such an allegation must entirely depend upon the general reputation of the parties, and the views and integrity of the relator. If the crime of adultery or seduction, for instance, was laid to the charge of Mr. H———, such a report would be readily believed; but if propagated concerning General Washington, would be absolutely incredible. Again, if a story is circulated by a man whose veracity is not impeachable, and who has no sinister object in view, his relation will be entitled to our confidence; but where a tale is propagated by a man who has already deceived us, and who appears to have a design & an interest in so doing, our credulity must be abject indeed if we suffer ourselves to be imposed upon.
After these preliminary observations, let us attend to this most ridiculous tale. Upon the supposed authority of a Dr. John B. Smith, a Virginia clergyman, it is asserted, that Mr. Mazzei, of whom so much mention has been lately made, related to this Dr. Smith the following anecdote; “That as he (Mazzei) was once riding with Mr. Jefferson, he expressed his surprize that the people of this country take no better care of their public buildings—What buildings? exclaimed Mr. Jefferson—is not that a church? replied he, pointing to a decayed edifice—Yes, answered Mr. Jefferson. I am astonished, said the other, that they permit it to be in so ruinous a condition! It is good enough, says Mr. Jefferson, for him that was born in a manger.” Thus far.
Upon this extraordinary relation, let us make the following remarks:
In the first place, you have the story from the third or fourth hand. Jefferson is supposed to have used an expression to Mazzei—Mazzei to Smith—Smith to the writer of the pamphlet—and he to you; a story never loses by travelling: an expression of the most innocent nature may have been misconceived by Mazzei; Dr. Smith may have misunderstood him; as for the writer, his words and intentions are too evident to be mistaken.
Secondly, the story is too particular to be credited; if the conversation did ever take place, it must have happened many years ago. It was never heard by the writer of the pamphlet, or even by Dr. Smith himself. In relating the story, it is next to impossible that Mazzei and Smith and the writer should give the connected chain and particular expressions of the conversation in the order and connection used by the parties. In attempting to do this, like all other inventors, the writer has overshot his mark. It is impossible that he should have heard the particulars of an antiquated conversation with such accuracy and minuteness, as to give it in the form of a dialogue. It is therefore evident, that this dialogue is a recent fabrication of his own. He has all the merit of invention, but no claim to fidelity.*
Thirdly, the character of Mr. Jefferson renders the tale incredible, placing his morality and religion entirely out of sight; it is not probable that as a man of common prudence he would have used so obnoxious an expression.
Fourthly, the tale proceeds from a most suspicious fountain. We should be careful how we receive the character of any man from the mouth of his enemies. Justice requires that we should not judge rashly. It is evident that the author of the pamphlet is the bitter enemy of Mr. Jefferson; it is evident that he writes with the express view of rendering him an injury; it is evident that he is not guided by religious incentives, but by political and party views: And lastly, it is evident that he is generally regardless of truth and sincerity. Conscious that the criticism upon the notes on Virginia was untenable, his only resource was to invent this ridiculous story. When he pretends to reason, his pen trembles in his hand. In the paroxism of despair, he supplies the weakness of his logic by the boldness of assertion. But even this desperate sally has baffled his purpose; for, how is it possible that we can believe a story so improbable in itself; so incredible when applied to a man whose manners are confessedly mild and amiable, and who has ever been distinguished by consummate virtue and prudence: When that story, coming from the third or fourth hand, and in every stage of its passage liable to misconstruction, as well as exposed to misrepresentation, is related by a bitter enemy to serve an interested purpose, and when the relator has, upon every other occasion, been convicted of the base design to injure and deceive us?*
I enter into the examination of the remaining head of accusations which this disingenuous writer has exhibited against Mr. Jefferson. It cannot have escaped the observation of the reader, that the author of the pamphlet has endeavoured to give the sense of Mr. Jefferson from detached and mutilated passages of his work, and, by the suppression of the rest, endeavoured to distort and misrepresent his real sentiments. We have seen, that in the most material instance he has endeavoured, by implication, to represent him as favouring one opinion; when, in the most express and positive language, he has in reality advanced a doctrine diametrically opposite. When a writer will descend to such base and villainous† arts, he becomes altogether unworthy of credit; he exposes the wickedness of his own designs, and can no longer be believed. The author, who can wilfully misrepresent the sentiments of another by an easy transition of baseness, can fabricate a story or propagate a groundless tale. It is as criminal to pervert the sentiments of Mr. Jefferson, with a view to render him an injury, as to invent the story of Mazzei from the same unworthy motive; the object is, in both cases, identical, and the instruments not essentially different. If the author should be a clergyman, his offence becomes encreased; from that order of men we have a right to expect examples of fidelity.
The passage to which I now allude, is that which more particularly respects religion. The only object of Mr. Jefferson, is to discountenance political establishments in theology; upon this subject, his adversaries must confess that he reasons with perspicuity, energy & truth. I refer the reader neither to these pages nor to the pamphlet entitled “Serious reflections” but entreat him to peruse the work itself; I aver that upon this subject Mr. Jefferson reasons with the conciseness and nervous energy of Tacitus—he writes with the pen of a master; in no instance does he speak a language, upon no occasion does he betray a sentiment disrespectful to Christianity; he states that by the common law of England heresy was a capital offence punishable by burning, and that until the statute of Elizabeth, its definition was submitted to the ecclesiastical judges—that the execution was by the cruel and infamous writ de hæretico comburendo, that by the statute of Virginia antecedent to the revolution, heresy was punishable by the incapacity of holding any office civil, ecclesiastical or military, and on a repetition by disability to sue; to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, executor or administrator, and by three years imprisonment without bail. I should despair of rendering justice to the sentiments of this excellent writer, without permission to transcribe them in his own forcible language, “This (continues Mr. Jefferson) is a summary view of that religious slavery, under which a people have been willing to remain, who have lavished their lives and fortunes for the establishment of their civil freedom. The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws, but our rulers can have authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them; the rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit we are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government, extends to such acts only as are injurious to others; but it does me no injury for my neighbour to say, there are twenty Gods or no God, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg; if it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man: it may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error—give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation; they are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free inquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free inquiry been indulged at the æra of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away.”
Such then are the sentiments inculcated by this invaluable performance, and do these imply a spirit of infidelity? is liberality, and forbearance, and toleration incompatible with the gospel? God forbid, that Christians should believe so. How is Christianity to be infused? by the mild light of reasoning—by the force of conviction, or by the burning fire of persecution? Then abandon preaching, ministers of the Most High, descend from the pulpit—forsake the altar—seize the torch—the firebrand and faggot—grasp the murderers steel—destroy and exterminate—establish the empire of panic—the universal dominion of fear—spare them not—be the ministers not of grace and mercy, and benevolence, but of vengeance—perpetrate dark deeds “without a name,” where then will be your converts? in the language of Mr. Jefferson, you will make hypocrites but not true men.
I am bold to say, that those sentiments of Mr. Jefferson are in perfect conformity to the genuine precepts of our religion, as well as the principles of our civil constitution, we have had enough of the kingdom of Anti-christ; hecatombs of human victims have bled and perished, their blood has stained the earth, and their mouldering bones unburied, bleaching by the rain and scorching sun, have called aloud to heaven. Our ancestors also were persecuted—here they fought for and obtained repose; Oh let not their children unmindful of their miseries and wrongs, in their turn become persecutors!
Such then, is the interesting subject which engrossed the attention of our virtuous and learned countryman, impressed with its importance, his language glows with animation; it is upon a single expression used in the warmth of sensibility, and in the ardour of argument, that peculiar reliance has been placed “it does me no injury for my neighbour to say, there are twenty Gods, or no God, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” The expression is a strong one, but it is strictly true in the sense in which it was applied. Belief indeed may, nay will influence our conduct; the errors of my neighbour may be dangerous, I would distrust the man who would palliate adultery, or endeavour to excuse a theft; but the manner in which Mr. Jefferson applies the sentiment renders it perfectly correct, he distinguishes between our actions and our opinions, for the former we are amenable to the civil magistrate, for the latter he expressly tells us we “are answerable to our God.” Speaking of the rights of conscience, he says, that—“we never submitted them to our civil rulers, we could not submit them, the legitimate powers of government extend to such acts, only as are injurious to others”; it is therefore demonstrable that Mr. Jefferson exclusively contemplates civil injuries: that is to say, injuries visible and palpable, and for which human laws afford redress; in this legal sense, the sentiments of my neighbour are no injury to me, his opinions should not be subjected to the coercion of the civil magistrate. For our conduct we are responsible to man; for our opinions only to our God. I sustain no civil injury by the vicinage of an atheist, if it is a damnum in the language of lawyers, it is damnum absque injuric. Government has no right to interfere, it cannot interpose without danger, and without a manifest violation of the social compact.
Government is an human institution, introduced for temporal purposes—it was never intended to be the sovereign arbiter of religion, conscience, and opinion. Fearful of committing himself upon the subject, the author of the pamphlet is driven to express the very same sentiment, tho’ in language far inferior. Mark his inconsistency! note his palpable contradiction! “It is true (he acknowledges) that a mere opinion of my neighbor will do me no injury, government cannot regulate or punish it, the right of private opinion is inalienable.” Mr. Jefferson has contended for no more. If the sentiment is an evidence of infidelity on the part of the one; it is equally so with respect to the other.*
Throughout the passage in question, Mr. Jefferson has only advocated those doctrines which, with a feebler pen I have attempted to enforce. I wish Christianity to become extended into every region of the globe, but I wish it to prevail by the energy of reason, and not by the terror of persecution, or the power of the sword. I am jealous of the interference of government; I know that it never interposes from a pious zeal towards religion, but from corrupt, ambitious, and interested views. I am conscious that belief is involuntary, that it must flow spontaneously from the dictates of the understanding, and can never be enforced by the engines of tyranny.
The rights of conscience rise superior to the controul of the civil magistrate; why should we be solicitous to multiply hypocrites? let believers be sincere in their professions, or let men continue infidels. I also most cordially unite with Mr. Jefferson in a wish to see, and I do actually perceive “a government in which no religious opinions (whatever) are (officially) held, and where the security for property and social order rests entirely upon the force of law.” In the expression of this sentiment I am not apprehensive of being misunderstood; I sincerely wish that every individual concerned in the administration, in every department and in every station principal or subordinate, from the president to the constable, should be a Christian in earnest, not boasting a nominal, but possessing a zealous, lively and active faith; but as a government, as a body corporate and politic, as an organized artificial systematized corps, it should not have, it cannot have any religion; it should allow to each of its citizens an unlimited exercise of conscience; it should never interfere, unless social law, and order, and morals become invaded—if a contrary doctrine should ever prevail, every fibre of my heart would bleed for the misery of my country. Such as I wish it, is our present constitution, and so may it ever continue; to the people under God I intrust its preservation; unless you my countrymen, are vigilant and circumspect, the time may come when freedom religious and civil, shall be no more, and hope itself expire; and then, O then the solemn warning of that Jefferson, who has been so unworthily traduced will only furnish occasion for unavailing regret! Hear him before it is too late. “The spirit of the times (he almost prophetically exclaims) may alter—will alter; our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless, a single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never therefore be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis, is while our rulers are honest and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war, we shall be going down hill, it will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support, they will be forgotten therefore, and their rights disregarded; they will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights; the shackles therefore which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long; will be made heavier and heavier till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”
But, why should I proceed? with every liberal mind, Mr. Jefferson must stand acquitted from the charge of infidelity; for him I feel not—he enjoys “the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind,” for religion I feel not—it stands secure in the sacred majesty of truth—it is for my country that I feel, and for the safety of its constitution that I tremble. I shall offer a few observations with respect to Mr. Adams and Mr. Pinckney, and attempt to explore the prospect which lies before us.
I hold it to be a maxim essential to our safety, that the government of the United States should only be administered by a republican. Whatever may be the virtues or religion,* whatever the talents of Mr. Adams, his principles are not republican, his sentiments are not congenial with the spirit of the constitution, he has published and proclaimed his opinions, they stand as an everlasting record and monument against him; his religion and his piety may possibly be sincere, but they cannot atone for the destruction of the constitution, and the slavery of the people; Mr. Adams is the advocate of privileged orders and distinctions in society, he would willingly engraft the armorial trappings and insignia of aristocracy upon the simple majesty of republican institutions. Mr. Adams would destroy the essential nature and character of a republic; his principles would wrest the government from the hands of the people, and vest its dominion and prerogatives in the distinguished and “well born few”—Mr. Adams is the advocate of hereditary power, and hereditary privileges—has he not told you “that republican government may be interpreted to mean any thing! that the British government is in the strictest sense a republic! that an hereditary president and senate for life, can alone secure your happiness! that in the conflict of political opinions which prevail in our country, it is admissible for one faction to seize the persons of their opponents, and banish them within the lines of an invading enemy!”
Immortal heaven! can we listen to such sentiments with coldness? Let it not be imagined that such opinions are purely speculative, and therefore not dangerous. Speculation always pants and struggles for an opportunity to become ripened into action. Mr. Adams cannot hold such heretical doctrines without being a dangerous president; if he does not admire the constitution in its present shape, depend upon it his influence will be exerted to render it more palatable to himself. If no other evil happens, the temper and opinions of the man will give a tone and character to his administration; he will warp, and twist, and torture the features of your infant government, and prostrate your constitution upon the fatal bed of Procrustes, until it loses its original symmetry, proportion and character. Whenever an opportunity arises, by a latitude of construction, by a wanton licentiousness of interpretation, he will multiply and intrench the prerogatives of the executive, and establish his favorite theory upon the ruins of the constitution. Every violation will increase the appetite for power; it will augment the danger by the force of habit and the pretext of example. Encroachments always proceed with an accelerated momentum, “One precedent creates another; they soon accumulate and constitute law; what yesterday was fact to-day is doctrine: Examples are supposed to justify the most dangerous measures, and where they do not suit exactly, the defect is supplied by analogy.”* He who maintains the principles and the doctrines of slavery, is “totally unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
The interest of the nation demands that we should have an administration of liberty and justice and œconomy. Our future executive should not be the president of a party but the president of the United States; to speak emphatically, he should be the president of public liberty, the president of the constitution. We have seen an alien bill, vesting the executive in certain cases with almost unlimited powers. We have witnessed a sedition law triumphant over the liberty of the press. We have beheld an incessant and restless spirit of persecution multiplying fines, and penalties, and imprisonment. We have seen an itinerant judge not content with exercising his powers unbiassed on the bench of justice, industriously travelling in pursuit of victims. We have seen those records and muniments which were necessary for the vindication of a defendant, sternly denied to him in defiance of that law which has idly stated, that the truth of an allegation shall be a compleat defence in cases of libel. We have heard the judges of the United States prejudge a question, in which the life of a prisoner was concerned, by refusing to listen to the arguments of counsel in a trial for treason. In the case of Robins, we have viewed an attempt to destroy the independence of the judiciary by subjecting them to the controul and directions of the president—we have seen authorities, which the constitution has denied to the government, claimed and exercised under the dangerous idea that they are given by the common law of England. In the expences of a small army composed of many officers and few soldiers, and never in actual service, we can readily perceive the enormous cost of a permanent military establishment—we have seen an ambassador sent to England for the purpose of procuring satisfaction for the depredations upon our trade, at this moment under the operation of his treaty, recognizing the British debts: We are astonished with the liquidation of a balance of millions against us—we have a national debt increasing and likely to increase, until its annual interest shall exhaust the fruits of laborious industry and taxation, like the leaves of autumn gather and multiply around us. Such, Americans, is the picture of our present prosperity. I shall proceed no farther, volumes would not exhaust the subject. Let us be true to ourselves—let us rally before the genius of liberty and the spirit of the constitution, and let no consideration divert us from the determined resolution of preserving the rights and freedom of our country.
Enough of Mr. Adams. I am impressed with the conviction that he is destined to re-visit the shades of retirement, enjoying literary leisure, he may establish a Tusculum at Braintree, or, like Plato, soothe his imagination by visionary theories; from the Republicans he cannot expect a single suffrage, and it would be folly to rely upon the attachment or fidelity of the Federalists—the wounds of Timothy—insulted honor—disappointed hopes—unsatisfied revenge—powerful incentives, and irresistible passions, have united to give the ascendency to Mr. Pinckney. It is not to be imagined that the quondam secretary will be idle, a single southern vote or a single eastern elector will prevent the re-election of Mr. Adams; and upon the failure of Mr. Jefferson, confer the empire upon his anglo-federal rival. Like Simeon of old, Mr. Adams may repeat the Nunc dimittis, and if Mr. Jefferson should be elected, he may justly exclaim “Quia viderunt oculi mei Salutare tuum.”
I know not Mr. Pinckney, politically speaking, he is a man whom no-body knows,* but it is perfectly understood that he is contemplated as a second† Bibulus who permitted Cæsar to govern. We can judge of the individual from the character of the party by whom he is supported, and the views by which such party is uniformly actuated. It is well known, that at the last election Mr. T. Pinckney was supported by Mr. Hamilton* , in preference to Mr. Adams; and that C. C. Pinckney is now the candidate of the exiled members of the present administration. It is a matter of notoriety, that an explosion has taken place in the cabinet, and that a violent schism has ensued between the leaders of the Federal party. The dismission, or rather the expulsion, of Mr. Pickering, evinces that a convulsion had taken place in our councils, which may probably form a distinguished æra in our history. The president has not thought proper officially to furnish us with his reasons for the dismissal of the secretary, but it is perfectly understood, that his obstinate opposition to the negociation with France, and his manifest partiality for Mr. Pinckney, were the principal occasions of the variance. Since that period at least, the Federalists have become divided into two parties, actuated by different views, and governed by different leaders. The party of Messieurs Pinckney, Hamilton, and Pickering, is the most desperate and violent; its principal characteristics have been a hatred to France; predilection for England; an inflexible determination for war, and an invincible enmity to freedom and the constitution.
When Tracy proclaimed his war of extermination, it was usually considered as an unmeaning ebullition of the passions; for my own part, I was not disposed to view it as the momentary paroxism of a distempered brain; there was a degree of method and consistency in those ravings which indicated system and design. I saw an earnestness and sincerity in this madness which was the evidence of deliberation—war had been agreed upon in cool and serious moments, and that war was designed for the attainment of no common object.
The enmity to Mr. Adams, and the abuse which has been showered upon his head—the undisguised disappointment of the federal leaders, and the division which has taken place in that party proves much—the Sybilline volumes are opened—we have the key to secrets more mysterious than the grave—the laurels of the general are blasted—for the present ambition has become defeated—but the constitution is saved.
Why should the negociation with France have occasioned so much clamour if nothing but the public prosperity had been in question? What benefit could have been produced by war that will be denied us by negociation? Could the national dignity or the substantial interests of America require more than an honorable satisfaction? Even the spirit of Cato would have been satisfied with an ample concession, if the rivalship of his favorite Rome had not extorted the dreadful sentence “delendum est Carthago.” Between us and France there is no such rivalship. It was not the motive of Cato which produced such invincible aversion to peace; an ambitious general at the head of an army, would have been the master of the liberties of his country—this consideration is the clue which enables us to explore the labyrinth, as we enter into its recesses the plot thickens around us—when we unfathom its mysteries we become encompassed with horrors.
Every day and every event furnishes new conviction that the advocates of Mr. Pinckney are not the friends of the constitution: should they ever acquire the ascendency, I would tremble for its fate. There is abundance of testimony to prove that this party is not contented with our present limited government, but that it is their steady and uniform object to introduce a system essentially and radically different. The constitution proposed by Mr. Hamilton in the late general convention, was every thing but federal; it went to the establishment of a permanent executive, and to the total subversion of the states. The governors were to have been appointed by that herculean executive, and united America, ruined by the perfidy of one man, was again to have been prostrated before the throne of a powerful and almost absolute monarch!
That project is far from being abandoned—it has again been revived in another form—the pamphlet of young Fenno, contemptible as it is, in every respect, betrays the object and purpose of his party. This boy, nurtured in the air of a court, and conversant with the designs and opinions of his patrons, has presumed to offer a system of government to the United States. It is true that this system does not possess originality, but is the servile counterpart of the project of Mr. Hamilton; it exhibits the same features and betrays the same views. An alliance offensive and defensive with Great Britain—perpetual war with France and Spain—foreign conquests—permanent naval and military establishments—an eternal, unextinguishable debt—a perpetual system of funding and speculation—the compleat annihilation of states—a division of the country into districts or provinces, to destroy even the memory of their existence—a president with unlimited powers—governors, or prefects of his appointment—a house of lords composed of such prefects—a permanent aristocracy—an enslaved, impoverished and miserable people—such are the detestable propositions with which millions of freemen have been insulted. My bosom burns with indignation—my pen almost drops from my hand—O! America! my country! may heaven preserve thy freedom—may it preserve thee from the designs of thy treacherous sons. Such is the party of Mr. Pinckney—I feel that my powers are inadequate to pourtray the amplitude of their baseness.*
I have assigned to you sufficient reasons why neither Mr. Adams nor Mr. Pinckney should be your president—God, who knows my heart, knows that I address you from pure and patriotic motives. I am wholly unconnected with any political character either in or out of office. My sentiments are not secret. I profess and will maintain them candidly and openly, in public and in private—yet it is not probable that as the writer of this pamphlet, I shall ever be known to the world. Let the sentiments it contains be appreciated as they merit, their truth and propriety cannot become affected by any personal considerations; for my own part I delight in obscurity, in the shades of retirement, unknown and unnoticed by the great, accompanied with the solaces of private friendship, let me securely tread the paths of liberty and virtue. I belong not to the school of the Jacobins, or the Federalists. I have no blind respect for names alone, claiming the privilege of thinking for myself, I shall always enquire Quid sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non. I am the partizan of Mr. Jefferson, in no other sense than I am the partizan of truth, and freedom, and my country. Christianity I have advocated, and will ever advocate, upon true, sincere and liberal grounds; but I never will tamely permit it to be converted into an engine for the destruction of every privilege and enjoyment, and prospect, which is valuable upon earth. I reverence our civil constitution, because, from the serious dictates of the understanding, I am convinced it is the best and most perfect in the world—to preserve it therefore, I shall ever exercise my limited talents, and, if necessary, sacrifice my life.
At this moment you are called upon to take a stand upon the principles of your constitution; while the world is agitated to its centre, and alarms are heard from every quarter, it would be madness to loosen the anchor of your safety, this is not a time for speculation, it is not a season for changing your system of government. Scylla lies on the one side, and Charybdis on the other, why should you hazard your security? why should you entrust your political constitution in the hands of men whose fidelity, and whose principles are more than suspected? Jefferson is known, his sentiments—his character—his probity are established; he is not the man of France or of England—but the man of public liberty—the man of the people—the man of the constitution.
I wish not to foment the rage of parties; on the contrary my most ardent desire would be to allay the fervency of their resentments; but in a time like the present, good men cannot remain inactive, neutrality would amount to a criminal abandonment of principles; I have ceased to discriminate parties, by the idle jargon of the day, jacobins and democrats, and old, and new federalists, let them be buried, and upon their prostrated ruins, let us erect the universal party of liberty, and virtue, and the constitution; such men as Mr. Pinckney and Mr. Adams, will never establish harmony, the people cannot, nor should they extend their confidence towards them, they never will believe their liberties secure, in the hands of men deservedly rendered obnoxious. If there is a man in America who at the present crisis, can restore harmony to the empire, and give stability to the constitution—it is Mr. Jefferson.
I have no idea of sacrificing the liberties of my country, to mistaken compliance towards divines; when Philip meditated the destruction of Greece, he commenced his career by corrupting the oracles—such was the insidious policy of the tyrant, who triumphed at Cheronæ; it reads a powerful lesson to the people, and with resistless energy, forbids them to render religion the fatal instrument of ambition. God forbid! that the British party—the sycophants of Liston, and the supporters of the infamous Cobbett* should give as a president. People of America, patriots and electors, be assured that it is not religion, but the state which is in jeopardy—Jefferson, who has been the object of so much unmanly but unavailing calumny, is one of the strongest bulwarks of its safety; remember that at this moment, your liberty, your constitution, your families, your children, the fate of the empire, depend upon the rectitude of your decision. May the God of heaven, infuse a portion of his grace and wisdom into your hearts, and understandings, and direct you to the final resolution, most conducive to his glory, and to the prosperity of our beloved country.
Now, Americans, after what you have seen and heard, can you doubt the existence of a British party hostile to your constitution? Only compare facts and circumstances together; if you suffer yourselves to be imposed upon you will deserve the consequences. First, you have seen Mr. Adams openly write in favour of aristocratical principles. Secondly, you have seen Mr. Hamilton propose a real monarchical constitution. Thirdly, the proceedings of that convention have been kept a profound secret. What could have been the reason of that extraordinary measure, except to shut out the light of inquiry? Do you think the dungeons of the Inquisition would have been barred and bolted, if its proceedings had been favourable to the public good? Fourthly, you have seen the British printer, Peter Porcupine, openly countenanced and protected at the seat of government. Fifthly, you have seen his successor, Mr. Fenno, tread in his very footsteps. Sixthly, you have seen this very Fenno, who is privy to the whole secret, openly recommend a British alliance, and a monarchy in substance. Seventhly, you have witnessed the very extraordinary disappointment occasioned by the negociation with France. Can you possibly account for this circumstance, without believing that the British interests are preferred to those of America? Eighthly, you have seen the infamous Cobbett, immediately afterwards, abuse your president and your government, and take his flight. Ninthly, you have seen Fenno join in his abuse, and openly ridicule your independence and your revolution. Mr. Liston goes home, finding that he can be of no service at present. Eleventhly, this very Peter Porcupine was recommended by Lord Auckland as a clerk to Mr. Jefferson, who was at that time secretary of state. Could this have been for any other reason than to give that wretch an opportunity of betraying the secrets of the office to his friends and employers the British; and, Twelfthly, you have the evidence of Mr. Adams himself, that there is a British party in this country, and that the Pinckney’s are attached to that party. He tells you expressly, that he had long known the British intrigue, and even inspected it in the diplomatic appointment of Pinckney. Yet Mr. Adams, knowing all these things, remained connected with those men, until there is every reason to believe that they endeavoured to shake him off, to make room for a person upon whom they could place more dependence. But this is not all the evidence, there is more behind the curtain. I recommend the perusal of Fenno’s pamphlet, as a correct index to the designs of the British faction. After all this evidence, is it possible that any American whig, should withhold his suffrages from Mr. Jefferson?
[* ]Mr. M——, if he pleases, may father the Sickly Child.
[* ]Why should we read history without profiting by it? Ambition and tyranny have always been fond of assuming the masque of religion and making instruments of judges and divines. Cromwell the usurper was a detestible hypocrite. We have already one judge who rivals Jefferies or Tresilian. We have more than one minister to match a Wolsey or a Laud.
[† ]Dr. D. and Dr. S. and Dr. L. and Mr. M. cum multus aliis, will please to attend to this sentiment; indeed I could wish it were possible for them to peruse the whole of my pamphlet with candour.
[* ]The reader is only referred to Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, he will find that no imagination is capable of pourtraying the picture in colours too high or glowing.
[* ]Would to God they would feel for themselves with equal sincerity!
[* ]When a church becomes directly or indirectly connected with a state, it may still retain its external form and appearance, but Christianity no longer remains, the heavenly virtues become extinct, and the pure spirit of piety disgusted by its avarice, ambition and impiety takes wings and flies to heaven. Nothing, nothing is left but a state without liberty and a church without religion.
[* ]What are we to think of the religion of those divines, who are the advocates of Mr. H——— of the man who had the cruelty publicly to wound and insult the feelings of his family, and to publish and glory in his shame? The confessions of J. J. Rosseau, the philosopher and citizen of Geneva, are nothing to those of our American youth. Our hero’s apology for adultery stands unrivaled in ancient or modern language. Nathan the prophet had the courage to rebuke the Lord’s anointed for a similar offence; but some of our clergymen generously excuse the frailties of their favourite party ringleader. There are some books which should never get out of print: The pamphlet detailing the love of Alexander and the fair Maria should stand as an eternal monument of the licentious manners of the age. Remember reader, that Alexander is a husband and a father and some people say a Christian. Sed quere debit. Nothing can prove the insincerity of such reverend defenders of religion more demonstrably than their advocating this man.
[* ]To shew that this is his meaning, let us take his own words, together with the other parts of the sentence connected with them, “The establishment of the instance cited by M. de Voltaire (says Mr. Jefferson) of the growth of shells unattached to animal bodies, would have been that of his theory. But he has not established it. He has not left it on ground so respectable as to have rendered it an object of enquiry to the literati of his own country. Abandoning the fact therefore, the three hypotheses are equally unsatisfactory; and we must be contented to acknowledge that this great phenomenon is as yet unsolved, ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.” Now to what does such observation relate? To philosophical theories and hypotheses, and not to the deluge or any other truth of revelation. By the same mode of juggling I could extract deistical sentiments from the writings of the apostles.
[* ]I would tell Mr. Jefferson they are not “prejudices.”
[* ]Notes on Virginia, p. 173.
[* ]Dr. Johnson.
[* ]If Dr. L——— should be the author of the pamphlet, I admire his invention, but cannot commend his sagacity. The next time he writes the tales of ancient times, I would advise him to be less particular as to the minutiæ. His story would have been told better if it had been confined to generals; at present it has not the appearance of plausibility. The colloquial form was rather unfortunate. Such a dialogue could only have been manufactured in the doctors closet—it favours strongly of romance. Man of sin, Belial hath sent unto thee his lying spirit.
[* ]The more I reflect upon the subject, the more I am convinced the story is incredible; and yet it is possible, that in the course of conversation, an expression somewhat similar may have been used in the most innocent and laudable point of view. Those who recollect the intolerable avarice of the clergy, and particularly in Italy, of which Mazzei was a native; those who remember the millions and millions which were torn from the wretched people, to purchase baubles to decorate the church of “our Lady at Lorenzo,” would not be surprized, if in a conversation between the Italian and the patriot, that the latter should, by an easy association, with honest warmth, and yet without irreverence, have adverted to the circumstance of our Saviour’s being laid in a manger. Expressions equally innocent have been tortured into guilt, when laid upon the rack of an enemy.
[† ]Shakespeare says, a man may smile and smile and be a villain; so men may preach and pray and still be liars.
[* ]Dr. L—— or whoever is the author of the pamphlet, is determined that Mr. Jefferson shall be a deist or atheist at all events. After exhausting his whole budget with respect to Mr. Jefferson, he asserts, that Mr. Nobody, a pupil of Mr. Jefferson, once upon a time, used an atheistical expression, and sagaciously concludes that Mr. Jefferson is therefore an atheist! Now who is this Mr. Nobody? Mr. Jefferson keeps no school or academy, how can he have pupils? The good doctor is a wonderful logician; admitting that his premises are true, by what singular process does he derive his conclusion?
[* ]Hypocrisy has become a fashionable vice. God alone can separate the sheep from the wolves. Who would have believed that an eminent judge would have become a preacher, or Governeur M—— a sincere convert to Christianity. It is said, that a very illustrious personage, when at Philadelphia, was for some time in the habit of hearing Dr. Priestly, until his friends admonished him that he would sacrifice his popularity—there was certainly more policy than sincerity in the discontinuance of that habit.
[* ]We have the character of the two Mr. Pinckney’s from no less a man than President Adams himself—This illustrious personage has written as follows:
[† ]Most of my readers will recollect the consulship of Julius Cæsar and Bibulus, which was emphatically termed, the consulship of Julius and Cæsar. Buonaparte, or his friend the Abbé, who had so many constitutions, of all shapes, in his pigeon holes, appears to have copied from that period in the Roman history, with the addition of a single cypher. Thus in Rome it stood 01, in France it stands 001—if we should have an American Bibulus, we should, in some measure, approach the Spanish inquisition, where the inquisitor general was concealed. How terrible would be our situation, if our Cæsar should be covered with a mantle of secrecy, and how much more so, if of that Cæsar we might exclaim
[* ]It is seldom that we correctly appreciate the talents of a man. I think that those of Mr. H——— though they are respectable, have been overrated. Such circumstance is sometimes dangerous. The vulgar look upon such a man with awe, and he is furnished not only with incentives, but also the opportunity of becoming a leader. I scarcely know a branch of knowledge in which he has not superiors. The late Mr. Duer did, and Mr. Gallatin certainly does surpass him in finance. And as to oratory, in which he is supposed to stand preeminent, he is rather remarkable for circumlocution, than strength or perspicuity—he may boast of the copia verborum—words numerous as the autumnal leaves, which strew the brooks at Vallombrosa. He is not a disciple of the school of Cicero, a Quinctilian—of his elocution it may be said, “Corpus sine pectore.”
[* ]The friends of a certain great man have lately been fond of comparing him to Buonaparte, for what reason we can readily divine. Of that man the Aurora has publicly said, that on his late visit to New-England, after drinking his favourite toast, “a strong government” he positively declared, that “if Mr. Pinckney is not elected president, a revolution will be the consequence, and that within the next four years he will lose his head, or be the leader of a triumphant army!!!” There is no other difference between such an expression and treason, than what exists between the meditation and execution of paracide. Such declarations have been copied in the public prints. I have waited for a denial of them, but have never been gratified. Shall the accusation be taken sub silentio[?] Friends of religion—ministers of the gospel, are you content to submit to the sacrifice of your civil constitution, and view the blood of your countrymen smoaking upon the earth? O shame—if there is a villain in America capable of such enormous baseness, by heaven he shall “lose his head.” Cataline in the bosom of the Senate, or Cataline concealed is a formidable enemy—driven to desperation he is wretched, imbecile, and contemptible.
[* ]That the British have designs upon the government of this country, is a fact beyond the reach of doubt. When Mr. Jefferson was secretary of state, Lord Auckland had the presumption to recommend the infamous Cobbett as a clerk in his office; for what purpose? as a spy to betray the secrets of it. The wretch went to Philadelphia, buzzed about the government, and filled the country with his detestible effusions. Disappointed at length by the explosion in the cabinet, and ruined by the righteous verdict, in the suit of Dr. Rush, he blackguards the President and runs away. His successor, poor Fenno does a similar thing. Not all the democrats in the community have abused Mr. Adams with half the virulence of this young man; it is ludicrous yet somewhat provoking, to see such men as Fenno and Porcupine bedaub each other with praise. Is bene ese. Such is the abominable service in which Christianity is to be pressed.