Ezra Stiles, The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor (1783)
[AMERICA'S CHRISTIAN HERITAGE. Sermon by minister/lawyer/Yale College president Ezra Stiles (1727-1795) and biographical sketch and editor's notes by John Wingate Thornton (1860), from: The Pulpit of the American Revolution: Or, the Political Sermons of the Period of 1776. With a Historical Introduction, Notes, and Illustrations, edited by John Wingate Thornton (Boston: Gould and Lincoln/New York: Sheldon and Company/Cincinnati: George S. Blanchard, 1860), pp. 397-506 (some author's and editor's footnotes omitted, and text is slightly abridged).
Stiles provided an overview of the then-existing European governments of his time, and evaluated their strengths and weaknesses--a discussion which framers of the European Union constitution may find interesting. Stiles went on to show how the American government was superior to other world governments.
For context about Stiles' friend Benjamin Franklin and the European Community, see: The Trilateral Center: Benjamin Franklin and the New World Order listed in the Belcher Foundation policy analysis page.
Bear in mind that Stiles' sermon was written in 1783, before the framing of the United States Constitution in 1787. Therefore, Constitutional government as Americans know it today was not in existence at the time of Stiles' sermon. Before the framing of the Constitution, several ideas about the new federal government were then current and in vogue, including one that Stiles mentioned, that of rule by an elected "democratical aristocracy".
Indeed, the possibility of Ezra Stiles influencing James Madison's Constitutional ideas cannot be overlooked. Compare the following Stiles comment with editor Thornton's comment concerning Madison's idea:
Stiles: "The crown and glory of our confederacy is the amphictyonic council of the General Congress, standing on the annual election of the united respective states, and revocable at pleasure. This lays the foundation of a permanent union in the American Republic, which may at length convince the world that, of all the policies to be found on earth, not excepting the very excellent one of the Chinese Empire, the most perfect one has been invented and realized in America."
Editor Thornton (p. 422): "Five years later, in 1788, James Madison, in the Federalist, Nos. 18, 38, describes this celebrated institution, as 'it bore a very instructive analogy to the present confederation of the American Union.'"
Incidentally, one person whom Stiles mentioned: "the great Belisarius" (c. 505-565), general of Emperor Justinian I's Byzantine (Roman) Empire who vanquished the Vandals, has been suggested as the ancestor of Belesur (also spelled Belsar), the ancestor of the Belcher family who came to England with William the Conqueror (see The Meaning of the Belcher Name). Another surname derived from Belisarius is the Italian name of Bellisario.
About the historian Mrs. Catherine Maccaulay whom Dr. Stiles quotes in his sermon, editor Thornton had the following to say in a footnote (pp. 417-418): "The eight volumes of Mrs. Maccaulay's History of England from the Accession of James I to that of the Brunswick Line, appeared successively during the years 1763 to 1783. The high republican tone and noble zeal for liberty which distinguished this work, and the time of its publication, coincident with the period of the Revolution, rendered the author a great favorite with the American patriots and scholars. Dr. Stiles' language was not an extravagant expression of her popularity in England or America. She visited Washington in 1785. He [Stiles] was one of her correspondents. [* * *]"
Ezra Stiles, that champion of civil and religious liberty, probably would not have agreed to taking Bible readings out of the public schools, or else he would not have made the following remark: "The cultivation of literature will greatly promote the public welfare. In every community, while provision is made that all should be taught to read the Scriptures, and the very useful parts of common education, a good proportion should be carried through the higher branches of literature. Effectual measures should be taken for preserving and diffusing knowledge among a people." Therefore, Stiles clearly indicated that he expected the Bible to be taught in schools. His viewpoint was probably representative of the viewpoints of many of America's founding fathers.
(See America's Christian Heritage section in the Belcher Foundation Christian Law Library.)
Furthermore, Stiles' sermon backs up the assertions that:
(1) The United States of America was founded "under God"--that is, with an acknowledgment of God's sovereignty that makes the United States government a government of laws, and not of men (see Prayer or Patriotism for discussion of the meaning of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance); and
(2) American laws were originally based on the Ten Commandments at the time of the nation's founding (see: Pretexts and Commandments).
Another interesting Stiles quote: "Whatever [political] mutations may arise in the United States, perhaps hereditary monarchy and a standing army will be the last."
Stiles' use of the word "generalissimo" to describe George Washington has an interesting context. See: Jonathan Belcher: Governor in the Emerging Trilateral Center of the New World Order.
Regarding Stiles' prediction: "Our [the United States'] degree of population is such as to give us reason to expect that this will become a great people. It is probable that within a century from our independence the sun will shine on fifty millions of inhabitants in the United States," editor Thornton, writing in 1860, had the following to say in a footnote: "As deduced, by method of finite differences, from the census returns of 1830, '40, and '50, the population of the United States will be, in 1883, 56,992,000; [....] Thus the official decennial enumerations more than justify the estimates made by Dr. Stiles from his comparatively crude data. Dr. Franklin made similar calculations. See Franklin's Works, edited by Jared Sparks, LL.D., 2, p. 319. There are now living some who will see the political center of the Union near the Mississippi; and already the commerce of the great lakes exceeds the total foreign commerce of the United States. See Cooper's Cont. to Smithsonian Inst. 1858, paper on the region west of the Mississippi."
For further reading concerning early modern international history as it pertained to America, see:
Governor Jonathan Belcher's Proclamation Concerning International Peace Treaty.
EDITOR [THORNTON]'S PREFATORY NOTE.
PRESIDENT STILES was one of the most learned and high-minded men of his time. He was familiar with the lore of the Hebrew and Christian Church. He conversed and corresponded in Hebrew, Latin, and French, with facility, and was learned in the Oriental literature and antiquities connected with Biblical history. He taught in astronomy, chemistry, and philosophy. He and his friend Dr. Franklin were among the earliest statisticians in America, and his studies in this science exhibit the most comprehensive and enlightened views. That he was a thorough antiquary is manifest in his history of the Three Tyrannicides, and that he was a true son of New England appears in his saying that the day of the "martyrdom" of King Charles I. "ought to be celebrated as an anniversary thanksgiving that one nation on earth had so much fortitude and public justice as to make a royal tyrant bow to the sovereignty of the people."
By an extensive foreign correspondence he kept up with the progress of knowledge and discovery, to which he himself contributed. That he was a zealous and an understanding friend of civil and religious liberty, a man of practical knowledge and observation, a sagacious student of men and things, is apparent in his discourse on "Christian Union," 1760, as well as in this remarkable sermon of 1783, on the "United States elevated to Glory and Honor." Chancellor Kent said, at the Commencement at Yale College, in 1831: "President Stiles' zeal for civil and religious liberty was kindled at the altar of the English and New England Puritans, and it was animating and vivid. A more constant and devoted friend to the Revolution and independence of this country never existed. Take him for all in all, this extraordinary man was undoubtedly one of the purest and best gifted men of his age. Though he was uncompromising in his belief and vindication of the Protestant faith, he was nevertheless of the most charitable and catholic [tolerant] temper, resulting equally from the benevolence of his disposition and the spirit of the gospel."
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Ezra Stiles, son of Rev. Issac Stiles, was born in North Haven, Connecticut, December 10, 1727; graduated at Yale in 1747; delivered a Latin oration, in 1753, in memory of Dean Berkeley, and another at New Haven, in February, 1755, in honor of Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin, with whom he had a life-long friendship. He was minister at Newport, Rhode Island, from 1755 to the beginning of the war of the Revolution, in 1777; became pastor of the North Church in Portsmouth, but was soon appointed President of Yale College, an office which he adorned; and died May 12th, 1795.
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THE UNITED STATES ELEVATED TO GLORY AND HONOR.
HIS EXCELLENCY JONATHAN TRUMBULL, ESQ L.L.D.
Governor and Commander in Chief,
And the HONORABLE
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
OF The State of CONNECTICUT,
Convened at Hartford,
At the Anniversary ELECTION,
May 8th, 1783.
By EZRA STILES, D.D.
PRESIDENT OF YALE COLLEGE.
NEW HAVEN: Printed by THOMAS & SAMUEL GREEN. 1783
AND TO MAKE THEE HIGH ABOVE ALL NATIONS WHICH HE HATH MADE, IN PRAISE, AND IN NAME, AND IN HONOR; AND THAT THOU MAYEST BE AN HOLY PEOPLE UNTO THE LORD THY GOD. -- Deut. 26:19.
Taught by the omniscient Deity, Moses foresaw and predicted the capital events relative to Israel, through the successive changes of depression and glory, until their final elevation to the first dignity and eminence among the empires of the world. These events have been so ordered as to become a display of retribution and sovereignty; for, while the good and evil hitherto felt by this people have been dispensed in the way of exact national retribution, their ultimate glory and honor will be of the divine sovereignty, with a "Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord, be it known unto you, but for mine holy name's sake."
However it may be doubted whether political communities are rewarded and punished in this world only, and whether the prosperity and decline of other empires have corresponded with their moral state as to virtue and vice, yet the history of the Hebrew theocracy shows that the secular welfare of God's ancient people depended upon their virtue, their religion, their observance of that holy covenant which Israel entered into with God on the plains at the foot of Nebo, on the other side Jordan. Here Moses, the man of God, assembled three million of people--the number of the United States--recapitulated and gave them a second publication of the sacred jural institute, delivered thirty-eight years before, with the most awful [awe-inspiring] solemnity, at Mount Sinai. A law dictated with sovereign authority by the Most High to a people, to a world, a universe, becomes of invincible force and obligation without any reference to the consent of the governed. It is obligatory for three reasons, viz. its original justice and unerring equity; the omnipotent Authority by which it is enforced, and the sanctions of rewards and punishments. But in the case of Israel He condescended to a mutual covenant, and by the hand of Moses led His people to avouch the Lord Jehovah to be their God, and in the most public and explicit manner voluntarily to engage and covenant with God to keep and obey His Law. Thereupon this great prophet, whom God had raised up for so solemn a transaction, declared in the name of the Lord that the Most High avouched, acknowledged, and took them for a peculiar people to Himself; promising to be their God and Protector, and upon their obedience to make them prosperous and happy. (Deut. 29:10, 14; 30:9, 19.) He foresaw, indeed, their rejection of God, and predicted the judicial chastisement of apostasy--a chastisement involving the righteous with the wicked. But, as well to comfort and support the righteous in every age, and under every calamity, as to make his power known among all nations, God determined that a remnant should be saved. Whence Moses and the prophets, by divine direction, interspersed their writings with promises that when the ends of God's moral government should be answered in a series of national punishments, inflicted for a succession of ages, He would, by His irresistible power and sovereign grace, subdue the hearts of His people to a free, willing, joyful obedience; turn their captivity; recover and gather them "from all the nations whither the Lord had scattered them in his fierce anger; bring them into the land which their fathers possessed; and multiply them above their fathers, and rejoice over them for good, as he rejoiced over their fathers." (Deut. 30:3.) Then the words of Moses, hitherto accomplished but in part, will be literally fulfilled, when this branch of the posterity of Abraham shall be nationally collected, and become a very distinguished and glorious people, under the great Messiah, the Prince of Peace. He will then "make them high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor, and they shall become a holy people unto the Lord their God."
I shall enlarge no further upon the primary sense and literal accomplishment of this and numerous other prophecies respecting of both Jews and Gentiles in the latter-day glory of the church; for I have assumed the text only as introductory to a discourse upon the political welfare of God's American Israel, and as allusively prophetic of the future prosperity and splendor of the United States. We may, then, consider--
I. What reason we have to expect that, by the blessing of God, these States may prosper and flourish into a great American Republic, and ascend into high and distinguished honor among the nations of the earth. "To make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor."
II. That our system of dominion and civil polity would be imperfect without the true religion; or that from the diffusion of virtue among the people of any community would arise their greatest secular happiness: which will terminate in this conclusion, that holiness ought to be the end of all civil government. "That thou mayest be a holy people unto the Lord thy God."
I. The first of these propositions will divide itself into two branches, and lead us to show,
1. Wherein consists the true political welfare and prosperity, and what the civil administration necessary for the elevation and advancement of a people to the highest secular glory.
2. The reasons rendering it probable that the United States will, by the ordering of Heaven, eventually become this people. But I shall combine these together as I go along.
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Heaven has provided this country, not indeed derelict, but only partially settled, and consequently open for the reception of a new enlargement of Japheth. Europe was settled by Japheth; America is settling from Europe: and perhaps this second enlargement bids fair to surpass the first; for we are to consider all the European settlements of America collectively as springing from and transfused with the blood of Japheth. Already for ages has Europe arrived to a plenary, if not declining, population of one hundred millions; in two or three hundred years this second enlargement may cover America with three times that number, if the present ratio of increase continues with the enterprising spirit of Americans for colonization and removing out into the wilderness and settling new countries, [....] There may now be three or four millions of whites, or Europeans, in North and South America, of which one-half are in rapid increase, and the rest scarcely keeping their number good without supplies from the parent states. The number of French, Spaniards, Dutch, and Portuguese may be one million souls in all America, although they have transfused their blood into twice that number of Indians. The United States may be two million souls, whites, which have been an increase upon perhaps fewer than twenty or thirty thousand families from Europe. Can we contemplate their present, and anticipate their future increase, and not be struck with astonishment to find ourselves in the midst of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Noah? May we not see that we are the object which the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] had in view four thousand years ago, when He inspired the venerable patriarch with the visions respecting his posterity? How wonderful the accomplishments in distant and disconnected ages! While the principal increase was first in Europe, westward from Scythia, the residence of the family of Japheth, a branch of the original enlargement, extending eastward into Asia, and spreading round to the southward of the Caspian, became the ancient kingdoms of Media and Persia (Jos. Ant., lib. i. c. 6.): and thus he dwelled in the tents of Shem. Hence the singular and almost identical affinity between the Persic [Persian] and Teutonic languages, through all ages, to this day. And now the other part of the prophecy is fulfilling in a new enlargement, not in the tents of Shem, but in a country where Canaan shall be his servant, at least unto tribute.
I rather consider the American Indians as Canaanites of the expulsion of of Joshua, some of which, in Phoenician ships, coasted the Mediterranean to its mouth, as appears from an inscription which they left there. Procopius, who was born in Palestine, a master of the Phoenician and other oriental languages, and the historiographer of the great Belisarius, tells us that at Tangier he saw and read an inscription upon two marble pillars there, in the ancient Phoenician--not the then-modern Punic--letter, "We are they who have fled from the face of Joshua the robber, the son of Nun." ([* * *]) Bochart and Selden conjecture the very Punic itself. Plato, Aelian, and Diodorus Siculus narrate voyages into the Atlantic Ocean thirty days west from the Pillars of Hercules, to the island of Atlas. This inscription, examined by Procopius, suggests that the Canaanites, in coasting along from Tangier, might soon get into the trade winds and be undesignedly wafted across the Atlantic, land in the tropical regions, and commence the settlements of Mexico and Peru. Another branch of the Canaanitish expulsions might take the resolution of the ten tribes, and travel north-eastward to where never man dwelt, become the Tchuschi and Tungusi Tartars about Kamschatka and Tscukotskoinoss, in the north-east of Asia; thence, by water, passing over from island to island through the Northern Archipelago, to America, became the scattered Sachemdoms of these northern regions. It is now known that Asia is separated by water from America, as certainly appears from the Baron Dulfeldt's voyage round the north of Europe into the Pacific Ocean, A.D. 1769. Amidst all the variety of national dialects, there reigns a similitude in their language, as there is also in complexion and beardless features, from Greenland to Del Fuego, and from the Antilles to Otaheite, which show them to be one people.
A few scattered accounts, collected and combined together, may lead us to two certain conclusions: 1. That all the American Indians are one kind of people; 2. That they are the same as the people in the northeast of Asia.
An Asiatic territory, three thousand miles long and fifteen hundred wide, above the fortieth degree of latitude, to the hyperborean ocean, contains only one million of souls, settled as our Indians, as appears from the numerations and estimates collected by M. Muller and other Russian academicians in 1769. The Koreki, Jakuhti, and Tungusij, living on the eastern part of this territory next to America, are naturally almost beardless, like the Samoieds in Siberia, the Ostiacs and Calmucks, as well as the American Indians--all these having also the same custom of plucking out the few hairs of very thin beards. They have more similar usages, and few dissimilar ones, than the Arabians of the Koreish tribe and Jews who sprang from Abraham, or than those that subsist among European nations who sprang from one ancestor, or those Asiatic nations which sprang from Shem. The portrait painter, Mr. Smibert, who accompanied Dr. Berkeley, then Dean of Derry, and afterward Bishop of Cloyne, from Italy to America in 1728, was employed by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, while at Florence, to paint two or three Siberian Tartars, presented to the duke by the Czar of Russia. This Mr. Smibert, upon his landing at Narraganset Bay with Dr. Berkeley, instantly recognized the Indians here to be the same people as the Siberian Tartars whose pictures he had taken. Moravian Indians from Greenland and South America have met those in our latitude at Bethlehem [Pennsylvania], and have been clearly perceived to be the same people. The Kamschatdale Tartars have been carried over from Asia to America, and compared with our Indians, and found to be the same people. These Asiatic Tartars, from whom the American aboriginals derived, are distinct from and far less numerous than the Mongul and other Tartars which for ages, under Tamerlane and other chieftains, have deluged and overrun the southern ancient Asiatic empires. Attending to the rational and just deductions from these and other disconnected data combined together, we may perceive that all the [Native] Americans are one people--that they came hither certainly from the northeast of Asia; probably, also, from the Mediterranean; and if so, that they are Canaanites, though arriving hither by different routes. The ocean current from the north of Asia might waft the beardless Samoieds or Tchuschi from the mouth of Jenesea or the Oby, around Nova Zembla to Greenland, and thence to Labrador, many ages after the refugees from Joshua might have colonized the tropical regions. Thus Providence might have ordered three divisions of the same people from different parts of the world, and perhaps in very distant ages, to meet together on this continent, or "our island," as the Six Nations call it, to settle different parts of it, many ages before the present accession of Japheth, or the former visitation of Madoc, 1001, or the certain colonization from Norway, A.D. 1001, as well as the certain Christianizing of Greenland in the ninth century, not to mention the visit of still greater antiquity by the Phoenicians, who charged the Dighton rock, and other rocks in Narraganset Bay, with Punic inscriptions, remaining to this day--which last I myself have repeatedly seen and taken off at large, as did Professor Sewall. He has lately transmitted a copy of this inscription to M. Gebelin, of the Parisian Academy of Sciences, who, comparing them with the Punic paleography, judges them Punic, and has interpreted them as denoting that the ancient Carthaginians once visited these distant regions.
Indians are numerous in the tropical regions; not so elsewhere. Baron la Hontan, [in] the last century, and Mr. Carver so lately as 1776 and 1777, traveled northwest beyond the sources of the Mississippi. From their observations it appears that the ratio of Indian population, in the very heart of the continent, is similar to that on this side of the Mississippi. By an accurate numeration made in 1766, and returned into the plantation office in London, it appeared that there were not forty thousand souls, Indians, from the Mississippi to the Atlantic, and from Florida to the Pole. According to Mr. Carver, (Carver's Trav., p. 415) there are about thirty, and certainly not forty, Indian tribes west of the Senecas and Six Nation confederacy, and from the Mississippi and Ohio northward to Hudson's Bay, and from Niagara to the Lake of the Woods. The chiefs of all these speak the Chippeway language. And perhaps all the remaining territory north of New Spain, and even on this side the northern tropic, and northwestward to Asia, will not exhibit five times that number, at highest.
Partly by actual numeration, and party by estimate, the Indians in the Spanish dominions in America are considered as a million souls in New Spain, and a million and one-half in Peru; or two or three million souls in the whole. And perhaps this would fully comprehend those of Paraguay and the Portuguese provinces. In my opinion, great defalcation must be made from these numbers. The aboriginals have been injudiciously estimated at twenty millions; but I believe they never exceeded two or three million souls in all North and South America, since the days of Columbus.
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But, to return: The population of this land will probably become very great, and Japheth become more numerous millions in America than in Europe and Asia; and the two or three millions of the United States may equal the population of the Oriental empires, which far surpasses that of Europe. There are reasons for believing that the English increase will far surpass others, and that the diffusion of the United States will ultimately produce the general population of America. The northern provinces of China spread for ages, and at length deluged the southern with a very numerous and accumulated population. "In the multitude of people is the king's honor." (Prov. 14:28.)
But a multitude of people, even the two hundred million of the Chinese empire, cannot subsist without civil government. All the forms of civil polity have been tried by mankind, except one, and that seems to have been reserved in Providence to be realized in America. Most of the states, of all ages, in their originals, both as to policy and property, have been founded in rapacity, usurpation, and injustice; so that in the contests recorded in history, the public right is a dubious question--it being rather certain that it belongs to neither of the contending parties--the military history of all nations being but a description of the wars and invasions of the mutual robbers and devastators of the human race. The invasion of the lawless Macedonian, who effected the dissolution of the Medo-Persian empire; the widespread Roman conquests; the inundation of the Goths and Vandals; the descents of the Tartars on China; the triumphs of Tamerlane, Ulugh-beg, and Aurengzebe; and the widespread dominion of the imposter of Mecca, with his successors, the Caliphs and Mamelukes, down to Kouli-Kan, who dethroned his prince, and plundered India of two hundred millions sterling--these, I say, with the new distribution of property and new erected policies, were all founded in unrighteousness and tyrannical usurpation. The real interest of mankind, and the public good, has been generally overlooked. It has really been very indifferent to the great cause of right and liberty which of the belligerent powers prevailed--a Tangrolipix or a Mahomet, an Augustus or an Antony, a Scipio or a Hannibal, a Brennus or an Antiochus--tyranny being the sure portion of the plebeians, be the victory as it should happen. These things have led some very enlightened as well as serious minds to a fixed conclusion and judgment against the right and legality of all wars. In the simplicity of my judgment, I have for years been of this opinion, except as to the offensive wars of Israel and defensive war of America. War, in some instances, especially defensive, has been authorized by Heaven. The blessing given by Melchisedec to Abraham, upon his return from the slaughter of Chelderlaomer and the kings of the East, justified that holy patriarch. The war with Amelek, and the extirpation of the Canaanites by Joshua, were of God. The location of the respective territories to the first nations, was so of God as to give them a divine right defensively to resist the Nimrods and Ninuses, the first invading tyrants of the ancient ages. The originally free and glorious republics of Greece had a right from God to withstand the haughty claims of the Assyrian empire, which they successfully resisted for ages, till the Roman power arose behind them, and at length prostrated their liberties.
But after the spirit of conquest had changed the first governments, all the succeeding ones have, in general, proved one continued series of injustice, which has reigned in all countries for almost four thousand years. These have so changed property, laws, rights, and liberties, that it has become impossible for the most sagacious civilians to decide whose is the abstract political right in national controversies; rather, we know that none of them have any right. All original right is confounded and lost. We can only say that there still remains in the body of the people at large--the body of mankind, of any and every generation--a power, with which they are invested by the Author of their being, to wrest government out of the hands of reigning tyrants, and originate new policies, adapted to the conservation of liberty, and promoting the public welfare. But what is the happiest form of civil government, is the great question. Almost all the polities may be reduced to hereditary dominion, in either a monarchy or aristocracy, and these supported by a standing army. The Roman and Venetian senates were but a hereditary aristocracy, with an elective head. The senatorial succession is preserved independent of the people. True liberty is preserved in the Belgic and Helvetic republics, and among the nobles in the elective monarchy of Poland. For the rest of the world, the civil dominion, though often wisely administered, is so modeled as to be beyond the control of those for whose end God instituted government. But a democratical polity for millions, standing upon the broad basis of the people at large, amply charged with property, has not hitherto been exhibited.
Republics are democratical, aristocratical, or monarchical. Each of these forms admits of modifications, both as to hereditation and powers, from absolute government up to perfect liberty. Monarchy might be so limited, one would think, as to be a happy form, especially if elective; but both monarchy and aristocracy, when they become hereditary, terminate in the prostration of liberty. The greater part of the governments on earth may be termed monarchical aristocracies, or hereditary dominions independent of the people. The nobles and nabobs, being hereditary, will at first have great power; but the royal factions have not failed to intrigue this away from the nobles to the prince: the assembly of even hereditary nobles then become ciphers and nullities in dominion. The once glorious Cortes of Spain experienced this loss of power. It is next to an impossibility to tame a monarch; and few have ruled without ferocity. Scarcely shall we find in royal dynasties, in long line of princes, a few singularly good sovereigns--a few Cyruses, Antonini, Alfreds, Boroihmeses. Indeed, if we look over the present sovereigns of Europe, we behold with pleasure two young princes, the emperor, and the monarch of France, who seem to be raised up in Providence to make their people and mankind happy. A Ganganelli in the pontifical throne was a phoenix of ages, shone for his moment, and scarcely to be found again in the catalogue of a Platina. We see enterprising literary and heroic talents in a Frederick III, and wisdom in a Poniatowski. I add no more. But when we contemplate the other European and Asiatic pontentates, and especially the sovereigns of Delhi, Ispahaun, and Constantinople, one cannot but pity mankind whose lot is to be governed by despots of small abilities, [....] Nor could government proceed were not the errors and desultory blunders of royalty frequently corrected by the circumspection of a Colao, a few sensible characters, venerable for wisdom, called up among the stated councilors of majesty.
Lord [Francis] Bacon said that monarchy had a platform in nature; and, in truth, monarchical ideas reign through the universe. A monarchy conducted with infinite wisdom and infinite benevolence is the most perfect of all possible governments. The Most High has delegated power and authority to subordinate monarchies, or sole ruling powers, in limited districts, throughout the celestial hierarchy, and through the immensity of the intellectual world; but, at the same time, he has delegated and imparted to them wisdom and goodness adequate to the purposes of dominion; and thence the government is, as it ought to be, absolute. But in a world or region of the universe where God has imparted to none either this superior power or adequate wisdom beyond what falls to the common share of humanity, it is absurd to look for such qualities in one man--not even in the man Moses, who shared the government of Israel with the senate of seventy. Therefore there is no foundation for monarchical government from supposed hereditary superiority in knowledge. If it be said that monarchs always have a council of state, consisting of the wisest personages, of whose wisdom they avail themselves in the government of empires--not to observe that this is a concession indicating a deficiency of knowledge in princes--it may be asked, Why not, then, consign and respose government into the hands of the national council, where always resides the superiority of wisdom? The supposed advantage of having one public head for all to look up to, and to concenter [concentrate] the attention, obedience, and affection of subjects, and to consolidate the empire, will not counterbalance the evils of arbitrary despotism and the usual want of wisdom in the sovereigns and potentates of the earth. For the hereditary successions in the dynasties of kings, [...] seem to be marked and accursed by Providence with deficient wisdom. And where is the wisdom of consigning government into such hands? Why not much better--since we for once have our option or choice--to commit the direction of the republic to a Wittena-gemot, or an aristocratical council of wise men? Should we call forth and dignify some family, either from foreign nations or from among ourselves, and create a monarch, whether a hereditary prince or protector for life, and seat him in supremacy at the head of Congress, soon, with insidious dexterity, would he intrigue, and secure a venal majority even of new and annual members, and, by diffusing a complicated and variously modified influence, pursue an accretion of power till he became absolute.
The celebrated historian Mrs. Catherine Maccaulay, that ornament of the republic of letters, and the female Livy of the age, observes: "The man who holds supreme power for life will have a great number of friends and adherents, who are attached by interest to his interest, and who will wish for continuance of power in the same family. This creates the worst of factions, a government faction, in the state. The desire of securing to ourselves a particular unshared privilege is the rankest vice which infests humanity; and a protector for life, instead of devoting his time and understanding to the great cares of government, will be scheming and plotting to secure the power, after his death, to his children, if he has any, if not, to the nearest of his kin. This principle in government has been productive of such bloodshed and oppression that it has inclined politicians to give preference to hereditary rather than elective monarchies; and, as the lesser evil, to consign the government of society to the increasing and at length unlimited sway of one family, whether the individuals of it should be idiots or madmen. It is an uncontroverted fact, that supreme power never can continue long in one family without becoming unlimited." (Mrs. Maccaulay's letter to the author, 1771.)
We stand a better chance with aristocracy, whether hereditary or elective, than with monarchy. An unsystematical democracy and an absolute monarchy are equally detestable, equally a magormissabib, the terror to all around them. An elective aristocracy is preferable for America, as it is rather to be a council of nations--agreeable to the humane, liberal, and grand ideas of Henry IV, and the patriot Sully--than a body in which resides authoritative sovereignty; for there is no real cession of dominion, no surrender or transfer of sovereignty to the national council, as each state in the confederacy is an independent sovereignty.
In justice to human society it may perhaps be said of almost all the polities and civil institutions in the world, however imperfect, that they have been founded in and carried on with very considerable wisdom. They must have been generally well administered--I say generally--otherwise government could not proceed. This may be said even of those governments which carry great defects and the seeds of self-destruction and ruin in their constitution; for even an Ottoman or an Aurengzebe must establish and prescribe to himself a national constitution, a system of general laws and dominion. But the abstract rationale of perfect civil government remains still hidden among the desiderata of politics, having hitherto baffled the investigation of the best writers on government, the ablest politicians, and the sagest civilians. A well-ordered democratical aristocracy, standing upon the annual elections of the people, and revocable at pleasure, is the polity which combines the United States; and, from the nature of man and the comparison of ages, I believe it will approve itself the most equitable, liberal, and perfect.
With the people, especially a people seized of property, resides the aggregate of original power. They cannot, however, assemble from the territory of an empire, and must, therefore, if they have any share in government, represent themselves by delegation. This constitutes one order in legislature and sovereignty. It is a question whether there should be any other; to resolve which, it may be considered that each of these delegates, or representatives, will be faithful conservators of local interests, but have no interest in attending extensively to the public, further than where all particular local interests are affected in common with that which one delegate represents in particular.
It should seem, then, that the nature of society dictates another, a higher branch, whose superiority arises from its being the interested and natural conservator of the universal interest. This will be a senatorial order, standing, not on local, but a general election of the whole body of the people. Let a bill, or law, be read, in the one branch or the other, every one instantly thinks how it will affect his constituents. If his constituents are those of one small district only, they will be his first care; if the people at large, their general or universal interest will be his first care, the first object of his faithful attention. If a senator, as in Delaware, stands on the election of only the same district as a deputy, the Upper House is only the repetition of the lower; if on the election of several counties combined, as in Virginia, each member of the Upper House stands and feels himself charged with a greater and more extensive care than a member of the House of Burgesses: not but that it is the duty of each deputy to attend to the general interest. Georgia, Pennsylvania, and [New] Jersey, have each a Senate or Legislature of one order only; for although in Jersey it seems otherwise, yet that interest which will determine a vote in one, will determine it in both Houses. The same is true of the two Carolinas.
[Editor Thornton's Note:] The single legislature was a favorite idea with Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin, and it is said that the high authority of his opinions in France aided the adoption there; and from the want of the Senate, or Upper House, as a great balance wheel, came the horrors of the French Revolution.
The constitutions of Maryland and New York are founded in higher wisdom. The polity of Massachusetts is excellent, and truly grand; it retains, indeed, some of the shadows of royalty, which may give dignity, but never operate an essential mischief in the hands of a chief magistrate who is annually elected by the people at large. But Connecticut and Rhode Island have originally realized the most perfect polity as to a legislature. Any emendations and improvements may be made by the Assembly, with respect to the establishment of the law courts, and a constitutional privy council, which in all future time will be necessary to attend the chief magistrate in the ordinary civil administration. These things are remedied in Virginia, whose constitution seems to be imperfect in but one thing: its twenty-four senators, though elected from local districts, should be elected by the people at large--being men of such public eminence, and of merit so illustrious, as to be known, not to a few only, but to all the tribes throughout the state. It establishes judges quamdiu se bene gesserint. It provides perfectly for legislation and law courts, for the militia, and for that continual administration of government, in absence of assemblies and while the judiciary tribunals are sitting, which must reside in and be uninterruptedly exercised at the head of sovereignty in every civil polity.
It gives me pleasure to find that public liberty is effectually secured in each and all the policies of the United States, though somewhat differently modeled. Not only the polity, or exterior system of government, but the laws and interior regulations of each state, are already excellent, surpassing the institutions of Lycurgus or Plato; and by the annual appeals to the public a power is reserved to the people to remedy any corruptions or errors in government. And even if the people should sometimes err, yet each assembly of the states, and the body of the people, always embosom wisdom sufficient to correct themselves; so that a political mischief cannot be durable. Herein we far surpass any states on earth. We can correct ourselves, if in the wrong. The Belgic [Belgian] states, in their federal capacity, are united by a perfect system, constituted by that great prince, William of Nassau, and the compatriots of that age; but they left the interior government of the jural tribunals, cities, and provinces, as despotic and arbitrary as they found them. So the elective monarchical republic of Poland is an excellent constitution for the nobles, but leaves despotism and tyranny, the portion and hard fate of the plebeians, beyond what is to be found in any part of Europe. Not so the American states; their interior as well as exterior civil and jural polities are so nearly perfect, that the rights of individuals, even to numerous millions, are guarded and secured.
The crown and glory of our confederacy is the amphictyonic council of the General Congress, standing on the annual election of the united respective states, and revocable at pleasure. This lays the foundation of a permanent union in the American Republic, which may at length convince the world that, of all the policies to be found on earth, not excepting the very excellent one of the Chinese Empire, the most perfect one has been invented and realized in America.
If, in the multitude of devices for improving and carrying our policy to greater perfection and a more permanent and efficacious government--if, I say, some elevated geniuses should go into the ideas of monarchy, whether hereditary or elective, and others think of a partition of the United States into three or four separate independent confederacies, perhaps, upon discussing the subject calmly and thoroughly, and finding that the policy which will at last take place must stand on plebeian election, they may at length be satisfied that the die is already cast, and the policy has taken its complexion for ages to come. Thus the nine bowls engraved with the map of dominion established the policy of the Chinese empire for near twenty ages. (Du Halde, Hist. China.) The ancient division of the empire subsisted by means of these symbols of dominion, which passed in succession to the nine principal mandarins, or supreme governors under the imperial sovereignty; and this for the long tract from their first institution by the Emperor Yu, who reigned two thousand two hundred years before Christ, to Chey-lie-vang, who was contemporary with the great philosopher Menzius, three hundred years before Christ. So that symbol of union, the American flag, with its increasing stripes and stars, may have an equally combining efficacy for ages. The senatorial constitution and consulate of the Roman Empire lasted from Tarquin to Caesar. The pragmatic sanction has probably secured the imperial succession in the House of Austria for ages. The Medo-Persian and Alexandrian empires, and that of Tamerlane, who reigned, A.D. 1400, from Smyrna to the Ganges, were, for obvious reasons, of short and transitory duration; but that of the Assyrian endured, without mutation, through a tract of one thousand three hundred years, from Semiramis to Sardanapalus. Nor was the policy of Egypt overthrown for a longer period, from the days of Mitzraim till the time of Cambyses and Amasis. Whatever mutations may arise in the United States, perhaps hereditary monarchy and a standing army will be the last.
Besides a happy policy as to civil government, it is necessary to institute a system of law and jurisprudence founded in justice, equity, and public right. The American codes of law, and the lex non scripta, the senatus consulta, and the common law, are already advanced to great perfection--far less complicated and perplexed than the jural systems of Europe, where reigns a mixture of Roman, Gothic, Teutonic, Salic, Saxon, Norman, and other local or municipal law, controlled or innovated and confused by subsequent royal edicts and imperial constitutions, superinducing the same mutation as did the imperatorial decrees of the Caesars upon the ancient jus civile, or Roman law. A depuration from all these will take place in America, and our communication with all the world will enable us to bring home the most excellent principles of law and right to be found in every kingdom and empire on earth. These being adopted here may advance our systems of jurisprudence to the highest purity and perfection--especially if hereafter some Fleta, Bracton, Coke, some great law genius, should arise, and, with vast erudition, and with the learned sagacity of a Trebonianus, reduce and digest all into one great jural system.
But the best laws will be of no validity unless the tribunals be filled with judges of independent sentiment, vast law knowledge, and of an integrity beyond the possibility of corruption. Even a [Sir Francis] Bacon should fall from his highest honors the moment he tastes the forbidden fruit. Such infamy and tremendous punishment should be connected with tribunal bribery, that a judge should be struck into the horror of an earthquake at the very thoughts of corruption. The legislatures have the institution and revocation of law; and the judges in their decisions are to be sacredly governed by the laws of the land. Most of the states have judged it necessary, in order to keep the supreme law courts uninfluenced and uncorrupted tribunals, that the judges be honorably supported, and be fixed in office quamdiu se bene gesserint.
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Another object of great attention in America will be commerce. In order to form some ideas respecting it in the United States, we may take a summary view of it while we were in connection with Britain, and thence judge what it may be after we shall have recovered from the shock of this war.
The British merchants represented that they received some profit indeed from Virginia and South Carolina, as well as the West Indies; but as for the rest of this continent, they were constant losers in trade. Mr. Glover has candidly disclosed the truth; and he and other writers enable us to form some ideas of the matter. It appears, from an undecennary account laid before Parliament in 1776, that the state of commerce between England only and English America, for the eleven years preceding hostilities, was thus:
Exports to the Imports from the
Continental colonies, 26 3/4 mil. ster. 13 3/4 mil. ster.
West Indies, ............ 14 1/4 " " 35 1/4 " " }*
Total, 41 " " 49 " "
* mostly on acct. of the continental colonies.
A commerce of twenty-six million exports, and only thirteen million imports, is self-annihilated and impossible. The returns from the West Indies comprehended a great part of the continental remittances. The American merchants, by a circuitous trade from this continent and from Africa, remitted to London and Britain, by way of the West Indies, in bills of exchange drawn on sugars, the balance of what they seem to fall short in direct remittances on the custom house books.
The whole American commerce monopolized by Great Britain must be considered collectively, and was to England only in the above account forty-one million exports, and forty-nine million imports. This, inclusive of the twelve per cent. charged, amounted to a real annual profit of thirty-two per cent. to the English merchants, in actual remittances of the year, besides a standing American debt, it is said, of six million, carrying interest. Well might the British merchants sustain a loss in American bankruptcies of a million a year--though probably at an average not five or ten thousand--in so lucrative a trade. An idea of the mercantile debt may be thus conceived. There is a district within the United States upon which the state of European trade at the commencement of hostilities was thus; being chiefly carried on by foreign factorages--a mode of commerce which the British merchants intended to have been universal. In the course of a systematical trade had at length arisen a standing debt of a million sterling, among about a quarter of a million of people. To feed this the British merchants sent over one quarter of a million sterling annually; for which, and collected debts, they received in actual remittance half a million sterling within the same year; i.e., a quarter of a million returned half a million, and fed or kept up a debt of one million, paying to Britain an annual lawful interest; the security of all which complicated system stood upon American mortgages. This is true mercantile secret history.
If this specimen applied to all the States--and, God be thanked! it does not--it would show not only the greatness and momentous importance of our trade to Europe, but the necessity of legislative regulations in commerce, to invalidate future foreign mortgages, and yet support credit by the enforcement of punctual, speedy, and certain payments, whether with profit or loss. Without this no permanent commerce can be supported. I observed that the above specimen may assist us. It is not necessary for every purpose to come to great exactness in capital estimates. The total exterior commerce of Great Britain with all the world is about twelve millions annually; of which five millions, or near half, was of American connection, and four millions of this directly American, as Mr. Glover asserts; and the real profit of the American trade was become to Britain equal to nearly half the benefit of her total exterior commerce to the whole world. The total of British exports to all the world, A.D. 1704, was only six millions and a half sterling. The American British trade, in its connections, returns, and profits, nearly equaled this, A.D. 1774. We were better to Britain than all the world was to her seventy years before. Despised as our commerce was, it is evident that, had the union continued, our increasing millions would soon have made remittances for more than the fewer millions of Britain could have manufactured for exportation; for the greater part of the manufacture of every country must be for domestic consumption. A specimen of this we have in the woolen manufacture. England grows eleven million fleeces a year, worth two million sterling, manufactured into eight million; of which six million is of domestic consumption, and two million only for exportation. When it is considered that a great part of this went to other countries, how weak must be the supposition that Britain clothed America; while America, from the beginning, in their own domestic manufactures, furnished nine-tenths of their apparel.
Our trade opens to all the world. We shall doubtless at first overtrade ourselves everywhere, and be in danger of incurring heavy mortgages, unless prevented. The nations will not at first know how far they may safely trade with us. But commerce will find out its own system, and regulate itself in time. It will be governed on the part of America by the cheapest foreign markets; on the part of Europe, by our ability and punctuality of remittance. We can soon make a remittance of three or four million a year, in a circuitous trade, exclusive of the iniquitous African trade.
[Editor Thornton's Note regarding Stiles' anti-slavery views:] The pulpits of Dr. Stiles and Dr. Hopkins, at Newport, R.I.--[Newport being] then the headquarter of the African slave trade--afford models of apostolic fidelity in Gospel preaching of "the sins of the times." They were Christian heroes. See Dr. Park's Memoir of Samuel Hopkins, D.D., 1854. [Hopkins was a protege of Jonathan Edwards.]
If Europe should indulge us beyond this, our failures and disappointments might lay the foundation of national animosities. Great wisdom is therefore necessary to regulate the commerce of America. The caution with which we are to be treated may occasion and originate a commercial system among the maritime nations on both sides of the Atlantic, founded in justice and reciprocity of interest, which will establish the benevolence as well as the opulence of nations, and advance the progress of society to civil perfection.
It is certainly for the benefit of every community that it be transfused with the efficacious motives of universal industry. This will take place if everyone can enjoy the fruits of his labor and activity unmolested. All the variety of labor in a well-regulated state will be so ordered and encouraged as that all will be employed, in a just proportion, in agriculture, mechanic arts, commerce, and the literary professions. It has been a question whether agriculture or commerce needs most encouragement in these states. But the motives for both seem abundantly sufficient. Never did they operate more strongly than at present. The whole continent is [in] activity, and in the lively, vigorous exertion of industry. Several other things call for encouragement, as the planting of vineyards, and olive yards, and cotton walks; the raising of wool, planting mulberry trees, and the culture of silk and, I add, establishing manufactories. The last is necessary, very necessary--far more necessary, indeed, than is thought by many deep politicians. Let us have all the means possible of subsistence and elegance among ourselves, if we would be a flourishing republic of real independent dignity and glory.
[Editor Thornton's Note:] [* * *] The imports from Great Britain in 1784 and 1785 amounted in value to thirty millions of dollars, while the exports did not exceed nine millions. This ruinous competition was checked by the law of 1789, proposed by Hamilton, for the encouragement of manufactures, to which the war of 1812 gave a fresh impulse. They have felt the fluctuations of party and of commerce, but the United States are now far advanced to the "real independent dignity" foreseen by Dr. Stiles in 1783. Arkwright and Whitney, Fulton and Watt, divide the honors in this noble competition of industry. [* * *]
Another thing tending to the public welfare is removing causes of political animosities and civil dissension, promoting harmony, and strengthening the union among the several parts of this extended community. In the memorable bellum sociale among the Romans, three hundred thousand of Roman blood fought seven hundred thousand brethren of the Italian blood. After a loss of sixty thousand, in disputing a trifling point of national honor, they pacificated the whole by an amnesty, and giving the city to the Italians. We may find it a wise policy, a few years hence, under certain exceptions, to settle an amnesty and circulate a brotherly affection among all the inhabitants of this glorious republic. We should live henceforward in amity, as brothers inspired with and cultivating a certain national benevolence, unitedly glorying in the name of a Columbian or American, and in the distinguished honor and aggrandizement of our country--like that ancient national affection which we once had for the parent state while we gloried in being a part of the British empire, and when our attachment and fidelity grew to an unexampled vigor and strength. This appeared in the tender distress we felt at the first thoughts of the dissolution of this ancient friendship. We once thought Britain our friend, and gloried in her protection. But some demon ([the Earl of] Bute) whispered folly into the present reign, and Britain forced upon America the tremendous alternative of the loss of liberty or the last appeal, either of which instantly alienated and dissolved our affection. It was impossible to hesitate, and the affection is dissolved, never, never more to be recovered; like that between Syracuse and Athens, it is lost forever. A political earthquake through the continent hath shook off America from Great Britain. Oh, how painful and distressing the [political] separation and dismemberment! Witness, all you patriotic [...] [hearts], all you lovers of your country, once lovers of Great Britain--witness the tender sensations and heartfelt violence, the reluctant distress and sorrow, [...] when, spurned from a parent's love, you felt the conviction of the dire necessity of an everlasting parting to meet no more--never to be united again!
[Editor Thornton's Note:] In a sermon, preached in 1760, on the conquest of Canada, Dr. Stiles said: "It is probable that in time there will be a Provincial Confederacy and a Common Council, and this may in time terminate in an Imperial Diet, when the imperial dominion will subsist, as it ought, in election." The sagacious author saw the "imperial dominion," as he called it in 1760, or "amnesty," as he termed it in 1783, consummated in the unanimous election of Washington in 1789 as President of the Republic--of "the people of the United States." This foreseeing, this repeated prediction, first of the Confederacy, and then of its "terminating" "in a few years" in the Union, is one of the most remarkable instances of political foresight and sagacity on record.
O, England! How did I once love thee! How did I once glory in thee! How did I once boast of springing from thy bowels, though at four descents ago, and the nineteenth from Sir Adam of Knapton! In the rapturous anticipation of thine enlargement and reflourishing in this western world, how have I been wont to glory in the future honor of having thee for the head of the Britannico-American empire for the many ages till the millennium, when thy great national glory should have been advanced in then becoming a member of the universal empire of the Prince of Peace! And if perchance, in some future period, danger should have arisen to thee from European states, how have I flown on the wings of prophecy, with the numerous hardy hosts of thine American sons inheriting thine ancient principles of liberty and valor, to rescue and reinthrone the hoary, venerable head of the most glorious empire on earth! But now, farewell--a long farewell--to all this greatness! And yet even now, methinks, in such an exigency, I could leap the Atlantic, not into thy bosom, but to rescue an aged parent from destruction, and then return on the wings of triumph to this asylum of the world, and rest in the bosom of Liberty.
[Editor Thornton's Note (1860): It is grand to find the magnanimous feelings and views of early times, briefly interrupted, again asserting their legitimate power in the leading minds of this day, and none would more enjoy and value the flow of good feeling and sound sense in the following passage than Washington and his associates:
"Of all countries known in history, the North American Republic is most conspicuously marked by the fusion, or rather the absence, of rank and social distinctions, by community of interests, by incessant and all-pervading intercommunication, by the universal diffusion of education, and the abundant facilities of access not only to the periodical conduits, but to the permanent reservoirs of knowledge. The condition of England is in all these respects closely assimilated to that of the United States; and not only the methods, but the instruments of proper instruction are fast becoming the same in both, and there is a growing conviction among the wise of the two great empires that the highest interests of both will be promoted by reciprocal good will and unrestricted [...] [international relations], periled by jealousies and estrangement. Favored, then, by the mighty elective affinities, the powerful harmonic attractions which subsist between the Americans and the Englishmen as brothers of one blood, one speech, one faith, we may reasonably hope that the Anglican tongue, on both sides of the Atlantic, as it grows in flexibility, comprehensiveness, expression, wealth, will also more and more clearly manifest the organic unity of its branches, and that national jealousies, material rivalries, narrow interests, will not disjoin and shatter that great instrument of social advancement which God made one, as He made one the spirit of the nation that uses it."
--- Marsh, "English Language in America," Lecture 30, 1860.
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Although, in every political administration, the appointment to offices will ever be considerably influenced by the sinister, private, personal motives either of interest or friendship, yet the safety of the state requires that this should not go too far. An administration may indeed proceed tolerably when the officers of a well-arranged system are in general ordinary characters, provided there is a pretty good sprinkling of men of wisdom interspersed among them. How much more illustrious would it be if three-quarters of the offices of government were filled with men of ability, understanding, and patriotism! What an animation would it diffuse through a community if men of real merit in every branch of business were sure of receiving the rewards and honors of the state! That great and wise monarch, Olam Fodhla, the Alfred of Ireland, one thousand years before Christ, instituted an annual review and examination of all the achievements and illustrious characters in the realm; and, being approved by himself and the annual assembly of the nobles, he ordered their names and achievements to be enrolled in a public register of merit. This continued two thousand years, to the time of that illustrious chieftain, Brien O'Boroihme. This had an amazing effect. By this animation, the heroic, military, and political virtues, with civilization, and, I add, science and literature, ascended to an almost unexampled and incredible perfection in Ireland, ages before they figured in other parts of Europe, not excepting even Athens and Rome. I have a very great opinion of Hibernian [Irish] merit, literary as well as civil and military, even in the ages before St. Patrick.
But to return: The cultivation of literature will greatly promote the public welfare. In every community, while provision is made that all should be taught to read the Scriptures, and the very useful parts of common education, a good proportion should be carried through the higher branches of literature. Effectual measures should be taken for preserving and diffusing knowledge among a people. The voluntary institution of libraries in different vicinities will give those who have not a liberal education an opportunity of gaining that knowledge which will qualify them for usefulness. Travels, biography, and history, the knowledge of the policies, jurisprudence, and scientific improvements among all nations, ancient and modern, will form the civilian, the judge, the senator, the patrician, the man of useful eminence in society. The colleges have been of singular advantage in the present day. When Britain withdrew all her wisdom from America, this revolution found above two thousand, in New England only, who had been educated in the colleges, intermixed among the people, and communicating knowledge among them. Almost all of them have approved themselves useful; and there have been some characters among us of the first eminence for literature. It would be for the public emolument should there always be found a sufficient number of men in the community at large of vast and profound erudition, and perfect acquaintance with the whole system of public affairs, to illuminate the public councils, as well as fill the three learned professions with dignity and honor.
I have thus shown wherein consists the true political welfare of a civil community or sovereignty. The foundation is laid [...] in a good system of polity and jurisprudence, on which will arise, under a truly patriotic, upright, and firm administration, the beautiful superstructure of a well-governed and prosperous empire.
Already does the new constellation of the United States begin to realize this glory. It has already risen to an acknowledged sovereignty among the republics and kingdoms of the world. And we have reason to hope, and, I believe, to expect, that God has still greater blessings in store for this vine which His own right hand has planted, to make us high among the nations in praise, and in name, and in honor. The reasons are very numerous, weighty, and conclusive.
In our civil constitutions, those impediments are removed which obstruct the progress of society toward perfection, such, for instance, as respect the tenure of estates, and arbitrary government. The vassalage of dependent tenures, the tokens of ancient conquests by Goths and Tartars, still remain all over Asia and Europe. In this respect, as well as others, the world begins to open its eyes. One grand experiment, in particular, has lately been made. The present Empress of Russia, by granting lands in freehold, in her vast wildernesses of Volkouskile, together with religious liberty, has allured and already drafted from Poland and Germany a colonization of six hundred thousand souls in six years only, from 1762 to 1768.
Liberty, civil and religious, has sweet and attractive charms. The enjoyment of this, with property, has filled the English settlers in America with a most amazing spirit, which has operated, and still will operate, with great energy. Never before has the experiment been so effectually tried of every man's reaping the fruits of his labor and feeling his share in the aggregate system of power. The ancient republics did not stand on the people at large, and therefore no example or precedent can be taken from them. Even men of arbitrary principles will be obliged, if they would figure in these states, to assume the patriot so long that they will at length become charmed with the sweets of liberty.
Our degree of population is such as to give us reason to expect that this will become a great people. It is probable that within a century from our independence the sun will shine on fifty millions of inhabitants in the United States. This will be a great, a very great nation, nearly equal to half Europe. Already has our colonization extended down the Ohio, and to Koskaseah on the Mississippi. And if the present ratio of increase should be rather diminished in some of the other settlements, yet an accelerated multiplication will attend our general propagation, and overspread the whole territory westward for ages. So that before the millennium the English settlements in America may become more numerous millions than that greatest dominion on earth, the Chinese Empire. Should this prove a future fact, how applicable would be the text, when the Lord shall have made His American Israel high above all nations which He has made, in numbers, and in praise, and in name, and in honor!
I am sensible some will consider these as visionary, utopian ideas; and so they would have judged had they lived in the apostolic age, and been told that by the time of Constantine, the Empire would have become Christian. As visionary that the twenty thousand souls which first settled New England should be multiplied to near a million in a century and a half. As visionary that the Ottoman Empire must fall by the Russian. [* * *] As utopian would it have been to the loyalists, at the battle of Lexington, that in less than eight years the independence and sovereignty of the United States should be acknowledged by four European sovereignties, one of which should be Britain herself. How wonderful the revolutions, the events of Providence! We live in an age of wonders; we have lived an age in a few years; we have seen more wonders accomplished in eight years than are usually unfolded in a century.
God be thanked, we have lived to see peace restored to this bleeding land, at least a general cessation of hostilities among the belligerent powers. And on this occasion does it not become us to reflect how wonderful, how gracious, how glorious has been the good hand of our God upon us, in carrying us through so tremendous a warfare! We have sustained a force brought against us which might have made any empire on earth to tremble; and yet our bow has abode in strength, and, having obtained help of God, we continue unto this day. Forced unto the last solemn appeal, America watched for the first blood; this was shed by Britons on the nineteenth of April, 1775, which instantly sprung an army of twenty thousand into spontaneous existence, with the enterprising and daring, if imprudent, resolution of entering Boston and forcibly disburdening it of its bloody legions. Every patriot trembled till we had proved our armor, till it could be seen whether this hasty concourse was susceptible of exercitual arrangement, and could face the enemy with firmness. They early gave us the decided proof of this in the memorable battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775). We were satisfied. This instantly convinced us, and for the first time convinced Britons themselves, that Americans both would and could fight with great effect. Whereupon Congress put at the head of this spirited army the only man on whom the eyes of all Israel were placed. Posterity, I apprehend, and the world itself, inconsiderate and incredulous as they may be of the dominion of Heaven, will yet do so much justice to the divine moral government as to acknowledge that this American Joshua was raised up by God, and divinely formed, by a peculiar influence of the Sovereign of the universe, for the great work of leading the armies of this American Joseph (now separated from his brethren), and conducting this people through the severe, the arduous conflict, to liberty and independence. Surprising was it with what instant celerity men ascended and rose into generals, and officers of every subordination, formed chiefly by the preparatory discipline of only the preceding year 1774, when the ardor and spirit of military discipline was by Heaven, and without concert, sent through the continent like lightning. Surprising was it how soon the army was organized, took its formation, and rose into firm system and impregnable arrangement.
To think of withstanding and encountering Britain by land was bold, and much more bold and daring by sea; yet we immediately began a navy, and built ships of war with an unexampled expedition. It is presumed never was a thirty-five-gun ship before built quicker than that well-built, noble ship. the Raleigh, which was finished from the keel and equipped for sea in a few months. Soon had we got, though small, a very gallant initial navy, which fought gallantly, and wanted nothing but numbers of ships for successful operations against that superior naval force before which we fell. We have, however, exhibited proof to posterity and the world that a powerful navy may be originated, built, and equipped for service in a much shorter period than was before imagined. The British navy has been many centuries growing; and France, Holland, the Baltic powers, or any of the powers of this age, in twenty years may build navies of equal magnitude, if necessary for dominion, commerce, or ornament.
A variety of success and defeat has attended our warfare both by sea and land. In our lowest and most dangerous estate, in 1776 and 1777, we sustained ourselves against the British army of sixty thousand troops, commanded by Howe, Burgoyne, and Clinton, and other the ablest generals Britain could procure throughout Europe, with a naval force of twenty-two thousand seamen in above eighty British men-of-war. These generals we sent home, one after another, conquered, defeated, and convinced of the impossibility of subduing America. While oppressed by the heavy weight of this combined force, Heaven inspired us with resolution to cut the gordian knot, when the die was cast irrevocable in the glorious act of Independence. This was sealed and confirmed by God Almighty in the victory of General Washington at Trenton, and in the surprising movement and battle of Princeton, by which astonishing effort of generalship General Howe and the whole British army, in elated confidence and in open-mouthed march for Philadelphia, was instantly stopped, remanded back, and cooped up for a shivering winter in the little borough of Brunswick. Thus God "turned the battle to the gate," and this gave a finishing to the foundation of the American Republic. This, with the Burgoynade at Saratoga by General Gates, and the glorious victory over the Earl of Cornwallis in Virginia, together with the memorable victory of Entaw Springs, and the triumphant recovery of the southern states by General Greene, are among the most heroic acts and brilliant achievements which have decided the fate of America. And who does not see the indubitable interposition and energetic influence of Divine Providence in these great and illustrious events? Who but a Washington, inspired by Heaven, could have struck out the great movement and maneuver at Princeton? To whom but the Ruler of the winds shall we ascribe it that the British reinforcement, in the summer of 1777, was delayed on the ocean three months by contrary winds, until it was too late for the conflagrating General Clinton to raise the siege of Saratoga? What but a providential miracle detected the conspiracy of [Benedict] Arnold, even in the critical moment of the execution of that infernal plot, in which the body of the American army, then at West Point, with His Excellency General Washington himself, were to have been rendered into the hands of the enemy? Doubtless inspired by the Supreme Illuminator of great minds were the joint counsels of a Washington and a Rochambeau in that grand effort of generalship with which they deceived and astonished a Clinton, and eluded his vigilance, in their transit by New York and rapid marches for Virginia. Was it not of God that both the navy and army should enter the Chesapeake at the same time? Who but God could have ordained the critical arrival of the Gallic fleet, so as to prevent and defeat the British, and assist and cooperate with the combined armies in the siege and reduction of Yorktown? Should we not ever admire and ascribe to a Supreme Energy the wise and firm generalship displayed by General Greene when, leaving the active, roving Cornwallis to pursue his helter-skelter, ill-fated march into Virginia, he coolly and steadily went onwards, and deliberately, judiciously, and heroically recovered the Carolinas and the southern states?
([Stiles' Note:] To lose America has cost Britain the loss of more than a hundred thousand men, and a hundred and twenty millions sterling in money. Mr. Thomas Pitt, from authentic documents, lately asserted in Parliament that only the first five years of this war had cost Britain five millions more than all the wars of the last age, including the splendid victories of the Duke of Marlborough.)
How rare have been the defections and apostasies of our capital characters, though tempted with all the charms of gold, titles, and nobility! Whence is it that so few of our army have deserted to the enemy? Whence that our brave sailors have chosen the horrors of prison ships and death, rather than to fight against their country? Whence that men of every rank have so generally felt and spoken alike, as if the cords of life struck unison through the continent? What but a miracle has preserved the union of the States, the purity of Congress, and the unshaken patriotism of every General Assembly? It is God, who has raised up for us a great and powerful ally--an ally which sent us a chosen army and a naval force; who sent us a Rochambeau and a Chastelleux, and other characters of the first military merit and eminence, to fight side by side with a Washington and a Lincoln, and the intrepid Americans, in the siege and battle of Yorktown. It is God who so ordered the balancing interests of nations as to produce an irresistible motive in the European maritime powers to take our part. Hence the recognition of our independence by Spain and Holland, as well as France. Britain ought to have foreseen that it must have given joy to surrounding nations, tired and wearied out with the insolence and haughtiness of her domineering flag--a flag which spread terror through the oceans of the terraqueous globe--to behold the era when their forces should have arrived at such maturity and strength that a junction of national navies would produce an aggregate force adequate to the humiliation of Britain and her gallant and lofty navy. Nor could they resist the operation of this motive prompting them to assist in the cutting off of a member with which the growing aggrandizement and power of Britain were connected, as thus she would be disarmed of terror, and they should be at rest. If Britain does not learn wisdom by these events, and disclaim the sovereignty of the ocean, the junction of national navies will settle the point for her in less than half a century; so wonderfully does Divine Providence order the time and coincidence of the public national motives, cooperating in effecting great public events and revolutions.
But the time would fail me to recount the wonder-working providence of God in the events of this war. Let these serve as a specimen, and lead us to hope that God will not forsake this people for whom He has done such marvelous things--whereof we are glad, and rejoice this day--having at length brought us to the dawn of peace. O Peace, thou welcome guest, all hail! Thou heavenly visitant, calm the tumult of nations, and wave thy balmy wing to perpetuity over this region of liberty! Let there be a tranquil period for the unmolested accomplishment of the Magnalia Dei--the great events in God's moral government designed from eternal ages to be displayed in these ends of the earth.
And here I beg leave to congratulate my country upon the termination of this cruel and unnatural war, the cessation of hostilities, and the prospect of peace. May this great event excite and elevate our first, our highest acknowledgments to the Sovereign Monarch of universal nature, to the Supreme Disposer and Controller of all events! Let this, our pious, sincere, and devout gratitude, ascend in one general effusion of heartfelt praise and hallelujah, in one united cloud of incense, even the incense of universal joy and thanksgiving, to God, from the collective body of the United States.
And while we render our supreme honors to the Most High, the God of armies, let us recollect with affectionate honor the bold and brave sons of freedom who willingly offered themselves and bled in the defense of their country. Our fellow citizens, the officers and soldiers of the patriot army, who, with the Manlys, the Joneses, and other gallant commanders and brave seamen of the American navy, have heroically fought the war by sea and by land, merit of their once bleeding but now triumphant country laurels, crowns, rewards, and the highest honors. Never was the profession of arms used with more glory, or in a better cause, since the days of Joshua the son of Nun. O Washington! How do I love thy name! How have I often adored and blessed thy God for creating and forming thee the great ornament of humankind! Upheld and protected by the Omnipotent, by the Lord of hosts, thou hast been sustained and carried through one of the most arduous and most important wars in all history. The world and posterity will with admiration contemplate thy deliberate, cool, and stable judgment, thy virtues, thy valor, and heroic achievements, as far surpassing those of a Cyrus, whom the world loved and adored. The sound of thy fame shall go out into all the earth, and extend to distant ages. Thou hast convinced the world of the beauty of virtue; for in thee this beauty shines with distinguished luster. Those who would not recognize any beauty in virtue in the world beside, will yet reverence it in thee. There is a glory in thy disinterested benevolence which the greatest characters would purchase, if possible, at the expense of worlds, and which may excite indeed their emulation, but cannot be felt by the venal great, who think everything, even virtue and true glory, may be bought and sold, and trace our every action to motives terminating in self--
"Find virtue local, all relation scorn;
See all in self, and but for self be born."
(Dunciad, b. 4, p. 480.)
But thou, O Washington! Forgottest thyself when thou lovedst thy bleeding country. Not all the gold of Ophir, nor a world filled with rubies and diamonds, could effect or purchase the sublime and noble feelings of thine heart in that single self-moved act when thou renouncedst the rewards of generalship, and heroically tookest upon thyself the dangerous as well as arduous office of our generalissimo, and this at a solemn moment, when thou didst deliberately cast the die for the dubious, the very dubious alternative of a gibbet or a triumphal arch. But, beloved, enshielded, and blessed by the great Melchisedec--the King of righteousness as well as peace--thou hast triumphed gloriously. Such has been thy military wisdom in the struggles of this arduous conflict--such the noble rectitude, amiableness, and mansuetude of thy character--something is there so singularly glorious and venerable thrown by Heaven about thee--that not only does thy country love thee, but our very enemies stop the madness of their fire in full volley, stop the illiberality of their slander at thy name, as if rebuked from Heaven with a "Touch not mine anointed, and do my hero no harm!" Thy fame is of sweeter perfume than Arabian spices in the gardens of Persia. A Baron de Steuben shall waft its fragrance to the monarch of Prussia; a Marquis de Lafayette shall waft it to a far greater monarch, and diffuse thy renown throughout Europe; listening angels shall catch the odor, waft it to heaven, and perfume the universe.
(The author does not doubt but that the capital events in the mediatorial kingdom on earth into which angels desire to look, especially those which respect the Protestant Zion, are subjects of extensive attention in heaven, and that characters of real and eminent merit in the cause of liberty and virtue are echoed and contemplated with great honor in the celestial realms.)
And, now that our warfare is ended, do thou, O man of God, greatly beloved of the Most High, permit a humble minister of the blessed Jesus--who, though at a distance, has vigilantly accompanied thee through every stage of thy military progress, has watched thine every movement and danger with a heartfelt anxiety and solicitude, and, with the most sincere and earnest wishes for thy safety and success, has not ceased day nor night to pray for thee, and to commend thee and thy army to God--condescend to permit him to express his most cordial congratulations, and to share in the triumphs of thy bosom, on this great and joyous occasion. We thank the Lord of Hosts that has given His servant to see His desire upon His enemies, and peace on Israel. And when thou shalt now at length retire from the fatigues of nine laborious compaigns to the tranquil enjoyment, to the sweetness and serenity of domestic life, may you never meet the fate of that ornament of arms and of humanity, the great Belisarius, but may a crown of universal love and gratitude, of universal admiration, and of the universal reverence and honor of thy saved country, rest and flourish upon the head of its veteran general and glorious defender, until, by the divine Jesus whom thou hast loved and adored, and of whose holy religion thou art not ashamed, thou shalt be translated from a world of war to a world of peace, liberty, and eternal triumph!
[Editor Thornton's Note:] Captain John Manly--"Jack Manly"--of Marblehead, Massachusetts, under a naval commission from Washington, October 24, 1775, hoisted the first American flag on board the schooner Lee. To him the first British flag was struck; and, on the 28th of November, 1775, he brought into Gloucester the first prize taken in behalf of the entire country, the English ship Nancy, from London for Boston, freighted with military supplies, which were taken by land to Cambridge, to the joy of Washington, and which were of immense value to the besieging army at that moment of absolute want. This was one of the wonderful interpositions in our favor so remarkable in our whole history. They christened one piece "The Congress." Captain Manly, eminent in naval annals, died in Boston, 1793, aged fifty-nine. --- Sabine's Fisheries of the American Seas, 200, 203; Babson's History of Gloucester, 397.
The time would fail me to commemorate the merits of the other capital characters of the army. To do this, and to pay the tribute of fraternal honor and respect to our glorious allied army, will belong to the future Homers, Livys, and Tassos of our country; for none but Americans can write the American war. They will celebrate the names of a Washington and a Rochambeau, a Greene and a Lafayette, a Lincoln and a Chastelleaux, a Gates and a Viomenil, a Putnam and a Duke de Lauzun, a Morgan and other heroes, who rushed to arms and offered themselves voluntarily for the defense of liberty. They will take up a lamentation and drop a tear upon the graves of those mighty ones--those beauties of Israel--who have fallen in battle from the day of Lexington to the victory of Yorktown. And while they commemorate those who have lived through singular sufferings--as those honorable personages, a Lovel, a Laurens, and a Gadsden--the names of the illustrious martyr-generals, Warren, Mercer, Montgomery, De Kalb, Wooster, Thomas, with a Polaski, and others, will be recorded as heroically falling in these wars of the Lord. But I may not enlarge, save only that we drop a tear, or rather showers of tears, upon the graves of those other brave officers and soldiers that fell in battle, or otherwise perished in the war. "O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears," that I might weep the thousands of our brethren that have perished in prison ships--in one of which, the Jersey, then lying at New York, perished above eleven thousand the last three years--while others have been barbarously exiled to the East Indies for life. [* * * * *] But how painful is it to recount the even less than ten-thousandth part of the series of distresses, the complicated woe and misery, that make up the system of sufferings which we have been called to endure in the pangs and throes of the parturition of empire, in "effecting our glorious revolution, in rescuing millions from the hand of oppression, and in laying the foundation of a great empire." (General Washington's address to the army, in general orders, April 19, 1783, on the cessation of hostilities.)
The patriot army merits our commemoration, and so do the great characters in the patriotic Assemblies and Congress. Let America never forget what they owe to those first intrepid defenders of her rights, the Honorable Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Hon. James Otis, Esq.; add to these the Hon. Dr. John Winthrop, Hon. James Bowdoin, Esq., who, with others, were the marked objects of ministerial vengeance, who early stepped forth and heroically withstood tyranny, and alarmed their country with its danger, while venal sycophants were lulling us to rest and hushing us into silence. His Excellency Mr. President Randolph merits our grateful commemoration, and so do the governors Rutledge, Ward, [William] Livingston, Hopkins, Nash, Clinton, the Hon. Messrs. Wythe, Dyer, Sherman, Pendleton, Henry, Ellery, the Lees, President Huntington, Lynch, Witherspoon, Wolcott, Gov. Paca, Gov. Hall, Law, Marchant, President McKean, Ellsworth, Vandyke, Jefferson--Jefferson, who poured the soul of the continent into the monumental act of Independence. These, and other worthy personages of this and the other states, will be celebrated in history among the cardinal patriots of this revolution. All the ages of man will not obliterate the meritorious name of His Excellency Governor [John] Hancock, as President of Congress at a most critical era, nor the meritorious names of that illustrious band of heroes and compatriots, those sensible and intrepid worthies who, with him, resolutely and nobly dared, in the face of every danger, to sign the glorious act of Independence. May their names live, be preserved, and transmitted to posterity with deserved reputation and honor, through all American ages!
NEW HAMPSHIRE.-- Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton.
MASSACHUSETTS BAY.-- Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry.
RHODE ISLAND.-- Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery.
CONNECTICUT. -- Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott.
NEW YORK. -- William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris.
NEW JERSEY. -- Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark.
PENNSYLVANIA. -- Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross.
DELAWARE. -- Caesar Rodney, George Read.
MARYLAND. -- Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll (of Carrollton).
VIRGINIA. -- George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.
NORTH CAROLINA. -- William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.
SOUTH CAROLINA. -- Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton.
GEORGIA. -- Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton.
Those great civilians and ambassadors, the illustrious Franklin, Adams, Jay, and Laurens, have approved themselves equal to the highest negotiations in the courts of nations, been faithful to their country's liberties, and, by their great and eminent services, have justly merited to have their names sent forward to immortality in history with renown and unsullied glory.
Great and extensive will be the happy effects of this warfare, in which we have been called in Providence to fight out not the liberties of America only, but the liberties of the world itself. The spirited and successful stand which we have made against tyranny will prove the salvation of England and Ireland, and, by teaching all sovereigns the danger of irritating and trifling with the affections and loyalty of their subjects, introduce clemency, moderation, and justice into public government at large through Europe. Already have we learned [taught] Ireland and other nations the road to liberty, the way to a redress of grievances, by open, systematical measures, Committees of Correspondence, and military discipline of an armed people. Ireland has become gloriously independent of England.
[Editor Thornton's Note:] January 1, 1800, ended that independence, and was the date of the legislative union between England and Ireland.
Nor will the spirit rest till Scotland becomes independent also. It would be happier for the three kingdoms to subsist with parliaments and national councils independent of one another, although confederated under one monarch. The union of 1707 has produced the loss and dismemberment of America. It is just possible that within this age some ill-fated counsellor of another connection might have arisen and prompted Majesty and Parliament to sanguinary measures against America; but it is more than probable that their enforcement would have been deferred, or procrastinated a century hence, or to a period when our accumulated population would have dictated wiser, milder measures to the British court; and so America, by a gentle, fraternal connection, would have remained cemented to Britain for distant ages. But a Rehoboam counsellor stepped in, et actum est de republica--the Ten Tribes are lost. Had it not been for the insidious and haughty counsels of a Bute and a Mansfield, imbued with principles incompatible with liberty, with the unwieldy faction of their despotic connections in the empire, America and Ireland had remained united with Britain to this day. Chagrined and mortified by the defeat and dishonor brought upon them by Butean counsels and dominion, as well as with their own curtailed and unequal weight in Parliament, Scotland, emulous of the glory of Ireland, will wish for and obtain a dissolution of the union, and resume a separate sovereignty. It must be the lenity, the wisdom, the gentle and pacific measures of an Augustan age that can conserve the remnant of the British empire from this tripartite division.
[Editor Thornton's Notes:] The pathos with which Dr. Stiles speaks of "the painful and distressing separation and dismemberment" from the mother country, and his vehement denunciation of the "demon" Bute, do not exaggerate the loyal temper of our fathers. They would have then been content with half the rights which the present British American Provinces enjoy. But the blindness of Governor Hutchinson to the character of his countrymen, and the consequent false impressions he gave to the British cabinet, the miserable weakness of Gage and Howe at Boston, and the madness of the king in forcing the colonies to union, show the providential government of God, and that His time for this great epoch in the history of human society was now come.
To the second edition, 1785, the author here made this prophetic note:
"And very soon will Bengal and the East Indies be lost and delivered from the cruelty and injustice of British government there. This will speedily be the fruit of Great Britain's departing from the commercial to the governmental idea concerning the East. The conflagrating and plundering qualities of a Clive, and the absurd haughtiness of the subsequent dominion, will at length rouse the spirit of those populous parts of the Oriental empires, having learned the use of artillery and the European modes of war, to make one vigorous exertion and shake off this foreign yoke. It is not within the compass of human probability--it is absurd and absolutely impossible--that fifteen millions of people should long continue subjugated to the government of five or six million at the distance of half the circumference of the globe. This event may be accelerated by the necessary tripartite division of the navy in the Oriental and Atlantic oceans. The union of European nations cannot fail of taking advantage of the future comparative weakness of British strength arising from this division. Too soon, alas! may Britain, with both wings lopped off, the East Indies and America, exhibit the spectacle among nations described by the Franklinean emblem of Magna Britannia with her colonies reduced. One cannot refrain from tears at contemplating the fate of nations, the rise and fall of empires."
Nor will the British isles alone be relieved into liberty, but more extensive still will be the peaceable fruits of our righteous conflict. The question of the mare liberum and the mare clausum, heretofore discussed by the ablest civilians of the last century, will no more require the learned labors of a Milton, a Selden, a Grotius. This war has decided, not by the jus maritimum of Rhodes, Oleron, or Britain, but on the principles of commercial utility and public right, that the navigation of the Atlantic Ocean shall be free; and so probably will be that of all the oceans of the terraqueous globe. All the European powers will henceforth, from national and commercial interests, naturally become a united and combined guaranty for the free navigation of the Atlantic and free commerce with America. Interest will establish a free access of all nations to our shores, and for us to all nations. The armed neutrality will disarm even war itself of hostilities against trade--will form a new chapter in the laws of nations, and preserve a free commerce among powers at war. Fighting armies will decide the fate of empires by the sword, without interrupting the civil, social, and commercial intercourse of subjects. The want of anything to take will prove a natural abolition of privateering, when the property shall be covered with neutral protection. Even the navies will, within a century, become useless. A generous and truly liberal system of national connection, in the spirit of the plan conceived and nearly executed by the great Henry IV of France, will almost annihilate war itself. (Sully's Memoirs.)
[Editor Thornton's Note regarding the "armed neutrality":] The authorship of this confederacy, which destroyed Britain's long-established sovereignty of the ocean, and greatly contributed to the ultimate independence of the United States of America, is attributed to several persons. 1. Mr. William Lee, of Virginia, a merchant in London, and sometime agent of Congress at Vienna and Berlin during the war of the Revolution, wrote, December 10, 1780, to Governor Lee, of Maryland: "I feel no little pleasure in communicating to you the completion, so far, of this confederacy, as the first traces were laid by myself two years ago; and if Congress had now in Europe ministers properly authorized to negotiate with the powers it would not be difficult to obtain a general acknowledgment from them of the independence of America, which was my ultimate object in forming the outlines of this scheme!" -- See letter in National Intelligencer, August 23, 1859. 2. Mr. John Adams -- diary, December 21, 1782 --heard the King of Sweden named as "the first inventor and suggester of the plan." 3. On the evidence of "documents in my possession," says Mr. George Sumner, in his oration, Boston, July 4th, 1859, "I here render the honor" of the real authorship of the armed neutrality to Florida Banca, the minister of Spain. The official documents are in Anderson's Commerce, 6:362-375, edit. 1790. The universal terror from British privateers was the proximate cause of the league, and England's distress the opportunity.
[Editor Thornton's Note regarding the information from Sully's Memoirs:] Bohn's ed. of Sully, 1856, 2, p. 235; 4, Book 30. This political scheme for a general council of the Christian powers of Europe was formed by Elizabeth of England and Henry IV of France. The Edict of Nantes was intended as a part of the grand design. A senate, of about sixty-six commissioners, or plenipotentiaries, to be rechosen every three years, from all the governments of the Christian republic, was to be in permanent session, "to deliberate on any affairs which might occur, to discuss the different interests, pacify the quarrels, clear up and determine all the civil, political, and religious affairs of Europe, whether within itself or with its neighbors." The scheme bore a strong resemblance to the American "confederation," and was formed in part on the model of the ancient Amphictyons of Greece, an institution referred to by the framers of our own government. See the Federalist. The total exemption of private property from capture on the high seas, as recently proposed by the United States government to European powers, would go far to realize the splendid prediction of the text, and, indeed, render "the navies useless," except for the noble missions of humanity, of science, and of national courtesies.
We shall have a communication with all nations in commerce, manners, and science, beyond anything heretofore known in the world. Manufacturers and artisans, and men of every description, may perhaps come and settle among us. They will be few indeed in comparison with the annual thousands of our natural increase, and will be incorporated with the prevailing hereditary complexion of the first settlers--we shall not be assimilated to them, but they to us, especially in the second and third generations. This fermentation and communion of nations will doubtless produce something very new, singular, and glorious. Upon the conquest of Alexander the Great, statuary, painting, architecture, philosophy, and the fine arts were transplanted in perfection from Athens to Tarsus, from Greece to Syria, where they immediately flourished in even greater perfection than in the parent state. Not in Greece herself are there to be found specimens of a sublimer or more magnificent architecture, even in the Grecian style, than in the ruins of Baalbec and Palmyra. So all the arts may be transplanted from Europe and Asia, and flourish in America with an augmented luster, not to mention the augment[ation] of the sciences from American inventions and discoveries, of which there have been as capital ones here, the last half century, as in all Europe.
AMERICAN INVENTIONS -- 1730, Reflecting Quadrant (commonly called Hadley's) by Mr. Thos. Godfry, at Philadelphia; 1731, Mercurial Inoculation, by Dr. Muirson; 1750, Electrical Pointed Rods, by Dr. Franklin; (1755, Terrestrial Comets, by President Clap); 1762, Sand Iron, by Dr. Jared Elliot; 1769, Quantity of Matter in Comets, by Professor Winthrop; (1776, Submarine Navigation by the power of the Screw, by Mr. Bushnel.)
[Editor Thornton's Note: The parts within ( ) were added in the second edition, 1785.]
The rough, sonorous diction of the English language may here take its Athenian polish, and receive its attic urbanity, as it will probably become the vernacular tongue of more numerous millions than ever yet spoke one language on earth. It may continue for ages to be the prevailing and general language of North America. The intercommunion of the United States with all the world in travels, trade, and politics, and the infusion of letters into our infancy, will probably preserve us from the provincial dialects, risen into inexterminable habit before the invention of printing. The Greek never became the language of the Alexandrian, nor the Turkish of the Ottoman conquests, nor yet the Latin of the Roman Empire. The Saracenic conquests have already lost the pure and elegant Arabic of the Koreish tribe, or the family of Ishmael, in the corrupted dialects of Egypt, Syria, Persia, and Indostan. Different from these, the English language will grow up with the present American population into great purity and elegance, unmutilated by the foreign dialects of foreign conquests. And in this connection I may observe with pleasure how God, in His providence, has ordered that, at the Reformation, the English translation of the Bible should be made with very great accuracy--with greater accuracy, it is presumed, than any other translation. This is said, allowing that some texts admit of correction. I have compared it throughout with the originals, Hebrew, Greek, and Syriac, and beg leave to judge and testify it to be a very excellent translation. Nor do I believe a better is ever to be expected in this imperfect state. It sustained a revision of numerous translators, from Tyndal to the last review by the bishops and other learned divines in the time of James I, one hundred and eighty years ago, and has never been altered since. (Vid. Lewis's Hist. Transl. Bib.). It may have been designed by Providence for the future perusal of more millions of the human race than ever were able to read one book, and for their use to the millennial ages.
The great American Revolution, this recent political phenomenon of a new sovereignty arising among the sovereign powers of the earth, will be attended to and contemplated by all nations. Navigation will carry the American flag around the globe itself, and display the thirteen stripes and new constellation at Bengal and Canton, on the Indus and Ganges, on the Whang-ho and the Yang-tse-kiang, and with commerce will import the wisdom and literature of the East. That prophecy of Daniel is now literally fulfilling--[...]--there shall be a universal traveling to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. This knowledge will be brought home and treasured up in America, and, being here digested and carried to the highest perfection, may reblaze back from America to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and illumine the world with truth and liberty.
That great civilian Dr. John Adams, the learned and illustrious American ambassador, observes thus (Lett. Dec. 18, 1781): "But the great designs of Providence must be accomplished--great indeed! The progress of society will be accelerated by centuries by this Revolution. The Emperor of Germany is adopting, as fast as he can, American ideas of toleration and religious liberty; and it will become the fashionable system of Europe very soon. Light spreads from the day-spring in the west; and may it shine more and more until the perfect day." So spreading may be the spirit for the restoration and recovery of long-lost national rights, that even the Cortes of Spain may reexist, and resume their ancient splendor, authority, and control of royalty. [***] The same principles of wisdom and enlightened politics may establish rectitude in public government throughout the world.
The most ample religious liberty will also probably obtain among all nations. Benevolence and religious lenity are increasing among the nations. The reformed in France, who were formerly oppressed with heavy persecution, at present enjoy a good degree of religious liberty, though by silent indulgence only. A reestablishment of the Edict of Nantes would honor the Grand Monarch by doing public justice to a large body of his best and most loyal subjects. The Emperor of Germany last year published an imperial decree granting liberty for the free and unmolested exercise of the Protestant religion within the Austrian territories and dominions. [***] The Inquisition has been, in effect, this year suppressed in Spain, where the king, by an edict of 3d of November, 1782, proclaimed liberty for inhabitants of all religions; and, by a happily conceived plan for literary reformation, the aurora of science will speedily blaze into meridian splendor in that kingdom. An emulation for liberty and science is enkindled among the nations, and will doubtless produce something very liberal and glorious in this age of science, this period of the empire of reason.
The United States will embosom all the religious sects or denominations in Christendom. Here they may all enjoy their whole respective systems of worship and church government complete. Of these, next to the Presbyterians, the Church of England will hold a distinguished and principal figure. They will soon furnish themselves with a bishop in Virginia and Maryland, and perhaps another to the northward, to ordain their clergy, give confirmation, superintend and govern their churches--the main body of which will be in Virginia and Maryland--besides a diaspora or interspersion in all the other states. The Unitas Fratrum for above thirty years past have had Moravian bishops in America; and I think they have three at present, though not of local or diocesan jurisdiction, their pastorate being the whole unity throughout the world. In this there ever was a distinction between the Bohemian episcopacy and that of the eastern and western churches; for, in a body of two thousand ancient Bohemian churches, they seldom had above two or three bishops. The Baptists, the Friends, the Lutherans, the Romanists, are all considerable bodies in all their dispersions through the states. The Dutch and Gallic and German Reformed or Calvinistic churches among us I consider as Presbyterian, differing from us in nothing of moment save in language. There is a considerable body of these in the states of New York, Jersey, Pennsylvania, and at Ebenezer, in Georgia. There is a Greek Church, brought from Smyrna; but I think it falls below these states. There are Westleians, Mennonists, and others, all which make a very inconsiderable amount in comparison with those who will give the religious complexion to America, which for the southern parts will be Episcopal, the northern, Presbyterian. All religious denominations will be independent of one another, as much as the Greek and Armenian patriarchates in the East; and having, on account of religion, no superiority as to secular powers and civil immunities, they will cohabit together in harmony, and, I hope, with a most generous catholicism [tolerance] and benevolence. The example of a friendly cohabitation of all sects in America, proving that men may be good members of civil society and yet differ in religion--this precedent, I say, which has already been intently studied and contemplated for fifteen years past by France, Holland, and Germany, may have already had an effect in introducing moderation, lenity, and justice among European states. And who can tell how extensive a blessing this American Joseph may become to the whole human race, although once despised by his brethren, exiled, and sold into Egypt? How applicable that in Genesis 49:22, 26: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. But his bow abode in strength; the arms of his hands were made strong by the arms of the mighty God of Jacob. The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors, unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hill; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separated from his brethren."
Little would civilians have thought ages ago that the world should ever look to America for models of government and polity; little did they think of finding this most perfect polity among the poor outcasts, the contemptible people of New England, and particularly in the long despised civil polity of Connecticut--a polity conceived by the sagacity and wisdom of a Winthrop, a Ludlow, Haynes, Hopkins, Hooker, and the other first settlers of Hartford, in 1636. And while Europe and Asia may hereafter learn that the most liberal principles of law and civil polity are to be found on this side the Atlantic, they may also find the true religion here depurated from the rust and corruption of ages, and learn from us to reform and restore the church to its primitive [first-century] purity. It will be long before the ecclesiastical pride of the splendid European hierarchies can submit to learn wisdom from those whom they have been inured to look upon with sovereign contempt. But candid and liberal disquisition will, sooner or later, have a great effect. Removed from the embarrassments of corrupt systems, and the dignities and blinding opulence connected with them, the unfettered mind can think with a noble enlargement, and, with an unbounded freedom, go wherever the light of truth directs. Here will be no bloody tribunals, no cardinal's inquisitors-general, to bend the human mind, forcibly to control the understanding, and put out the light of reason, the candle of the Lord, in man--to force an innocent Galileo to renounce truths demonstrable as the light of day. Religion may here receive its last, most liberal, and impartial examination. Religious liberty is peculiarly friendly to fair and generous disquisition. Here Deism will have its full chance; nor need libertines more to complain of being overcome by any weapons but the gentle, the powerful ones of argument and truth. Revelation will be found to stand the test to the ten thousandth examination.
[Editor Thornton's Note:] "In a 'Conspectus of a Perfect Polity,' the author [Ezra Stiles] has given the outlines of the constitution of a commonwealth, agreeing, in its great principles, with those of the constitution of the United States and of the individual states. But he maintained that a Christian state ought expressly to acknowledge and embosom in its civil constitution the public avowal of the 'being of a God,' and 'the avowal of Christianity.'" --- Kingsley's Life of Stiles.
There are three coetaneous events to take place, whose futurition is certain from prophecy--the annihilation of the pontificate, the reassembling of the Jews, and the fulness of the Gentiles. That liberal and candid disquisition of Christianity which will most assuredly take place in America, will prepare Europe for the first event, with which the other will be connected, when, especially on the return of the Twelve Tribes to the Holy Land, there will burst forth a degree of evidence hitherto unperceived, and of efficacy to convert a world. More than three quarters of mankind yet remain heathen. Heaven put a stop to the propagation of Christianity when the church became corrupted with the adoration of numerous deities and images, because this would have been only exchanging an old for a new idolatry. Nor is Christendom now larger than it was nine centuries ago. The promising prospects of the Propaganda fide at Rome are come to nothing; and it may be of the divine destiny that all other attempts for gospelizing the nations of the earth shall prove fruitless, until the present Christendom itself be recovered to the primitive [first-century] purity and simplicity; at which time, instead of the Babel confusion of contradicting missionaries, all will harmoniously concur in speaking one language, one holy faith, one apostolic religion, to an uncontroverted world. At this period, and in effecting this great event, we have reason to think that the United States may be of no small influence and consideration. It was of the Lord to send Joseph into Egypt, to save much people, and to show forth His praise. It is of the Lord that "a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet," and upon "her head a crown of twelve stars" (Not to say Thirteen), should "flee into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God" (Revelation 12:1.), and where she might be the repository of wisdom, and "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus." It may have been of the Lord that Christianity is to be found in such greater purity in this church exiled into the wildernesses of America, and that its purest body should be evidently advancing forward, by an augmented natural increase and spiritual edification, into a singular superiority, with the ultimate subserviency to the glory of God in converting the world.
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And when the set time to favor Zion shall come in God's good and holy providence, while Christendom may no longer disdain to adopt a reformation from us, the then newly gospelized heathen may light up their candle at America. In this country, out of sight of mitres and the purple, and removed from systems of corruption confirmed for ages and supported by the spiritual janizaries of an ecclesiatical hierarchy, aided and armed by the secular power, religion may be examined with the noble Berean freedom, the freedom of American-born minds. And revelation, both as to the true evangelical doctrines and church polity, may be settled here before they shall have undergone a thorough discussion, and been weighed with a calm and unprejudiced candor elsewhere. Great things are to be effected in the world before the millennium, which I do not expect to commence under seven or eight hundred years hence; and perhaps the liberal and candid disquisitions in America are to be rendered extensively subservient to some of the most glorious designs of Providence, and particularly in the propagation and diffusion of religion through the earth, in filling the whole earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. A time will come when six hundred millions of the human race shall be ready to drop their idolatry and all false religion, when Christianity shall triumph over superstition, as well as Deism, and Gentilism, and Mohammedanism. They will then search all Christendom for the best model, the purest exemplification of the Christian church, with the fewest human mixtures. And when God in His providence shall convert the world, should the newly-Christianized nations assume our form of religion, should American missionaries be blessed to succeed in the work of Christianizing the heathen--in which the Romanists and foreign Protestants have very much failed--it would be an unexpected wonder, and a great honor to the United States. And thus the American Republic, by illuminating the world with truth and liberty, would be exalted and made high among the nations, in praise, and in name, and in honor. I doubt not this is the honor reserved for us; I had almost said, in the spirit of prophecy, the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.
"So the dread seer in Patmos' waste who trod,
Led by the visions of the guiding God,
Saw the dim vault of heaven its folds unbend,
And gates, and spires, and streets, and domes descend
Far down the skies. With suns and rainbows crowned,
The new-formed city lights the world around."
(Vision of Columb. b. 2.)
[Editor Thornton's Notes:] Dr. Stiles must have quoted these lines from the MS. [manuscript] of Mr. [Joel] Barlow's poem, which was not published till 1787. [* * *]
How gloriously this prophecy of America's mission to the world is already being accomplished, appears, in part, in the noble history and statistics of the Missionary, Bible, and Tract Societies of the United States in their operations over the round world--missionaries not only of the Christian home and civilization, but coadjutors in the fields of science and philosophy. To them ethnology, philology, history, geography, commerce, are willing and continual debtors, as well as aids. Perhaps the conquest of Canada may be adopted as the epoch of modern missionary enterprise, when the door was wide opened to its benevolent designs among the aborigines--see Wheelock's narratives--and from that expanding, till it shall illumine the world with the Gospel of Christian liberty. The natural political influence of American institutions abroad hardly admits of statistical statement, as it is not the result of organized associations.
Having shown wherein consists the prosperity of a state, and what reason we have to anticipate the glory of the American empire, I proceed to show,
II. That her system of dominion must receive its finishing from religion; or, that from the diffusion of virtue among the people of any community would arise their greatest secular happiness; all which will terminate in this conclusion: that holiness ought to be the end of all civil government--"that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God."
On the subject of religion we might be concise and transient, if indeed a subject of the highest moment ought to be treated with brevity.
It is readily granted that a state may be very prosperous and flourishing without Christianity--witness the Egyptian, Assyrian, Roman, and Chinese empires. But if there be a true religion, one would think that it might be at least some additional glory. We must become a holy people in reality, in order to exhibit the experiment, never yet fully made in this unhallowed part of the universe, whether such a people would be the happiest on earth. It would greatly conduce to this if Moses and Aaron, if the magistracy and priesthood, should cooperate and walk together in union and harmony. The political effort of the present day, through most of the United States, is to disunite, divide, and separate them, through fear lest the United States, like the five viceroyships of New Spain, should be entangled and oppressed with the spiritual domination of European and Asiatic hierarchies. [* * *] Hence Aaron is spurned at a distance, and the Levites [ministers and pastors] are beheld with shy contempt, as a useless, burdensome, dangerous tribe; and, in some of the states, for the only sin of being priests of the Most High God, they are inhibited all civil offices, and, to a great degree, dis[en]franchised of their civil immunities and rights of citizenship. I thank my God for this ordering of His holy providence--for I wish the clergy never to be vested with civil power--while I am considering the spirit and disposition of the public towards the church of God, indicated by such events. A general spirit reigns against the most liberal and generous establishments in religion; against the civil magistrates encouraging or having anything more to do about religion than to keep the civil peace among contending sects: as if this was all that is to be done for religion by the friends of Jesus. And hence, in designating to the magistracy and offices of government, it begins to be a growing idea that it is mighty indifferent, forsooth, not only whether a man be of this or the other religious sect, but whether he be of any religion at all; and that truly deists, and men of indifferentism to all religion, are the most suitable persons for civil office, and most proper to hold the reins of government; and that, to prevent partiality in governors, and emulation among the sects, it is wise to consign government over into the hands of those who, Gallio-like, have no religion at all. This is Machiavellian wisdom and policy; and hence examples are frequently adduced of men distinguished truly for deism, perhaps libidinous morals, and every vice, yet of great abilities, it is said--great civilians, lawyers, physicians, warriors, governors, patriots, politicians--while as great or greater and more numerous characters, in the same departments--a Thuanus, a Grotius, a Paul of Venice, a Sir Henry Wotton, a Sir Peter King, a Selden, a Newton, a Boyle, those miracles of wisdom and friends to religion and virtue--are passed by with transient coolness and neglect. I wish we had not to fear that a neglect of religion was coming to be the road to preferment. It was not so here in our fathers' days.
Shall the Most High send down truth into this world from the world of light and truth, and shall the rulers of this world be afraid of it? Shall there be no intrepid Daniels--great in magistracy, great in religion? How great was that holy man, that learned and pious civilian, when he shone in the supreme triumvirate at the head of an empire of one hundred and twenty provinces--venerable for political wisdom, venerable for religion!
If men, not merely nominally Christians, but of real religion and sincere piety, joined with abilities, were advanced and called up to office in every civil department, how would it countenance and recommend virtue! But, alas! Is there not too much Laodiceanism in this land? Is not Jesus in danger of being wounded in the house of His friends? No, have we gone already [to] such lengths in declension that, if even the Holy Redeemer Himself and His apostles were to reappear among us, while unknown to be such, and importune the public government and magistracy of these states to become nursing fathers to the church, is it not to be feared that some of the states, through timidity and fearfulness of touching religion, would excuse themselves, and dismiss the holy messengers, the heavenly visitants, with coldness and neglect, [....]?
But after the present period of deism and skeptical indifferentism in religion, of timidity and irresolution in the cause of the great Emmanuel, perhaps there may arise a succession of civil magistrates who will not be ashamed of the cross of Christ, nor of patronizing His holy religion with a generous catholicism [tolerance] and expanded benevolence towards all of every denomination who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth--patronizing it, I repeat, not with the insidious views of a Hutchinsonian policy, but from a rational and firm belief and love of evangelical truth. Zion's friends will rejoice in Zion's welfare, and the religious as well as civil patriot will shine in the faces of the future Moseses and Joshuas of this land. So shone it in the first governor, Winthrop, and so shines it in a Washington. Yes, I glory in believing and knowing that there are many now in the public magistracy of this and the other states who feel with that illustrious and most excellent governor, upon whom rested much of the spirit of Samuel and David, and of Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah--I mean Nehemiah the Tirshata, who, with Moses, esteemed the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; who was of so pious, so noble, so patriotic a spirit, such a lover of his country and the true religion, that he preferred the very dust of Zion to the gardens of Persia, and the broken walls of Jerusalem to the palaces of Shushan.
Whenever religion is erected on the ruins of civil government, and when civil government is built on the ruins of religion, both are so far essentially wrong. The church has never been of any political detriment here, for it never has been vested with any civil or secular power in New England, although it is certain that civil dominion was but the second motive, religion the primary one, with our ancestors in coming hither and settling this land. It was not so much their design to establish religion for the benefit of the state, as civil government for the benefit of religion, and as subservient and even necessary towards the peaceable enjoyment and unmolested exercise of religion--of that religion for which they fled to these ends of the earth. An institution is not made for the laws, but the laws for the institution. I am narrating a historical fact, not giving a position or principle which by shrewd politicians may be abused to justify spiritual tyranny, and to support the claims of the pontificate over all the civil states, kingdoms, and empires in Christendom.
The American Nehemiah, the opulent and pious Governor Winthrop I, and the other first magistrates of the several New England republics, were men of singular wisdom and exemplary piety. And, God be thanked! The senatorial assembly of this happiest of all the United States still embosoms so many Phinehases and Zorobabels, so many religious patriots, the friends of Jesus and His holy religion; and that the Messiah's cause is here accompanied with civil government and the priesthood--allusively the two olive trees upon the right of the candlestick (the churches) and upon the left; the two golden branches which through the two golden pipes, Moses and Aaron, empty the golden oil out of themselves (Zech. 4:11), and diffuse their salutary influence of order and happiness through the community.
As to nominal Christianity, I have no doubt but that it will be upheld for ages in these states. Through the liberty enjoyed here, all religious sects will grow up into large and respectable bodies. [* * *] God grant that we may not, like the seven churches of Asia, have a name to live, while we are dead. Happy will it be for us should we become a holy people, zealous of good works; for it is undoubtedly the will of Heaven, and especially after the recent salvations of the Most High, that we should be a holy people unto the Lord our God.
It is greatly to be wished that these principles of our common Christianity might be found in general reception among all the churches of these states:
The Trinity in unity, in the one undivided essence of the Great Jehovah.
The sacred Scriptures are of divine inspiration.
In the immense universe, two little systems of intelligences, or orders of being, have lapsed, and that unhappily we have the dishonor of being one of them.
The second person of the coeternal Trinity, having assumed human nature, made a real atonement for sin, and by His vicarious obedience and sufferings exhibited that righteousness and vicarious merit by which alone we are forgiven and justified.
The Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] is equally a divine person with the Father and the Son, sharing with them divine, supreme, equal, and undivided honors.
True virtue consists of a conformity of heart and life to the divine law, which is as obligatory upon Christians as if eternal life was suspended on perfect obedience.
The eternal principle of holiness essentially consists in divine love, a disinterested affection for moral excellence, a delight in the beauty and glory of the divine character, that is, the supreme love of God. And connected with and issuing from this is a joyful acquiescence in His will, a rejoicing in His sovereignty and universal dominion.
While salvation and pardon are of free grace, the retributions of eternity will be according to our works.
Whenever I find these principles, with others connected with them, and the real belief of them evinced by an amiable life, there I judge the essentials of Christianity to be found, and thither my charity and benevolence extend with equal ardor and sincerity, be the religious denomination as it may. Of these, the doctrines of the divinity of the Lord Jesus, and His real vicarious atonement, are the most important--the Jachin and Boaz, the pillar-truths of the Gospel, the articuli stantis et cadentis ecclesiae,
This was the system of theology brought over from the other side of the flood by our pious forefathers, now with God. The more this is realized in a state, the more will its felicity be advanced; for, certainly, the morals of Christianity are excellent. It enjoins obedience to magistracy, justice, harmony, and benevolence among fellow-citizens; and, what is more, it points out immortality to man. Politicians, indeed, usually consider religion only as it may affect and subserve civil purposes, and hence it is mighty indifferent to them what the state of religion be, provided they can ride in the whirlwind and direct the storm. Nothing is more common than to see them in every country making use of sects, for their own ends, whom they in their hearts despise and ridicule with supreme contempt. Not so the Christian patriot, who from his heart wishes the advancement of Christianity much less for the civil good than for the eternal welfare of immortal souls. We err much if we think the only or chief end of civil government is secular happiness. Shall immortals, illuminated by revelation, entertain such an opinion? God forbid! Let us model civil society with the adoption of divine institutions so as shall best subserve the training up and disciplining innumerable millions for the more glorious society of the church of the first born. Animated with the sublime ideas which Christianity infuses into a people, we shall be led to consider the true religion as the highest glory of a civil polity. The Christian institution so excelled in glory, that the Mosaic lost all its glory. So the most perfect secular polity, though very excellent, would lose all its glory when compared with a kingdom wherein dwelleth righteousness, a community wherein the religion of the divine Jesus reigns in vigor and perfection.
Let us institute a comparison of religions in three different polities, which will sufficiently represent the state of the whole world. And may that spirit which justly springs from such a comparison animate all, whether in humble life or in the most elevated stations among mankind. We may consider three contiguous empires, of the same civil polity, all alike as to the social virtues, laws of justice, benevolence, and the morals of civil society--for I mean to institute a very liberal and candid comparison. On the one of these shall be established the idolatry of the Bonzas, as a specimen of all the idolatrous religions; deism shall cover the second; and, of the unidolatrous religions, I will select for the third, not the Mohemmedan, not the Jewish, but the Christian, in its purest apostolic form.
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Adjacent to this an empire of the same excellent constitution shall be overspread with deism exclusively. And to give the idea the most candid extent, perhaps beyond the desires of a Tyndal, or even of a Shaftesbury--the amiable Confucius of deism--not to mention the smaller and more desultory geniuses of a Hume or a Voltaire--neither of whom had any more taste or judgment in religion or moral reasoning than Cicero in poetry or Cibber for the drama--I say, to give the fairest idea of perfect deism, let the people of this empire be resolved into occasional, but not too frequent, worshipping assemblies, for worshipping the God of nature under the direction of the illuminated brethren, or of some right worshipful brother; and also to thank God for His goodness in this life, and for a certain prospect of a blessed immortality, if there should be any; when, perhaps, some noble minds, spirits of elevated and sublime genius, of bold, refined, and independent sentiment, might descant upon the common principles of social virtue and benevolence. I have certainly done justice to deism, although we hear nothing of pardoning mercy, because truly we need none--such being the excellency and dignity of man, who, as Phocelides says, is the image of God, that he well answers the end of existence, merits reward, and must hereafter be happy under the all-comprehending, the most benevolent administration of the universal Father. How pure and sublime is natural religion!
Christianity shall be the establishment of the third territorial empire. And to preclude the sectarian prejudications from disturbing the clearness and calmness of the mental perception, let any one overspread it with the Bible Christianity according to his own idea. I, for myself might overspread the whole with the Congregational churches, being not simply satisfied, but sure, from a thorough perlustration of all ecclesiastical history, that they are nearly apostolical as to doctrine and polity. And let this justice further be done, that religion shall reign in the hearts and lives of the people at large; and that it be the great and harmonious endeavor of the ruling characters and influential personages through the state, both by example and precept, to support such a reign of virtue and holiness. All that is valuable and truly excellent in the other empires is embraced; and, in addition, we have discoveries, and offers, and assurances, great in the confession of all men, if true, and glorious beyond description--infinitely momentous indeed, and infinitely surpassing what is to be found in all the mythologies or moral systems around the globe. But I do not enlarge.
Ten thousand myriads of ages hence, in which of these three would the civilian, the patriot, the man of religion wish to have been found?--in which to have acted his part?--for most certainly they are not indifferent--and, in advancing its glory, to have exerted the talents and activity with which the Author of Nature had blessed him?
Which of these governments is it probable would most contribute to the secular welfare, and be attended with the greatest dignity, and even the greatest worldly splendor? But, above all, which most subservient to eternity and its momentous concerns? In which, as a school of institution and discipline, should we enjoy the happiest advantages for immortality? Which of these empires would be the favorite of Jesus? Or is He indeed an unconcerned spectator of human affairs? If not, why should we doubt or hesitate to give the preference to the Christian Republic? If revelation be not true, it does us no hurt; we are as safe and as well off as others, having all their moral virtue. But if revelation be true, it is true exclusively, and therefore to be attended to at peril. This is no proof; but it is a reason for exciting our attention to its evidence, both in miracles and prophecy, as well as in a certain internal beauty and glory opened by Heaven upon a benighted world. Peradventure, with other happy millions, we may be also blessed to perceive it to be not a cunningly devised fable, as was conceived by that impious pontiff who could exclaim, Eheu! quantum lucrifecit nobis hoec fabula Christi? but the wisdom and power of God, to have issued from the fountain of unerring wisdom and consummate benevolence--which will be the case, the happy fact, the moment we perceive the evidence of the one single fact of the resurrection of Christ, after His undoubted crucifixion--a fact testified by eye-witnesses, and supported by evidence preserved in memoirs which have come down to us with greater authenticity than Justin or Tacitus--evidence, I say, overlooked indeed, but never overthrown, and which at once will support the whole glorious superstructure of Christianity.
But I need pardon that I should institute this comparison in a Christian assembly, and in a country where we seem to be in no danger of idolatry, and where, God be thanked! deists are very thinly sown; although, like another set of men among us of illaudable and invidious description, they magnify themselves into legions.
I have supposed all religions equal as to virtue, and that civil virtue is the only end of civil society; but I must resume both these mistakes. Vices and every species of wickedness are found, more or less, to enter into the essence of all religions except that of divine revelation. If Christians are wicked, and even should they surpass the Gentiles in vice, their religion never taught them so. But the very institution of the festivals of the ancient gods and goddesses directly taught the most impure obscenities and libidinous revelings. And this is continued to this day in the East Indies. An Indian Bramin, Arunasalem (born 1737), a Pandarums, or priest of Tarmaburam, was converted to Christianity in 1765, upon which the college of Pandarum sent him a letter to reclaim him. Too long, says he in his reply--too long have I been a witness to public lewdness in the sacrifices and worship of your pagodas or temples. My conscience told me these institutions could not come from a pure and holy God. O my God! How do I lament that I have been twenty-eight years your enemy! No ablution, no sacrifice of Lingam, can wash away sin and purify the soul; the blood, sufferings, and sacrifice of Jesus Nadar, the Redeemer, alone cleanse from all sin.
This, with a survey of the state of man in all ages, may show us that ethnic morals do not merit the high encomiums, the rapturous eulogies, which some have given them. Nor are deistical morals very promising. A world, a universe full of Rochesters and Chesterfields--what would it be?--characters which may blaze their moment in an earthly court, but can never shine in the court above.
Modern deists--but why do I say modern? For the very fraternity is but of yesterday--the deists have more lately improved and adopted [...] fate into their system, holding it in common with the Bramins of Asia and the Aulic chieftains in Africa.
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Sir William Temple, Sale, and other learned deists, fond of depreciating Christian virtue by comparisons, have extolled and celebrated the Mohammedan, Chinese, and other Oriental morals, as far superior to the Christian. But the learned historiographer, Principal Robertson, asserts, with historic verity, that upon the comparison of Europe, in particular, in its Gentile and Christian ages, her morality will appear to have been greatly improved and meliorated, and that the ethnic morals fell far below the Christian. While we have to confess and lament the vice rampant in Christendom, we have reason to believe that the more Christianity prevails in a country, civil society will be more advanced, ferocious manners will give way to the more mild, liberal, just, and amiable manners of the gospel.
Be it granted that in all countries are to be found men of integrity, honor, benevolence, and excellent morals, even where vice has a prevalent reign to the greatest excesses of a general licentiousness; yet, supposing a community, a kingdom, a world, overspread with such characters, with the finest morals of a Socrates or a Confucius, what would be the moral state of such a country in comparison with one overspread with the reign of the Christian morals?--I mean in perfection.
How much soever we may admire the morals of Plato or Epictetus, they are not to be compared with those taught by Moses and the divine Jesus. Nor are we to conceive that civil virtue is the only end of civil government. As the end of God's government is His declarative glory in the holiness and happiness of the universe, so all civil government ought to subserve the same end. The most essential interests of rational beings are neglected when their secular welfare only is consulted. If, therefore, we defend and plead for Christianity from its secular and civil utility only, and leave it here, we dishonor religion by robbing it of half, no, its greatest glories. It serves a higher purpose; for, although it subserves the civil welfare infinitely beyond the morals of deism and idolatry, yet it also provides for the interests of eternity, which no other religion does. It opens to us the most grand and sublime discoveries concerning God, reconciliation with Him, and the reunion of this lapsed world with the immense universe. Discoveries momentous and interesting beyond conception!--without which we are left to perfect incertitude, if not totally in the dark, with respect to eternity and its vast concerns.
Should we have recourse to the goodness of God, yet of all beings angels would think that man should be the last to reason from the benevolence and goodness of the Universal Parent to the impossibility of His offspring being involved in future ill, when from thence we might equally reason against the existence of present ill. If some distant seraph, who never knew or heard of ill, should reason thus, it would be no marvel, perhaps; but that we, with all our sins and sufferings about us, should go into such reasonings, is the height of folly, the absurdity of absurdities. And why should that Infinite Goodness preserve the numerous millions that die in finished though half-punished vice, that did not preserve the lives of those upon whom the tower of Siloam fell--who did not avert the desolations of Lisbon, Naples, Herculaneum, and Palermo? Cast thine eyes thither, O man, remember the battle, and do no more. (Job 41:8)
If, instead of reasoning from the works and word of God, and thus ascending upwards into Deity, we
"Take the high priori road,
And reason downward, till we doubt of God" ([Alexander] Pope);--
if, by inductive reasonings from the perfections of God to what can and what cannot be, we should, among other things, boldly conclude a Trinity and the Incarnation of the eternal Word absurd nullities, and yet it should appear in another state that a crucified Jesus sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high--how would these mighty sensible characters, these fine geniuses, these sublime, these foolish reasoners, be disappointed! May I be forgiven a very earnest solicitude here, having myself passed through the cloudy, darksome valley of skepticism, and stood on the precipice, from whence I was in danger of taking a juvenile leap into the irrecoverable depths of deism; for so rare are the Forbeses and the Jenningses, the instances of emancipated real infidels, that nulla vestigia retrorsum (no return from hence) may be inscribed on the temple of deism. Knowing these dangers, I pity from my heart, and almost bleed at every pore, for those who are caught in the vortex, and are captivated with the wily, satirical, delusory, and deficient reasonings of deism. Elevated with the pride of mental enlargement, of a supposed untrammeled understanding, they ascend aloft above the cloud of prejudices into the Pisgah heights, from whence they fancy that they see all religions the same--that is, equally nothing but priestcraft and artificial error; whereupon they compliment themselves as endowed with a superiority of discernment in morals, with high sensibility, sentimental and liberal ideas, and charm themselves with other fine self-applied diction, which in truth only clothes the tedium, the weariness of half-discussed, unfinished inquiries; or perhaps the hope that at worst the want of certain knowledge may pass with God, if there is any, as a sufficient excuse for some of the doubtful levities of life.
But errors in judgment, it is said, will be of no account with God. In ten thousand matters they may not. We may trifle on many things, but on the things that respect eternity, the things of religion, it is too solemn, too dangerous to trifle. Although most religions are false and ridiculous, there may however be one which we must renounce or trifle with at our peril. For if revelation be true, as most assuredly it is, it is in Jesus only that we have eternal life. Infidels, and those excessively benevolent Christians who consider all religions alike and equally ridiculous, do well in their calmer moments to ponder those words of the eternal Judge: "Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 10:33; John 3:36) Where then will a Judas and a Beadle appear? Step forth, thou Herbert, the father of deism! Come hither, you Bolingbrokes, Tindals, Collinses, Humes, Voltaires, with all your shining abilities, and that disappointed group of self-opinionated deniers of the Lord "that bought them," with that cloud of deluded followers who "would not that I should reign over them"--evanish from my presence, with all the light of your boasted wisdom, into the blackness of darkness, forever and ever! On what principles can the despised, the amiable Jesus withhold or recede from so awful a sentence, so tremendous a denunciation?
How infinitely happier they who, believing the record which God gives of His Son, have received Him, and have become the sons of God! Is it nothing--is it a small thing to be initiated into the glorious idea of God and the Trinity revealed in the Scriptures?--to contemplate the hierarchy and government of the universe, and the high dignity of that most illustrious Personage who is our Intercessor, Advocate, and Sovereign? Shall this light come into the world, and we neglect it? And shall it be said that these views do not animate a sublimer virtue than the motives taken from civil society? Shall the consideration of being citizens of a little secular kingdom or community be equally animating with those taken from our being citizens of the august monarchical republic of the universe? But I must desist, with only observing that the United States are under peculiar obligations to become a holy people unto the Lord our God, on account of the late eminent deliverance, salvation, peace, and glory with which he has now crowned our new sovereignty. (Deut. 4:34)
[* * * * *]
[More Notes by editor Thornton:]
Dr. Cotton Mather says that in 1696, in all New England, there were one hundred thousand souls. Dr. Franklin thought that, of the one million English souls in North America in 1751, not eighty thousand "had been brought over sea." Dr. Stiles, in 1760, estimated the inhabitants of New England at half a million; and Mr. Savage, in the Preface of his Genealogical Dictionary, supposes that nineteen-twentieths of the people of the New England colonies in 1775 were descendants of those here in 1692, and that probably seven-eighths of them were offspring of the first settlers, and originating from England proper. He adds: "A more homogeneous stock cannot be seen, I think, in any so extensive region, at any time since that when the Ark of Noah discharged its passengers on Mount Ararat, except in the few centuries elapsing before the confusion of Babel." In an elaborate paper read before the American Statistical Association, in March, 1859, by the President, Edward Jarvis, M.D., it appears, as the result of long and minute calculation, based upon the best available data, that the total persons of New England origin living in the United States, in 1850, including the natives and those born abroad since 1790, was 4,021,192, and that nearly or quite one-third of the native white population have New England blood in their veins. This confirms Mr. Bancroft's estimate.
"Credat qui vult!" exclaimed a listener, when, with his masterly survey of the elements of empire and their potential future, the wise man in the pulpit [Ezra Stiles] opened his grand and comprehensive vision of "The United States elevated to Glory and Honor," and of the national mission of good-will to men; yet some, even of that generation, live to contrast the epoch of the nation's beginning--its three millions of inhabitants, scattered along the Atlantic border--with our present recognized position [in 1860] as "the greatest maritime nation on the face of the earth." The country was for many years embarrassed with the war debt, less in amount than our present annual national expenditure. Populous inland states, cities, and commerce, before whose statistics the national figures of 1783 dwindle to fractions, now press fast towards the Pacific, through whose "golden gate" floats a commerce exceeding the grand total when Washington became President, and whose senators are in the capitol.
"Westward the course of empire takes its way."
Indeed, there were then living, sons of America, Fitch, in manhood, and Fulton, in youth, the inventors of steam navigation, whose genius was to span oceans, and unite continents as with a bridge, and make highways of rivers; and now Ericsson has revolutionized the marine of the world. Whitney, then a youth, was to create, by his cotton gin, the chief staple of southern agriculture, and the principal even of England's manufactures; Bowditch, then in boyhood, was to rank with the great mathematicians and astronomers. The elder [Jonathan] Edwards, the intellectual chief of his age, who "ranks with the brightest luminaries of the Christian church, not excluding any country or any age since the apostolic," and "as much the boast of America as his great countryman, Franklin;" Webster, great lexicographer, who has no rival but Worcester, another of New England's sons; Irving, then in arms, preeminent in modern literature; and, in later times, Allibone, of equal rank in critical bibliography; Prescott, Sparks, Bancroft, Hildreth, Motley, in history; Bryant, Whittier, and Longfellow, in poetry; Copley, West, Stuart, Trumbull, Allston, Cole, Church, and Hosmer, among the masters in modern art; Mann and Barnard, in education; Lyndhurst, twice Lord Chancellor of England, Marshall, Jay, Parsons, Story, and Kent, in jurisprudence; Morse and Jackson, whose electric wire, "beating with the pulse of humanity," unites cities, kingdoms, and continents, annihilating time and space; Jackson, Wells, Morton, whose splendid discovery of anesthetics is recognized by the world as one of the greatest boons given by any age to suffering humanity; Agassiz, the chief naturalist of the age, abiding with us; Draper, the accomplished delegate of American science at the British Association at Oxford; and Jarvis, the eminent statistician, representing his country with distinguished honor in the International Statistical Congress at London in 1860--these, and many others, have already placed the United States in the front rank in science, letters, and art.
The external separation of church and state, now complete, leaves a nobler vantage-ground to the Christian Teacher in his duty to his country; and as Christian morals and principles are the true foundation of a free Christian commonwealth, how momentous is his responsibility to God and man for fidelity in 'declaring all the counsel of God!' The zeal, firmness, and integrity of the pulpit in 'preaching the gospel,' from the time of [Jonathan] Mayhew to [Ezra] Stiles, was of vital importance to the triumph of our national freedom. But Christianity is perpetual, and for daily use. Most legislation involves or relates to public morals, questions in foro conscientiae, and here Christianity has sovereign jurisdiction, which can be violated only by the sufferance of that teacher who, whether from timidity, weakness, or open treachery, is false to his Master, unworthy of his great commission, and sure of the contempt of men. Mayhew and Stiles are examples, for all time, of Christian manhood in the pulpit. [***]
[The "Story" whom Thornton listed as being eminent "in jurisprudence" was United States Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, author of a famous commentary on the United States Constitution. His first wife was a descendant of Governor Jonathan Belcher's sister. Story's commentary showed conclusively how a United States Supreme Court Justice in the Early Republic viewed matters of church and state.]
For further reading:
For Justice Story's Views about Church and State, see:
Jaffree v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County (1983)
Rehnquist's Dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)
For Governor Jonathan Belcher's friendship with Jonathan Edwards and Dr. John Winthrop (whom Ezra Stiles mentioned in his sermon):
Governor Jonathan Belcher
For more about deism (which Ezra Stiles discussed):
Jesus Is the Light of the World
Don't Hide God in a Closet
Jonathan Edwards' Great Awakening View of Religious Secularism
Pretexts and Commandments
Samuel Cooke, The True Principles of Civil Government (1770)
William Cooper, The Honors of Christ Demanded of the Magistrate (1740)
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