Elijah Parish (1762-1825) graduated from Dartmouth in 1785. He was the pastor of a church in Byfield, MA (1787-1825). The following election sermon was preached by Parish in Boston on May 30, 1810.
PREACHED AT BOSTON,
HIS EXCELLENCY CHRISTOPHER GORE,
HIS HONOR DAVID COBB,
THE COUNCIL AND LEGISLATURE,
THE ANNUAL ELECTION,
MAY 30, 1810
BY ELIJAH PARISH, D. D.
Pastor of the Church in Byefield
[This Discourse is printed by private subscription. A majority of the Honorable House of Representatives, against the usage of a century and a half, in the instances, not only refused to observe the customary form of civility, and ask a copy for the press; but passed a resolution containing high charges against the Sermon, and purporting the dignity of the House forbade the usual courtesy to the preacher. It is thought proper, the public should have the means of judging, whether the falsehood or the truth of the alleged “accusations” in the discourse, and whether its “language,” or its meaning had the greatest influence, in subjecting it to such peculiar censure.]
FOR HE IS THE MINISTER OF GOD TO THEE FOR GOOD.
The salutary control of government is everywhere conspicuous. Order is the glory of the universe. The excellence of creation results from the subordination of the parts to the whole. Revolving worlds move in obedience to fixed laws. In civil government the people obey, the magistrates rule, order and security follow. Defense and aid are necessary to man; because he is feeble and exposed to dangers. The goodness of God, therefore, has inspired us with social natures, that dispose us to yield and receive those favors, which are necessary to our being. Thence arise those conventions, which constitute civil society. Government, therefore, results from the nature of man and the goodness of God. The people require and the government promise protection. The government demand, and the people promise obedience. These obligations are mutual, whether they rest on usage or a written compact. Civil government, therefore, is an appointment, or ordinance of God, and those, who govern, are the ministers of God. “The powers that are ordained of God.” “By him kings reign, and princes decree justice; by him princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” They are ministers or servants of God. He prepares them for their work. Their understanding talents and opportunities are from him. He “girded” or prepared Cyrus for his great work.
If God raise up rulers for evil; if he elevate them in his wrath; if they be “set over the people for their sins” ; then their hearts are hardened; they abandon the laws or Revelation and the principles of rectitude; they exult in the ruin, which they bring on their country. Such are God’s ministers of vengeance. They pull down the judgments of heaven on the land.
When God intendeth good to a people, he elevates good men; “he giveth wisdom”; “he maketh man to inherit the throne of glory.” “He putteth down one; he setteth up another.” The good, accomplished by a wise government is incalculable; the comforts and blessings, which it produces, are innumerable. A few of these we shall now mention.
I. A good government is the minister of God for good, by commanding the confidence of the honest and enlightened part o the community.
Is this possible? Will not men always complain of government?
A portion of every community will always complain. They envy those possessions and comforts, which they have not the power or virtue to obtain. They hate those Excellencies, which are strangers in their own hearts. They delight in pulling down those mounds and bulwarks of society, which protect the industrious, the good, and successful citizens. The confidence of such men may not be expected, except when they suppose the government base and abandoned like themselves.
The stability and public approbation of good government, therefore, depend on the prevalence of public virtue. By a frank and noble style of procedure the government may prevent murmurs among their most worthy citizens. They enjoy the delight of conscious security; they expect a reward for all their labors; they are stimulated to noble darings. Mutual confidence is necessary for the most useful transactions between man and man. It is the animating principle of all that is great or happy in society. Unless intelligence and integrity be supposed timidity, and caution, and distrust, will prevent that union of interest, that combination of influence, and that ardour of exertion, which are necessary for everything great or excellent. Every bud of hope will be blasted by the wind of jealousy. When the government are suspected of weakness or corruption, public and private enterprise will die with the palsy. Public institutions will languish. Corporations will tremble for their rights. Individuals will become torpid with fear.
For want of union most of the Powers in Europe have recently fallen in rapid succession, like the spires of a city, overwhelmed in a furious conflagration. To establish this union or confidence, among the sound part of the community, is the duty of Rulers. Such Rulers once diffused their blessings over these states. So feeble was the first Confederation, that public confidence had taken her flight; Industry had deserted her unfinished labors. Commerce and revenue had vanished from the land; Hope was expiring; Despair, Murmurs, and Insurrections were carrying terror through the nation. A new government was organized. It was administered by good men. No tale of enchantment equaled the change in real life. Labor was roused from his slumbers; Commerce spread her sails; the stars of America enlightened every region of the world; Wealth rolled in with every tide. In every village and family the means of comfort and improvement were multiplied. While the people of Europe were drenching their fields in the blood of their friends and neighbors; while in one of its most populous kingdoms the fury of revolution was exhibiting scenes of impiety, atheism, carnage and cannibalism, which made savages blush, that they were men, were cultivating the arts; and with an olive branch in our hands, gathering harvests in every country.
The proceedings of the government were fair and open as the day. Those rulers were the ministers of God for good. They enjoyed the confidence of the best citizens. Their good names are still as precious ointment. Such has generally been the government of this Commonwealth. Their noble and patriotic resolutions have encouraged the good people, and covered themselves with glory. Instead of a plundered treasury, fidelity is everywhere conspicuous.
II. The independence of an administrations renders it a minister of God for good to the people.
An individual must display an independent spirit to gain respect, or be greatly useful to his friends; so must the Rulers of the land. From conscious rectitude an individual ought to act as he speaks, and to speak as he thinks. A government of this character is the palladium of its friends, the terror of its enemies. A generous administration, rendering justice to all nations and demanding equal justice of them, is a sublime object of contemplation. Like Mount Sinai, wrapt in smoke and blazing with fire, it may tremble, but cannot be moved.
When Alexander inquired of the captive prince of India, how he would be treated, the reply was, “I would be treated as a King.” It would be well for modern governments to study the address of the Scythian Ambassadors to Alexander. “What have we to do with thee? We never set foot in thy country. May not those who inhabit woods be allowed to live without knowing who thou art, and whence thou comest? We tyrannize over no man; we will submit to no man.” Such was the spirit of our government. It was assailed by the two mighty powers of Europe. Those great Leviathans seemed ready to swallow up our foreign traffic, as a drop of the ocean. Our Ministers of God for good had wisdom to understand, and fidelity to accomplish what was suitable to be done. Messengers of peace were commissioned; in swift sailing ships they demanded justice, and justice was obtained. Our government, though an infant, was an infant Hercules. In its cradle it strangled the serpents of insurrection and foreign influence.
Our country then neither paid tribute to one nation, nor deceived, nor insulted another. They did not debate in their nocturnal legislatures by the light of the enemies’ artillery, nor the blaze of our own ships. Neither were they lulled to sleep by the sighs of their mariners, perishing in the prisons of Napoleon. Though our country was patient and magnanimous, they commanded the respect of their enemies, the approbation of the world, and they maintained their independence.
III. Justice and impartiality towards other nations often render Magistrates the ministers of God for good.
Personal resentments, and points of honor, among the Rulers of nations, may be sport to them; they are mischief and ruin to their people. A spirit of the independent impartiality is the glory of man, the glory of government. A spirit of justice and truth soothes envy, and disarms revenge. When other kingdoms are overwhelmed with wars, such a nation, like the mountain of Ararat, rises above the storm, and is enriched by the floating wrecks of the world. The citizens of other countries are treated with equal hospitality; their ships enjoy equal protection; their ambassadors of Peace are received with equal cordiality and respect; their proposals of amity are met with the same sincerity; their injuries kindle the same resentments. Such were the halcyon days of our country. The Rulers were Fathers and the people the children of their care. We enjoyed prosperity at home, and glory abroad.
When this impartial neutrality is announced in the public acts of the government, when immense privileges are yielded, from a supposition that such neutrality is not a solemn farce, then, is not the lease departure from it, infinitely base and fraudulent, a kind of national perjury, a public, and notorious abandonment of national honor and rectitude? Does not such a nation degrade itself from the high rank of an independent government, resting on the basis of public justice, and transform itself into a company of sharpers? Just so far as such a company grants favors to one belligerent, which it refuses to another, jus so far it forfeits its neutral rights: just so far it takes the ground of an enemy; just so far it virtually declares war, and is itself subjected to the fatalities of just warfare. With what face can such a company complain of havoc and spoil on the ocean, when the secret fires of war are burning in their own vitals?
Did the history of a civilized society ever record their songs of neutral professions, united with their acts of determined hostility? Has it been read in the annals of hypocrisy, that a neutral nation rejected the minister of peace from one nation, gloriously defending their last hopes; that they broke off all intercourse with that of another, while offering to unite two nations whose interest and prosperity are inseparably connected; that to the third they gave the fraternal embrace, whilst his master was insulting their claims, and making war against their country? Is not such a government the engine of divine wrath? Where, we anxiously ask, where, where is a solitary proof of justice or impartiality towards other nations?
IV. Rulers are the Ministers of God for good, by promoting the cause of morals and religion.
Rulers have a commanding influence in promoting the cause of religion and morals. They are the ministers or servants of God, to do his work, to promote his cause. The influence of religion is necessary to the well being of society. Without the aid of religious principles, human laws and institutions cannot secure the enjoyments of society. The magistrates cannot punish crimes, unless they are proved. The cannot be proved unless the witnesses venerate the name of God, and tremble at the obligations of an oath. It is also often in the power of men to commit crimes so secretly, as to bid defiance to discovery. The commission of these secret sins can be prevented only by impressing the heart with the justice of God, with sentiments of religion.
There are also important duties which are of so imperfect obligation, that no law can define their limits; no law can reach them, without changing their nature. Such are charity and hospitality, filial affection, and some other duties. How can men be rendered dutiful to parents, and kind to the afflicted, unless their consciences be impressed with the force of religious obligations? Will you by law compel a man to be charitable to the poor? This converts the service into a tax of government. Shall not the magistrate, then, employ every suitable measure to improve the religious character of the public? The effects will be more salutary and powerful than all the laws, and prisons, and dungeons of the Commonwealth.
In this work of reforming mankind, God has employed the Rulers of the world. Has not God always been wise, always a good judge of what measure was best to accomplish a good work? When he has remarkably prospered his work, has he not united magistrates with the ministers or religion? Does not history, sacred and profane, bear testimony to this interesting fact? We dare go back to the remotest antiquity; we dare rest the merits of the question on the experience of ages. Melchisedeck and the Patriarchs were both Kings and Priests of God. Israel was delivered from Egypt by Moses and Aaron. When the people were to be reformed, David and Solomon, and Josiah, were raised to the throne of Palestine.
When God determined to give up the people to believe a lie, that they might be destroyed then wicked men seized the reins of government. With unhallowed feet Jeroboam ascended the throne; with impious hand he bound the diadem round his brow. Then the people were made to sin. Like sheep they were prepared for the slaughter. In the prophecy of Daniel, and the whole book of God, the glorious days of the church are under the genial sway of devout rulers; her apostacies are under the baleful influence of infidels and vicious men. No axiom of philosophy is more evident. “A wise king scattereth the wicked.” When righteous judgment is executed, vice dares not appear.
In the reign of Asa, a pious king of Judah, he effected a wonderful reformation among his people. They renewed covenant with their God; pagan groves, and idols, and altars, vanished from the hills of Canaan. In the reign of Jehosaphat the work proceeded more powerfully; he not only banished idolatry, but united himself and the officers of government more intimately with the ministers of religion. He was not ashamed of truth and piety. He sent his princes, elected magistrates , to teach in the cities of Judah, and with them he sent priests and Levites. This mission of laymen and ministers was sent to the most remote towns of the state. These good men under the patronage of government, “taught in Judah, and had the book of the “law of the Lord with them and they went about all the cities of Judah and taught the people.” The influence of this pious magistrate was amazing. All the pomp of his court, the splendor of his cities, and the terror of war, thundering on his frontiers could not have produced such effects at home or abroad. Not only were his own subjects quiet religious and happy; but from observing his dignified conduct and holy walk, “the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands, that were round about Judah, so that they made no war upon Jehosaphat. The Philistines brought him presents and tribute of silver, and the Arabians flocks of sheep and goats.” Such is the natural influence of a pious magistrate. As the world improves in piety and morals, as the millennial reign of the Redeemer advances, the character of rulers will be more elevated and holy. When all shall know the Lord, then kings and queens shall be nursing parents of the church. The only reason now, that such rulers are not preferred, is the want of righteousness in the people. None but wicked people prefer a wicked government.
Yet some are heard to say and some few who wear the livery of Christ’s ambassadors say, they would as willingly elevate an infidel, as a Christian to the highest office of the nation. While the world in this instance is charitable to their veracity, it blushes for their indecency. Are they not traitors to their Lord and Master? Are they not, like the false prophets of Israel, abandoned of Heaven to be the destroyers of their deluded country? Does not Jesus Christ say to them, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” the woes, which they are and their accomplices have already produced cannot be numbered; the damage and losses, which they have brought on the country, cannot be calculated; the vices and corruptions, which they have occasioned are infinite; many years of good government would not restore public opinion and morals to their former standard of purity. Unhappy men! Are your people so wickedly in love with goodness and good men, that they need the charm of your influence to kindle their admiration for the enemies of their Saviour?
Magistrates are the ministers of God for good; and what good can be compared with the moral good of the country? Laws to promote the sciences are good; laws to promote the useful arts are good; laws to prevent disease and death are good; but what are all these compared with moral good?
Can magistrates promote such an interest; can they be the ministers of God for spiritual good, and can they hesitate, can they loiter in the work? Can a creature be found, so lost to all the virtues of the heart, who would not prefer rulers of a Christian spirit to infidels, pouring their sarcasms on him who was born in a manger? Men have walked in the fiery furnace, and not been burned; but wicked magistrates have not failed to increase the iniquities of the people.
In numerous ways many rulers promote piety and religion. They need not the sword of persecution, nor the ghostly power of a roman pontiff. Are not most people greatly affected by personal influence? Do not rulers possess incalculable influence? They are the ministers of God. They are as gods among men. In this world they are the highest order of beings; they are little lower than angels. Must not their moral influence be almost irresistible? Does not the voice of history declare a general resemblance between the moral character of rulers and their subjects? Wicked rulers make a wicked people; good rulers promote a reformation of manners.
Good laws promote virtue and morals. Good rulers enact good laws. These are swords and spears in the hearts of the wicked. They are batteries of terror, pouring storms of fire upon the dens of vice and infidelity. Laws are not the only moral strength of a government. The public mind may be improved by the patronage of the arts and sciences. These enlarge the mental powers, refine the sentiments soften the heart, mend the stat of society. Every incorporation for intellectual improvement, or benevolent purposes, every new seminary, is another pillar in the temple of virtue.
The examples of rulers have great influence on the public mind. If they profane the Sabbath, disdain public worship, ridicule the Bible, scoff at the Savior or despise his ordinances every fool will ape their ungodliness, mimic their vices, and pursue their steps down to ruin. But if magistrates be good men, their virtues like the blossoms of spring, will perfume the country. They will encourage the faithful of the land; the wicked will tremble before them. Like the prince of Uz, they go out from the city and the young men hide themselves; the aged rise and stand up; princes refrain to talk, and the nobles are silent. As the shining sun diffuses light and heat through the system, so a devout governor, by the power of his example, extends the spirit of piety and sound morals. In this particular legislature of Massachusetts have done themselves immortal honor. In a day of darkness and rebuke, they led the way to the temple of humiliation and prayer; they were the first to seek the Father of lights.
An administration is the minister of God for good by appointing good men to the subordinate offices of the community. These are scattered over the land; these mingle in every company, and carry the light of virtue, or the miseries of spiritual plague and death to every cottage. I only add that as the alliances of individuals generally give complexion to their characters and circumstances, so is it with nations. Such is the social nature of man, that he generally assumes the moral complexion of his familiar associates. That government deserves public confidence, and is the minister of God for good, which forms no alliance with a people of opposite religion, glorying in their infamy and crimes. Time was when and alliance with a nation which disdains all moral obligations, which blasphemes God and his Son, would have been rejected as improper and dangerous. As a good physician removes his patient from a deadly atmosphere, so a good government forms it alliances where pure religion, sound principles, and Christian morals have taken up their abode. The allies of Napoleon are compelled to adopt his interests, to bend to his yoke, and wear his chains. They imbibe his ferocity and atheism. His philosophists instruct them; his officers discipline them; his secret agents, as swarms of locusts from the banks of the Nile, now darken the nations of the world. The athiests of France and the Puritans of New England; was ever an alliance so monstrous! Our temples shudder at the proposal; the spirits of our fathers bend from their thrones of bliss, and enter their solemn protest against such a horrible union.
V. Those are the ministers of God for good, who protect us in the enjoyment of our privileges and possessions.
From the days of old, from the most ancient annals of mankind, we learn that “the earth was then filled with violence.” The human race had taken arms; they were in a state of hostility. The fields were red with blood; families were clothed in mourning. The laws raised their voice; the sword of the magistrate was necessary to suppress the malignant passions, to preserve order in society, or even the labors or lives of individuals. Where privileges and possessions are not secured, men will not labor, but for mere necessity; for labor is pain. Universal poverty and wretchedness, therefore, always accompanied a feeble or oppressive government. This calamity now presses Egypt and Palestine in the dust. This spirit of destruction now stalks through the Ottoman empire. The light of commerce is extinguished; the sons of traffic are brought low. Tyre, the ancient mart of nations, is now a mournful pile of rocks. Athens once the light of the world, and Jerusalem, the joy of the whole earth, have fallen from their ancient splendor. The hills of Canaan are no longer blushing with vines, nor waving with corn; her villages and cities have vanished; the arts are fled from Greece. Idleness, ignorance, vice, and misery, cover the empire in darkness. The fine climate and luxuriant soil remain; but the government is changed. Their Solons, their Ptolemies, and their Solomons, have left their thrones to men of another sort. The property and the comforts of the people are insecure. To confirm these has been the labor of magistrates in every age. Such is still their benevolent work, to preserve man from man, the honest and diligent from the unprincipled and vicious. This renders them the ministers of God for good. – With strong desire, with poignant anxiety, we look to rulers, to the ministers of God to protect us, our labors our privileges, our happiness from assault. Numerous are the pursuits, invaluable the acquisitions and felicities of man in civil society. Of course he is vulnerable from a thousand points. Every particle of property, every privilege, civil or moral, every habit or opinion, may be an inlet to misery and ruin. Clothed in the mantle of sensibility, all eye, all heart, man implores protection from the ministers of God, the political guardians of his country. When he sits by his fireside, he looks to the magistrates, as household gods, to protect him from danger. When he goes forth to his professional employment, he expects protection from the laws. If he travel the lonely forest, if he sail the trackless ocean, where a thousand rovers watch for plunder, he expects the government, like a fiery bolt of heaven, to guard his course. Are the pastures covered with flocks, and the fields with corn; does the farmer raise the song of harvest; has he “enough and to spare;” the ministers of God by their protection encourage his enterprise; the cheerful market rewards his labors; his success enlivens hope; his plans are enlarged; his toils are renewed. As the cherubims and flaming swords of Eden guarded the tree of life, so the ministers of God defend every commercial right; then most distant regions open all their treasures, every wind of heaven hastens to our shores the comforts and luxuries of the world, every billow of the ocean pays a tribute, yields assistance to increase the wealth, to improve the arts, to refine the manners, to establish the liberties of our country.
But why should I proceed? No picture which I can draw, would equal the glory, which is past, the days of other times. All the blessings of a wise government, all the blessings of peace and prosperity, have, have been enjoyed. The husbandman enlarged his fields, adorned his buildings, and multiplied his flocks and herds. Patriotic and opulent corporations, through hills and rocks, and mountains, opened roads and canals to the ports of traffic. Mariners lifted their canvass to every breeze: the fish of the ocean, those immense resources of wealth, those golden mines of the poor, with the produce of wealth, those golden mines of the poor, with the produce of every climate, were piled on our shores. Our villages were increased and enriched; our cities rose with new splendors; seminaries were founded; colleges were more richly endowed; temples, hospitals, benevolent societies, displayed the improvement, the rising glory of the nation.
We saw, we blest those ministers of God for good; their good names shall enrich the narrative of the historian, the song of the bard.
In that day of general felicity, while all the whirlwinds of heaven were asleep; while the dangers of the ocean were retiring, had a voice thundered from the capital,
“Ye free born sons of New England, suspend your cheerful business, fly from your unfinished labors sacrifice your immense profits, abandon the fixed habits of your lives, unload every ship, stop every avenue of commerce, guard every harbor, every river, every boat, every citizen who can lift an oar or move a limb to any point of the compass, murder every offender without jury or the form of trial;”
Had such a voice hushed the din of business, would you have believed your senses? Or in the moment of amazement and indignation would you not have adopted the mandate from goblin of the tombs some spirit of darkness?
After cool reflection would you not have said, “the hand of Napoleon is in all this.” His voice, his spirit, his despotism is here. “So Satan broke into Paradise and damnation followed.”
From these reflections we see how vastly important is the right of suffrage, the privilege of elections.
It is political health and life, or a deadly plague in the vitals of the Common wealth. In the hands of bad men the rights of suffrage are “fire-brands, arrows and death.”
But does any person hesitate whether to give his vote for a man of known probity, a man who has been your friend, who has never deceived you, who has never been deceived himself; who has never apostatized from his own principles, writing folly or villainy upon all his past life?
Will you discard men, the immense benefits of whose administration you have actually experienced? Will not this discourage and drive good men from public office? Will not this throw you into the hands of those, who flatter to betray, who climb to office to share in the plunder of the treasury?
But to exercise this political fidelity, your own hearts must not be like the sluggard’s garden. If vice pollute your life, or infidelity poison the fountain of action, then will you prefer rulers of the same dismal description. On the wisdom and piety of the people rest all our hopes of a wise administration.
The price given for the right of suffrage, surpasses calculation. Shall it be perverted? It cost our fathers exile from their native land, their fruitful fields, their delicious gardens, the dwellings of their parents, their domestic altars, and the courts of their God. It cost them famine, disease and death, in a wilderness of savages; the war song of hostile tribes alarmed the slumbers of the night; they met the chiefs on the hill of battles, the earth drank their blood. Will the descendants of such a people neglect the right of suffrage? Will you employ it in a rash or dangerous manner? Will you write a name, or lift a hand to support a government, which is the minister of divine wrath? Should you be able to bear the yoke of foreign despotism with manly fortitude, should you even gain some temporary advantages from the ruin of your country, remember, your children may not stand on your elevated ground. Have mercy then on your children, on your country, on generations unborn. Entail not on them the miseries of a government, hostile to their best interests, hostile to heaven and earth. Would you establish those in the first offices of the land, who will poison the hearts of your children with infidelity, who will harness them in the team of Hollanders, and Germans, and Swiss, and Italians, to draw the triumphal car of Napoleon? Are you pursing your sons to be dragged into his armies? Shall they be sacrificed on his bloody altars? Who will bury their bones whitening the hill of battle?
Were our country awake to their danger the awful crisis would demand all their wisdom. Your enemy calleth the fowls of heaven to eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains; the blood flows to the horses’ bridles. He binds kings in chains, and nobles in fetters of iron. His armies burden the earth; pestilence and famine, and death, follow their course. Yet these are harmless. I acquit them of mischief, when compared with the hordes of spies and secret agents, sent forth to the nations of the earth, to sow discord among brethren, to spread irreligion and atheism, to dissolve the bonds of society. Like the frogs in Egypt, these emissaries “enter our houses, our bed chambers and ovens.” They mingle with the people, persuading them, that infidelity forms the same good magistrate, as the spirit of Christ. They gain the confidence of rulers, who yield their people a sacrifice to foreign ambition.
Can he be merciful to strangers, who has ruined his own country? The fruit often perishes in the fields of France, because the farmer is unable to pay the taxes of harvest. The pestilence of this contagion has reached our shores. Where is the voice of general gladness, where the face of enchanting prosperity, lately so conspicuous? Why are our ports solitary and sad? Why have the masts been huddled together like groves scorched by the fires of the wilderness? Where are our cheerful mariners? Who, where is he who has done this mighty mischief? Has famine, has pestilence stalked through our towns? Every child can answer. The heralds of the general government have passed through our towns; like the messengers of Job, each had a tale more affecting than his fellow. They have passed along; before them was the garden of Eden, a virtuous people, obedient to the laws. Behind them is the desert of Sodom, violations of law, perjury, and distress. Terrific architects of ruin, can they exult in their tremendous power of annihilation?
Is it said that this cause of complaint is removed, that commerce is again free from her iron chains? Then, why has she not been always free? Are the belligerents less powerful? Is the modern Attila less piratical? Is the dragon dead, which has so long wasted our country? Forsaken, abandoned, and execrated by all, did the monster expire alone, without a friend to close its eyes, to sing its funeral dirge, or to convey its loathsome remains “to the narrow house?” Do the authors thus plead guilty to the charge of general distress, and extensive ruin, wantonly brought on the nation? What is the merit of removing miseries, which ought never to have been inflicted?
Let the country be indemnified for the invaluable losses sustained in our fisheries; for the losses in our foreign traffic; for the losses in our domestic trade; for the losses in having several channels of commerce turned to other countries; let the government indemnify the nation, for the lives which have been sacrificed, for the numerous perjuries, for the daring evasions of law, for the immorality and wide spreading licentiousness, which their oppression has excited; then shall we listen to the tale of merit for the redress of our wrongs.
In your absence have your servants wasted your goods, turned the streams from your lands, permitted strangers to imprison your children, burn your fields and houses? Finding themselves in danger, have they suffered the fires to go out, while they rivoted at your table? Are you not charmed with their goodness? They permit you to return and build on any part of the smoking ruins. Will you not strike golden medals in honour of their fidelity? Did Egypt’s king escape infamy and execration by removing the first plagues by which for a time, he had ruined the fishery and traffic of the nation? The billows of the Red Sea echoed the songs of Israel; their daughters joined in the chorus of praise; instruments of music, and dances of the tribes, expressed the transports of the moment. Were these the effusions of gratitude to Pharaoh, because he had suffered his fatal restrictions, to expire; or were they the notes of triumph, the hosannas of exultation, because he “had sunk as lead in the mighty waters?” When Judas returned the thirty pieces of silver, was there not overwhelming evidence of his guilt, in his change of measures?
If the administration will do a new thing, speak to France the language of an independent nation, we shall hope they are preparing to mount the ladder, which angels ascend. The world will applaud the deed of honour.
I spontaneously turn to the chief magistrate, the pilot of the ark in this political deluge. But he, like the celebrated legislator of Israel, perhaps, recognizes his successor; but with this happy difference, not for any word spoken “unadvisedly” by himself. Though it is known to your Excellency that our constitution does not, like that of Athens, formally appoint the sentence of Ostracism, yet may it have occurred, that we have the substance without the name, and without any legislative statute for its regulation. The Athenians sent their best men into exile; we, more humane, only relieve them from office. In Athens, ostracism pruned the growth of luxuriant merit. It condemned to exile those illustrious men, who were accused of being exalted above other citizens, by their conspicuous virtues. An Athenian no sooner distinguished himself by his splendid actions, than he was marked as a victim. His unsullied reputation was a sufficient reason for his banishment. But they never made apostacy, infidelity, and shouting hosanna to the Molock of the age, passports to the highest offices of the state. Still every corporation is not so debased, and we fondly anticipate the hour, Sir, when the immense resources of your political science, when your undaunted fidelity to your country, when the splendor of your talents, will irradiate a popular branch of the government, and like the flash of heaven, display the machinations of our foes. Nor can this possibly be any degradation of rank. The diamond is the same, whether it sparkle in the crown of royalty, or slumber on the cross of the pilgrim. The sun is the same, shining in meridian splendor, or descending in full orbed majesty, beyond the western hills “to enlighten the lower parts of the earth.” Your indefatigable labors of office, your known anxieties for the public good, are pledges that wherever your lot in society shall fall, every effort will be made for the salvation of your country. This shall console us in our fears, while we most devoutly wish you every blessing from the God of heaven.
His Honor, the second magistrate of the Commonwealth, was the companion, the AID, the friend of Washington. Could a volume of eulogy say more? Had Washington, honored sir, been your fellow candidate for office, this day, undoubtedly the result would have been the same to him and to you. The independence of the country was laid in the tomb of the hero.
Finally, The Council and legislature will readily perceive how vastly important and responsible is the office of magistrates.
Ye are not the ministers of state in a mighty empire; ye are not the ambassadors from the first court of the civilized world; but ye are more; ye are the ministers of God; ye are the agents of the king of kings. Ye are elevated to be the lights of the world; or the instruments of Almighty vengeance. We receive our laws, our maxims of conduct, our opinions, our morality, and in some degree the spirit of our religion from you. The encouragement of our labors depends much on the wisdom of your laws. It depends much on you whether the fields shall be loaded with harvest, whether prosperity shall swell the song of gladness; or whether, with hopeless, feeble, reluctant hands, the farmer shall toil merely to supply his necessities. It depends on you whether our flag shall be known in every sea, our mariners throw the hook and harpoon, from the line to the poles, and bring us the riches of every clime. It depends much on you whether sound morals and pure religion, the charitable societies and Christian institutions of our country, shall outlive the storm, which is deluging the earth with barbarism and impiety. I had almost said, ye may be the ark to save a drowning world. You may perhaps direct, not only the destiny of this Commonwealth, but of the United States. To say all in one word, you may revive the dying confidence of the people in the wisdom and patriotism of government. The subjects of your deliberations are various as the fate of empire, affecting as the ruin or glory of your country are serious. Your responsibility might make an assembly of angels tremble.
The Chieftain of Europe, drunk with blood, casts a look upon us; he raises his voice, more terrible, than the midnight yell of savages, at the doors of our forefathers. Already our government is more obedient, than his conquered kings, his ruined vassals. Already they have laid their country on the funeral pile with other nations; they have pierced the vitals of its prosperity, as a peace offering to the baleful demon. The people are afflicted; the cause is hidden from their sight. Our prospects strike us with dismay, yet we must not, we cannot yield our necks to be yoked to the car, or to be chained to the throne of the tyrant. Save us, we beseech you, from such an awful catastrophe. The voice, the decided, indignant voice of Massachusetts would not be heard in vain. The resolves of your predecessors are an imperishable monument of their wisdom, their love of country. More, much more remains to be done. In you we confide to keep alive the fire of independence, which seems ready to expire. The crash of thrones, and tremendous fall of empires, are heard as common sounds. We see the crimson cloud of vengeance sail he heavens, charged with showers of blood; we see the blaze which sets the heavens on fire; we hear those awful explosions, which shake the world, and cover the earth with the slain; we hear the howlings of the storm, the sighs of despair, and the shrieks of death among the nations; still we slumber, and slumber, and slumber, and cry, “peace, peace.” But should this Legislature unitedly lift their voice, and sound the alarm of danger, it is believed you would find the people perfectly prepared to listen, to believe, and to act for the public good.
Ye would be hailed as the Saviours of your country. Your names, familiar a household words, would go down to generations unborn. Posterity would call you blessed. In America, Napoleon might find a Danube, he could not pass; in the Senate House of Massachusetts, an enemy less manageable than the Alexanders, the Fredericks, the Ferdinands, of modern Europe. Let New England rise in her strength, and perform her duty, and the Corsican might, as easily tear the sun from the firmament, as overturn our governments.
But our duty does not consist in soft words and fair speeches. Apathy, indifference, and confidence in the great Destroyer, will not accomplish our work. Our enemy is too sagacious, too powerful, too determined, and too ferocious, to be stopped in his march of ruin, by the spirit of slumber and security. Our songs of admiration will not melt his bosom of stone.
If your house were already wrapt in smoke and flame, would you stand and declaim, respecting the wonderful exploits of fire, and the splendor of the terrible scene? Had an stranger, while enjoying the rites of hospitality, mingled poison in the cups of your children, would you pronounce a eulogy upon his cunning, or amuse yourself with the dying convulsions of your sons and daughters? Would you move with indifference from the explosions of a furious volcano? In the rapids of Niagara, just rushing, plunging, falling down the awful cataract, would you slumber on your oar, would you call for a pencil, to paint the prospect of sublimity and horror? Will you then admire and applaud the magic achievements of Napoleon, till your country is covered with misery and desolation? Will you confide in the angel of the storm, when your country, like a shattered vessel, seems ready to go down in a moment?
The people look to their Legislators for their hopes, their fears, their political impressions. They are listening; they are anxiously enquiring “Watchmen what of the night? What are the signs of the times?” You see the enemy; unless you faithfully warn the people, they will be destroyed; but God will require them at your hands. Will you not then inform them, that the combustibles are collected, that the mines are charged, that the matches are lighted, that the emissaries of that Demon of ruin, who has waded in blood from Egypt to Russia, who is now swimming in the blood of Europe, are waiting to cover this land with conflagration and misery? Will you not disappoint your political opponents, and will you not overwhelm the enemies of your country with despair?
Would to God that he, who now addresses you with such feeble talents, for one moment might enjoy the power of persuasion, the power of communicating his own most solemn convictions, the views which wring his heart. I would speak only for God and my country. I would plead with you in behalf of your children, your fellow citizens, and the human race. I would plead for your altars, your Sabbaths, your Savior, and your God. Is not a tremendous power sweeping, sweeping the face of the earth with political and moral ruin? I know ye believe this. Shall there be no limits to his devastations? Shall the ocean set no bounds to his domination?
Will you sound no alarm from the walls of our political Jerusalem? Will you leave open the gates; shall the tiger rush upon your lambs? Shall they not learn their danger? Will not the stones, then rise your accusers; will not your fathers’ bones cry out against you?
Is there any enchantment in our atmosphere, in our pleasant dwellings, to change the destroying demon into an angel of peace?
In peals of terror the sighs of Europe, and her clanking chains, warn us of our impending fate. She has been chastised with ships; she is now lacerated with scorpions; she is crushed under the wheels of her despot. Wallowing on the gory turf, blood bursting from every vein, she conjures the Legislators of the world, to be admonished by her awful example. Save us, we beseech, we implore you, save us from her vassalage, save us from the ruin, which is already begun. Who knoweth whether ye are come to the government at such a time as this, to be the Saviours of your country? Who knoweth whether ye have been raised up by heaven, as an assembly of Gods, to stop the billows of destruction, and as the ministers of God, to say to the angry floods, “Hitherto shall ye come, but no further, and here shall your proud waves be stayed.” But I forbear. Venerable Sirs, I beseech you forgive my freedom. I speak as I feel, and as a dying man to dying men. I must soon appear before a higher Court to give an account for these words. Amen.