Imágenes de páginas

will become more degraded here, if the right of suffrage be withheld from them, than they were in their native land, though they never enjoyed it there, is simply to utter a ridiculous absurdity which is unsustained by history, and contradicted by our own personal experience. Washington, Franklin, Sherman, Jay, Hamilton, Madison, and the other framers of the Constitution, could have had no such fears, or they would not have inserted a provision in the Constitution requiring aliens to be naturalized at all. Had they supposed that there lurked danger in requiring foreigners to remain some years on probation before becoming citizens, they would have provided for their immediate admission to all the rights and privileges of the government.



One of the political parties of the day has incorporated in its platform and principles of organization an article, recognizing and declaring, as of the utmost importance, the cultivation and development of an intense American feeling; of a passionate attachment to our country, its history and its institutions ; of an admiration for the purer days of our national existence; of a veneration for the heroism that precipitated our revolution, and an emulation of the virtue, wisdom and patriotism that framed our Constitution and first successfully applied its provisions; and that recognition and declaration is no less creditable to the party which has made it a part of its creed, than it is worthy of being emulated by all other political organizations professing to follow the precepts of the illastrious founders of our government.

It is undoubtedly true, as a late address of the American party of Georgia sets forth, that, “as we recede from the revolutionary day, the example of the revolution becomes less and less influential. We are prone to undervalue the principles in which that great event originated, the valor that achieved, and the sacrifices that consecrated it. The steru virtues of that glorious era are held too slow for this progressive age. The simplicity and purity of our fathers are ridiculed as weakness or denounced as fanaticism, and the republic which they constructed in blood and baptized in tears, is considered by many as illy adapted to the wants, and a reproach to the illumination of this generation. The maxims of Washipgton bave lost much of their authority as rules of political conduct; and only a few months since an impudent foreigner, a pauper by concession and a guest by charity, dared to arraign even him, the revered of all nations, at the bar of American opinion, for ignorance and folly. And the nations of the earth saw with amazement that some were found base enougb and weak enough to countenance the charge.”

Nor is this all. Exposed to every disease or contagion, moral and physical, which originates in a foreign atmosphere, and filled with foreigners who have no sympathy for the conservative elements in our Constitution, cherish no American feeling, entertain no attachment to our country, its history and institutions, and instead of admiring the purer days of our national existence, venerating the heroism of the revolution, and emulating the wisdom, virtue, and patriotism of the founders of our government, do not conceal their contempt for all, how can it be otherwise than that our country needs the faithful devotion and services of all who would preserve the Constitution and perpetuate the Union? When there are thousands of those of foreign birth in our midst, followers and disci. ples of Paine, Heine, and other infidel writers, who concert together, and, in an organized form, seek to secure the adoption of measures which would inevitably destroy our system of government, and be a warfare against the Christian religion, it would assuredly seem to be high time that the descendants of the sires of 1776 should make some effort to inspire reverence for historic names and respect for revolutionary virtue, to reinstate the authority of the framers of our government, and establish anew their precepts and examples in the hearts of the people. When these men publicly proclaim that they “hold the Sabbath laws, Thanks. giving days, prayers in Congress and Legislatures, the oaths upon the Bible, the introduction of the Bible into the free schools, the exclusion of atheists from legal acts, &c., as an open violation of human rights as well as of the Constitution, and demand their removal," and when others, also of foreign birth, openly threaten that "year by year the Irish are becoming more and more powerful in America,” and that when “the propitious time will come, they mean to use the Americans for their own parposes ;"—when these things are openly and boldly avowed, it becomes the duty of all true Americans to revert to first principles, and remember those taught and practiced by their revolutionary ancestors, and to restudy the principles and precepts of the founders of the republic, with which those now promulgated by the foreigners among us are in such strange and startling contrast.

Instead of following the teachings of Heine, proclaiming that "there can be no true freedom until Christianity is bloodily abolished," and engaging in the persecution of Christians with ends in view like those of Diocletian, the sages of the American revolution on every and all proper occasions made a public acknowledgment of that Almighty Being, who

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

rules over the Councils of Nations, conducts the affairs of men, and in every respect by which we have advanced to the character of an independent nation, has distinguished us by some token of providential agency. They had studied history, and were not so deficient in wisdom as not to say, with Oliver Cromwell, “ if any man thinks that the interests of these nations and the interests of Christianity, are two separate and distinct things, I wish my soul may never enter into his secret," and we accordingly find that at the second session of the meeting of the Continental Congress, in Philadelphia, in 1774, it was resolved “that the Rev. Mr. Duche be desired to open the Congress to-morrow morning with prayer, at the Carpenter's Hall," and the practice was continued during the entire revolution.

In Thatcher's Military Journal-a book very difficult to get hold ofunder date of December, 1777, is found a note containing the identical "first prayer in Congress.” The scene has been made the subject of an engraving, in which Mr. Duche is the central figure, and it graces many parlors at this day. The prayer was as follows :

O Lord, our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth, and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all kingdoms, empires and governments, look down in mercy, we beseech thee, on these American States, who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor, and thrown themselves on thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on thee; to thee bave they appealed for the righteousness of their cause ; to thee do they now look up for that countenance and support which thou alone canst give; take them, therefore, heavenly Father, under thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in council, and valor in the field ; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries ; convince them of the unrighteousness of their cause; and if they will still persist in their sanguinary purpose, o I let the voice of thine own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle. Be thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed, that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored ;-and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst thy people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the mil. lions they here represent, such temporal blessings as thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, thy Son and our Saviour. Amen!"

And by a reference to the Madison Papers, containing the debates of

[ocr errors]

the Convention which framed the Constitution, there will be found the following speech made by Benjamin Franklin :

Mr. President :~The small progress we have made after four or five weeks' close attendance and continual reasonings with each other our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes—is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the im. perfection of the human understanding. We, indeed, seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it.

We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances,

"In this situation, of this assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark, to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to os, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were most graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this bappy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend ? Or, do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance ? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?

" We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed, in this political building, no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded ; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be beld in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in the service."


And there were those among the statesmen of that day who, though the champions of religious as well as civil liberty, and opposed to the establishment of any religion by law, did yet not hesitate to express their regret that there was no provision inserted in the Constitution, acknowledging the existence of God, and dependence upon Him for the successful establishment and administration of the government. Luther Martin, & member of the Convention, thus refers to the subject in his address to the Maryland Legislature. See Elliott's Debates, vol. .., p. 385:

The part of the system which provides that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, was adopted by a great majority of the Convention, and without much debate. However, there were some members so unfashionable as to think that a belief of the existence of a Deity, and of a state of future rewards and punishments, would be some security for the good con. duct of our rulers, and that, in a Christian country, it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between the professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism.


In the report of the Massachusetts Convention which adopted the Constitution, we find the following note in relation to this subject:

“ In the conversation on Thursday, on the sixth article, which provides religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,' &c., several gentlemen urged that it was a departure from the principles of our forefathers, who came here for the preservation of their religion; and that it would admit deists, atheists, &c., into the general government; and, people being apt to imitate the examples of the court, these principles would be disseminated, and, of course, a corruption of morals ensue. Gentlemen on the other side applauded the liberality of the clause, and represented, in striking colors, the impropriety, and almost impiety, of the requisition of a test, as practiced in Great Britain and elsewhere.” Elliott's Debates, vol. iis, p. 117.

Col. Jones (of Bristol) “ thought, that the rulers ought to believe in God or Christ, and that, however a test may be prostituted in England, yet he thought, if our publice men were to be those who had a good standing in the church, it would be happy for the United States, and that a person could not be a good man without being a good Christian.” Ibid., 119.

[ocr errors]



In the Connecticut Convention, Oliver Wolcott said he could "not see the necessity for such a test as some gentlemen contended for. The Constitution enjoins an oath upon all the officers of the United States. This is a direct appeal to that God who is the avenger of perjury. Such an appeal to Him is a full acknowledgment of His being and providence. An acknowledgment of these great truths is all the gentlemen contend for.Ibid., 210. In the North Carolina Convention, Mr. Abbott said that many suppose that " if there be no religious test required, pagans, deists and Mahometans might obtain offices," and that they desired to know "how and by whom they are to be sworn.Mr. Iredell, in reply, said “it is never to be supposed that the people of America will trust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or a religion materially

« AnteriorContinuar »