Founder Benjamin Rush: A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book

BenjaminRush

Founding Father; Doctor Benjamin Rush: Public School Advocate, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Founder of the first American Bible Society, dedicated to spreading the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr. Rush was an outspoken Christian, statesman, and pioneering medical doctor. He was a prolific author, and wrote the first America chemistry textbook. In 1777, he was  appointed Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and complained to Washington about the condition of the hospitals In 1797, President John Adams appointed Rush as Treasurer of the U.S. Mint, a position he held until 1813. He was another of the early advocates for the abolition of slavery, free public schools, education for women. He helped found the first anti-slavery society in America. He urged Thomas Paine to write Common Sense, a tract promoting American independence, and supplied the title. Dr. Rush treated over 100 patients a day during the yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia, and his account of the epidemic of 1793 won him international recognition. At the time of his death in 1813, he was heralded as one of the three most notable figures of America, the other two being George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

RELIGIOUS VIEWS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON; source: The Jefferson Bible

GOD GOVERNS IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN Speech by Benjamin Franklin During the Constitutional Convention

A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book: Addressed to the Rev. Jeremy Belknap of Boston, Mass. 1791 by Benjamin Rush

Dear Sir,

Tis now several months, since I promised to give you my reasons for preferring the bible as a school book, to all other compositions. I shall not trouble you with an apology for my delaying so long to comply with my promise, but shall proceed immediately to the subject of my letter.

Before I state my arguments in favour of teaching children to read by means of the bible, I shall assume the five following propositions.;

 I. That Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and that in proportion as mankind adopt its principles, and obey its precepts, they will be wife, and happy.

     II. That a better knowledge of this religion is to be acquired by reading the bible, than in any other way.

 III. That the bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state, than any other book in the world.

     IV. That knowledge is most durable, and religious instruction most useful, when imparted in early life,

V. That the bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life.

My arguments in favor of the use of the bible as a school book are founded, I. In the constitution of the human mind.

    1. The memory is the first faculty which opens in the minds of children. Of how much consequence, then, must it be, to impress it with the great truths of Christianity, before it is pre-occupied with less interesting subjects! As all the liquors, which are poured into a cup, generally taste of that which first filled it, so all the knowledge, which is added to that which is treasured up in the memory from the bible, generally receives an agreeable and useful tincture from it.

2. There is a peculiar aptitude in the minds of children for religious knowledge. I have constantly found them in the first fix or seven years of their lives, more inquisitive upon religious subjects, than upon any others: and an ingenious instructor of youth has informed me, that he has found young children more capable of receiving just ideas upon the most difficult tenets of religion, than upon the most simple branches of human knowledge. It would be strange if it were otherwise; for God creates all his means to suit all his ends. There must of course be a fitness between the human mind, and the truths which are essential to its happiness.

3. The influence of prejudice is derived from the impressions, which are made upon the mind in early life; prejudices are of two kinds, true and false. In a world where false prejudices do so much mischief, it would discover great weakness not to oppose them, by such as are true.

I grant that many men have rejected the prejudices derived from the bible: but I believe no man ever did so, without having been made wiser or better, by the early operation of these prejudices upon his mind. Every just principle that is to be found in the writings of Voltaire, is borrowed from the Bible: and the morality of the Deists, which has been so much admired and praised, is, I believe, in most cafes, the effect of habits, produced by early instruction in the principles of Christianity.

    4. We are subject, by a general law in our natures, to what is called habit. Now if the study of the scriptures be necessary to our happiness at any time of our . lives, the sooner we begin to read them, the more we shall be attached to them; for it is peculiar to all the acts of habit, to become easy, strong and agreeable by repetition.

5. It is a law in our natures, that we remember longest the knowledge we acquire by the greatest number of our senses. Now a knowledge of the contents of the bible, is acquired in school by the aid of the eyes and the ears; for children after getting their lessons, always say them to their masters in an audible voice j of course there is a presumption, that this knowledge will be retained much longer than if it had been acquired in any other way.

6. The interesting events and characters, recorded and described in the Old and New Testaments, are accommodated above all others to seize upon all the faculties of the minds of children. The understanding, the memory, the imagination, the passions, and the moral powers, are all occasionally addressed by the various incidents which are contained in those divine books, insomuch that not to be delighted with them, is to be devoid of every principle of pleasure that exists in a sound mind.

7. There is a native love of truth in the human mind. Lord Shaftesbury says, that “truth is so congenial to our minds, that we love even the shadow of it:” and Horace, in his rules for composing an epic poem, establishes the fame law in our natures, by advising the ” fictions in poetry to resemble truth.” Now the bible contains more truths than any other book in the world: so true is the testimony that it bears of God in his works of creation, providence, and redemption, that it is called truth itself, by way of preeminence above things that are only simply true. How forcibly are we struck with the evidences of truth, in the history of the Jews, above what we discover in the history of other nations? Where do we find a hero, or an historian record[s] his own faults or vices except in the Old Testament? Indeed, my friend, from some accounts which I have read of the American revolution, I begin to grow skeptical to all history except to that which is contained in the bible. Now if this book be known to contain nothing but what is materially true, the mind will naturally acquire a love for it from this circumstance: and from this affection for the truths of of the bible, it will acquire a discernment of truth in other books, and a preference of it in all the transactions of life. .

8. There is a wonderful property in the memory, which enables it in old age, to recover the knowledge it had acquired in early life, after it had been apparently forgotten for forty or fifty years. Of how much consequence, then, must it be, to fill the mind with that species of knowledge, in childhood and youth, which, when recalled in the decline of life, will support the soul under the infirmities of age, and smooth the avenues of approaching death? The bible is the only book which is capable of affording this support to old age; and it is for this reason that we find it resorted to with so much diligence and pleasure by such old people as have read it in early life. I can recollect many instances of this kind in persons who discovered no attachment to the bible, in the meridian of their lives, who have notwithstanding, spent the evening of them, in reading no other book. The late Sir John Pringle, Physician to the Queen of Great Britain, after passing a long life in camps and at court, closed it by studying the scriptures. So anxious was he to increase his knowledge in them, that he wrote to Dr. Michaelis, a learned professor of divinity in Germany, for an explanation of a difficult text of scripture, a short time before his death.

9. My second argument in favour of the use of the bible in schools, is founded upon an implied command of God, and upon the practice of several of the wisest nations of the world—In the 6th chapter of Deuteronomy, we find the following words, which are directly to my purpose, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”

It appears, moreover, from the history of the Jews, that they flourished as a nation, in proportion as they honoured and read the books of Moses, which contained, a written revelation of the will of God, to the children of men. The law was not only neglected, but lost during the general profligacy of manners which accompanied the long and wicked reign of Manasseh. Put the discovery of it, in the rubbish of the temple, by Josiah, and its subsequent general use, were followed by a return of national virtue and prosperity. We read further, of the wonderful effects which the reading of the law by Ezra, after his return from his captiviy in Babylon, had upon the Jews. They hung upon his lips with tears, and showed the sincerity of their repentance, by their general reformation.

The learning of the Jews, for many years consisted in nothing but a knowledge of the scriptures. These were the text books of all the instruction that was given in the schools of their prophets. It ‘was by means of this general knowledge of their law, that those Jews that wandered from Judea into our countries, carried with them and propagated certain ideas of the true God among all the civilized nations upon the face of the earth. And it was from the attachment they retained to the old Testament, that they procured a translation of it into the Greek language, after they lost the Hebrew tongue, by their long absence from their native country. The utility of this translation, commonly called the Septuagint, in facilitating the progress of the gospel, is well known to all who are acquainted with the history of the first age of the christian church.

But the benefits of an early and general acquaintance with the bible, were not confined only to the Jewish nations. They have appeared in many countries in Europe, since the reformation. The industry, and habits of order, which distinguish many of the German nations, are derived from their early instruction in the principles of Christianity, by means of the bible. The moral and enlightened character of the inhabitants of Scotland, and of the New England States, appears to be derived from the same cause. If we descend from nations to sects, we shall find them wise and prosperous in proportion as they become early acquainted with the scriptures. The bible is still used as a school book among the Quakers. The morality of this sect of christians is universally acknowledged. Nor is this all, their prudence in the management of their private affairs, is as much a mark of their society, as their sober manners,

I wish to be excused for repeating here, that if the bible did not convey a single direction for the attainment of future happiness, it should be read in our schools in preference to all other books, from its containing the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and publick temporal happiness.

We err not only in human affairs, but in religion likewise, only because we do not know the scriptures.” The opposite systems of the numerous sects of Christians. arise chiefly from their being more instructed in catechisms, creeds, and confessions of faith, than in the scriptures. Immense truths, I believe, are concealed in them. The time, I have no doubt, will come, when posterity will view and pity our ignorance of these truths, as much as we do the ignorance of the disciples of our Saviour, who knew nothing of the meaning of these plain passages in the old testament which were daily fulfilling before their eyes. Whenever that time shall arrive, those truths which have escaped our notice, or, if discovered, have been thought to be opposed to each other, or to be inconsistent with themselves, will then like the stones of Solomon’s temple, be found so exactly ‘o accord with each other, that they shall be cemented without noise or force, into one simple and sublime system of religion. 

But further, we err, not only in religion but in philosophy likewise, because we do not know or believe the scriptures. The sciences have been compared to a circle of which religion composes a part. To understand any one of them perfectly it is necessary to have some knowledge of them all. Bacon, Boyle, and Newton included the scriptures in the inquiries to which their universal geniuses disposed them, and their philosophy was aided by their knowledge in them. A striking agreement has been lately discovered between the history of certain events recorded in the bible and some of the operations and productions of nature, particularly those which are related in Whitehurst’s observations on the deluge- in Smith’s account of the origin of the variety of colour in the human species, and in Bruce’s travels. It remains yet to be shown how many other events, related in the bible, accord with some late important discoveries in the principles of medicine. The events, and the principles alluded to, mutually establish the truth of each other. From the discoveries of the christian philosophers, whose names have been last mentioned, I have been led to question whether most harm has been done to revelation, by those divines who have unduly multiplied the objects of faith, or by those deists who have unduly multiplied the objects of reason, in explaining the scriptures.

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I shall now proceed to answer some of the objections which have been made to the use of the bible as a school book.

   I. We are told, that the familiar use of the bible in our schools, has a tendency to lessen a due reverence for it. This objection, by proving too much, proves nothing at all. If familiarity lessens respect for divine things, then all those precepts of our religion, which enjoin the daily or weekly worship of the Deity, are improper. The bible was not intended to represent a Jewish ark; and it is an antichristian idea, to suppose that it can be profaned, by being carried into a school house, or by being handled by children. But where will the bible be read by young people with more reverence than in a school? Not in most private families; for I believe there are few parents, who preserve so much order in their houses, as is kept up in our common English [free or public] schools.

II. We are told, that there are many passages in the old testament, that are improper to be read by children, and that the greatest part of it is no way interesting to mankind under the present dispensation of the gospel. There are I grant, several chapters, and many verse[s] in the old testament, which in their present unfortunate translation, should be passed over by children. But I deny that any of the books of the old testament are not interesting to mankind, under the gospel dispensation. Most of the characters, events, and ceremonies, mentioned in them, are personal, providential, or instituted types of the Messiah: All of which have been, or remain yet to be, fulfilled by him. It is from an ignorance or neglect of these types, that we have so many deists in Christendom; for so irrefragably [are impossible to refute] do they prove the truth of Christianity, that I am sure a young man who had been regularly instructed in their meaning, could never doubt afterwards of the truth of any of its principles. If any obscurity appears in these principles, it is only (to use the words of the poet) because they are dark, with excessive bright.

I know there is an objection among many People to teach children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But where will this objection lead us ?— The being of a God, and the obligations of morality, have both been controverted [argued about]; and yet who has objected to our teaching these doctrines to our children?

The curiosity and capacities of young people for the mysteries of religion, awaken much sooner than is generally supposed. Of this we have two remarkable proofs in the old testament. The first is mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Exodus. “And it shall come when your children shall say unto you,” What mean you by this service ?” that ye shall say, ” It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.” A second proof of the desire of children to be instructed in the mysteries of religion, is to be found in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy. And when thy son asketh thee in the time to come saying,  What mean the testimonies—and the statutes—and the judgments which the Lord our God hath commanded you?” Then thou shalt fay unto thy son, ” We were Pharoah’s bondmen in Egypt, and the Lord our God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” These enquiries from the mouths of children are perfectly natural; for where is the parent who has not had similar questions proposed to him by his children upon their being being first conducted to a place of worship, or upon their beholding, for the first time, either of the sacraments of our religion.

Let us not not be wiser than our Maker. If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into our world, would have been unnecessary. He came to promulgate a system of doctrines, as well as a system of morals. The perfect morality of the gospel rests upon a doctrine, which, though often controverted, has never been refuted, I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God. This sublime and ineffable doctrine delivers us from the absurd hypotheses of modern philosophers, concerning the foundation of moral obligation, and fixes it upon the eternal and self moving principle of Love. It concentrates a whole system of ethics in a single text of Scripture. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.” By witholding the knowledge of this doctrine from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds. We do more, we furnish an argument, for witholding from them a knowledge of the morality of the gospel likewise; for this, in many instances, is as supernatural, and therefore as liable to be controverted, as any of the doctrines or miracles which are mentioned in the new testament. The miraculous conception of the saviour of the world by a virgin, is not more opposed to the ordinary course of natural events, nor is the doctrine of the atonement more above human reason, than those moral precepts, which command us to love our enemies, or to die for our friends.

III. It has been said, that the division of the bible into chapters and verses, renders it more difficult to be read, by children than many other books.

By a little care in a master, this difficulty may be obviated, and even an advantage derived from it. It may serve to transfer the attention of the scholar to the sense of a subject; and no person will ever read well, who is guided by any thing else, in his stops, emphafis, or accents. The division of the bible into chapters and verses, is not a greater obstacle to its being read with ease, than the bad punctuation of most other books. I deliver this stricture upon other books, from the authority of Mr. Rice, the celebrated author of the art of speaking, whom I heard declare in a large company in London, that he had never seen a book properly pointed in the English Language. He exemplified, notwithstanding, by reading to the same company a passage from Milton, his perfect knowledge of the art of reading.

Some people, I know, have proposed to introduce extracts from the bible, into our schools, instead of the bible itself. Many excellent works of this kind, are in print, but if we admit any one of them, we shall have the same inundation of them that we have had of grammars, spelling books, and lessons for children, many of which are published for the benefit of the authors only, and all of them have tended greatly to increase the expence of education. Besides, these extracts or abridgements of the bible, often contain the tenets of particular sects or persons, and therefore, may be improper for schools composed of the children of different sects of Christians. The bible is a cheap book, and is to be had in every bookstore. It is, moreover, esteemed and prefered by all sects; because each finds its peculiar doctrines in it. It would therefore be used in preference to any abridgements of it, or histories extracted from it.

I have heard it proposed that a portion of the bible should be read every day by the master, as a means of instructing children in it: But this is a poor substitute for obliging children to read it as a school book; for by this means we insensibly engrave, as it were, its contents upon their minds: and it has been remarked that children, instructed in this way in the scriptures, seldom forget any part of them. They have the same advantage over those persons,who have only heard the scriptures read by a master, that a man who has worked with the tools of a mechanical employment for several years, has over the man who has only stood a few hours in a work shop, and seen the same business carried on by other people.

In this defence of the use of the bible as a school book, I beg you would not think that I suppose the Bible to contain the only revelation which God has made to man. I believe in an internal revelation, or a moral principle, which God has implanted in the heart of every man, as the precursor of his final dominion over the whole human race. How much this internal revelation accords with the external, remains yet to be explored by philosophers. I am disposed to believe, that most of the doctrines of Christianity revealed in the bible might be discovered by a close examination of all the principles of action in man: But who is equal to such an enquiry? It certainly does not suit the natural indolence, or laborious employments of a great majority of mankind. The internal revelation of the gospel may be compared to the straight line which is made through a wilderness by the assistance of a compass, to a distant country, which few are able to discover, while the bible resembles a public road to the same country, which is wide, plain, and easily found, And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness. The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”

Neither let me in this place exclude the Revelation which God has made of himself to man in the works of creation. I am far from wishing to lessen the influence of this species of Revelation upon mankind. But the knowledge of God obtained from this source, is obscure and feeble in its operation, compared with that which is derived from the bible. The visible creation speaks of the Deity in hyeroglyphics, while the bible describes all his attributes and perfections in such plain and familiar language that “he who runs may read.”

How kindly has our maker dealt with his creatures, in providing three different cords to draw them to himself? But how weakly do some men act, who suspend their faith, and hopes upon only one of them! By laying hold of them all, they would approach more speedily and certainly to the centre of all happiness.

To the arguments I have mentioned in favour of the use of the bible as a school book, I shall add a few reflections.

The present fashionable practice of rejecting the bible from our schools, I suspect has originated with the deists. They discover great ingenuity in this new mode of attacking Christianity. If they proceed in it, they will do more in half a century, in extirpating our religion, than Bolingbroke or Voltaire could have effected in a thousand years. I am not writing to this class of people. I despair of changing the opinions of any of them. I wish only to alter the opinions and conduct of those lukewarm, or superstitious Christians, who have been milled [crushed or confused] by the deists upon this subject. On the ground of the good old custom, of using the bible as a school book, it becomes us to entrench our religion. It is the last bulwark the deists have left it; for they have rendered instruction in the principles of Christianity by the pulpit and the press, so unfashionable, that little good for many years seems to have been done by either of them.

The effects of the disuse of the bible, as a school book have appeared of late in the neglect and even contempt with which scripture names are treated by many people. It is because parents have not been early taught to know or respect the characters and exploits of the old and new testament worthies, that their names are exchanged for those of the modern kings of Europe, or of the principal characters in novels and romances. I conceive there may be some advantage in bearing scripture names. It may lead the persons who bear them, to study that part of the scriptures, in which their names are mentioned, with uncommon attention, and perhaps it may excite a desire in them to possess the talents or virtues of their ancient namesakes. This remark first occurred to me, upon hearing a pious woman whose name was Mary, say, that the first passages of the bible, which made a serious impression on her mind, were those interesting chapters and verses in which the name of Mary is mentioned in the New Testament.

It is a singular fact, that while the names of the kings and emperors of Rome, are now given chiefly to horses and dogs, scripture names have hitherto been confined only to the human species. Let the enemies and contemners [view with contempt; despise] of those names take care, lest the names of more modern kings be given hereafter only to the same animals, and lest the names of the modern heroines of romances be given to animals of an inferior species.

It is with great pleasure, that I have observed the bible to be the only book read in the Sunday schools in England. We have adopted the same practice in the Sunday schools [in America], lately established in this city. This will give our religion (humanly speaking) the chance of a longer life in our country [The United States]. We hear much of the persons educated in free schools in England, turning out well in the various walks of life. I have enquired into the cause of it, and have satisfied myself, that it is wholly to be ascribed to the general use of the bible in those schools, for it seems the children of poor people are of too little consequence to be guarded from the supposed evils of reading the scriptures in early life, or in an unconsecrated school house.

However great the benefits of reading the scriptures in schools have been, I cannot help remarking, that these benefits might be much greater, did schoolmasters take more pains to explain them to their scholars. Did they demonstrate the divine original of the bible from the purity, consistency, and benevolence of its doctrines and precepts—did they explain the meaning of the levitical institutions, and show their application to the numerous and successive gospel dispensations—did they inform their pupils that the gross and abominable vices of the Jews were recorded only as proofs of the depravity of human nature, and of the insufficiency of the law, to produce moral virtue and thereby to establish the necessity and perfection of the gospel system —and above all, did they often enforce the discourses of our Saviour, as the best rule of life, and the surest guide to happiness, how great would be the influence of our schools upon the order and prosperity of our country! Such a mode of instructing children in the Christian religion, would convey knowledge into their understandings, and would therefore be preferable to teaching them creeds, and catechisms, which too often convey, not knowledge, but words only, into their memories. I think I am not too sanguine in believing, that education, conducted in this manner, would, in the course of two generations, eradicate infidelity from among us, and render civil government scarcely necessary in our country.

In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament, that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity, by means of the bible; for this divine book, above all others, favours that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.

I have now only to apologize for having addressed this letter to you, after having been assured by you, that your opinion, respecting the use of the bible as a school book, coincided with mine. My excuse for what I have done is, that I knew you were qualified by your knowledge, and disposed by your zeal in the cause of truth, to correct all the errors you would discover in my letter. Perhaps a further apology may be necessary for my having presumed to write upon a subject so much above my ordinary studies. My excuse for it is, that I thought a single mite from a member of a profession, which has been frequently charged with skepticism in religion, might attract the notice of persons who had often overlooked the more ample contributions upon this subject, of gentlemen of other professions. With great respect, I am, dear Sir, your sincere friend.

BENJAMIN RUSH. Philadelphia, March 10, 1791.

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THE BEACON FIRES OF LIBERTY by Hon. George Lear July 4, 1876

George Lear 1818-1884The Ship of Liberty on which we embarked 1776!

An Oration By Hon. George Lear (1818-1884), Delivered At Doylestown, Pa., July 4th, 1876.

Ladies And Gentlemen: When the merchant turns his attention to foreign commerce, he designs a craft for ocean navigation, and addresses himself to the task of procuring sound materials and the most approved plans of naval architecture. The skeleton of a ship is erected on the stocks, and its ribs covered with oak or iron, well secured with bolts, having neither flaw nor blemish. The hull is finished with all the qualities of strength and symmetry, and, upon an appointed day, in the presence of invited guests, with a virgin stationed on the bow with a bottle containing something similar “to the nectar which Jupiter sips,” the hawsers are cast loose, the blocks and wedges are removed, and as the ponderous craft glides down the inclined plane, the bottle is broken as the name is pronounced in baptismal solemnity, and, with a rush and a plunge, she enters the water, and floats high upon its surface, uncontrolled and uncontrollable except by extrinsic agencies.

But being in its proper element, the next care is to fit it for navigation by the addition of masts and spars, booms and yards, ropes and sails, until the unmanageable hulk becomes a full rigged ship, with her sails bent and her pennons flying, and “she walks the water like a thing of life.” Friends are again invited, viands are prepared, and the trial excursion takes place. She sails gaily down the bay to the strains of inspiring music, the sails swell with the freshening breeze, and the pennons wave graceful in the wind as she approaches the waters of the broad ocean. Fearlessly she essays the navigation of the billowy deep; and for the first time she is “afloat on the fierce rolling tide.” she is pronounced staunch and sea-worthy, and returns to ship her first cargo, and enter upon the practical business for which she was designed and constructed.

One hundred years ago a band of patriots known by the name of the Continental Congress, unskilled and inexperienced in State craft, with fearless and almost reckless disregard of consequences, launched their bark upon the unknown and turbulent sea of revolution. Not lured like Jason by the hope of the recovery of the Golden Fleece, or like the merchant by the prospect of wealth—not investing their private fortunes only in the prospect of private gain or personal ambition—but in the cause of human freedom and the rights of man they “mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.” It was not the mere question of the sacrifice of a fortune, or, in the event of success, untold wealth. It was the launch of the ship of State upon an unknown sea, with fortunes, lives and honor aboard, the venture being the establishment of a nation based on the principle of human equality; or, in the event of a failure, the loss of fortune, life and honor. Without any prospect of personal gain under any circumstances, the stake was a nation to freedom or halters to the projectors.

After years of untold sacrifices and privations, a nation was organized, and human freedom as the basis of a government was established. But the mere military success of the Revolution was not the end. Martial courage, heroic endurance and unselfish patriotism could trample kingly crowns in the dust, and tear the purple robes from the shoulders of royalty, but the destinies of a nation of people, covering almost a continent, were left in their hands, with no one born to govern, and with no experience in any one in the art of government.

The ship of State had made a successful trial trip, and had weathered the gale of military contention and strife; but her crew was composed of men accustomed to obey and not to rule. The nations of the earth pronounced her staunch and seaworthy, and recognized her as a co-ordinate existence. But the question constantly recurred, can she sustain herself in midocean in the long voyage of national existence, with an untrained and undisciplined crew, in the calms of financial depression, and among the rocks and shoals of mutiny and internal dissension? We are here to-day, as a portion of the passengers who sailed on that good craft, to answer that question. We have withstood the shock of battle, the ocean’s storm, the tropic’s calm, “the broadside’s reeling rack,” the crew’s rebellion, and the hidden dangers of the deep, and with all hands on deck and the flag flying at the fore, we dance over the waves and ride into the harbor at the end of a voyage of a hundred years, with the ease and grace of excursionists on a summer sea.

With all our opening disadvantages, with fortunes broken and general financial prostration, the nation entered upon a career of self-government, then a doubtful experiment, and this is the only republic in the history of the world which has lived to celebrate the centenary of its birth. The problem of government by the people was looked upon as the fond dream of visionaries and theorists designed to captivate the ear of the multitude by the resounding periods of the rhetorician, and shed a glamour over the resonant numbers of the poet’s songs of liberty; but practically an impossible hope not to be realized in human society.

When the united colonies struck their blow for independence and in the cause of human freedom, the population of the whole country was not equal to that of Pennsylvania to-day. And in useful productions and the multifarious industries which render a people self-sustaining, they were far behind the present resources of this great State. They were not only dependent politically upon the mother country, and governed by laws in the enactment of which they had no voice, but they were commercially dependent . They depended on other countries for many of the necessaries of life. They had a vast territory and a soil of great natural fertility, but its products had to be shipped to other countries to be put into the forms and fabrics for the use of the people. Under such circumstances, the declaration of independence was an act like that of a commander landing his army on a hostile coast, and burning his ships to cut off the possibility of retreat . It was a bold act, but it was not done recklessly, under a temporary excitement, by men who were ambitious to perform a dramatic act of evanescent courage before the eyes of the world, but by men who were brave, prudent, patriotic and wise.

There is a system of compensation which runs through all human transactions, and it often happens that what seems an element of weakness is a bulwark of strength. The comparative poverty and helpless dependence of the colonies was a bond of union and strength when the connection with Great Britain was once severed. Having to rely upon themselves, they became more firmly knitted together, and this self-dependence increased their trust and confidence in each other. While their privations were greater, their patriotism burned the brighter, and they vied with each other in acts of unselfish heroism, and in the darkest hours of the protracted struggle, the gloom was illuminated by deeds of fortitude, endurance and valor which filled the land with their glory, and challenged the admiration of the world.

But this is not a time nor a place for a history of that war, or a recapitulation of its conspicuous events. The pledge of the colonists to each other and to mankind was faithfully redeemed. The scattered colonies became the nucleus of a great nation. But war leaves its scars as well upon the body politic as upon the warrior. The new government was bankrupt. The currency of the country was worthless. The new system of government was to be organized by men who were without experience in the art of government, with large debts and an empty treasury. Here again, more conspicuously than in the war, the poverty of the colonists was an element of strength, and the nursery of patriotism. With no money in the treasury and few resources to raise revenue to pay their debts and carry on the public business, they had their compensation in the fact that there was nothing to steal, and consequently the new government did not beget a race of thieves. Men who were conspicuous for the purity of their lives, their sterling integrity and patriotism and their exalted abilities were sought for and placed in the highest positions of political trust. In those days, it was the belief of the people that the true way to get money was to earn it; that the acquisition of wealth was a slow and toilsome process; and that the evidence of it was the possession and ownership of substantial property, or the glittering cash, and not a man’s ability to place on the market and keep afloat the largest amount of commercial paper.

With these homely but sound notions of political and personal economy, the people addressed themselves to the task of repairing their fortunes and building up the industries of the country on a firm and substantial bases. Economy in the household and in the government was the rule, and no luxuries were indulged in until the money was earned to pay for them. The habits of the people under a government of and by the people stamped their impress upon the administration of public affairs. Honesty, economy, and public and private virtue were essential elements of respectability, and the general rule of action in public and private life; and profligacy the exception. Cultivating such principles, with a boundless territory, of teeming soil and a free government, we could not fail to be a prosperous and a happy people.

“There is no poverty where Freedom is—
The wealth of nature is affluence to us all,”

Having started our ship of State under these auspices, we have tided over the first century of our national existence. On this glad day of our hundredth anniversary, while celebrating the most important event in the history of human governments which has ever shed its influence on surrounding nations, and lighted up the dark places of the world, let us like true sailors take our reckoning, and improve the occasion of our rejoicing in this year of jubilee, by ascertaining whether our good ship is on her true course, and to so trim her sails, repair her hull, lay her fairly before the wind, and replenish her stores, that she may live through the calms of financial and business depressions, weather the gales of internal strife, avoid the rocks and shoals of foreign and domestic wars, and repel the attacks of all piratical crafts at home and abroad, during the future progress of her voyage over an unexplored and unknown sea; for our future course is not to be a return, and we are not to he listlessly on the water to be borne back by the refluent tide to the harbor whence we sailed. Our course is not backward but forward and onward.

And what are the conclusions from our observations? What do tho soundings indicate? What is the outlook from the binnacle? Does the gallant craft still respond to the turn of the helmsman’s wheel like a thing of intelligence? Do the “waves bound beneath her like a steed that knows his rider?” Is she followed by hungry sharks ready to devour her crew, or cheered by the presence of the graceful sea gull, with his wavy motion and virgin plumage?

These questions are asked more to excite reflection than for answers; but it may not be amiss to answer so far as can be done by general conclusions. The stability of the present and the hope of the future are found in the underlying principles of our government—the universal equality and inalienable rights of all men. Human rights arc the rights of all men, and of each man, and they cannot be taken away except so far as he surrenders them. Governments are organized for the protection of human society, but they derive all “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” To this extent a man may surrender his natural rights. The government is from an internal, and not an external source. Man rules himself under our system, and for convenience may do it by a delegated power, to be conferred and resumed at stated intervals. His laws, therefore, axe of his own making, and while it is his duty as a member of society to obey them, he has the power of revocation whenever he finds them unjust or oppressive.

Under such a form of government, the light of armed revolution does not exist. That is only justifiable against a power which he did not create, and which seeks to control or disregard his rights without his consent. The theory of government based upon an hereditary succession of rulers is not only subversive of the rights of man, but is an irreverent usurpation of divine power. The nurture of a sovereign in the cradle, destined while a puling infant to be the ruler of a nation, whether an idiot, a tyrant, a statesman, or a fool, is as impious as it is absurd. In organized society man is the source of political power for self-government, although we all acknowledge “a higher law;” and however much the term may be abused by speculative theorists, and however much the expression may be distorted by or in the interests of political mountebanks, all jurists and law makers recognize a law above human laws, the leges legem, to which all human laws must conform and be made subservient. But that law does not take away any human rights. It fosters and protects them; and, therefore, it cannot confer the right to rule on hereditary sovereigns. And this principle of equality in rights is universal, and applies to all men, without regard to nationality, creed or color. Whether Caucasian, Teuton, Celt, African, or Mongol, this question is equally applicable, and it cannot be abrogated by any power beneath that which thundered the laws from Mount Sinai. Man may forfeit his right to life and liberty by his crimes, but this can be done only by the laws in which he has a voice in making. The stability of the present and the hopes of the future are based upon the maintenance of this principle in its integrity; but it is so firmly seated and so interwoven with every fibre of our existence, that the faith and the hope seem to be well founded.

While it is true that there does not seem to be that rigid economy, and unselfish patriotism which characterized the founders of the government, I do not belong to the croakers who believe that all public and private virtue, wisdom and patriotism died with the past. It is an unfortunate disposition, and leads to much unhappiness, to be constantly distrusting every one in public and in private life. I would prefer to be occasionally cheated rather than deal with every man as if I believed him to be a rogue. Under our system, the government will be as good as the people, and the evils which creep into the administration of public affairs begin at the root.

People and rulers have departed to some extent from that simplicity which should be the characteristic of a republic; and by extravagance and luxury—if not riotous living—indulge in expenditures and incur heavy liabilities, to meet which they indulge in speculation, and essay to make money of each other, where there is no money, their efforts to grow rich by a short and rapid process result in bankruptcy. They then blame the government, and clamor for legislation to cure the evil, when they can get none from that source. Their remedy is in their own hands, and no where else; but public officials and ambitious men speculate upon their anxiety, flatter their hopes, spend their money and lead them astray. In one view, the people give too much attention to their government. In another, not enough. They depend too much upon the government to mend their broken fortunes. They give too little attention to the kind of men they select, and depend too much upon creeds and platforms.

The evil will go on until it will cure itself in the end. I can lay down a rule which, if rigidly followed, would cure many of the evils which are now charged upon the government. Let every man attend diligently to his own business. Earn the money upon which he lives, and earn it before he expends it. Risk no money in a speculation which he cannot afford to lose, and place none in a doubtful venture but his own. If this course be strictly followed by every man, we will scarcely know we have a government, it will sit so lightly upon our shoulders, and we will soon discover that our business and our fortunes do not depend so much upon the government as upon ourselves. There are more people than is generally supposed who pursue this course; but they are very much hindered in their slow but certain progress by the large class who pursue a different course. Men who spend money they never earned, or owned, must spend that which belongs to others. For many live on what others have toiled to earn. This is one of the great causes of the crippled condition of the industries of our State.

But while these things retard our prosperity periodically, they do not shake the foundation principles of our government, or endanger its permanency. The wrecks which float upon the surface are but the broken fragments of the argosies which have been drawn into the insatiate whirlpool of mad speculation, dashed in pieces on the rocks beneath, and cast up by the restless waters, a warning to reckless adventurers.

The system of fast living and the appropriation of trust funds for private use, which ultimately leads to the theft of public money, are the crying evils of the times. While bolts, and bars, and locks can protect us against common thieves and burglars, we have no security against official thieves except care in the selection of men for official positions of trust and confidence, and the rigid and inexorable enforcement of the law against its infractors, with a merciless punishment of criminals who betray their trusts. And the country is waking up to the importance of this subject and a better era is dawning. “It is always the darkest the hour before day.”

But this particular manifestation of crime is not peculiar to our times, and does not touch the fundamental principles of our government.

The Great Master was betrayed for a bribe, but Christianity still lives; there was treason in the army of the Revolution, and yet the colonists triumphed; and there have been defaulters among public officials and corruption in high places in all ages of the world. In our country the remedy against it is in the hands of the people. In nearly all others they have little, if any, control over the public servants. There is, therefore, no reason to despair of our institutions in view of certain manifestations of corruption among those in positions of trust and confidence. When the crime becomes intolerable the people will rise to the necessity of the occasion, and apply the remedy which they hold in their hands.

But the question arises, are we in, worse condition in this respect than we were in what we regarded as the balmy days of the Republic? We have more facilities for obtaining news than formerly. With our telegraphs and railroads, news travels with great rapidity, and especially bad news; and our innumerable newspapers gather that which is the most sensational and exciting. The quiet deeds of charity and benevolence, the self sacrificing act of heroism, and the thousands of events in private life which ennoble human actions are unknown to the public. The turbulent elements of society come to the surface. The agents of crime get into the courts, and their deeds are heralded everywhere, and newspapers containing the revolting details are constantly thrust before our eyes. “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” We hear and read all that is evil, but little of the good.

And when we take into consideration the difference in the population of this country between this day and a hundred years ago, being a difference of at least twelve to one, and the fact that evil makes more noise in proportion than the good, it becomes a very doubtful question whether criminals and crimes have more than kept pace with the population. That certain offenses against law have assumed a grave magnitude is a thing to be deplored, but in the presence of the good which emanates from our beneficent government they are but as the spots on the disk of the sun, which mellow the light by breaking the fierce rays of its overpowering effulgence.

But there is no reason to believe that the world is retrograding in morals or honesty. Such a concussion would be an admission that civilization, intelligence and Christianity impede the progress of the world and are disadvantageous to mankind; for there are more schools and seminaries, more books to read; more people to read and understand them, more acts of benevolence and charity, more culture and refinement, and more people who worship God to-day than at any other period since the “morning stars sang together” at man’s creation. That there are base, gross and wicked people is no new phenomenon. They have infested society accursed the world since the day when our original progenitor partook of “that forbidden fruit whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe, with loss of Eden.

But the beacon fires of liberty burn as brightly to-day as they did on the morning of the Fourth of July, 1776, and the people of the country cherish the principles upon which the brave old patriots of that day established us as a free and independent nation. This morning has been ushered in over this broad land with the booming of cannon, the chimes of bells, the blare of the bugle, and the joyful greetings and proud huzzas of the people. These demonstrations are hearty, earnest and profound. They are the spontaneous outbursts of patriotism—the grand anthems bursting from the full hearts of a free, loyal and intelligent people.

Why should we not look forward to the future with wellfounded hopes, inspired by the success of the past? The staunch ship of State cannot encounter more difficult navigation in the coming century than in the past. She has encountered foes from without and enemies within. She has lain within the trough of the sea, and withstood the earth-shaking broadside; and while she trembled in every timber and groaned throughout her hull at the “diapason of the cannonade,” after the blue smoke of battle had drifted away in curling clouds on the breeze, we looked aloft, and joyfully exclaimed that “our flag is still there!” When the waves of rebellion, with fearful fury crashed upon her in mid-ocean, they were broken and scattered in foam on her hull, and died away in eternal silence at her keel. In calm and storm, in peace and war, our goodly craft has braved a hundred years “the battle and the breeze.

To-day all hands are piped on deck to receive instructions and inspiriting encouragement for a continuance of the voyage for another century. The winds and tides are fair, the skies are bright, and the sails are set. Gently swaying to the billows motion, we round the headland, and boldly enter upon the broad expanse of waters. The world of old dynasties, which jeered when we essayed our first voyage, became astonished at our progress, and their astonishment turned into amazement as we pursued our successful course. That amazement, as we boldly head out for the open sea on the second century, assumes the aspect of awe. Such a craft, manned by such a crow, carrying a flag which is known and recognized as the emblem of freedom everywhere, is a dangerous emissary among the subjects of kings, emperors, and despots of every form. Wherever that flag floats, whether waving languidly in the gentle zephyr of the tropics, or fluttering amid the ice crags of arctic desolation, it is hailed as the emblem of freedom and the symbol of the rights of man.

To show our influence on the people in the remote corners of the earth, a citizen of the United States, during the trying times of the rebellion, was traveling on the northern coast of Norway; and, landing from a small steamer at a trading town in the early morning, before the inhabitants were astir, found three fishermen from Lapland waiting at the door of a store to do some small business in trade. The fishermen appeared to be a father and two sons. They were dressed in skins of the reindeer, and appeared to be half barbarian, illiterate people. They were introduced to the American, and when the older of the Laplanders learned that the distinguished stranger was a citizen of this country, his countenance lighted up with an expression of eager intelligence as he asked: “Are you from beyond the great sea?” Upon being answered in the affirmative, he exclaimed: “Tell me, tell me, does liberty still live?” He expressed great satisfaction upon being assured that it did.

If on the coasts of the northern frozen seas, in a land of almost perpetual night, an illiterate fisherman feels such an eager interest in the question of the continued vitality of liberty, what a dangerous messenger will be that ensign of the Ship of State flashing “its meteor glories” among the thrones, crowns, and sceptres of the world. The subjects and victims of oppression will catch “inspiration from its glance,” and learning that liberty still lives, will pass the inspiring watchword from man to man. And the cry that “Liberty still lives” will be the world’s battle shout of freedom, and the rallying watchword of deliverance.

“And the dwellers in the rocks and in the Tales,
Shall about It to each other, and the mountain tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy,
“Till nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous hosanna round.”

And in the land of liberty’s birth the fires of patriotism will be kept aflame by the iteration and reiteration of the answer to the fisherman’s question, that “Liberty still lives.” And from the hearts of the crowded cities, from the fireside of the farmer, and from the workshop of the mechanic, in the busy hamlets of labor, and in the homes of luxury and ease, the hearts of freemen will be cheered as our noble craft sails on, with the inspiriting assurance that “Liberty still lives.” The burden of that cry will float upon the air wherever our banner waves, and its resonant notes will fill the land with a new inspiration as the joyful assurance is heard.

“Coming up from each valley, flung down from each height)
Our Country and Liberty, God for the right.”

See also: Advice to Young People from Noah Webster Father of American Education
The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster
COURAGE! A Poem by Bryan Waller Procter 1787-1874
AIM HIGH! An Address by President Benjamin Harrison 1893
A GOOD NAME by Joel Hawes 1789-1867
PATRIOT SONS OF PATRIOT SIRES by Rev. Samuel Francis Smith 1808-1895
TRUE FREEDOM! A Poem by James Russell Lowell 1819-1891
The Relationship Between a Man and Woman