1. In this happy land of light and liberty, it is a truth fully established, that all men are by nature equally free. From this principle of natural liberty we derive an indefeasible right of being governed by our own civil constitutions. We the people are the source of all legislative authority. Upon this just, benevolent, pleasing, and even delightful principle, the constitutions, the laws, and the governments, of these federal states, will stand fast. All men who understand the nature, and feel the spirit, of such principles, are self-instructed to be their own legislators, either in one collected body, or by representation. When all the people can assemble, and personally contribute their aid in framing constitutions and laws for the government of themselves, then their liberty is most natural and most perfect. But since great loss of time, much expense, and many inconveniences, would attend this mode of legislation, the people have agreed, in free states, to select from the whole body, some of their brethren, whom they invest with legislative power. What shall be transacted by these delegates or representatives, consistently with the constitution of the people, must be acknowledged as the act of the people. In conformity to this plan, the people keep as near the possession of natural liberty, as is convenient and really useful; and while they are truly virtuous, they will enjoy as much perfect liberty as is necessary to preserve peace, establish justice, and secure political happiness. I shall only add further, under this particular, that when a free people have, according to their constitution, determined to legislate by representatives, they should take great care that the representation may be fully adequate to the importance and welfare of the people; the elections should also be perfectly free, and sufficiently frequent.
5. The liberties of a people cannot be lasting without knowledge. The human mind is capable of great cultivation. Knowledge is not only useful, but it adds dignity to man. When the minds of men are improved, they can better understand their rights—they can know what part they are to act, in contributing to the welfare of the nation. Freemen should always acquire knowledge; this is a privilege and pleasure unknown to slaves; this elevates the mind of man; this creates a conscious dignity of his importance as a rational creature, and a free agent. The happiness of mankind has been much advanced by the arts and sciences; and they have flourished the most among freemen. Slavery blots the image of the Creator, which was at first impressed upon man: it banishes knowledge, and courts misery. But men, enlightened, pursue with ardour the knowledge and recovery of their rights. Liberty is enlightened by knowledge; and knowledge is nurtured by liberty. Where there is wisdom, virtue, and liberty, there mankind are men. In all the dark ages of the world, tyranny has been established upon the slavish ignorance of mankind. Tyrants, in time past, secured their domination by darkening the minds of their subjects. In the present day, they tremble at the approaching light of knowledge and liberty. They turn indignant from the glorious illuminations of America and France. They hear with horrour the sound of freedom and the rights of men. They would still imbrute the human race, and make mankind forget that they are men. Be assured, my dear countrymen, knowledge is absolutely necessary to secure the blessings of freedom. If you wish to see your country not only free in your day, but also to feast your imaginations with the pleasing prospect of a free posterity for many ages to come; let me entreat you, to encourage and promote that knowledge which will enable the people successfully to watch all the enemies of liberty, and guard against the designs of intriguing men. [Bold mine.]
...The close of the eighteenth century, in which we live, shall teach mankind to be truly free. The freedom of America and France, shall make this age memorable. From this time forth, men shall be taught, that true greatness consists not in destroying, but in saving, the lives of men; not in conquering, but making them free; not in making war, but making peace; not in making men ignorant, but making them wise; not in firing them with brutal rage, but in making them humane; not in being ambitious, but in being good, just, and virtuous. Of France, it may be said, in the language of scripture, Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or, Shall a nation be born at once? Behold a nation of freemen, rising out of a nation of slaves! This gratifies the feelings of humanity and benevolence. We wish to see all men independent of all things but the laws of God, and the just laws of their country. And will any man blame me for saying, that, in America, every friend to justice and the rights of men wishes prosperity to that generous nation, who are allied to these United States, and who so powerfully aided them in securing their independence and peace. In the name of the Lord of hosts, let us pray, that no weapon that is formed against their freedom, shall prosper. [Bold mine.]
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Founding Era Republican Enlightenment Clergy & Theology, Part II
This one is from Israel Evans, A SERMON DELIVERED AT THE ANNUAL ELECTION, 1791. This is another of the many Founding era sermons from prominent ministers illustrating the "zeitgeist" that held Christianity, Enlightenment, republicanism and the American and French revolutions all went together, hand in hand. But whether they all really did remains debatable. Edmund Burke remonstrated against the French Revolution in 1790. In 1791, Burke's view was anathema in an America that supported the French revolution and thought it an extension of the American. And Evans' sermon exemplifies that zeitgeist. As he put it: