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S. G. and E. L. ELBERT 









In New York, Philadelphia, Boston, %-c. 







Preface - - - - v 
Introductory Address to the course, as delivered for the 

second time in New- York - - 1 
Lecture I. — On the nature of knowledge - 3 
Lecture II. — Of free inquiry - - 21 
Lecture III. — Of the more important divisions and essen- 
tial parts of knowledge - - - 38 
Lecture IV. — Religion - - 53 
Lecture V. — Morals - - 69 
Lecture VI. — Opinions - - 84 
Lecture VII. — On existing evils and their remedy, 

as delivered in Philadelphia, on June 2, 1829 - - 101 
Address I. — Delivered in the New Harmony Hall, on the 

Fourth of July, 1828 - - - - 117 
Address II. — Delivered in the Walnut-street Theatre, 

Philadelphia, on the Fourth of July. 1829 - - 126 
Address III. — Delivered at the opening of the Hall of 

Science, New-York, Sunday, April 26, 1829 - - 140 
Reply to the traducers of the French Reformers of the 

year 1789 - - - - - 158 

Analytical Table of Contents ... 161 
Address on the state of the public mind and the measures 

which it calls for - - - - 169 

Review of the Times .... 184 

Address to Young Mechanics - - - J 98 

Parting Address - 206 


The substance of the three first lectures which appear in the 
present volume, was first delivered in Cincinnati, during the 
course of the last summer. 

The motives that actuated me to step forward in a manner 
ill suited to my taste and habits, which are rather those of a 
quiet observer and reflecting writer, than of a popular refor- 
mer or public speaker, will appear sufficiently in the discourses 
themselves. I may observe, however, that from the age of 
seventeen, when I first accidently opened the page of Ameri- 
ca's national history, as pourtrayed by the Italian Bocca, the 
only work on a subject so politically heterodox which had 
found a place in the aristocratical libraries which surrounded my 
youth — from that moment my attention became rivetted on 
this country, as on the theatre where man might first awake 
to the full knowledge and the full exercise of his powers. I 
immediately collected every work which promised tothrow any 
light on the institutions, character, and condition of the American 
people: and as, at this period, little satisfactory information 
on these subjects could be gleaned in Europe, I visited this 
country in person. The " Views" then rapidly formed I pub- 
lished on my return to England, with the single object of 
awakening the attention of European reformers to the great 
principles laid down in American government. Those princi- 
ples had indeed so warmed my own feelings, as to have in- 
fluenced my perceptions. During my first visit to America, 
I seemed to hear and see her declaration of independence every 



where. I studied her institutions, and mistook for the ener- 
gy of enlightened liberty what was, perhaps, rather the rest- 
lessness of commercial enterprise. I saw her population active 
and thriving, and conceived that to be the effect of wise social 
regulations, which had, perhaps, rather its source in the tem- 
porary state of an artificial market. I saw neither princes nor 
bayonets, nor a church married to the state, and conceived, in 
very truth, that liberty had here quickened the human mind 
until it was prepared to act under the influence of reason 
instead of fear. It was true that I saw this country at a fa- 
vourable moment, when peace had opened to her the ports of the 
world, and set a second seal on her republican liberties and 
national independence. Still, however favourable the time 
might be, my own enthusiasm doubtless conspired to throw a 
Claud-Lorraine tint over a country which bore the name of Re- 
public. It required a second visit, and more minute inspec- 
tion, to enable me to see things under the sober light of truth, 
and to estimate both the excellences that are, and those that 
are yet wanting. 

This second visit, while it has exposed to my view evils and 
abuses differing in degree rather than in nature from those of 
Europe, has rivetted me in mind and feeling yet more strongly 
to a country where are enshrined all the liberties and all the 
hopes of the human race. From a visitor, therefore, I have 
become a resident and a citizen. 

While yet imperfectly acquainted with the state of things in 
my adopted country — with the breadth of distance between 
American principles and American practice — between the theo- 
ry of American government and its actual application — my 
attention had been attracted towards the political anomaly and 
moral injustice presented by the condition of the coloured 
population in the slave-holding states, as well as by the feel- 
ings exhibited, and practices legally countenanced, towards 
that race, generally throughout the union. Four years of ex- 
tensive and minute observation, with deeper reflection, and 
more varied, as well as more reasoned experience, have convinc- 
ed me that American negro slavery is but one form of the 
same evils which pervade the whole frame of human society. 


And as, in common with all human errors, it has its source in 
ignorance, so must one common panecea supply its and their 
remedy. The spread and increase of knowledge alone can 
enable man to distinguish that the true interests of each point 
to the equal liberties, equal duties, and equal enjoyments of 
all ; and that then only, will the principles set forth in the first 
national instrument of American government, the declaration 
of independence, be practically exhibited — when the law of 
force shall give place to the law of reason, when wealth shall 
be the reward of industry, and all things shall be estimated in 
a ratio calculated in the order of their utility. 

Satisfied that the melioration of the human condition can be 
reached only by the just informing of the human mind, I have 
applied such powers as I possess to the furtherance of this plea- 
sing, though laborious task. In the citadel of human error, as 
exhibited in this country, it is easy to distinguish two main 
strong holds, which, if once carried, the fastness would proba- 
bly surrender at the first summons. These are : First, the 
neglected state of the female mind, and the consequent depen- 
dence of the female condition. This, by placing the most 
influential half of the nation at the mercy of that worst species 
of quackery, practised under the name of religion, virtually lays 
the reins of government, national as well as domestic, in the 
hands of a priesthood, whose very subsistence depends, of 
necessity, upon the mental and moral degradation of their fellow 

Second, the inaptness and corruption of the public press, 
ridden by ascendant influences, until it is abandoned alike by 
the honest and the wise, and left in the hands of individuals 
too ignorant to distinguish truth, or too timid to venture its 
utterance. The former of these evils, as somewhat unusually 
exhibited last summer in the towns and cities of the western 
country, first led me to challenge the attention of the Ameri- 
can people. 

The city of Cincinnati had stood for some time conspicuous 
for the enterprise and liberal spirit of her citizens, when, last 
summer, by the sudden combination of the clergy of three 
orthodox sects, a revival, as such scenes of distraction are won 


to be styied, was opened in houses, churches, and even on the 
Ohio river. The victims of this odious experiment on human 
credulity and nervous weakness, were invariably women. 
Helpless age was made a public spectacle, innocent youth 
driven to raving insanity, mothers and daughters carried life- 
less from the presence of the ghostly expounders of damnation; 
all ranks shared the contagion, until the despair of Calvin's 
hell itself seemed to have fallen upon every heart, and discord 
to have taken possession of every mansion. 

A circumstantial account of the distress and disturbance on 
the public mind in the Ohio metropolis led me to visit the 
afflicted city ; and since all were dumb, to take up the cause of 
insulted reason and outraged humanity. 

The consequences of the course of lectures I then first de- 
livered, on three successive Sundays, in the Cincinnati court- 
house, and re-delivered in the theatre, were similar to those 
which have been witnessed elsewhere ; — a kindling of wrath 
among the clergy, a reaction in favour of common sense on the 
part of their followers, an explosion of the publie sentiment in 
favour of liberty, liberality, and instructional reform, and a 
complete exposure of the nothingness of the press, which, at a 
time when the popular mind was engrossed by questions of the 
first magnitude, sullenly evaded their discussion, betraying 
alike ignorance the most gross, and servility the most shame- 
less. All that I then observed, conspired to fix me in the de- 
termination of devoting my time and labour to the investiga- 
tion and exposure of existing evils and abuses, and to the 
gradual development of the first principles of all moral and 
physical truth, every where so perplexed and confounded by the 
sophistry of false learning, the craft of designing knavery, and 
the blunders of conceited ignorance. 

The two means which presented themselves, were those of 
popular discourses, and a periodical publication, which should 
follow up the same objects, consistently and fearlessly, and, by 
instituting inquiry on matters of real interest, aid in drawing 
off the public attention from the squabbles of party, the ver- 
biage of theory, the gossippings of idleness, and the ravings of 
zeal without knowledge. 


The present volume contains the first, or introductory 
course, closing at the seventh lecture ; in which I have at- 
tempted to sketch an outline of the field of truth, and, at the 
same time, to expose such existing errors as must tend to blind 
the intellectual sight to its perception. 

The second course, which will be found sketched at the close 
of the fifth lecture, on Morals, will attempt the development 
and practical application of those simple principles by which 
the conduct of human beings, one towards the other, may be 
justly regulated, and the face of human society be harmonized 
into beauty. 

In the seventh discourse, on " Existing Evils and their 
Remedy," I was induced by circumstances, and the impatience 
of the public mind, somewhat to anticipate a subject whose 
more complete development will form an important item in the 
second course, as laid out of the close of the fifth lecture, 
already referred to, and to which I shall apply myself so soon 
as some duties of a more private nature may permit. 

In attempting reform by means of instructional improve- 
ment at the present day, the labourer is perplexed by the 
alternate dullness and vivacity, inertness and restlessness of 
the human mind. At first, curiosity is slow to awaken ; then 
it runs too fast ; anon it slumbers, as if all truth were seized, 
and its every feature distinguished, when perhaps not a single 
impression received is in accurate accordance with fact and 
with reason. 

The effects of a pernicious education are in nothing more 
conspicuous, than in the universal activity of the imagination 
and the inertness of the judgment. To treat any subject with 
perspicuity, a certain order and arrangement are indispensable. 
Let this order be disturbed, and arrangement interrupted, and 
things the most simple appear confused, and truths the most 
evident, difficult or doubtful. But to proceed step by step — to 
trace the outline and consider the details — to substantiate 
first principles, and then trace them out in their various ap- 
plications, demands attention too patient, and reflection too 
dispassionate, for minds habitually unsettled by the day-dreams 
of fancy, and accustomed to adopt conclusions without examin- 


ing premises. The first effort of the reformer is to awaken, but 
soon he finds it yet more necessary to compose. The spur is 
hardly applied when the rein is wanting, and the impatience of 
curiosity is soon a greater hindrance to progress than the apathy 
of ignorance. 

All this, however, a little perseverance, sustained be zeal 
and tempered by prudence, might speedily vanquish, were it 
not, most unhappily, the momentary interest of a large and 
increasing body of men to feed the worst passions of the hour, 
and to counteract the labours of truth's advocates by every 
means possible for art to devise or violence to dare. Still, in 
this country, the progress of the human mind, if impeded, can- 
not be arrested. And truly, if regard be had to the conflicting 
interests and sinister influences which now pervade society, we 
may rather marvel at the success obtained than at the difficul- 
ties encountered. 

The views which I have felt it my duty to present to the 
American people — the only people free to choose between truth 
and error, good and evil — are as yet but faintly sketched. 
The outline only is presented, and those first principles laid 
down in whose general and minute application I shall here- 
after seek the law of nations and the law of men. While at- 
tempting the development of these first principles, I have been 
often challenged to their premature application to existing 
laws and usages ; not seeing that with these the enquirer after 
truth has little to do, and that it must be rather for our laws 
and usage to bend to principles, than for these to shape them- 
selves to our laws and usages. As a lecturer, therefore, I 
have rather applied myself to develope what is true than to 
expose what is false ; reserving my comments on the passing 
opinions and practices of the age for the pages of the periodical 
of which I am a joint editor. 

The Free Enquirer, formerly the New Harmony Gazette, 
was the first periodical established in the United States for the 
purpose of fearless and unbiassed enquiry on all subjects. It 
was conducted in Indiana, with more or less consistency and 
ability, for the space of three years, when I assumed its joint 
proprietorship, and removed it to New-York, under a name 


more expressive of its character. Since that period, t has 
been conducted, I am sure, with honesty, and, I hope, not 
without utility. Its editors have had singly in view the dis- 
covery of truth and the well being of man. If their zeal has 
been warm, their spirit has, I trust, been gentle. If they have 
spared no error on account of its popularity, they have neither 
sought the exposure of the erring, nor resented the hostility 
of the violent. They have kept true to the pledge given in 
their prospectus — they have sought truth "alone, and for 
itself;" "they have devoted their pages without fear, without 
reserves, without pledge to men, parties, sects, or systems, to 
free, unbiassed and universal enquiry ;" and, while taking for 
their premises the principles developed in the following dis- 
courses, they have tested, as they will continue to test, the 
laws, opinions, and practices of men, by that only standard of 
truth, supplied by nature herself, and by the powers of the 
human mind. 

New- York, tih October, 1829. 



[As delivered for the second time in New York.] 

The circumstances under which I now meet thks assemblage 
of the people of New York, are, I believe, unparalleled in the 
history of the world. All nations have had their revolutions — 
all cities, in the hitherto unfortunate annals of the human race, 
their disturbances, and their disturbers; but truly, the sight 
and the sound is alike novel, of privilege and pretension array- 
ing all the forces of a would-be hierarchy and a would be 
aristocracy, to assassinate the liberties of a free state in the 
person of a single individual, and to outrage public order and 
public decency, by ribald slanders and incendiary threats, 
against the reputation and person of a woman. Truly the 
signs are novel which mark this hour, and truly the place 
assigned to myself by the clamour and artifice of a body of 
men, trembling for privileges and profits, and eager to drown 
with noisy words that which they cannot confute by argument 
might cower the strength of one less confident in her c^us**, 
or less ardent for its success. But, so surely as I know the 
strength of the ground which I have assumed, and the weak- 
ness of that which they have to defend, will [ stand fast, ana 
stand firm. And did I need, in this hour, ought bevond or 
without my own bosom to sustain me, I should find it in my 
conviction of the destined triumph of the cause I serve, and in 
the pure decision of wiser and happier generations to come, 
who (be what it may, the momentary issue of this hour, and 
its momentary consequences, to me,) shall write my name and 
preserve my memory among those of the champions of human 
liberty and heralds of human improvement. 

I know of none, from the modest Socrates and gentle Jesus, 
down to the least or the greatest reformers of our own time, 
who have remembered the poor, the ignorant, or the oppressed, 
raised their voice in favour of more equal distributions of 
knowledge and liberty, or dared to investigate the causes of 
vice and wretchedness, with a view to their remedy ; 1 know 
of none, I say, who have not been the mark of persecution,, 
drank the poison of calumny, or borne the cross oi martyrdom. 



What better and wiser have endured, I shall not lack courage 
to meet. Having put my hand to the plough, I will not draw 
back, nor, having met the challenge so long cast at human 
nature and human reason, alike by privilege and superstition, 
will I refuse to meet all hazards in their cause. 

I have already pledged myself to show evidence for all my 
opinions ; I pledge myself farther, to show all my opinions. 
for, so truly as I have taken man for my study, and his hap- 
piness for my object, do I believe that all my opinions can 
bring facts to their support, and will, sooner or later, find an 
echo in every thinking mind and feeling heart. 

It hath been asked again and again, amid all the confusion 
of reports and assertions, threats and declamations, conjured 
up to fright the, timidity of woman, and alarm the protecting 
tenderness of man, why I do not reply to the slander of 
enemies, and supply arguments to friends ? 

If among the present assemblage there be any who have 
followed all or some of my previous discourses, I would put it 
to their memory and their reason, if I, on those occasions, 
presented arguments and evidence for the opinions advanced ; 
and if any one of those argumeuts has been by a single 
individual refuted, or that evidence, in whole or in part, by 
one single individual impugned. And I will here call upon 
you to observe, that my opponents have had the command of 
the whole press and all the pulpits of this city. To what 
account have these been turned ? To heap on my name and 
person, outrage and abuse. To libel my audience, intimidate 
women, attack the interests of meu, invoke the interference of 
the magistracy of the city, and threaten the lessees of this 
house with " riot, fire, and bloodshed." 

My friends, I appeal to your reason, if, by resorting to such 
measures, my opponents have not substantiated their own 
weakness, and supplied an acknowledgment, that so far as I 
have spoken they cannot gainsay me ? 

And now, then, I will ask, and that rather for the sake of 
good order and common sense, than for any personal interest 
of mine, if on the topics I have spoken, I have neither outraged 
your reason nor your feelings, aud remain unanswered by my 
enemies — if it be not at the least probable that on the topics I 
have not spoken, I may be ratioual also I have nothing in 
my head or my heart to hold back from such of my fellow 
creatures, as may desire to read either, with a view to the 
eliciting of truth. I have already sketched out to you the sub- 
ject matter of many future investigations, embracing all our 


weightiest duties and responsibilities, as reasoning and sen- 
tient beings. 

But, as I have opened our discussions in order, so in order 
must I pursue them, if pursued at all. We cannot speak to 
all things at once, nor demonstrate the last problem in Euclid, 
ere we have substantiated the first. 

In compliance with the wishes of a mass of the citizens, as 
conveyed to me by individuals, and attested by my own obser- 
vations of the many disappointed of entrance in our former 
places of meeting, I have consented to redeliver my elementary 
course on the nature of all knowledge, physical and moral. 

Without a thorough understanding of the primary truths 
which it has been my attempt, in this elementary course, 
familiarly to elucidate, the public mind must be unfit for any 
discussion ; therefore it is, that I commence with these primary 
truths ; and therefore it is, that I shall decline the discussion 
of all other topics, until our first premises being laid, we are 
supplied with a standard by which to test all existing opinions 
and existing practice. 

Whenever hereafter I may be called, in peace and with 
seriousness, to deliver my views on any subjeet of general 
interest to my fellow beings, I will meet their wishes. My 
opinions, whatever they may be, I am not accustomed to 
defend, but I will willingly explain ; and explain with that 
simplicity, which befits inquiry after truth, and that tender- 
ness to the feelings of others, which I think I am not apt to 

Before we open our discussions of the evening, I would 
suggest to the a.idience, the propriety of bearing in mind the 
circumstances under which we meet, the former futile attempts 
to disturb our meetings in the Masonic Hall, and the possible 
presence of some mistaken and misguided individuals, ready 
to excite false alarm, and to take advantage of any the least 
disturbance, with a view to the injury of the cause of human 
improvement, which we are met to promote, and to the injury 
of the lessees of the building which we now occupy. 

In case of any attempt to disturb our meeting, by cries of 
alarm, I beg the audience to bear in mind, that the house is 
under vigilant and double police. 

I shall now, then, present you with the opening discourse, 
formerly delivered in the Masonic Hall. And, as it will be 
in matter and words the same, you will judge of the accuracy 
of the reports presented in your daily papers. 

B 2 


On the Nature of Knowledge. 

Who among us, that hath cast even an occasional and 
slightly observant glance on the face of society, but must 
have remarked the differing opinions, which distract the 
human mind ; the opposing creeds and systems, each assert- 
ing its claim to infallibility, and rallying around its standard 
pertinacious disciples, enthusiastic proselytes, ardent apolo- 
gists, fiery combatants, obsequious worshippers, conscientious 
followers, and devoted martyrs ? If we extend our observa- 
tion over the surface of our globe, and consider its diversified 
population, however varied in hue and feature, we find it yet 
more varied in opinions, in one opinion only invariably agreed, 
viz. that of its infallibility. The worshipper of sculptured 
idols bows before the image of his hand, and shrinks with 
unfeigned terror, if a sacrilegious intruder profane the sanc- 
tuary of his superstition. The adorer of the bright luminary 
which marks our days and seasons, sees in the resplendent 
orb, not a link in the vast chain of material existence, but the 
source of all existence ; and so from the most unpretending 
savage, to the most lettered nation of a lettered age, we find 
<dl shaping their superstitions, according to the measure of 
their ignorance or their knowledge, and each devoutly believ- 
ing his faith and practice to be the true and the just. Or let 
us confine our observation within the limits of the country we 
inhabit — how varying the creeds arising out of one system of 
faith! How contradictory the assertions and expectations of 
sects, all equally positive, and equally, we may presume, con- 
scientious ! How conflicting the opinions and feelings of men 
upon all subjects, trivial or important ! until we are tempted 
to exclaim, '• Where, then, is right or wrong but in human 
imagination, and what is truth more than blind opinion?" 
Few of us prone to study or observation, yet educated after 
existing methods, but must have asked these questions, and 
halted for a reply. 

Should the problem here started be, I say not impossible, 
even difficult of solution, lamentable must be the human 


condition to the end of time ! Had truth no test— no standard 
— no positive, no tangible existence, behold us, then, sold to 
error, and, while to error, to misery, through all the genera- 
tions of our race! But, fortuuately, the answer is simple; 
only too simple, it would appear, for mystery-loving, mystery- 
seeking man, to perceive and acknowledge. 

Let not the present audience imagine, that I am about to 
add one more to the already uncountable, unnameable sys- 
tems, which distract the understandings of men, or to draw 
yet new doctrines and precepts from the fertile alembic of the 
human brain. I request you to behold in me an inquirer, not 
a teacher ; one who conceives of truth as a jewel to be found, 
not to be coined ; a treasure to be discovered by observation, 
and accumulated by careful, persevering industry, not invented 
and manufactured by learned art or aspiring quackery, like 
the once fashionable elixer of immortality and philosopher's 
stone. My object will be simply to take with you a survey of 
the field of human inquiry ; to ascertain its nature, its extent, 
its boundaries, its limits ; to discover, in the first place, what 
there is for us to know ; secondly, the means we possess for 
acquiring such knowledge as is of possible attainment, and, 
thirdly, having satisfied ourselves as to what can be known, 
and as to what we know, to seek io our knowledge the test of 
our opinions. 

It must be admitted, that, as all our opinions must rest 
upon some evidence, real or imagined, so upon the truth or 
falsehood of the evidence admitted, must rest the truth or 
falsehood of the opinions based thereupon. It is evident, 
therefore, that before we can apply any safe or certain test to 
our opinions, we must well understand the nature of true 
evidence; before we can reflect, we must have something to 
reflect upon ; before we can think accurately respecting any 
thing, we must know accurately all relating to it ; and where- 
soever our knowledge be complete, will our opinion be just. 

Seeing, then, that just opinions are the result of just know- 
ledge, and perceiving, as we must all perceive, how much con- 
fusion arises to society out of the conflicting opinions, which 
divide alike nations and families into sects and parties, it is 
equally our interest and our duty, to aim at the acquisition of 
just knowledge, with a view to the formation of just opinions. 
And, as we shall hereafter have occasion to observe, just prac- 
tice being the result of past opinions, and human happiness 
being the certain result of just practice, it is equally our 


interest and our duty to aim at the formation of just opinions, 
with a view to the attainment of happiness. 

We shall, therefore, open our investigations by an inquiry 
into the nature and object of just knowledge *, and if we suc- 
ceed in ascertaining these, we will farther examine the causes 
which at present impede our progress, and the means best 
calculated at once to remove such impediments, and to advance 
us in the course which it is our interest to pursue. 

If we consider man in comparison with other animals, we 
find him distinguished by one principle. This principle, which 
is shared by no other existence within the range of our obser- 
vation, gives him all his pre-eminence. It constitutes, indeed, 
all his existence. By its neglect or cultivation he remains 
ignorant and degraded, or becomes intelligent and happy ; 
and, as he owes to it all that has elevated him above the brute 
in past time or at the present, so in it may he find rich hope 
and promise for the future. 

Much does it behove us, then, earnestly to consider this 
distinguishing principle of our nature. Much does it behove 
us to understand the fulness of its importance and its power, 
and to know that, as without it we should be as the beasts of 
the field, so with it we may rise in the scale of being, until 
every vice which now degrades, every fear which unnerves, 
and every prejudice which enchains us, shall disappear beneath 
its influence. 

I advert to the simple but all-important principle of im- 
provement. Weak as we are, compared to the health)' 
strength we are conscious would be desirable ; ignorant as 
we are, compared to the height, and breadth, and depth of 
knowledge which extends around us far as the universal range 
of matter itself ; miserable as we are, compared to the happi- 
ness of which we feel ourselves capable, yet in this living 
principle we see nothing beyond or above us, nothing to 
which we or our descendants may not attain, of great, of 
beautiful, of excellent. But to feel the power of this mighty 
principle, to urge it forward in its course, and accelerate the 
change in our condition which it promises, we must awaken 
to its observation. 

Are we yet awake to this? Do we know what we are, or 
have we ever asked ourselves what we might be ? Are we 
even desirous of becoming wiser, and better, and happier ? 
and, if desirous, are we earnestly applied to effect the change ? 

It is probable that some vague desire of advancing in 


knowledge pervades every bosom. We find every where 
some deference paid to the great principle of our nature in 
the growing demand for schools and colleges. We seem to 
have discovered that the faculties of man demand care for 
their developement ; and that, like the marble of the quarry, 
he must be shaped and polished ere he will present the line of 

But, alas ! here is the difficulty. If agreed that something 
must be done, we see but darkly what that something is. 
While eager to be doing, we are still in doubt both as to the 
end to be attaiued and the means to be employed. While 
anxious to learn, we are but too often ignorant of the very 
nature of knowledge. We are unacquainted with her haunts 
and her habitation, and seek her where she is not to be found. 
It may be useful, then, before we engage" in the labyrinth of 
learning, that we examine carefully what knowledge is. 

If we ask this in our schools, we shall be told, that know- 
ledge is an acquaintance with the structure of our own lan- 
guage ; a familiarity with foreign, especially with dead 
languages. We shall, moreover, hear of history, geography, 
astronomy, &c. Do we ask the same in our colleges, we shall 
hear farther of law, medicine, surgery, theology, mathematics, 
chemistry, and philosophy, natural and mental : and we shall 
be farther told, that when a youth has mastered all these 
sounding names, and puzzled through all the learning, useful 
or useless, attached to them— he is well taught and thoroughly 
educated. It may be so. And yet may he be also very 
ignorant of what it most imports him to know. Nay, more ! 
in despite of an intimate acquaintance with all the most 
esteemed branches of knowledge, he may be utterly unac- 
quainted with the object and nature of knowledge itself. Let 
us, then, enquire again, what knowledge is. 

It is not, in the first place, acquaintance with ourselves ? 
and secondly, with all things to which we stand in relation ? 

How are we to obtain this acquaintance ? By observation 
and patient inquiry. 

What are the means we possess from this observation and 
inquiry? Our senses; and our faculties, as awakened and 
improved in and by the exercise of our senses. 

Let us now examine what are the objects really submitted 
to the investigation of our senses. 

These may be all embraced under the generic term matter, 
implying the whole of existence within the range of our 


Were we to proceed minutely in our analysis, we should 
observe that matter, as existing around us, appears uuder 
three forms, the gaseous, the liquid, and the solid ; and that 
under one or other of these forms may be accurately classed all 
that is submitted to our observation— all, in short, that we 
can see, hear, feel, taste, or smell. But to enter at present 
into such details would be foreign to our purpose. 

I shall, therefore, pass on to observe that the accurate and 
patient investigation of matter, in all its subdivisions, together 
with all its qualities and changes, constitutes a just education. 
And that in proportion as we ascertain, in the course of 
investigation, the real qualities and actual changes of matter, 
together with the judicious application of all things to the use 
of man, and influence of all occurrences on the happiness of 
man, so do we acquire knowledge. In other words, know- 
ledge is an accumulation of facts, and signifies things known. 
In proportion, therefore, as the sphere of our observation is 
large, and our investigationof all within that sphere careful, 
in proportion is our knowledge. 

The view of knowledge we have here taken is simple ; and 
it may be observed, that not in this case only, but in all 
others, accuracy and simplicity go hand in hand. All truth 
is simple, for truth is only fact. The means of attaining truth 
are equally simple. We have but to seek and we shall find ; 
to open our eyes and our ears ; without prejudice to observe ; 
without fear to listen, and dispassionately to examine, com- 
pare, and draw conclusions. 

The field of knowledge is around, and about, and within 
us. Let us not be alarmed by sounding words, and let us not 
be deceived by them. Let us look to things. It is things 
which we have to consider. Words are, or, more correctly, 
should be, only the signs of things. I say they should be ,• 
for it is a most lamentable truth, that they are now very 
generally conceived to constitute the very substance of know- 
ledge Words, indeed, should seem at present contrived 
rather for the purpose of confusing our ideas, than administer- 
ing to their distinctness and arrangement. Instead of viewing 
them as the shadows, we mistake them for the substance ; 
and conceive that in proportion as we enlarge our vocabulary, 
we multiply our acquirements. 

Vain, then, will be the attempt to increase our knowledge, 
until we understand where we are to look for it, and in what 
it consists. Here is the first stepping stone. Let our foot 
but firmly strike it, and our after progress is easy. 


And in what lies the importance of this first step in human 
knowledge? In the accuracy which it brings to all our ideas. 
It places us at once on firm ground, introduces us into the 
field of real inquiry, and lays the reign of the imagination in 
the hand of the judgment. Difficult were it to exaggerate 
the importance of the step which involves such consequences. 
Until we bring accuracv to our thoughts, and, we may add, 
accuracy to the words employed for their expression — we can 
make no progress. We may wander, indeed, and most 
certainly shall wander, in various paths; but they will be 
paths of error. The straight broad road of improvement it 
will not be ours to tread, until we take heed unto our feet, 
and know always whither we are going. 

Imagine — and how easy is it to imagine, when we have but 
to look around us or within ourselves — imagine the confusion of 
hopes, desires, ambitions, and expectations, with which the 
scholar enters, and but too often leaves the halls of science. 
On entering them, he conceives that some mysterious veil, 
like the screen of the holy of holies, is about to be withdrawn, 
and that he is to look at things far removed from real life, 
and raised far above the vulgar apprehension. On leaving 
them, he has his memory surcharged with a confusion of 
ideas, and a yet more confusion of words. He knows, per 
haps, the properties of ciphers and of angels ; the names and 
classification of birds, fishes, quadrupeds, insects, and minerals; 
the chemical affinities of bodies ; can measure star from star ; 
analyze invisible substances ; detail in chronological order the 
rise and fall of nations, with their arts, sciences, and sects of 
philosophy. He can do all this, and more ; and yet, perhaps, 
is there neither arrangement in his knowledge, distinctness in 
his ideas, nor accuracy in his language. And, while pos- 
sessed of many valuable facts, there is blended with all and 
with each, a thousand illusions. Thus it is with so many 
wordy pedants, and hair-brained or shallow disputants, are 
sent forth from the schools of all countries, while those who 
do honour to their species, by rendering service in their gene- 
ration, are, most generally, what is called self-taught. And 
the reason of this is evident. Our existing modes of educa- 
tion, being equally false and deficient, and the instruction of 
our schools full of fallacies, theories, and hypotheses, the more 
regularly a youth is trained in fashionable learning, the more 
confused is usually his perception of things, and the more 
prostrated his reason by the dogmatism of teachers, the 


sophism of words, and the false principles engrafted by means 
of pretended science, ostentatiously inculcated or real science, 
erroneously imparted. While, on the other hand, a vigorous 
intellect, if stimulated by fortunate circumstances to inquiry, 
and left to accumulate information by the efforts of its own 
industry, though its early progress may be slow, and its 
aberrations numerous, yet in the free exercise of its powers, 
is more likely to collect accurate knowledge, than those who 
are methodically fed with learned error and learnedly dis- 
guised truth. 

I shall have occasion, in a more advanced stage of our 
inquiries, to examine minutely the errors in the existing mode 
of instruction, and which are of a nature to perplex the human 
mind from infancy to age, and to make even learning an 
additional stumbling-block in the way of knowledge. For 
the present, I would confine myself to the establishing the 
simple position, that all real knowledge is derived from posi- 
tive sensations. 

In proportion to the number of senses we bring to bear 
upon an object, is the degree of our acquaintance with that 
object, Whatever we see, and feel, and attentively examine 
with all our senses, we know ; and respecting the things thus 
investigated, we can afterwards form a correct opinion. 
Wherever, respecting such things, our opinions are erroneous, 
it is where our investigation of them has been insufficient, or 
our recollection of them imperfect ; and the only certain way 
of rectifying the error, is to refer again to the object itself. 

Things which we have not ourselves examined, and occur- 
rences which we have not ourselves witnessed, but which we 
receive on the attested sensations of others, we may believe, 
but we do not know. Now, as these two modes of intellectual 
assent are generally, if not universally, confounded ; and, as 
their accurate distinction is, in its consequences, of immense 
importance, I shall risk the straining of your attention for a 
few minutes, while I attempt its elucidatiou. 

To select a familiar, and at the moment a pertinent example. 
The present audience know that an individual is now address- 
ing them, because they see her person, and hear her voice. 
They may believe that some other speaker occupies the pulpit 
of a church in this town, if assured to that effect by a person 
of ordinary veracity ; but, let the testimony of that person be 
as well substantiated in their opinion as possible, the fact 
received through his reported sensations, they would believe ; 


the fact of my presence, admitted upon their own sensations, 
they will know. 

My hearers will understand that my object in presenting 
these definitions, is not to draw a mere verbal distinction, but 
a distinction between different states of the human mind ; the 
distinction in words only being important, in that it is neces- 
sary to a clear understanding of the mental phenomena it is 
desirable to illustrate. 

Did the limits of our present discourse permit such a deve- 
lopement, or did I not apprehend to weary the attention, it 
would not be difficult to draw the line between knowledge 
and belief, and again between the different grades of belief, 
through all the varieties of intellectual assent from the matter- 
of-fact certainty supplied by knowledge, down to the lowest 
stage of probability, supplied by belief. But having suggested 
the distinction, I must leave you to draw it for yourselves ; 
requesting you only to observe — that, as your own positive 
sensations can alone give you knowledge of a thing, so is 
your belief of any thing stronger, in proportion as you can 
more accurately establish, or approach nearer to, the sensa- 
tions of those whose testimony you receive. 

Thus : if a friend, or, more particularly, if several friends 
of tried veracity and approved judgment, relate to us a cir- 
cumstance of which they declare themselves to have been 
attentive spectators— our belief is of the highest kind. If 
they relate a circumstance which they shall have received 
from another, or from other individuals, for whose veracity 
and judgment they also vouch, our belief, though in a measure 
accorded, is very considerably weakened ; and so on, until, 
after a few more removes from the original sensations of the 
reported spectators, our belief is reduced to zero. 

But farther, it is here of importance to observe that belief — 
that is, the belief of a well trained mind — can never be ac- 
corded to the attested sensations of others, should those attested 
sensations be contradicted by our own well established experi- 
ence, or by the unvarying and agreeing experience of man- 
kind. Thus : should one, or twenty, or a thousand indivi- 
duals, swear to the fact of having seen a man, by effort of his 
unaided volition ; raise himself through the air to the top of 
the steeple in this city, we should believe— what ? Not the 
eccentric occurrence, however attested, but one of two very 
common occurrences — either that the individuals were seeking 


to impose upon us, or that their own ignorant credulity had 
been deceived by false appearances. 

But now let us suppose a case, very likely to be presented 
in form of an objection, although in reality capable of furnish- 
ing a forcible elucidation of the simple truth we are now- 
attempting to illustrate. Let us suppose that some of our 
organs should become diseased — those of sight, for instance ; 
and that we should, in consequence, imagine the appearance 
of an object not perceptible to more healthy individuals. If 
the phantasy presented nothing uncommon in any of its 
parts, or inconsistent with the course of previous sensations, we 
should at first, undoubtedly, yield credence to our eyes ; until, 
in consequence, perhaps, of some incongruity, we should be 
led to appeal to our other senses, when, if they did not concur 
with the testimony of our vision, we should distinguish the 
appearance, immediately, ior the effect of disease, and apply 
ourselves, on the instant, to its investigation and remedy. 

But again, let us suppose (a case by no means uncommon 
in the history of the human pathology) that two of our senses 
should be diseased — our sight and our hearing ; and that we 
should in consequence see the spectral illusion of a human 
being ; and, farther, imagine such illusion to discourse with 
us. Our belief would be now strongly accorded to this two- 
fold evidence; but we should still have a resource in our 
sense of touch. Should this last not confirm the evidence 
supplied by our vision and our hearing, we should suspect as 
in the former case, the health of our organs, and consult on 
the subject with an able physician. 

But let us now suppose that all the organs of sense, in some 
individual, should become suddenly diseased, and sight, hear- 
ing, feeling, taste, and smell, should combine to cheat him into 
the belief of existences not perceptible to the more healthy- 
sensations of his fellow creatures. I do not conceive that 
such an individual, however, naturally strong or highly culti- 
vated his judgment, and even supposing his judgment to 
retain its activity in the midst of the general disorder, could 
for any length of time struggle with the delusion, but must 
gradually yield intellectual assent to his diseased sensations, 
however incongruous these might be, or however at variance 
with past experience. I conceive that an individual thus 
diseased in all his organs of sense, must rapidly lose all con- 
trol over his reasoning faculties, and present, consequently, 


to his fellow creatures, the afflicting spectacle of one labouring 
under mental insanity. 

If we look to the unfortunate maniac, or to the sufferer 
tossing in fever delirium, we shall perceive how implicit the 
credence given to his diseased sensations. The phantoms 
which he hears, and feels, and sees, are all realities to him, 
and, as realities, govern his thoughts and decide his actions. 
How, in such cases, does the enlightened physician proceed ? 
He does not argue with the incongruous ideas of his patient ; 
he examines his disordered frame, and as he can restore 
healthy action to all its parts, so does he hope to restore 
healthy sensations to the body, and accurate ideas to the 
mind. Here, then, we see, in sickness as in health, our 
sensations supplying us with all intellectual food. In fever, 
they supply us with dreams; in health, if accurately studied, 
with knowledge. 

The object of these observations is to show, that as we 
can only kn%w a thing by its immediate contact with our 
senses, so is all knowledge compounded of the accurately 
observed, accumulated, and agreeing sensations of man- 

The field of knowledge, then, we have observed to be the 
field of nature, or of material existence around and within us. 
The number of objects comprised within the circle of human 
observation, is so multiplied, and the properties or qualities 
of these objects so diversified, that with a view to convenient 
and suitable divisions in the great work of inspecting the 
whole, and also with a view to the applying more order and 
method in the arrangement of the facts collated in the wide 
field of nature, they have been classed under different heads, 
each of which we may call a branch of knowledge, or, more 
succinctly, a science. 

Thus :" do we consider the various living tribes which people 
the elements ? We class our observations under the head of 
natural history. Do we direct our attention to the structure 
and mechanism of their bodies? We designate the results of 
our inspection under the heads anatomy and physiology. Do 
we trace the order of occurrences and appearances in the wide 
field of nature? We note them under natural philosophy. 
Do we analyze substances and search out their simple elements? 
chemistry. Do we apply ourselves to the measurement of 
bodies, or calculate the heights and distances of objects? 
geometry. And so on, through all the range of human 



observation, extending from the relative position of the heavenly 
bodies, and accurate calculation of their courses, to the uses, 
habits, structure, and physiology of the delicate plant which 
carpets our earth. 

Now, all the sciences, properly so called, being compounded 
of facts, ascertained or ascertainable by the sensations of each 
individual, so all that is not so ascertainable is not knowledge, 
only belief, and can never constitute for us matter-of-fact 
certainty, only greater or less probability. In elucidation, 
we might remark that the facts we glean, in the study of 
chemistry, supply us with knowledge ; those received upon 
testimony, as in the study of history, supply us with pro- 
babilities, or with improbabilities, as it may be, and constitute 

Now, again — as our knowledge is supplied by our own 
individual sensations, and our belief by the attested sensations 
of others, it is possible, while pretending to communicate 
knowledge, only to communtcate belief. This 'we know to 
be the system pursued in all our schools and colleges, where 
the truths of the most demonstrable sciences are presented 
under the disguise of oral or written lessons, instead of 
being exposed, in practical illustrations, to the eye, and the 
ear, and the touch, in the simple, incontrovertible fact. This 
method, while it tends to hide and perpetuate the errors 
of teachers, so does it also inculcate credulity and blind 
belief in the scholar, and finally establishes the conclusion 
in the mind, that knowledge is compounded of words, and 
signs, and intellectual abstractions, instead of facts and human 

Greatly, very greatly to be desired, is a just mode of 
instruction. It would not only shorten the road of knowledge, 
it would carpet it with flowers. We should then tread it in 
childhood with smiles of cheerfulness ; and, as we followed its 
pleasant course, horizon after horizon would open upon us, 
delighting and improving our minds and feelings, through 
life, unto our latest hour. But if it is of the first importance 
to be launched aright in infancy, the moment we distinctly 
perceive what knowledge is, we may, at any age. start boldly 
for its attainment. 

I have said, we may start boldly — ay ! and there lies the 
surety of our success. If we bring not the good courage of 
minds covetous of truth, and truth only, prepared to hear all 
things, examine all things, and decide upon all things, according 


to evidence, we should do more wisely to sit down contented 
in ignorance, than to bestir ourselves only to reap disappoint- 
ment. But let us once look around upon this fair material 
world, as upon the book which it behoves us to read ; let us 
understand, that in this book there are no puzzling mysteries, 
but a simple train of occurrences, which it imports us to 
observe, with an endless variety of substances and existences, 
which it imports us to study — what is there, then, to frighten 
us ? what is there not rather, to encourage our advance ? 

Yet how far are we from this simple perception of simple 
things ! how far from that mental composure which can 
alone tit us for inquiry ! How prone are we to come to the 
consideration of every question with heads and hearts pre- 
occupied ! how prone to shrink from any opinion, however 
reasonable, if it be opposed to any, however unreasonable, of 
our own ! How disposed are we to judge, in auger, those 
who call upon us to think, and encourage us to inquire ? 
To question our prejudices, seems nothing less than sacrilege ; 
to break the chains of our ignorance nothing short of 
impiety ! 

Perhaps at this moment, she who speaks is outraging a 
prejudice — (shall I be forgiven the word ?) Perhaps among 
those who hear me, there are who deem it both a presumption 
and an impropriety for a woman to reason with her fellow 

Did 1 know, of a surety., this prejudice to prevail among 
my hearers, 1 should, indeed, be disposed to reason with them. 
I should be tempted to ask, whether truth had any sex ; and 
I should venture farther to ask, whether they count for nothing, 
for something, or for every thing, the influence of women over 
the destinies of our race. 

Shall I be forgiven for adverting, most unwillingly, to 
myself? Having assumed an unusual place, I feel, that to 
my audience some explanation is due. 

Stimulated in my early youth, by 1 know not what of 
pitying sympathy with human suffering, and by I know not 
what persuasion, that our race was not of necessity born to 
ignorance, and its companion, vice, but that it possessed 
faculties and qualities which pointed to virtue and enjoyment ; 
stimulated, at once, by this pity for the actual condition of 
man, and this hope of a possible melioration, I applied myself 
to the discovery of the causes of the one, and of the means 
for effecting: the other. 


I. have as little the inclination to obtrude on you the process 
of investigation and course of observation 1 followed through 
the period of an eventful youth, as you would probably have 
to listen to them. Suffice it, that I have been led to consider 
the growth of knowledge, and the equal distribution of 
knowledge, as the best — may I say, the only means for reform- 
ing the condition of mankind. Shall I be accused of presump- 
tion for imagining that I could be instrumental in promoting 
this, as it appears to me, good work ? Shall I appear addition- 
ally presumptuous for believing that my sex and my situation 
tend rather to qualify than to incapacitate ine for the un- 

So long as the mental and moral instruction of man is left 
solely in the hands of hired servants of the public — let them 
be teachers of religion, professors of colleges, authors of books, 
or editors of journals or periodical publications, dependent 
upon their literary labours for their daily bread, so long 
shall we hear but half the truth; and well if we hear so 
much. Our teachers, political, scientific, moral, or religious ; 
our writers, grave or gay, are compelled to administer to 
our prejudices, and to perpetuate our ignorance. They dare 
not speak that which, by endangering their popularity, would 
endanger their fortunes. They have to discover not what is 
true, but what is palatable : not what will search into the 
hearts and minds of their hearers, but what will open their 
purse strings. They have to weigh every sentiment before 
they hazard it, every word before they pronounce it, lest 
they wound some cherished vanity, or aim at some favourite 
vice. A familiar instance will bring this nume to an American 

I have been led to inspect, far and wide, the extensive and 
beautiful section of this country which is afflicted with 
slavery. I have heard in the cities, villages, and forests of 
this afflicted region, religious shepherds of all persuasions 
haranguing their flocks; and 1 have never heard one bold 
enough to comment on the evil which saps the industry, 
vitiates the morals, and threatens the tranquility of the 
country. The reason of this forbearance is evident. The 
master of the slave is he who pays the preacher, and the 
preacher must not irritate his paymaster. I would not here 
be understood to express the opinion, that the preaching of 
religious teachers against slavery wouid be desirable. I am 
convinced of the contrary — convinced that it would be of 


direful mischief to both parties, the oppressor and the oppressed. 
To judge from the tone but too generally employed by 
religious writers in the northern states, where (as denunciation 
against the vice of the south risks no patronage and wins 
cheap, credit for humanity) negro philanthropy is not so scarce 
— to judge, I say, from the tone employed by northern reli- 
gionists, when speaking of their southern neighbours, and 
their national crime and affliction, one must suppose .them as 
little capable of counselling foreign as home offenders — as 
little capable of advising in wisdom as of judging in mercy, 
or speaking with gentleness. The harshest physician with 
which I am acquainted is the religious physician. Instead 
of soothing, he irritates; instead of convincing, he disgusts; 
instead of weighing circumstances, tracing causes, allowing 
for the bias of early example, the constraining force of 
implanted prejudice, the absence of every judicious stimulus, 
and the presence of every bad one ; he arraigns, tries, 
convicts, condemns — himself accuser, jury, judge, and execu- 
tioner ; nobly immolating interests which are not his, 
generously commanding sacrifices which he has not to share, 
indignantly anathematizing crimes which he cannot commit, 
and virtuously kindling the fires of hell to consume sinners, to 
whose sins, as he is without temptation, so for whose sins he is 
without sympathy. I would not be understood, therefore,, as 
regretting in this matter the supineness of the southern clergy; 
I would only point it out to you, desirous that you should 
observe how well the tribe of Levi know when and where to 
smite, and when and where to spare. 

And though I have quoted an instance more peculiarly 
familiar to Americans, every country teems with similar ex- 
amples. The master vice, wherever or whatever it be, is never 
touched. In licentious aristocracies, or to look no farther than 
the towns and cities of these states, the rich and pampered few 
are ever spared, or so gently dealt with, as rather agreeably to 
tickle the ear, than to probe the conscience, while the crimes 
of the greatly -tempted, greatly-suffering poor, are visited with 
unrelenting vigour. 

Is any discovery made in science, tending to open to us 
farther the book of knowledge, and to purge our minds of 
superstitious beliefs in occuit causes and unsubstantiated 
creeds — where has it ever found opposers— or, might we net 
say, persecutors? Even among our hired preachers and 
licensed teachers of old doctrines and old wavs. Is anv 


inquiry instituted into the truth of received opinions and the 
advantage of existing practice — who are the last to encourage 
it? nay, the foremost to cry out " heresy!" and stop the 
mouth of knowledge ? Who but those who live by the igno- 
rance of the age, and the intolerance of the hour ? Is any 
improvement suggested in our social arrangements, calculated 
to equalize property, labour, instruction, and enjoyment ; to 
destroy crime by removing provocation; vice, by removing 
ignorance ; and to build up virtue in the human breast by 
exchanging the spirit of self abasement for that of self 
respect — who are the foremost to treat the suggestions as 
visionary, the reform as impossible ? Even they who live by 
the fears and the vices of their fellow creatures ; and who 
obtain their subsistence on earth by opening and shutting the 
door of heaven. 

Nor, as we have seen, are our licensed and pensioned 
teachers the only individuals interested in disguising the truth. 
All who write for the public market, all who plead in our 
courts of law, all who harangue in our halls of legislature, all 
who are, or who aspire to be, popular servants or popular 
teachers of the people, all are compelled to the support of 
existing opinions, whether right or wrong — all, more or less, 
do, and more or less must, pander to the weaknesses, vices, 
and prejudices of the public, who pays them with money or 

I have said not only that they do, but that they must ; and 
most assuredly they must conciliate the popular feeling, or 
forego the popular favour. Here is intended no satire upon 
any individuals, professions, nor employments. The object is 
merely to expose a fact, but a fact highly important to be 
known ; that as, to be popular, men must not speak truths, 
so, when we would hear truths, we must seek them from 
other mouths and other pens than those which are dependent 
upon popular patronage, or which are ambitious of popular 

And here, then, is the cause why I have presumed to reason 
with my fellow creatures ; why, in my earliest years, I devoted 
myself to the study of their condition, past and present ; why 
I searched into their powers and their capabilities, examined 
their practice, and weighed their opinions ; and wh)% when 
I found these both wanting, I volunteered to declare it I 
believe that I see some truths important for my fellow beings 
to know ; I feel that I have the courage and the indepen- 


dence to speak that which I believe ; and where is the friend 
to his species that will not say, " Happy, most happy shall it 
be for human kind, when all independent individuals, male 
or female, citizens or foreigners, shall feel the debt of kind- 
ness they owe to their fellow beings, and fearlessly step forth 
to reveal unbought truths and hazard unpopular opinions" 

Until this be done, and done ably, fearlessly, and frequently, 
the reign of human error must continue ; and, with human 
error, human vice, and human suffering. The advocates of 
just knowledge must be armed with courage to dare all 
things, and to bear all things, for the truths they revere ; and 
to seek, as they may only find, the reward of their exertions 
in the impression, great or little, slow or rapid, as it mav 
be, which their exertions may produce on public opinion, and 
through the public opinion, on the public practice. 

We have now sufficiently considered, so far as I have found 
possible in a single discourse on so wide a topic, the main 
subject of our introductory inquiries: viz. the nature and 
object of just knowledge. We have examined, also, some of 
the errors vulgarly entertained on the subject, and many of 
the impediments which now obstruct our advances in the 
road of improvement. We have seen that just knowledge is 
easy of acquirement, but that few are interested in revealing 
its simple principles ; while many are driven by circumstances 
to interpret or dissemble them, We have remarked that, 
to accelerate the progress of our race, two means present 
themselves; a just system of education, and a fearless spirit 
of inquiry ; and that while the former would remove all 
difficulties from the path of future generations, the latter 
would place far in advance even the present. We have also 
observed on the advantage which would accrue to mankind, 
if all independent individuals would volunteer the task, for 
which appointed teachers and professional men are now but 
too frequently unfit, by devoting themselves to the promul- 
gation of truth, without regard to fashionable prejudice. I 
have been led, also, incidentally to advert to the influence 
exerted over ths fortunes of our race by those who are too 
often overlooked in our social arrangements and in our civil 
rights — I allude to women. 

Leaving to a future opportunity the more complete de- 
velopment of the important subject, we have this evening 
approached — the nature of all knowledge — as well as the 
equallv important subject of youthful education, I shall, at 

c 2 


our next meeting, consider the other two enumerated means 
of improvement, viz. by free inquiry. And as this is for us 
of the present generation the only means, so shall I endeavour 
to show how much it is our interest, and how imperiously it 
is our duty to improve it to the uttermost. 

It is with delight that I have distinguished, at each suc- 
cessive meeting, the increasing ranks of my own sex. Were 
the vital principle of human equality universally acknow- 
ledged, it would be to my fellow beings without regard to 
nation, class, sect, or sex, that I should delight to address 
myself. But until equality prevail in condition, opportunity, 
and instruction, it is every where to the least favoured in 
these advantages, that I most especially and anxiously incline. 

Nor is the ignorance of our sex matter of surprise, when 
efforts, as violent as unrelaxed, are every where made for 
its continuance. 

It is not as of yore. Eve puts not forth her hand to gather 
the fair fruit of knowledge. The wily serpent now hath 
better learned his lesson ; and, to secure his reign in the gar- 
den, beguileth her not to eat. Promises, entreaties, threats, 
tales of wonder, and, alas ! tales of horror, are all poured in 
her tender ears. Above, her agitated fancy hears the voice 
of a god in thunders; below, she sees the yawning pit ; and, 
before, behind, around, a thousand phantoms, conjured from 
the prolific brain of insatiate priestcraft, confound, alarm, and 
overwhelm her reason ! 

Oh ! were that worst evil withdrawn which now weighs 
upon our race, how rapid were its progress in knowledge ! 
Oh ! were men — and, yet more, women, absolved from fear, 
how easily, and speedily, and gloriously would they hold on 
their course in improvement ! The difficulty is not to con- 
vince, it is to win attention. Could truth only be heard, the 
conversion of the ignorant were easy. And well do the hired 
supporters of error understand this fact. Well do they know, 
that if the daughters of the present, and mothers of the future 
generation, were to drink of the living waters of knowledge, 
their reign would be ended — " their occupation gone." So 
well do they know it, that, far from obeying to the letter the 
command of their spiritual leader, ' k Be ye fishers of men," 
we find them every where fishers of women. Their own 
sex, old and young, they see with indifference swim by their 
nets ; but closely and warily are their meshes laid, to entangle 
the female of every age. 


Fathers and husbands! Do ye not also understand this 
fact ? Do ye not see how, in the mental bondage of your 
wives and fair companions, ye yourselves are bound ? Will 
ye fondly sport yourselves in your imagined liberty, and say, 
"it matters not if our women be mental slaves?" Will ye 
pleasure yourselves in the varied paths of knowledge, and 
imagine that women, hoodwinked and unawakened, will make 
the better servants and the easier playthings ? They are 
greatly in error who so strike the account ; as many a bank- 
rupt merchant and sinking mechanic, not to say drowning 
capitalist, could bear witness. But setting aside dollars and 
cents, which men. in their present uncomfortable state of 
existence, are but too prone exclusively to regard, how many 
nobler interests of the mind and the heart cry '• treason !" to 
this false calculation ? 

At our next meeting, we shall consider these interests, 
which will naturally present themselves during our investiga- 
tions on the subject of free inquiry. In what just knowledge 
consists we have cursorily examined ; to put ourselves in the 
way of attaining that knowledge, be our next object. 


Of Free Inquiry, considered as a means for obtaining just 

The subject we have to examine this evening, is that of 
free inquiry, considered as a means for the attainment of 
just knowledge. 

At our last meeting, we endeavoured to investigate the 
nature and object of just knowledge, together with the means 
proper for its attainment. We discovered these means to be 
two ; a judicious education, and a free spirit of inquiry. 

From the first and best means, a judicious education, we of 
the present generation are unfortunately excluded. Where- 
ever our lot may have been cast, or whatever may be our 
attainments, we must all be conscious that we are 'what we 
are in spite of many disadvantages ; and that, however wise 
or good our vanity may pronounce us to be, we should have 
been much wiser, and, consequently, better and happier, had 
a judicious education more carefully developed our tender 


faculties, and brought order and accuracy to all our nascent 
ideas. But the forest is grown ; and, straight or crooked, 
the trees have to stand pretty mucb as early circumstances 
have inclined them. Still, something may be done ; nay ! if 
we bring fearless and determined spirits to the work, much 
may be done— much for ourselves, and every thing for our 
descendants. It rests with us to command, for the rising 
generation, that education, whose want we, in our own case, 
deplore. It rests with us to open, with a golden key, the 
gates of just knowledge for our children ; and to marshal them 
in those smooth, broad, pleasant paths, which we ourselves 
have never trod. Equally true it is, that we cannot for our- 
selves, command that first, best means for attaining the first, 
best good. Our opinions have, unfortunately, to be changed, 
not simply formed ; our advance in knowledge must involve 
forgetting as well as acquiring. We have not, in our own 
minds, to till a virgin soil, but one surcharged with weeds, 
rank, entangled, and poisonous. Still it is ours to redeem the 
soil. We may set the edge of our ploughshares, apply them 
with a steady and nervous hand, and scatter the good seed in 
good time to reap a harvest. 

The second means for the attainment of knowledge is ours, 
if we choose to exercise it ; that is, if we feel the importance 
of the object, and have courage to employ the means. The 
importance of the object we must feel, if we feel at all for 
ourselves or for our race ; if we are not wholly indifferent to 
the rank we hold in the scale of being; not wholly indifferent 
to our moral excellence, to our mental elevation ; to our own 
utility ; to the liberty and happiness of our species through all 
the ages of time to come. And, if such be the mighty conse- 
quences depending on the object, shall we lack the courage to 
employ the means ? And what means ? to open our eyes and 
our ears ; to throw wide the gates of our understanding ; to 
dare the exercise of our intellectual faculties, and to encourage 
in others, as in ourselves, a habit of accurate and dispassionate 

We have seen, also, that it is not our own improvement 
merely that it must be advanced or impeded according to our 
courage or timidity, but that of future generations, whose 
destiny it is ours to influence. Strongly, then, are we pledged 
to lay aside indolence and fear ; and to engage honestly in 
the task of weeding out our prejudices and establishing our 


There is a common error that I feei myself called upon to 
notice ; nor know I the country in which it is more prevalent 
than in this. Whatever indifference may generally prevail 
among men, still there are many eager for the acquisition of 
knowledge ; willing to inquire, and anxious to base their 
opinions upon correct principles. In the curiosity which 
motives their exertions, however, the vital principle is but 
too often wanting. They come selfishly, and not generously, 
to the tree of knowledge. They eat, but care not to impart 
of the fruit to others. Nay, there are who, having leaped the 
briar fence of prejudice themselves, will heap new thorns in 
the way of those who would venture the same. 

And have Americans yet to learn that the interests of all 
are compounded of the interests of each? and that he who, in 
pursuing his own advantage, immolates one interest of his 
fellow beings, fails in justice as a man, commits treason as a 
citizen? And oh! what interest so dear as that of mental 
improvement? Who is without that interest? or of whom is 
not that interest sacred? Man, woman, child^who has not 
a claim to the exercise of his reason? or what injustice may 
compare with that which says to one, " thought is good for 
thee," and to another " knowledge is to thee forbidden ?" 

But will this imputation startle my hearers? Will they 
say, America is the home of liberty, and Americans brethren 
in equality. It is so? and may we not ask here as elsewhere, 
how many are there, not anxious to monopolize, but to univer- 
salize knowledge ? how many, that consider their own improve- 
ment in relation always with that of their fellow beings, and 
who feel the imparting of truth to be not a work of superero- 
gation, but a duty ; the withholding it, not a venial omission, 
but a treachery to the race. Which of us have not seen 
fathers of families pursuing investigations themselves, which 
they hide from their sons, and, more especially, from their 
wives and daughters ? As if truth could be of less importance 
to the young than to the old ; or as if the sex which in all 
ages has ruled the destinies of the world, could be less worth 
enlightening than that which only follows its lead ! 

Tne observation I have hazarded may require some expla- 
nation. Those who arrogate power usually think themselves 
superior de facto and de jure. Yet justly might it be made 
a question whether those who ostensibly govern are not always 
unconsciously led. Should we examine closely into the state 
of things, we might find that, in all countries, the governed 


decide the destinies of the governors, more than the governors 
those of the governed ; even as the labouring classes influence 
more directly the fortunes of a nation than does the civil 
officer, the aspiring statesman, the rich capitalist or the specu- 
lative philosopher. 

However novel it may appear, I shall venture the assertion, 
that, until, women assume the place in society which good 
sense and good feeling alike assign to them, human improve- 
ment must advance but feebly. It is in vain that we would 
circumscribe the power of one half of our race, and that half 
by far the most important and influential. If they exert it not 
for good, they will for evil ; if they advance not knowledge, 
they will perpetuate ignorance. Let women stand where they 
may in the scale of improvement, their position decides that 
of the race. Are they cultivated ? — so is society polished and 
enlightened. Are they ignorant? — so is it gross and insipid. 
Are they wise ? — -so is the human condition prosperous. Are 
they foolish? — so is it unstable and unpromising. Are they 
free ?— so is the human character elevated. Are they enslaved ? 
—so is the whole race degraded. Oh ! that we could learn 
the advantage of just practice and consistent principles ! that 
we could understand, that every departure from principle, 
how speciously soever it may appear to administer to our 
selfish interests, invariably saps their very foundation ! that 
we could learn that what is ruinous to some is injurious to all! 
and that whenever we establish our own pretensions upon 
the sacrificed rights of others, we do in fact impeach our 
own liberties, and lower ourselves in the scale of being! 

But to return. It is my object to show, that before we can 
engage successfully in the work of inquiry, we must engage 
in a body ; we must engage collectively ; as human beings 
desirous of attaining the highest excellence of which our 
nature is capable; as children of one family, anxious to dis- 
cover .the true and the useful ; for the common advantage of 
all. It is my farther object to show that no co-operation in 
this matter can be effective which does not embrace the two 
sexes on a footing of equality ; and, again, that no co-opera- 
tion in this matter can be effective which does not embrace 
human beings on a footing of equality. Is this a republic— ^a 
country whose affairs are governed by the public voice — while 
the public mind is unequally enlightened ? Is this a republic, 
where the interest of the many keep in check those of the few 
— while the few hold possession of the courts of knowledge 


and the many stand as suitors at the door ? Is this a republic, 
where the rights of all are equally respected, the inte- 
rests of all equally secured, the ambitions of all equally regu- 
lated, the services of all equally rendered ? Is this such a 
republic — while we see endowed colleges for the rich, and 
barely common schools for the poor ; while but one drop of 
coloured blood shall stamp a fellow creature for a slave, or, at 
the least, degrade him below sympathy ; and while one half 
of the whole population is left in civil bondage, and, as it 
were sentenced to mental imbecility. 

Let us pause to inquire if this be consistent with the being 
of a republic. Without knowledge, could your fathers have 
conquered liberty ? and without knowledge, can you retain 
it ? Equality ! where is it, if not in education ? Equal 
rights ! they cannot exist without equality of instruction. 
rt All men are born free and equal !" they are born, but do 
they so live? Are they educated as equals? and, if not, 
can they be equal ? and, if not equal, can they be free ? 
Do not the rich command instruction, and they who have 
instruction must they not possess the power ? and when 
they have the power, will they not exert it in their own 
favour ? I will ask more ; I will ask, do they not exert 
it in their own favour ? I will ask if two professions do 
not now rule the land and its inhabitants ? I will ask, whether 
your legislatures are not governed by lawyers and your house- 
holds by priests ? And I will farther ask. whether the deficient 
instruction of the mass of your population does not give to 
lawyers their political ascendancy ; and whether the igno- 
rance of women be not the cause that your domestic hearths 
are invaded by priests ? Are not these matters of popular 
interest ? matters for popular inquiry ? We shall examine 
tomorrow whether you have not now in your hands all the 
means necessary for equalizing instruction, not merely among 
your children but yourselves ; so far, at least, as to place 
your liberties beyond risk of attainder. 

This examination will involve all your interests, national 
and social. Your political institutions have taken equality for 
their basis ; your declaration of rights, upon which your insti- 
tutions rest, sets forth this principle as vital and inviolate. 
Equality is the soul of liberty ; there is, in fact, no liberty with- 
it — none that cannot be overthrown by the violence of 

^orant anarchy, or sapped by the subtilty of professional 

ft. That this is the case your reasons will admit ; that 



this is the case your feelings do admit — even those which are 
the least amiable and the least praiseworthy. The jealousy 
betrayed by the uncultivated against those of more polished 
address and manners, has its source in the beneficial prin- 
ciple to which we advert, however, (in this, as in many other 
cases,) misconceived and perverted. Cultivation of mind 
will ever lighten the countenance and polish the exterior. 
This external superiority which is but a faint emanation of 
the superiority within, vulgar eyes can see and ignorant 
jealously will resent. This, in a republic, leads to brutality ; 
and, in aristocracies, where this jealousy is restrained by fear, 
to servility. Here it will lead the waggoner to dispute the road 
with a carriage ; and, in Europe, will make the foot passenger 
doff his hat to the lordly equipage which spatters him with 
mud, while there he mutters curses only in his heart. The un- 
reasoning observer, will refer the conduct of the first to the 
republican institutions — the reflecting observer, to the anti- 
republican education. The instruction befitting free men is 
that which gives the sun of knowledge to shine on all ; and 
at once secures the liberties of each individual, and disposes 
each individual to make a proper use of them. 

Equality, then we have shown to have its seat in the 
mind. A proper cultivation of the faculties would ensure 
a sufficiency of that equality for all the ends of republican 
government, and for all the modes of social enjoyment. The 
diversity in the natural pow r ers of different minds, as decided 
by physical organization, would be then only a source of 
interest and agreeable variety. All would be capable of 
appreciating the peculiar powers of each; and each would 
perceive that his interests, well understood, were in unison 
with the interests of all. Let us now examine whether liberty, 
properly interpreted, does not involve, among your unalien- 
able rights as citizens and human beings, the right of equal 
means of instruction. 

Have ye given a pledge, sealed with the blood of your 
fathers, for equal rights of all human kind sheltered within 
your confines ? What means the pledge ? or what understand 
ye by human rights ? But understand them as ye will, define 
them as you will, how are men to be secured in any rights with- 
out instruction ; how to be secured in the equal exercise of those 
rights without equality of instruction ? By instruction unde* 
stand me to mean knowledge— just knowledge ; not talent, ' 
genius, not inventive mental powers. These will vary in e"^ 


human being ; but knowledge is the same for every mind, and 
every mind may and ought to be trained to receive it. If, then, 
ye have pledged, at each anniversary of your political indepen- 
dence, your lives, properties, and honour, to the securing your 
common liberties, ye have pledged your lives, properties, and 
honour, to the securing of your common instruction. Or will 
you secure the end without securing the means ? ye shall do 
it, when ye reap the harvest without planting the seed. 

Oh ! were the principle of human liberty understood, how 
clear would be the principle of human conduct! It would 
light us unerringly to our duties as citizens. It would light us 
unerringly to our duties as men. It would lead us aright m 
every action of our lives ; regulate justly every feeling and af- 
fection of our hearts, and be to us a rule more unerring than 
laws, more binding than oaths, more enforcing than penalties. 
Then would passion yield to reason, selfishness to justice, and 
equal rights of others supply the sole, but the sure, immutable 
limits of our own. 

As we have somewhat swerved from our leading subject to 
consider the nature of equality, let us again pause to consider 
that of liberty. We have seen that they are twin sisters; 
and so were they viewed by the effulgent mind of Jefferson, 
when from his fearless pen dropped the golden words, " All 
men are born free and equal." Those words his fellow citizens 
and descendants will have interpreted, when they shall have 
shed on the minds of the rising generation, and as far as 
possible on their own, the equal effulgence of just knowledge ; 
before which every error in opinion and every vice in practice 
will fly as the noxious dews of night before the sun. 

Let us, then, pause to consider these immortal words, 
graven by an immortal pen on the gates of time, " All men 
are born free and equal.'' 

All men are born free and equal! That is: our moral 
feelings acknowledge it to be just and proper, that we res- 
pect those liberties in others, which we lay claim to for 
ourselves ; and that we permit the free agency of every 
individual, to any extent which violates not the free agency 
of his fellow creatures. 

There is but one honest limit to the rights of a sentient 
being ; it is where they touch the rights of another sentient 
being. Do we exert our own liberties without injury to 
others — we exert them justly ; do we exert them at the 
expense of others — unjustly. And, in thus doing, we step 


from the sure platform of liberty upon the uncertain threshold 
of tyranny. Small is the step ; to the unreflecting so imper- 
ceptibly small, that they take it every hour of their lives as 
thoughtlessly as they do it unfeelingly. Whenever we slight, 
in word or deed, the feelings of a fellow creature ; whenever, 
in pursuit our own individual interests, we sacrifice the interest 
of others ; whenever, through our vanity or our selfishness, 
we interpret our interests unfairly, sink the rights of others 
in our own, arrogate authority, presume upon advantages of 
wealth, strength, situation, talent, or instruction ; whenever 
we indulge idle curiosity respecting the private affairs, opin- 
ions, and actions of our neighbours ; whenever, in short, we 
forget what in justice is due to others, and, equally, what in 
justice is due to ourselves, we sin against liberty — we pass 
from the rank of freemen to that of tyrants or slaves. Easy 
it were to enumerate the many laws by which, as citizens, we 
violate our common liberties ; the many regulations, habits, 
practices, and opinions, by which, as human beings, we 
violate the same. Easy it were ? Alas ! and say I so ? 
when to enumerate all these our sins against liberty, would 
be well nigh to enumerate all that we do, and feel, and 
think, and say ! But let us confine ourselves within a familiar 
though most important example. 

Who among us but has had occasion to remark the ill- 
judged, however well-intentioned government of children by 
their teachers ; and, yet more especially, by their parents ? 
In what does this mismanagement originate ? In a miscon- 
ception of the relative position of the parent or guardian, and 
of the child : in a departure, by the parent, from the principle 
of liberty, in his assumption of rights destructive of those of 
the child ; in his exercise of authority, as by right divine, 
over the judgment, actions, and person of the child ; in his 
forgetfulness of the character of the child, as a human being, 
born "free and equal" among his compeers; that is, having 
equal claims to the exercise and development of all his 
senses, faculties, and powers, with those who brought him into 
existence, and with all sentient beings who tread the earth. 
Were a child thus viewed by his parent, we should not see 
him, by turns, made a plaything and a slave ; we should not 
see him commanded to believe, but eucouraged to reason ; we 
should not see him trembling under the rod, nor shrinking from 
a frown, but reading the wishes of others in the eye, gathering 
knowledge wherever he threw his glance, rejoicing in the pre- 


sent hour, and treasuring up sources of enjoyment for future 
years. We should not then see the youth launching into life 
without compass or quadrant. We should not see him doubting 
at each emergency how to act, shifting his course with the 
shifting wind, and, at last, making shipwreck of mind and 
body on the sunken rocks of hazard and dishonest speculation, 
nor on the foul quicksands of debasing licentiousness. 

What, then, has the parent to do, if he would conscien- 
tiously discharge that most sacred of all duties, that, weightiest 
of all responsibilities, which ever did or ever will devolve on a 
human being ? What is he to do, who, having brought a 
creature into existence, endowed with varied faculties, with 
tender susceptibilities, capable of untold wretchedness or 
equally of unconceived enjoyment ; what is he to do, that he 
may secure the happiness of that creature, and make the life 
he has given blessing and blessed, instead of cursing and 
cursed ? What is he to do ? — he is to encourage in his child 
a spirit of inquiry, and equally to encourage it in himself. 
He is never to advance an opinion without showing the facts 
upon which it is grouuded ; he is never to assert a fact, 
without proving it to be a fact. He is not to teach a code of 
morals, any more than a creed of doctrines ; but he is to direct 
his young charge to observe the consequences of actions on 
himself and on others ; and to judge of the propriety of those 
actions by their ascertained consequences. He is not to 
command his feelings any more than his opinions or his 
actions ; but he is to assist him in the analysis of his feelings, 
in the examination of their nature, their tendencies, their 
effects. Let him do this, and have no anxiety for the result. 
In the free exercise of his senses, in the fair development of 
his faculties, in a course of simple and unrestrained inquiry, 
he will discover truth, for he will ascertain facts ; he will 
seize upon virtue, for he will have distinguished beneficial from 
injurious actions; he will cultivate kind, generous, just, and 
honourable feelings, for he will have proved them to contri- 
bute to his own happiness and to shed happiness around him. 

Who, then, shall say, inquiry is good for him and not good 
for his children? Who shall cast error from himself, and 
allow it to be grafted on the minds he has called into being ? 
Who shall break the chains of his own ignorance, and fix 
them, through his descendants, on his race? But, there are 
some, who, as parents, make one step in duty, and halt at 
the second. We see meu who will aid the instruction of their 


sons, and condemn only their daughters to ignorance. "Out- 
sons," they say, " will have to exercise political rights, may 
aspire to public offices, may fill some learned profession, may 
struggle for wealth and acquire it. It is well that we give 
them a helping hand; that we assist them to such knowledge 
as is going, and make them as sharp witted as their neigh- 
bours. But for our daughters," they say — if indeed respecting 
them they say any thing — " for our daughters, little trouble 
or expense is necessary. They can never be any thing ; in 
fact, they are nothing. We had best give them up to their 
mothers, who may take them to Sunday's preaching ; and 
with the aid of a little music, a little dancing, and a few fine 
gowns, and fit them out for the market of marriage." 

Am I severe ? It is not my intention. I know that I am 
honest, and I fear that I am correct. Should I offend, how- 
ever, I may regret, I shall not repent it ; satisfied to incur 
displeasure, so that I render service. 

But to such parents I would observe, that with regard to 
their sons, as to their daughters, they are about equally 
mistaken. If it be their duty, as we have seen, to respect in 
their children the same natural liberties which they cherish 
for themselves — if it be their duty to aid as guides, not to 
dictate as teachers— to lend assistance to the reason, not to 
command its prostration, — then have they nothing to do with 
the blanks or the prizes in store for them, in the wheel of 
worldly fortune. Let possibilities be what they may in 
favour of their sons, they have no calculations to make on 
them. It is not for them to ordain their sons magistrates nor 
statesmen ; nor yet even lawyers, physicians, or merchants. 
They have only to improve the one character which they 
receive at the birth. They have only to consider them as 
human beings, and to ensure them the fair and thorough 
development of all the faculties, physical, mental, and moral, 
which distinguish their nature. In like manner, as respects 
their daughters, they have nothing to do with the injustice of 
laws, nor the absurdities of society. Their duty is plain, 
evident, decided. In a daughter they have in charge a 
human being ; in a son, the same. Let them train up these 
human beings, under the expanded wings of liberty. Let 
them seek for them and with them just knowledge ; en- 
couraging, from the cradle upwards, that useful curiosity 
which will lead them unbidden in the paths of free inquiry ; 
and place them, safe and superior to the storms of life, in the 


security of well-regulated, self-possessed minds, well-grounded, 
well-reasoned, conscientious opinions, and self-approved, 
consistent practice. 

I have as yet, in this important matter, addressed myself 
only to the reason and moral feelings of my audience ; I 
could speak also to their interests. Easy were it to show, 
that in proportion as your children are enlightened, will they 
prove blessings to society and ornaments to their race. But 
if this be true of all, it is more especially true of the now 
more neglected half of the species. Were it only in our 
power to enlighten part of the rising generation, and should 
the interests of the whole decide our choice of the portion, it 
were the females, and not the males, we should select. 

When, now a twelvemonth since, the friends of liberty and 
science pointed out to me, in London, the walls of their rising 
university, I observed, with a smile, that they were beginning 
at the wrong end : " Raise such an edifice for your young 
women, and ye have enlightened the nation. " It has already 
been observed, that women, wherever placed, however high 
or low in the scale of cultivation, hold the destinies of human- 
kind. Men will ever rise or fall to the level of the other sex ; 
and from some causes in their conformation, we find them, 
however armed with power or enlightened with knowledge, 
still held in leading strings even by the least cultivated 
female. Surely, then, if they knew their interests, they 
would desire the improvement of those who, if they do not 
advantage, will injure them; who, if they elevate not their 
minds and meliorate not their hearts, will debase the one and 
harden the other ; and who, if they endear not existence, 
most assuredly will dash it with poison. How many, how 
omnipotent are the interests which engage men to break the 
mental chains of women ! How many, how dear are the 
interests which engage them to exalt rather than lower their 
condition, to multiply their solid acquirements, to respect 
their liberties, to make them their equals, to wish them even 
their superiors! Let them inquire into these things. Let 
them examine the relation in which the two sexes stand, and 
ever must stand, to each other. Let them perceive, that, 
mutually dependent, they must ever be giving and receiving, 
or they must be losing ; — receiving or losing in knowledge, in 
virtue, m enjoyment. Let them perceive how immense the 
loss, or how immense the gain. Let them not imagine that 
they know aught of the delights which intercourse with the 


other sex can give, until they have feit the sympathy of mind 
with mind, and heart with heart ; until they bring into that 
intercourse every affection, every talent, every confidence, 
every refinement, every respect. Until power is annihilated 
on one side, fear and obedience on the other, and both restored 
to their birthright— equality. Let none think that affection 
can reign without it ; or friendship, or esteem. Jealousies, 
envyings, suspicions, reserves, deceptions — these are the 
fruits of inequality. Go, then ! and remove the evil first 
from the minds of women, then from their condition, and then 
from your laws. Think it no longer indifferent whether the 
mothers of the rising generation are wise or foolish. Think 
it not indifferent whether your own companions are ignorant 
or enlightened. Think it not indifferent whether those who 
are to form the opinions, sway the habits, decide the destinies, 
of the species — and that not through their children only, but 
through their lovers and husbands — are enlightened friends or 
capricious mistresses, efficient coadjutors or careless servants, 
raasoning beings or blind followers of superstition. 

There is a vulgar persuasion, that the ignorance of women, 
by favouring their subordination, ensures their utility. 'Tis 
the same argument employed by the ruling few against the 
subject many in aristocracies ; by the rich against the poor in 
democracies ; by the learned professions against the people in 
all countries. And let us observe, that if good in one case, it 
should be good in all ; and that, unless you are prepared to 
admit that you are yourselves less industrious in proportion to 
your intelligence, you must abandon the position with respect 
to others. But, in fact, who is it among men that best 
struggle with dfBculties ?— the strong-minded or the weak ? 
Who meet with serenity adverse fortune ? — the wise or the 
foolish? Who accommodate themselves to irremediable 
circumstances? or, when remediable, who control and mould 
them at will ? — the intelligent or the ignorant ? Let your 
answer in your own case, be your answer in that of women. 

If the important inquiry which engaged our attention last 
evening was satisfactorily answered, is there one who can 
doubt the beneficial effects of knowledge upon every mind, 
upon every heart ? Surely it must have been a misconception 
of the nature of knowledge which could alone bring it into 
suspicion. What is the clanger of truth? Where is the 
danger of fact? Error and ignorance, indeed, are full of 
danger. They fill our imagination with terrors. They place 


us at the mercy of every external circumstance. They in- 
capacitate us for our duties as members of the human family, 
for happiness as sentient beings, for improvement as reasoning 
beings. Let us awake from this illusion. Let us understand 
what knowledge is. Let us clearly perceive that accurate 
knowledge regards all equally ; that truth, or fact, is the same 
thing for all hiunankind ; that there are not truths for the 
rich and truths for the poor, truths for men and truths for 
women; there are simply truths, that is* facts, which all 
who open their eyes, and their ears, and their understandings 
can perceive. There is no mystery in these facts. There is 
no witchcraft in knowledge. Science is not a trick ; not a 
puzzle. The philosopher is not a conjuror. The observer of 
nature who envelopes his discoveries in mystery, either knows 
less than he pretends, or feels interested in withholding his 
knowledge. The teacher whose lessons are difficult of com- 
prehension, is either clumsy or he is dishonest. 

We observed, at our last meeting, that it was the evident 
interest of our appointed teachers to disguise the truth. We 
discovered this to be a matter of necessity, arising out of their 
dependence upon the public favour. We may observe yet 
another cause, now operating far and wide — universally, 
omnipotently — a cause prevading the whole mass of society, 
and springing out of the existing motive principle of human 
action — competition. Let us examine, and we shall discover 
it to be the object of each individual to obscure the first 
elements of the knowledge he professes— be that knowledge 
mechanical and operative, or intellectual and passive. It is 
thus that we see the simple manufacture of a pair of shoes 
magnified into an art, demanding a seven years' apprenticeship, 
when all its intricacies might be mastered in as many months. 
It is thus that cutting out a coat after just proportions is 
made to involve more science, and to demand more study, 
than the anatomy of the body it is to cover. And it is thus, 
in like manner, that all the branches of knowledge, involved 
in what is called scholastic learning, are wrapped in the fogs 
of pompous pedantry; and that every truth, instead of being 
presented in naked innocence, is obscured under a weight of 
elaborate words, and lost and buried in a medley of irrele- 
vant ideas, useless amplifications, and erroneous arguments. 
Would we unravel this confusion — would we distinguish the 
true from the false, the real from the unreal, the useful from 
the useless — would we break our mental leading strings— 



would we know the uses of all our faculties— would we be 
virtuous, happy, and intelligent beings — would we be useful 
in our generation — would we possess our own minds in peace, 
be secure in our opinions, be just in our feelings, be consistent 
in our practice — would we command the respect of others, 
and — far better — would we secure our own — let us inquire. 

Let us inquire ! What mighty consequences, are involved 
in these little words ! Whither have they not led? To what 
are they not yet destined to lead? Before them thrones have 
given way. Hierarchies have fallen, dungeons have disclosed 
their secrets. Iron bars, and iron laws, and more iron pre- 
judices, have given way ; the prison house of the mind hath 
burst its fetters ; science disclosed her treasures ; truth her 
moral beauties : and civil liberty, sheathing her conquering 
sword, hath prepared her to sit down in peace at the feet of 

Let us inquire ! oh, words fraught with good to man and 
terror to his oppressors ! Oh words bearing glad tidings to 
the many and alarm only to the few ! The monarch hears 
them, and trembles on his throne ! The priest hears^them, 
and trembles in the sanctuary ; the unjust judge— and trem- 
bles on the judgment seat. The nations pronounce them and 
arise in their strength. Let us inquire ; and behold, ignor- 
ance becomes wise, vice forsakes its errors, wretchedness 
conceives of comfort, and despair is visited by hope. Let 
us inquire !— when all shall whisper these little words, and 
echo them in their hearts, truly the rough places shall be 
made smooth, and the crooked paths straight. Let us inquire ; 
and behold, no evil but shall find its remedy, no error but shall 
be detected, and no truth but shall stand revealed ! Let us 
inquire! These little words, which presume in nothing, but 
which promise all things, what ear shall they offend ? what 
imagination shall they affright ? Not yours, sons of America ! 
Not yours. What hold ye of good or great? what boast 
ye of rights, of privileges, of liberty, beyond the rest of the 
nations, that by inquiry hath not been won, by inquiry 
improved and protected ? Let us inquire, said your ancestors, 
when kingly and priestly tyranny smote them on the banks of 
the Thames or the Seine. Let us inquire, said your fathers, 
when imperious princes and arrogant parliaments questioned 
their charters and trampled on their rights. Let us inquire, 
said Henry, said Jefferson, said Franklin, said the people and 
congress of 76- Let us inquire ; and behold, the inquiry 


gained to them and their descendants a country — lost to kings 
and their empires a world! 

And shall the sons fear to pronounce, in peace, under the 
shadow of the olive and the laurel planted by their fathers — 
shall they, I say, fear to pronounce those little words which, 
by their ancestors, were uttered under ban and forfeiture, 
outlawry, and excommunication, in prison, and under scaf- 
folds, before the bayonets of tyranny and the threatening 
thunders of leagued armies ? 

Or, is the race of human improvement ended, and the work 
of reform completed ? Have we attained all truth, rectified 
all error, so that, sitting down in wisdom and perfection, we 
may say, "our duty is achieved, or destiny fulfilled?" Alas 
for our nature, alas for our condition, alas for reason and 
common sense, if such should be the answer of our presump- 
tion, such the decision of our ignorance ! Where is the mind 
so vast, the imagination so sublime, that hath conceived the 
farthest limits of human improvement, or the utmost height 
to which human virtue may attain ? Or, say ! where is the 
heart so insensible, the mina so debased, that, looking abroad 
on the face of society, as now disfigured with vice, rapine, and 
wretchedness, can seriously think and feel farther inquiry 
superfluous, farther reformation impossible ? 

Did the knowledge of each individual embrace all the 
discoveries made by science, all the truths extracted by 
philosophy from the combined experience of ages, still would 
inquiry be in its infancy, improvement in its dawn. Perfec- 
tion for man is in no time, in no place. The law of his being, 
like that of the earth he inhabits, is to move always, to stop 
never. From the earliest annals of tradition, his movement 
has been in advance. The tide of his progress hath had ebbs 
and flows, but hath left a thousand marks by which to note 
its silent but tremendous influx. 

The first observations of Indian and Egyptian astrono- 
mers ; the first application of man to civil industry ; the first 
associations of tribes and nations, for the purpose of mutual 
protection ; the invention of an alphabet, the use of each 
ornamental, and, far better, of each useful art, — stand as so 
many tide-marks in the flood of recorded time, until, applying 
a lever to his own genius, man invented the printing press, 
and opened a first highway to inquiry. From that hour, his 
progress has been accelerating and accelerated. His strides 
have been those of a giant, and are those of a giant growing 

D 2 


n his strength. Mighty was the step he made, when, in 
Germany, he impeached the infallibility of Rome; mightier 
yet when, in England, he attacked the supremacy of kings ; 
mightier by far, when appealing to his own natural rights, 
he planted in this new world the more new standard of equal 
liberty ; and mightier still shall be his impulse in the onward 
career of endless improvement, when, rightly reading and 
justly executing his own decree, he shall extend to every son 
and daughter within the confines of these free states, liberty's 
first and only security — virtue's surest and only guide — 
national, rational, and equal education. 

Something towards this has been done, and in no division 
of this promising republic more than in New-England and 
the commonwealth of New-York. But, as it may hereafter 
be my attempt to show, in the efforts yet made and making, 
the masterspring hath not been touched, the republican 
principle hath not been hit, and, therefore, is the reform 

If this be so — and who that looks abroad shall gainsay the 
assertion ? — if this be so — and who that looks to your jails, 
to your penitentiaries, to your houses of refuge, to your 
hospitals, to your asylums, to your hovels of wretchedness, to 
your haunts of intemperance, to your victims lost in vice and 
hardened in profligacy, to childhood without protection, to 
youth without guidance., to the widow without sustenance, 
to the female destitute and female outcast, sentenced to 
shame and sold to degradation — who that locks to these shall 
say, that inquiry hath not a world to explore, and improve- 
ment yet a world to reform ! 

Let us inquire. Who, then, shall challenge the words? 
They are challenged. And by whom? By those who call 
themselves the guardians of morality, and who are the con- 
stituted guardians of religion. Inquiry, it seems, suits not 
them. They have drawn the line, beyond which human 
reason shall not pass — above which human virtue shall not 
aspire ! All that is without their faith, or above their rule, is 
immorality, is atheism, is — I know not what. 

My friends, I will ask you, as I would ask them would they 
meet the question, what means we possess for settling the 
point now at issue between the servants of faith and the 
advocates of knowledge, but what are supplied by inquiry? 

Are we miserable creatures, innately and of necessity ; 
placed on this earth by a being who should have made us for 


misery here and damnation hereafter ; or are we born ductile 
as the gold and speckless as the mirror, capable of all inflec- 
tion and impression which wise or unwise instruction may 
impart, or to which good or evil circumstance may incline ? 
Are we helpless sinners, with nought but the anchor of faith 
to lean upon ? Or are we creatures of noblest energies and 
sublimest capabilities, fitted for every deed of excellence, 
feeling of charity, and mode of enjoyment? How may we 
settle this problem but by inquiry ? How shall we know who 
hath the right and who hath the wrong but by inquiry ? 
Surely the matter is not small, nor the stake at issue trifling. 
Every interest dearest to the heart, every prospect most 
exhilirating to the mind, is involved in the question and 
trembles on the decision. 

Oh! then, let us gird up our minds in courage, and com- 
pose them in peace. Let us cast aside fear and suspicion, 
suspend our jealousies and disputes, acknowledge the rights 
of others and assert our own. And oh ! let us understand 
that the first and noblest of these rights is, the cultivation of 
our reason. We have seen what just knowledge is ; we have 
ascertained its importance to our worldly prosperity, to our 
happiness, to our dignity. We have seen, that it regards us, 
not only individually, but relatively and collectively. We 
have seen that to obtain it, we have but to seek it, patiently 
and fearlessly, in the road of inquiry ; and that to tread that 
road pleasantly, securely, profitably, we must throw it open 
to both sexes — to all ages — to the whole family of human- 

It now remains for us to distinguish what are the most 
important subjects of human inquiry. The field of knowledge 
is wide and the term of our existence short. With many of 
us life is considerably spent and much charged with worldly 
and domestic occupation. Still have we leisure sufficient, if 
we be willing to employ it, for the acquisition of such truths 
as are most immediately associated with our interests and 
influential over our happiness. 

At our next meeting we shall inquire what these truths 
of primary importance are, together with the means now 
in your hands for their general distribution and popular ac- 


Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of 


In our preceding discourses we have investigated, first, the 
nature and object of just knowledge ; secondly, the means 
for attaining that knowledge. It remains for us to distin- 
guish those parts or divisions of knowledge, with which it 
most concerns us to be familiar. 

We ascertained at our first meeting just knowledge to 
consist in, first, acquaintance with ourselves ; and secondly, 
with all things to which we stand in relation. 

Now we stand in relation, more near or more remote, to 
all substances and all existences within the range of our 
observation ; that is to the whole of matter, of which whole 
we ourselves form a part. 

We shall understand this relation more accurately if we 
bear in mind, that the simple elements of all things are 
eternal in duration and ever changing in position. We may 
analyze or discompose all substances, from the rocks of the 
mountain to the flesh of our own bodies ; we may destroy 
sentient existences — the ox in the market, or the insect 
beneath our foot ; we may watch the progress of rapid or 
more gradual decomposition by age or disease in our own 
bodies ; but let us not imagine that here is destruction, here 
is only change. We may evaporate water into steam, or 
convert it into air ; we may transform the blazing diamond 
into the elements of dull carbon ; we may stop the current 
juices in the plant or the tree, and leave it fading and wither- 
ing until we find only an earthy heap on the soil ; we may 
arrest the action of organic life, and stretch the warm and 
sentient being a cold, dull clod of corruption at our feet — 
yet have we neither taken from, nor added to, the elements 
before us. We have changed one substance into other sub- 
stances, ended one existence to start others into being. The 
same matter is there : its appearance only is changed, and its 
qualities diversified. These facts being so, as observation 
and experience attest, it follows, not merely that we form at 
this moment a part of one great whole, but that we ever 
have and ever shall form a part of the same. Under various 
forms, with varying qualities, the elements which now com- 


pose our bodies have ever held, and will ever hold a place, 
in the vast infinitly of matter : and consequently, ever min- 
gling and mingled with the elements of all things, we stand , 
in our very nature, allied and associated with the air we 
breathe, the dust, the stone, the flower we tread; the worm 
that crawls, the insect that hums around us its tiny song, the 
bird that wheels its flight through the blue ether, and all the 
varied multitude of animal existences, from the playful squir- 
rel to the lordly elephant. 

Thus related, as we are to all things, and all things to us, 
how interesting a theatre that in which we stand ! How 
calculated to awaken our intellectual faculties, and excite 
our moral feelings ! Our sympathy is attracted to every 
creature, our attention to every thing. We see ourselves in 
the midst of a family endlessly diversified in powers, in facul- 
ties, in wants, in desires; in the midst of a world whose exis- 
tence is one with our own, and in whose history each mode of 
being is an episode, 

Were this simple view of things opened to us with our 
opening reason, royal indeed were our road in improvement. 
Easily, as pleasantly, should we tread all the paths of know- 
ledge : and advancing, without check or backsliding, become 
familiar with every object within the circle of each opening 
horizon, until the whole map of material existence, with all 
its occurrences and changes, lay revealed to our sight and 
apprehension. Then would our education be simply a 
voyage of discovery. We should have only to look within us 
and to look without us, to store up facts and to register 
them for future generations. Far other is our occupation 
now. Instead of establishing facts, we have to overthrow 
errors ; instead of ascertaining what is, we have to chase 
from our imaginations what is not. Before we can open our 
eyes, we have to ask leave of our superstition ; before we can 
exercise our faculties, we have to ask leave of each other. 
When I think how easy and delightful the task would be to 
present you with a simple table of just knowledge — to ar- 
range under the single head of matter and its phenomena 
all the real objects of human investigation and real subjects of 
human inquiry ; and when I picture to myself all the imagi- 
nary objects which now engage your attention, and all the 
fauciful subjects on which your imaginations run riot— I 
know not where to begin, and am fain to ask pardon of you 
and pardon of myself for the unmeaning words 1 must em- 


ploy, the unreal subjects we must consider. But, waving 
these for a moment, let us inquire what, under these two 
divisions of knowledge— acquaintance with ourselves and 
acquaintance with the world without us — are the subjects 
of primary interest ; and in what degree we are at present 
engaged in their consideration. 

First, acquaintance with ourselves. We must allow this 
to be important. If any thing concerns us,it should be our 
own bodies and minds. What do we understand of their 
structure ? what of their faculties and powers ? If we under- 
stand not these, how may we preserve the health of either ? 
How may we avoid injurious habits, understand our sensations, 
profit by experience, and establish ourselves in bodily tem- 
perance and mental sobriety? 

Without pausing to develope all the importance of these 
studies, we will take its admission for granted ; and place 
therefore, at the head of our list, anatomy, physiology, and 
the natural history of man. 

In passing to the world without us, we come to a subject 
of equal importance ; one, indeed, which accurately con- 
sidered, comprises the knowledge of ourselves in common 
with that of all existences — physics, or a knowledge of the 
material world. 

Under this head we may remark many distiuct subjects 
of inquiry. The motion of the heavenly bodies, and that of our 
earth considered as one of them. The form and structure of 
the earth, with all the appearances and substances it exhibits ; 
the physiology of animals, their habits, instincts, and moral 
character ! with those of all the swarms of existences which 
diversify matter with endless variety. But, leaving these 
with other subdivisions, we may confine ourselves to the 
remark, that without some general acquaintance with the 
three great branches of physics, commonly called chemistry, 
natural philosophy, and natural history, more especially that 
of man, we can know nothing ; nothing of ourselves, nothing 
of the world about us, nothing of the relation we bear to 
things, nor of theirs to us, nor of theirs to each other. 
The best road to correct reasoning is by physical science ; 
the way to trace effects to causes is through physical science; 
the only corrective, therefore, of superstition is physical 

Nor let us imagine this difficult of attainment. Of all 
human accomplishments, it is the easiest. For why ? it con- 


sists exclusively of facts. It is not that even here human 
ingenuity has never devised confusion. But, thanks to the 
persevering labours of some enlightened individuals, many of 
them persecuted in their generation, and not a few per- 
secuted in our own, we now understand that if we would 
investigate nature, in whole or in part, we must use our eyes, 
ears, and understandings, simply treasure up facts, judge 
from facts, and reason from the premises of facts. 

Admitting, as we must, the importance of this mode of 
judging and reasoning, we shall perceive the peculiar ad- 
vantage and necessity of commencing our researches in the 
world of fact and science of things. 

Before we can proceed to examine our opinions, we must 
ascertain facts drawn from the attentive observation of matter. 
W e must know the anatomy of the matter composing our own 
bodies, and that of the matter composing all other bodies. 
We must familiarize our senses and our understandings with 
the multiform and yet unvarying phenomena of nature. We 
must know what does happen and what does not happen. 
We must trace in the physical world, cause to cause ; or, 
more properly, occurrence to occurrence ; and whenever we 
do not perceive the clenching link between two occurrences, 
we must not imagine it ; we must say we do not know it, 
and we must go, with our five senses open, in search of it. 
Had human beings, in all ages of the world, done this, where 
should we not now be in just knowledge ? It is time that 
we seek out the right road. We have groped long enough in 
error; lived long enough in fairyland; dreamed more than 
enough of things unseen and causes unknown. W T e have, 
indeed, dreamed so much and observed so little, that our 
i maginations have grown larger than the world we live in, 
and our judgments have dwindled down to a point. 

Having obtained a general view of the philosophy of 
matter, we may then carry our investigations into the other 
branches of knowledge, according to our leisure, taste, and 
opportunity. We may apply ourselves to the past history of 
man, as handed down to us by tradition, oral or in writing ; 
and comparing these traditions with what we know of the 
nature of man and the nature of things, of matter and its 
phenomena, we may judge of their credibility If we are not 
prepared thus 1o judge by accurate analogy, we may receive 
every fable for matter of fact, swallow every fairy tale for true 
history, suppose every mythology sound philosophy, and mis- 


take equally the tricks of conjurors and the phenomena of 
nature for miracles. 

We may then peruse with equal interest and advantage the 
narratives of travellers, and engage in general reading with 
little risk of taking facts for granted without evidence, or 
receiving the visions of weak understandings for the lessons of 
wisdom. We may then, too, examine our opinions with 
some hope of discriminating between the erroneous and the 
correct ; we may then change or form our opinions with good 
security for basing them on a solid foundation ; we may then 
exercise our reason, for we shall have facts to exercise it 
upon ; we may then compare popular creeds, and investigate 
unpopular doubts; we may then weigh all things in the 
balance of reason, seat our judgment on her throne, and listen 
to her decisions. 

But, it may be asked, how are the generality of men, and 
more especially, of women, to find time and opportunity for 
such preparatory investigations as we acknowledge to be 
absolutely indispensible ? Should we discover that they now 
spend more time and more opportunity in useless investiga- 
tions, than they need devote to the most useful ; that they 
now waste more anxious thought, more precious time, and 
more hard-earned money in fruitless inquiry — inquiry which 
never can be answered, and whose answer, if possible, could 

f>rofit them nothing — than would suffice to gratify every 
audable curiosity, and store their minds with knowledge, 
whose utility should be felt at every moment of their lives — 
should we "discover this, would there be no effort made to 
turn time and opportunity to better account, and to divert 
thought and money into the more useful channel? 

We spake of inquiry. Behold ! my friends, a subject for 
it ! Ask yourselves how ye employ your leisure hours — how 
ye employ your leisure day, the first of the week ! Ask, for 
what have ye raised spacious buildings through your cities 
and villages, and for what ye pay a host of teachers, interested, 
as we have seen — as we have proved — in deceiving you! 

I must pause a moment to conciliate the feelings of my 
audience : I know the influence exercised by religious 
teachers, and I know the sway yielded to them ; I know the 
hostility 1 must excite by exposing the circumstances which 
render worse than nugatory the lessons of the pulpit, and 
which interest the press in confirming the errors which the 
pulpit promulgates. I understand all that I must provoke ; 


but equally do I understand the urgency of the duty which 
has already led me to expose the fact, that the teachers of 
the public mind are, by the very circumstance of their situa- 
tion, constrained to conciliate every prejudice, and gainsay 
every truth. 

Nor rests the fatal necessity to which I called your atten- 
tion, in my opening discourse, only with our public teachers. 
Each member of the public feels something of the same. 
Trained as we all are, more or less, in the ways of hypocrisy 
—constrained by fear or by policy, to assume the semblance 
of such opinions, whether we hold them secretly or not, as 
rule the ascendant, because they command the wealth of the 
country ; or, should we forbear from expressing what is false, 
obliged, at the least, to withhold what is true ;— constrained, 
I say, in very self-defence, to keep silence, lest the bread be 
taken from our mouths, or peace from our firesides ; the 
inutility, or worse, the mischief of our ordinary public instruc- 
tion, is apparent, both in its effects and in its cause. 

Far be it then from me, in exposing the evil, to reflect upon 
individuals, who are rather its passive agents than its authors. 
If some there are, so depraved by reigning corruptions, as to 
volunteer their increase, and fignt their way to false honour 
and foul wealth, by falsehoods uncalled for, dishonesty and 
defamation as unmanly as they are gratuitously wicked, still 
are there others who mourn in secret, while they conciliate 
ruling prejudices, and who ask pardon of truth while they 
bow themselves in the house of Rimmon. Well do I know 
this to be widely true, with respect to the press — widely true, 
also, with respect to the teachers of our youth in schools and 
colleges — and, disposed am I to believe it partially true, with 
respect to the clergy. But for these last, more especially, 
the railroad is marked out. and that they have to tread. 
Should they depart from it, the very flock would rise up 
against the shepherd; or let us observe, that if the flock 
should be convinced by the shepherd, the very calling of the 
shepherd were destroyed, the craft by which he lives over- 

1 have seen an honest teacher of religion, born and bred 
within the atmosphere of sectarian faith, and whose hairs have 
grown white in the labours of sectarian ministries, open his 
mind to more expanded views, his heart to more expanded 
feelings, and as the light dawned upon his own reason, 
steadily proclaim it to his followers. And what hath been 



the reward of his honesty ? They who should blessed, have 
risen up against him ; the young in years, but the old in 
falsehood, even among his followers, nave sought their own 
popularity, by proclaiming his heresy ; nor rested from plots 
and persecutions until they drove him from his own pulpit, 
and shut the doors of his own church, upon his venerable 

Such being the reward of sincerity, who then shall marvel 
at its absence. For myself, in exposing the duplicity of the 
clergy, I neither marvel at, nor judge it in severity. Hypo- 
crisy is the vice of the age, and hypocrites are made to be its 
teachers ! 

Not then in satire of the clergy, but in good will to my 
fellow creatures, have I attempted the exposure of that craft, 
which is necessary to the very existence of the clerical pro- 
fession. And not from indifference to the feelings of my 
hearers, but from deep sympathy with their vital interests 
shall I venture, now and hereafter, to probe their secret 
thoughts, and expose their most cherished errors. In so 
doing, never will it be my intention to offend. I would not 
wound one conscientious prejudice; not deal a rough word 
against one feeling of a fellow creature. But I am here to 
speak what I believe the truth. I am here to speak that for 
which some have not the courage and others not the indepen- 
dence. I am here, not to flatter the ear, but to probe the 
heart ; not to minister to vanity, but to urge self-examination ; 
assuredly, therefore, not to court applause, but to induce con - 
viction. Must it be my misfortune to offend ? bear in mind 
only that I do it for conscience sake — for your sakes. I 
have wedded the cause of human improvement ; staked it on 
my reputation, my fortune, and my life ; and as, for it, I 
threw behind me in earliest jouth the follies of my age, the 
luxuries of ease and European aristocracy, so do I, and so 
will I, persevere, even as I began ; and devote what remains 
to me of talent, strength, fortune, and existence, to the same 
sacred cause — the promotion of just knowledge, the establish- 
ing of just practice, the increase of human happiness. 

Such being my motives, such my object, I must intreat 
you to inquire what the knowledge is, that you learn from 
your spiritual teachers. "The knowledge by faith," they 
will answer for you. "And faith," they will add, ''is the 
knowledge of things unseen." Can there be any such know- 
ledge ? I put it to your reason. Knowledge we have shown 


to be ascertained facts. Tilings unseen ! Can human under- 
standing know any thing about them ? More I will ask : 
could it be of any utility were even such knowledge possible ? 
And do ye hire teachers to teach you non-existent knowledge, 
impossible knowledge, and knowledge which, even under the 
supposition of its possibility, could serve no conceivable 
purpose ? We are on the earth, and they tell us of heaven ; 
we are human beings, and they tell us of angels and devils; 
we are matter, and they tell us of spirit : we have five senses 
whereby to admit truths, and a reasoning faculty by which to 
build our belief upon them ; and they tell us of dreams 
dreamed thousands of years ago, which all our experience 
flatly contradicts. 

Again I must intreat your patience — your gentle hearing. 
I am not going to question your opinious. I am not going to 
meddle with your belief. I am not going to dictate to you 
mine. All that I say is, examine, inquire. Look into the 
nature of things. Search out the grounds of your opinions, 
the for and the against. Know why you believe, understand 
what you believe, and possess a reason for the faith that is in 

But your spiritual teachers caution you against inquiry — 
tell you not to read certain books ; not to listen to certain 
people; to beware of profane learning ; to submit your reason, 
and to receive their doctrines for truths. Such advice renders 
them suspicious counsellors. By their own creed, you hold 
your reason from their God. Go ! ask them why he gave it. 

Be not afraid! If that being which they tell us of exist, we 
shall find him in his works. If that revelation be his which 
they tell us to revere, we shall find all nature and its occur- 
rences, all matter and its phenomena, bearing testimony to its 
truth. Be not afraid ! In admitting a creator, refuse not to 
examine his creation ; and take not the assertions of creatures 
like yourselves, in place of the evidence of your senses and 
the conviction of your understanding. 

But you will say, the. clergy are moral teachers no less than 
religious. They form and amend our practice as well as 
dictate our belief. 

My friends ! we have ascertained the contray. We have 
seen that from Maine to Missouri — from hence each way to 
our antipodes — the hired preachers of all sects, creeds, and 
religions, never do, and never can, teach any thing but what 
is in conformity with the opinions of those who pay them. 


We have substantiated the fact, that they never did, and 
never can, touch the master-vice, whatever it be, and 
wherever found. We know that they ever have, and ever 
must, persecute truth, by whomsoever discovered — by Galileo, 
or by Leslie and Lawrence ; we know that they have stifled 
enquiry, wherever started, in every age and every nation on 
the globe ; and that hardly a fact in science or a truth in 
philosophy, but has been purchased with the blood, or the 
liberty, or the domestic peace of a martyr. We have traced 
this conduct of your teachers to its cause. Remove the cause, 
and the effect shall cease. Give premiums for the discovery 
and revelation of knowledge, not for its repression ! Take 
for your teachers experimental philosophers, not spiritual 
dreamers ! Turn your churches into halls of science, and 
devote your leisure day to the study of your own bodies, the 
analysis of your own minds, and the examination of the fair 
material world which extends around you ! Examine the 
expenses of your present religious system. Calculate all that 
is spent in multiplying churches and salarying their ministers ; 
m clothing and feeding travelling preachers, who fill your 
streets and highways with trembling fanatics, and your very 
forests with frantic men and hysterical women. Estimate all 
the fruits of honest industry which are engulfed in the trea- 
suries of Bible societies, tract associations, and christian 
missions; in sending forth teachers to central Africa and 
unexplored India, who know not the geography of their own 
country ; and, hardly masters of their native tongue, go to 
preach of things unseen to nalions unknown; compassing the 
earth to add error to ignorance, and the frenzy of religious 
fanaticism to the ferocity of savage existence. See the 
multitude and activity of your emissaries ! Weigh the ex- 
penses of your outlay and outfit, and then examine if this cost 
and this activity could not be more usefully employed. By a 
late estimate, we learn the yearly expenses of the existing 
religious system, to exceed in these United States twenty 
millions of dollars. Twenty millions! For teaching what? 
Things unseen, and causes unknown ! Why, here is more 
than enough to purchase the extract of all just knowledge — 
that is, of things saen and causes knotvn, gathered by patient 
philosophy through all past time up to the present hour. 
Things unseen sell dear. Is it not worth our while to compare 
the value with the cost, and to strike the balance between 
them ? 


If we consider that there is no arriving at just practice but 
through just opinions, and no arriving at just opinions but 
through just knowledge, we must perceive the full importance 
of the proposed inquiry. Twenty millions would more than 
suffice to make us wise ; and, alas ! do they not more than 
suffice to make us foolish? I entreat you, but for one 
moment, to conceive the mental and moral revolution there 
would be in this nation, were these twenty millions, or but 
one half— but one third of that sum, employed in the equal 
distribution of accurate knowledge. Had you, in each of 
your churches, a teacher of elementary science, so that all the 
citizens, young and old, might cultivate that laudable curiosity 
without which the human animal is lower than the brute, we 
should not then see men staggering under intoxication, nor 
lounging in imbecile idleness; nor should we hear women 
retailing scandal from door to door, nor children echoing 
ribaldry in the streets, and vying with the monkey in mischief. 
" But" you will say, " the clergy preach against these 
things." And when did mere preaching do any good ? Put 
something in the place of these things. Fill the vacuum of 
the mind. Awaken its powers, and it will respect itself. 
Give it worthy objects on which to spend its strength, and it 
will riot no more in wantonness. Do the clergy this ? Do 
they not rather demand a prostration of the intellect — a 
humbling and debasing of the spirit ? Is not their knowledge 
that of things unseen, speaking neither to the senses, nor to 
the faculties ? Are not their doctrines, by their own confes- 
sion, incomprehensible ? Is not their morality based upon 
human depravity ? Preach they not the innate corruption of 
our race ? Away with this libel of our nature ! Away with 
this crippling, debasing, cowardly theory ! Long, long enough 
hath this foul slander obscured our prospects, paralyzed our 
efforts, crushed the generous spirit within us ! Awav with 
it! such a school never made a race of freemen. And, see r 
in spite of the doctriue, to what heights of virtue and intelli- 
gence hath not man attained ! Think of his discoveries in 
science — spite of chains, and dungeons, and gibbets, and 
anathemas I Think of his devotion to principle ! Even when 
in error, great in his devotion ! Think of the energy stronger 
than power, the benevolence supreme over selfishness, the 
courage conquering in death, with which he fought, and 
endured, and persevered through ages, until he won his 
haven of libertv in America ! Yes ! he has won it. The 


noble creature lias proved his birthright. May he learn to 
use and to enjoy it. 

But how shall he do this ? Sons and daughters of America ! 
'tis for you to answer. When will ye improve the liberty 
for which your fathers sought an unknown world ? When 
will ye appreciate the treasure they have won ? When will 
ye see, that liberty leans her right arm on knowledge, and 
that knowledge points you to the world ye inhabit ? 

Consider that world, my friends ! Enable yourselves, by 
mastering the first elements of knowledge, to judge of the 
nature and importance of all its different branches. Fit 
yourselves for the examination of your opinions, and then 
examine your opinions. Read, inquire, reason, reflect ! 
Wrong not your understandings by doubting their perception 
of moral, any more than of physical, truth. Wrong not the 
God ye worship by imagining him armed with thunders to 
protect the tree of knowledge from approach. If ye con- 
ceive yourselves as holding from one great being your ani- 
mate existence, employ his first best gift — your reason. 
Scan with your reason that which ye are told is his word, 
scan with jour senses those which ye are told are his works. 
Receive no man's assertion. Believe no conviction but your 
own ; and respect not your own until ye know that ye have 
examined both sides of every question ; collected all evidence 
weighed, compared, and digested it : sought it at the foun- 
tain head ; received it never through suspicious channels — 
altered, mutilated, or defaced ; but pure, genuine, from the 
authorities themselves. Examine ye things ? look to the 
fact. Examine ye books ? to the text. And when ye look 
and when ye read, be sure that ye see, and be sure that ye 
understand. Ask why of every teacher. Ask why over 
every book. While there is a doubt, suspend judgment ; 
while one evidence is wanting, withhold assent. 

Observe here the advantage of material science. Does 
the physician — (I use the word here, as I shall often have 
occasion to use it hereafter, to signify the studeut of physics, 
or the observers of nature)— does the physician tell you that 
water is compounded of gases? He perform the experiment. 
That the atmosphere is another compound? The same. 
That more of or less of activity is in all matter? He shows 
vou the formation of crystals in their bed, and composes and de- 
composes them before ye. Does he tell you that matter is 
ever changing, but never losing ? He analyzes the substance 


before your eyes, and gives you its elements with nothing 
wanting. Do the anatomists and physiologist describe the 
structure and texture of your bodies ? They shew you their 
hidden arcana, dissect their parts, and trace their relation j 
explain the mechanism of each organ, and observe, with you 
its uses and functions. Do the geologist and mineralogist 
speak to us of the structure and component parts of this 
globe ? They explain to us the strata of earths ; the posi- 
tion of rocks ; the animal remains they envelope : the marks 
they exhibit of convulsion or of rest— of violent and sudden, 
or of gradual and silent, phenomena. See, then, the superio- 
rity of physical science ! The proof comes with the asser- 
tion ; the fact constitutes the truth. 

But, you will say, there is other evidence than the phy- 
sically tangible — other truths than those admitted through 
the senses. There is the more immediate and the more 
remote testimony of our senses ; nothing more, nothing less. 
Will you appeal to numerical and geometrical truth ? Had 
we no senses, could we know any thing of either? Were 
there no objects, no substances and existences around you, 
how could you conceive of number or of form ? If the child 
see not four things, how shall he understand the meaning of 
four ? If he see not two halves, put them together, divide 
them, compare them, measure, weigh them, how shall he 
know that two halves are equal to a whole? or a whole 
greater than its part ? These are the simple truths con- 
ceived by the philosopher of nature, Pestalozzi. Here are 
the leading beauties of that system of experimental instruc- 
tion which he so long strove to put in practice, and which 
time may enable others successfully to develope. 

But. I hear you again object, that there are truths appeal- 
ing only to the mind, or directly to the feelings : such are 
moral truths. The varying degree of sensibility evinced 
by individuals towards the joys and sorrows of others i« 
apparent to every observer. This sensibility forms the basis 
of virtue ; and, when by means of experience we have dis- 
tinguished painful from pleasurable sensations in our own 
case, this sensibility assists us to estimate them in the case of 
others. Yet have we no doors by which to admit know- 
ledge but the senses. We ascertain what is good or evil bv 
experience. The beneficial or injurious consequences of 
actions make us pronounce them virtuous or vicious. The 
man of cultivated sensibility then refers his sensations and 




applies his experience to others, and syrapathisies in the pain 
or the pleasure he conceives them to feel. But, here are our 
moral truths also based upon fact. There is no test of these 
but experience. That is good which produces good ; that 
evil, which produces evil ; and, where our senses different 
from what they are, our virtue and our vice would be 
different also. *Let us have done with abstractions ! Truth 
is fact. Virtue is beneficial action ; vice, mischievous action ; 
virtuous feelings are those which impart pleasure to the 
bosom; bad feelings, those which disturb and torment it. 
Be not anxious in seeking your rule of life. Consult experi- 
ence ; your own sensations, the sensations of others. These 
are surer guides than laws and doctrines, and when the law 
and the doctrine coincide not with the evidence of your 
senses, and the testimony of your reason, be satisfied that 
they, that is. the law and the doctrine, are false. 

Think of these things ! Weigh the truth of what I advance ! 
Go to your churches with your understandings open. Inquire 
the meaning of the words ye hear — the value of the ideas. 
See if they be worth twenty millions of dollars ! And, if they 
be not, withhold your contributions. But — ye will be afraid. 
Afraid! of what?— of acting conscientiously? of acting 
reasonably ? Come ! learn, then, of a stranger and a woman ! 
Be bold to speak what ye think and feel ; and to act in accord- 
ance with your belief. Prefer your self respect to the 
respect of others. Nay ! secure your own respect, and 
command that of others. 

I speak with warmth. Ifeel warmly. The happiness, the 
honour, the dignity of man, are dear to my heart. His ignor- 
ance afflicts me; his cowardice afflicts me; his indifference 
afflicts me. He feels not for himself, he feels not for his 

But — ye will wipe off this stain Ye will awake to the 
uses of things. Ye will inquire. Ye will collect just know- 
ledge. Ye will cultivate your reason. Ye will improve your 

Many are the societies, associations, treasury funds, among 
you. Organize a society for the promotion of just know- 
ledge. Raise an edifice, sacred to national union and national 
instruction, capable of holding from three to five thousand 
individuals, where the citizens of all ages may assemble for 
the acquisition of useful knowledge, and for the cultivation of 
that social feeling and brotherly fellowship, without which no 


real republic can have an existence. Select good instructors, 
masters of science, and capable of developing it easily and 
agreeably. Attach to the institution your museums and your 
public libraries. These are of little use single, detached, and 
unassisted by the elucidations of experienced instructors. 
Such an institution as that I have now sketched, should be 
open to as many as possible free of all charge. The rent of 
a portion of the seats might be devoted to the remuneration 
of such individuals as could not bestow their labours gratui- 
tously. The building itself, I am disposed to hope, could be 
raised for such a purpose by voluntary contributions. 

As soon as possible, there should be attached to this hall 
of science, a school of industry, which, in time, might be 
made to cover its own expenses by the labour of the children. 
Here, besides the imparting of useful trades, would be held 
also, the earlier classes in intellectual knowledge : and, when 
sufficiently advanced, the young people could perfect their 
studies in the hall of science. In the commencement, the 
school of industry might be conducted on the plan of a day 
school only, where, at successive hours, the teachers in the 
various branches of knowledge, mechanical and intellectual, 
might hold their classes. 

Nor let the rich imagine that such a plan of education 
would not advantage them equally with the poor. What is 
the education they now command? At once false, imperfect, 
and expensive. Nor let them imagine that any can be well 
trained until all are well trained. Example is more than 
precept. While the many are left in ignorance, the few 
cannot be wise, for they cannot be virtuous. Look to your 
jails, your penitentiaries, your poor-houses ! Look to your 
streets, your haunts of vice, your hovels of wretchedness ! 
Look to the unhappy victims of poverty, of passion, gambling, 
drinking. Alas, the heart turns sick, and the tongue falters, 
under the enumeration of all the shapes and sounds of suffering 
which affright the eye and the ear of humanity ! 

And what is the cause of all this ? Ignorance ! Ignorance ! 
There is none other. Oh ! then, be up and be doing ! Rich and 
poor, be up and be doing. Are ye not all fellow creatures ? 
Are ye not all of one form, of one nature ? Have ye not all the 
same wants ? Oh ! then, why have ye not the same interests ? 
And ye have — ye have. Oh that ye could believe it ! Oh that 
ye could see it ! Oh that ye would unite under the wings of 
liberty as brothers, as equals, as fellow men ! Oh that ve would 

E 2 


enter as one family, the courts of knowledge, and cast down 
at her feet your prejudices, your dissensions, your jealousies, 
your fears! Whenever the people of all the larger towns 
shall begin the good work of popular and equal instruction, 
the same may soon become a state concern ; and instead of 
endowing, as is now the custom, colleges for the erroneous 
education of the few, we shall see spread throughout the 
land, national institutions for the rational education of the 
many. To this primary object will be then directed the 
legislation of all trie states ; to the same object the taxation 
of all the states ; to the same, also, those contributions which 
are now devoted to the building of sectarian churches, even 
frowning defiance at the other, and sectarian preachers all 
flourishing the torch of discord, and fighting each his own 
battle for wealth and supremacy, against common sense and 
the common weal. 

But the tree which hereafter shall shadow the land, must 
grow from a small seed. Plant ye that seed now, that ye 
may see it shoot and blossom, and that your children may 
reap of its fruits. Look around upon each other as upon 
fellow citizens and fellow creatures, interested alike in the 
discovery of the true and the useful, for the common advan- 
tage of all. Unite — unite for the promotion of knowledge ? 
Exchange the spirit of sectarianism for that of universal love, 
charity, and toleration. Turn from the teachers of strife, 
and seek ye out inquirers after truth. Look around first 
among yourselves. Seek out the talent that is at home, and 
when ye find it not, invite it from afar. Encourage the wise 
to come among ye instead of the foolish ; the peaceful and 
enlightened instead of the noisy ignorant; the reasoner 
instead of the declaimer ; the child of science w 7 ho will give 
you all he knows, and seek with you what he knows not, 
instead of the master by right divine, who promulgates 
doctrines without advancing evidence, and who stuns our 
human reason, as our human ears, with absurdities which, 
he says, come from heaven. 

With such guides, and engaged in such investigations and 
undertakings, as I have ventured to recommend, you will all 
meet on common ground. You will no longer see in each 
other Calvinists. Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, 
and I know not what; you will see only human beings. 
The halls of science are open to all ; her truths are disputed 
by none. She says not to one, " eat no meat on Fridays ;" 


to another, "plunge into the river ;" to a third, '-groan in 
the spirit ;" to a fourth, " wait for the spirit ;" to a fifth, 
" eat bread in the Lord ;" to a sixth, "* eat the Lord in 
bread ;" to a seventh, " dance in divine praise ;" to a eighth, 
" dance not at all-" to a ninth, "perceive in things visible 
the shadows of things unseen ;" to a tenth, " there is for 
you salvation ,-" and to nine hundred and ninety-nine thou- 
sandths of the human race, "ye were born for eternal fire." 
Science says nothing of all this. She says, only, " observe, 
compare, reason, reflect, understand :" and the advantage is, 
that we can do all this without quarrelling. 

I have now attempted to substantiate, with you, the nature, 
object, and consequences of just knowledge; the means 
proper for its attainment, and the measures requisite for 
securing those means to yourselves and your children. 

Considering the investigations we have held together in 
our meetings of Tuesday, Thursday, and this evening, as 
introductory to the examination of existing opinions, and the 
present mode of spending the leisure time and surplus money 
(which I pray you to bear in mind is the surplus industry) 
of the nation, I propose that we investigate, at our next 
meeting, more closely the subject which now engages your 
weekly attention in your churches. 

The acquisition of knowledge being essential to our happi- 
ness, as being the only means by which we can attain to 
truth in opinions, and wisdom in practice, it is important 
that we bestow on every branch of it, an attention exactly 
proportionate to its utility. We have observed upou the 
importance of some now entirely neglected. It is well that 
we weigh accurately the value of that which now engrosses 
twenty millions per annum of the national wealth, and that 
we hereafter apportion to it, liberally and readily, so much 
of both as we may discover it to deserve — and no more. 



I hwe selected for our consideration this evening a subject 
which we are generally accustomed to consider as of vital 


importance; which is usually made to occupy the human 
mind from the cradle to the grave, and which, however 
varying in the views and interpretations of its expounders, is 
conceived to constitute the polar star of human conduct ; to 
be our only guide towards virtue, our only bar from vice, our 
source of comfort, our anchor of hope, and at once the alarming 
deterrer from crime and its terrific avenger. My hearers will 
already have divined that our subject is Religion. 

To those who may already have substantiated with me 
those first premises, which I am ever desirous should be seen 
and understood before I enter on the discussion of isolated 
topics, or approach the tests of reason and experience to all 
or any of the multiform tribe of human opinions — to those, I 
say, among this audience, who may have attended the three 
preliminary discourses on knowledge, closed last evening, 
I might consider all prefatory observations on the present 
occasion unnecessary. But, as in all probabiiit}, I am 
addressing a portion of this audience for the first time, 1 feel 
unwilling to launch with undue precipitancy into a discussion 
calculated perhaps to alarm the fears of some, and the honest 
prejudices of others. 

Myself a scholar, not a teacher, who have purchased such 
knowledge as I possess, by years of self-directed study, 
persevering observation, and untiring reflection, I can well 
conceive, for I myself have experienced, the doubts, difficul- 
ties, hopes, fears, and anxieties, which beset the awakening 
mind in the early stage of inquiry ; the indistinct and, often, 
evanescent perceptions which encourage, and then check, and 
then again encourage, again to intimidate its advance ; the 
conflicting thoughts and feelings with which it has to struggle 
ere it can vanquish early impressions, and consent to receive 
new ones, admit ideas subversive of those which had grown 
with its growth, and which, associated with tender recollec- 
tions, cling to the heart as well as the head, or not unfrequentiy, 
grafted on the imagination of childhood, by an education as 
cruel as erroneous, continue to alarm the fancy and agitate 
the nerves even after the judgment has pronounced them 
chimeras. All this I can understand, for all this I have either 
felt or observed in others. Anxiously, therefore, would I 
temper my words to the timid, and, if possible, the truths 
themselves, which we are met to search out and investigate. 

If, then, in manner or in matter, I should touch too harshly 
m the opinions of some, or the feelings of any, I will pray 



them to absolve me of every desire but that of eliciting truths 
important to the well-being of man ; of every intention but 
that of administering to the instruction, and consequently., to 
the happiness of those I may address. But, will it be asked, 
why I conceive myself fitted to impart instruction, and increase 
the sum of human happiness? For I must observe, that the 
individual who should successfully attempt the one, must 
succeed in the other; error and misery being inseparable 
companions, and knowledge and happiness the same. If 1 
have thus conceived of myself, it has been neither (as I at 
least believe) through too high a valuation of my own acquire- 
ments, nor too eager a desire to assume that tone of dictation 
which I am accustomed to deprecate in others. I have 
advanced just too far in knowledge to overrate my attain- 
ments ; just far enough at once to understand my own 
deficiencies, and to have detected the false pretensions of 
many self-called wise. It is to render apparent the simplicity 
of real, and the charlatanism of false learning, that I have 
volunteered — not, I request you to believe, without due re- 
flection, and a thorough understanding of all the criticism, 
censure, and, I may say, unseemly abuse, which I was about 
to encounter : — that I have volunteered, I say, to impart to 
others, what I myself know, and, more than all, to enlighten 
them as to what can really be known. This has been the 
more especial object of my previous discourses on knowledge : 
and, as we then observed, so must I now repeat, that until 
we see clearly what knowledge is, we cannot perceive truth, 
detect error, nor possess one really accurate, reasoned, and 
consistent opinion. 

Knowledge, we ascertained to consist in an accumulation 
of facts. The doors by which we admit these facts, are our 
senses ; and the means we possess for judging, comparing, 
analyzing, and arranging these facts, are supplied by our 
faculties, intellectual and moral. Had we only senses, each 
impression would disappear with the object which excited it ; 
in which case, no knowledge, or accumulation of facts, could 
exist for us. But, having memory, we can retain each im- 
pression, by whichsoever of our senses received ; having 
judgment, we compare and arrange these impressions ; having 
imagination, we ingeniously combine impressions, however 
removed as to time, distant as to place, or slightly assimilated 
by affinity or resemblance. And, having moral feelings, we 
consider all occurrences with a reference to the good or evil 
the) 7 may induce to our race. 


By these cursory remarks, it is my object to lead to the 
observation, that nothing can be known where there is nothing 
to operate on our senses ; or, to place more accurately the 
position, where we have ?io primary sensations to constitute 
elementary facts. 

In my opening discourse upon the nature of knowledge, I 
had occasion to insist especially on this truth ; reminding my 
then audience, that the sciences but too generally taught on 
the erroneous principle of assumed instead of substantiated 
data, (we here instanced arithmetic, geometry, and morals,) 
were in reality based upon demonstrations supplied by positive 
sensations. I will not say that the teachers of unreal science, 
and dogmatical declaimers upon imaginary subjects and un- 
meaning words, are aware of the stumbling-biock thrown in 
the way of the human intellect by the old ; and, alas, still the 
customary method of imparting these most important branches 
of knowledge ; but I will say, that whether awake or blind to 
the consequences, those consequences are as favourable to the 
reign of their errors, as they are fatal to the progress of truth 
and the vital interests of man. Were every teacher called 
upon to substantiate the elementary facts upon which he 
builds the fabric of his science, how would the number of our 
dogmatical assertions and unsubstantiated doctrines — ay ! and 
the list of our sciences themselves, be curtailed ! 

In that dawn of intellect, however brilliant, which broke on 
ancient Greece, when the range of human observation was 
circumscribed within the limits imposed by a clumsy and 
imperfect system of navigation, and by a world of unbroken 
forest, and widely-extended barbarism, and farther circum- 
scribed within the limits of the human vision, unaided by 
telescope or microscope, and all the ingenious material which 
now aids the labours of the physician, and has revealed to us 
the anatomy of matter, with all its wonder working qualities 
— such as we are accustomed to distinguish by the names of 
attraction, electricity, resistance, form, colour, motion, rest, 
and we may add, feeling, thought, and life. In that bright, 
but only openh.g dawn of human inquiry, science had hardly 
an existence. Facts were wanting ; the means for accu- 
mulating these were not devised, and therefore, while 
excellii g in all the arts for which the state of his knowledge, 
the form of his government, and his exquisite physical 
oiganization combined to fit him, (we may here moreespecally 
particularize painting, sculpture, architecteture. poetry, and 
i ratory.) we observe the ingenious Athenian to have been 
invariably a false logican, and an absurd ptnsician. Phy- 


sician indeed was a word inapplicable to him, for he knew 
nothing of physics. With him, all was theory and nothing 
fact ; and knowledge, let it ever be remembered, is all fact, 
and never theory. 

But, before we leave the interesting people to whom we 
have alluded, I would request you to observe, that while 
the moderns have opened a field of inquiry unknown to the 
ancients — while they have substantiated facts subversive of 
all their dreams — we are still in the habit of employing in 
our seminaries of learning, such of their elementary books, 
as the devastation of time and of early Christian fanaticism 
have spared to us, and of following out their method of in- 
struction wherever it was most defective. Thus are we still 
in the habit of imparting to a child a first idea of number 
through the medium of allegorical ciphers, instead of tangible 
and visible objects ; thus do we still persist in substantiating 
solely by a process of abstract reasoning, based upon verbal 
sophisms, the truths involved in geometrical science, instead 
of first submitting those truths in the form of facts to the eye ; 
and thus also are we wise enough to persecute such teachers 
as have judgment sufficient to distinguish the better method, 
and courage sufficient to attempt its adoption. We might 
here further observe, that the logic of Aristotle, with its text 
additionally obscured and confounded by the labours of puzzle- 
headed commentators, was, till within a few years, held in 
vulgar respect, and vulgar use, throughout the seminaries of 
the world. And, should we examine, we might find, in spite 
of the labours of a Locke and a Condillac, and others, wiser 
yet, because aided by the light previously thrown on the path 
of knowledge by a succession of giant intellects, that the 
erroneous mode of reasoning admired in ancient Greece, yet 
lives, under modified but, perhaps therefore, more dangerous 
forms, in the schools, colleges, and churches in modern 
Europe, and revolutionized America. 

I may be alluding here to subjects unfortunately foreign 
to the apprehension of a large portion of this audience. 
Unfortunately, say I ? ay ! and most inconsistently and un- 
justly : inconsistently, if we consider the nature of the na- 
tional institutions which secure equal rights, and consequently, 
equal instruction, (necessary, as I have formerly shown, to 
the understanding, protection, and just exercise of those 
rights,) to all the citizens ; and unjustly, if we consider the 
great principle of liberty, which proclaims to the enlightened 


mind the equal rights of all humankind. If the prefatory 
observations which I have felt necessary for the elucidation 
of our subject, should prove difficult of apprehension to any 
present, may it serve as an additional stimulus towards the 
adoption of some measures for the popular instruction, by 
devoting some of the now mispent time, and mispent money 
to this desirable object. Now, as on all other occasions, my 
utmost ingenuity is applied as well to simplify my words as 
my arguments ; and I wish the least informed of my hearers 
could believe that all the facts to which I refer, and all the 
learning to which I find myself constrained to allude, are of 
most easy attainment : far, far easier than are the errors over 
which tney are now perhaps weekly stumbling in the 
churches of this city. 

But, to return from our digressions, and to point out more 
distinctly the conclusions towards which my previous obser- 
vations have aimed : — it is a fact well known to the really 
enlightened, and well known also, I believe, to the designing, 
who live by the ignorance of the multitude, that every thing 
depends upon the manner of conveying instruction, and upon 
the first premises from which subsequent arguments are 
deduced, and thus final conclusions established. 

It is not many years, since a native of Switzerland, whose 
opportunities were confined within the limits prescribed by 
poverty, and to the society of a simple mountain peasantry, 
but whose native intellect and unsophisticated observation, 
led him to distinguish some first principles, which the more 
learned have been accustomed to overlook *, and, above all 
whose beautiful moral feelings, led him to see in every human 
being, a brother — it is only as it were yesterday, that this 
simple philosopher, among a simple people, caught a first 
glimpse of a true and rational method of instruction ; namely 
by first addressing the senses, and through them, awakening 
the faculties commanding the attention, and convincing the 
reason. Led by his example, other generous minds have 
laboured to improve the idea he had originated ; and the 
day must be fast approaching, when the same correct prin- 
ciple will be applied to every branch of knowledge, and 
prevail throughout the civilized world. 

And yet, hitherto, the enemies of human improvement, 
have shown a quicker scent to the consequences of the radical 
reform, suggested by Pestalozzi, than have the nations who 
are to profit by it. Even the leaden faculties of the despot of 


Austria, quickened by the imperial anxiety, as he himself 
expressed it, to possess within his dominions, not wise men 
but obedient subjects, could perceive the danger to kingcraft, 
and its coadjutor priestcraft, in a mode of instruction which 
taught the opening mind to see through the eye, and hear 
through the ear, and believe only upon the testimony of fact 
experiment, and experience. The young Pestalozzian schools 
started by the patriots of Italy, in the short dawn of 
of liberty which so lately broke on their unhappy country, 
only to close in darker night, were overthrown, and their 
very foundations ploughed up, by the soldiers of the holy 
ally. In Spain, similar efforts met of course with a similar 
fate. In Switzerland, Pestalozzi's native Switzerland, the 
aristocratic cantons saw the threatened danger to the preten- 
sions of the few in the simple labours of the friend of the 
many. In France, the Jesuits, resuscitated for a while by 
the imbecile Bourbons, persecuted alike all instruction but 
that patronized by the servants of religion : and, even here, 
in republican America, such has been the influence of super- 
stition, and of the teachers of superstition, that the efforts of 
Pestalozzian disciples, have been for the most part paralized, 
and invariably impeded. 

And why in all countries — why in either world this perse- 
cution ? 

Because educators of youth, who speak to the mind, by 
tangible objects presented to the senses, and who encourage 
their disciples to look to things, and to seek the proof in 
the fact, have been supposed to prepare unmanageable 
subjects for kings, and troublesome disciples for priests. 
And most wise this apprehension on the part of those who 
would command the blind obedience, or the blind belief of 
their fellow men ! Most wise this apprehension on the part 
of those w-hose power lies in the weakness of those they rule, 
or in the ignorance of those they lead ! They alone, who 
have justice on their side, fear not to have to do with free 
minds ; they alone, who have truth on their side, fear not to 
encounter knowledge. 

But, would we not have truth and justice on our side? 
What interests have we inconsistent with either 1 What have 
we to fear from the bold inquiry of free intellects ? Why 
should ice shrink from the fulness and from the universality 

knowledge ? 

But what is knowledge ? Again must we put the question. 



Again must we repeat the answer : for on this answer, my 
friends, depends the truth or the falsehood of evey opinion we 
hold, the reality or unsubstantially of every subject presented 
for our investigation. 

Knowledge signifies things known. When there are no 
things known, there is no knowledge. Where there are no 
things to be known, there can be no knowledge. We have 
observed that every science, that is, every branch of know- 
ledge, is compounded of certain facts, of which our sensations 
furnish the evidence. Where no such evidence is supplied, 
we are without data ; we are without first premises ; and 
when, without these, we attempt to build up a science, we 
do as those who raise edifices without foundations. And 
what do such builders construct ? Castles in the air. 

Having now, I trust, substantiated the nature of know- 
ledge, and the basis of all true science, I would suggest the 
propriety of examining into the reality of the science, current 
among us under the varying name of religion, theology, or 
divinity. As this science now draws from the surplus industry 
of the American nation, twenty millions per annum, and as 
it is legally authorised to consume all the leisure days of the 
industrious classes, and farther recommended to consume all 
the leisure hours snatched from their days of labour, I think 
we must admit the examination to be not uncalled for. 

It will be conceded that religion engulfs more money and 
more time, than any subject which ever agitated the inquiring 
mind of man. You will reply, that it is because it involves 
his most important interests. Such indeed ought to be the 
case, judging from all that is expended upon it. 

Admitting religion to be the most important of all subjects, 
its truths must be the most apparent; for we shall readily 
concede, both that a thing true, must be always of more or 
less importance — and that a thing essentially important, must 
always be indisputably true. Now, again, I conceive we 
shall be disposed to admit, that exactly in proportion to the 
indisputability of a truth, is the proof it is capable of afford- 
ing ; and that, exactly in proportion to the proof afforded, is 
our admission of such truth and belief in it. 

If, then, religion be the most important subject of human 
inquiry, it must be that also, which presents the most forcible, 
irrefragable, and indisputable truths to the enquirer. It must 
be that on which the human mind can err the least, and 
where all minds must be the most agreed. If religion be at 


once a science, and the most true of ail sciences, its truths 
must be as indisputable as those in any branch of the mathe- 
matics — as apparent to all the senses, as those revealed by 
the chemist, or observed by the naturalist, and as easily 
referred to the test of our approving or disapproving sensa- 
tions, as those involved in the science of morals. 

To ask if this be the case, might seem putting a question 
in satire. And it is not I who will use a weapon of ridicule, 
where the opinions and feelings of my fellow creatures are 
concerned. Against designing teachers of error, I will use 
any and every weapon within the compass of my talents and 
acquirements to wield ; and against error itself, considered 
apart from those who may misconceive of its nature, the 
same. But ill-fitted were I for the the task I have volun- 
tered, ill-fitted to assist in letting down the barrier which 
holds back the many from the courts of knowledge — ill- 
fitted, I say, were I to address the popular mind, if I could 
idly wound the popular feeling ; — ill-fitted and unworthy, 
to approach the tests of reason and experience, to human 
practice and opinion, if I should treat with levity one honest 
error, or make truth a cause of offence to one conscientious 
bosom. Far be such consequences from my words, as they 
are from my heart, while we weigh in the balance that — 
must we call it science ? — whose value is now estimated at a 
yearly tax of twenty millions. 

Must we call it science, I asked ? Is religion a science? 
Is it a branch of knowledge? Where are the things known 
upon which it rests? Where are the accumulated facts of 
which it is compounded ? What are the human sensations to 
which it appeals ? 

I request your undivided attention to the present investiga 
tion. I request you to keep in view what we have ascertained 
all knowledge to be, and how we have observed all knowledge 
to be acquired. Unless these simple primary truths be ever 
present to the mind, it is without a standard by which to 
judge any fact or any opinion ; and reflection or reasoning, 
to any useful purpose, with any chance of rational results, is 
absolutely impossible to it. 

Knowledge then, (my hearers will forgive the reiteration,) 
is compounded of things known. It i« an accumulation of 
facts gleaned by our senses, within the range of material 
existence, which is subject to their investigation. As I 
observed on a former occasion, the number of objects com- 


prised within the circle of human observation is so multiplied, 
and the properties or qualities of these objects so diversified, 
that, with a view to convenient and suitable divisions in the 
great work of inspecting the whole, and also with a view to 
the applying more order and method in the arrangement of 
the facts collated in the wide field of nature, they have been 
placed under different heads, each of which we may call 
a branch of knowledge, or, more succinctly, a science. Thus, 
do we consider the various living tribes which people the 
elements? we class- our observations under the head of 
natural history. Do we direct our attention to the structure 
and internal mechanism of their bodies? we designate the 
results of our inspection under the heads anatomy and physi- 
ology. Do we trace the order of occurrences and appearances 
in the wide field of nature? we note them under natural 
philosophy. Do we analyze substances, and search out their 
simple elements ? chemistry. Do we apply ourselves to the 
measurement of bodies, or calculate the heights and distances 
of objects? geometry. And so on through all the range of 
human observation, extending from the relative position of 
the heavenly bodies, and accurate calculation of their courses, 
to the uses, habits, structure and physiology of the delicate 
plant which carpets our earth. 

It may be here suggested, in accordance with the vague 
notions still current respecting the nature of knowledge, that 
there is yet a science, which rests not upon the evidence of 
common individual sensations, namely, history, which is 
supplied by the recorded sensations of others. 

I have already observed, in my opening discourses upon 
knowledge, that history is not, properly speaking, knowledge, 
only probability. This probability is less or greater, accord- 
ing to the proximity or remoteness of the circumstances it 
relates ; according to the style of the narrator, the accuracy 
and extent of the knowledge he displays, the consistency of 
his statements one with another, and, above all, with the 
result of our (the reader's) own observation and experience. 
Human tradition, written or spoken, is only history so long as 
it relates probabilities ; when it relates improbabilities, it. is 
fable. Even the histories best authenticated by the testimo- 
nies of concurring probabilities, living witnesses or surviving 
monumental remains, are doubtless filled with erroneous 
statements ; and the judicious reader, in admitting the general 
outline or thread of the relation, is well aware that his 


acquaintance with the whole must be very imperfect, and his 
conceptions of the details both confused and mistaken. 

The knowledge, then, supplied by history, is not positive, 
but only relative. It cannot be admitted as knowledge, until 
it is corroborated by all the knowledge accumulated by our 
experience ; and, whenever our observation of the phenomena 
of nature refutes the assertions of the historian, we distinguish 
the latter immediately for erroneous. History, therefore, can 
only testify to itself; that is, to its own probability. If it 
relate circumstances in accordance with the nature of man, 
and the nature of things, we receive it as credible ; if it relate 
circumstances in violation of these, we discard it as spurious. 
We may here remark as a consequent, that no history can be 
received in testimony of any occurrence opposed to the 
established course of natural phenomena ; since this would be 
to receive the reported or traditionary experience of others in 
preference to our own, which, in the case of a rational being, 
would be impossible. 

Now let us see where, in the table of knowledge, we may 
class religion. Of what part or division of nature, or material 
existence, does it treat? What bodies, or what properties of 
tangible bodies, does it place in contact with our senses, and 
bring home to the perception of our faculties. 

It clearly appertains not to the table of human knowledge, 
for it treats not of objects discoverable within the field of 
human observation. " No," will you say ? " but its know- 
ledge is superhuman, unearthly — its field is in heaven." 

My friends, the knowledge which is not human, is of slippery 
foundation to us human creatures. Things known, constitute 
knowledge ; and here is a science treating of things unseen, 
unfelt, incomprehended ! Such cannot be knowledge. What 
then is it ? Probability ? possibility ? theory ? hypothesis ? 
tradition ? written ? spoken ? by whom ? when ? where ? 
Let its teachers — nay, let all earth reply ! 

But what confusion of tongues and voices now strike on 
the ear ! 

From either Indies, from torrid Africa, from the frozen 
regions of either pole, from the vast plains of ancient Asia, 
from the fields and cities of European industry, from the 
palaces of European luxury, from the soft chambers of priestly 
ease, from the domes of hierarchal dominion, from the deep 
cell of the self-immolated monk, from the stony cave of the 
self-denying anchorite, from the cloud-capt towers, spires, and 


minarets of the crescent and the cross, arise shouts, and 
hosannas, and anathemas, in the commingled names of Brama, 
and Veeshnu, and Creeshna, and Juggernaut ; heavenly 
kings, heavenly queens, triune deities, earth-born gods, 
heaven-born prophets, apotheosized monarchs, demon-enlight- 
ened philosophers, saints, angels, devils, ghosts, apparitions, 
and sorceries ! 

But, worse than these sounds which but stun the ear and 
confound the intellect, what sights, oh humankind! appal 
the heart ! The rivers of earth run blood ! Nation set 
against nation ! Brother against brother! Man against the 
companion of his bosom ; and that soft companion, maddened 
with the frenzy of insane remorse for imaginary crimes, tired 
with the rage of infatuated bigotry, or subdued to diseased 
helplessness and mental fatuity, renounces kindred, flies from 
social converse, and pines away a useless or mischievous ex- 
istence in sighings and tremblings, spectral fears, uncharitable 
feelings, and bitter denunciations ! Such are thy doings, oh 
religion ! Or, rather, such are thy doings, oh man ! While 
standing in a world so rich in sources of enjoyment, so stored 
with objects of real inquiry and attainable knowledge, yet 
shutting thine eyes, and, worse, thy heart, to the tangible 
things and sentient creatures around thee, and winging thy 
diseased imagination beyond the light of the sun which glad- 
dens thy world, and contemplation of the objects which are 
here to expand thy mind and quicken the pulses of thy heart ! 

"But," say the teachers of that which is not knowledge, 
which may not be called a science, but which devours the 
treasure of nations and maddens the intellects of men, "that 
which we teach, unseen, unknown, unfeltby others, is revealed 
to us : incomprehended of others, is understood by us ; un- 
known to others, is by us ascertained." 

Ha! has their God of justice children of preference? Does 
their God of wisdom open worlds to the observation of a few 
especial ministers, who have not senses to investigate the 
objects presented to them. or. at the least, faculties to describe 
those objects intelligibly to others ? Does their God of benefi- 
cence reveal his nature to those who can neither comprehend 
nor pourtray it? his will, to creatures who, in expounding it, 
convulse human society to its centre ? Are we to believe 
this ? Oh, my fellow-beings ! have we believed this so long ? 

Sisters and brothers ! ye more especially, who, knowing the 
least of things, believe the most in doctrines ; who, rocked 


perhaps in the cradle by fond but mistaken mothers, closed 
nightly your infant eyes to troubled sleep, upon tales of wicked 
angels, and tempting devils; and opened them, to shrink 
under the blessed light of morning, from the imaginary frown 
of a revengeful God — on ye, more especially, do I call, to 
arouse the faculties which superstition may have benumbed ; 
and to put the question to your reason, if all the doctrines of 
the servants of religion are not inconsistent with their own 
assumed first premises ? Could a Being of Wisdom demand 
of ye to spend your time and torture your faculties in imagining 
things which ye never saw ? worlds beyond the reach of human 
ken, and existences of whose nature ye can form no concep- 
tion ? Could a Being of Justice command ye to prostrate the 
reason he should have given, and swear credence to doctrines, 
which they even who teach, pretend not to understand? 
Could a Being of Beneficence visit in anger the errors of the 
children of his hand, and delight in the torment of those, 
whose ignorance he could enlighten, and whose sorrows he 
could heal? 

Oh, my fellow beings ! let us leave these inconsistences to 
those who teach them ! Let us leave things unseen and 
causes unknown, to those who vend them in this land for 
twe'nty millions of dollars ; and, in other lands less free and 
more benighted than ours, for that sum twenty times told. 
Let us turn from that which is not knowledge, to all which is 
knowledge. Let us leave theory for fact ; the world of the 
imagination for that of the eye ; laws graven on stones for 
those graven on the heart ! Let reason be our guide, observa- 
tion our teacher, our own bosoms our judges! 

But, alas ! ere this may be done, our reason must be exer- 
cised, our observation awakened, our feelings quickened, 
by that spirit of charity and brotherhood, which jarring creeds 
have through ages stifled, and which just knowledge can alone 
impart ! 

It has been my object in this, as in my previous discourses, 
to develope with you the nature of kuowledge, to substantiate 
in what it consists, and where and how it may be found. I 
have farther, on the present occasion, attempted to prove that 
you are now engaged in the pursut of what is not knowledge. 
That you are now paying your quota of the twenty millions 
per annum towards the support of a system of error, which 
from the earliest date of human tradition, has filled the earth 
with crime, and deluged its bosom with blood, and which, at 




this hour, fills your country with discord, and impedes its pro- 
gress in virtue, by lengthening the term of its ignorance. 

The conclusions I am desirous should be drawn from our 
investigations of this evening, are the same which our judg- 
ments must draw from observation of, and reflection upon, the 
events passing before our eyes in the walks of life. How do 
these events exhibit the danger of looking out of our own 
nature and our own world for subjects of inquiry ! How do 
these admonish us of the errors of our ways, and check the 
impotent presumption of our perverted curiosity, which, aiming 
at things beyond our vision and so beyond our comprehension, 
neglects the fair field of nature it is ours to admire ; the. 
human duties and charities it is ours fo fulfil; and the human 
delights it is ours to administer and to enjoy. 

I will pray ye to observe how much of our positive misery 
originates in our idle speculations in matters of faith, and in 
our blind, our fearful forgetfulness of facts — our. cold, heart- 
less, and, I will say, insane indifference to visible causes of 
tangible evil, and visible sources of tangible happiness ? Look 
to the walks of life I beseech ye — look into the public prints — 
look into your sectarian churches — look into the bosoms of 
families— look into your own bosoms, and those of your fellow- 
beings, and see how many of our disputes and dissensions, 
public and private — how many of our unjust actions — how 
many of our harsh judgments — how many of our uncharitable 
feelings — spring out of our ignorant ambition to rend the vail 
which wraps from our human senses the knowledge of things 
unseen, and from our human faculties the conception of causes 
unknown ? And oh, my fellow beings ! do not these very 
w r ords unseen and unknown, warn the enthusiast against the 
profanity of such inquiries, and proclaim to the philosopher 
their futility ? Do they not teach us that religion is no sub- 
ject for instruction, and no subject for discussion ? Will they 
not convince us, that as beyond the horizon of our observation, 
we can knoic nothing, so within that horizon is the only safe 
ground for us to meet in public ? 

I know how far from this simple conviction we now are. 
Perhaps at this very moment, the question, what does she 
believe, is uppermost in the thoughts of two-thirds of my 
hearers. Should such be their thoughts, 1 will reply to them. 

With respect to myself, my efforts have been strenuously 
directed to ascertain what / know, to understand what can be 
known, and to increase my knoicledge as far as possible. In 


the next place, I have endeavoured to communicate my 
knowledge to my fellow-creatures ; and strictly laid down to 
myself the rule, never to speak to them of that of which I 
have not knowledge. If beyond the horizon of things seen — 
without the range of our earthly planet, and apart from the 
nature of our human race, any speculations should force them- 
selves on my fancy, I keep them to myself, even as I do the 
dreams of my nightly sleep, well satisfied that my neighbour 
will have his speculations and his dreams also, and that his, 
whatever they may be, will not coincide precisely with mine. 
Satisfied by experience, no .less than observation, of the 
advantage to be derived from this rule of practice, viz. to 
communicate with others only respecting my knowledge, and 
to keep to myself my belief, I venture to recommend the same 
to my fellow creatures; and, in conformity with this rule, 
would urge them, as soon as possible, to turn their churches 
into halls of science, and exchange their teachers of faith for 
expounders of nature. Every day we see sects splitting, 
creeds new modelling, and men forsaking old opinions only to 
quarrel about their opposites. I see three Gods in one, says 
the trinitarian, and excommunicates the socinian, who sees a 
godhead in unity. I see a heaven but no hell, says the 
universalist, and disowns fellowship with such as may dis- 
tinguish less. " I see a heaven and a hell also, beyond the 
stars," said lately the orthodox friend, and expelled his 
shorter-sighted brethren from the sanctuary. I seek them 
both in the heart of man, said the more spiritual follower of 
Penn, and straightway builded him up another temple, in 
which to quarrel with his neighbour, who perhaps only em- 
ploys other words to express the same, ideas. For myself, 
pretending to no insight into these mysteries, possessing no 
means of intercourse with the inhabitants of other worlds, con- 
fessing my absolute incapacity to see either as far back as a 
first cause, or as far forward as a last one, I am content to 
state to you, my fellow creatures, that all my studies, reading, 
reflection, and observation, have obtained for me no knowledge 
beyond the sphere of our planet, our earthly interests, and our 
earthly duties ; and that I more than doubt, whether, should 
you expend all your time and all your treasure in the search, 
you will be able to acquire any better information respecting 
unseen worlds, and future events, than myself. Whenever 
you shall come to the same conclusion, you will probably 
think the many spacious edifices which "rear their heads in 

f 3 


your city, are somewhat misapplied, and the time of the 
individuals who minister therein, somewhat misemployed: you 
will then doubtless perceive that they who wish to muse, or 
prny, had better do it after the manner designated by the good 
Jesus, namely, by entering their closet and shutting the door ; 
and farther perceive, that the true Bible is the book of nature, 
the wisest teacher he who most plainly expounds it, the best 
priest our own conscience, and the most orthodox church a 
hall of science. I look round doubtless upon men of man}' 
faiths, upon calvinists, unitarians, methodists, baptists, 
catholics, and I know not what beside, and yet, my friends, 
let us call ourselves by what names we will, are we not crea- 
tures occupying the same earth, and sharing the same nature ? 
and can we not consider these as members of one family, apart 
from all our speculations respecting worlds, and existences, 
and states of being, for which, in ages past, men cut each 
other's throats, and for which they now murder each other's 
peace ? 

And now, if among my hearers there should be one, whose 
opinions I have too rudely jarred, or, worse, whose feelings I 
have wounded, more deeply than he will I lament the offence, 
and lament it the rather because of its necessity. Had your 
public teachers employed their twenty millions in shedding 

{)eace on earth, and knowledge among men, I had not been 
lere to startle the flock nor alarm the shepherd ; I had not 
stept forth from the studies and retirement which I love, into 
a world distracted with dissension and profaned with vice ; I 
had not thus ventured, and thus endured, in the cause of 
human reason, happiness, and tranquillity, if the teacher had 
done his duty, and the people had grown wise under his tuition. 
At our next meeting, I purpose to call your attention to a 
subject of vital importance. I purpose to develope with you 
that just rule of life, which no system of religion ever taught, 
or can ever teach ; which exists apart from all faith, all 
creeds, and all written laws, and which can alone be found by 
following, with an open eye, a ready ear, and a willing heart, 
the steps of knowledge; by exercising the senses, faculties, 
and feelings, which appertain to our nattfre ; and, instead of 
submitting our reason to the authority of fallible books and 
fallible teachers, by bringing always the words of all books 
and all teachers to the test of our reason. 


In my previous discourses, I have chiefly laboured to sub- 
stantiate with you the nature of knowledge. The importance 
of the object, may have led me to insist even to tediousness, 
on those primary truths which, once perceiving, the mind 
wonders could ever be unseen, and which, but for the errors 
inherent in our education, could never fail to be brought by 
the opening senses to the opening mind. But, as it is, our 
instincts supplanted, stifled, annihilated, instead of actively 
exercised, and widely guided ; our faculties perverted, 
tortured, neglected ; the most useful cramped or misled ; the 
least useful unduly forced, prematurely exercised, and fed 
from a wrong source ; our feelings led astray from the first 
moment of their blossoming ; the canker of fear blighting 
their freshness, and visionary thoughts usurping the place of 
realities: nothing more difficult, sometimes more hopeless, 
than to awaken the mind to a perception of first principles, 
by simply calling on the eye to see, the ear to hear, all the 
senses to feel, and the understanding to. admit, arrange, 
compare the facts so ascertained. Aware at once, both of 
the necessity and the difficulty of clearing the simple threshold 
of knowledge, of the thorns and branches heaped on it, by 
unbridled imaginations ; 1 ever hesitate in our progress to 
make a step in advance, without appealing to the first simple 
premises which we have so laboured to establish. At our 
last meeting, therefore, we carefully recapitulated the result 
of our previous observations, respecting the nature and the 
limits of the field of human inquiry ; and, having first con- 
vinced ourselves of what real knowledge consists, we pr& 
ceeded to try, by the test thus obtained, the reality of a subject 
which now absorbs the leisure, sways the feelings, and engulfs 
the surplus industry of mankind. 

The result of these investigations, placed religion without 
the field of knowledge. Based upon assertion, hypothesis, 
tradition, we found it wanting in substantiated and ever 
enduring data to which the senses of each individual might 
appeal, and by which the faculties of each individual might 
be convinced. We remarked, that in consequence, no minds 
were agreed upon the matter : that while none disputed the 
truths of real science, consisting of things known, all disputed 


the lessons of religion, treating of things unknown, and things 
imagined. We remarked farther, that what is unreal in its 
nature, vague and ever varying in its lessons, could afford no 
safe guide to human reason, no just rule to human conduct; 
but that, on the contrary, all the experience supplied by tra- 
dition as well as by the observation of existing generations, 
combined to attest, that, so far from entrenching human 
conduct within the gentle barriers of peace and love, religion 
has ever been, and now is, the deepest source of contentions, 
wars, persecutions for conscience sake, angry words, angry 
feelings, backbitings, slanders, suspicions, false judgments, 
evil interpretations, unwise, unjust, injurious, inconsistent, 

But shall we be told that these consequences are the result 
of false religions. Alas, my friends ! and who has the true if 
Ask the Mahometan, the Jew, the Pagan, the Deist, the 
Christian, in all his multiform varieties, under all his multiplied 
appellations— each has the right, all others possess the wrong. 
And where, among these contradictory and confounding faiths, 
is one whose ipse dixit truths are compounded of facts ; 
whose first premises are demonstrable to the human eye, the 
human ear, the human touch ; whose proofs are sought and 
fouud in the nature of man and the nature of things, and 
whose conclusions are sanctioned by our own confirming 
sensations and assenting reason? 

No, my friends, we have seen that no religion stands on the 
basis of things known ; none bounds its horizon within the 
field of human observation ; and, therefore, as it can never 
present us with indisputable facts, so must it ever be at once 
a source of error and of contention. 

If, then, that which we have followed for a true light, be 
proved a meteor — if, instead of leading us into safe and 
pleasant paths, it have enticed us into swamps and quag- 
mires — if, instead of informing the mind, warming and 
gladdening the heart, it have clouded and confounded the one, 
chilled and bruised the other, are we then without a guide 
in the path of life ? Are our barks launched upon the ocean, 
without rudder or compass? Is there no star by which to 
steer, no rule-directed skiil wherewith to trim our sails, and 
point an unerring course through the rocks and whirlpools of 
our passions and appetites, and the fogs and deceiving mirage 
of our deluding and deluded imaginations ? Wo to man, 
should the answer be a negative ! Wo to our race should we 


be — I say not without a rule, but without an unerring rule, 
by which to shape our course safely, steadily, usefully, 
happily, justly ; by which to regulate our actions, frame our 
opinions, chasten our feelings, and render the terra of our 
existence, one of utility and delight. Were not this rule 
within our power to substantiate, idle were every other 
human inquiry, idle were every fact gathered in every 
science ; yea, idle were all human researches, if their results 
combined not to aid us in the establishing of that golden rule, 
which conducts by one and the same path to virtue and 

And what then is this rule ? Where in the field of know- 
ledge must we seek it? Under what science shall we find it 
written ? In casting onr eye over the table of just knowledge, 
we shall find the rule we seek, under the head of " morals" 
— it being the science of human actions or of human life. 

In earlier ages, however removed from the simple view of 
things to which the clearer lights of physical science are now 
leading civilized man, we perceive him always to have had 
some general ideas respecting this important branch of human 
inquiry ; nor, however it may administer to our vanity to 
believe the contrary, might we find upon minute investigation, 
that we have greatly advanced this science beyond the point 
to which the sages of Greece and Rome, or of Persia and 
China, had placed it before the date of our modern era. The 
cause of this remissness on our part, I conceive to be, that 
we have lost sight, even more than did the ancients, of the 
true basis of the science, and substituted one even more 
false than did the legislators of Greece, or the patriots of 

The usual motive principle in Athenian ethics, and in- 
variably of Spartan and Latin virtue, was the good of country, 
but that good always more or less unwisely interpreted; 
military glory the means, and national greatness, instead of 
national happiness, the object. Still, if in something, or even 
in much, mistaken, the morals of the ancients was a soul- 
stirring science, encouraging a generous, if even an ex- 
aggerated forge tfulness of self, and calculated to form, as we 
read that it did form, commanding nations, and self-respecting 
men. Among the Atheuian schools, indeed, were some 
models of practical virtue, and teachers of moral science, 
whose lessons and whose lives seem to have equalled all that 
we can show in modern generations of good and wise. Such 


appears to have been the modest and benevolent Socrates : 
such, more especially, appears to have been the mild, unpre- 
suming, reasonable Epicurus, in whose ethics, as imperfectly 
conveyed to us, we find the science first based upon its just 
foundation — the ascertained consequences of human actions. 

The moderns, whether we look to the numerous family of 
Christian nations, or to the equally numerous family who 
have followed the standard of Mohammed, have unfortunately 
based their morals upon their religion, or, where that was 
impracticable, have so mingled the truths of the science with 
the dogmas of the faith, that, while the vulgar mind has been 
unable to conceive of them as separate, even more enlightened 
minds, yielding to the force of education, have found it difficult 
not to conceive of them as related. The more effectually 
to detect the error of this persuasion, let us examine first 
what we understand by the term morals, and them what we 
understand by that of religion. First, then, what is the 
meaning attached to the word morals. It is a word often in 
our mouths, and the first step towards acquiring a knowledge 
of any science, is so possess an accurate idea of the subject of 
which it treats, or of the meaning of the term employed for 
its designation. 

What then is morals ? 

A rule of life. 

How formed ? from what deduced ? 

From the consequences of actions as ascertained through 
our sensations, and our observations of the sensations of 

Actions which produce good, we call moral actions; ac- 
tions which produce evil, immoral actions. Revolve the 
matter as we may, we can come to no other rational con- 
elusion. The word morals, then, is employed to designate a 
course of actions, whose effects are beneficial to ourselves and 
others. In other words, they constitute a rule of life drawn 
from the ascertained consequences of actions The rule is 
simple. If we never look out of it, we can never go wrong 
in morals. 

Let us now inquire what is religion? We have seen 
what religion is not. Our present object will be to ascertain 
what it is, and thus to establish a correct definition of the 
word applicable to it, by whatever religious sect, in whatever 
country, employed. 

Were each individual in this assembly to answer the ques- 


tion in turn, I am somewhat doubtful if there would be two 
who would agree in their replies. Some would place religion 
in the intellectual admission of certain dogmas ; others, in 
that of dogmas directly opposed to the first enumerated. 
Others would see it in the observation of certain days, fasts, 
and festivals ; some in certain prayers offered up in certain 
places; others in songs and hymns, or in meditations, and 
visions, and ablutions, and all manner of ceremonies. There 
are doubtless some present, who would say all external rules 
and abstract creeds are of no importance ; and who would 
direct us to see religion in the just actions of men. 

I wish you here to observe, that such religionists as the 
last mentioned, are in fact no religionists at all; they are 
only good men. Either religion is something distinct from 
morals, or it is the same thing. If it be distinct, what is it ? 
I believe there is one definition which will embrace all 
religions, from the Laplander's to the Hottentot's ; from those 
of this city, round the world, until we land here again in the 

Religion, as distinguished from morals, may be defined 
thus : a belief in, and homage rendered to, existences un- 
seen and causes unknown. This definition will apply equally 
to the Hindoo, Mahommedan, Jew, Christian, Pagan, Theist, 
and every variety of religionist existing or imaginable. Of 
religion, as used to express a just practice, nothing can be 
said, but that it is a misapplication of terms. If religion mean 
good morals, let us call it good morals, that we may under- 
stand each other. I had occasion, during the course of our 
preliminary investigations on knowledge, to insist much on 
the importance of accurate language. Without it there can 
be no accurate ideas. 

We perceive then that religion and morals are words 
bearing distinct significations. The one implies a mode of 
belief; the other a just mode of practice. These may indeed 
be occasionally conjoined, but there is 'no necessary relation 
between them ; and I must request you to observe, that it is 
exceedingly difficult for them to be placed in contact, without 
the one, more or less, neutralizing the other. A necessary 
consequent of religious belief is the attaching ideas of merit to 
that belief, and of demerit to its absence. Now here is a 
departure from the first principle of true ethics. Here we 
find ideas of moral wrong and moral right associated with 
something else than beneficial action. The consequence is, 


we lose sight of the real basis of morals, and substitute 
one. Our religious belief usurps the place of our sensations. 
our imaginations of our judgment. We no longer observe 
effects; we lay down laws. We no longer look to actions, 
trace their consequences, and then deduce the rule ; we first 
make the rule, and then, right or wrong, force the action to 
square with it. 

But, methinks I hear you observe — that Religion, if not 
the source, may be at least the coadjutor of virtue ; if not the 
parent, she may be at least the companion Far be it from 
me to say that such may not be — that such never is. I have 
crossed in the path of life some lovely minds and lovely hearts, 
of which no harsh and narrow creed could mar the beauty ; 
and which could enfold in their own gentleness, and expand 
with their own warmth, the chilling and censorious faith, 
which drove less kindly natures to angry uncharitableness or 
morose fanaticism. 

Religion I have observed to take its complexion from that 
of the bosom which harbours it. Where the disposition is 
gentle, its inmate will soften her temper, modify her doctrines, 
and sink to whispers the thunder of her denunciations. 
Where the character has more vigour, and firmness of purpose, 
and ardent imagination unite with scrupulous conscientious- 
ness, we find the ardent zealot and sincere fanatic ready to 
sacrifice life, friends, country, aye, and the whole human race 
on the altar of his idolatry, and to make his existence one 
long scene of denial to himself, and of infliction upon others. 
On such temperaments as the last adverted to, we perceive 
the most fatal effects of religion on the moral character of the 
man. Such as we have here depicted, should be the en- 
lightened benefactors of their race ; the leaders of improve- 
ment, the firm defenders and fearless advocates of truth. 
Such would they be if led by wise guides into the field of real 
knowledge, and there taught by observation and experience, 
to base their opinions upon ascertained facts, and to seek in 
their own unsophisticated sensations, the rules of temperance, 
justice, toleration, and humanity. But led by error into the 
stony ground of religious faith, all the qualities of their noble 
nature are perverted to evil. Their eye no longer fixed on 
this world, nor their hearts on their fellow cieatures, they 
are transformed into the enemies of true science, the scourgers 
of society, the persecutors of reason and of sane morality. It 
may be, as we have observed, that religion will borrow the 


the fair robes of virtue, and speak in the tones of love caught 
from lovely hearts, but never did she herself originate, how- 
ever she may sometimes pervert to her own purposes, that 
human sympathy with human weakness, that gentle patience 
with human error, that untiring perseverance in the cause of 
human improvement, which the study of human nature, and 
acquaintance with the reforming, enlightening power of human 
knowledge, impart to the reflecting observer of the world 
without and of the world within. 

Let us not mistake causes ! Let us not misconceive of ef- 
fects ! Let us not so wrong the heart of man, as when we see 
the turbaned follower of Mohammed, invoking Allah, while 
he spreads the carpet for the weary traveller, and shares with 
him his bread — let us not, I say, so wrong the human heart, 
as to believe, that but for the written law of his Koran he 
would shut his door against the houseless, the friendless, and 
the hungry ; or that when he opens it, he obeys not a law 
nobler and purer than that cried by his priest from the 
minaret — even that which is entwined and incorporated with 
his being, and which teaches him to pity in others the wants 
which he feels within himself ! The simple African, whose 
desires are bounded by his grove of cocoa nuts and bread 
fruits, and whose superstitions extend not beyond the charms 
and whimsical ceremonies of nurses and conjurors over the 
bodies of the sick, yields his mat, and shares his fruits with 
the fainting white man whom the love of science, or the 
madness of superstition, leads to his peaceful hut ; and, 
unlearned in all of truth as of error, beyond what his simple 
experience has taught him, binds up the wounds of the suffer- 
ing stranger, and lulls him to sleep with his pitying songs. 
Or, who that has visited the native sons of America's forest, 
where the vices of civilized and christian nations are yet 
unknown, but has eat of the venison prepared by the gentle 
squaw, where there was no priest to bless, or written law to 
Teach ; and farther seen the son of nature lay him down to his 
last sleep with the dignity of a mind which had followed vir- 
tue up to its knowledge, and knew as little to fear possibilities 
beyond the grave, as realities here. 

And must we be told that unnerving fears and disgracing 
penalties are requisite to drive man into the path of virtue ? 
Must he be made a coward ere he can be innocent ? Must 
he be sold to folly ere he can be saved from crime? Little 
have such moralists studied the latent powers inherent in our 


nature — the beautiful faculties and emotions which need but 
to be awakened and exercised, for us to distinguish good 
from evil, even as we distinguish pleasure from pain. Little 
know they of the satisfaction imparted to the bosom by a 
course of gentle feeling and generous actions ; little conceive 
they of the pain and disquiet consequent on feelings of 
uncharitableness and deeds of violence, who imagine tempta- 
tions of heavenly rewards requisite to incline the well taught 
mind to the one, or threats of ugly fiends, and phantoms, 
and torments, 6rst conceived and accurately realized in the 
earthly dungeons of Christian inquisitors, necessary to turn 
the human heart from the other. 

Alas, my friends ! we have tampered with imaginary 
demons through all the ages of human ignorance u-p to the 
present hour — we have quailed the human heart with fear 
— we have shaken reason from her throne with the agues of 
superstition — we have broken down the self-respecting spirit 
of man with nursery tales and priestly threats, and we dare 
to assert, that in proportion as we have prostrated our under- 
standing and degraded our nature, we have exhibited virtue, 
wisdom, and happiness, in our words, our actions, and our 
lives ! 

Time it is, that we awake to a better knowledge of things 
— a more just appreciation of our own powers and capabilities, 
a more accurate observation of consequences and causes, and 
that we fit ourselves wisely to enjoy the life which is ours, 
and wisely to instruct the rising generation to avoid the 
errors which have led our minds astray, and to seek the truths 
which we have neglected. 

Conceiving us, my friends, to have sufficiently discussed 
the tendency of those doctrines and assertions which were 
never made to stand an encounter with reason, we will now 
recal our attention to the consideration of the science which 
is to supply the unerring rule of human conduct. 

Morals we defined to be a rule of life drawn from the 
ascertained consequences of human actions. You will observe 
that here, as in every other branch of knowledge, our own 
sensations, accurately observed, supply us with the facts of 
which the science is compounded. 

Morals, thus considered, is a wide and spacious field ; as 
spacious as human life and human action. There is a wrong 
and a right way of doing every thing ; a wrong and a right 
way of feeling every thing ; a wrong and a right way of 

MORALS. / / 

saying every thing. We are therefore moral or immoral at 
every moment of our conscious existence. 

What is required for the securing of our moral rather than 
our immoral state? Attention. Attention to the conse- 
quences of our actions ; attention to the nature of our feelings; 
attention to the meaning, and the bearing, and the effects of 
our words. Look to these ! Look around ye ! Look within ! 
Ye need no other rule; ye need no other law. Would ye 
ascertain what of your rules are just? Put them to this test. 
Examine where they run ; what they hit, and what they 
miss. Trace them through all their consequences, to all then- 
results. Believe not they are right because they are your 
rules, but test them by the actions they produce, and these 
actions again by the simple good or evil of their results. 

Permit me here to recapitulate a few observations presented 
at our last meeting. We then remarked, that had we only 
senses, each impression would disappear with the object 
which excited it ; in which case, no knowledge, or accumula- 
tion of facts, could exist for us. But, having memory, we 
can retain each impression by whichsoever of our senses 
received ; having judgment, we compare and arrange these 
impressions; having imagination, we ingeniously combine 
impressions, however removed as to time, distant as to place, 
or slightly assimilated by affinity or resemblance ; and, having 
moral feelings or emotions, we consider all occurrences with 
a reference to the good or evil they may induce to our race. 

In that most important branch of knowledge which we are 
now considering, all these properties of our nature are called 
into action. Our sensations supply the facts which our 
faculties treasure up and arrange ; and, aided by our emotions 
enable us to judge and to feel for others ; out of which 
sympathy springs all the bright family of the virtues. 

In considering the science of morals, it might seem, at the 
first glance, to divide itself into two distinct heads: as our 
conduct affects ourselves, and as it affects others. This 
distinction, however, is more apparent than real, since it is 
barely possible for us to consider any action, much less any 
course of actions, without a reference to their effects, either 
immediate or more remote, by example, on the sentient beings 
around us ; which effects must ever again react upon our- 
selves, and influence, pleasurably or painfully, our state of 
being. Still are there some actions involving more peculiarly 
our own selfish interests ; and upon which, in cases where no 


counter interest of others is presented, prudence, or a just 
calculation of consequences to ourselves, may be allowed 
solely to decide. Such are the actions incidental to the 
gratification of the appetites appertaining to our nature. The 
rules by which to restrain these within just and healthy 
propriety are peculiarly simple ; and, when carefully substan- 
tiated by observation, and habitually followed, supply us with 
the virtues of temperance and sobriety. Were the habit 
induced from infancy upwards, of closely observing all our 
sensations and distinguish the moment when healthy indul- 
gence passes into unhealthy excess, there would not be 
(except in cases of defective organization) one being in 
existence afflicted with those unreasoned, self- tormenting 
habits, which are now, in vulgar parlance, more especially 
distinguished by the name of vices. 

But let us here observe, that to secure for ourselves that 
seemly propriety which constitutes the rule of temperance, 
we must as little incline to the extreme of fanactical self- 
denial as to that of indulgence. We must govern and not 
crucify the appetites which, forming a part of our being, can 
as little be stifled as palled, without injury to our physical, 
moral, and mental health. It has been the requiring the 
annihilation instead of the just government of the human 
passions, which has nourished the belief, so slanderous to our 
nature, that they were beyond the control of our reason. 
Oh ! let but reason be appealed to, and we shall acknowledge, 
for we shall see and feel her power. 

In the day that reason shall be consulted, we shall study 
ourselves with a reference to the world about us, and that 
world again with a reference to ourselves ; and, applying all 
external things wisely to their uses, apply also all our organs, 
physical and intellectual, wisely to theirs. Then may we 
tinci that the error lies not in our nature, but in the false 
usages, opinions, laws, habits, and customs, which have 
originated in our ignorance and in the superstitions which 
that ignorance has engendered. 

In considering our conduct with relation to the world, 
\vithout us, we find the science under our immediate review 
associated with every other ; extending its ramifications through 
the whole field of knowledge, turning to profit every fact 
drawn from the rich stores of nature, and calming and ex- 
panding the human heart in proportion as the human mind 
becomes enlightened. 


The sciences have ever been the surest guides to virtue, 
because, demanding calm observation, obtaining all their 
results by means of dispassionate investigation, they bring 
into action our noblest faculty, the judgment, and submit the 
imagination to its guidance ; dispose us by the previous 
accurate observation of things to an equally accurate observa- 
tion of men, and, confirming us in the habit of tracing effects 
to causes in the world without, prepare us to follow attentively 
the train of occurrences in the world within. 

In seeking that principle of our nature which leads the 
heart of man to sympathise with that of his fellow ; to extend 
the hand in succour, or to drop the tear in sympathy, phi- 
losophers have strangely disputed. But, without adverting 
to the various arguments and speculations which have more 
frequently tended to confuse the intellect than to develope the 
fact, we may remark, that the many who have agreed in 
referring all our noblest actions and most beautiful feelings to 
the single desire of attaining our own individual good, present 
at the least, an immutable basis of morals ; since even self- 
love and self-interest, rightly understood, would always lead 
to justice, beneficence, gentleness, truth, candour, and in- 
dulgent toleration. And such doubtless is the truth. A 
simple but accurate calculation of selfish consequences, would 
lead invariably to the cultivation of every amiable feeling, 
and practice of every action beneficial to society. For. as 
we have previously inquired, how come we at a knowledge 
of virtue ? By our sensations. What constitutes moral 
good ? A course of actions producing beneficial results. 
What moral evil ? A course of actions whose results are 
injurious. Now most true it is, as I trust the experience of 
each and all of us can testify, that never does the human 
breast throb with purer delight, than when man has been 
instrumental to the happiness of his fellow man. The pleasure 
derived from any selfish enjoyment, dies with the immediate 
sensation ; but that shared with others, or that imparted to 
others, even with temporary loss or inconvenience to ourselves, 
will live in the memory to the latest period of existence, 
and thrill the bosom with pleasure each time it is recalled. 
Certain it is. therefore, that the pursuit of our own happiness 
would alone suffice to induce the cultivation of that tone of 
thinking and feeling, which tends to promote that happiness. 
But we have still something within us, better than any 
process of reasoning, which prompts us to spring forward 



to the relief of suffering ; and which we have only to cul- 
tivate, in conjunction always with the cultivation of our 
judgment, (or we may sadly err) to become the active and 
enlightened friends of our race. When, having distinguished 
beneficial from injurious actions, in the consequences resulting 
to ourselves, and observed similar effects to result from similar 
actions to others, we distinguish an emotion within us, varying 
indeed in strength in each individual, which prompts to the 
conferring of benefits to our brother man, and even, occasion- 
ally, to the preferring of his advantage to our own. In this 
preference of others to self, or. to put it according to the views 
of the moralists before quoted, in this seeking of our own 
pleasure through the pleasure of others, consists the highest 
degree of active virtue. 

Great is the difference between what I have here denomi- 
nated active virtue, and what we may call negative virtue — 
albeit, in the present unfortunate state of society, we are often 
but too happy when we find the latter, and have not to en- 
counter active mischief. 

By the negatively virtuous, I understand those who re- 
gulating judiciously their passions and appetites with a view 
to their own healthy existence, and forbearing: from all words 
and actions which might disturb their tranquillity by attracting 
the hostility of others, yet are deficient in that generous sen- 
sibility to the feelings of others, which we have distinguished 
as the source of active virtue ; and which dictates the ready 
sacrifice of selfish enjoyment, whenever such sacrifice will 
purchase a greater enjoyment to a fellow creature, or stimulates 
to voluntary exertions in favour of suffering, or in the cause of 
human improvement. 

This cultivated sensibility, variously called by philosophers, 
the moral principle, emotion, faculty, or sympathy, and in the 
figurative language of Friends, the light within, the spirit 
of truth, or God within the breast, may, I think, be dis- 
tinguished by every self observer, as existing apart from the 
purely intellectual powers, though always demanding their 
guidance. When not under the guidance of our noblest 
intellectual faculty, the judgment, it may place ourselves, and 
involve others, in the worst difficulties ; when under the 
direction of a well-balanced and discriminating intellect, it 
leads to every good, and constitutes a man of virtue. 

Now the object of all education should be the active deve- 
lopment and cultivation of the generous emotion we are now 


now considering, and which is but too often allowed to remain 
dormant in the bosom, until it is absolutely choked and anni- 
hilated by vicious examples and equally vicious lessons. 
First comes false parental indulgence, teaching the young 
creature to seek its little pleasures at expense of the comfort 
and convenience of others, by passionate cries and obstinate 
peevishness; to seek them, too, without a reference to its 
companions and playmates, if not often at their cost. Next 
comes erroneous instruction, to frighten the opening mind from 
innoceut trnth, to unfit it for observation of the interesting 
realities around it, and to poison the sweet pleasures of its age, 
by tales of unseen things and revengeful beings — these also 
armed, like their earthly governors, with whips and scourges. 
Then comes worldly policy, with selfishness, censoriousness, 
and avarice, in her train, to perfect an education whose motive 
principle is fear, and whose fruits are hard-hcartedness and 
hypocrisy ! 

What, my friends, and do we charge to our organization 
what springs from our ignorance of its powers. Do we libel 
the nature of man, while we are violating instead of guiding 
its instincts, perverting its faculties, and feeding it with error 
instead of truth I That which we sow, must we reap. The 
infant mind is a virgin soil. While we plant tares, shall we 
gather tares. While, in pursuit of things unseen and causes 
unknown, we waste our surplus time and our surplus in- 
dustry, and while we neglect or pervert the powers of the 
human mind, must idleness and error, with their offspring 
violence and profligacy, distract and afflict all the nations of 
the earth. 

But let us adopt measures for wisely developing and 
directing the faculties which distinguish our nature. Let us 
seek out patient and enlightened guides, instead of angry 
and dogmatical teachers, who will encourage the lively obser- 
vation of childhood, foster its better feelings, remove from its 
eye, and its ear, and its imagination, all that can awaken 
unkindly emotions, impart painful sensations, provoke angry 
passions, suggest false ideas, and judiciously surround it 
with such impressions as shall turn all its faculties to good. 

To prepare such a system of education for the young, we 
must begin with ourselves. We must purge our own hearts 
of evil, and our own minds of error, ere we can distinguish 
those just rules of conduct, which, as parents, as citizens, as 



human beings, it is our common duty and common interest to 
discover for the rising generation. 

In this imperfect discourse, I have hut sketched the out- 
line and laid down the first principles of that beautiful science 
of which all others should be but the handmaidens, to which 
the whole field of knowledge should lend its accumulated 
facts, and a succession of enlightened generations supply 
their accumulated experience. 

My object here, as in all our previous investigations, has 
been to elucidate the simple nature of the science. To show 
that its truths are discoverable by observation, and supplied 
by our sensations ; that all lessons which depart from the 
premises of our sensations, are but idle declamation ; that 
the seeds of all excellence are within ourselves— that is, 
in the senses and the faculties which enlighten and adorn 
our nature ; that the source of all vice is ignorance, and 
that of virtue, knowledge ; that the field of human inquiry 
is the world we inhabit; the field of human duty that of 
human action ; the only rational pursuit of human beings 
that of human happiness ; that happiness, to be experienced 
by any, must be shared by all ; that the real interests of the 
the whole human family are one, even as their nature is in 
itself the same ; that comprising in our being physical, 
moral, and intellectual organs, it is only m and by the judi- 
cious exercise of all these organs that we can secure to our- 
selves the health of any ; that unless our limbs and muscles be 
exercised, our whole frame must be weak or diseased ; unless 
our intellectual faculties be fairly developed and exercised, 
we cannot regulate wisely our passions or our actions, and 
unless all our sensibilities be wisely cultivated and regulated, 
we can never experience that highest enjoyment proceeding 
from the practice of active virtue, which we have seen to 
flow from a ready sympathy in the wants and feelings of 

I shall now close our investigations by the remark, that 
morals, or the science of human life, may for bet- 
ter convenience, and with a view to the presenting in order 
all the relations it involves, be divided into several heads. 

These divisions may, in some cases, be rather supplied by 
existing errors than by inherent truths. It being indispen- 
sable, however, in the actual state of society, to develope all 
truth with a reference to existing error, I purpose, as leisure 


and my more regular engagements may permit to consider" 
the conduct of human beings under the three great relations 
in which we may observe them to stand. 

First. Their relation to each other, and to the mass. 
This will embrace a review of all our duties, public and 
private. It will lead us also to inspect the principles of 
national government, law, and social economy. 

Secondly. The mutual relation of the two sexes ; in 
which we shall be called upon to examine the principles that 
should direct the social intercourse of men and women. 

Thirdly. The relation of the old to the young ; of the 
existing to the rising generation, viewing us in the charac- 
ter of human beings, free born, and self- gov erniny. Also, 
the relation of parents to children ; examining the duties 
and responsibilities of the being who gives life to the being 
who receives it This will lead to the discussion of the 
important subject of education, and elicit suggestions res- 
pecting a plan of national education. Until some measures 
shall be adopted for the judicious and equal instruction and 
protection of every son and daughter born to the Republic, 
ye cannot be (as 1 conceive) Republicans. Until exclusive 
colleges, paltry common schools, ignorant Sunday schools, 
and sectarian churches, be replaced by state institutions, 
founded by a general tax, and supported by the same, (so 
long as it shall be necessary — that is, till the well regulated 
industry of the children shall meet the expenses of their 
education;) and until, in these national institutions, the 
child of your Governor shall be raised with the child of your 
farmer, and the child of your President with that of your 
mechanic, ye cannot be (as I conceive) Republicans. And 
farther, until ye have good libraries and good teachers of 
elementary science in all your towns, for the mental im- 
provement of the existing generation, and popular halls of 
assembly, where all adults may meet for the study and dis- 
cussion of their social and national interests, as fellow crea- 
tures, and fellow citizens ye cannot be (as I conceive) 

To attempt the satisfactory development of the impor- 
tant subjects to which I have here alluded, it would be 
necessary for us to meet under other circumstances than those 
at present existing. On my part would be necessary, the 
conviction that I was devoting my time and labour, not to 
satisfy the unmotived and momentary- curiosity of a public 

G 2 


indifferent to its noblest interests, but that I was employed 
with and for a public anxious to substitute knowledge for 
error, and virtue for superstition. 

To inspire that conviction in me, would be necessary on 
your part some active measures, for which the desire or the 
courage, or both, may be at present wanting. 

For the time being, I shall confine my exertions to the 
simple elucidation of the first principles of the science ; to 
the sketching of that great outline within which all truth 
must be sought, and where, I trust, you may yet be induced 
to seek it. To complete the general survey in which we 
are considerably advanced, I shall endeavour, at our next 
meeting, to elicit the nature of opinions, and the manner 
of their formation ; with a view to the correction of that 
spirit of proselytism, which now transforms us all into angry 
combatants, for each whimsey of our brain, and of that 
spirit of censoriousness, which is now ever interfering with 
the mental liberty and moral peace of society, and ren- 
dering the life of man one continued scene of strife and of 


Formation of Opinions. 

The subject to which I shall call your attention this evening 
the formation of opinions, is one of the utmost practical im- 
portance ; one which thoroughly understood, would remove 
uncharilableness from the heart of man, and shed the placid 
rays of peace and truth upon the path of life. 

For eighteen centuries and upwards, the nations styled 
civilized, have waged a war of opinion, dying the altars of 
their faith with each other's blood, or, in their gentlest mood, 
in this freest country, and in this (compared with all the past) 
enlightened age, judging in severity, sentencing in bitterness, 
and persecuting, by angry word and oppressive deed, each 
his fellow creature. For eighteen centuries and upwards, 
sword and fire, chains, dungeons, tortures, threats and curses, 
or (scarcely less severe) public scorn and private censure, the 


falling back of friends and setting on of foes, the whisperings 
of detraction, the surmises of folly, the misapprehensions and 
misrepresentations of ignorance, have conspired to wreak ven- 
geance upon the mind and body of man, constraining the 
sacrifice, impossible to force, of honest opinion, and command- 
ing the assent to truth or error, as it may be, of that noblest 
property of our being — even our free-born intellect. For 
eighteen centuries and upwards, the human family, estranged 
from each other, albeit pinned within the fold of one faith, 
have striven in deadly feud like the fierce beasts in the Roman 
arena, or like the iron knights of crusading chivalry within the 
fatal lists of cruel ordeal, where might alone did constitute the 
right, and the fall of the weak substantiated the justice of the 

Such, to look no farther than the date of the modern era, 
hath been the fate of the nations. The weak have been tram- 
pled on, the bold in spirit have been crushed, the conscientious 
have been martyrized, the honest have been silenced, the 
stigmatized for liberty, mercy, and charity, have been hunted 
through the earth by the bloodhounds of superstition, until the 
heart of philanthropy hath drooped even to despair, and the 
hope of philosophy in a better and fairer future hath given 
way. Such droopings and faintings must have been ex- 
perienced by every generous mind, when, in contemplating the 
face of society, it loses sight of the generating cause of the 
evil which it mourns ; and, again, when it ceases to compare 
the present with the past, and so marks not the slow and 
silent progress of our race from the foul night of barbarous 
ignorance towards the fulness of civilizing knowledge. But 
let us clearly distinguish die cause, and we may hasten the 
application of the remedy ; let us trace the advance already 
made and now making, and we may calculate with cheerful 
confidence on our future destinies. 

Persecution for opinion is the master vice of society. It 
was this raised the gloomy walls and dug the foul caverns of 
the Inquisition. It was this invented the rack, and the 
wheel, and the faggot, and the death-pang, and the dungeon, 
where the Moor, and the Jew, and the philosopher, and the 
suspected heretic expired, unpitied, unremembered, before 
thanksgiving, heaven-invoking bigotry. It was this but- 
chered the simple Waldenses, in the valleys of their moun- 
tains. It was this mowed down the Huguenots in the palace of 
the Gallic king. It was this dyed the rivers of either Indies 


with the blood of their peaceful children. It was this reared 
the horrid pile round the gentle Servetus, by the hand of 
presbyterian Calvin. It was this drave from their native isle 
the forefathers of this nation ; and it has been, and yet is, the 
same scourger of human peace, and bridler of human liberty, 
persecution for opinion, which ruffles the whole surface 
of this fair republic, nurtures the harsh spirit and pride of 
sectarianism, hardens the heart of man towards his brother, 
sours the disposition of woman, and drops gall and aloes into 
the cup of human life. Surely, then, are we called, in our 
character of reasoning beings, to pierce to the source of this 
poisonous fountain of woe ! Surely then, are ye doubly called, 
in your character of a self-governing people, to arrest the 
flow of its deadly waters, and to seek the ways and the means 
for refreshing the land with the soft dews of love ! 

In developing the cause of the vice to which we have refer- 
ence, we must first examine what an opinion is ; establish the 
meaning of the word, and the nature of the intellectual state 
it is employed to designate. 

The chief aim of my previous efforts in this place, has been 
directed to the attaining a just apprehension of the nature of 
knowledge. The result of those elementary inquiries, I con- 
ceive to be present to your minds. Now, as we established 
knowledge to be an accumulation of facts, so are all just 
opinions, intellectual conclusions drawn from those facts. It 
follows, therefore, that exactly in proportion to the extent and 
accuracy of our knowledge, must be the justice of our opinions ; 
and vice versa, that in equal proportion to our remissness in 
collecting, and carelessness in weighing, examining, compar- 
ing, and arranging facts, must be the error of our opinions. 
Here then we see ignorance, or the absence of facts from the 
mind, to be the primary cause of all error. 

I must now call your attention to a very curious incon- 
sistency in human feeling. Men are seldom disposed to be 
angry with each other on account of the more or less know- 
ledge they may possess, while they are incessantly angry 
with the varying opinions, which are as necessary conse- 
quents upon this varying knowledge, as we conceive light 
or darkness to be upon the rising or setting of the sun. 
That one should know more than another appears simple 
and pardonable ; but, that one knowing more, should think 
differently from others, is stamped for a mortal offence, with- 
out hope of pardon or benefit of clergy. The absurdity af 


applying the torture to the physiological anatomist, who 
should simply discover such and such to be the structure of 
our corporeal machine, would appear too gross for the human 
imagination, and yet the no less gross absurdity of resent- 
ing the conclusions generated by his discoveries appear to 
it quite facile of admission. The facts themselves, if deprived 
of all their consequences and so of all their utility, would 
be tolerated, but let them generate, as they must inevitably 
generate, their own conclusions in the mind, and the unfor- 
tunate explorer of science is huuted down by the dogs of 
persecution. When the observations of Lawrence associated 
the phenomena of life, thought, and motion, inseparably 
with the living, thinking, and moving organs of our frame, 
instantly awoke the cry of Infidel I Sceptic ! Materialist ! 
Atheist ! As if with these unmeaning words, which those 
who employ usually understand no more than did Aristotle 
the rules of his own logic or the causes of the influent and 
refluent tides — as if, I say, by these unmeaning words, 
coupled with insulting vituperations, we could overthrow 
nature herself, annihilate the facts, in her own bosom, or 
stifle the conclusions which the inspection of those facts 
necessitate in the perceiving mind. When the inquiring 
Galileo observed that the phenomena of the celestial bodies 
substantiated the motion of the planets in lieu of that of 
thej sun, why was he dragged before the tribunal of death ? 
Because the facts he proclaimed started in the mind of 
bigotry itself the inevitable conclusion, that if he was right, 
the astronomy of the Jews was wrong ? and that, " Sun, 
stand thou still," argued an error in the pen that wrote, or 
in the voice that spake. And we may farther ask, why in 
in these or our own times, why at the present hour, if a bold 
inquirer unclasp the book of knowledge, and simply proclaim 
its simple truths, the trump of alarm sounds throughout the 
land, and threats, outrage, and abuse, are heaped even on 
the head of a woman ? Why, but because the facts which 
she, strong in her love to man, has the courage to reveal, 
generate in the minds of her very opponents conclusions 
inimical to existing systems and existing expenditures, and 
proclaim aloud to the teacher as well as the scholar, the 
clergy as well as the people, the designing as well as the 
ignorant, that if knowledge be true, superstition is false, 
and that if inquiry be prosecuted, church and hierarchy 
must fall. 


But in discovering the propelling motives of this incon- 
sistency, the inconsistency remains the same. Unless we 
can annihilate facts themselves how can we annihilate the 
conclusions, that is, the opinions, which those facts suggest? 
When we employ our eyes, and when we see, or when we 
stretch forth our hand, and when we feel, must we not 
acknowledge the presence of the objects before us and can 
we resist the intellectual assent which follows upon their 
perception ? 

Whenever, then we hear an opinion startling from its 
novelty, what, in modesty, should we say ? " Perhaps the 
individual is possessed of facls which have not fallen under 
our observation, or attracted our attention. Let us inquire of 
him what they are, and then examine the facts for ourselves." 
And what upon such a course of proceeding, would be the 
result ? One of three consequences. Either we should find 
the opinion corroborated by facts, in which case it would be 
true, and compel our own minds to its admission ; or it would 
appear insufficiently substantiated by facts, in which case we 
should leave it for doubtful ; or we should find it in contradic- 
tion with facts, in which case we should discard it for spurious. 

But now, in any or all of these cases, what rational ground 
can we find for anger against the individual who may think 
otherwise than we think ? He is right, he is credulous, he is 
wrong. What then ? If he be right, it is for us to agree 
with him ; if credulous, we are not obliged to be the same ; 
if wrong, he is mistaken — and, in so far as this may be a source 
of evil, the loss must be to him. For that he thinks as he 
thinks, and as we think not, it is convincing that some evi- 
dence is present to his mind which is not present to ours ; and, 
albeit upon examination we should pronounce that evidence 
false, so long as it exist in his mind for true, must he think as 
he thinks. And shall we stigmatize his honest opinion for a 
crime? By treating him as a felon we may indeed force him 
into hypocrisy, but cannot convince his understanding. To 
do the latter, we must present some other and better evidence 
to his mind — some incontrovertible facts, out of which a more 
correct opinion may arise. Opinions are not to be learned by 
rote, like the letters of an alphabet, or the words of a dic- 
tionary. They are conclusions to be formed, and formed by 
each individual in the sacred and free citadel of the mind, and 
there enshrined beyond the arm of law to reach, or force to 
hake; ay ! and beyond the right of impertinent curiosity to 

opinions. «y 

violate, or presumptuous arrogance to threaten. Alas, for 
consistency ! Alas, for reason and happiness ! Hath man 
fought and bled for political liberty, and will he violate the 
liberty of the mind ? When he has broken the bars and bolts 
of corporeal dungeons, will he essay to clip and stretch the 
thoughts of his fellow beings to the measure of his own ? 
Must all see just as far and no farther than we see ? If this be 
civil liberty, better the wild freedom of the wild hunter ! Nay, 
better the honest slavery of oriental despotism, where at least 
the wretch is warned to choose between unmuttering obedi- 
ence and the bowstring ! 

I speak warmly, my friends, for truly my heart is moved in 
the cause of that holy principle, whose name is on every lip, 
on every badge, on every coin of the land, but whose vital 
spirit is profaned in our high places and our private ways, 
in house and chamber, in book and converse, in hall and 
church, and oh, more than all profaned in the secret heart of 
man ! 

Could we but obliterate all the false lessons imbibed 
during a pernicious education — could we but arrive at the 
perception of those primitive truths, which it is now the 
object, because the interest, of all our teachers to stifle — 
could we but engage in the investigation of the operations of 
our own intellect — could we understand the nature of an 
opinion, and the manner of its formation, never could we 
be guilty of persecution for the involuntary conclusions of the 

And yet simple ignorance, as we have seen, is not the only 
cause of the irrational anger elicited by the varying opinions 
of men. Ignorance, unbacked and unspurred, would not 
suffice to breed such tempests in the human bosom as we see 
engendered against so gentle, so unintentional an offence 
as a difference in opinion. The untutored Indian lifts not 
his tomahawk against his brother because he thinks not 
with him respecting the attributes of their Great Spirit, 
or the nature of their expected hunting ground in the 
shadowy world of the dead. No ! ignorance of the powers 
of the human mind will not alone explain the existence 
of the deadly evil, albeit knowledge of those powers would 
suffice to dispel it. 

The unhappy circumstances which combined to organize 
a system of instruction in speculations of faith instead of 
objects of knowledge, and to set apart a body of men for 


the express purpose of expounding inexplicable creeds, and 
chaining the intellects of their hearers down to written points 
of doctrine, unintelligible mysteries and verbal quibbles, 
first originated the monsterous absurdity and lamentable 
evil to which we have reference. Were it not absolutely 
made the occupation of a part of the community to set the 
rest by the ears, never could human beings have disputed 
for ages, and shed rivers of blood, for establishing and 
protecting the dogma of a trinity in unity, predestination 
to salvation or damnation, the divine presence or absence 
in a wafer of bread or the liquor in a wine cup, the saving 
efficacy of the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of cold 
water on the forehead of an infant. Never could they have 
wasted their lives and their treasure in squabbles about 
hair-drawn distinctions in fantastic ideas and unimportant 
possibilities, had not the custom been originated of employ- 
ing teachers of opinions, instead of teachers of facts. 

That we have here- suggested the main cause of the irra- 
tional disputes which up to this hour have corroded the peace 
of society, is abundantly substantiated by observation, and 
corroborated by history. 

In whatever country there has existed a priesthood, there 
opinionative persecution has prevailed, and there, and there 
only, has the popular superstition been profaned by blood, 
expiatory atonements, and never slumbering opinionative 

Let us look back to Egypt, to India, to Judea, to Carthage, 
to Greece, to Rome — in all, tradition presents us with a 
priesthood, and exactly in proportion to the power of that 
priesthood, with less or more of religious butcheries or opi- 
nionative persecutions. We find the same, in a ratio exactly 
proportionate to the power of the priesthood, among all 
Christian nations ; while among savages, however ignorant, 
or even in their ignorance revengeful, but whom we find 
without religious teachers, the popular superstition is ever 
harmless. Witness the gentle South Sea Islander, or the 
fierce Indian of this Northern hemisphere, whose faith, simple 
in itself, and entirely devoid of ceremonial, has never once 
been found a cause of war, or even of dissension ; while in 
Mexico, when first explored by the Spaniards, the blood of 
victims streamed from altars sanctified by officiating ministers, 
whose butcheries only ceased, to give place to those of their 
Christian conquerors. 


And among ourselves, my friends, what feeds the angry- 
spirit which is abroad ? Even that which first originated it 
among men: the exalting the dreams of our ignorance into a 
science ; the setting apart times and places for its especial 
study, and the ordaining a body of men to propound its 
mysteries, and to protect them from the power of that 
principle which is inherent alike in matter and in mind — 
improvement. Let us leave Religion to herself, and she will 
work no evil. Let us leave her single and alone, without the 
adjunct of priest or temple, to measure weapons with know- 
ledge. If true, she will stand ; if false, she will fall. Let us 
store the human mind with the truths of science ; and, what 
ever opinions these may confirm or may generate, neither time 
nor changes, power, wealth, violence nor corruption, the 
vicissitudes of fortune, nor the fall of empires, can overthrow. 

I have already attempted to show that an opinion, properly 
so called, is a conclusion of the mind, spontaneously elicited 
upon the admission of facts, or upon the admission of evidence 
which it receives for fact. On the accuracy of the evidence 
received must then depend the accuracy of the opinion elicited 
therefrom. Wheresoever we are in possession of facts, well 
examined, well substantiated, arranged, and compared, are 
our opinions just ; whenever we receive for fact what is not 
fact, or whenever we are careless in our examination of facts, 
must our opinions be erroneous. 

But how are we to designate those states of the mind, 
when in the absence of all facts, and all evidence, it is tortured 
to receive ideas ? Ideas they cannot be called, for these are 
suggestions derived from sensations. Opinions they cannot 
be called, for these are conclusions spontaneously elicited by 
evidence. The teacher who begins by essaying to instil 
opinions, attempts an impossibility. He may engraft pre- 
judices, suggest fantasies, distort the feelings, put the mind 
in confusion, but he cannot teach opinions. 

Oh, when will men perceive wnat it is possible to impart, 
and desirable to acquire ? When will they look to know- 
ledge as the subject matter of instruction, and dropping 
its pleasant truths in the fertile soil of the mind, leave 
opinions to spring up themselves, as the plant from the 
seed ! 

But, look ye, my friends ! what are ye or your agents now 
labouring to teach, not in your own land only, but in the 
remotest regions of the globe ? Opinions. About what are 


ye disputing yourselves, and assaying to make all tribes 
and nations dispute ? Opinions, for what pour ye forth 
your treasures ? For what endow seminaries and churches ? 
For what plant spies and eves-droppers in every establishment, 
charitable, philosophical, or humane, founded in your cities? 
For what are the gentle and the wise driven from superinten- 
dence in your jails, your bridewells, your houses of refuge, 
your asylums, your schools ? For what all this but for opi- 

But ye will say, " It is not we, it is not we, the people — it 
is the Clergy, it is the American Jesuit, it is more than all, 
the Presbyterian." With pennission, my friends, but it is 
you — it is the people. Why give ye the rein to ambition ? 
Why gold to rapacity? Why stay ye not the strife of 
tongues, the battle for supremacy, the fever of proselytism, 
the persecuti on for opinions ? True, the teacher hath led 
the way. True, the false shepherd hath beguiled you. But 
when ye see the error of the path, will ye not tread back your 
steps ? Will ye madly drive on when your eyes are open to 
the pit and your ears warned of destruction ? 

But say that ye be willing to foster strife within your 
own borders — under what plea, by what right, by what 
authority, scatter ye its seeds in lands not yours, among 
people neither acknowledging your supremacy, nor subject to 
your laws ? I will not follow your missions across Atlantic 
and Pacific, athwart other zones, and one half of the world's 
meridians, to the banks of Senegal and Ganges ; I will not 
track your emissaries to the Isles of the Southern Sea, and 
note the peace of their simple children profaned by dogmas, 
and their innocence by intoxicating liquors. I will not look 
beyond the borders of this Union, nor will I invoke other 
testimony than that supplied by the native sons of the land. 
I will summon my witnesses and your accusers from the deep 
forests of the Mobile, the sweet springs of the pleasant Yazoo, 
and the shores of your own fresh water seas. I will call upon 
the Creek and the Choctaw, the Cherokee and the Seneka, to 
denounce the folly and mischief of your emissaries, and the 
madness of your zeal. Or it shall suffice, to array against ye 
the words of the venerable chief, the expostulations of the 
father of his people, who in this city, so lately, in the ears of 
its citizens, denounced the intriguing spirit, the feud-breeding 
faith, the honey-lipped but bitter-hearted hypocrisy (I 
employ his own epithets) of your proselytizing missionaries. 


Oh, when ye afflict strange people and other races with the 
curse which rests upon yourselves — when, despite their ex- 
postulations, and presuming upon your power, ye add the 
feuds of opinions to the hatred of tribes, and send forth 
retailers of spirituous and spiritual poison to the dusky chil- 
dren of nature — Oh, think well of the liberty ye outrage, the 
rights of nations that ye violate, the awful responsibility that 
ye assume ! 

Could ye send to your red brethren peaceful instructors in 
the useful arts of life, enlightened observers of nature, res- 
pecters of human feeling, who, without questioning their 
reverence for the benign spirit whose presence they acknow- 
ledge in the heart, would travel with them in peace the paths 
of life, and exchange with them all the offices of human love ; 
could ye send to the feeble remnant of that race, whose decay 
has been the price of your greatness, such instructors as 
these, ye might cancel the remembrance of injury, and pre- 
serve in your bosom a happy relic of a people, interesting 
from your own history, their character, and their wrongs. 
But, until such ye can send, (and, alas, such how rare!) oh, 
my friends, send not at all. 

Another remark here suggests itself; that as in the exist- 
ing state of human knowledge, an uncommon opinion is 
always unpopular, so does it afford strong evidence of the 
honesty of the individual who expresses it. 

If the observations now presented, in conjunction with our 
previous investigations should have satisfied you of the invo- 
luntary birth of opinions in the mind, the impossibility of 
changing opinions but by supplying other and stronger evi- 
dence than that which generated the existing opinions, and 
the impossibility of teaching opinions as we teach words to a 
parrot, you will perceive the absurdity, no less than the 
injustice, of all displeasure on account of the intellectual con- 
clusions generated in our fellow-creatures, and the equal 
absurdity of devoting your time and money to the acquisition 
and propagation of opinions, instead of the acquisition and 
propagation of facts. You will admit also, I think, that an 
honest opinion, even when erroneous, merits always the 
respect of a good mind, and that an uncommon opinion 
merits always the investigation of an inquiring mind. 

These considerations will appear to you of the highest 
moral importance should you examine, as it is your duty to 


examine, the harsh feelings and ungentle dealings springing 
daily and hourly out of intolerance and censoriousness. 
Lamentably has the list of the human virtues been curtailed 
by our inobservancy of the occurrences passing around us, 
our inattention to tne effects of our words and actions on the 
happiness of our fellow beings, our ignorance of the powers of 
our ow r n minds, and our indifference to the gentle dictates of 
human sympathy. While our thoughts have been wandering 
in the limbo of theological speculations, our eyes have been 
prying with impious curiosity into those of our neighbour, our 
lips have been outraging the liberty of man, by challenging 
his right to the utterance of his opinions, and so perverted 
has been our reason, so corrupted our hearts, that while thus 
engaged in murdering our own peace, and the peace of others, 
we have called our censoriousness by the name of virtue, and 
sanctified our orthodox intolerance by the name of religion. 
Alas ! when shall we see that our business ; is with our own 
doings, our own feelings, our own opinions ; and that with a 
view to the formation of the one, and the regulation of the 
other, we must patiently observe all things, and gently hear 
all things, even that we may be fitted in all things to choose 
that which is best ! 

One observation, not without its practical importance, yet 
occurs to me on the subject of opinions. While our first duty 
is correctly to form our own, it is doubtless our farther duty to 
assist in the formation of those of others. How this may 
alone be done we have seen ; namely, by presenting facts to 
the mind ; in other words, by organizing a plan of uniform 
and universal instruction in all the branches of positive know- 
ledge, by which means all men, being gradually put in 
possession of the same correct evidence, may be gradually led 
to the formation of just and coinciding opinions. 

It needs not to ask if such a consummation be desirable. 
It needs not to ask if disputing and quarrelling be advantage- 
ous or agreeable. It needs not to ask if the employment of 
twenty millions per annum in feeding sectarian jealousies, 
bitter feelings, persecuting creeds, and contradictory con- 
clusions, be injudicious or profitable I care not what opinions 
or what fantasies we profess, I care not under what standard 
we have ranged ourselves — I care not how ignorant or how 
positive we may be in our errors, still am I persuaded that 
all, however differing as to the point of union, are agreed that 


union would be desirable. All ? Said I that all are agreed ? 
Yes, all ; save those who live by existing divisions and confusion. 
But it will be asserted, in the present confused state of 
the human intellect, that, however desirable, what we have 
suggested is impossible. We shall be told that men can never 
agree in opinion. They certainly never can, until they un- 
derstand what an opinion is, and what knowledge is ; then 
will they perceive how, when we shall be all informed in the 
knowledge of things, and shall consent, to restrict our inquiries 
within the range of our observation, we must all agree in the 

I know we shall be asked tauntingly, whether we expect 
all men to become philosophers. Certainly not all those now 
living, and most certainly few of those who put the question. 
Generations may pass away, ere, even in this comparatively 
free country, all men attain to their birth-right, equal privi- 
leges of instruction. I incline not to gigantic hopes respecting 
our contemporaries. Much they certainly may do— much 
more I wish them to do. And though it be ill-planting the 
best seed in the summer and autumn of life, and though the 
spring time be past in our own minds, could we but learn 
sufficient to remove some weeds, and but to lop away that 
one poisonous wide-spreading tree of evil, persecution for 
opinion, the paths of life, even in our day, might be made 
smooth, and the children of men travel through them in peace. 
Nor should we omit to notice one fact, sufficient if observed, 
even in the absence of all other knowledge, to turn men from 
the idle warfare in which they are engaged. Let us look to 
the consequences of persecution. Did it ever convince? did 
it ever convert? Violence indeed may overthrow empires, 
may slaughter nations, may assassinate individuals, may 
harrass the mind, crucify the feelings, but it cannot contro- 
vert opinions. Persecution will suffice even to establish error, 
and hath ever proved omnipotent in advancing truth. Tliey 
who have recourse to it are blind to all facts, blind to the 
noblest principle of our nature, to the strongest instinct in all 
sentient existence. Where doth violence not provoke resist- 
ance from the lowest animal up to man ? Wound the bear, 
and he will turn on the hunters ; press on the noble stag, and 
he will give battle to his murderers ; nay ! injure the gentle 
and faithful dog, and we find the spirit of the lion. 

And is it man — man, strong in every noble energy, power- 
ful in every faculty, rich in all the resources, and sublime in 


all the dignity of intelligence — is it man whom we would 
frighten into tame surrender of his loftiest powers ? whom we 
would cudgel out of his own free thoughts, and crush under 
the chariot-wheels of intolerance ? Let us look into past 
history — let us mark on the human mind, through all ages, in 
all nations, the effects of persecution. When the justice of 
Aristides turned admiration to envy, what restored him to the 
love of his countrymen ? Persecution. When the lessons of 
Socrates fell powerless on the giddy ears of the Athenians, 
what graved his name and his precepts on their hearts ? His 
death by persecution. What revenged all the patriots of 
Rome of a misguided multitude ? Persecution. And what 
rooted Christianity in the hostile soil of heathenism ? Per- 
secution. What fostered the heresy of Luther? Persecution. 
What built up the church of Calvin ? Persecution. What 
hath given a substance and a name to all the distinctions, real 
or imagined, of each religious reformer? Persecution. 
What hath preserved the Jew pure and entire in his faith, in 
his blood, in ceremony and feature, through ages of time, and 
while lost and scattered amidst nations opposed in every cus- 
tom, law, feeling and creed ? Why hath he stood a noble 
monument of patient endurance, conscientious pertinacity, 
scrupulous fidelity, long-suffering and uncomplaining, yet 
unyielding resistance ? Why, like a column in the desert, 
wearing its capital, and tracery, and all the form and ornament 
stamped by the genius of forgotten artists and forgotten nations, 
stands he to this hour a wondrous relic of empire departed and 
grandeur overthrown? Why, but because of persecution? 

Or, say again, what hath provoked vengeance on the head 
of kings? What hurried English Charles to the scaffold? 
What threw down the royalty and nobility of France from 
their antique thrones, and long-established supremacy ? Or, 
yet once more, what turned the people from the prostituted 
name of liberty and the insignia of a republic drooping with 
gore, to reconcile them again to detested sceptres and the 
name and style of king ? And, oh say, people of America ! 
descendants of English puritans, French.; huguenots, Irish 
catholics, condemned regicides, outlawed patriots, and sancti- 
fied martyrs ! what, driving your fathers from European 
realms, hath built up the noble frame of this republic? Oh 
say, torturers of the human mind ! what hath done this save 

And will ignorance never cease from troubling, and error 



never be at rest? Will persecution take her stand even at 
the fane of freedom, denouncing alike socinian, universalist, 
Jew, sceptic, and philosopher, yea ! denouncing every profes- 
sion, employment, discovery and recreation which squares 
not with the rule of orthodoxy, or diverts dollars from its 
treasury ? 

I point here to no particular sect ; I point here to no individ- 
uals: I point to the spirit of persecution arising out of written 
creeds, and authorizing ambition to make religion its stalking 
horse, and to say to every man within or without the pale of 
the declaration of faith, "so far shalt thou go, and no 

I am said to make war upon the clergy, and to hold them 
up to the hatred and derision of the people : it is not so. I 
have denounced the system, not the men. I have denounced 
the system which splits this nation into parties, which encour- 
ages and authorizes individuals, under the plea of serving God 
and teaching faith, to injure what I believe the interests of 
man, and darken what every mind blessed with intelligence 
knows to be the light of truth. I have not denounced the 
clergy as men. I have denounced them as an organized 
body. As a body, set apart from the people, with other 
interests, other duties, other feelings. I have not denounced 
them as men — so help me that spirit of charity which I trust 
by my lip or my pen hath never been profaned ! but I have 
denounced, and (so help me the spirit of truth which arms me 
to fight this battle in its cause !) so will I denounce them, as 
the organs and ostensible representatives of a pernicious 
system, which is driving the moral character, and shaking the 
political frame of this nation, to its dissolution. 

But I will say no more. So far from essaying to stigmatize 
the mass of any clergy, I have held in private esteem and 
respect individuals among all. The catholic, the episcopal, 
the baptist, the methodist, the unitarian, the universalist, the 
most rigid as the most benign expounders of the christian law, 
may doubtless show among them men who wear their religion 
less on the lip than in the heart, and who, more citizen than 
sectarian, present to their fellows a creed made up of gentle- 
ness and love. But such as these could echo if I mistake not 
the denunciations I pronounce. Yea ! such as these, if I 
mistake not, writhe under the fanacticism they are constrained 
to tolerate in their brethren, and both lament the error of the 
system with which they are associated, and blush for the 



arrogance of those martinets in orthodoxy, whose noise drowns 
all gentler voices, and whose assumption of authority, awes 
the timid and the ignorant into submission. 

Say I too much of the spirit that is abroad ? Denounce I 
too warmly a system, which in a land professing liberty, is 
the more dangerous because the less suspected? There is 
other persecution than that by fire and faggot ; other weapons 
than the bayonet and the sword ; other restraints than those 
of law and arrest ; other ways to coerce contributions than by 
tithes and taxation : yea ! and those other, and those worse, 
because less alarming while equally effectual and vexatious — 
those other, and those worse, are here. In this land, cunning 
does the work of violence. Persecution wears her shafts close 
hid : they are not winged in the broad sun-shine for every 
eye to see and every spirit to resent: silently, and from the 
covert, are they sped ; unseen the aim, and unheeded the 
mischief. There is a secret influence at work, which all feel 
and none distinguish. It infects all society, taints every 
institution in the land, poisoning alike human instruction, 
human laws, and human recreation. In your schools — it 
diseases the infant mind with superstitious terrors, and with 
reason-confounding, heart-distorting creeds. In your colleges 
— it stifles the breath of your teachers of science, and con- 
strains the entanglement of their simple facts with the dreams 
of theology. In your books and periodicals — but it matters 
not to speak of the press. In your courts of law — it tempts 
to perjury, sitting in judgment on the religious creed of 
witnesses, and reflecting even on that of the prisoner. In 
your legislatures — it dictates unconstitutional ordinances, and 
unconstitutional disposals of money and of lands. Nay ! at 
this moment, it is outraging the ear of your national congress, 
with presbyterian Sabbath law petitions.* In your amuse- 
ments—alas ! there its influence hath been mortal ! Your 
amusements, which under wise direction and judicious encour- 
agement, should elevate the mind and humanize the heart — 
your amusements, I say, it has degraded, it has perverted, 
and so led the mind astray from pleasure to vice, from healthy 
recreation to mind-debasing, life destroying licentiousness. 

* This discourse was first delivered in the Second Universalist Church, 
New-York, (by request of its pastor and the majority of the trustees,) dur- 
ing the season of the presentation of those petitions at Washington, which 
produced the celebrated report of the committee of the senate, already fa- 
miliar to every American citizen. 


Have I charged orthodoxy with too much ? Look to your 
stage ! see what it is ; then look back to ancient Greece, and 
judge what it might be. Listen on every hand to the 
denunciations of fanaticism against plearures the most inno- 
cent, recreations the most necessary to bodily health, and 
conducive to social fellowship and mental improvement. See 
it make of the people's day of leisure, a day of penance ! 
Thus, in the absence of innocent diversion, or improving 
study, driving men to intoxication, women to scandal, or to 
silly, sentimental, reason-confounding novels, half filled with 
romance and half with superstition, and by dint of fatiguing 
the mind with irrational doctrines, and tedious exhortations, 
disgusting youth with all instruction, and turning it loose 
upon a corrupt world with no light for its reason, no rein for 
its passions, no prop for its integrity. 

We hear of Sabbath breakers. * And who are they that 
break the Sabbath of the mind ? Even such as, it would" seem, 
taxed with Sabbath breaking the poor man's friend and rich 
man's reprover, Jesus; who, instead of frequenting temples 
made with hands, where the Scribes and Pharisees expounded 
their written laws, and acted the outer ceremonies of their 
superstition, sought the world of nature and the fields of 
human industry, and, as he gathered the ears of corn on the 
day sanctified to superstition, sentenced by practice as well as 
precept, those observances which, at this day, in a country 
styled Christian, cost to the nation twenty millions per 
annum. "Many things," said the mild reformer, whose 
mildness saved him not from martyrdom — "many things have 
I to say to ye, but ye cannot bear them now." And alas, 
could his followers bear them yet? Are they not still led as 
were the Jews of old by Scribes and Pharisees, who make 
broad their phylacteries, devour widow's houses, and for a 
pretence, make long prayers ? Are they not still sitting in 
judgment on their neighbour; questioning his faith, instead 
of looking to their own doings ; and, content with idle obser- 
vances of days and seasons, neglecting all that could improve 
their own hearts and add to the happiness of their fellow 
creatures ? 

What think ye my friends ? If Jesus, or his likeness, 
should now visit the earth, what church of the many which 
now go by his name would he enter? Or, if tempted by 
curiosity, he should incline to look into all, which do you 
think would not shut the door in his face? " He despises the 

H 2 


law," would sound from one; "He breaks the Sabbath," 
would echo from another ; " He makes no prayers and professes 
no creed," would mutter a third ; '* He would exalt the low, 
bring down the mighty, and revolutionize society," would 
cry a fourth ; " He keeps company with publicans and 
sinners," from a fifth ; " He is no better than an infidel," 
would shout the whole, since he lets pass the Sadducees 
without reproach who profess no knowledge out of this world 
and this life, and denounces the Pharisees who holds the keys 
of heaven and hell, and know all that is passing in both 

It seems to me, my friends, that as one who loved peace, 
taught industry, equality, union, and love, one towards 
another, Jesus were he alive at this day, would recommend 
you to come out of your churches of faith, and to gather into 
schools of knowledge. Methinks he would inquire into the 
use of all the large buildings you are now raising, for the only 
purpose of collecting there once a week in groups of sectarians, 
and this again, for the only object of learning what we are 
all too much disposed to believe already — viz : that we are 
each of us in the right, and that all others are in the wrong 
Methinks, I say, that Jesus would recommend you to pass 
the first day of the week rather otherwise than you pass it 
now, and to seek some other mode of bettering the morals of 
the community than by constraining each other to look grave 
on a Sunday, and to consider yourselves more virtuous in 
proportion to the idleness in which you pass one day in seven, 
and to the length of the doctrinal creed you allow your 
spiritual instructors to sign for you. 

The importance attached to opinions and formal observances 
of days and ceremonies by all Christian sects, is truly surpri- 
sing, when we consider that Jesus, so far as tradition informs 
us, never wrote a line, never framed a creed, condemned all 
prayers in public, and taught his disciples to "love one 
another," which was as much as to say — never discuss 
opinions. Now those who profess to follow him, discuss little 
else, but opinions, and therefore do little else but quarrel. 
To think this way, or to think that way, constitutes the 
whole duty of man. 

My friends, I am no Christian, in the sense usually attached 
to the word. I am neither Jew nor Gentile, Mahomedan nor 
Theist ; I am but a member of the human family, and would 
accept of truth by whomsoever offered — that truth which we 


can all find, if we will but seek — in things, not in words ; in 
nature, not in human imagination ; in our own hearts, not in 
temples made with hands. 

Fain would I see my fellow creatures in pursuit of that 
truth which is around, and about, and within us. Fain would 
1 see them burying their opinions in their own bosoms, and 
uniting for the study of facts and a knowledge of themselves. 
Many evils are abroad on the earth, and never did supineness 
threaten greater dangers than at the present moment. Old 
superstitions are shaken to their foundation. The false res- 
traints imagined in ages of primeval ignorance are loosened 
from the mind. Men have grown out of the fear of devils 
and eternal brimstone, and, applying their ingenuity to evade 
the laws of earth, laugh in secret at the hobgoblin tales of 
hell. What then must ensue, if, while old things are passing 
away, we seek not to discover new ? If, while the chains of 
superstition are falling from the mind, we build not up therein 
a moral bulwark, nobly to replace the Gothic barriers that are 
withdrawn, nor apply ourselves to lead by persuasion and con- 
viction that nature which may be no longer cowed by super- 
stition. nor mastered by force ? Man is no longer in leading- 
strings, nor submissive to the rod. He is at this hour too 
knowing to be driven, and too ignorant to walk alone. Let a 
free people look to it in time, nor waiting, until law and 
religion are alike under foot, they shall have to devise reme- 
dies in the midst of confusion, and to school the human mind 
and the human heart in the depths of their corruption. 
Enough hath been said — the path lies clear. Virtue and 
truth dwell only with knowledge, and as, when a people shal 
possess knowledge, they will form on all subjects just opinions 
so will they also, in all the relations of life, as citizens, parents 
and fellow creatures, discover and pursue a just practice 


Of Existing Evils, and their Remedy. 
[As delivered in Philadelphia, June 2, 1829.] 

Having now traced with you what knowledge is in matter 
and in mind ; what virtue is in human conduct, where its 


rules are to be sought, and how they may be found ; tested, 
by the standard thus supplied, the ruling topic of discussion 
aud instruction throughout this country ; shown that, while this 
topic subtracts from the wealth of the nation twenty millions t per 
annum, and from the hearts and minds of the people social 
fellowship and common sense, it has in nature no real exist- 
ence — is not knowledge, but onty imagination — is not fact, 
but only theory ; and, having shown, moreover, that theory 
can supply no subject matter of instruction ; that the teaching 
of opinions is as erroneous in principle as it is dangerous in 
practice ; that the duty of the instructor is simply to enrich 
the mind with knowledge, to awaken the eye, and the ear, 
and the touch, to the perception of things, the judgment of 
their comparison and arrangement, and to leave the free un- 
biassed mind to draw its own conclusions from the evidence 
thus collected, — I shall now present a few observations on 
the necessity of commencing, and gradually perfecting, a 
radical reform in your existing outlays of time and money — on 
and in churches, theological colleges, privileged and exclusive 
seminaries of all descriptions, religious Sabbath schools, and 
all their aids and adjuncts of Bibles, tracts, missionaries, 
priests, and preachers, multiplied and multiplying throughout 
the land, until they promise to absorb more capital than did 
the temple of Solomon, and to devour more of the first fruits 
of industry than did the tribe of Levi in the plentitude of its 
power ; — on the necessity, I say, of substituting for your pre- 
sent cumbrous, expensive, useless, or rather pernicious, system 
of partial, opinionative, and dogmatical instruction, one at 
once national, rational, and republican ; one which shall take 
for its study, our own world and our own nature ; for its 
object, the improvement of man ; and for its means, the prac- 
tical depelopment of truth, the removal of temptations to evil, 
and the gradual equalization of human condition, human 
duties, and human enjoyments, by the equal diffusion of 
knowledge without distinction of class or sect — both of which 
distinctions are inconsistent with republican institutions as 
they are with reason and with common sense, with virtue and 
with happiness. 

Time is it in this land to commence this reform. Time is it 
to check the ambition of an organized clergy, the demoralizing 
effects of a false system of law ; to heal the strife fomented by 
sectarian religion and legal disputes ; to bring down the 
pride of ideal wealth, and to raise honest industry to honour. 


Time is it to search out the misery in the land, and to heal it 
at the source. Time is it to remember the poor and the 
afflicted, ay ! and the vicious and the depraved. Time is it 
to perceive that every sorrow which corrodes the human 
heart, every vice which diseases the body and the mind, every 
crime which startles the ear and sends back the blood affrighted 
to the heart — is the product of one evil, the foul growth from 
one root, the distorted progeny of one corrupt parent— Igno- 

Time is it to perceive this truth ; to proclaim it on the 
housetop, in the market place, in city and forest, throughout 
the land ; to acknowledge it in the depths of our hearts, and 
to apply all our energies to the adoption of those salutary 
measures which this salutary truth spontaneously suggests. 
Time is it, I say, to turn our churches into halls of science, 
our schools of faith into schools of knowledge, our privileged 
colleges into state institutions for all the youth of the land. 
Time is it to arrest our speculations respecting unseen worlds 
and inconceivable mysteries, and to address our inquiries to 
the improvement of our human condition, and our efforts to 
the practical illustration of those beautiful principles of liberty 
and equality enshrined in the political institutions, and, first 
and chief, in the national declaration of independence. 

And by whom and how, are these changes to be effected ? 
By whom ! And do a free people ask the question ! By 
themselves. By themselves — the people. 

I am addressing the people of Philadelphia — the people of 
a city where Jefferson penned the glorious declaration which 
awoke this nation and the world — the city, where the larum 
so astounding to tyranny, so fraught with hope, and joy, 
and exulting triumph to humankind, was first sounded in 
the ears of Americans. I speak to the descendants of those 
men who heard from the steps of their old state house the 
principles of liberty and equality first proclaimed to man. 
I speak to the inhabitants of a city founded by the most 
peaceful, the most humane, and the most practical of all 
Christian sects. I speak to mechanics who are uniting for 
the discovery of their interests and the protection of their 
rights. I speak to a public whose benevolence has been long 
harrowed by increasing pauperism, and whose social order 
and social happiness are threatened by increasing vice. I 
speak to sectarians who are weary of sectarianism. I speak 
to honest men who tremble for their honesty. I speak to the 


tf/shonest whose integrity has fallen before the discourage- 
ments waiting upon industry ; and who, by slow degrees, or 
in moments of desperation, have forsaken honest labour, 
because without a reward, for fraudulent speculation, because 
it promised one chance of success to a thousand chances of 
ruin. I speak to parents anxious for their offspring — to 
husbands who, while shortening their existence by excess of 
labour, foresee, at their death, not sorrow alone, but unre- 
quited industry and hopeless penury, involving shame, and 
perhaps infamy, for their oppressed widows and unprotected 
children. I speak to human beings surr unded by human 
suffering — to fellow citizens pledged to fellow feeling — to 
republicans pledged to equal rights and, as a consequent, to 
equal condition and equal enjoyments ; and I call them — oh, 
would that my voice were loud to reach every ear, and 
persuasive to reach every heart ! — I call them to unite ; and 
to unite for the consideration of the evils around us — for the 
discovery and application of their remedy. 

Dreadful has been the distress exhibited during the past 
year, not in this city only, but in every city throughout the 
whole extent of this vast republic. Long had the mass of 
evil been accumulated, ere it attracted attention ; and, would 
we understand how far the plague spot is to spread, or what 
is to be its termination, we must look to Europe. 

We are fast travelling in the footsteps of Europe, my 
friends ; for her principles of action are ours. We have in all 
our habits and usages, the same vices, and, with these same 
vices, we must have, as we see we have, the same evils. 

The great principles stamped in America's declaration of 
independence, are true, are great, are sublime, and are oil 
her own. But her usages, her law. her religion, her educa- 
tion, are false, narrow, prejudiced, ignorant, and are the relic 
of dark ages — the gift and bequeathment of king-governed, 
priest-ridden nations, whose supremacy, indeed, the people of 
America have challenged and overthrown, but whose example 
they are still following. 

A foreigner, I have looked round on this land unblinded by 
local prejudices or national predelictions ; a friend to human- 
kind, zealous for human improvement, enamoured to enthu- 
siasm, if you will, of human liberty, I first sought this country 
to see in operation those principles consecrated in her national 
institutions, and whose simple grandeur had fired the enthu- 
siasm and cheered the heart of my childhood, disgusted as it 


was with the idle parade and pride of unjust power inherent 
in European aristocracy. Delighted with the sound of politi- 
cal liberty, the absence of bayonets and constrained taxation, 
I spake and published, as I felt, in praise of American institu- 
tions ; and called, and, I believe, first generally awakened, the 
attention of the European public to their study and apprecia- 

Disappointed, in common with all the friends of liberty in 
Europe, by the issue of the well-imagined, but ill-sustained, 
revolutions of the old continent, which closed, as you will 
remember, by the triumph of France and the holy alliance 
over the bands of Riego and Mina in Spain. I returned to 
this republic as to the last hope of the human family, anxious 
to inspect it through its wide extent, and to study it in all its 

The result of my observation has been the conviction, that 
the reform commenced at the revolution of 76 has been but 
little improved through the term of years which have suc- 
ceeded ; that the national policy of the country was then 
indeed changed, but that its social economy has remained 
such as it was in the days of its European vassalage. 

In confirmation of this, I will request you to observe, that 
your religion is the same as that of monarchical England — 
taught from the same books, and promulgated and sustained 
by similar means, viz. a salaried priesthood, set apart from the 
people ; sectarian churches, in whose property the people 
nave no share, and over whose use and occupancy the people 
have no control; expensive missions, treasury funds, 
associations, and, above all, a compulsory power, compounded 
at once of accumulated wealth, established custom, extensive 
correspondence, and a system of education imbued with its 
spirit and all pervaded by its influence. 

Again, in proof of the similarity between your internal 
policy and that of monarchical England, I will request you to 
observe that her law is your law. Every part and parcel of 
that absurd, cruel, ignorant, inconsistent, incomprehensible - 
jumble, styled the common law of England — every part and 
parcel of it, I say, not abrogated or altered expressly by 
legislative statutes, which has been very rarely done, is at this 
hour the law of revolutionized America. • 

Farther, in proof of the identity of your fabric of civil polity 
with that of aristocratical England, I will request you to 
observe that the system of education pursued in both countries 


is, with little variations, one and the same. There you have 
endowed universities, privileged by custom, enriched by 
ancient royal favour, protected by parliamentary statutes, and 
devoted to the upholding, perpetuating, and strengthening the 
power and privilege to which they owe their origin. There, 
too, you have parish schools under the control of the parish 
priest, and a press every where coerced by law, swayed, 
bribed, or silenced by ascendant parties or tyrannous authority. 
And here have we not colleges with endowments still held by 
the royal charters which first bestowed them, and colleges 
with lands and money granted by American legislatures — not 
for the advantage of the American people, but for that of their 
rulers; for the children of privileged professions upon whom 
is thus entailed the privilege of their fathers, and that as cer- 
tainly as the son of a duke is born to a dukedom in England. 
Here have we not also schools controlled by the clergy ; nay, 
have we not all our public institutions, scientific, literary, 
judicial, or humane, ridden by the spirit of orthodoxy, and in- 
vaded, perverted, vitiated, and tormented by opinionative 
distinctions ? And here have we not a press paralized by 
fear, disgraced by party, and ruled by loud- tongued fanaticism, 
or aspiring and threatening sectarian ambition. And more, 
my friends, see we not, in this nation of confederated freemen, 
as many distinctions of class as afflict the aristocracies of 
Britain, or the despotism of the Russias ; and more distinc- 
tions of sect than ever cursed all the nations of Europe 
together, from the preaching of Peter the hermit, to the 
trances of Madame Krudner, or the miracles of Prince 
Hohenlohe ? 

Surely all these are singular anomalies in a republic. 
Sparta, when she conceived her democracy, commenced with 
educational equality ; when she aimed at national union, she 
cemented that union in childhood — at the public board, in the 
gymnasium, in the temple, in the common habits, common 
feelings, common duties, and common condition. And so, 
notwithstanding all the errors with which her institutions 
were fraught, and all the vices which arose out of those errors, 
did she present for ages, a wondrous sample of democratic 
union, and consequently of national prosperity ? 

What, then, is wanted here? What Sparta had — a national 
education. And what Sparta, in many respects, had not — a 
rational education. 

Hitherto, my friends, in government as in every branch of 


morals, we have but too much mistaken words for truths, and 
forms for principles. To render men free, it sufficeth not to 
proclaim their liberty; to make them equal, it sufficeth not to 
call them so. True, the 4th of July, 76, commenced a new- 
era for our race. True, the sun of promise then rose upon the 
world. But let us not mistake for the fulness of light what 
was but its harbinger. Let us not conceive that man in sign- 
ing the declaration of his rights secured their possession ; that 
having framed the theory, he had not, and hath not still, the 
practice to seek. 

Your fathers, indeed, on the day from which dates your 
existence as a nation, opened the gates of the temple of 
human liberty. But think not they entered, nor that you 
have entered the sanctuary. They passed not, nor have you 
passed, even the threshhold. 

Who speaks of liberty while the human mind is in chains ? 
Who of equality while the thousands are in squalid wretched- 
ness, the millions harrassed with health-destroying labour, 
the few afflicted with health-destroying idleness, and all 
tormented by health-destroying solicitude ? Look abroad on 
the misery which is gaining on the land ! Mark the strife, 
and the discord, and the jealousies, the shock of interests and 
opinions, the hatreds of sect, the estrangements of class, the 
pride of wealth, the debasement of poverty, the helplessness 
of youth unprotected, of age uncomforted, of industry un- 
rewarded, of ignorance unenlightened, of vice unreclaimed, 
of misery unpitied, of sickness, hunger, and nakedness un- 
satisfied, unalleviated, and unheeded. Go ! mark all the 
wrongs and the wretchedness with which the eye and the ear 
and the heart are familiar, and then echo in triumph and 
celebrate in jubilee the insulting declaration — all men are 
free and equal ! 

That evils exist, none that have eyes, ears, and hearts can 
dispute. That these evils are on the increase, none who 
have watched the fluctuations of trade, the sinking price of 
labour, the growth of pauperism, and the increase of crime, 
will dispute. Little need be said here to the people of 
Philadelphia. The researches made by the public spirited 
among their own citizens, have but too well substantiated the 
suffering condition of a large mass of their population. In 
Boston, in New-York, in Baltimore, the voice of distress hath, 
in like manner, burst the barriers raised, and so long sustained, 
by the pride of honest industry, unused to ask from charity 


what it hath been wont to earn by the sweat of the brow. In 
each and every city necessity has constrained inquiry ; and in 
each and every city inquiry has elicited the same appalling 
facts: that the hardest labour is often without a reward 
adequate to the sustenance of the labourer ; that when, by 
over exertion and all the diseases, and often vices, which 
excess of exertion induces, the labourer, whose patient, 
sedulous industry supplies the community with all its comforts, 
and the rich with all their luxuries — when he, I say, is 
brought to an untimely grave by those exertions which, while 
sustaining the life of others, cut short his own — when he is 
mowed down by that labour whose products from the boasted 
wealth of the state, he leaves a family, to whom the strength 
of his manhood had barely furnished bread, to lean upon the 
weakness of a soul-stricken mother, and hurry her to the 
grave of her father. 

Such is the information gleaned from the report of the 
committee lately appointed by the town meeting of the city 
and county of Philadelphia, and as verbatim reiterated in 
every populous city throughout the land. And what are the 
remedies suggested by our corporation, our newspaper editors, 
our religious societies, our tracts, and our sermons ? Some 
have ordained fasts, multiplied prayers, and recommended 
pious submission to a Providence who should have instituted 
all this calamity for the purpose of fulfilling the words of a 
Jewish prophet, " the poor shall never cease from the land." 
Some, less spiritual-minded, have called for larger jails and 
more poor houses ; some, for increased poor rates and addi- 
tional benevolent societies ; others, for compulsory laws 
protective of labour, and fixing a minimum, below which it 
shall be penal to reduce it ; while others, and those not the 
least able to appreciate all the difficulties of the question, 
have sought the last resource of suffering poverty and 
oppressed industry in the humanity and sense of justice of the 
wealthier classes of society. 

This last is the forlorn hope presented in the touching 
document signed by Matthew Carey and his fellow la- 

It were easy to observe, in reply to each and all of the 
palliatives variously suggested for evils, which none profess 
to remedy, that to punish crime when committed is not to 
prevent its commission ; to force the work of the poor in poor 
houses is only farther to glut an already unproductive 


market; to multiply charities is only to increase pauperism ; 
that to fix by statute the monied price of labour would be 
impossible in itself, and, if possible, mischievous no less to the 
labourer than to me employer ; and that, under the existing 
state of things, for human beings to lean upon the compassion 
and justice of their fellow creatures, is to lean upon a rotten reed. 

I believe no individual, possessed of common sense and 
common feeling, can have studied the report of the committee 
to which I have referred, or the multitude of simililar docu- 
ments furnished elsewhere, without acknowledging that 
reform, and that not slight nor partial, but radical and 
universal, is called for. All must admit that no such reform 
— that is, that no remedy commensurate with the evil, has 
been suggested, and would we but reflect, we should perceive 
that no efficient remedy can be suggested, or if suggested, 
applied, until the people are generally engaged in its discovery 
and its application for themselves. 

In this nation, any more than in any other nation, the mass 
has never reflected for the mass ; the people, as a body, have 
never addressed themselves to the study of their own condi- 
tion, and to the just and fair interpretation of their com- 
mon interests. And, as it was with their national indepen- 
dence, so shall it be with their national happiness — it shall 
be found only when the mass shall seek it. No people 
have ever received liberty in gift. Given, it were not 
appreciated ; it were not understood. Won without exertion, 
it were lost as readily. Let the people of America recal the 
ten years of war and tribulation by which they purchased 
their national independence. Let efforts as strenuous be now 
made, not with the sword of steel, indeed, but with the sword 
of the spirit, and their farther enfranchisement from poverty, 
starvation, and dependence, must be equally successful. 

Great reforms are not wrought in a day. Evils which are 
the accumulated results of accumulated errors, are not to be 
struck down at a blow by the rod of a magician. A free 
people may boast that all power is in their hands ; but no 
effectual power can be in their hands until knowledge be in 
their minds. 

But how may knowledge be imparted to their minds ? 
Such effective knowledge as shall render apparent to all the 
interests of all, and demonstrate the simple truths — that a 
nation to be strong, must be united ; to be united, must be 
equal in condition ; to be equal in condition, must be similar 


in habits and in feeling ; to be similar in habits and in feeling, 
must be raised in national institutions, as the children of a 
common family, and citizens of a common country. 

Before entering on the development of fhe means I have 
here suggested for paving our way to the reform of those 
evils which now press upon humanity, and which, carried, 
perhaps, to their acme in some of the nations of Europe, are 
gaining ground in these United States with a rapidity 
alarming to all who know how to read the present, or to 
calculate the future — I must observe, that I am fully aware 
of the difficulty of convincing all minds of the urgency of 
these evils, and of the impossibility of engaging all classes in 
the application of their remedy. 

In tne first place, the sopular suffering, great as it is, weighs 
not with a sufficiently equal pressure on all parts of the 
country ; and, in the second, affects not equally all classes of 
the population, so as to excite to that union of exertion, 
which once made, the reform is effected and the nation 

While the evil day is only in prospect, or while it visits 
our neighbour but spares ourselves, such is the selfishness 
generated by existing habits, and such the supineness 
generated by that selfishness, that we are but too prone to 
shrink from every effort not absolutely and immediately 
necessary for the supply of our own wants or the increase of 
our own luxuries. Yet, would the most spoiled child of 
worldly fortune but look around him on the changes and 
chances which ofttimes sweep away the best secured trea- 
sures, and bring in a moment the capitalist to bankruptcy, 
and his family to want, he could not feel himself entirely 
removed in sympathy from the suffering portion of his fellow 
creatures. But let us take the case of the thriving artizan, 
or successful merchant — on what security does he hold that 
pecuniary independence which puts the bread into the mouths 
of his children, and protects from destitution the companion 
of his bosom? On sustained industry and unremitting ex- 
ertions, which sickness may interrupt, a fall in the market 
reduce to half its value, or a few casualties or one miscalcula- 
tion in a moment annihilate. Or what if death finally 
interrupt the father's care or the husband's tenderness— 
where is the stay for his orphan children ? where succour for 
their widowed mother, now charged alone with all the weight 
of their provision ? I have taken no extreme cases ; I have 


taken such as may, in the course of events, be the case of 
every man who hears me. 

Were it my disposition, which, I think, it is not, to ex- 
aggerate evils, or were I even disposed to give a fair picture 
of those really existing among .a large mass of the American 
population, more especially as crowded into the cities and 
manufacturing districts, easy it were to harrow the feelings 
of the least sensitive, and, in the relation, to harrow my 

But as the measure it is my object this evening to suggest 
to the people of Philadelphia, and my intention hereafter 
to submit to the whole American nation, must, at the first 
sight, win to its support the more oppressed and afflicted, 
I am rather desirous of addressing my prefatory arguments 
to that class from whence opposition is most to be appre- 

I know how difficult it is — reared as we all are in the 
distinctions of class, to say nothing of sect, to conceive of 
our interests as associated with those of the whole commu- 
nity. The man possessed of a dollar, feels himself to be, not 
merely one hundred cents richer, but also one hundred cents 
better, than the man who is pennyless ; so on through all the 
gradations of earthly possessions — the estimate of our own 
moral and political importance swelling always in a ratio 
exactly proportionate to the growth of our purse. The rich 
man who can leave a clear independence to his children, is 
given to estimate them as he estimates himself, and to 
imagine something in their nature distinct from that of the 
less privileged heirs of hard labour and harder fare. 

This might indeed appear too gross for any of us to advance 
in theory, but in feeling how many must plead guilty to the 
prejudice ! Yet is there a moment when, were their thoughts 
known to each other, all men must feel themselves on a 
level It is when as fathers they look on their children, and 
picture the possibility which may render them orphans, and 
then calculate all the casualties which may deprive them, if 
rich, of their inheritance, or, if poor, grind them down to 
deeper poverty. 

But it is first to the rich, I would speak. Can the man of 
opulence feel tranquil under the prospect of leaving to such 
guardianship as existing law or individual integrity may 
supply, the minds, bodies, morals, or even the fortune of their 
children? I myself was an orphan : and I know that the very 


law which was my protector, sucked away a portion of my 
little inheritance, while that law, insufficient and avaricious 
as it was, alone shielded me from spoliation by my guardian. 
I know, too, that my youth was one of tribulation, albeit 
passed in the envied luxuries of aristocracy. I know that the 
orphan's bread may be watered with tears, even when the 
worst evil be not there — dependence. 

Can, then, the rich be without solicitude, when they leave 
to the mercy of a heartless world the beings of their creation ? 
Who shall cherish their young sensibilities? Who shall stand 
between them and oppression ? Who shall wisper peace in 
the hour of affliction? Who shall supply principle in the 
hour of temptation? Who shall lead the tender mind to 
distinguish between the good and the evil ? Who shall fortify 
it against the corruptions of wealth, or prepare it for the day 
of adversity ? Such, looking upon life as it is, must be the 
anxious thoughts even of the wealthy. What must be the 
thoughts of the poor man, it needs not that we should picture. 

But, my friends, however differing in degree may be the 
anxiety of the rich and the poor, still, in its nature, is it the 
same. Doubt, uncertainty, apprehension, are before all. 
We hear of deathbed affliction. My friends, I have been 
often and long on the bed of mortal sickness : no fear had the 
threatened last sleep for me, for ./ was not a parent. 

We have here, then, found an evil common to all classes, 
and one that is entailed from generation to generation. The 
measure I am about to suggest, whenever adopted, will blot 
this now universal affliction from existence ; it will also, in 
the outset, alleviate those popular distresses whose poignancy 
and happy increase weigh on the heart of philanthropy, and 
crush the best hopes of enlightened patriotism. It must further, 
when carried into full effect, work the radical cure of every 
disease which now afflicts the body politic, and built up for 
this nation a sound constitution, embracing at once, public 
prosperity, individual integrity, and universal happiness. 

This measure, my friends, has been long present to my 
mind, as befitting the adoption of the American people ; as 
alone calculated to form an enlightened, a virtuous, and a 
happy community ; as alone capable of supplying a remedy 
to the evils under which we groan • as alone commensurate 
with the interests of the human family, and consistent with 
the political institutions of this great confederated republic. 

I had occasion formerly to observe, in allusion to the efforts 


already made, and yet making, in the cause of popular 
instruction, more or less throughout the Union, that, as yet, 
the true principle has not been hit, and that until it be hit, all 
reform must be slow and inefficient. 

The noble example of New-England has been imitated by 
other states, until all not possessed of common schools blush 
for the popular remissness. But, after all, how can common 
schools, under their best form, and in fullest supply, effect 
even the purpose which they have in view? 

The object proposed by common schools (if I rightly under- 
stand it) is to impart to the whole population those means for 
the acquirement of knowledge which are in common use : 
reading and writing. To these are added arithmetic, and 
occasionally, perhaps, some imperfect lessons in the simpler 
sciences. But 1 would ask, supposing these institutions 
should even be made to embrace all the branches of intel- 
lectual knowledge, and, thus, science offered gratis to all the 
children of the land, how are the children of the very class, 
for whom we suppose the schools instituted to be supplied 
with food and raiment, or instructed in the trade necessary 
to their future subsistence, while they are following these 
studies ? How are they, 1 ask, to be fed and clothed, when, 
as all facts show, the labour of the parents is often insufficient 
for their own sustenance, and, almost universally, inadequate 
to the provision of the family without the united efforts of all its 
members ? In your manufacturing: districts you havp children 
worked for twelve hours a day : and in the rapid and certain 
progress of the existing system, you will soon have them, as 
in England, worked to death* and yet unable, through the 
period of their miserable existence, to earn a pittance suffi- 
cient to satisfy the cravings of hunger. At this present time, 
what leisure or what spirit, think you, have the children of 
the miserable widows of Philadelphia, realizing, according to 
the most favourable estimate of your city and county com- 
mittee, sixteen dollars per annum, for food and clothing? 
what leisure or what spirit may their children find for visiting 
a school, although the same should be open to them from 
sunrise to sunset? Or what leisure have usually the children 
of your most thriving mechanics, after their strength is suffi- 
ciently developed to spin, sew, weave, or wield a tool? It 
seems to me, my friends, that to build school houses now-a-days 
is something like building churches. When you have them, 
you need some measure to ensure their being occupied. 



But, as our time is short, and myself somewhat fatigued by- 
con tinued exertions, I must hasten to the rapid development 
of the system of instruction and protection which has occurred 
to me as capable, and alone, capable, of opening the door to 
universal reform. 

In lieu of all common schools, high schools, colleges, 
seminaries, houses of refuge, or any other juvenile institution, 
instructional or protective, I would suggest that the state 
legislatures be directed (after laying off" the whole in town- 
ships or hundreds) to organize, at suitable distances, and in 
convenient and healthy situations, establishments for the 
general reception of all the children resident within the said 
school district. These establishments to be devoted, severally, 
to children between a certain age. Say, the first, infauts 
between two and four, or two and six, according to the 
density of the population, and such other local circumstances 
as might render a greater or less number of establishments 
necessary or practicable. The next to receive children from 
four to eight, or six to twelve years. The next from twelve 
to sixteen, or to an older age if found desirable. Each esta- 
blishment to be furnished with instructors in every branch of 
knowledge, intellectual and operative, with ail the apparatus, 
land, and conveniences necessary for the best development 
of all knowledge ; the same, whether operative or intellec- 
tual, being always calculated to the age and strength of the 

^o obviate, in the commencement, every evil result possible 
from the first mixture of a young population, so variously 
raised in error or neglect, a due separation should be made 
in each establishment ; by which means those entering with 
bad habits would be kept apart from the others until cor- 
rected. How rapidly reform may be effected on the plastic 
disposition of childhood, has been sufficiently proved in your 
houses of refuge, more especially when such establishments 
have been under liberal superintendance, as was formerly the 
rase in New-York. Under their orthodox directors, those 
asylums of youth have beeu converted into jails. 

It will be understood that, in the proposed establishments, 
the children would pass from one to the other in regular 
succession, and that the parents who would necessarily be 
resident in their close neighbourhood, could visit the children 
at suitable hours, but, in no case, interfere with or interrupt 
the rules of the institution. 


In the older establishments, the well directed * and well 
protected labour of the pupil would, in time, suffice for, and. 
then exceed their own support ; when the surplus might be 
devoted to the maintenance of the infant establishments. 

In the beginning, and until all debt was cleared off, and 
so long as the same should be found favourable to the promo- 
tion of these best palladiums of a nation's happiness, a double 
tax might be at once expedient and politic. 

First, a moderate tax per head for every child, to be laid 
upon its parents conjointly, or divided between them, due 
attention being always paid to the varying strength of the 
two sexes, and to the undue depreciation which now rests 
on female labour. The more effectually to correct the latter 
injustice, as well as to consult the convenience of the indus- 
trious classes generally, this parental tax might be rendered 
payable either in money, or in labour, produce, or domestic 
manufactures, and should be continued for each child until the 
age when juvenile labour should be found, on the average, 
equivalent to the educational expenses, which, I have reason 
to believe, would be at twelve years. 

This first tax on parents to embrace equally the whole 
population ; as, however moderate it would inculcate a certain 
forethought in all the human family ; more especially where it 
is most wanted — in young persons, who before they assumed 
the responsibility of parents, would estimate their fitness to 
meet it. 

The second tax to be on property, increasing in per centage 
with the wealth of the individual. In this manner I conceive 
the rich would contribute, according to their riches, to the 
relief of the poor, and to the support of the state, by raising 
up its best bulwark — an enlightened and united generation. 

Preparatory to. or connected with, such measures, a registry 
should be opened by the state, with offices through all the 
townships, where on the birth of every child, or within a 
certain time appointed, the same should be entered, together 
with the names of its parents. When two years old, the 
parental tax should be payable, and the juvenile institution 
open for the child's reception ; from which time forward it 
would be under the protective care and guardianship of the 
state, while it need never be removed from the daily, weekly, 
or frequent inspection of the parents. 

Orphans, of course, would find here an open asylum. If 
possessed of property, a contribution would be paid for its 

i 2 


revenue to the common educational fund ; if unprovided, they 
would be sustained out of the same. 

In these nurseries of a free nation, no inequality must be 
allowed to enter. Fed at a common board ; clothed in a 
common garb, uniting neatness with simplicity and conve- 
nience ; raised in the exercise of common duties, in the 
acquirement of the same knowledge and practice of the same 
industry, varied only according to individual taste and capa- 
bilities; in the exercise of the same virtues, in the enjoyment 
of the same pleasures ; in the study of the same nature ; in 
pursuit of trie same object — their own and each other's 
happiness — say ! would not such a race, when arrived at 
manhood and womanhood, work out the reform of societ3 r — 
perfect the free institutions of America. 

I have drawn but a sketch, nor could I presume to draw 
the picture of that which the mind's eye hath seen alone, and 
which it is for the people of this land to realize. 

In this sketch, my friends, there is nothing but what is 
practical and practicable : nothing but what you yourselves 
may contribute to effect. Let the popular suffrage be exer- 
cised with a view to the popular good. Let the industrious 
classes, and all honest men of all classes, unite for the sending 
to the legislatures those who will represent the real interests 
of the many, not the imagined interests of the few— of the 
people at large, not of any profession or class. 

To develope farther my views on this all important subject 
at the present time, would be to fatigue your attention, and 
exhaust my own strength. I shall prosecute this subject in 
the periodical of which I am editor.* which, in common with 
my public discourses, have been, and will ever be, devoted to 
the common cause of human improvement, and addressed to 
humankind without distinction of nation, class, or sect. May 
you, my fellow beings, unite in the same cause, in the same 
spirit ! May you learn to seek truth without fear ! May you 
farther learn to advocate truth as you distinguish it; to be 
valiant in its defence, and peaceful while valiant; to meet 
all things, and bear all things, and dare all things for the 
correction of abuses, and the effecting, in private and in 
public, in your own minds, through the minds of your children, 
friends, and companions, and, above all, through your legisla- 
tures, a radical reform in all your measures, whether as 
citizens, or as men ! 

* The Free Enquirer, Published in Xew-York. 


[Delivered in the New Harmony Hall, on the Fourth of July, 1828.] 

The custom which commemorates in rejoicing the anniver- 
sary of the national independence of these states, has its origin 
in a human feeling, amiable in its nature, and beneficial, under 
proper direction, in its indulgence. 

From the era which dates the national existence of the 
American people, dates also a mighty step in the march of 
human knowledge. And it is consistent with that principle 
in our conformation which leads us to rejoice in the good which 
befals our species, and to sorrow for the evil, that our hearts 
should expand on this day ; — on this day, which calls to me- 
mory the conquest achieved by knowledge over ignorance, 
willing co-operation over blind obedience, opinion over pre- 
judice, new ways over old ways, when, fifty-two years ago. 
America declared her national independence, and associated 
it with her republican federation. Reasonable is it to rejoice 
on this day, and useful to reflect thereon ; so that we rejoice 
for the real, and not for any imaginary good, and reflect on 
the positive advartages obtained, and on those which it is ours 
farther to acquire. 

Dating, as we justly may, a new era in the history of man 
from the Fourth of July, 1776, it would be well, that is, it 
would be useful, if on each anniversary we examined the pro- 
gress made by our species in just knowledge and just prac- 
tice. Each Fourth of July would then stand as a tide mark 
in the flood of time, by which to ascertain the advance of the 
human intellect, by which to note the rise and fall of each 
successive error, the discovery of each important truth, the 
gradual melioration in our public institutions, social arrange- 
ments, and, above all. in our moral feelings and mental views. 
Let such a review as this engage annually our attention, and 
sacred, doubly sacred, shall be this day : and that not to one 
nation only, but to all nations capable of reflection. 

The political dismemberment of these once British colonies 

1 18 FOURTH OF JULY, 1828. 

from the parent island, though involving a valuable principle, 
and many possible results, would scarcely merit a yearly com- 
memoration, even in this country, had it not been accompanied 
by other occurrences more" novel, and far more important. 
I allude to the seal then set to the system of representative 
government, till then imperfectly known in Europe, and in- 
securely practised in America, and to the crown then placed 
on this system by the novel experiment of political federation. 
The frame of federative government that sprung out of the 
articles signed in "J§, is one of the most beautiful inventions 
of the human intellect. It has been in government what the 
steam engine has been in mechanics, and the printing press in 
the dissemination of knowledge. 

But it needs not that we should now pause to analyse what 
all must have considered. It is to one particular feature in 
our political institutions that I would call attention, and this, 
because it is at once the most deserving of notice, and the 
least noticed. Are our institutions better than those of other 
countries? Upon fair examination most men will answer 
yes. But why will they so answer ? It is because they are 
republican, instead of monarchical ? democratic, rather than 
aristocratic ? In so far as the republican principle shall have 
been proved more conducive to the general good than the mo- 
narchical, and the democratic than the aristocratic — in so far 
will the reasons be good. But there is another and a better 
reason than these. There is, in the institutions of this coun- 
try, one principle, which, had they no other excellence, would 
secure to them the preference over those of all other coun- 
tries. I mean — and some devout patriots will start — I mean 
the principle of change. 

I have used a word to which is attached an obnoxious 
meaning. Speak of change, and the world is in alarm. And 
yet where do we not see change ? What is there in the phy- 
sical world but change? And what would there be in the 
moral world without change ? The flower blossoms, the fruit 
ripens, the seed is received and germinates in the earth, and 
and we behold the tree. The aliment we eat to satisfy our 
hunger incorporates with our frame, and the atoms composing 
our existence to day, are exhaled to morrow. In like manner 
our feelings and opinions are moulded by circumstance, and 
matured by observation and experience. All is change. 
Within and about us no one thing is as it was, or will be as 
it is. Strange, then, that we should start at a word used to 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1828. 1 19 

signify a thing so familiar ? Stranger yet that we should fail 
to appreciate a principle which, inherent in all matter, is no 
less inherent in ourselves ; and which as it has tracked our 
mental progress heretofore, so will it track our progress 
through time to come. 

But will it be said change has a bad, as well as a good 
sense ? It may be for the better, and it may be for the worse? 
In the physical world it can be neither the one nor the other. 
It can be simply such as it is. But in the moral world — that 
is, in the thoughts, and feelings, and inventions of men, change 
may certainly be either for the better or for the worse, or it 
may be for neither. Changes that are neither bad nor good 
can have regard only to trivial matters, and can be as little 
worthy of observation as of censure. Changes that are from 
better to worse can originate only in ignorance, and are ever 
amended so soon as experience has substantiated their mis- 
chief. Where men then are free to consult experience they 
will correct their practice, and make changes for the better. 
It follows, therefore, that the more free men are, the more 
changes thev will make. In the beginning, possibly, for the 
worse ; but most certainly in time for the better ; until their 
knowledge enlarging by observation, and their judgment 
strengthening by exercise, they will find themselves in the 
straight, broad, fair road of improvement. Out of change, 
therefore, springs improvement ; and the people who shall 
have imagined a peaceable mode of changing their institu- 
tions, hold a surety for their melioration. This surety is worth 
all other excellences. Better were the prospects of a people 
under the influence of the worst government who should hold 
the power of changing it, than those of a people under the 
best who should hold no such power. Here, then, is the 
great beauty of American government. The simple machi- 
nery of representation carried through all its parts, gives faci- 
lity for its being moulded at will to fit with the knowledge of 
the age. If imperfect in any or all of its parts, it bears within 
it a perfect principle — the principle of improvement. And, let 
us observe, that this principle is all that we can ever know of 
perfection. Knowledge, and all the blessings which spring out 
of knowledge, can never be more than progressive ; and 
whatsoever sets open the door does all for us — does every 

The clear-sighted provision in the national constitution, as 

120 FOURTH OF JULY, 1828. 

in the constitutions of the different states, by which the frame 
of government can be moulded at will by the public voice, 
and so made to keep pace in progress with the public miud, 
is the master-stroke in constitutional law. Were our institu- 
tions far less enlightened and well digested than they are — 
were every other regulation erroneous, every other ordinance 
defective — nay, even tyrannous — this single provision would 
counterbalance all. Let but the door be opened, and be fixed 
open, for improvement to hold on her unimpeded course, and 
vices, however flagrant, are but the evils of an hour. Once 
lauch the animal man in the road of inquiry, and he shall — he 
must— hold a forward career. He may be sometimes checked ; 
he may seem occasionally to retrograde ; but his retreat is 
only that of the receding wave in the inning tide. His master 
movement is always in advance. By this do we distinguish 
man from all other existences within the range of our obser- 
vation. By this does he stand pre-eminent over all known 
animals. By this — by his capability of improvement : by his 
tendency to improve whenever scope is allowed for the de- 
velopment of his faculties. To hold him still, he must be 
chained. Snap the chain, and he springs forward. 

But will it be said, that the chains which bind him are more 
than one ? That political bonds are much, but not all; and 
that when broken, we may still be slaves ? I know not, my 
friends. We tax our ingenuity to draw nice distinctions. We 
are told of political libert) 7 — of religious liberty — of moral 
liberty. Yet, after all, is there more than one liberty ^ and 
these divisions, are they not the more and the less of the same 
thing ? The provision we have referred to in our political in- 
stitutions, as framed in accordance with the principle inherent 
in ourselves, insures to us all of free action that statutes can 
insure. Supposing that our laws, constitutional, civil, or 
penal, should in any thing cripple us at the present, the power 
will be with us to amend or annul them so soon (and how 
might it be sooner?) as our enlarged knowledge shall enable 
us to see in what they err. All the liberty therefore that we 
yet lack will gradually spring up — there, where our bondage 
is — in our minds. To be free we have but to see our chains. 
Are we disappointed — are we sometimes angry, because the 
crowd or any part of the crowd around us bows submissively 
to mischievous usages or unjust laws ? Let us remember, 
that they do so in ignorance of their mischief and injustice, and 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1828. 121 

that when they see these, as in the course of man's progres- 
sive state they must see them, these and other evils will be 

Inappreciable is this advantage that we hold (unfortunately) 
above other nations ? The great national and political revo- 
lution of '76 set the seal to the liberties of North America. 
And but for one evil, and that of immense magnitude, which 
the constitutional provision we have been considering does not 
fairly reach— I allude to negro slavery and the degradation of 
our coloured citizens — we could foresee for the whole of this 
magnificent country a certain future of uniform and peaceful 
improvement. While other natious have still to win reform 
at the sword's point, we have only to will it. While in Eu- 
rope men have still to fight, we have only to learn. While 
there they have to cope with ignorance armed cap-a-pee, en- 
circled with armies and powerful with gold, we have only 
peacefully to collect knowledge, and to frame our institutions 
and actions in accordance with it. 

It is true, that we have much knowledge to collect, and 
consequently much to amend in our opinions and our practice. 
It is also true that we are often ignorant of what has been 
done, and quite unaware that there is yet any thing to do. 
The very nature of the national institutions is frequently mis- 
taken, and the devotion exhibited for them as frequently based 
on a wrong principle. Here, as in other countries, we hear 
of patriotism ; that is, of love of country in an exclusive sense ; 
of love of our countrymen in contradistinction to the love of 
our fellow-creatures ; of love of the constitution, instead of 
love or appreciation of those principles upon which the con- 
stitution is, or ought to be, based, and upon which, if it 
should be found not to be based, it would merit no attach- 
ment at all. 

The sentiment here adverted to involves much of impor- 
tance to us in our double character of human beings and 
citizens. That double character it will be also useful that we 
examine, as much confusion prevails in the vulgar ideas on 
the subject. 

It will be conceded, that we do not cease to be human 
beings when we become citizens ; and farther, that our happy 
existence as human beings is of more importance to us than 
our artificial existence as members of a nation or subjects 
of a government. Indeed, the only rational purpose for 
which we can suppose men congregated into what are called 

122 FOURTH OF JULY, 1828. 

nations, is the increase of happiness — the insuring of some 
advantage, real or imagined. The only rational purpose 
for which we can suppose governments organized, the same. 
If, upon examination, we should find the object not gained, 
the experiment, so far as it went, would have failed, and we 
should then act rationally to break up such national congre- 
gations, and to change or annul such governments. Our 
character as citizens, therefore, must ever depend upon our 
finding it for our interest as human beings to stand in that 
relation. What then is patriotism, or the fulfilment of our 
duties as citizens, but the acting consistently in that way 
which we conceive it for our interest that we should act. ? 
Or what reason might be offered for our consulting the in- 
terests of a government, unless its interests are in unison 
with our own ? 

The great error of the wisest known nations of antiquity, 
the Greeks and Romans, was the preference invariably given 
to the imagined interests of an imaginary existence called 
the state or country, and the real interests of the real exis- 
tences, or human beings, upon whom, individually and col- 
lectively, their laws could alone operate. Another error was 
the opposition in which they invariably placed the interests 
of their own nation to the interests of all other nations ; and 
a third and greater error, was the elevating into a virtue 
this selfish preference of their own national interests, under 
the name of patriotism. The moderns are growing a little 
wiser on these matters, but they are still very ignorant. 
The least ignorant are the people of this country; but they 
have much to learn. Americans no longer argue on the 
propriety of making all men soldiers, in order that their 
nation may be an object of terror to the rest of the world. 
They understand that the happiness of a people is the only 
rational object of a government, and the only object for which 
a people, free to choose, can have a government at all. 
They have, farther, almost excluded war as a profession, and 
reduced it from a system of robbery to one of simple defence. 
In so doing, they ought also to have laid aside all show of 
military parade, and all ideas of military glory. If they have 
not done so, it is that their reform in this matter is yet im- 
perfect, and their ideas respecting it are confused. 

Who among us but has heard, and, perhaps, echoed eulo- 
giums on the patriotism of statesmen and soldiers— not 
because they have upheld some strict principle of justice, 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1828. 123 

which should rather merit the name of virtue, but because 
they have flattered the vanity of their countrymen in a 
public speech, defended their own interests, and the national 
interests, in some foreign treaty, or their own possessions, 
and the national possessions, in a siege or a pitched battle? 
It is not that some of these actions may not be just and 
proper; but are they justly and properly estimated? It is 
virtuous in a man if a pistol be presented to his breast, to 
knock down the assailant ? The action is perfectly warrant- 
able ; but does it call forth admiration ? Should the attack 
be made made on another, and should he defend the life of 
that other at the risk of his own ; the action, though not 
exceedingly meritorious, might excite a moderate admiration, 
as involving a forgetfulness of self in the service rendered. 

Does not the defence of country afford a parallel case to 
the first supposition ? Insomuch as it be ours, we defend 
our own. We do what it is fair and proper that we should 
do, but we do nothing more. What, then, is patriotism, 
of which we hear so much, and understand so little ? If it 
mean only a proper attention to our own interests, and the 
interests of the people with whom we stand connected, 
and of the government instituted for our protection, it is a 
rational sentiment, and one appertaining to our organiza- 
tion. It is one, in short, with the love of self, and the prin- 
ciple of self-defenee and self-preservation. Again ; are we 
to understand by it an attachment to the soil we tread, 
because we tread it; the language we speak, because we 
speak it ; the government that rules us, merely because it 
rules us? It means nothing, or it means nonsense. Again; 
are we to understand by patriotism a preference for the in- 
terests of our own nation under all circumstances, even to the 
sacrifice of those of other nations — it is a vice. 

In continental Europe, of late years, the words patriotism 
and patriot have been used in a more enlarged sense than 
it is usual here to attribute to them, or than is attached to 
them in Great Britain. Since the political struggles of 
France, Italy, Spain, and Greece, the word patriotism has 
been employed, throughout continental Europe, to express 
a love of the public good ; a preference for the interests of 
the many to those of the few ; a desire for the emancipation 
of the human raee from the thrall of despotism, religious and 
civil ; in short, patriotism there is used rather to express the 
interest felt in the human race in general, than that felt for 

124 FOURTH OF JULY, 1828. 

any country, or inhabitants of a country, in particular. And 

Eatriot, in like manner, is employed to signify a lover of 
uman liberty and human improvement, rather than a mere 
lover of the country in which he lives, or the tribe to which 
he belongs. Used in this sense, patriotism is a virtue, and 
a patriot a virtuous man. With such an interpretation, a 
patriot is a useful member of society, capable of enlarging 
all minds, and bettering all hearts with which he comes in 
contact ; a useful member of the human family, capable of 
establishing fundamental principles, and of merging his own 
interests, those of his associates, and those of his nation, in 
the interests of the human race. Laurels and statues are 
vain things, and mischievous as they are childish ; but, could 
we imagine them of use, on such a patriot alone could they 
be with any reason bestowed. 

Is there a thought can fill the human mind 

More pure, more vast, more generous, more rehn'd 

Than that which guides the enlightened patriot's toil : 

Not he, whose view is bounded by his soil : 

Not he, whose narrow heart can only shrine 

The land— the people that he calleth mine; 

Not he, who to set up that land on high, 

Will make whole nations bleed, whole nations die ; 

Not he, who, calling that land's rights his pride 

Trampleth the rights of all the earth beside ; 

No ! — He it is, the just, the generous soul ! 

Who owneth brotherhood with either pole, 

Stretches from realm to realm his spacious mind, 

And guards the weal of all the human kind, 

Holds freedom's banner o'er the earth unfurl'd, 

And stands the guardian patriot of a world ! 

If such a patriotism as we have last considered should 
seem likely to obtain in any country, it should be certainly 
in this. In this, which is truly the home of all nations, and 
in the veins of whose citizens flows the blood of every people 
on the globe. Patriotism, in the exclusive meaning, is surely 
not made for America. Mischievous every where, it were 
here both mischievous and absurd. The very origin of 
the people is opposed to it. The institutions, in their prin- 
ciple, militate against it. The day we are celebrating pro- 
tests against it. It is for Americans, more especially, to 
nourish a nobler sentiment ; one more consistent with their 
origin, and more conducive to their future improvement. It 
is for them more especially to know why they love their 
country, but because it is the palladium of human liberty — 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1828. 125 

the favoured scene of human improvement. It is for them 
more especially, to know why they honour their institutions, 
and feel that they honour them because they are based on 
just principles. It is for them, more especially, to examine 
their institutions, because they have the means of improving 
them ; to examine their laws, because at will they can alter 
them. It is for them to lay aside luxury, whose wealth is 
hi industry ; idle parade, whose strength is in knowledge ; 
ambitious distinction, whose principle is equality. It is for 
them not to rest satisfied with words, who can seize upon 
things; and to remember, that equality means, not the mere 
equality of political rights, however valuable, but equality 
of instruction, and equality in virtue ; and that liberty means, 
not the mere voting at elections, but the free and fearless 
exercise of the mental faculties, and that self-possession 
which springs out of well-reasoned opinions and consistent 
practice. It is for them to honour principles rather than men — 
to commemorate events rather than days ; when they rejoice, 
to know for what they rejoice, and to rejoice only for what 
has brought, and what brings, peace and happiness to men. 
The event we commemorate this day has procured much 
of both, and shall procure, in the onward course of human 
improvement, more than we can now conceive of. For 
this — for the good obtained, and yet in store for our race — 
let us rejoice ! But let us rejoice as men, not as children — 
as human beings, rather than as Americans — as reasoning 
beings, not as ignorants. So shall we rejoice to good purpose 
and in good feeling; so shall we improve the victory once on 
this day achieved, until all mankind hold with us the jubilee 
of independance. 


[Delivered in the Philadelphia Theatre, on the Fourth of July, 1929, ] 

[The Declaration of Independence was read, and laid, unrolled, on the 
table by the speaker, who during the following Address, will be conceived 
as frequently appealing to the same.] 

Fellow Citizens and Fellow Beings — 
The day we are assembled to commemorate, hath been 
ushered in by the roar of cannon, and the roll of musketry. 
Such, in very deed, was the note of war and dreadful prepara- 
tion it awoke for your fathers. Such, in very deed, had they 
to hear and to answer, as they might and as they could, when, 
weak in numbers, unskilled in the art of human butchery, but 
strong in the courage of a righteous cause, they gave the 
challenge to tyranny in the name of humankind; and staked 
life, fortune and honour on the throw. Yea ! on that morn, 
big with the destinies of humankind, prophetic of reforms then 
even unimagined, of knowledge and liberty, and virtue then 
even unhoped for and unconceived — yea ! on that morn, when 
freedom's first larum was rung to the world, and despotism's 
legions sprang to arms at the sound, then, indeed, might the 
fathers of our peaceful liberties, in proclaiming those truths in 
which we, now in part, and hereafter in fulness, may live, 
and move, and have our being as free-men — then, indeed I 
say. in uttering the words of peace, might they grasp the 
weapons of war ; and while pronouncing the future redemp- 
tion of the world from violence, injustice, and tyranny, might 
they array the battle, and mount the cannon, and number the 
children of the land, who, in the hour of need, might prove 
them men of war, and forsake the plough and the pruning 
hook, for the musket and the spear. 

But wherefore now sounds the martial reveillie and the clash 
of steel ? Where is the foe who threatens devastation to our 
borders, fire to our cities, slaughter to our people ? Are his 
fleets on the waters — his armies in the field, that we wake the 
day as with the thunders of battle, and profane this solemn 
anniversary with sights and sounds, and pageants, and clamor 
befitting a sieged city ; and awakening thoughts of violence 
and blood, unhallowed ambition, and more unhallowed murder? 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 127 

Curse on the erimson'd plumes, the banners flouting, 

The stirring clarion, the leaders shouting, 

The fair caparisons, the war horse champing, 

The array'd legions— pressing, rushing, tramping, 

The blazon'd falchions, crests that toss afar, 

The bold emprize, the spirit rousing jar, 

The martial paeans, thundering acclaim, 

The death of glory, and the living fame, 

The sculptor's monument, the people's bays, 

The historian's narrative the poet's lays — 

Oh — curse on all the pageant and the show, 

That veileth o'er the fiendish hell below ! 

Far be such pageantry from our eyes — such sounds from 
our ears, on this day of hope, and in this land of peace ! Let 
the insignia of death, and the parade of military violence, 
bespeak the accession of European monarchs to the lawless 
thrones of lawless power. Let the war note and the cannon's 
thunder proclaim the success of titled robbers returning from 
the sack of cities and desolation of empires. Let them follow 
the steps, and celebrate the deeds, of insane and insatiate 
ambition. Let them surround the car of bloody conquest, 
where they may drown the cry of the injured, and the curse of 
the oppressed. Let them sound in the courts of tyranny, 
where they may stifle the moan of the captive, and. the death- 
sob of the patriot martyr. Let them swell over the field of 
carnage, where they may drown the sigh of the widow and 
the shriek of expiring agony. There let them sound ; for 
there they speak the spirit of the hour, and proclaim their own 
work of robbery and death ! 

But not the chaste ear of libert}- let such sounds profane, 
where, as in this land, she hath broken tier sword to clasp the 
wand of peace ; and waits only for knowledge to extend her 
dominion and fix her throne in every human breast. No ! let 
the sound of rejoicing, in this land of promise, be heard in the 
glad voice of an enlightened and united people. Let it breathe 
from minds wise with truth, and hearts warm with benevo- 
lence. Let it rise in songs of joy from fields rich in the 
treasures of prosperous industry; from dwellings blessed with 
social happiness; from a land — from a world possessed, im- 
proved, enjoyed by a race awakened from ignorance, redeemed 
from error, reclaimed from vice, and healed from suffering. 
Yea! let the sun which riseth on this blessed morn — this 
festival of freedom and anniversary of human independence — 
be hailed by sounds betokening universal peace and universal 
prosperity ; and welcomed by hearts proud and blessed in the 

128 FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 

accomplishment of the gloried and the glorious declaration — 
all men are free and equal. 

I have said let this so be. Let this so be ; for this is not 
yet. I am not here, as the custom is, to flatter your pride, 
fellow citizens of a common country! by recounting the deeds 
of your ancestors, and applauding you for the truths they 
proclaimed, and the conquests they achieved. I am not here, 
fellow beings of a common race ! to feed your presumption, by 
culling from the annals or humankind the brightest records of 
human greatness, and teaching ye that, in wisdom, ye are 
wiser than the wisest, and, in virtue, more exalted than the 
best. Enough have ye heard of flattery — more than enough 
of gratulation. The more honest, the more useful, but the 
more ungracious and thankless task be mine to speak the 
words of counsel, or, if it must be, of reproof. 

The first jubilee of your nation's independence has been 
celebrated and ye are advancing towards the second. Fifty- 
three years have ye been in possession of the heritage won by 
your fathers ; that heritage comprising national independence 
and political freedom — the one guaranteeing a free theatre 
of action at home; the other presenting security from all 
interference from abroad. 

Previous to that memorable era which converted these then 
colonies into independent states, the North American conti- 
nent was known to few Europeans, save the business trader, 
the daring adventurer, or the political martyr. They only 
whom gain allured, or persecution drove to the shores, seemed 
aware of their existence. Even their imperious rulers, while 
taxing the population, disputing their laws and their constitu- 
tions, were ignorant of the extent and geography of the 
country, and, possibly, in common with even the better 
informed portion of the English community, imagined the 
colour of its population to be akin to that of the Moors, and 
its language to be a corruption of Iroquois. 

The resistance of America first fixed the eyes of the world 
upon her. It was at first the gaze of astonishment and curi- 
osity. But when the battle was fought, and that having 
sealed her independence with her blood, she sat down to 
entrench her liberty within the novel bulwark of novel institu- 
tions ; when her act of national independence had been fol- 
lowed by a declaration of rights, and a constitution based upon 
and limited by those rights ; and when a term of years nad 
tried the strength of the daring experiment, she then became. 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 129 

what she still is — the hope of the nations, and the terror of 
their oppressors. On her, from that hour, has the eye of human 
patriotism been fixed. The political reformer in lands the 
most benighted and enslaved, has seen in the existence of 
America, the promise of his own country's redemption ; while, 
in the same, the philosopher hath found a surety for the final 
and universal enfranchisememt of humankind. 

When the European sage hath seen the old continent bowed 
beneath the yoke — when he hath seen its choicest sons shed 
their blood on the scaffold, expire in dungeons, or deplore in 
exile and poverty their degraded country and ruined hopes — 
when he hath seen the lights of knowledge quenched around 
him, the tide of time turned, as it were, backward in its course, 
and the human mind receding into the night of bygone ages — 
still in this wide spreading scene of desolatiou could his heart 
find comfort — still did he behold a nation, strong and estab- 
lished in principle, with whom was the power to roll back the 
clouds of ignorance, and bid the human intellect " move on !" 
Then, when the storm gathered darkest around him, hath he 
said, •' Behold liberty hath followed the sun iu his path, and 
called the new hemisphere her own ! and there shall not 
knowledge kindle her torch, and man, by its light, explore his 
own world and himself, until error, crime, and wretchedness 
shall disappear, and truth, in its effulgence, break upon the 
world ?" 

Hath wisdom hoped thus of ye, free born citizens of inde- 
pendent republics ! Hath such, I say, been her hope { If it 
have, how have ye fulfilled it ? 

Oh, people of America ! weighty is your responsibility ! 
The destinies of mankind hang upon your breath. The fate 
of all the nations of the earth is entrusted to your keeping. 
On you devolves the task of vindicating our human nature 
from the slanders heaped on it by superstitious ignorance, and 
the libels imagined by designing ambition. With you rests 
the duty, for with you is the power, to disprove the bias 
phemies of temporal tyrants, and spiritual craftsmen. On you 
the whole family of humankind turns the eye of expectation. 
From the Hellespont to the icy sea — from the Don to Atlantic, 
suffering Europe hopes in your liberty, and waits for the in- 
fluence of the virtue she dreams must be yours. On the shores 
of the ravaged Tagus, the ruined Tyber.'the barbarous Tanais 
and Danube, the palace crowned Thames and luxurious Seine, 
where wealth displays its splendour, and poverty its vvtetch- 


130 FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 

edness — there in each varied realm and distant region, does 
the oft defeated patriot, and oft disappointed believer, in the 
latent excellence and final enfranchisement of trampled hu- 
manity, breathe his sighs and wing his hopes to the far off 
land, which, on this day. celebrates, not its own, but the 
world's festival ; and renews, in the name of humankind, the 
declaration of human independence. 

Say, will ye disappoint these high expectations? Will ye 
prove false to the cause ye have espoused ? Will ye belie the 
pledge of jour fathers and your own ; and make of this day, 
and all that it commemorates, a byword and a mockery among 
all the nations of the earth? 

Let me reason with you fellow beings ! for to developeyour 
interests, to point to your duties, to detect your negligence, 
or, if such there be, to challenge your transgressions, am I 

High is the ground you have assumed, people of the United 
States ! Pure and sublime are the principles on which you 
have based your institutions. Simple and grand are those 
institutions themselves. And, in proporton to the greatness 
of these, is your responsibility. 

Other nations, governed by the loose tide of circumstances, 
or by the whim of silly mouarchs and their crafty ministers, 
may throw from them the folly of their national errors, or 
claim but little part in their wiser actions. Not so with you. 
people of these United States ! You have willed yourselves 
frefi as well as independent. You are proclaimed to the 
world for a self-governing people. You have declared liberty 
ro be the birthright of man. You have purchased it with toil, 
and blood, and suffering ; entrenched it within the peaceful 
but immutable bulwarks of representative government, and 
hold in your hands the power to correct its every error, and to 
improve its every good. 

Behold, then, every institution, every law, every action, of 
your government emanating from yourselves ! Is the spirit of 
the national policy enlightened—on you reflects the honour. 
Ave the public measures wise — to you is traced the wisdom. 
Is aught done foolishly— the folly rests with your ignorance. 
Is aught neglected — with your negligence lies the omission. 
You may not, then, be judged in comparison with other 
nations. " Your own mouth must supply your sentence. Even 
by those principles shall you be tried, which are set forth in 
this declaration ; and to the support of which, you. even as 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 131 

your fathers before you, have pledged your lives, your for- 
tunes, and your honour. 

If, then, in your constitutional code, there shall be found 
one article in violation of the principles herein enshrined, then 
is your sacred honour impeached in the eyes of the world. If, 
in one act of your government, at home or abroad, you shall 
have violated these principles, then is your sacred honour im- 
peached in the eyes of the world. If you shall have harboured 
within your bosom, and sanctioned by your laws, one practice 
outraging these principles, then is your sacred honour im- 
peached in the eyes of the world. If ye shall have omitted 
one measure necessary for the protection and practical illus- 
tration of these principles, then is your sacred honour im- 
peached in the eyes of the world. 

How stands, then, your account, my fellow-citizens ? How 
have ye fulfilled your promise and redeemed your pledge t 
Can ye, on this day, when the eyes of the world are upon ye, 
renew your solemn appeal to all the nations of the earth, and 
court their scrutiny throughout your borders I Can ye, on 
this day, challenge the investigation of mankind, and say — 
" We have improved the heritage bequeathed by our father?. 
We have followed the path they traced for our footsteps. We 
have revealed, in our practice, the excellence of those truths 
whose theory they proclaimed. We have exercised those 
rights and powers which they purchased with their blood, and 
gave us, in peace to enjoy, and in wisdom to improve ?" 

Can ye, fellow citizens, say this ? Oh — would, for the sake 
of humankind, that ye could answer " Yea ! " 

Bitter are the words of reproof ; nor needs it that my voice 
should speak them. The cry of misery hath gone up from the 
land ; and that cry is your condemnation. 

And was it for this your fathers raised the standard of re- 
bellion ? Was it for this they braved an empire's power, and 
bare with ten years of war and tribulation ? Was it to effect 
no more of good than we see around us, that they shut their 
unarmed ports against the navies of Britain, and set at nought 
the authorities of ancient days and the threats of parliaments 
and thrones ? Was it to exchange the open tyranny of tem- 
poral kings for the more subtle dominion of spiritual hierarchs, 
that the American people first pledged their honour to this 
sacred instrument? Was it to build up the ascendancy of 
priests omniscient by the grace of God, that they challenged 
the prerogatives of monarchs omnipotent by the same ? Was 


132 FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 

it to crush down the sons and daughters of your country's in- 
dustry under the accumulated and accumulating evils of neg- 
lect, poverty, vice, starvation, and disease, that your fathers 
bought your independence with their blood, and decreed, by 
this charter, your equality as citizens, and your liberty as 
men ? Oh ! were this noble instrument to work no more of 
practical reform than it hath wrought to this hour, wiser it 
were to burn it on the very spot where sages first conceived 
and heroes proclaimed it. than longer to mock the ears of this 
nation and the hopes of the world with the sound of truths, 
man is never to realize, of blessings he is never to enjoy ! 
Yea ! were the rights of conscience, of self-government, of 
thought, and of action, as set forth in this declaration, able to 
effect no more than we behold. I would tell ye to hasten to 
your old state house — and there, where these bold words first 
startled the world, to consign them to oblivion. I would tell 
ye, I say, to let the same' walls which echoed the first cry of 
•• Libert}- and Equality," give back, ere they totter to decay, 
the last hollow murmurs of a deceiving sound. I would tell 
ye to end in the patriot's breast the sickness of hope long de- 
cayed ; to remove from the ear of reason and the eye of phi- 
lanthropy sights and sounds which should then speak only of 
insults and mockery : and to leave the good and the wise, who 
now stand expecting at your hands the redemption of our race, 
to let go the deceiving anchor of their hope, and nerve their 
minds to view with fortitude or apathy evils without remedy, 
and submit to a destiny beyond the reach of circumstance to 
influence, or knowledge to improve. 

I pray ye to observe and well to understand that the fate of 
this nation involves that of the world ; and that if man should 
here fail to improve his nature and his condition, his nature 
must stand demonstrated for innately depraved, his condition 
for irretretrievably wretched. No argument is required to 
show that, if the human character and position are capable of 
improvement, it must be in the country where human exertion 
is free. All must perceive that if good sense and right prin- 
ciples of action are to take place of prejudice and corrupt 
principles of action, it is in the country whose government, in 
its forms as well as its measures, may profit by the lessons of 
experience and look to public opinion for its guide and its 

I have already (in the address delivered on the last anni- 
versary of this day) developed, in full, what I conceive to con- 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 133 

stitute the excellence of the national institutions, and to which 
it is now only necessary to make a passiug allusion. 

1 then observed the great beauty of American government 
to be, that the simple machinery of representation, carried 
through all its parts, gives facility for its being moulded at 
will to fit with the knowledge of the age ; that thus, although 
it should be imperfect in any or all of its parts, it bears with- 
in it a perfect principle— the principle of improvement. 
And that, therefore, we should distinguish the advantage we 
possess over other nations, to be— not that our form of 
government is republican, or democratic, or federative, but 
that it possesses the power of silent adaptation to the alter- 
ing views of the governing and governed people ; that it 
may ever peacefully be changed with the changing spirit of 
the age, and express the sentiments and advance the inte- 
rests of each successive generation. 

This one distinguishing property of a government, purely 
representative in all its parts and modes, is that, in virtue of 
which, the era we now celebrate, and this charter of the rights 
of humankind, may alone be made instrumental to the happi- 
ness of our race. And so, in like manner, has it been the non- 
appreciation and nonperception of this one inherent excellence 
which has hitherto neutralized the effect of the American 

This, with all other errors, may be traced to that defective 
instruction, which, teaching words, apart from principles as 
from things, makes us ever intent on the sign instead of the 
substance, the theory instead of the practice. 

Because we find in this instrument the liberty and equality 
of man set forth as an abstract truth, we conceive the same to 
be practically secured. Because we have established in the 
constitutional code that each male adult, or nearly so, shall 
have a voice in the nomination of the public officers, we con- 
ceive ourselves to be in effect a self-governing people. And 
yet to what, I pray ye, does the privilege of the elective fran- 
chise as now exercised, amount ? To a choice of men, and 
those men found, and necessarily found, among a class whose 
interests are at variance with those of the great body of the 
nation. And what are the results even of this right of choice, 
partial and ineffectual as it is ? Let the history of every elec- 
tion declare — from that of a militia colonel to the governors of 
your commonwealths ; from that of a member of your city 
council to the officers of your national senate, or even to the 

134 FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 

first magistrate of the republic ! What, I ask, at this hour, 
are the moral results to the American people of that political 
right upon which rests the whole frame of their civil liberty ? 
What does its exercise now generate but a spirit of intrigue 
and ambition on the one hand— of license, violence, and cor- 
ruption on the other? What have your popular elections to 
office, as yet, produced, but a system of electioneering ? — 
the very word breathing of vice and venality. 

How perverted your political institutions from their first in- 
tent, let your press declare ? Sold, alternately, to each party 
and each partizan : ever silent as respects principles, insolently 
hold as respects men. Visit not this upon your editors. Let 
the people take it home unto themselves. 

The writers for the public market write for the public taste. 
To teach the truths they may even distinguish, would be to 
offend their readers ; to investigate principles — to treat of a 
subject too novel to interest the attention ; to explore the ac- 
tual condition of society, and seek the means for its ameliora- 
tion, would be to rouse the hostility of wealth, alarm the fears 
of every speculating aspirant after the same, and muster in 
battle array every priest, every lawyer, and every politician 
in the land. Wnile, on the other hand, to libel or to eulogise 
each pretender to public favour is to feed the credulity and 
curiosity of every mind unawakened to matters of real inte- 
rest, and, ofttimes, to win credit for courage and patriotism 
(those prostituted words !) by the very efforts which are more 
deeply corrupting the feelings and blinding the understandings 
of the people at home, and bringing into contempt the charac- 
ter of the nation abroad. 

When such are the rewards awaiting on the worse and on 
the better part, are we to marvel that the worse is chosen, 
and the better left ? When bribes are held out to slander, to 
intrigue, to folly, and to falsehood, are we to sit in judgment 
upon those who follow where they are led ? So long as the 
people are blind to principles, will they be deceived by men. 
So long as they are occupied with trifles, by triflers will they 
be led So long as they neglect their own interests, will they 
press, their teachers, and their rulers, do the same. 

1 said that I was no there to flatter, and you will think that 
I have kept my word. Doubtless it were more pleasing to 
you, and less hazardous for me, to echo all the compliments 
and proud thanksgivings customary on this day, and which to 
utter is to ensure popularity; to withhold, to purchase cold 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 135 

looks ; while to replace, as I may seem to have done, the 
honied words of praise by those of censure, may be only to 
win more of that calumny which my fellow beings have 
already so bounteously bestowed. 

Yet all this am I willing to meet, if haply, I may be 
instrumental in shortening the term of those errors and that 
apathy which now pervert your noble institutions, and neu- 
tralize the truths enshrined in this sacred heirloom of your 

Your fathers proclaimed, on the day of which this is the 
fifty-fourth anniversary, your independence as a nation, and 
your equal rights as members of the human family. To 
secure these blessings from foreign assault and domestic 
attainder, you associated for the mutual defence of your lives, 
your property, the country you inhabit, and that form of 
government which appeared to present the greatest advan- 
tages and the fewest evils. The result of this association 
was your national constitution, together with the revision of 
all your state constitutions or old colonial charters : the same 
being always subject to future alterations, curtailments, or 
amendments. Within the pale of these constitutions, and in 
the mode specified, you decreed it should be lawful to legislate 
for the correction of evil and promotion of good. Of this evil 
and this good you declared the people to be the only judges ; 
deciding, however, that, for the prevention of disorder, the 
opinion of the majority should stand for that of the whole body ; 
and that the view of that majority should be carried into effect 
through the medium of representatives, chosen for the express 

This system, simple in all its parts, evidently rests upon 
two main positions : first, that the people are enlightened 
judges of their own interests — or, in other words, that they 
are by nature or by education, fitted to distinguish the 
means by which the greatest happiness may be produced- to 
the whole population ; and secondly, that the representatives, 
through whom the people legislate, shall, in all cases, faith- 
fully carry into effect the views of the people whose attor- 
neys they are. 

Now, unless we suppose that all human beings come into 
the world full grown in intellect and endowed with foreknow- 
ledge we should certainly expect to find some provision for 
the just training of their minds and habits in childhood, with 
a view to the high character they are destined in after life to 

136 FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 

sustain as a self-governing people, and the important duties 
they are then to fulfil as citizens, as parents, and as human 
beings. I say we should expect the same instrument which 
charges the people with the duties of government to suggest 
the means by which they may be fitted to fulfil the same. 
I say that common sense would lead us to expect that, before 
legislation, should come instruction ; even as childhood precedes 
manhood, and the training of the youth decides the character 
of the adult. 

It does appear to me, then, that the right of equal instruc- 
tion should have been enumerated among those human rights 
which preface your constitutional codes ; and that the first 
act of a self governing people should have been that of 
organizing a plan of rational and republican education, in 
unison with the bold declaration we are called on this day to 
celebrate, and which, if practically attempted at the close of 
your revolutionary struggle would have rendered you, at this 
hour, in fact, what you are as yet only in theory — a people 
equal in rights, free in the exercise of those rights, and happy 
in the result of that exercise. 

But if ever we turn the eye on the past, it should be — not 
idly to regret, but wisely to reform. The present is ours ; the 
future is before us. The power that was with your fathers is 
with you. What they omitted, you, wise by their experience 
and your own, may supply. If they laid the foundation, do 
you lay the corner stone, of the republic. If they brake the 
fetters from the limbs, do you break them from the mind. If 
they won for their children the right of free action, do you 
give to yours the knowledge to use it. If they declared you 
equals at the birth, do you prepare the next generation to be 
equals through life. Extend to your children the never dying- 
protection, the never slumbering care, of their country — of 
the nation. Make them, in tender infancy, fellow playmates, 
fellow learners, fellow labourers ; so shall they, when grown 
to manhood and womanhood, be, in thought, in feeling, in 
affection, fellow citizens and fellow 7 creatures. 

Much labour have ye bestow ? ed in law making ; much 
money have ye expended in the same. Much time, much 
temper, have ye wasted in canvassing the merits and demerits 
of individuals— in eulogizing and libelling, by turns, the very 
men judged most worthy to fill the first office in your gift, 
until foreign nations must have been in doubt whether the 
people were most void of truth and decency, or their rulers 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 137 

of honour and honesty. Hot hath been your indignation 
against vice, and fearful your vengeance against crime. Ye 
have given your thousands to raise jails and gibbets for 
punishing sinners in this world, and millions to proclaim their 
damnation in another. Zealous have ye been to spread your 
fame in foreign lands,, and your faith in the farthest regions of 
the globe. Ye have covered the seas with your ships, and 
the earth with your missionaries. Ye have rested not until 
ye rivalled Britain in her commerce, in competitive labour, in 
mechanical ingenuity, iu the triumph of monied wealth, and 
in the oppression of industry ; nor will ye rest, perhaps, until 
ye rival her in riches and m want ; in luxury, in pauperism, 
and in misery. 

Such have been your doings, oh ye people ! under the 
banner of independence and of equal liberty. Ye have fol- 
lowed the footsteps of aristocratic nations, and their character 
and their destiny shall be yours. 

Wisdom and mercy forbid the fulfilment, of the prophecy ! 
Noble charter of the freedom of our race, do thou forbid it ! 
As, in the hands of the past generation, thou brakest the 
sceptre of transatlantic oppression, so, in the hands of the 
present, do thou break the chains of our vice, and lighten the 
darkness of our ignorance ! As of yore thou nervest the 
minds of the fathers of this people to assert their rights before 
the cannon's mouth, so do thou, in this day, inspire their 
children with wisdom yet more justly to interpret the same, 
and with courage to make thy truths the law of their hearts, 
and the rule of their lives ! Not in words let thy truths live 
alone ! Not from this parchment let us learn the equal rights 
of humankind ! Let the spirit which breathes from this 
instrument animate our thoughts and our exertions ! On 
this day be the pledge of Americans renewed ! In the deep 
solemnity of contrition for past errors and past omissions — in 
the ardour of hope and generous intent for the future, may 
they breathe on this day a vow of 76, and earn, by their 
efforts, for the next generation, yet more than they received 
from their fathers ! 

By this charter, oh ye people ! your destinies are placed 
in your own hands. By this charter ye are free to choose 
between liberty and slavery, knowledge and ignorance, virtue 
and vice, happiness and misery. Will ye choose the nobler 
and the better part ? Prepare the only means that reason 
suggests and consistency demands. Add to your institutions 

138 FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 

what can alone ensure to them permanence, dignity, and 
utility. Add to your system of republican government one 
republican instruction. Then, and then alone, shall these 
United States be a republic, and their citizens republicans. 
What have beeu said of other nations is true of this — to be 
free you have but to will it. Legislate for the enfranchise- 
ment of the rising generation — you, who are doubly its fathers. 
Suspend, if needs be, all other measures; curtail all other 
expenditures, postpone all other improvements, until this first 
of all duties be fulfilled by a self-governing people ! 

Enough have we of churches, my friends— enough of bride- 
wells and jails. Enough of monuments to the dead, and 
prisons to the living. Enough, and more than enough, of 
curious inventions, time and labour-saving skill. Let us learn 
to enjoy the riches we possess; to distribute the wealth we 
accumulate; to apply to the benefit of man the works of his 
own genius. We hear of internal improvement. Let us 
have it ; let us see it; let us feel it — in the mind. Let us, 
at least, end where we ought to have begun. Let us 
suspend our refinements in machinerv, our canals, and our 
railroads, which, at the present time, under existing arrange- 
ments, only encourage monied speculation and stock-jobbing 
gambling, farther to crush down productive industry, and to 
blind the mass to the causes of their ruin. Let us suspend, I 
say, these labours befitting a race more advanced than ours. 
Let us turn to the field of human life, rank with every 
poisonous growth, and thicker sown, from hour to hour, with 
seeds of corruption ! Let us turn to the study of our human 
condition — to the consideration of our social existence. Let us 
count all the evils we have there to remedy, all the obstacles 
to overcome, all the sorrows to alleviate, all the wrongs to 
redress. To this work of charity and of duty let us apply. 
Let us give relief to the widow, protection to the orphan, 
the guardianship of the state to every child in the land. Let 
us assist oppressed industry in the discharge of the parental 
duties. Let us form the morals, and advance the happiness 
of the nation by watching over its education. " These things 
ought we to do, and, then, not to leave the others undone." 
But, until these duties be accomplished — until this righteous 
work be achieved — until every sou and daughter in this galaxy 
of commonwealths shall be equally provided with the means 
of instruction — shall be raised in the habits of healthy industry 
— be protected equally from the sufferings and the vice 

FOURTH OF JULY, 1829. 139 

attendant on poverty and on riches — be trained as equals to 
understand and to exercise the rights set forth in this charter 
— all your laws and your provisions, your preaching and your 
punishments, your churches, your prisons, your partial colleges 
and inefficient schools, your asylums and your hospitals, your 
restricted commerce and protected manufactures, your canals 
and your railroads, your taxes and your bounties, your 
inventions and your improvements, multiplied without object 
and without end, will work no real benefit to man — will do 
nothing towards the alleviation of one of the weighty evils 
which now press on the population — will and can, tend to 
no other consequences than farther to vitiate the feelings, 
confound the understandings, deprave the habits, and render 
yet more disproportionate the condition of humankind. 

While wealth is considered distinct from enjoyment, and 
enjoyment is calculated by the luxury of the few instead of the 
ease of the many — while art and science are applied, not to 
relieve the labour of industry, but to depreciate its value — 
while human beings count but as an appendage to the ma- 
chinery they keep in motion, and the tender strength and 
dawning intellect of infancy are crippled by forced labour, 
improper diet, neglect, ill usage, and bad example, think not 
that canals and railroads are to advance the nation, nor that 
steamboats and spinning-jennies are to save the world. 

The subject now adverted to I have already treated at large 
in the last discourse delivered in this city "on Existing 
Evils." But I feel its importance too deeply not to recur to 
it often — not to recur to it especially on this day, when the 
past history, present condition, and future prospects of the 
nation all crowd upon the mind. Conceiving, as I do, rational 
education to comprise the whole duty of man, to involve the 
principles of all law, all liberty, all virtue, and all happiness — 
to present the only possible cure for every vice in our existing 
practice, error in our opinions, and evil in our condition, 1 
could not, on this day, speak of your national institutions 
without adverting to an omission which it behoves you to 
supply, and which, by the light emitted from this charter, you 
may see to frame in unison with human nature, with human 
liberty, and with republican equality. 

Until this great oversight be rectified, the revolution we this 
day commemorate will be incomplete and insufficient ; the 
<fc declaration" contained in this instrument will be void. 

Liberty shall exist only for man when it shall reign in the 



mind; equality, when it shall exist in our knowledge, in our 
habits, in our enjoyments ; and both these righteous principles, 
and blessed sources of all individual security and national 
greatness shall only exist in practice when a self-governing 
people shall legislate for the equal instruction, the rational 
education, and the national protection of youth. The day on 
which this righteous resolve shall pass the senate of one 
commonwealth in the Union— that will be for this nation what 
the Fourth of July, 76, is now for the world. 

May the light of knowledge so dawn upon your minds, mv 
fellow citizens ! and the spirit of freedom which erst guided 
your fathers on this day, so quicken your exertions, that, to 
us now present, it. may be given to celebrate the decree which 
alone can work out the fulfilment of this declaration, and 
lead to the equal liberty and equal happiness of all human- 


[Delivered at the opening of the Hall of Science, New-York, on Sunday 

April 26, 1829.] 

The object that assembles us here this day is the same for 
which through all past ages, the wise have laboured, and the 
good have suffered. This object it imports us well to under- 
stand, and steadily to keep in view. If misconceived, or if 
lost sight of. our efforts here will be worse than useless — they 
will be mischievious ; in that while they fail of success, they 
must bring discredit on the undertaking 

The words engraved over the entrance of this building 
define its purpose and our object. Raised and consecrated to 
sectarian faith, it stands devoted this day to universal know- 
ledge — and we, in crossing its threshold, have to throw aside 
the distinctions of class ; the names and feelings of sect or 
party ; to recognise, in ourselves and each other, the single 
character of human beings and fellow creatures, and thus to 
sit down, as children of one family, in patience to inquire — in 
humility to learn. 

What 1 have here suggested as our single object, may 


appear too simple for some, and prove too hard for others. Oh, 
may it not prove beyond the power, superior to the reason, of 
us all ! 

Born and reared as we have been in a world of strife ; fed 
with horror even from the cradle ; encouraged, alike by pre- 
cept and example, to esteem ourselves wise in our own conceit ; 
to imagine that truth lies only in the opinions we have im- 
bibed ; that to be obstinate is to be consistent; to be disputa- 
tious is to be zealous; to resent injuries is to show good 
courage ; to vilify our fellow creatures, to prove our own 
worthiness ; to reprobate sinners, to substantiate our own 
morality ; to laugh at the follies of others, to give evidence of 
our own wisdom — trained I say as we have been, to judge and 
to be judged in severity ; provoked ofttimes by persecution to 
persecute, and driven by injustice to misanthropy — who 
among us, the best or the wisest that shall have no rebellious 
spirit to quell, no watch to set upon his lips, no internal cen- 
sorship to execute, ere he can enter, at peace with all mankind, 
the courts of union, and sit down, in simplicity of heart, a 
pupil in the Hall of Science ! 

I would not seem to counsel where I would rather listen, 
nor to teach where I would rather learn ; but the views and 
circumstances heretofore explained, which called me forth to 
stem the tide of prejudice, and to enter my protest against re- 
ligious controversies and sectarian hostilities, have necessarily 
exposed to my individual observation all the worst conse- 
quences and tendencies of the evils I have challenged. Few 
in these days, none in this country, have ventured more, if as 
much endured, for the great, and good, and solemn cause 
which assembles us here this day. Let me, then, so far pre- 
sume as to prefer to my fellow labourers in truth's vineyard, a 
caution suggested at once by all that I have had occasion to 
observe and to experience. 

There are who apprehend danger to the attempt now made 
towards national union, and moral and intellectual improve- 
ment, from the hostility of constituted authorities and organ- 
ized bodies. Here lies not my fear. There are. also, who 
apprehend our failure from the popular indifference, or from 
the prevailing cowardice and immorality which the existing 
forms of society are so calculated to generate. I see no such 
grounds of discouragement. The spirit of inquiry is abroad ; 
the dawn of a brighter day is kindling in the horizon, and the 
eyes of the people are opening to its observation. I say of the 


people ; of that large, and, happily, sounder part of the popu- 
lation who draw their subsistence from the sweat of the brow, 
and whose industry constitutes at once the physical strength, 
and the moral prop of the nation. No I my fears look not to 
the power of the few, nor to the indifference of the many. 
They look not, my friends, beyond ourselves. Let the soldiers 
of the van preserve at once good courage and good discipline, 
and the army of the nation shall follow its lead in confidence 
and security. 

But what must constitute our courage that it be good ? 
We may be bold and yet we may be weak. The brave have 
been overthrown in the onset and in the breach, when the 
pulses throbbed with enthusiasm, and the word was " vic- 
tory or death." There is a courage better than that of 
valour — it is that of wisdom ; which, seizing at once on the 
post to be defended, plants firm the foot, neither to retreat 
from it an alarm, nor to hurry past it in zeal. And what 
must supply our discipline ? Self government. Firm in 
principle, fixed in purpose, we must turn neither to the right 
nor to the left. Wise in the choice of means, temperate in 
our words, chastened in our feelings, we must pursue truth 
in the path of knowledge, and, without disputing with errors, 
seek to substantiate facts. 

I am tempted on this to speak farther. I am tempted, at 
this commencement of our labours, to give utterance to some 
anxious thoughts which the importance of our enterprise, 
and the circumstances which surround us, are calculated to 
inspire. As I have said, I apprehend not the wrath of the 
few, nor the indifference of the many. Pride or passion will 
ever work their own destruction. The more strenuous the 
opposition to truth, the more speedy will be its triumph. 
The efforts of a hierarchy, the denunciations of orthodoxy, 
or the jealousy of wealth and pretension, can do nougnt 
against free thoughts and free speech in a country politically 
free. Nor is it in such a country that the many can be 
long indifferent to their best interests, nor deaf to those who 
would stimulate to their investigation. I see the field open 
before us. I see no let nor hindrance in the way of our 
vapid progress and final triumph, but such as our own defi- 
cient virtue may breed, foster, and perpetuate. 

The object we have in view, namely, the acquisition and 
diffusion of knowledge, is so noble, so rational, and so pure, 
that, in pledging ourselves to its pursuit, we may feel ele- 


vated above all unworthy feelings, and not merely willing, 
but eager, to exchange passion for reason, and to immolate 
selfishness at the shrine of the public good. But enthu- 
siasm, however ardent and pure, cannot supply the spirit 
which must sustain our perseverance and effect the exten- 
sive reform which we have in view. Zeal may impart 
energy to our first movements, but will not generate and 
nourish those steady motives which, by sustaining equal 
and healthy exertions, cau alone ensure success. Anxious, 
as I feel assured we all are, that the spirit of inquiry now 
kindled in the public mind should be turned to the best 
account, and that our efforts in this place should be of lasting 
benefit to the human race, it seems advisable, that, at this 
opening of our labours, we well examine, until we distinctly 
understand, both our object, and the means by which it may 
be attained. 

Our object is simply and singly the acquisition of know- 
ledge, and its diffusion among our fellow creatures. My 
previous exertions in this city, both as a lecturer and a 
writer, have been devoted to the developing the nature of 
all knowledge, physical and moral, and to the distinguish- 
ing those first principles which have been so long and so 
universally obscured by the sophisms of false learning — the 
words, maxims, dreams, and hypothesis of man's perverted 
ingenuity. If the general survey of the field of knowledge, 
as presented in my field of public discourses and the pages 
of the Free Enquirer, be present to your minds, our object 
in this place cannot be mistaken. You will understand both 
what knowledge is, and how it can be acquired ; and you 
will understand, moreover, what investigations can be useful 
to man, and, consequently, suitable to be followed in this 
place, and what others must necessarily be useless, and, con- 
sequently, unsuitable. But, far better will you understand 
our object here, and distinguish between the profitable and 
profitless in human inquiry, when you shall have entered on 
the patient development of nature's phenomena, under the 
guidance of your various scientific instructors. I have pre- 
sented you only with an outline of the whole ; a general view 
of that field of varied interest and untiring beauty, through 
which masters of more practical experience and minute re- 
search will now undertake to lead you. 

Under the wise direction of men of science, honest enough 
to reveal what thev know, and bold enough to be silent — 


(for alas! in these days of error even silence may be a 
crime;) bold enough, I say, to be silent where they are ig- 
norant— under the guidance of such friends your steps cannot 
err, and your minds must gradually expand to the percep- 
tion of all those truths most important for man to understand. 

What, then, I am most anxious we should bear in mind 
is, that ice have all to be learners. Ask the most experienced 
philosopher, whose patient mind has explored all the paths 
of discovered knowledge, and added new wealth to the stores 
of the human intellect — ask him, and he will tell you he is 
vet a pupil. Ask him, and he will tell you that the span of 
human life sufficeth not to explore the whole even of the 
observable wonders of nature — wondrous at least to our limi- 
ted perceptions and finite existence ; while, beyond the 
stretch of our vision, as evinced by the microscope and teles- 
cope, he will tell you that the phenomena of nature extend 
through the infinitely little and the infinitely great, in dura- 
tion and extension, without limit as without end. Oh, who 
hath said that science teaches pride, when with her alone 
is humility ! "Who hath said, that to study the field of 
nature can generate self-conceit, when he who should know- 
all that bv human senses and faculties can be known, would 
only bestunderstand that he knew, as it were, nothing ! 

An ingenuous poet hath sung : 

A little learning is a dangerous thing ;" 

[ will not say that, nor will I say : 

" Drink deep or taste not of the spring !" 

but this I will say — be sure that ye mistake not between 
what is now esteemed learning, and what is knowledge 
Drink of the right spring, and, drink little or drink much, 
so far as ye drink ye shall be wise. Yet this, above all 
things: speculate not farther than you know. Endeavour 
to curb that futile curiosioty. which, fostered by a vicious 
education, is ever winging the human imagination beyond 
what the eve hath seen, the touch examined, and the 
judgment compared. Let us unite on the safe and sure 
around of fact and experiment, and we can never err ; yet 
better, we can never differ. Let us investigate within 
these walls what are to us all realities, and will yield to us 
all useful truths. The field of nature is before us to ex- 


plore ; the world of the human heart is with us to examine 
In these lie for us all that is certain, and all that is impor-. 

What matter to us by what, by whom, for how long, from 
whence, to what limits of space, through what extent of time, 
the va6t ethereal, in which our atom globe performs its revo- 
lutions, is peopled with sentient existence. How may we de- 
cide whether genii, or demigods, or beings unnamed and un- 
conceived, live, and breathe, and exult in life through all the 
bright worlds which stud our starlit heaven ? Nay, or could 
we decide, how should the knowledge profit us in this our re- 
moved, but, to us, all sufficient sphere ! Were our humau 
attainments, indeed, co-extensive with human observation, 
and our human wisdom all sufficient for our human exigences, 
then might there be some apology for our borrowing the ka- 
leidoscope of fancy, and gazing, through it, into the moon and 
beyond the stars. Were all our human duties understood and 
fulfilled, all the joys of earth developed, and its woes removed, 
then might those speculations be more excusable, which now 
steal our attention and our sympathies from the sphere we 
occupy, and the fellow creatures, whose wants, interests, joys 
and sorrows should be all our own. 

But how far we are from this fulness of human knowledge 
and human happiness, let nature with all her unexplored phe- 
nomena — let earth with all her wrongs and all her miseries — 
let our own hearts with all their bitterness — our own minds 
with all their prejudices, bear witness and attest. Oh, then, 
let us, in this place at least, lay aside dreaming, and apply to 
observing ! Not that I would presumptuously dispute, or 
uselessly reason, with the dreams of any fellow creature : I 
would simply lead all to distinguish between their dreams and 
their knowledge, to estimate the value of the one, and the 
futility of the other, and to perceive that within the horizon of 
human observation we may all inquire with profit, and in 
fellowship ; without that horizon only with danger of error, 
and w 7 ith certainty of differing. 

Seeing, then, the useful discoveries to be made in the world 
of nature as existing without us, and the world of the human 
heart as existing within us, and seeing, also, the interminable 
disputes fomented by inquiry abstracted by these, let us pre- 
serve our popular meetings in this place uncontaminated aud 
undistracted by religious discussions or opinionative dis- 


I would apply this exhortation equally to the sceptic as to 
the believer, and the believer as to the sceptic. Are we be- 
lievers ? Let us believe as we may, but let us believe peace- 
fully, in the depths of the heart, that our belief offend not 
that of our neighbour. Do we see with the eye of faith ? 
Let us see what we may, and dream what we will, but let us 
dream at home. In our own closets be our worship, whether 
of god or gods, saints, angels, prophets, or blessed virgins ; 
but here — here, in the hall of union, sacred to peace and to 
knowledge, let us study that book which all can read, and, 
reading, none dispute — the field of nature, and the tablet of 
the human mind. Or, on the other hand, have we learned to 
doubt the lessons of books, and the laws of men. let us beware 
in what spirit we set forth our scepticism, lest, haply, while 
discarding the dogmas, we retain the dogmatism, and lend 
even to truth, the tone of presumption, and the spirit of 

It follows not, that in having lost some of our credulity, we 
must have lost our intolerance, nor that in correcting some of 
our opinions, we must have changed our feelings, and amend- 
ed our habits. The effects of erroneous education, and the 
influence of unfavourable circumstances are, more or less, with 
us all. As believers, we have learned censoriousness with our 
creed of faith ; as heretics or sceptics, we have learned in- 
tolerance from persecution. Judging or Judged, inflicting or 
enduring, our bosoms have been filled with bitterness from 
our youth up ; our hearts estranged from each other, and our 
thoughts still bent rather on proving others wrong, than on 
seeking the right for ourselves. It is for this cause — it is for 
the frailties of temper, the errors of judgment, the harshness 
of feeling existing in us all, that I would deprecate in this 
place all discussions of speculative or abstract opinion. Were 
we all reasonable, gentle, indulgent, to discuss any or all sub- 
jects, real or imaginary, might be useful, or, at the least, 
amusing ; but while we are all irrational, perverse, ill-natured, 
violent, prone to misinterpret, to offend in our manner, to 
irritate in our language, to wound and to be wounded, to give 
and to receive alarm, to judge ourselves in pride, and others 
with contempt — while we are as we are, and as all we see, or 
hear, or experience, in an ill-regulated state of society, com- 
bines to keep us, we are unfit to grapple with each other's 
thoughts— ill prepared to elicit truth by the shock of opinions 
in the subtle field of argument. 


I mean not altogether to condemn religious discussions 
while the world is overrun with conflicting religious super- 
stitions ; but, methinks, in our popular meetings, I would con- 
demn them here. We must bear in mind, that we come 
together in this place as members of a family long divided and 
estranged by feuds and strifes; that we see in each other 
wanderers from every school of faith — it may be Jews, Chris- 
tians, deists, materialists, with every variety of sect and class 
existing within the pale of each. Surely, then, prudence, if 
no higher virtue, demands that we set a watch upon our lips, 
lest, happly, we offend where it is our object to conciliate, and 
divide where we are assembled to unite. 

Permit me here to reiterate an observation which I have 
already had frequent occasion to prefer, that the only sure way 
to correct erroneous opinions is to present facts to the mind. 
The more we know, the less, in the popular sense of the word, 
do we believe. The better we understand the phenomena of 
nature in the visible and tangible world without us, and in 
the mental, moral, and physical world within us, the more 
just and perspicuous must be all our ideas. 

It is possible, indeed, to subvert, by process of reasoning, 
many human superstitions ; and to confute by the ad absur- 
dum many books, maxims, and statutes honoured as wise, or 
worshipped as divine. But let us remember, that to expose 
errors is not necessarily to distinguish truths ; a train of de- 
ductive logic may suffice for the one, but dispassionate obser- 
vation and accurate knowledge can alone suffice for the other. 

I know that, up to this hour, the least safe and the least 
effectual method of disengaging the popular mind of error has 
been the one employed. This has been, perhaps, the neces- 
sary result of the system of religious teaching so long preva- 
lent ; the nature of the evil suggesting that of the remedy, 
and the virulence of the clergy, struggling, at one and the 
same time, for the profits and tenets of their craft, provoking, 
perhaps, an excusable, but certainly an objectionable, hoslility 
on the part of their opponents. While the advocates of men- 
tal darkness found their strength in teaching religious opi- 
nions, the friends to mental enfranchisement might naturally 
be tempted to seek theirs in teaching the opposite. But, as 
I have already attempted to show, in my introductory dis- 
courses to the people of this city, opinions, whether true or 
false, are no proper subject for teaching at all. We have each 
of us to form our own, and we must each of us form our own, 



if we would really understand what our opinions are — know 
their foundation, and perceive their practical consequences. 
All that a judicious instructor will attempt is to present to the 
mind, in suitable train and order, such evidence as is supplied 
by nature herself— in other words, to fertilize the intellect with 
knowledge, and to leave it to draw, on all subjects, its own 
free, fair, and unbiassed conclusions. 

The practice, but too generally followed up to this hour, of 
promulgating laws, establishing creeds, laying down maxims, 
and teaching opinions, has tended to affect our species with 
a mental paralysis. 

Accustomed to receive our knowledge, so called, from the 
ipse dixit of books, instead of seeking it ourselves in the 
bosom of nature and the occurences passing around us, and, 
again to receive our opinions from the nurse, the schoolmaster, 
or the priest, we but too often, nay, but too universally, live 
and die without exercising more of our faculties than our 
memory and our imagination — closing our eyes upon this 
beautiful world, and resigning our human existence, ignorant 
alike of the treasures so thickly strewed in the one, and the 
powers inherent in the other. So dead, or, rather, so una- 
wakened within us, are the nobler faculties of observation and 
judgment, that, even if aroused for a moment to doubt the 
authorities before which we were trained in our infancy to bow 
our reason, we still shrink from the labour of being an author- 
itv to ourselves, and, at one and the same moment that we 
turn from the priest, have recourse to the philosopher — willing 
to see with his eyes, to hear with his ears, and to think with 
his thoughts, so that we may but escape the labour of exer- 
cising our own. Like the vain and impatient tyrant of anti- 
quity, we must still ask of our instructor, not a royal road to 
the truths of geometry alone, but to all truths in matter or in 
mind. We would know all things without examining any 
thing, and, above all, little curious of the knowledge which is 
useful and attainable, we must ever crave that which neither 
concerns us nor has any existence for us. 

Truly, if we consider the state of our own minds — our 
willingness, nay, our very anxiety to be bitted, and bridled, 
and led through any of error's labrynths, rather than to seek 
for ourselves the paths of truth — truly, I say, considering our 
own indolence and our own gullibility, we have small reason 
to exclaim against the presumption of priests or the dishonesty 
of teachers. Methinks we should rather bless their moderation 


for cheating us so little in proportion to our credulity, and 
riding as so gently if compared with our slavishness! The 
marvel is, (permit me the freedom,) not that we should en- 
counter much knavery, but that we should meet with some 
honesty. The marvel is, that any should honour truth so 
much and love man so well, as to attempt the enlightening of 
ignorance or the correcting of error, without either tiring of 
the task or betraying the cause. 

Easy were that task and rapidly triumphant that cause, 
could we understand that correct opinions may be found only 
through knowledge, and that the task of the instructor is only 
to show us facts, aud thus to lead us to first principles. But, 
so accustomed are we to be crammed with opinions and dic- 
tated to in belief, that the faithful guide who may refuse to 
feed our diseased appetite may hardly win our ears, or com- 
mand our sickly attention. Would he point to those interest- 
ing phenomena to which our eyes are now, as it were, 
hermetically sealed, he is met by the question — what god he 
worships. Is it explained to us that cause and effect are 
words, either without meaning, or expressive simply of the 
train of occurrences and succession of changes ever taking 
place around or within us, we ask of our teacher, if he believes 
in a first cause. Does a moralist instigate us to investigate 
the numerous ills which afflict our existence, and, with a view 
to the remedy of these, to study the phisiology of our own 
bodies, the operations of our own minds, and then to distin- 
guish what in human practice is in violation and what in 
unison with the laws of our being, he is interrupted by inqui- 
ries as to his belief in the distinct eocistence of a soul a?id its 
future immortality in another world. The disappointed in- 
structor in vain interrupts the train of his observations to 
explain, that, as his knowledge is necessarily bounded by the 
horizon of his observation, so his instruction can extend no 
farther than his knowledge ; and that when he shall have 
communicated all the facts gleaned in his studies, it will rest 
with his pupils to draw such conclusions as those facts may 
generate. Instead of appreciating the respect thus paid to 
human truth and human liberty, his hearers, accustomed by 
long habit to submit their reasons to whomsoever will take 
the trouble to ride them, find perchance offence in that he 
will not feed their curiosity by tampering with their credulity, 
nor spare them the necessary labour of mastering the sciences, 
and studying human life in conjunction with the human 


frame, in order that they may think on all subjcts for them- 

But let the friends of man be of good courage in a good 
cause. Let them not faint with weariness under the heed- 
lessness of folly, the obstinacy of error, nor the seeming ingrati- 
tude of ignorance. Above all, let them not swerve from the 
strait and clear path in which it must be their aim to lead the 
erring and warring family of humankind. Let them be true 
to themselves as children of science — true to their fellow 
creatures as the simple expounders of nature, and by slow 
degrees, the* ears of men shall be won, and their minds com- 
posed to reflection. 

I am aware of the common persuasion that science regards 
only what are called scientific men — which means, in plain 
language, that knowledge is only good to be made a trade of. 
It seems in the order of things, that the surgeon should 
understand the structure of our trame, in order that he may 
repair it if injured ; that the physician should study its phisi- 
ology and pathology, in order to heal it if diseased. But it 
strikes us not, that did we ourselves possess the same know- 
ledge, we might oft prevent both the injury and the disease, 
or apply, ourselves, the remedy. It seems natural that the 
mechanician should study mechanics, the pharmacian chemist- 
ry, the lawyer Jaw, the priest religion ; not perceiving that, 
while each part and parcel of human learning remains confined 
to its ostensible professors, the public at large has no means of 
estimating its real value, nor the possessor himself of under- 
standing all its bearings and relations, distinguishing its truths, 
or detecting its fallacies. Not seeing, also, that, in this 
manner, every facility is afforded to the crafty and superficial 
to palm upon society deficiency for skill, or error for truth. 
Not seeing, moreover, that all the real sciences are so related 
and conjoined, that no individual can thoroughly understand 
any one without some general acquaintance with all. Not 
perceiving, in fine, that it is in the absence of this general 
acquaintance that false knowledge, pretended science, errone- 
ous institutions, unwise expenditures, absurd customs, and 
every species of fraud and folly obtain among men, and are 
handed down from parent to child, like the heirlooms of 
aristocracy in feudal Europe. 

But I am aware, also, that the word science is asssociated 
in the popular mind with mental fatigue, abstract study, and 
scholastic application. True it is, that, according to the 


method of instruction now usually followed, all these charges 
may be brought, with more or less truth, against every useful, 
no less than every ornamental acquirement. Yet, I think, 
those who have attended the opening classes already held in 
this building, under all the disadvantages of deficient accom- 
modation and imperfect arrangement, will decline to admit, 
that the acquisition and imparting of knowledge is not neces- 
sarily the dry, abstruse, and uninteresting occupation that the 
ferverted ingenuity of our ancestors had contrived to make it. 
am tempted here to borrow the words of a teacher, whose 
lucid genius would reflect honour on the country which gave 
him birth, could genius belong to any country, which more 
truly belongs to the world. " Philosophy," says Alexander B. 
Johnson in his lectures on language, as delivered in TJtica, 
New-York, "philosophy is not necessarily the frowning, 
sluggish divinity that her ministers have injudiciously repre- 
sented. Her dress may be splendid, her decorations brilliant ; 
the clearest light should always illuminate her throne, and 
disputation be banished from her presence." 

Be it our object, then, to disenrobe philosophy of the cumb- 
rous disguise with which human error hath veiled her features, 
and to present her in all her native loveliness — heightened, 
polished and enhanced by all the glow and the grace which 
judicious genius may know to impart ; but never distorted by 
the whimsical and meretricious ornaments of depraved taste or 
perverted ingenuity. Be it our object to discover truths 
where alone they are to be found, in the bosom of nature ; and 
let us understand, that without a perception of these truths — 
that is, without a general view of the whole range of the 
sciences — we can neither judge ourselves nor our fellow 
creatures, possess any opinion, nor pursue any practice, in 
full certainty of its justice towards others and its utility to our- 

To obtain and impart this general view of the whole field of 
human knowledge, is the object of this institution. Whenever, 
therefore, this building shall be occupied by a teacher, nomi- 
nated by the trustees as a popular instructor, it would appear 
to me desirable that this subject should be invariably one of 
explanation, not of disputation — one whose text shall be 
chosen within the pale of knowledge, not sought in the limbo 
of opinions. 

Whenever this building shall not be occupied for the popular 
meetings under the direction of the trustees, it will be open 


for the use of any respectable teacher, be his subject what it 
may. Orthodoxy itself, if the day should ever come (which 
good sense and good feeling avert) that it should be driven 
forth as have been the advocates of truth, from house to house, 
until every door is shut against them — let orthodoxy itself here 
find a refuge, and win, if it can, the ears and hearts of men by 
the threats and denunciations of its gospel. 

For objecting to religion, either as a topic of discussion or 
subject of instruction in our popular meetings, I would prefer 
two reasons : first, that religion appertains not to the table of 
human knowledge ; and secondly, that we see it every where 
give rise to interminable disputes and all varieties of bad 

For objecting to party politics, I should prefer the same 
reasons. They have nothing to do with knowledge, and every- 
thing to do with quarrelling. 

Opinions apart from facts, and men apart from principles, 
may assist vanity to a field of display, ambition to one of 
power or profit, and passion to one of contention, but can never 
supply matter of interest to a people simply and honestly 
desirous of improvement, and aiming at union. We cannot 
enter the hall of science to learn nor to teach Christianity, nor 
Judaism, nor Islamism, nor paganism, nor deism, nor material- 
ism ; we can enter it only to study the world we live in, to 
study ourselves as inhabitants of that world, and to form our 
opinions in conformity with the results of our studies. 

I have said — to study ourselves. Oh, my fellow-beings, 
what a study is here ! W hat a field of discovery — what a 
world unexplored is that of our own being ? What truths 
yet unperceived, what duties unexercised, what faculties un- 
improved, what delights unenjoyed, are in the nature — the 
neglected, the slandered, the perverted, the outraged nature 
of man ? 

Let not bold inquiry apprehend that the field of human 
knowledge is confined in its horizon, and uninteresting in its 
details. While every path is rich with treasures and rich 
with novelty, there is one — and that the noblest and the fairest 
— on which the restless mind of man hath barely thrown a 

The master science — the centre path and fairest avenue in 
the field of knowledge, and from which and into which all 
others, if rightly followed, would be found to branch and con- 
verge — the science of human life remains to this hour in its 


infancy. We have dived into the secrets of external nature — 
we have pierced the blue ether and tracked the courses and 
revolutions of its planets, its systems, its comets, and its uni- 
verse of suns ; we have laid bare the bowels of the earth, dis- 
closed their hidden treasures, and brought to light the past 
phenomena of primeval worlds ; we have passed around our 
globe and explored its realms and climates through the scorch- 
ing tropics to the icy barrier of the poles ; we have torn the 
lightening from the clouds, and jewels from the depths of the 
ocean ; we have bowed the elements to our will, and, appro- 
priating and guiding their strength, have achieved more than 
the fabled exploits of demigods, or the miracles of prophets 
and saints — we have, in truth, in ingenuity proved ourselves 
magicians, in power all but gods ; yet is our knowledge only 
ignorance, and our wisdom that of babes, seeing that while 
exploring the universe we have left unexplored the human 
heart, and while mastering the earth we have still to master 

Oh ! let us not fear, that within the atmosphere of our own 
world, in the powers and wants of our own nature, and in the 
woes of human life, as originating in human error, that we may 
not find a field of inquiry more than sufficient to fill our time, 
enchain our thoughts, and call into action every latent faculty 
and feeling of our nature. 

Let, then, morals, or the science of human life , assume, 
among a people boasting themselves free, (and free, rightly 
interpreted, would mean rational,) the place of religion. Let 
us, instead of speculating and disputing where we can dis- 
cover nothing, observe and inquire where we can discover 
every thing. 

Surely it befits a people acknowledging political liberty, to 
investigate the meaning of the word, and the power involved 
in the principle. Surely it concerns a people claiming equal 
rights to examine how they may exert those rights with a 
view to equal benefit. What has been done towards this, let 
the state of society attest. How far we have studied human 
life as a science, let our human condition bear witness. How 
far the people of this land have improved their republican in- 
stitutions, or reduced to practice the declaration of 76, let the 
state of society declare. We speak of equality, and we are 
divided into classes ; of self-goverment, and we fit not our- 
selves to govern. We hear of law and legislation, and the mass 
of the people understand not the one, and take no interest in 
the other. We complain of existing evils, and seek neither 


their source nor their remedy ; we see pauperism on the in- 
crease, and vice travelling in her footsteps, and we ask only 
for more jails and larger poorhouses. 

Say, have we suggested here no subjects of interesting in- 
quiry and profitable investigation ? Should a self-governing 
people not understand the nature and object of government ? 
Should they charter representatives to make statutes in the 
dark ; and, leaving lawyers to interpret the laws which law- 
yers have made, rest satisfied to obey the reading of which we 
see not the justice ? Should they permit taxation and en- 
courage contributions, without directing the stream of their 
subtracted wealth into channels of national utility ? Should 
they profess equal representation, and possess no equal instruc- 
tion ? Or, not possessing equal instruction, should they pro- 
fess equal rights. 

All these, and more questions, it behoves us to ask and an- 
swer. Every contradiction and deficiency in our institutions 
it concerns us to discover, and discovering, to supply or to re- 
medy. Here may the good work begin. Here may we com- 
mence the work of reform by fitting ourselves to be reformers. 
Here, studying our common nature as human beings, our 
common interests as fellow citizens, may we present to a re- 
publican people a first example of republican union and repub- 
lican inquiry. Here, too, let our efforts but be sustained, and 
we may present a first sample of that republican instruction 
whose dawn shall bring hope to the nation, and in whose 
fulness shall be salvation. 

Far off may be the day of universal peace and universal 
knowledge ; but every effort made, and every word spoken, 
approaches us to its dawn. And even now see we not omens 
of that dawn ? Feel we not something stirring in the air ? 
Hear we not, from time to time, some faint but spirit-stirring 
sounds prophetic of the light, and the life, and the animation 
which are to come ? See we not ears opening ? Perceive we 
not understandings awakening ? Is not the spirit of inquiry 
abroad, and shall not the truths which would now startle the 
ear, ere long sink into the heart ? All things may we hope 
for man, should our efforts in this place be successful. 
Let us water the seed we have planted, and from it shall 
spring a tree whose branches will shadow the land. Let us 
be true to the cause we have espoused, and it shall con- 
quer the world. Let us preserve union and pursue truth, 
distinct from class or sect, or opinionative association, and 
yearly, monthly, daily shall we wax in strength, and our op- 


ponents grow fewer and weaker. There is no backsliding in 
knowledge. The human mind cannot unlearn facts, nor for- 
get first principles. The reason, once cleared of prejudice by 
means of science, can never re-enter within the fogs of error. 
She will not experience seasons of darkness, doubts^ and mis- 
givings ; require the stirring calls of supernatural grace, or 
the frenzied fits and hysteria of miraculous revivals. Her 
operations are silent, peaceful, certain, ever enduring, ever 
gathering in light, in strength, in security. Let us, then, 
gather under her peaceful standard, and present a point of 
union to which gradually all of the present generation, not 
absolutely lost to reason and common sense, and, yet more 
especially, all the young and the ingenuous, may gather, until 
the nation, collected in her might, prepares, through enlight- 
ened legislature, for the training together as one family, all 
the children of the land in national or state institutions. 

Then, in that day, shall we see equality ! Then, in that 
day, shall we possess liberty — beyond the fear of loss, beyond 
the possibility of assault ! Then shall we dwell in a free 
country ! Then shall a free and virtuous, a self governing 
and self-respecting people ; for then shall we be an enlight- 
ened people. 

There is no halfway in these matters. There is no liberty 
for any until there is liberty for all. There is no surety for 
liberty but only in equality. And let us remember, that there 
is no equality but what has its seat in the mind and feeling. 
All — all is there — virtue, honour, truth, law, liberty and 
knowledge ! Build up these in the human breast, and we 
shall see the human beings walk uprightly. 

Your institutions may declare equality of rights, but we 
shall never possess those rights until you have national 
schools. Your legislators may enact prohibitory laws and 
laws offensive and defensive, protective or invasive, it matters 
little which ; our liberties will never be secure, for they will 
never be understood, until you have national schools. Your 
spiritual teachers may preach damnation and salvation, 
henceforward through all the eternity of existence, and we 
shall never be wise nor happy, peaceful nor charitable, useful 
in our generation, nor useful through our descendants, to all 
generations, until ye open the flood-gates of knowledge, and 
let her pure waters fertilize all the land. 

As preparatory, then, to greater measures, and prophetic 
of extensive reform, our meeting in this place, on this day 


and for our proposed object, may mark an era in the moral 
history of the republic. The greatest events have grown 
out of the smallest ; the most important reforms have been 
generated by fewer individuals, than now fill these walls 
and affected too in countries less free to thought, to speech, 
and to action, than this favoured land. Here all is possible 
to truth if sustained by perseverance. In revolutionized 
America she has not to contend with the bayonet, nor to 
encounter the scaffold and the dungeon. The battle of 
blood is here happily fought, and the sword of freedom sheath- 
ed, as we trust, for ever. Yet great is the victory she hath 
yet to achieve. It is over the tyranny of ignorance, and 
the slavery of mind. Noble be her weapons, and spotless 
as her cause ! let her seek them at the hand of knowledge, 
and wield them in the spirit of peace, of charity, and of love 
to man. 

[The following odes, written by F. W. for the occasion, 
were sung : the first previous to the commencement of the 
address, the second at its close.] 


Long have the nations slept : hark to that sound ! 
The sleep is ended, and the world awakes : 
Man riseth in his strength and looks around, 
While on his sight the dawn of reason breaks. 

Lo ! Knowledge draws the curtain from his mind ; 

Quells Fancy's visions, and his spirit tames, 

Deep in his breast that law to seek and find, 

Which kings would write in blood, and priests in flames. 

Shout, Earth ! the creature man, till now the foe 
Of thee, and all who tread thy patent breast, 
Henceforth shall learn himself and thee to know, 
And in that knowledge shall be wise and blest. 


Oh, sons of men ! throw round your eyes 
Upon the earth, the seas, the skies ! 
Say doth not all, to every sense, 
Show beauty and magnificence ? 


See hill and vale with verdure spread ! 
Behold the mountain lift his head, 
In stature, strength, and power sublime, 
Unscathed by storm, untouched by time : 

And see the flower which gems the sward ! 
List to the pipe of evening bird — 
The streams, the winds, the balmy breeze 
Making soft music with the trees. 

And see the glories of the night ! 
The deep blue vault with stars of light, 
The silver clouds, the odorous air — 
All soft, and still, and sweet, and fair ? 

And oh ! that hour of matin prime, 
The cool, the fresh, the joyous time, 
When. Sol, as if refreshed by sleep, 
Springs blazing from the kindled deep. 

Then mark how nature with delight 
Exults and kindles at the sight ; 
Earth, ocean, air — above, around, 
Ail full of life, and stir, and sound ! 

Yes ! all unto the outward sense 
Shows beauty and magnificence ; 
All fair— unless that world we scan, 
That moral world, as made by man 

To all earth's blessings deaf and blind, 
Lost to himself and to his kind, 
With mad presumption, lo ! he tries 
To pierce the ether of the skies. 

His fancy wing'd to worlds unknown, 
He scorns the treasures of his own; 
By fears of hell and hopes of heaven, 
His noble mind to madness driven ! 

Oh ! first of all the tribes of earth, 
Wake to a knowledge of thy worth ! 
Then mark the ills of human life, 
And heal its woes, and quench its strife 

Victim and tyrant thou, oh man! 
Thy world, thyself, thy fellows scan, 
Nor forward cast an anxious eye, 
Who knows to live, shall know to die. 





As given by Frances Wright, in the Park Theatre. New- 
York, January 3\st, 1829, at the close of her discourse 
on Religion. 

[Among the many artifices devised by the clergy of New-York, during 
the first and second delivery of these discourses, was the circulation of 
inflammatory playcards and pamphlets, in which the object of the lecturer 
was represented to be nothing short of a universal insurrection of the 
people against, and massacre of, themselves. The flying missiles of the 
tract house, were backed by the heavier artillery of the daily papers; 
when, upon the night of the meeting held in Tammany Hall, in reproba- 
tion of the memorials presented to congress for the interruption of the 
Sunday mails, an article appeared in the Evening Post, which occasioned 
the following reply. It was first pronounced at the close of the third 
lecture, and repeated on the night of the fourth, for the reason explained 
by the lecturer.] 

The subject which has engaged our attention this evening, 
will permit me, without irrelevancy, to repeat the observa- 
tions with which I concluded my discourse of Saturday. I 
am influenced to this repetition, by the knowledge, that many 
were prevented on that occasion from attendance, by the 
public duty which they were then summoned to fulfil, and 
the style and manner of w r hose fulfilment presents another 
evidence of the stirring spirit which is abroad, and the radical 
reform in opinion, as in practice, now in preparation for this 
brightest portion of the civilized world. I am tempted to 
this repetition also, by all the crowd of solemn and sacred 
recollections, which the circumstance that elicited my obser- 
vations of Satuday had outraged in my bosom ; and which, 
allied as I have been in thought and feeling with the surviving 
veterans of the French revolution, and with the martyred and 
exiled partiots of Europe's latter years, who drank their 
inspiration from the heroes of '89, challenges in me, from 
outraged friendship, no less than from outraged truth, a reply 
as public and as bold as hath been the slander. With the view 
of rendering that reply more public, I shall here repeat it, and 
farther publish it in the columns of the Free Enquirer. 

True it is, that the attack against human liberty, and its 
advocates, which challenged my notice, stands not singly and 
alone ; it forms only an item in the long tissue of falsehoods 
and misrepresentations with which the annals of human 
improvement have been sedulously darkened and confounded. 


Let us listen to sermon, peruse religious tract, or religious 
essay, yea, or political journal under orthodoxy influence, 
or clerical dictation, what find we but exhortations to passive 
obedience ? laudatory apostrophes to thrones, dominations, and 
powers? insidious reflections, or open denunciations against 
inquiry, under the name of infidelity ; against honest opinion, 
under the name of heresy; against self-respecting virtue, 
under the name of vice ; against resistance to oppression, 
under the name of sedition •> and against revolution, under 
the name of rebellion ? But I shall ask ye, for the moment, 
to look no farther than the editorial columns of the Evening 
Post, of Thursday last, in which, setting aside the momentary 
object, and consequent personal allusions of the writer, we 
find him openly advocating feudal despotism, and classing 
political revolutions among the crimes most inimical to man 
and odious to God. 

This spiritual oracle presents the citizens of New-York 
with a quotation from the speeches of Edmund Burke, made 
after that statesman had sold Idmself for place and pension 
to the throne he had once so boldly defied. In these quota- 
tions we are presented with the foulest slanders against 
noble deeds aud noble men ever pronounced by traitor or 
slave ! 

Know the citizens of New York, who fathered the French 
revolution of '89, thus upheld in their daily journals to execra- 
tion and opprobrium? The virtuous, the venerable, the vene- 
rated Lafayette. Know they the principles then proclaimed, 
and to which a Baillie, a La Rochefoucauld, a Condorcet, a 
Madame Roland, set the seal of their blood ? They were the 
same signed by a Franklin, an Adams, a Jefferson, and all 
the worthies of '/6. They were the same to which the people 
of this land stand pledged in life, property and honour. And 
while the fallen, the sold, the misguiding and misguided 
Burke, was thus confounding times and dates, blaspheming 
glorious names and more glorious eras, perverting words and 
perplexing principles, were the sages and heroes of '89, the 
virtuous men, and high-minded women, who had reared in 
Europe the standard of civil liberty and mental emancipation, 
expiring in sublime philosophy on the scaffolds of the reli- 
gious — ay ! of the religious Robespierre ! 

I have thus again condescended upon the pages of this 
journal, with a view to the exposure of the literary and 
religious fraud, now carried on under cover of the popular 


ignorance, through every vehicle of popular instruction. Not 
a fact but is misinterpreted — not a name but is slandered — 
not a system, not a principle., not a book, page, word, but 
is travested, tortured, perplexed, and belied, to serve the 
purposes of clerical ambition, and support a system of error 
and fraud, as inimical to the interest of the many, as it is 
abetting and flattering to the pretensions of the few. 

And now, I will ask, how that very large portion of the 
community, who glean their only information respecting past 
or present events, from newspapers, magazines, tracts, and 
pamphlets, all more or less under the similar influence with 
the Evening Post, are to judge rightly respecting things or 
respecting men. I have now in my hand, a bill, or tract, I 
know not how the flying paper should be designated, which 
was distributed, among many others, to the citizens who 
attended the meeting at Tammany Hall, on Saturday evening. 
In this we find a similar confusion of times and circumstances, 
causes and effects, as that observed upon in the Evening 
Post. Here, again, all the horrors acted in France, subse- 
quent to the bright dawn of the revolution, by an ignorant 
populace, excited to frenzy by the subtle emissaries of the 
British ministry, and by the hired incendiaries of a di scorn- 
fitted court, aristocracy, and priesthood, are presented to the 
uninformed reader, as the work of philosophers and political 

I shall hereafter take occasion to elucidate in the pages of 
the Free Enquirer, some of the leading events and characters 
of the French revolution ; when it will be seen that the 
virtuous supporters of order, peace, brotherly union, and 
brotherly love, were the patriots and philosophers who, having 
raised the standard of equal liberty, died in its defence; while 
the ignorant and brutal Robespierre was signing their death- 
warrants in his chamber, and decreeing in his legislative hall, 
by act of assembly, the existence of a God, and consecrating 
a day for his espcial worship. 

And how shall the people judge between what is and what 
is not, until knowledge shall be present to the mind? And 
how shall knowledge be present to the mind, so long as faith 
is made the only subject of instruction. Shall, then, the 
object for which we are met in this place, be defeated or 
deferred? Shall knowledge never own a shrine, nor truth 
a temple? Will a free people never pronounce the little 
words, let us inquire ; the modest and national words, let 



Introductory Address to the Course, as Delivered for the Second Time in beiv- 
York. Observations on the violent spirit betrayed by the clergy and 
the press under their control. Persecution the reward of reformers in 
all ages. Determination of the lecturer to persevere in her under- 
taking. Appeal from the misrepresentations of designing individuals 
to the good sense of the audience, and pledge given by the lecturer to 
explain, in due order, her views on all subjects connected with the well- 
being of humankind. 


On the Nature of Knowledge. Variety of opinions among men, throughout 
the world, and in our own country. Question started as to what 
constitutes truth. Conceived difficulty and real facility of its solution. 
Nature of evidence. True evidence to be sought in accurate know- 
ledge. Improvement the distinguishing principle in man. In it a 
surety presented for the excellence and happiness of the race. Desire 
of advancing in knowledge ; universality and vagueness of the same. 
Erroneous ideas respecting the nature of knowledge. Inquiry into its 
real nature. Mode of its acquisition. Simplicity of all true ideas. 
Words the signs of things. How mistaken for the things themselves. 
Importance of taking aright the first step in knowledge. Confused 
state of the youthful mind under existing modes of instruction. Effects 
of college education up to the present time. Unassisted observation 
better than false learning. Minute examination into existing modes 
of instruction deferred. Chief position to be established in the present 
discourse. Acquaintance with an object, how obtained. Difference 
between knowledge and belief. Examples explanatory of the distinc- 
tion. Review of the field of knowledge. Divisions of the same. Be- 
lief how confounded with knowledge in the lessons of teachers. Effects 
of this on the mind of the scholar. Importance to the rising genera- 
tion of discovering and adopting a rational method of instruction. 
Effects to be anticipated from the same on the infant and adult mind . 
Importance to the present generation, of free and fearless inquiry. 
Erroneous conceptions respecting the nature of knowledge occasion the 
fear with which it is often regarded. Fearlessness and composure of 
mind necessary for its acquisition. These seldom possessed. Alarm 
occasioned by inquiry. Remarks on the place assumed by the lecturer 




and the motives which influence her. General incapacity of public 
teachers, and causes of the same. The peculiar dependence of the 
clergy, and their consequent inability to probe the vices of the age. 
Instance adduced from their conduct in the slave states, as contrasted 
with their conduct in the free states. Their universal opposition to 
science and all the practical reforms attendant upon its progress. Sla- 
very of the press and all the learned professions. Importance to the 
human race, that individuals independent of patronage and party, 
should undertake the guidance of the human mind. Qualifications ne- 
cessary in such individuals. Recapitulation of the topics embraced in 
the discourse. Concluding remarks to the female part of the audience. 
Peculiar influence exerted to prolong the ignorance of the female sex. 
Appeal to the male sex to consider the indirect effects of this ignorance 
on their own condition. 


Of Free Inquiry. A just education possible only for the next generation ; 
accurate and dispassionate investigation in the power of the present. 
Selfishness betrayed by individuals in their pursuit of knowledge. In- 
consistency of this selfishness with American institutions. Equal rights 
of all to the equal development and exercise of the judgment. Equal 
or greater importance of the same to youth than to age, and to women 
than to men. Influence exercised by women. Mutual dependence of 
the two sexes, and of all human beings one upon the other. The real 
interests of all one and the same. Impossibility of discovering these 
interests unless all be engaged in their investigation. Equality of in- 
struction necessary to equality of rights. Absence of that equality, the 
source of all the false influences which rule society in public and pri- 
vate. Misconceptions respecting the meaning of the word equality 
and explanations on the same. Examinations into the nature of liberty. 
How the same is violated. Instance adduced from the government of 
children. Duties of the parent and rights of the child exhibited. The hu- 
man race more especially interested in the enfranchisement of the female 
mind. Inconsistency of the arguments commonly presented against the 
personal independence and intellectual cultivation of women. No sex 
in knowledge, and no mystery in truth. Mystifications in science gene- 
rated by false learning, professional dishonesty, and competition. To 
simplify knowledge in all its branches and applications free inquiry 
indispensable. Past and present effects of free inquiry on the condition 
of man. Man always in a progressive state Remarkable epochs in 
his progress. The greatest yet to come. Inquiry challenged— by 
whom. Problem to be settled by inquiry at the present time. Summa- 
ry of the topics embraced in the discourse. 


Of the More Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge. First 
great division. Relation in which we stand to all that surrounds us. 
Identity of the simple elements of things ; their duration and varying 
appearance, as decided by position. Order of nature's phenomena, and 
our connection with the same. If rightly explained to the young mind, 
advance in knowledge rapid and pleasant. How different at the present 
time. Simplicity of the table of just knowledge. Actual impossibility 
of developing the same without a reference to existing errors. Apology 
for the necessity of employing unmeaning words, and discussing imma- 
ginary subjects. Subdivisions of the two first divisions of knowledge. 


Importance of those embraced under the first head Enumeration of 
the subjects of leading importance found under the second. All easy 
of attainment. Why. Nevertheless rendered difficult. Difficulties 
lessened by the labours of enlightened individuals. Important step now 
made. Much knowledge necessary previous to an examination of our 
opinions. What knowledge in particular. Importance of acquiring 
the same. Order in which it should be acquired. Time for its acqui- 
sition ample. Time and money how wasted at present. Important 
subject for the exercise of free inquiry. Leisure hours and leisure 
day how employed ; buildings, why raised, and teachers salaried. 
Apolcgy to the audience for risking the wounding of their feelings. 
Reference to the influence of the clergy. Necessity of exposing their 
incapacity. Hypocrisy engendered by the habits of existing society. 
This more or less experienced by every one ; in the highest degree by 
the clergy. Peculiarity of their situation. Instance of honesty in one 
of that body Consequences of the same. Fault less in individuals 
than in their situation. Motives which induce the lecturer to probe the 
popular prejudices. Possibility of knowledge by faith questoned. Its 
impossibility exhibited, and its inutility under the supposition of its 
possibility. Propriety of hiring teachers to teach impossibilities ques- 
tioned. Inapplicability of all spiritual lessons to human life and hu- 
man beings. Lecturer deprecates the idea of questioning the opinions 
of her hearers or dictating others. Exhorts to examination and inqui- 
ry. Spiritual teachers warn against the same. Their counsels suspi- 
cious. Questions for them suggested to their hearers. Encouragement 
to examine without fear, and to exert each his own judgment. Claim 
of the clergy as moral teachers considered. Disproved. Appeal to 
their followers to exchange spiritual dreamers for experimental philoso- 
phers ; churches for halls of science ; to calculateexpenses andexamine 
effects of existing religious system ; to compare value with cost, and 
strike balance. Importance of such examination. Twenty millions 
expended to make us foolish. If rightly expended, the effects on the 
population. Inefficacy of preaching against vice Real cure for the 
same. This never supplied by the clergy. Their knowledge that of 
things unseen. Their virtue based on depravity. Theory unworthy 
of freemen. Baleful effects of the same. Vindication of human na- 
ture. Man's noble energies how evinced. Appeal to Americans to 
evince them farther. To improve their liberty by means of knowledge, 
and to seek knowledge in the world they occupy. Exhortations to the 
study of nature. To rely on the powers of the human understanding. 
To examine each for himself, and to question the infallibility both of 
books and teachers Advantages of material science. — Truths exhibited 
when asserted. Examples. Prevalent notion that some truths exist 
apart from our physical sensations. Falsity of the notion exposed. 
Exhortation to weigh the words of the lecturer ; to go to church and 
to weigh the words of the clergy. Warmth of the lecturer, and where- 
fore. Invitations to associate for the acquisition of sound knowledge, and 
to raise a popular edifice for popular assemblies. Proposal for a pattern 
sehool of industry for children, attached to a hall of science for adults. 
Advantages from the same, equal for the poor and the rich. Common 
nature, wants, and interests, of all human kind. Exhortations to unite 
in the courts of knowledge. To exchange declaimers for instructors, 
wise guides for ignorant threateners, and consistent science for incon- 
sistent faiths. Summary of the topics embraced in the three first lec- 
tures, and subject of the next set forth. 

M 2 



0/ Beligion. Its engrossing character. Lecturer's desire not to wound 
the feelings, or arouse the prejudices. Reasons for approaching the 
subject. Knowledge obtained by the senses. Erroneous modes of 
teaching science. Ancient Greeks false logicians, because ignorant of 
physical science. Grecian logic still retained. Aristotle. Pestalozzi. 
Enemies of human improvement more quick sighted than its friends. 
Rational education unfavourable to loyalty and credulity. Definition 
of knowledge. Is religion a science? Its cost. Are its truths appa- 
rent. Where shall it be classed. Knowledge not human of slippery 
foundation. What is religion. Revelation by special favour. Exhorta- 
tion to leave things unseen for knowledge. Lecturer's creed. Turn- 
ing churches into halls of science. Splitting of sects. Lecturer ignO' 
rant of unearthly phenomena. Jesus's mode of prayer lecommended 
to the pious. Deprecation of intention to wound. Test of books and 


Morals. Necessity of clearing the threshhold of knowledge. Religion 
excluded as unreal and furnishing no just rule of life. If there be a 
true religion, who has it? If religion deceive, what rule shall guide 
us? The rule of morals. Little progress in the science of morals 
since the early days of Greece and Rome. Modern morals based on 
religion. Definition of morals. A simple rule. Definition of religion. 
Religion and morals distinct. Religion never a source of virtue, even 
when the religionist is virtuous. Religion takes its spirit and cha- 
racter from the individual spirit and character of each of its professors. 
Virtue springing not in religion, but in the human heart. Of fear 
as a motive to virtue. A knowledge of true morals derived through 
our sensations. What produces morality? Test of moral precepts. 
Two great divisions of morals ; separate yet blending. Usages of 
society, Not nature, to blame. Propriety not found in extremes. Con- 
nexion and importance of the sciences. Self interest alone might 
teach virtue; but selfish calculations superceded by cultivated sensi- 
bilities. Negative virtue. Object of a just education to produce ac- 
tive virtue. Lamentable influences on the youthful mind. Orgrniza- 
tion charged with evils which spring from ignorant instruction alone. 
Enlightened guides should replace dogmatical teachers. Simplicity of 
the science. Summary. Moral principle. Divisions of morals. Each 
branch must be developed as opportunity offers in connection and in 
order. Conclusion. 


Formation of Opinions. Importance of the subject, and consequences to 
be anticipated from a just understanding of the same. Persecution for 
opinion. Review of its dreadful effects. Examination of its cause. 
Meaning of the term opinion. Truth or error of opinions determined 
by the greater or less degree of our knowledge. Singular inconsistency 
in human feeling. Anger generated not against facts but the conclu- 
sions which they generate. Absurdity of this anger. What conduct 
would be rational in cases of difference of opinion. Only method by 
which to induce a change in opinion. Sacredness of mental liberty, 
how violated. Ignorance of the nature of an opinion, not the only 


cause of opinionative persecution. This unknown in countries without 
a priesthood. Instances therereof. Religion should be left alone. Know- 
ledge, not opinions, should be taught. The people encourage the teach- 
ing of opinions at home and abroad. Honest opinions never culpable. 
Bitterness of sectarianism. Advantage of union. Persecution. Its 
nature and consequences. The clergy denounced as a body, though 
sometimes amiable as individuals. Secret influences more powerful 
than open force. The stage. The people's day of leisure. Spirit that 
persecuted Jesus, still abroad. Jesus would be ill received by modem 
religionists. Churches of faith and schools of knowledge. I ecturer 
of no sect. Signs of the times. A substitute for ancient errors re- 
quired. Knowledge alone leads to just practice. 


Existing Evils, and their Remedy. Summary of the topics embraced in 
preceding lectures, and subject of the present. Ignorance the source of 
evils. The people the true reformers. Who are addressed? Distress. 
Imitation of Europe. Small progress in reform since 1776. Republican 
anomalies. Forms and principles. Practical freedom and equality. 
Reality of evils, Philadelphia report. No effectual remedy found. 
Reform gradual. Difficulties in the way of popular effort to correct 
existing evils. Practical prejudices. Appeal to the rich. Parental 
anxieties universal. Their cure suggested, and the first measure 
towards the remedy of existing evils pointed out. Great measure of 
national education. Common schools inefficient. Plan of national in- 
stitutions. Educational tax. Promise of further development. Ex- 
hortation to radical reform through the state legislatures. 


Celebration of Fourth of July, 1828. Reasonable to rejoice on the day. Fourth 
of July, 1776, a new era. Change, the distinctive attribute of American 
institutions. Change, the harbinger of improvement. Importance 
of constitutional provision of reform. One liberty. National advan- 
tages we possess. Much to be done. Patriotism only conditionally 
a virtue. Ancient patriotism. Misnamed patriotism. Selfish patriot- 
ism. Patriotism of a citizen of the world suitable for America. Mis 
chiefs of exclusive patriotism. Duties of Americans. Character of 
rational rejoicing. 


Celebration of Fourth of July, 1829. Reminiscences of the day. Martial 
pageantry out of character. Peaceful be its celebration. Lecturer's 
task to counsel, not to natter America little known until she declared 
her independence. America now the refuge of liberty. Hopes enter- 
tained of her as a nation of self-governing citizens Her citizens re- 
sponsible for national delinquences. Their responsibility how fulfilled. 
Reproof, Fate of America, fate of the world. National institutions. 
Elective franchise virtually forfeited. The press. Its temptations to 
venality. A promise kept. Two positions on which rest the fabrict of 
American government. The people being governors, should be fit ed 


to govern. Before legislation should come instruction. Education the 
foundation of a republic. Omission on the part of the first framers of 
American constitutional law. America following Europe's footsteps. 
Appeal to America's charter of independence. The raising of churches 
and jails should give place to works of charity, and labours of education. 
All rational law and virtue involved in education. Liberty and equality 
to be built up in the mind. National education, sole means of human 
happiness. Exhortation to supply it. 


Object of assembling. Purpose of the hall. Popular reluctance to become 
simple pupils. Danger wLhin, not without. Courage of wisdom. 
Necessity to examine the object proposed. Statement of that object. 
All learners. Learning and knowledge. Spiritual existences. World- 
ly researches suitable for the Hall of Science. Faith should not be pub- 
lished. Dogmas often discarded and dogmatism retained Religious 
discussions. To distinguish truth better than to expose error, and to 
examine facts than to teach opinions. Man's willingness to be bridled. 
Certain science .interrupted by spiritual questions. Science the con- 
cern of all. Philosophy not gloomy nor mysterious. Hall of science 
for the teaching of knowledge, not the discussion of opinions. Hall 
open to all respectable teachers. Place of refuge promised to ortho- 
doxy if persecuted. Reasons for studying ourselves rather than dis- 
cussing religion. Field of human knowledge extensive. Science of 
human life. Science of human life should replace religion. Its fitness 
for discussion Variety of subjects for inquiry. Day of knowledge, 
though distant, is approaching ; and with it freedom and virtue. Liberty 
for one, liberty for all. National schools. Great events from small be- 
ginnings. Conclusion. 















[Delivered in New -York and Philadelphia, In the Autumn of 1829. J 

The present is an era of unparalleled interest to the moral 
observer, i. e. to him who considers all occurrences with a 
view to their influence on human society. 

The principle of change is in all nature, but the principle 
of improvement is only (so far as observation has enabled us 
to ascertain) in the nature of man. 

The scientific eye traces the convulsions of our earth's 
solid sphere back, through millions of untold generations, to 
eras lost in time, when animals of other form from those 
which now move on its surface, ranged from pole to pole, 
and (apparently in the absence of man, whose organic re- 
mains seem of more recent origin) fed on another vegetable 
kingdom, or preyed on each other as we now see their suc- 
cessors. Or let us observe what is passing around us in the 
field of existing nature : Each season brings its vicissitudes, 
each passing instant its changes — in the herb, in the flower, 
in the forest, in the mountain, in the jewel of the secret mine; 
in the vast bed of the ocean — dividing continents, engulfing 
or revealing islands, approaching or receding from its wont- 
ed boundaries, until the land-marks of other days are no more 
guides to the traveller or the mariner of these ; in all the 
forms of matter, whether gaseous, fluid, or solid, whether 
animate, or, to our perception, inanimate ; in every particle 
and unit atom that fills its place, and exercises its agency, 


through the endless succession of existence and duration of 
time. All, all is in motion, perpetual and eternal — in earth, 
in water, and in air ; in the elements of our own bodies, and 
in the thoughts of our own minds. I said in the thoughts 
of our own minds ; and here is that which converts the world 
of difform and rugged nature into one of enlightened culture. 
Here is that which can impart new order and method to the 
phenomena of matter, and convert change without design, 
into progressive improvement. 

Let us mark the primeval forest, where man's footsteps 
have never strayed. Tangled and impervious to all but the 
panther and beast of prey, the jungle, the brake, and the 
stagnant swamp load the rich earth with rank vegetation, 
and the air with vapour pestilential to the higher grades of 
animal life. Then first comes the human hunter, and opens a 
passage with venturous courage ; clears, in the season of 
drought, the cumbered earth with fire reducing to stubble 
the undergrowth thicket, and thus calling into being the more 
delicate herbage, and preparing the spring pasture, and the 
open glade, for the deer and the peaceful herd. Next comes 
the husbandman, to break the rich glebe, and throw the 
first seeds of a more plentiful and peaceful industry. 

I have seen the father of waters — the deep, and rapid, and 
unbordered Mississippi, sweeping down the wreck of moun- 
tains, plains, forests, and acres of fruitful soil ; and, as I have 
traced its career of destruction, I have seen the art of man 
suddenly arresting its violence, raising a barrier to its accu- 
mulated waters, and bordering its now mastered and inno- 
cuous deluge with the richest productions of human cultiva- 
tion. And what we may trace in progress in our own wes- 
tern regions, we perceive to have taken place throughout the 
habited globe. It is man alone, of all the beings we behold, 
that hath faculties to distinguish the alterable phenomena of 
nature, and power to attempt reform where he distinguishes 

You will remark, that I have here preferred no comment on 
the moral depravity which, up to this hour, has mingled with 
his intellectual ingenuity, and made of his work such a tan- 
gled web of good and ill, that we are alternately tempted to 
bless and to curse those powers which, in developing the 
treasures of earth, have so often perverted their uses, and. 
while ornamenting its bosom, have stained those very orna- 
ments with blood. 


Before adverting to the errors of man, I wished to observe 
with you his powers. I was desirous that we should distin- 
guish how, to his agency, all physical improvement is attri- 
butable. He finds earth a wilderness; he makes it a garden. 
He finds it peopled with tigers, bears, panthers, wolves, and 
poisonous reptiles ; and, through his influence, these give 
place to milder tribes, until we find the sheep and the tamed 
cattle browzing under his protection in velvet lawns, and the 
birds of song gathering their food amid fields of nutritive 
grain planted by his industry. We perceive, through his 
means, a similar melioration to take place in the earth's at- 
mosphere and climates. Where is care and judicious cultiva- 
tion extend, winter recedes, and its rigors diminish ; fogs and 
miasmata disappear, and the drained morass, now a smiling 
champaign, yields its rich produce, under a pure sky, to 
tribes of intelligent beings. We see, too, races of animals 
improving in beauty and in instinct : the dog appear with 
quicker scent and livelier sagacity ; the horse with finer 
proportions, nobler stature, and redoubled speed. We see 
the fruits of earth change under his hand. The golden grain 
swell in size, and increase in weight and nutriment : the 
apple, the peach, the grape, supercede the crude berries of 
the forest ; and all the vegetable kingdom — tree and plant, 
and fruit and flower, glow with new beauties, of hue, and 
fragrance, and luscious juices. 

We see, then, man introduces order and design, beauty 
and utility, where before simple phenomena were discover- 
able only. Wherever he appears we see intelligence preside 
over matter, and the changes and occurrences of nature, 
guided in their course, move in order, as on a plan of pro- 
gressive improvement. 

Mighty, indeed, are the powers of the human animal. 
Through earth, through air, though ocean, his influence ex- 
tends. The stamp of genius is impressed on the whole sur- 
face of the globe. Land and sea, vale and mountain, the 
howling wilderness of earth's civilized frontier, the scorched 
desert of simoom-swept Africa, the storm-besieged coast and 
boundless fields of ocean's restless waters, the glaciers of the 
poles, the iced peaks of Alps and towering Andes — all nature's 
deep recesses, most stupendous features, and to hidden phe- 
nomena, bear witness to his restless activity, to his dauntless 
daring, to his aspiring curiosity — to his conquering perseve- 


We may be bold to say, that wherever man hath pierced, 
and whatever he hath essayed, (not absolutely in contradic- 
tion with those unvarying phenomena of matter to which he 
has given, albeit inaccurately, the name of laws,) — wherever 
he hath been, and whatever he hath essayed with steady 
purpose, there, and in that, he has been conqueror. He hath 
been conqueror — I say, for good or for evil. Wherever he 
hath closely observed, accurately calculated, boldly designed 
and obstinately persevered, he hath triumphed — triumphed 
over every obstacle, executed every project, attained every 

I speak now with reference to the human race in the aggre- 
gate, and of their united, as well as calculated exertions ; 
albeit, even with individuals, steadiness of purpose will 
usually vanquish difficulties, and he who strains persevering- 
ly at any object, may anticipate, with probable certainty, its 
attainment. But, wherever nations, or bodies of men, have 
applied their united and sustained energies, observation, and 
calculation, to any undertaking, good or evil, scarcely with, 
an exception, we shall find them to have succeeded. Have 
they sought military conquest, and bent all their institutions 
to form a race of warriors ? They have carried their ambi- 
tion. Have they applied to the ornamental arts ? Look to 
the architecture and sculpture of Athens, the paintings of 
modern Italy, and all the brilliant, though, oftentimes, unless 
magnificence of ancient and modern empires. Have they 
addressed themselves to science ? to commerce ? to manufac- 
tures ? Mark the rapid discoveries in every branch of know- 
ledge ; the fleets which cover the ocean, the wonderful 
inventions in mechanics, and applications of machinery. 
Have they sought spiritual dominion ? Note the rise of the 
priesthood of every nation, from the Bramin, Hierophant, 
and Levite, of India, Egypt, and Judea, to the apostles, 
fathers, bishops, popes, Jesuits, and many coloured priests of 
Christendom. These last, in monarchies, have proved strong- 
er than kings ; in aristocracies, than knights and nobles ; in 
republics, than the people. And to what has been, or yet 
is, attributable this ascendancy, but to that perseverance 
and undeviating steadiness of purpose which supports, to 
this hour, and even in this land, a power and an influence 
at war with the spirit of the age, and the genius of the 

True it is, as all histories and observation attest, that a 


strong moral purpose, whether conceived for evil or for good, 
will, for the most part, prove superior to mere physical odds, 
and omnipotent over mere physical opposition. In this, the 
little band at Thermopylae, whose watchword was their coun- 
try, withstood the hosts of the Persian. In this, the children 
of Romulous, and robbers of the Palatine, overwhelmed from 
their little mountain the tribes of Etruria, and, persevering in 
the spirit of their founder, conquered the world. In this, the 
peasantry of Switzerland humbled the power of Austria and 
the pride of Burgundy. In this, the feeble provinces of Hol- 
land, having chosen for their emblem a ship unfurnished and 
unequipped yet struggling with the waves, braved the supre- 
macy of Spain, the legions of Duke Alva, and the united pow- 
ers of catholic Europe. And, in the same fixed purpose of 
the mind, the thirteen weak and iniant colonies of these now 
magnified and multiplied independent states, threw down the 
gauntlet to the parliament of Britain, and, planting in their 
soil the simple banner of the rights of man, vanquished the 
armies of tyranny, and brake the sceptre of kings. 

If thus, then, the empire of man be co-extensive with this 
globe and with time— if his influence can effect even nature's 
phenomena ; if his volitions may be calculated so as to ensure 
their object, and thus, for evil or for good, his fixed resolve can 
prove omnipotent, how urgent that such resolve should be for 
good — always for good — always for the advantage of his race 
— for the promotion of his vital interests, for the improvement 
of the world he occupies, and for the just cultivation of all 
those faculties of his own compound being, in whose wire or 
unwise exercise is involved all virtue or all vice, all happiness 
or all misery ! 

Seeing, then, how great the powers of man, and seeing 
what those powers have affected, we may all conceive how 
immense must have been his progress had he applied them 
with uniform wisdom. To say this in regret of the past would 
be idle, but to reflect upon it with a view to the future, must 
be all important. If the powers of man have been perverted 
to evil, or wasted upon trifles, this has been the necessary re- 
sult of imperfect knowledge and insufficient experience. 

Know we cannot, and it were idle to imagine, the train of 
circumstances which, by first starting the human mind upon 
wrong principles, led it to fabricate that complicated system of 
errors which falsely passes among us by the name of civilized 
society. It matters not, I say, to imagine how this came pasb ; 


we see that it is. Yes ! we now begin to suspect that we are 
in a wrong road ; that we have followed out the false princi- 
ples started by our ancestors, in ages of savage ignorance, 
until we can pursue them no farther with any hope of good 
result. The suspicion is now afloat that fear and violence, in 
all the forms we have applied them — by the sword, by the 
rack, by the ascendancy of brute force, by spiritual tribunals, 
and all the phantasmagoria of superstition ; by the nets and 
traps, tricks and quibbles, false pretences, artful circumven- 
tions, absurd contradictions, demoralizing oaths, debasing 
penalties, and solemn cruelties of law — the suspicion is afloat, 
I say, that all these inventions upon which man has expended 
his ingenuity, neither have affected, nor can ever effect, the 
purpose we must suppose to have been intended. 

The suspicion is afloat, that religon, as publicly taught in 
this land, at a cost exceeding twenty millions per annum, is 
a chimera ; that the clerical hierarchy, and clerical craft, 
which have been elevated upon this chimera, are the two 
deadliest evils which ever cursed society ; that our system of 
law is powerless for the object it ostensibly has in view, the 
just regulation of the conduct of men one towards the other, 
and rather omnipotent to effect the reverse of that intent, 
namely, to effect the perversion of the human understanding, 
the corruption of the moral feelings, and the utter destruction 
of all the social relations of the great human family ; and, 
finally, that government, as executed to this hour, is inade- 
quate to secure what it proposes, the happy existence of the 
governed. I say, that the suspicion is afloat, that something 
is wrong in the whole fabric of civil polity, and that hourly 
this suspicion is strengthening into conviction. 

All, more or less, can read the signs of the times ; though 
some may read them with hope, and some with fear. The 
most dull can perceive that a moral excitement, new in its 
nature, and rapid in its progress, pervades the world. In 
either hemisphere old superstitions and old pretensions sound 
the alarm. The priest trembles for his craft, the rich man for 
his hoard, the politician for his influence. Among the great of 
the earth the cry is up of " sedition ! rebellion ! danger to the 
state ! " From the sanctuary the shouts are heard of " heresy ! 
infidelity ! danger to the church and its treasury ?" From the 
people — ay ! from the people, arise the hum and stir of 
awakening intelligence, inquiry, and preparation. 

Every passing event announces the dawn of a new era — 


proclaims a new epoch in the history of man, foretels for all 
the civilized world, and first for this nation, as first in the 
ranks of civil liberty — foretels a revolution. 

Yes ! a revolution. Does any ear startle at the sound ? 
Some there are, some unhappily there must be. But not the 
righteous patriot shall it affright ; not the friend of man ; not 
they, who, in the inner mind, have wed their country's noble 
" declaration," and whose hearts yearn after the tenure and 
the exercise of those equal rights their fathers first boldly 
claimed for man. 

I have used, my friends, a word of mighty import, and one 
that, in every land save this, would be of threatening import. 
In hapless Europe revolution is still destined to wear the scar- 
let robes of blood. The people, in that hemisphere, have yet 
to win what you possess — political freedom. The sword is 
there in the hand of oppression, and they who would correct 
abuses have a royal army to vanquish, and a royal exchequer 
to drain. 

Not so with America. The field here is won ; the battle 
fought— unless, indeed, the spirit of her youth is departed, and 
she should tamely yield in her prime the vantage ground she 
seized in her infancy. 

In the crisis now in preparation for this country, three ter- 
minations present themselves as possible ; and, between these, 
the people may now choose. A short period hence, and the 
selection may be no more theirs. The change to which I 
point, and which every reflecting observer must perceive to 
be impending, will not be the simple effect of a progress in 
opinion ; were it so we might consider it with interest wholly 
divested of anxiety ; but it must also be impelled by the force 
of circumstances. What these circumstances are we shall pass 
rapidly in review. 

First ; the novel and excessive impetus given to commer- 
cial and manufactural enterprise by the improvements in ma- 
chinery, in navigation, roads, canals, &c , and, yet more, by 
the principle of competition carried out until it results in the 
ruin of all small capitalists, and in the oppression of the whole 
labouring class of the community. 

Secondly : the banking system, an evil which I rejoice to 
see is now beginning to attract the popular attention. Let 
the people pursue the clue they have seized, and it may lead 
them farther than they suspect. It may lead them to their le- 
gislative halls, and oftimes explained the measures there carried ; 


to their election polls, and explain the influence there exercised ; 
to their canals, railroads, and all the scheme of internal 
improvement, as now conducted to the advantage of spe- 
culators and capitalists, real or pretended, and to the ruin 
of the honest labourer, and farther depression of the wages of 
industry. It will lead them from their eastern to their western 
borders, to new towns without inhabitants, new houses with- 
out tenants, new ships without cargoes, new stores without 
customers, new churches without congregations, and new jails, 
bridewells, poorhouses, and hospitals, full of paupers, debtors, 
swindlers, felons, dying wretches, and outcasts. Yes ! it will- 
lead them through the whole labyrinth of speculation, false 
calculation, overtrading, false trust, and deceiving credit, 
where more families have found ruin, and more honesty hath 
made shipwreck in these United States, than in all the coun- 
tries of the earth, perhaps, taken together. Let the people, 
then, follow out the whole system of bank chartering, paper 
money, as now in use, and stock -jobbing of all descriptions, 
and they may soon detect one of the deepest sources of indus- 
trial oppression and national demoralization. 

Next, but closely connected with the evils already enume- 
rated, comes your professional aristocracy, compounded of 
priests, lawyers and college-graduated aspirants to the trade 
of law making, charter signing, license granting, Sabbath pro- 
tecting, and I know not what interferences with the rights 
and interests of the many, for the vain exalting, and false ad- 
vantaging of the few. 

And, lastly, as the root of all these many abuses, we find a 
false system of education stolen from aristocratic Europe, and 
which, under favour of the popular ignorance on the one hand, 
and the craft of false learning on the other, places the public 
mind under the dominion of priests, the legislatures at the 
mercy of lawyers, the industrious classes at the mercy of spe- 
culators, and, generally, all honest men and simple women at 
the mercy of rogues. 

Such are some of the many circumstances which combine to 
hasten a crisis that every reflecting observer may perceive to 
beimpending ; and which, if left to work out their own con- 
sequences, must bring about a change in public affairs by the 
worst means. 

I observed, that the revolution now in preparation for this 
country, may assume one of three possible forms. First : 
things may be allowed to follow on in the course they have ta- 
ken up to this hour, and to move uninterrupted and unimpeded 


in the accelerated ratio which events, like falling bodies, 
acquire in progress, and which the circumstances we have 
enumerated, and many others, combine to urge forward witli 
additional velocity. I say, things may be allowed to move 
forward as they are moving, with no resistance presented on 
the part of the people, and every momentum applied by the 
privileged classes. 

Under this supposition, the crisis must be consummated 
by the destruction of American liberty, and with American 
liberty, that of the world. 

Then must we witness the final degradation of industry, the 
extinction of all moral principle, the enslavement of the mass 
of the population, (even as is now the case in Great Britain,) 
and in lieu of a nation of self-respecting, self-governing- 
freemen, we shall see a crafty priesthood, and a inonied aris- 
tocracy, ruling a herd of obsequious dependants, trembling 
fauactics, and sorrow-stricken paupers. 

This fearful termination, however, I hold to be highly 
improbable, I will say all but impossible. How great soever 
may have been the popular supineness, we may observe, at 
this time symptoms of a general awakening ; and even, were 
it possible, which it is not, to close again the e)es which have 
once caught a ray of the light of truth, still is there such 
saving power in the institutions of the land, that, in the last 
extremity, they alone would suffice to rouse the children of 
the men of 7b\ and save from capture this last strong hold of 
human liberty. 

No! let Presbyterian ambition ring her peal; it shall be 
answered by the larum of freedom ! Let superstitiou spread 
her mists, and thick clouds of darkness ; they shall be dis- 
persed by the sun of knowledge. Let false pretension and 
false wealth, spring their mind under the citadel of the state; 
the people, though they slumber, yet shall they awake, detect 
the ambush, and defeat the treachery. Let priestcraft devise 
his nets, multiply his emmissaries, pour his willy lesson into 
female ears — let him ft eat the fat, and drink the sweet," and 
make heavy the strong box of his treasury — let him bribe, 
and threaten, and flatter, and slander, and persecute, all in 
the name of the Lord ; and, under the false colours of truMi, 
where there is only error; humility, where there is only 
pride; and peace, where there is deadliest war — let. priestcraft 
so strive, with poisoned arrow and stagger aimed in darkness," 
against the true interests of man, the true dignity of woman, 



and the weal of the human race — let priestcraft, I say, so 
strive, unarmed truth shall baffle his wiles, and break his 
sword of flesh with the sword of the mind. 

No ! my fears picture not the worst of all catastrophes, the 
final triumph of spiritual oppression and monied corruption, 
in this last haven of liberty and hope of the world. No ! the 
cause of the people must triumph. But how ? Here is the 
only question ; and here is the only anxiety which ever clouds 
my hopes, or alarms my confidence. 

The second form which the approaching revolution may 
wear, even in this land is more than possible ; and nothing, 
indeed, but timely measures, planned with wisdom, and carried 
with perseverance, can avert it. This second mode supposes 
some farther supineness on the part of the people, while 
existing evils and abuses increase and accumulate, until, the 
cup of popular calamity being filled, the last drop shall make 
it flow over. The American population, then, not coerced 
as in Europe by standing armies, and all the convenient 
machinery of despotism, shall suddenly take their wrongs into 
their own hands, and rush, without deliberation, and without 
knowledge, to their remedy. 

Alas for the unsullied robe of x'Vmerican liberty, should this 
be so. Alas for that unsppotted shrine which the hands of 
sages reared, and which the foot of wisdom should alon^ 
approach. Oh, not thus — not thus be the victory won. May 
the means be pure as the end. May the cause which brings 
us here this night, be secured without one act to raise a blush, 
one step to wish retracted, one deed to wish undone ! 

The third mode of revolution, then, be ours ; that mode 
which is alone worthy of a people who have assumed equal 
liberty for their motto, and declared their expressed will the 
law of the land. Let the industrious class, and all honest 
men of all classes, unite for a gradual, but radical reform, in 
all the objects, and all the measures of government ; and let 
this be done through, and by the means supplied in their con- 
stitutional code: namely — through their legislatures. 

But, will it be said, this is sooner recommended than 
effected ? Yes ; and better that it should be so. Were the 
people to carry the citadel while unprepared to use wisely the 
advantage, better that it were not in their hands. Power 
without knowledge is like an unbroke horse, it runs fast, 
indeed, but misses the goal. 

First, then, the people must bear in mind, that to be 


successful they must be united ; to be united they must be of 
one mind ; to be of one mind they must distinguish the first 
best measure to be carried ; and, having distinguished that 
best measure, must set hand to hand, heart to heart, and 
vote to vote, for its adoption and execution. 

I have already delivered it as my opinion, that this measure 
will be found in a plan of equal, universal, and republican 
education, and explained how and why I consider it as alone 
commensurate with the two great objects we have in view — 
the relief of the present generation, and the improvement of 
the next. 

First : the relief of the present generation So long as the 
industrious classes remained burdened with the charge of their 
families — with their food, clothing, education, and fitting out 
in life, it is impossible for them to be relieved of their burdens. 
And, so long as virtuous parents of any and all classes, shall 
see for their children no surer protection than that supplied 
by their own uncertain existence, it is impossible for all, or 
any, to know peace of mind. 

Second : the improvement of the next generation. It will 
be my object hereafter to show in developing the principles 
of law and government, (to which I pledged myself at the 
close of my discourse on the nature of moral science,) it will 
be my object, I say, hereafter to show, that, with a few 
exceptions, the whole of government, private and public, 
national and domestic, will be found, when properly under- 
stood, to resolve itself into education At present I shall 
only reiterate a remark often presented to my hearers, that a 
rational education is the only road to knowledge, virtue, and 
happiness ; a republican education the only road to equality ; 
and a national education, (by which I understand an educa- 
tion conducted at the expense, and under the protection of 
the people, acting through their fairly chosen and properly 
instucted representatives,) the only safeguard of youth, and 
the only bulwark of a free constitution. 

Some fears have been expressed lest the measure now pro- 
posed should be perverted by the restless spirit of orthodoxy, 
and the all-meddling ambition of priestcraft, to a source of 
evil instead of good ; lest, in fine, it should be associated with 
the Sunday School Union, Bible Society, and Tract House. 
A little consideration will, I think, expose the groundlessness 
of these apprehensions. In the first place, it will be observed, 
that the measure will be national, and not sectarian; political, 

N 2 


and not religious? proposed by the people's voice for the 
people's good ? canvassed in broad daylight, carried in broad 
daylight, and paid for in broad daylight. Priests have never 
worked save in the dark; priestcraft can only thrive by 
means of secret associations. Orthodoxy owes all its strength 
to the disunion of the people, and to the habit of silent and 
sectarian congregationing in churches, in lieu of popular 
assembling in popular halls. The organization of popular 
assemblies must form a necessary part of the reform i.ovv 
contemplated. Before the measure of republican state schools 
can be carried, the popular union must be cemented by means 
of popular meetings. A people uniting for any purpose are 
no longer sectarian ; and, when no longer sectarian, they can. 
in this country, be no longer priest-ridden. Let the late of 
the Sabbath mail petitions foreshow the issue of a 1 priestly 
or sectarian interference with a question really popular. Let 
snch a measure as that in contemplation be brought forward 
by the people, and let orthodoxy intermeddle if it dare. 

But the safety of the measure will appear more clearly 
w hen we shall have developed the mode in which, as I con- 
ceive, it can alone be carried; and the model of which we 
must seek in the opening page of your national history. 

When the American people, galled w ith the yoke of British 
servitude, resolved to pass the circumstances of their condi- 
tion in review, they convened a general assembly of delegates 
from all the then colonies ; and thus unity of design was 
effected throughout a population feeble, scattered, and, up to 
that hour, unaccustomed to consider each other as fellow 
citizens. Now, without calculating upon a spirit of enthu- 
siasm approaching to that of 1774, which existing circum- 
stances suffice not to engender, I believe it more easy now 
than it was then to fix lastingly the attention of the people 
upon some measure of general utility. 

This nation is fairly tired out with religious quarrelling 
and religious taxation, and favourably disposed to receive 
any better substitute. It is also warmly attached to its politi- 
cal institutions, and prove to estimate justly any measure 
calculated to fix them deeper in the hearj;, and to enhance 
their practical excellence 1 may remark, in evidence of this, 
that it has not happened to me once to touch upon the subject 
of popular union as attainable, and attainable only, through 
the means of a uniform plan of education, without elicitiug a 
spontaneous sentiment of approval. 


I have now made the experiment from Missouri to Massa- 
chusetts, along the line of our eastern cities, and in the towns 
of the interior. I have addressed, not small assemblages, but 
masses of the population, and I have invariably found the 
popular sentiment on the side of kuowledge versus faith, and 
union versus sectarian divisions. I think, then, the public 
mind ripe for the measure, or rather for the discussion of the 
measure, which is all that, in the first place, should be pro- 

To facilitate, then, first its discussion, and then its execution, 
I would suggest the propriety of organizing in each city, 
town, and district of influence, popular associations, for the 
simple object of discovering and promoting the true interests 
of the American people, distinct from all class, all sect, all 
party, and all speculative opinions. That, the better to 
impart energy and unity of plau to the whole, a central point 
be chosen, say Philadelphia, that city appearing the best 
prepared to take the lead ; and that, by means of standing 
committees, a correspondence between that centre and all 
parts of the country be opened. 

In this manner the attention of the American nation may 
rapidly be awakened, the spirit of popular union fostered, 
useful inquiry set afloat, the plots of orthodoxy and priestcraft 
exposed and defeated, pledges interchanged for carrying, at 
the elections, friends to human liberty, or, rather, men pledged 
to the support of upright measures ; and, first and chief, to 
the carrying the one great measure of a system of equal 
universal republican education. 

I would not propose, however, that this great measure 
should be entrusted to any man, or set of men, without the 
revisal and distinct approval of the people. Let individuals 
be appointed to draft, or to cause to be drafted, a bill setting 
forth the plan in all necessary detail, and let the same be 
submitted to the people through their committees of corres- 
pondence. After due consideration, and general publication 
throughout the country, let that be made the turuing point 
of the elections — until, in one legislature, no matter which, 
it be presented, and presented again and again, until, being 
carried, the first stone of that temple be iaid iu which we 
may find hope, and the rising generation prosperity. 

In presenting this sketch of the plan of procedure, which, 
after deep and earnest reflection, presents itself to my mind 
as best calculated to ensure purity and unity of measures iu 


the great national reform so greatly requisite, and, by all 
good minds, so ardently desired, I would not be understood 
as counselling hasty measures. Though all reform be possible 
in a country blessed with a government purely representative 
in principle, the progress of reform must always keep pace 
with the public mind. Faster it cannot advance, and faster 
wisdom would not desire it. Revolutions that are effected 
in a day are ever deceptive. They involve a change of men 
rather than of measures ; of names and forms rather than of 
principles. The revolution we have to effect is meutal and 
moral, and must be reached through the means of instructional 

But, as I had occasion to observe on a former occasion, to 
remould the national character through the rising generation, 
we must begin by informing ourselves as to the best means for 
effecting the alteration. We must inquire ; we must examine ; 
we must deliberate ; and we must inquire, examine, and 
deliberate together. While split into sects, and parties, and 
classes, the strength of the American people must continue 
paralyzed, and their noble institutions next to useless. With- 
out union there is no strength without union there is no 
progress, without union there can be no republic. 

To unite, then, but to unite on true principles, be our 
motto : to move steadily in the right direction, not to move 
fast, be our object. Doubt we what are true principles? 
The pen of the immortal Jefferson hath proclaimed them. 
In this noble instrument, (unrolling the declaration of inde- 
pendence,) signed with a nation's sanction, sealed with a 
nation's blood, shall we find them. 

The equal rights of all, as set forth in this instrument, the 
common interests of all, as discoverable by inquiry, be it 
the law of our hearts to respect the labour of our lives to 

In applying ourselves to this good work of honest citizen- 
ship, let us question no man's faith ; let us wound if possible, 
no man's prejudices ; let us ask the sacrifice of no man's honest 
opinion. But, neither, on the other hand, let us gainsay a 
truth in order to conciliate folly, nor immolate a principle 
with a view to expediency. Let us not court the rich man, 
humour the fanatic, nor favour or disfavour the sceptic. Let 
us win the battle, if slowly, yet surely, under the shield of 
unarmed truth, in the strength of a righteous cause. Thus 
let us associate; not as Jews, not as Christians, not as Deists, 


not as believers, not as sceptics, not as poor, not as rich, not 
as artizans, not as merchants, not as lawyers, but as human 
beings, as fellow creatures, as American citizens, pledged 
to protect each other's rights — to advance each other's happi- 

Not to build up a sect, then, let us associate, but to lead 
all sects to this altar of union (holding up the declaration of 
independence) which they have forsaken — this shrine of 
human liberty — this law of a common country which they 
have forgotten. 

So let us unite, my fellow citizens! and, strong in the same 
principle which achieved this nation's independence, shall 
we heal the wounds of the land, remedy its evils, stifle its 
dissentions, until we gather as one family, into the courts of 
knowledge, of virtue, of happiness, and of equality. 




[As delivered in the Hall of Science, New- York, on Sunday, May 9, 1830.] 

The six months I have been absent from this city, have not 
been sterile in events. They have exhibited a change, in the 
public mind, such as ere long must produce a change in the 
public measures. They have witnessed in this metropolis the 
breaking up of parties, the alarm of politicians, the anathe- 
mas of bigots, the noise of demagogues, and the awakening, 
and the gathering, and the uniting of the people. Through- 
out this state, they have sufficed to quicken a spirit in unison 
with that of its metropolis ; throughout the union, they have 
kindled thoughts and started inquiries which never again 
shall sleep 

Jt needs not the gift of prophecy, nor even the skill of ex- 
perienced wisdom, to see in the stir and preparation of the 
present hour, a future big with important changes in the con- 
dition of man and the policy of nations. The time is arrived, 
when even the dull and the cold-hearted must admit the con- 
viction, that all is not quite as it was, nor promises to remain 
as it is. Even the spiritual enthusiast rouses himself occasion- 
ally from his day-dreams, to look, with wondering eyes, upon 
the face of a world, which, till now, might, with some reason, 
seem unworthy of regard. 

When I recal the state of the public mind in this city, last 
January was a twelvemonth, and compare it with what now 
exists, I almost seem to dream in my memory of the past, or 
in my perception of the present. Then noisy polemics and 
ambitious churchmen engaged the people's ears, and crushed 
the people's spirit. Then troops of speculators bought and 
sold the people's voices, and the state's honours, unchallenged 
and unheeded. Then corruption struck down its roots into 
the soil, stifling the tree of liberty planted by a noble genera- 
tion, and they who should have tended, and fenced, and wa- 


tered the lovely sapling, stood silent by and watched its ruin. 
Then truly had the days foretold by Jefferson arrived : " The 
rulers had become corrupt, and the people careless. Their 
faculties all absorbed in making money, every shackle that 
had not been knocked off at the revolution had grown heavier 
and heavier, until the nation's rights had to revive or expire 
in a convulsion."* Now-^- Yes ! already may we venture to 
trace the contrast of the picture— Now, the people, awaking 
from their lethargy, prepare to search out the land. They 
call their servants to account ; scrutinize the laws of their 
enacting, the follies devised by their ignorance, and the cor- 
ruptions countenanced by their venality. Now, weary of vain 
speculations touching unknown worlds and inconceivable ex- 
istences, they call their thoughts from the clouds, and prepare 
to confine them to the earth. Now, convicted to their own 
reason of having misspent their time and misdirected their 
faculties, they turn from the expounders of dreams and read- 
ers of prophecies, to study the realities of human life, to find 
thescource of its evils, and divise the remedy of its wrongs. 

It is not to say that the great work of reform is acheived. 
It is not to say that it is fairly commenced. It is not to say 
that in the work, when commenced, there shall not be found 
many difficulties, nor that in the course of its prosecution 
there shall not arise many lets and hinderances. We need but 
to bear in mind, that they who have to effect the reform are 
themselves corrupted— that the people have drank deep of the 
poison mixed by their rulers, and forgotten, even -as thejr 
rulers have forgotten, the great principles on which the*ir 
fathers laid the foundation-stones of their greatness. It needs 
but to bear in mind, that the change which the people have to 
effect is in themselves, and the difficulties of the work will be 
all apparent. 

But, immense as these difficulties are, the people of these 
states are equal to the surmounting them. Their whole his- 
tory evinces that euergy which the spirit of liberty only in- 
spires, and which, in every extremity, will suffice for their 

Hitherto that energy hath been variously exerted, some- 
times for good, sometimes for evil ; but, whenever or however 
exerted, it has been successful. In colonization it conquered 
nature herself — the wilderness and the savage ; in revolution, 
it prevailed over armies and discipline, and ancient custom 

* See Notes on Virginia, end of Query xvii.^ 


and prejudice sanctioned by time. In the struggle which de 
cideded the character of the government, it silenced the 
doubts of timid patriots, and confounded the intrigues of crafty 
traitors ; it set the seal of democracy on the national institu- 
tions, and gave into the hand which penned the charter of 
American freedom, the helm of the state. In the mad conflict 
of European ambition, when the haughty insolence of Britain, 
and the blind fury of a Napoleon, equally menaced the exist- 
ence of the young Republic, threatening to sweep her flag from 
the universal seas, and her name from the list of nations ; then 
again was the energy of a free people displayed, and the liber- 
ties of man secured in those of America. 

Yes ! this distinctive characteristic of a free people shines 
forth in every epoch of American history. We see it in I6O7, 
prevailing in the swampy wilds of Virginia ; again, on the 
rocky shores of New-England. We find it ever awake and 
struggling through all the colonial history, until it rose to its 
height in 1776. We find it alive in 1789 ; we behold it burn- 
ing with new vigour in 1801, and see it crowned with victory 
in 1815. 

Here we see the energy inherent in the national character, 
inspiring noblest resolves, preferring and defending true prin- 
ciples and wise institutions, resisting oppression, distinguishing 
false counsel, rejecting blind rulers, and uniting, round the 
altar of a common country, conflicting parties, private enemies, 
and political disputants. Thus has the energy of the Ameri- 
can people, when wisely directed, sufficed for their protection 
and advancement. Would we judge also how it has sufficed 
when ill directed for their ruin ? let us mark their career in 
trade, their thirst of gain, their mad pursuit of every absurd 
and mischievous system, practice, and contrivance, until human 
ingenuity has reached the ne plus ultra of extravagance. Look 
to the religious mania, which has made the land groan beneath 
the weight of churches, and the more onerous burden of priests, 
turning alike our merchants and mechanics into speculators in 
pews and conventicles, and splitting every city, village, and 
almost every family, into sects and parties, until it would be 
hard to contrive more distinctions without devising t» creed, 
building a temple, and ordaining a priest for each individual ! 
Look to the banking system, restricted throughout the greater 
part of continental Europe to the simple purposes of discount, 
deposit, transfer, and exchange, in England, and in these 
states to far greater excess, its operations have been extended 
to false coining, until here, with the enterprise peculiar to 


the people, it has converted trade into gambling, covered com- 
merce with disgrace and industry with ruin, brought into just 
disrcredit the reputation of Americans abroad, all but annihi- 
lated confidence between man and man at home, exonerated 
fraud from dishonour, and hurried the whole population into 
habits of extravagance and practices abhorrent to honesty. 

We may look indeed where we will — consider every princi- 
ple started in this country, every experiment tried and system 
attempted, and we shall find that, whether right or wrong, 
wise or foolish, the restless enterprise and persevering energy, 
generated by the political institutions, have carried and carry 
the people to the utmost verge of what is practicable. Once 
started in any road, they stop not until they find no farther 
thoroughfare ; and what in other countries might take a cen- 
tury to effect, is here but the work of a few years. Thus was 
this continent invaded and usurped by the first colonists ; thus 
multiplied and grew their population ; thus flourished and 
strengthened their liberties ; thus burst they into a nation be- 
fore Europe was generally aware of their existence ; thus 
reared they the beautiful edifice of American government; and 
thus, with equal rapidity, have the same people suffered the 
pollution of that edifice, and rushed ahead in the paths of error 
and corruption. 

But we see — but we know — by experience we know, that 
the American people can reform with the same — nay ! with 
better energy than they pervert. Here, even in the nation's 
evil, we find the surety of its good. By the rapidity of its 
career in vice, we may calculate the ratio of its advance in 
virtue, when once it shall be started in the right road, and 
its energy shall be stimulated by rational motives and worthy 

Had I not, from study of its history and its character, thus 
judged concerning it, I had not raised my voice to challenge 
its errors, nor to kindle its enthusiasm. But, confident that 
with the American people was the power to amend every evil 
and rectify every error, when distinguished as such ; and that 
with them also was the means to amend and to rectify the 
same constitutionally and widely, I addressed myself fearlessly 
to their understandings, neither doubting to waken them 
from indifference, nor apprehensive of urging them to rash- 

The means employed were surely peaceful, and peaceful has 
been, and the promises to be, the result. Vainly would the 



wrath of disconcerted politicians, aided by the ambitious zea- 
lot, who fights ever his own battle under plea of fighting his 
God's — vainly would dishonest intriguers deceive the people 
as to the nature of the principles advocated and the measures 
suggested ; vainly would they confound these with the ravings 
of visionary theorists, or the propositions of inexperienced en- 
thusiasts ; vainly would they appeal to fanatical prejudice by 
shouting infidelity, or to worldly interests by prophesying con- 
fiscation and robbery. The American people (praise be to their 
political institutions !) have within them a store of good sense, 
ever equal to the discrimination of truth from falsehood, rea- 
son from declamation. Equal also to the distinguishing honest 
counsel from crafty manuceuvering, courage from rashness, 
and peaceful, wise, and practical reform, from violent, pre- 
mature, and convulsory changes. No ! the American people 
are not to be deceived when once truth hath met their ears. 
It has met their ears ; and already throughout the vast extent 
of this continent, the popular mind is, more or less, alive to the 
true nature of the refoim contemplated by the great mass of 
the free electors of this city, and I may add, of this state. 
More yet will I add— the American people generally through- 
out the union, are ripe for a similar reform, are prepared in 
mind to recognize it as indispensable for the practical develop- 
ment of those equal rights consecrated in their political insti- 
tutions ; to recognize it as involving the sum of humau 
liberty, of human happiness, and of national greatness; as 
capable, in its progress and result, of remedying the moral and 
physical evils which now afflict the community ; of casting in 
a new and pure mould the American character, and of impart- 
ing to the whole civilized world an impulse as novel as it must 
be virtuous. 

In the course I judged it useful to pursue, for the purpose 
of quickening the popular energy and directing it into 
wholesome channels, I distinguished, not without pain, the 
indispensable necessity of assualtiug many established interests 
and powerful influences, and thus, while my object was 
simply the good of all, of rousing the hostility of many. 
Foremost among these interests and influences, indispensable 
to assail and expose, stood those of a craft which has never 
existed in any country without sapping the liberties and 

{)oisoning the mortality of the people. In the clergy, every 
over of freedom, in every country, has seen freedom's worst 
enemy. No houest patriot, whatever his faith, whatever his 


religious zeal, ever loved or trusted, as a body, the servants 
of the temple. Their interests are one, and the people's are 
another ; no faithful guardian, therefore, of the public weal, 
could ever view without distrust the movements of the tribe 
of Levi. Without distrust they never have viewed them. 
To look no farther than this Republic and its history. Who 
among the fathers of the national liberties and independence, 
but have left us pledges, more or less direct or indirect, pri- 
vate or public, according to the greater or less buldness of 
their individual characters, or the temper of the times and 
nature of the circumstances in which they stood — who amonu- 
the founders of this nation's greatness, betrayed no doubts, 
no bequeathed, no warnings touching the character of the 
clercial functions ? Washington ! — too wise and prudent to 
agitate a question prematurely, or to risk the conversion of 
doubtful friends into open foes at a period when enemies were 
many and friends but few — Washington ! ever cautiously 
silent or evasive through life, firmly refused in death the aid 
and services of men who would fain have engraven upon his 
tomb, "Washington, the Christian apostle!" instead of 
*• Washington, the patriot hero!" 

This trait would suffice us for all that regards the public 
character of Washington touching the matter of religion. 
This trait, as showing him opposed to the profession and 
office of the clergy, would supply every information respecting 
the religious views of that great man, which could be of anv 
real importance to his fellow citizens to possess; for, will not 
all exclaim, " what matters the faith, or the want of faith, of 
an honest man and a faithful citizen!" Who but the wildest 
fanatic will dissent, from this I Yet who, possessing common 
sense, and cherishing human peace and human liberty, but 
must also own that he were unfit to be a ruler in a youn^ 
Republic, who viewed not with jealous eyes the priestly 
calling. That Washington thus viewed it, the manner of his 
death declared. For the rest, in silence might we leave his 
opinions whose practice was pure, did not incendiary tongues 
ever labour to confound scepticism and heresy with vice and 
disorder, and essay to prop up error by coupling it with 
sacred names : — if also it were not important to meet boldly 
the ungenerous prejudice so artfuliy inculcated by designing 
teachers, that all good men must believe alter a certain 
fashion, and that all who do not so believe are bad men. For 
these reasons, and for these reasons only, is it important that 


we now hold, upon the authority of Jefferson, what was 
always surmised by the more intelligent portion of the public, 
and asserted privately by the surviving confidential intimates 
of the father of his country. Washington was not a Chris- 
tian — that is : he believed not in the priest's God, nor in the 
divine authority of the priest's book. 

My friends ! I could ask pardon of common sense — almost 
of human liberty itself, that principle before which all sec- 
tarian names, and thoughts, and feelings, disappear. I could 
ask pardon of liberty and reason for this allusion to the 
private opinions of even so public a character and great a 
citizen as he I have named. If I have adverted to them, it 
has been in the same spirit which must have guided the pen 
of the noble dead when he left the words for posterity — 
*'• Washington was no believer in the Christian system." I 
quote the statement as Jefferson bequeathed it, to disarm 
prejudice of its poison, calumny of its sting, and to lead 
Americans to pause ere they echo, after designing men, the 
the opprobrious term of "infidel" against any among the 
dead or the living. 

Well may the strong equally with the weak have hesitated, 
up to this hour, to make a clear statement of their dissent 
from opinions generally received by an ill informed genera- 
tion, and fiercely protected by an interested priesthood ! 
Well might a Washington ever publicly evade an open decla- 
ration of his sceptism. Well might John Adams breathe, 
only in secret correspondence to a friend and philosopher, 
" the result of fifty or sixty years of religious reading, is in 
the four words, be just and good ,-" and " if by religion we 
are to undersrand sectarian dogmas, in which no two are 
agreed, this would be the best of all possible worlds were 
there no religion in it:" thus marking that distinction so 
important to human happiness, and so studiously confounded 
by pulpit teachers, between faith and practice, religion and 
virtue. Well even might the high and fearless minded 
Jefferson prefer to speak from the grave those truths which, 
if uttered too boldly when living, would have drawn around 
his age clamour and insult worse than were visited on his 
prime. Well might the fathers of American liberty, who 
faced without fear the wrath of kings, hesitate to kindle the 
vengeance of priests. Well might the lion-hearted leaders in 
a political revolution, who feared not to stake, with an un- 
armed people, life, property, and honour, against the trained 


legions, equipped fleets, and full coffers of a mighty empire, 
shrink from a conflict with the fanaticism of their fellow 
citizens ; and, if they hazarded censure of the ruling madness 
of the hour, utter it only in parables and dark sayings, even 
as we read that Jesus did before them. No ! let not the 
people marvel, that so few have been found boldly to meet 
and to wrestle with errors which every false influence and 
every idle craft were interested in protecting. True it is, that 
all the great intellects of every generation have discarded the 
particular superstition of that generation ; and equally true 
it is, that their heresy has, for the most part, been known 
only to the initiated like themselves, while the subtle scribes 
and pharisees of the day, trusting to their silence and the 
people's creduilty, have belied the principles, and taken in 
vain the names of patriots and philosophers, making the repu- 
tations of wise and good men the props of their craft and the 
vouchers for their impositions. Thus has it been in every age, 
and every nation of the world, where religion has been made 
a craft, and where the interests of priests have been allied 
with the worship of the popular deities. But thus has it 
most grossly beeu in this free country, where the priesthood, 
being despoiled of direct power, had only to reign by influ- 
ence. And truly they have reigned by an influence the most 
extraordinary — an influence, not only established and sus- 
tained by every art and artifice possible to human ingenuity, 
but consecrated by every sacred name that fraudulent pens 
and tongues could steal from history or wrest from philosophy, 
to palm upon the ignorance of mankind for orthodox believers 
in a superstition they disclaimed, and obedient sons of a 
church they suspected. Would not the American people do 
better to seek the opinions of their great men in their own 
works and those of their confidential cotemporaries, than in 
the trash of the tract house and the libels of the pulpit? 
Would they not do well to understand, before they take 
alarm at the senseless cry of f - infidel," that Washington, 
that Jefferson, that Franklin, that John Adams, that Ethan 
Allen, that Horatio Gates, and all the nobler host of 
worthies, who secured this country's independence, were all, 
according to the priestly acceptation of a meaningless word, 
infidels — that is, all disbelieved the compound Jewish and 
Christian system, and looked upon its mysteries and its 
miracles as upon nursery tales. 

I could say more— but I will not quote the living. Few 


are there, even now, when truth hath boldly broken the 
silence of ages — few are there even now. amoug the rich, the 
talented, or influential, who will openly reveal their secret 
thoughts, or lift in public the veil of hypocrisy which it is 
still safest to wear, and which the people are not entitled to 
challenge, until they evince respect for honesty, and frown to 
silence every scoffer at the sacred rights of conscience, free 
thought, and free speech. 

Let me not this night be misunderstood — misinterpreted I 
will not say, for that were a vain request. Mean spirits and 
false tongues are as yet many among us. But let misrepre- 
sentation lead us, each and all, to receive nothing upon trust; 
and, instead of enemies, we may see in our slanderers our 
best friends. 

Let me not this night be misunderstood by one ingenuous 
miud. If I see no merit in faith, neither see I merit in its 
absence. I perceive no use, and much mischief, in the dis- 
tinctive epithets of Believer, Sceptic, Christian. Infidel, and 
I know not how many more beside. Such terms are not 
acknowledged by reason, and fend to produce violations both 
of human peace and human liberty. In opinions there are 
but the true and the false ; those founded upon fact, and 
those not founded upon fact. To hold a false opinion is no 
crime, though it may prove a misfortune ; to possess a true 
one is no virtue, though it must be an advantage. We have 
more or less knowledge — a more extended or more restricted 
acquaintance with the phenomena of nature and the pheno- 
mena of our own bodies; in consequence, our conception of 
things is more or less correct our judgment more or less ex- 
ercised, and our opinions more or less consistent with truth. 

Not then to establish nor to pull down opinions have I 
laboured. My object has been to find a test for all opinions; 
I have encuuraged my fellow creatures to seek it in the nature 
of things as present to their senses, and in their own nature 
iiscoverable by observation. Have they, upon examina- 
tion, found all existing phenomena in contradiction with 
existing superstitions?— aud are they transformed into injideh 
because they prefer fact to faith, the living truths of nature to 
the assertions of men who earn their livelihood by the tale 
they are telling? Does infidel, then, mean one conversant 
with realities, and by infidelity are we to understand know- 
ledge ? If such be the meaning of the terms, 1, for one, will 
in honour; and the warmest wish of my heart 


shall be, to see all my fellow creatures infidels, and the whole 
earth flooded with infidelity. 

But here has not been all my sin. I encouraged my fellow 
creatures not only to test opinions by facts, but the. practices 
of society by their utility, and the existing condition of 
human beings by the national declaration, all men are free 
and equal. The cry of infidel then rose yet louder. How 
shall we translate it now ? Does infidel mean also a consis- 
tent republican, a friend to the human race, an advocate of 
the equal rights of all ? Then am I indeed doubly an infidel, 
• and an infidel in common with the fathers of this nation, and 
with all the worthy among their sons. 

But greater yet, my fellow citizens, has been my sin. I 
have ventured to suggest the means by which consistent re- 
publicanism might be developed in practice, human happiness 
secured, and the equal rights of all established in very deed, 
beyond the power of time or circumstance to subvert or to 
assail. I appealed to the citizen and to the parent. 1 plead- 
ed for the young, the helpless, the friendless, and the poor. 
I pleaded the cause of all — rich and poor — one with another. 
I essayed to show that equal liberty, to be more than an empty 
word, must exist in the mind, in the feelings, in the habits, 
and in the condition of a people ; that thus to exist, it must 
be planted in infancy, and nourished in youth ; that thus to 
be planted and nourished, the nation itself must assume the 
guardianship of the rising generation, and, curtailing all 
other expenses, waving, if necessary, all minor reforms and 
improvements, apply all its energies to the raising up of a 
new race in habits of equal industry, in possession of equal 
advantages, and in the cultivation of those feelings of com- 
panionship and fellow-citizenship, with which we 'should 
in truth be civilized beings, without which we are but 

Here, then, was the climax of my heresies. To this all 
my other offences had been but preparatory and introductory, 
and compared to this it would seem they had all been venial. 
To enlighten the present generation was indeed atheism ; but 
to educate rationally and equally the next, was robbery and 
murder ! My friends, if the meaning of words is to be thus 
inverted, we must make a new dictionary, and go to school 
over again. 

I observed, that in pursuing the course which had present- 
ed itself to my mind as the most useful, and consequently 



the best to pursue., I had found myself under the necessity 
of openly confronting the interests of the priesthood ; — a body 
of men that no individual, not absolutely bent on self-mar- 
tyrdom, would wish to have for enemies ; but which no 
honest reformer ever had, or ever can have, for friends. I 
could have wished this otherwise. It is far from agreeable 
to rouse a nest of hornets ; but, unless some had been willing 
to risk their sting, it was clear they would suck for ever the 
people's honey ; and, worse, with their continued buzzing 
so coufuse the people's ears and understandings, that common 
sense and practical suggestions could have no chance for a . 

To awaken the people's attention, therefore, to the affairs 
of earth, it was necessary first to draw their thoughts from 
the clouds. It was necessary to engage them in a calm exa- 
mination of the nature of truth, and by leading them to seek 
and to find what is, to prepare them quietly to discard what 
is not. Now, during this process of preliminary inquiry, 
I meddled neither with the faiths nor the forms of the popular 
superstition. I neither discussed the Trinity nor the Unity ; 
I called not in question the existence of a devil, nor ques- 
tioned the possibility of our thoughts and feelings, or (to use 
the term familiarly applied to them) our souls existing here- 
after in some unknown world apart from our thinking and 
feeling organs. I discussed none of these topics, I criti- 
cised neither Bible nor catechism, objected to no translations, 
quarrelled with no readings, challenged no discussion, but 
ventured the remarks — that theology was very expensive, 
its disputes very injurious, and its teachers very intermed- 
dling, and encouraged the public to examine, whether its 
utility was equal to its cost; whether its quarrels added to 
the comfort of society ; whether its doctrines were consistent 
with human experience ; whether its teachers were what 
they professed to be — meek and lowly in heart, despisers 
of the goods of earth, and layers up only of spiritual treasures 
in a spiritual Jerusalem, and* whether training up human be- 
ings wisely in youth, would not produce a better state of 
society, than scolding them once a week when full grown, 
and roasting them eternally when dead ? These questions 
were plain "and simple, and the clergy, apprehensive ap- 
parently that the answer would be unfavourable to their 
calling, declared, that to have heard them was immorality, 
but that to answer them would be atheism, which last term 


they explained to signify the infraction of all the laws of 
the decalogue, and of the states and the United States into 
the bargain. 

The cry, and the noise, and the running to and fro in 
the land were great. Every advantage seemed on the side 
of the clergy. They had all the pulpits, and in those days, 
all the press of the country ; they were backed too by 
all the wealth, and all the sinister interests of a corrupt 
generation. But the American people have a large store 
of curiosity, and, as was observed before, of good sense. 
" So much noise," they said, "argues little reason. To 
ask ourselves a few questions can be no sin. To weigh the 
cost and utility of our religious system can do no harm, and 
to examine the state of our earthly condition, may do some 
good." The clergy saw their error ; they saiu no more 
in public, withdrew themselves into the inner sanctuaries 
of drawing-room scandal, and, by frightening women for 
their reputations, sought to win back men against their will 
and their reason. But all would not do; questions had been 
asked, and the people had answered them ; useful inquiry 
had been started, and wholesome, peaceful, and constitution- 
al measures suggested. The people of this city raised the 
standard of reform, and their fellow citizens throughout the 
union gave signals of approval. The alarm that followed, 
my hearers witnessed. The discomfited politician stood 
now with the alarmed priest. What cry could he rai 
Democracy ? He dared not. Democracy is no crime in A i 
rica. Sedition ? That too sounds better in London than 
New- York. What could he cry ? He begged his watch-word 
of the priest, and cried — for there was nothing else to cry — 

My friends, seeing that in the sense in which this word 
has been employed against the free electors of this city, and 
against all who aided in awakening their attention to the 
necessity of bringing republican education to the aid of re- 
publican government— seeing that the same word was 
sounded against him who stamped on this country the cha- 
racter of a republic and a democracy, who set forth in the 
name of the American nation the equal rights of human 
kind, and who, at all times and under all circumstances, en- 
couraged and vindicated the free exercise of the rights he 
had proclaimed ; seeing that against him — the noble, gene- 

o 2 


rous, enlightened, consistent patriot and statesman, Thomas 
Jefferson — the same cry of infidelity was raised, that is now 
raised against honest reformers at the present time ; let us 
receive the intended insult both as an honourable compliment 
and as a good omen — as a compliment to the soundness 
of our principles, and as an omen of our success. Let none, 
then, be alarmed at a word which, in the mouths of office- 
hunters, signifies political honesty, and in the mouths of 
priests signifies common sense. Let it be remembered, that 
the cry of infidelity preceded the administration of Jefferson 
and that, if doubters in miraculous revelations and biblical 
theology, are to be styled infidels, they can only wear the 
name in common witn all the wisest and boldest patriots 
of America's revolution. Let the mass of Ihe people, then, 
defeat their enemies by practically evincing that good sense 
which distinguishes them as a nation. Let them baffle in- 
trigues and disarm intriguers, by firmly adhering to the 
constitutional principle, of effecting wholesome changes 
peacefully through their [legislatures, and that, not by has- 
tily subverting the existing forms of society, however unwise 
or unjust, but by preparing a change in the very soul of 
society — in its thoughts, in its feelings, in its habits, in its 
motives, in its social economy, in its moral character, in its 
every day practice, and, above all, by distinguishing that 
this change in our race can alone be affected by surrounding 
youth with all the moral, intellectual, and physical advan- 
tages which experience can suggest, observation discover, 
the wealth of the state provide, and the protection of the 
state secure. And, while pursuing this righteous object, 
and seeking out the means for its attainment, may every 
honest citizen unite in repressing all discussions calculated 
to lead astray the popular attention, to divide the popular 
sentiment, or, yet worse, to rouse the popular passions. 

At the present moment, when the noblest cause is in pro- 
gress which ever roused the energies of man, we cannot 
mingle too much caution with our courage. In all seasons 
of unusual excitement, some are always found with more 
zeal than discretion, more wit than wisdom, or more ambi- 
tion than honesty. That such should rise up in these stirring 
days, is little surprising; but, happily we may add, that 
such should rise up in this country is little alarming. I, for 
one, have all confidence in the American people — in their 


good sense, and in their political experience. I fear no 
violence even from their enthusiasm. I think I may say, 
I fear no rashness. 

True it is, that closet theorists and imprudent schemers 
have arisen, to lead astray the inexperienced, to alarm the 
timid, and to give a pretext to wily enemies. Better had 
it been, to leave to another generation the discussion of 
topics, for which passion, prejudice, false habits and selfish- 
ness, have ill prepared the present. Better had it been to 
take a first step, upon the safety, necessity and constitu- 
tionality of which all honest citizens are agreed, without 
straining our sight and whetting our curiosity to examine 
the ground far a-head of what we shall be called to tra- 
verse. But when questions have been prematurely started, 
and incorrectly treated by inexperienced, imprudent or 
ambitious individuals, it may be well calmly to meet them. 
As the most familiar objects, when imperfectly distinguished, 
have passed for hobgoblins, and frightened a whole village, 
so may the simplest subject, when falsely presented to the 
mind, or imperfectly distinguished, pass for some great moral 
monstrosity, and frighten a whole nation. Of late mingling 
with the old farcical cry of infidelity, has been heard the 
more novel and alarming cry of agrarianism. This last 
indeed would seem all but to have drowned the other. We 
have seen, I think, this evening, the emptiness of the word 
infidelity, and the groundlessness of the alarm it once excited. 
I believe a little investigation would expose the equal ground- 
lessness of the alarm excited by the word agrarianism. 

I am satisfied, that we of the present generation, have 
nothing to do with the question, How shall the property be 
equalized ? We are neither wise enough nor honest enough, 
practically, to answer it ; and as for answers in theory, the 
world has had too much of them. Still there are some prin- 
ciples at the root of this question, that it might be useful 
at the present season to investigate. I shall take occasion 
to do so in a future discourse, when it will be also my 
endeavour to discuss several subjects of weighty importance. 



[Delivered at a Meeting in the Hall of Science, New- York, June 13, 1830.] 

In addressing myself this evening to the young mechanics 
of our city, I would not be understood as considering their 
interests distinct from those of other classes of the community. 

The interests of the whole human family, in nature and in 
reason, are ever present to my mind as one and the same. 
But the ill directed efforts of successive generations have 
placed us in an artificial stale of society. The bond of union 
originating in the common instincts, wants, and desires of all 
our species, has been severed instead of strengthened by 
miscalculating ingenuity or fortuitous circumstances. Occu- 
pants of the same earth, citizens of the same country, creatures 
of the same form and nature, we are partitioned off into 
classes, and arrayed against each other, in despite even of 
our own will, by the habits of our youth, and the contrasted 
and conflicting interests of our after years. In such a state 
of things, they who are desirous of aiding in the cementing 
the shattered fractions of society into one whole, have to select 
first the largest and the soundest fraction — they have to 
address themselves to the more numerous, as well to the 
more moral of the classes, which, happily, is also that whose 
immediate interests are most in unison with those real and 
natural interests which it is desirable that all should be 
induced to distinguish and consult. 

If therefore I have addressed mvself, at all times, more es- 
pecially to the industrious classes, it has been for two reasons 
— First ; that they comprise the only large mass among the 
heterogeneous fragments of society ; and, secondly, that their 
interests at the time being are more nearly approached to the 
great natural interests of man, and incline, therefore, more 
immediately to wholesome reforms and general union. 

While addressing myself however, to this largest and 
soundest body in the state, it has been my endeavour to excite 
it to action rather than to opposition ; and, if ever my words 


have provoked a feeling of hostility in man towards man, or 
in class towards class, I have sinned against my intention, 
which has been ever, singly and purely, so far as I can read 
my own heart, to arm men collectively against abuses, and to 
fraternize their feelings towards each other. 

In calling you together at the present time, my young 
friends, it is not therefore with the view of addressing your 
peculiar interests as a class, but your interests as citizens, and 
my only motives for selecting you from your fellow citizens 
are — that your habits of industry must enlist you on the side 
of reform, and that ydur age admits of such cultivation of 
talent and improvement of feeling as may fit you to become 
effective reformers. 

To the title of working men as the distinctive epithet of 
reformers, I object. All men and all women ought to be 
workers, but, at the present time, when operative and intel- 
lectual labour is unhappily separated, the title sounds unfairly 
exclusive, and, our object being union, exclusion, even in 
sound, should be avoided. As a man is not necessarily honest 
because he labours with his hands, so neither is he necessarily 
flfrshonest because he knows only to labour with his head. 
In both cases there has been error in education, and there is 
error in habit, but the fault is in the arrangements of society, 
not in individuals; and in all our efforts to amend those 
defective arrangements for the next generation, we should 
bear in mind that we of the present are all more or less imper- 
fect beings ; always half trained, and almost always ill trained. 
Indulgence, therefore, on the part of one class towards 
another, is imperiously called for ; every expression calculated 
to excite jealousy should be carefully shunned, and every 
watchword of the hour should insinuate union, and breathe 
of national fellowship, liberality, and harmony. 

But while I object to the title of working men, as dis- 
tinctive of reformers, and, yet more, to that of a u working 
man's party," as distinctive of the great national cause of 
reform. I do look to the industrious classes, generally and 
especially, though by no means exclusively, for the salvation 
of the country, and expect the youth of those classes to 
supply to sound reason and sound measures their most ardent, 
and also their most skilful champions. 

Whatever may be the conceived advantages of college 
education, it is but rarely that a bold intellect or a sound 
judgment issues from the walls of privileged, and but too 


often useless and superannuated learning ; while, on the other 
hand, what are the real disadvantages of the neglected child 
of labour, he is saved from the conceit of pedantry, and the 
jargon of sophistry, and thus remains free to profit by what- 
ever lessons experience may bring, and to distinguish simple 
truth whenever it may meet his ears. 

I have made human kind my study, from my youth up ; the 
American community I have considered with most especial 
attention ; and I can truly say that, wherever the same are not 
absolutely pressed down by labour and want, I have invariably 
found, not only the best feelings, ttut the soundest sense 
among the operative classes of society. I am satisfied, and 
that by extensive observation, that, with few exceptions, 
the whole sterling talent of the American community lies 
(latent indeed, and requiring the stimulus of circumstance for 
its development,) among that large body who draw their 
subsistence from the labour of their hands. 

The intellectual and moral inefficiencies of our professional 
classes is but too apparent in our governmental arrangements, 
and, generally, in all our institutions civil and religious. 
Legislation, in their hands has been turned from its true intent, 
and applied to the perplexing, instead of the simplifying of all 
human affairs. Industry has been sacrificed to trade ; honest 
trade, or the fair exchange of commodities, to speculation; 
statutes have been multiplied ; justice embarrassed ; onerous, 
expensive, tedious, and incomprehensible systems of law and 
theology, encouraged, to give false occupation to individuals 
and bodies of men, at expense of the peace, and the reason, 
and the labour of the mass ; and erroneous and imperfect 
education given to all — to the few in what are called colleges, 
and to the many in common schools, charity Sunday schools, 
or no schools at all, whereby aristocratical distinctions are 
entailed upon the community — some raised unwisely to submit, 
and others unwisely to govern. 

That this is a fair statement will, I think, be admitted by 
all who inspect, closely and impartially, the frame of existing 
society ; and, I think, such will be disposed also to admit that, 
so far as reform may be practicable during existing genera- 
tions, it is more likely to be effectually promoted by the 
classes who directly suffer, than by those who immediately 
live by the errors and abuses it is proposed to rectify. 

We do indeed know that honest men may be found among 
dishonest professions ; and, when found, as the lustre of their 


integrity is greatest, so ought it to be most respected and 
rewarded. But, generally speaking, the people must look to 
their own ranks for their own servants, and to prepare them- 
selves for that service, is at once their interest and duty. 

It was in the view of aiding the people in such preparation 
that this building was purchased, and that the teachers herein 
have laboured. I must -observe that the exertions of the 
friends of popular improvement have been made under every 
disadvantage. They have had to meditate at odd moments 
and over hours, snatched from regular avocations, wholesome 
recreation, or necessary rest, those lessons which a course of 
regular and undisturbed study should supply. Suitable 
apparatus and all other conveniences have also been wanting 
— without funds, and without leisure, they have brought 
nothing save zeal and perseverance to their voluntary task ; 
and if, under such circumstances, advantage has accrued to 
the public, we can but distinguish how easy would be the full 
communication of all useful truth, were but half the pains, 
and one twentieth of the treasure expended for its develop- 
ment, that is now applied to the propagation of error. 

Hitherto the current expenses of this building have been 
chiefly defrayed by the receipts taken at my lectures. I 
announced, a short while since, my desire to resign the per- 
sonal responsibility I bad hitherto borne, upon which a sub- 
scription was opened for filling up the sum of 600 dollars, to 
meet the main expenses for the current year. The receipts 
of this evening will, it is thought, close the accounts of the 
past season. 

In resigning the responsibility, of course I resign all share 
in the management of this Hall; and the trustess, hitherto 
appointed by myself, will withdraw to be succeeded b} - such 
as shall be elected by the subscribers. If the sum required 
be made up this evening, it is proposed to nominate the new 
trustees, and to consider how, in the frequent deficiency of 
suitable lecturers, the building may be occupied to the 
greatest possible advantage. 

In conversing on this subject with some of our subscribers, 
I have understood it to be the general impression that public 
debates would tend, more than any other exercise, to the 
development of the popular mind, and the eliciting of 
popular talent. Such is decidedly my own individual opinion ; 
and if, at the first opening of this Hall, I entertained and ex- 
power of influencing the public measures, it is your bounden 


pressed some apprehensions of an exercise I now venture to 
advocate, it was- simply because I doubted our then moral 
fitness to engage in the sifting out of each other's errors. 1 
feared lest, gathered as we were, from all the various sects 
and schools of religion and philosophy, we should rather dis- 
pute than reason, and judged that before we ventured to try 
the strength of our wit, we had better make sure of that of 
our temper. We have now had a twelvemonth's practice and 
experience ; we know something more of each other, and, I 
believe, of ourselves. The popular mind, awakened to 
practical inquiry, begins to distinguish the importance of 
reciprocating indulgence for every variety of human opinion. 
Faith, of whatever colour, or no faith at all, claims, and is 
likely soon to be allowed, equal liberty of expression. Free 
inquiry can encounter orthodoxy with tolerable good humour, 
and even orthodoxy herself, begins to understand that the 
air and light of heaven are not her exclusive possessions ; 
and that, after all, there is room enough, and to spare, in this 
world for those who doubt as for those who believe. But it 
is, above all, the sounder and more practical views that are 
now rapidly spreading through the community, which will 
enable men of all creeds, or no creeds, to meet on common 
ground ; to discuss topics of real importance with a sincere 
desire of eliciting truth, and even, occasionally, to sport with 
their speculative fancies without seeing a pit of sulphur 
opening at their feet, or feeling disposed to pitch thereinto an 
obstinate opponent. 

To you, my young friends, more especially, I conceive the 
proposed exercise will prove of the highest utility. I have 
already stated why I regard you as destined to supply the 
best props to the reformed political edifice of your country. 
But it is not rashly, nor presumptuously, that you should 
reach forth your hand to steady that sacred structure. No 
unrighteous ambition — no petty vanity — no thirst of worldly 
gain, or worldly influence should lead you to lift your eyes to 
that — in principle the most honourable, in fact, alas ! but 
too often the most dishonoured — the state's service. 

As members of the human family, it is your bounden 
interest and duty to make human nature your study, with a 
view to the detection of all the causes of existing evil, and, 
equally, to the discovery of all the sources of possible good. 
As citizens of a free state, holding not only the right but the 
interest and duty, to investigate— first, the principles laid 


down by the organizers of this republic ; to weigh those 
principles in your reason and to test them by those acknow- 
ledged by your own inner minds. Secondly : To study the 
political institutions established as in conformity with those 
principles, and to judge how far that conformity has been 
preserved. Thirdly : To consider the statutes enacted, and 
the laws and practices countenanced and upheld by those 
legislative bodies, charged (under the guidance and restric- 
tion of those principles and institutions) with the administra- 
tion of the res publicae, or common interests of the whole 
community. It is, in fine, your bounden interest and duty to 
make both man and men your serious study ; or, in other 
words, to consider attentively society as it now exists, and 
society as it ought to exist. 

Connected with these great moral and constitutional exer- 
cises of the mind, (which each and all may follow out in 
private, with the aid of the more liberal publications of the 
day,) the careful exercise of the faculty of speech will be 
found, not merely to promote your public usefulness, but your 
own individual improvement. A ready command of language 
assists even the process of thought itself, and is absolutely 
indispensable to render our thoughts useful to others. 

True it is, that no art has been more abused than that of 
oratory. It has been employed to disguise the hideousness of 
error, instead of to enhance the loveliness of truth. It has 
been turned to the confounding the human mind with sophistry, 
instead of enlightening it by reason. It has been pressed, 
even openly, into the service of injustice, falsehood, hypocrisy, 
superstition, and corruption ; and when, in degraded and 
falling Athens, Demosthenes gave successively, for the three 
requisites of an orator, "manner," "manner," "manner," 
he satirized not only the ignorance of his own age and nation, 
but that of all others. 

We know full well how lamentably up to the present day, 
the truth of the ancient satire has been preserved, The bar 
and the pulpit, and, alas ! the senate, of modern times, have 
equally substituted sound for sense, and art for argument, 
with the rhetoricians, pleaders, and soothsayers of antiquity ; 
albeit, and here there is cause for thankfulness, our sophists 
have more generally succeeded in imitating the false matter, 
than the winning manner of Grecian eloquence ; even as our 
modern mythology has preserved the delusions and immoralities 
of the ancient, despoiled of its grace, its passion, and its poetry. 


But, as even the abuses of speech bear evidence to its 
power, so does it regard us as rational creatures to wrest that 
power from evil, and turn it to our good. And oh ! far, far 
other is the music of the voice, and the elegance of the period, 
when truth speaks in the harmony, and the love of human 
kind inspires the fervour of the language. Nor, indeed, is 
this any longer the age, still less is this the country, in which 
sound will pass current for sense, as it did with our fore- 
fathers. Whosoever in these days, would be listened to, 
must address himself to the reason ; but in so doing he will 
be most injudicious who neglects the conciliation of the 
feelings, or even who despises the pleasing of the ear. A harsh 
and ungoverned voice, a forced and imperfect articulation, un- 
seemly expressions, unsightly gestures, tedious repetitions, a 
hurried, a violent, or, worse than all, a studied and affected 
delivery, (betraying that the speaker is more occupied with 
himself than his hearers,) might suffice to stop the ears of an 
audience to the wisdom of a Franklin, supposing it possible 
for wisdom so to sin against good taste and propriety. 

But all these and other defects will soon disappear wher- 
ever there exist two requisites — an ardent desire of improving 
ourselves, combined with that of rendering service to others. 
We read that the greatest orator of antiquity was, in the 
opening of his career, a stammerer ; and I myself once saw an 
eloquent pulpit enthusiast move, by his tones and energy, a 
whole audience to tears, who, one year previous, I had known 
afflicted with a stutter so excessive as to impede not merely 
his utterance of a phrase, but even of a word. 

The art of good public speaking is rare at the present time, 
only because it is neglected by the mass, who have considered 
it to be no business of theirs, and studied by individuals and 
bodies of men who have considered it the business of their pe- 
culiar professions — which professions have required not its use, 
but its perversion. 

Now it will appear evident, upon reflection, that public 
speaking ought to be the peculiar study of all Americans, even 
as public affairs ought to be their peculiar business. I know- 
not, therefore, how the leisure evenings of the week could be 
more beneficially employed by the citizens than in public de- 
bating, and to that purpose it has been proposed to devote 
this building, on all the first evenings of the week, unless a 
suitable lecturer should be obtained and preferred. 

Under the impression that this proposal, as made at a 


former meeting, may be acceded to now or hereafter by the 
body of the subscribers, 1 feel tempted to venture a few more 
observations respecting the frame of mind which, not only 
here, but elsewhere, and through life, it is the duty of every 
member of the human family to engage in argument. To 
preserve the order of a meeting, strict regulations and good 
moderators may suffice, but to impart to it a tone of harmony, 
there must be the spirit of moderation reigning in each breast. 
There must be a love of truth, and a desire to prove ourselves 
worthy disciples, as well as skilful advocates, of truth, before 
we can come prepared to convince or to be convinced. 

It is a high compliment made to the more liberal in opinion, 
that their enemies are ever extreme to mark what they do 
amiss. If the orthodox christian sentence his brother to public 
scorn in this world, and perdition in another, his wrath is 
styled holy zeal, and counted to him for righteousness ; but if 
the sceptic in things unseen and unearthly, forget the equani- 
mity befitting all human beings, but which, alas ! too much at 
present conspires to disturb, no epithet is accouuted too harsh 
by which to stigmatize his seli-forgetfulness. Let us not 
complain, my young friends, of this severity. Let us rather 
learn to be equally severe with ourselves. Let us take the 
gibe whenever it is merited, but let it be our ambition to merit 
it as seldom as possible. Youth is accounted hasty, and is so, 
for it is inexperienced. Yet do I believe it far more capable 
of self-correction and self-government, at the present time, than 
maturer age. To the young, then, do I look for most zeal in 
the cause of reform, and most tenderness of its honour. From 
them do I venture to hope the readiest compliance with every 
useful regulation, and the readiest censure of every departure 
from propriety, of every rudeness, self-forgetfulness, and un- 
seemly personality. Nor is it only in this building I feel en- 
couraged to see in them the jealous guardians of the honour 
of free inquiry and practical reform. In the walks of life, I 
trust, their bearing will be such as to win respect for the 
principles they advocate ; and, on every occasion, when their 
opinion may be called for, or their influence may be exercised, 
may it be found, not only on the side of honesty, but also on 
that of good manners, forbearance, and moderation. With such 
reliance on the good sense and good temper of the frequenters 
of this Hall, I leave them for the season. 


[As delivered in the Bowery Theatre, to the People of New-York, in June, 


(The Declaration of Independence lies open beside the speaker, who will be un~ 
derstood as frequently appealing to the same J 

Things move fast in a new world. The human mind, once 
launched, shoots like a ray of the living sun in a free country. 
One short year of preparation, and the people of this city are 
already in action. What say I — of this city ? The nation 
stirs through all its commonwealths ; and suggestions, which 
but yesterday passed for the dreams of enthusiasm, promise 
ere long to assume the shape and substance of realities. 

And it was time for America to give evidence to the world 
of her advancement in civilization. It was time for her to 
exercise the high privileges she possessed over the rest of the 
nations. She owed it to herself, and she owed it to the human 
race, to exhibit once more in healthy action, that moral energy 
she displayed in her revolution, and which her free institu- 
tions should have nurtured and purified, not quelled and per- 

After a sleep of many years, this nation awakes to a know- 
ledge of its powers, and a consciousness of its responsibility. 
The present will count as an epoch, not in the annals of this 
country alone, but in those of human civilization. Reform 
once started here, it will make the tour of the globe, and Ame- 
ricans, who have been hitherto known in the ports of trade as 
gamblers and speculators, will be the heralds of knowledge 
and virtue to all the people of the earth. 

Such is the high destiny this nation was called to fill, when, 
in its Areopagus of sages, the equal rights of human kind 
were proclaimed to a startled world. I turn, fellow citizens ! 
to the instrument of your independence, and I see that you 



stand sponsors for the human race ; I look around on the face 
of the land, and I see the pledge about to be remembered 
and fulfilled. 

And more than / have read in the signs of the times this 
augury. More than / have distinguished that the ear of the 
popular minds is open, and its eye bent on the searching out 
of all hidden things. Yes ! we are told in these days by ene- 
mies no less than friends, that " the design exists to subvert 
the present order of things." Such is the cry raised by every 
short-sighted office-holder and office-hunter, and echoed by 
every knave throughout the corrupt ranks of society. But 
woe to the evil-minded ! the kindling patriot and the righteous 
reformer echo back to the panders of corruption, the cry of 
their own raising. It is returned to their ear, not in the note 
of alarm, but in that of exultation. " The present order of 
tilings" is weighed in the balance of public opinion and found 
wanting, and the free people of this city, and this common- 
wealth, have sworn to subvert it. And who are they that 
would challenge the pledge ? You shall find them in our pul- 
pits of sloth and of slander, in our colleges of exclusion, in our 
banks of dishonesty, in our law courts of extortion, in our le- 
gislatures of special pleading, in all and every of those anti- 
American institutions invented or perverted to favour the 
pretensions of the few, and to crush down the rights of the 

Yes ! I for one will admit the charge, and admit it in the 
name of a daily increasing mass of reflecting citizens. " The 
design does exist to subvert the present order of things." 
But how ? Here is the question whose answer is fraught with 
alarm, or with peace and security. Let our priests and our 
missionaries, our stock-jobbers and place-hunters, our ring- 
leaders of faction, and their worthy tools, the hirelings of a 
venal press — let those solve the question, by what means and 
to what end the present order of things is to be changed, and 
they will answer, with the fool in his folly, by the preaching 
of infidels to the massacre of christians, and the confiscation 
of their houses and furniture. But let us ask the peaceful 
citizen, how he anticipates a change in the face of society, and 
he will say, by the substitution of practical inquiry for spiri- 
tual dreamings, which shall lead to the gradual detection and 
correction of abuses, and to the adoption of such measures 
for the training of youth as shall absolve future generations 
from the errors of the present. 


In the simple answer of the peaceful citizen, what is there 
to apprehend ? Nothing for the honest man, every thing for 
the knave. I say every thing for the knave. — I mean every 
thing according to the false calculations induced by habits of 
dishonest speculation. 

It is not that wholesome reform would in reality be injurious 
to any. One man's loss ought not in reason to be another's 
gain : would not, in fact, be another's gain, if men were only 
trained in similar habits, and with similar feelings. This they 
are not ; and, because they are not, are their interests ever 
at variance, and their mental sight but too often blinded to 
those true and natural interests which point to other motives 
of action, and to a more just organization of society. 

Yet however obvious the evils in our present motives and 
practice — in our present systems of trade and of law, in the 
multitude of false employments, and in the excessive compe- 
tition which so frequently threatens with ruin all employments, 
the honest as the dishonest. — However obvious these evils, 
and however opposed to the true interests of all classes and 
all individuals, it were idle to expect all classes and individuals 
to co-operate in their correction. Convince the reason, and 
habit would run counter still. The gambler, how often soever 
the game may run against him, will still haunt the board 
which tempts with one chance of gain against a thousaud 
chances of ruin. The speculator, rather than seek a moderate 
and unfluctuating profit, will risk bankruptcy and starvation 
in sight of a bare possibility of seizing upon uncertain wealth. 
7'he vain man, blinded by a false education to real honour and 
dignity, will prefer an uneasy conscience and mean dependence, 
to honest, but, unhappily, despised labour; and even genius 
will ambition paltry distinctions, the trappings and profits of 
office, rather than the high consciousness of advancing the 
public weal. 

How salutary then soever reform may be, many will there 
be found to oppose it. Corruptions of old growth are dear to 
those who have grown old with them ; and, as all reformers 
have seen, so see we at the present hour, that the misguided 
partizans of error will cling to the false, anti -social, and anti- 
American fabric, raised on the noble foundation laid by the 
fathers of this people, until it crumble to dust before the magic 
influence of a more enlightened public opinion, and give place, 
in a new generation, to an edifice truly American, the pillars 
of which shall rest on republican education, and its walls shall 


embrace a nation of freemen, equal in knowledge, in rights, 
in duties, and in condition. 

Such is the change " in the present order of things," the 
reformers of the present day have dared to anticipate ; the 
people of this city and commonwealth have sworn to effect, 
and the American nation will be found ready to imitate. No 
other v than a change thus peaceful has been proposed ; no 
other than a change thus gradual could be feasible, and no 
less than a change thus radical can effect the practical develop- 
ment of American principles. 

Upwards of half a century these principles have claimed the 
love of this people and the admiration of the world. Upwards 
of half a century has " Liberty and Equality" been the motto 
of this nation. Upwards of half a century has this motto 
existed in words, these principles in theory ; and now that the 
people have resolved the practical development of the same, we 
hear them, at this hour, in this city, denounced as visionary, 
impeached as iniquitous, and their advocates and vindicators 
blasphemed as incendiaries and infidels ! 

Is it come to this? Has treason gone so far in this land, 
for equality to be denounced as a dream of enthusiasts, an 
innovation of foreigners, and a doctrine of Marats and Robes- 
pierres I Fathers of this nation ! well are ye asleep in your 
graves! By the sword of Washington, by the wisdom of 
Franklin, by the honest democracy of Jefferson, it is time 
for Americans to arouse, and to vindicate the words of this 
charter ! 

Fellow citizens ! the season is arrived when what is here 
set forth as abstract truth, must be referred to with a view to 
practice. The equal rights of human beings are here pro- 
claimed self-evident to reason, inherent in the nature of things, 
and inalienable in justice. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness, stand particularized among the equal, inherent, aid 
inalienable rights held in virtue of our existence. 

Wisely did the framers of this instrument declare these 
truths self-evident : for he to whose intellect and moral feelings 
they speak not at once, convincingly, unanswerably, has been 
perverted by sophistry and corrupted by false habits and 
example beyond the reach of argument or the persuasion of 
eloquence. These moral truths speak to the mind, as physical 
truths to the eye. They speak alike to the child, the savage, 
and the sage ; the blind and heartless advocates of the past 
and " present order of things," as existing in what is unblush- 



mgly termed civilized society, can alone resist their force, or 
question their universality. 

The truths here set forth as self-evident— for which the 
blood of patriots has been shed, and to which the honour of 
the dead and the living has been pledged or is pledged — these 
truths self-evident involve all that the sage ever pictured, 
or the philanthropist desired In the equal rights of all to 
life, liberty, and happiness, lies the sum of human good. Let 
us pause, fellow citizens! on the words, and see what is 
required for their fulfilment. 

Life. Respected as it is in this land, compared to all other 
lands beside, our laws still sanction homicide — enforcing the 
decree of an ignorant and cruel superstition, " blood for 

Libert?/. Fresh and ever gathering in strength as she dwells 
under the shadow of this charter, how trammelled as yet 
are .her )Oung limbs and her glorious mind! Still bigotry 
challenges her thoughts, and prejudice her actions. Still sex, 
and sect, and class, and colour, furnish pretences, for limiting 
her range, and violating her purity ! 

Happiness! Alas! where is it on the face of the earth.' 
Who pursues that whose pursuit is here guaranteed to all? 
Every one or none. Every one, if we listen to the vague 
assertions of men ; none, if we look to their actions. Happi- 
ness enters not even into human calculation. Man has placed 
his time, and his labour, and the fruits of his labour, and his 
pleasures, and his affections, yea ! even his honour and his 
liberty, at the mercy of gold. From youth to age he sees 
but money ; and, in pursuing it, pursues the shadow of a 

Yet, to secure these our equal rights, we read that " govern- 
ment is instituted among men." Is it so ? What has govern- 
ment done up to this hour towards securing the equal rights 
and equal happiness of our race ? You will say it has done 
much in these United States. 

Fellow citizens! Permit me the remark, and reflect ere you 
pronounce it erroneous. Government, even in this land, 
nlessed above all others — government, even here, has favoured 
unless by what it has done, than by what it has not done. In 
the declaration of rights, which limits its powers, find we 
the source of all the good we possess over other nations. 
Restrained behind the bulwark of prohibitory constitutional 
decrees, government here has established no throne, installed 



no aristocracy, armed no church dominant and militant, 
erected no hereditary power, sanctioned no hereditary honours, 
instituted no secret tribunals, effected no arbitrary arrests, 
imagined no constructive treason, ejected no exiles and aliens, 
revenged no assaults of the tongue, or even libels of the pen 
—or, if ever it attempted aught or any of such transatlantic 
violations of this charter of a new world, Jefferson s were 
found to sound the alarm, and a nation to stir at the call.* 

Thanks, then, to the restrictive constitutional provisions 
w hich sprang out of this charter, American government has 
steered clear of violence. Time is it also, that it should steer 
clear of corruption, and apply itself actively to the purpose 
for which we here read it to have been instituted— the deve- 
lopment and protection of the equal rights, together with the 
promotion of the equal happiness, of each member of the 
human family. 

I may not now r investigate the object, end, and duties of 
government in detail. Circumstances will not at the present 
time permit to me this labour, nor are we, moreover, advanced 
to that stage of action, when from the truths discoverable in 
the investigation, it could be useful to deduce all their practical 
consequences. Our object at all times should be, not merely 
to develope truth, but to develope it with method and in 
order. This necessary precaution has been ever too much 
lost sight of by reformers, who, in consequence, hurrying 
forward in argument ahead of the popular judgment, impel 
to measures before their motives are duly weighed, and their 
results duly calculated — thus producing change rather than 
reform, advancing only afterwards to retrograde, and, by 
creating confusion, giving opportunity to the evil-minded to 
excite disorder and even to provoke to violence. 

I observed in a former discourse, that numerous are the 
topics which a prudent people (and such I conceive the 
American people to be) will leave to an era more advanced, 
and a generation more wise than the present. To prepare 
for that better era, and to model that wiser generation, is 
our duty ; and a worthier, a nobler, a more sublime, never 
fell, nor ever will fall, to the lot of any. To speculate beyond 
what we can execute is folly ; in these days it is worse — it 
is madness. So much lies within our reach — so much chal- 

* The American people will remember the eventful era of 1801. It was 
then the character of their government was decided 


lenges our attention — so many lets and hinderances have to 
be removed from our path before we can make one effective 
step in advance, that for us, my fellow citizens! to be 
dreaming about all the probable or possible governmental 
regulations, or modes of social life which may hereafter be 
adopted by our race, were but to lower our understandings 
to the level of spiritual enthusiasts, who, while walking on 
the earth, have their imaginations in the stars. 

I would not, however, be understood to mean, that, while 
limiting our progress, coolly and firmly, to one step at a time, 
we should not examine in what course and to what final goal 
that step is to lead. I would not counsel that in bringing our 
united power to bear upon one measure, we should not con- 
sider well the general result we intend that measure to pro- 
duce. I am not for walking myself, nor for having others 
walk, in the dark. This would be well were we treading 
the path of error; but, on entering that of truth, we must 
have an open eye, and an awakened mind. If prudence 
require that we move slowly therein, dignit}' - and good sense 
demand that we move fearlessly. To move thus we must see 
the road before us, and distinguish the final object it is our 
ambition to attain. 

What is then that object, my friends ? What is the pur- 
pose cf our souls ? When we speak of reform, what hope 
we to produce 1 The universal improvement of our human 
condition. W r hen we bend our minds and efforts to the great 
measure of a republican system of education, what do we 
intend to effect ? The equalization of our human condition : 
the annihilation of all arbitrary distinctions ; the substitution 
of the simple character of human beings for that of all others 
— the honourable title of American citizen, for that of all the 
silly and mischievous epithets introduced by sectarian super- 
stition and anti-social prejudice, to the confounding of our 
understandings, the corrupting of our feelings, the depraving 
of our habits, and the subversion of our noble institutions. 

T said that our object was at once the equalization and the 
universal improvement of our common condition. It is 
necessary to bear this two-fold specification in view, as other- 
wise, it may convey alarm to many, and false impressions 
to all. 

Under the existing arrangements of society — the misappli- 
cation of human labour, devoted by more than one half to 
what is useless or mischievous, and rewarded, not only 


Unequally and arbitrarily, but in a ratio inverse to its utility — 
the misapplication also of machinery acting, at the time 
present, nor to the relief but to the oppression of the human 
labourer — the false operation of money, as now in use, laying 
ever at the mercy of the holder of specie or its paper repre- 
sentative, the real wealth of society — namely, the 'productions 
of human industry. — Under such and other existing circum- 
stances, to speak of equalizing the general condition excites 
vague apprehensions on the part of the more favoured classes, 
that benefit is intended to the mass, at expense of injury to 

True it is that we might here demand, where, under * the 
present order of things," however panegyrised by the dis- 
honest or unreflecting, where is there a class truly favoured? 
where even an individual who feels himself securely happy, 
and placed beyond the reach of worldly disaster or reverses ? 
But we are not reduced to any begging of the question. 
Let men construe as they will the advantages or disadvan- 
tages of their peculiar class, profession, or position, I would 
say to all, that poor indeed were the reform which should 
lower any, that only can be reform which should raise all. 

I do not speak here of worldly fortunes, such as Rothchild's 
or Gerard's. 1 do not consider any individual as intrinsically 
happier for a wealth beyond human ingenuity to employ, nor 
have my observations regard to any such extreme, and fortu- 
nately in this country, rare cases. Undoubtedly the social 
regulations of a wise generation would render impossible the 
accumulation of inordinate wealth, not indeed by prohibitory 
statutes, but by the abrogation of all unequal privileges, the 
absence of all false stimuli, and, above all, by the spread of 
sound knowledge, the universality of just habits, and the 
consequent moderation of human desires, and greater moral 
elevation of human ambition. 

But if I do imagine that an improved state of society 
would present us with no inordinate fortunes, 1 feel equally 
satisfied, that it must present us with universal ease, comfort, 
and security. The equalization of human condition, as 
ambitioned by philanthropy, or, say but common sense, 
cannot surely presuppose the disturbing the happy, but the 
comforting the wretched; not the depriving any of real 
advantages, but the extending and securing every possible 
advantage to all. 

But how is this to be effected ? will be hastily asked. 


Certainly not by wresting violently the possessions of some 
to bestow them upon others, or to divide them among all. 
Certainly not by upsetting the frame of society which sur- 
rounds us, and hastily patching up another out of its ruins. 
Certainly not by lessening any of the securities, already too 
few and too weak, by which property is held at this hour, and 
individual rights and enjoyments, even such as we see them, 
are secured. The universal improvement of our condition, 
can only be effected by creating new and more certain 
securities than any up to this hour known among men. The 
greatest evil now existing in society is the want of security — 
the uncertainty to which the tenure of all property, and the 
fluctuations to which the value of all property is subjected. 
Could any community, or any portion of a community, not 
afflicted with confluent madness, propose for object the 
increase of the very evils which make our curse at the pre- 
sent hour 1 Could any people, accustomed even to the forms 
of law, not to speak of justice, be brought to plan and 
execute the subversion of the very principles it is most for 
their common interest to respect, the outrage of the very 
feelings it is most for their honour, and their peace, and their 
welfare, to cultivate ? Individuals, biassed by peculiar cir- 
cumstances, or excited by a false education, or secluded 
habits, to speculate rather than to reason, or to reason in the 
absence of sufficient observation, may indeed shape in their 
fancy, motives of action at war with all the principles of the 
human mind, and a state of things as opposed to reason as 
what we see around us with novelty superadded to render 
the proposed substitute more insupportable. Certainly indi- 
viduals may be found, and ever have been found, to advance 
unwise propositions, and to support the same by unsound 
arguments. But what then 1 have we not as good a right to 
reject as others to make them ? What necessity is there for 
our adopting, either in our individual or national capacity, 
the proposals of any one, even should the proposals be wise, 
let alone their being foolish ? Or what probability is there of 
our adopting collectively what is hostile to the habits and 
feelings of all individually ? Truly the alarmists of the 
present day must themselves perceive something very attrac- 
tive in the proposal for a national auction of all the lands of 
the state, and all the goods and chattels of its citizens, to 
apprehend its adoption by the people of the New- York com- 
monwealth. Or is it only that they consider the under- 


standings of America's citizens unequal to the distinguishing 
truth from error, the just from the unjust, the useful from the 
mischievous ? Verily it is not they who cover our city walls, 
and disturb our public meetings with the senseless cries of 
" infidelity and agrarianism," whom we shall authorize to take 
the measure of the popular intellect, albeit they have had 
some opportunity of estimating the popular forbearance! 

But no ! neither the one nor the other suspicion has origi- 
nated these shouts of Babel among the scouts and whippers- 
in of corruption. They well know the zeal aud righteous pur- 
pose which their plots and cries are impotently devised to hide 
and to drown ; and well they know too, that the people of this 
city and commonwealth see to distinguish aud prefer wise 
measures from foolish, and are bent upon distinguishing and 
preferring honest servants from rogues. No ! our intriguers, 
political or spiritual, are not blind to the true dangers of the 
hour. They know that the danger is to hypocrisy net to vir- 
tue, to party not to patriotism, to fraud not to industry, to 
speculation not to property. They know what is threatened 
by the quickening spirit of a reviving people — even the party 
jobbing, intrigue, and corruption, which have made of this city 
a by-word in the land, and sent, through the foul conduit of 
the foulest press which ever libelled a nation in the eyes of 
the world, the rank steam of political iniquity, forth to the 
ports of distant empires, blasting the fair fame of a free people 
where most, for the honour of liberty and the weal of the 
human race, it should shine resplendent, even in the courts of 
kingly pride and garrisons of military power. 

No ! the partizans of corruption are neither ignorant them- 
selves nor deem their fellow citizens ignorant of the true object 
of reformers at this hour, although I deem they have nourished 
the hope of frightening them into a temporary disclaiming of 
their object, through fear of seeing it confounded with the 
crude schemes and ill digested arguments of Thomas Skid 
more in the columns of the Courier and Inquirer. But let 
them despair of their hope. Our object is not too righteous, 
but, in this land, too constitutional, to require concealment 
or apology. Our object, however harsh it may sound in the ear 
of the spoiled ch'ldof fashion or pretension, (alas! that such 
should be found within the pale of this democracy,) will ever 
be dear to a heart truly American, whether it beat in the 
breast of a rich man or a poor. Our object, however reviled 
by false ambition, odious to knavery, offensive to vanity, or 


misconceived of by error, will ever be recognised by the great 
mass of this people as consistent with their national institu- 
tions, and as requisite for the practical development of the 
truths set forth in their declaration of independence. ]No ! we 
shall not be driven to deny, nor seduced to qualify, the object, 
to which, as to the ultimate goal of reform, we, as Americans, 
are constitutionally pledged to aspire. That object — that ul- 
timate goal is, as I have said, practical equality, or, the uni- 
versal and equal improvement of the condition of all, until, 
by the gradual change in the views and habits of men, and 
the change consequent upon the same, in the whole social 
arrangements of the body politic, the American people shall 
present, in another generation, but one class, and, as it were 
but one family — each independent in his and her own 
thoughts, actions, rights, person, and possessions, and all co- 
operating, according to their individual taste and ability, to 
the promotion of the common weal. 

Taking this comprehensive view of all that is embraced in 
onr ultimate object, every intelligent mind will distinguish 
that it is not attainable in this generation, and that all we can 
do, (though this all is immense,) is to exercise our own minds, 
and school our own feelings, in and by its contemplation, to 
correct such abuses as more immediately tend to exalt, at the 
present time, individuals or bodies of men at the expense of 
the mass of the community and, first and last, and above all, 
to prepare the way for the entire fulfilment of what I conceive 
to constitute the one great constitutional duty of Americans 
— namely, the equal promotion of the happiness of all, by lay- 
ing the foundation of a plan of education in unison with na- 
ture, with reason, with justice, and with this instrument. 

Such then is our ultimate object, and let us boldly declare 
it ; such are the means — gradual and constitutional, but sure 
and radical, by which we propose that object to be obtained. 
Such is our ultimate object, and let those who challenge it 
forego the name,, even as they have foresworn the feelings of 
Americans. Such are the means we stand ready to adopt, and 
let those who blaspheme them forego the title even as they 
have foresworn the principles of honest men. Here — in our de- 
sign or in the mode laid down for effecting that design, there 
is uothing to conceal, and nothing to concede or to extenu- 
ate. I will take on me to speak, in this matter, in the name 
of my fellow citizens — constitutional is our object, righteous 
our "means, and determined our resolve. We have no fear, 


110 doubt, no hesitation, and no concealment. Why should we 
have ? thought here is free, speech is free, and all action free, 
which has in view our own benefit, combined with the benefit 
of our fellow man. 

Behold, we have every advantage with us, which, as honest 
citizens, or as reasonable beings, we could ambition — a righte- 
ous object, a constitutional object, and an object feasible with- 
out violence to any, and with certain benefit to all. In Eu- 
rope, the reformer, how expanded soever his mind, or generous 
his heart, may indeed hesitate to express the fulness of his 
desire. Liberty and equality there, is a cry whose very 
thought is treason, and its utterance death ; but here, treason 
lies only in its challenge. How then should there be a point 
at issue with American reformers ? All true and honest citi- 
zens must, upon reflection, have the same object — for, behold ! 
it is engraven on their national escutcheon— it is engraven in 
never dying letters, in this holvt bible of their country's faith, 
their country's hope, their country's love. To commence the 
practical illustration of the truths proclaimed to the world by 
the fathers of this nation's liberties, is what we ask at this day 
— no more could human philanthropy desire, no less could 
American patriotism demand. 

For myself, I feel proud to declare, that no less perfect and 
entire is the democracy of my views and principles, than what 
by this charter is demanded of an American citizen : and, had 
I felt it otherwise, I had not claimed the noble title. I would 
see the righteous declaration here penned by Jefferson, signed 
by sages, sealed with the' blood of the fathers of this nation, 
and solemnly sworn to by their sons on each anniversary of its 
birth. — I would — what shall I say 1 see its realization ? That 
cannot be. But see such measures adopted as shall secure its 
realization for posterity, to the fullest extent ever conceived 
or conceivable by the human mind. Yes ! my democracv has 
no reservations ; my yearnings for the liberty of man acknow- 
ledge no exceptions, no prejudices, no predilections. Equal 
rights, equal privileges, equal enjoyments — I would see thetn 
shared by every man, by every woman, by every nation, by 
every race on the face of the globe. But. as I distinguish that 
equal rights must originate in equal condition, so do I also 
distinguish that equal condition must originate in equal know- 
ledge, and that sound knowledge ; in similar habits, and those 
good habits ; in brotherly sympathies, and those fostered from 




youth under a system of rational and national republi- 

I have now broadly stated the ultimate object of reformers 
at this hour. I have admitted it to be the gradual but 
effectual attainment of equality in rights, privileges, and 
opportunities, for the pursuit of happiness. They who as- 
sert such equality to exist at the present time, are blind 
to all facts, or wantonly trifle with words ; and they who 
imagine such equality attainable by any other process than 
that of a just and similar training of the thoughts, feelings, 
and habits of human beings, in youth, distinguish not the 
nature of existing errors, nor have a conception of what is 
requisite for their reform. As they who would fell a tree 
must strike at the root, so they who would rectify the prac- 
tice of men, must dive to the springs of action, which are in 
the mind. True it is — most lamentably true, that change 
may be impelled, even as it may be prevented, by compul- 
sion ; but reform, that is, wise and lasting change, can onlv 
be wrought by conviction. Theorists may dream dreams, 
tyrants may issue edicts, legislators may enact statutes, 
but wise education alone, by awakening just views, and 
forming just habits, can produce a rational and really republi- 
can state of society. 

What may be the measures adopted by a generation nur- 
tured as equals under the wings of their country, it is not 
for us to say ; but of this I am persuaded — that no measure 
will by them be adopted, but with the common consent of 
all. The feelings even of the minority on any question will 
then be consulted, and co-operation rather waited for than 
•enforced. New motives of action will then originate in the 
human breast, new circumstances will gently arise in and 
around those young nurseries of freedom, such as lofty minds 
and pure hearts can picture, but which to speak of now 
Mould be but to theorize. 

Yet, while declining myself, and recommending to others 
to refrain from idly recounting our dreams of earthly futu- 
rity, as certain to occasion dispute as those so long encou- 
raged respecting the futurity of a heaven, I would fain enter 
my protest against all challenge of the liberties of those who 
choose to forestall time and circumstance, to advance false 
arguments, to propose wild measures, or even to harangue, 
if such could be found, in favour of crime and confusion. 


Under the blessed institutions of this country, and favoured 
by that habit of reflection and spirit of forbearance which 
they have generated, we need never apprehend evil from 
boundless liberty of speech and of the press. Let all who 
will, speculate, and publish their speculations. Let all who 
choose, advocate rash measures, or wrong measures, or pru- 
dent measures, or wise. This is no country for error to 
make proselytes when Truth is in the field ; nor is this a 
country where challenge can be given to human rights in any 
case, without shaking the pillars of its constitution. The 
whole fabric of American government is based upon confi- 
dence in human reason — that is, in the capacity of man to 
distinguish between what is for his good and what for his 
evil, when both are fairly presented to his mind. 

In full confidence in this his capacity have I spoken ; 
and, though I have dared much, and of course, something 
encountered from the wrath of incensed parties and mis- 
guided individuals, I feel at this hour my confidence strength- 
ened, not only in the truth, but in the final triumph of the 
principles, of which I have been a zealous, and, I feel, an 
honest advocate. The task then, thus far, has not been 
thankless, if it has been arduous ; and, though in its execu- 
tion I should have offended many, perhaps even they may 
iive to render justice to my intentions, or, what were far 
better, if truth be on my side, to approach more nearly to 
my views. This only will I say, that I have assailed what 
I believe abuses ; that I have advocated equal rights in 
place of unequal privileges, appealed to fact from faith, to 
reason from credulity, to justice from law, to virtue from 
prejudice, to the ever during principles of the inner mind 
from the changing and fleeting forms of ceremony and su- 
perstition, and, bear witness, fellow citizens ! from the un- 
constitutional and anli republican divisions of sect, class, and 
party, as existing around us, to this sacred charter of the 
common rights of equal freemen and American citizens. 
Oft have I appealed to this charter, and never without 
reverence ; nor without reverence this night I claim it for 
the text book of all my heresies, the authority for all my 
suggestions, and the warrant for all my confidence. On this 
— the first sure anchor of moral truth — the only inspired 
scripture, written for human kind, and destined to be ac- 
knowledged by all nations— on this may the' reformer build 


his hopes as on the rock of ages, on this have I builded mine, 
on this must all Americans build theirs. 

And now, my fellow citizens I after two years of public 
exertion in a work I have believed righteous, and called for 
by the accumulated corruptions and errors which had gather- 
ed in and around our social edifice, I feel warned, for a 
season, to retire. The people are now awake to their own 
interests. They have taken the cause of reform into their 
own hands : and the same boldness which, when they slum- 
bered, I was encouraged to assume, would now appear to 
me as presumptuous as it has, perhaps at all times, appeared 
to others. But this is not all. The unwarrantable use made 
of my name by the abettors of old abuses, during and since 
the period of the last elections, would alone determine me 
to remove this poor pretext for party cries and appeals to 
old prejudices. It is not enough for the people of this city 
to know that they are rallied around principles and not indivi- 
duals ; the same must be known to the nations at large 
and, as soon as may be to the world. So long as I alone was 
concerned, the noise of priest and politician was alike indiffer- 
ent to me, but I wish not my name to be made a scarecrow 
to the timid, or a stumbling-block to the innocently preju- 
diced, at a season when all should uuite round the altar 
of their country, with its name only in their mouths, and 
its love in their hearts. For these motives, which I trust 
my fellow citizens will appreciate, 1 shall take the present 
season for attention to some more private interests of my own, 
and shortly leave this city and the country for a i'ew 
months, not to return, until after the decision of the autumnal 


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