This election sermon was preached by Rev. Henry Parker on June 6, 1861.
THE HONORABLE SENATE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 1861,
BY HENRY E. PARKER,
Pastor of the South Congregational Church, Concord, N. H.
ASA McFARLAND, STATE PRINTER.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:
That the thanks of the Senate and House be tendered to the Rev. Henry E. Parker, for the very impressive, eloquent and patriotic discourse delivered before the different branches of the Legislature, on the 6th instant, and that he be requested to furnish a copy for publication.
Resolved, That a joint committee be appointed to present the above resolution.
House Committee – Messers. CHAMBERLAIN of Keene, HUGHES of Nashua, and WESTAGE of Haverhill.
Senate Committee – Mr. Wentworth, of No. 6
In House of Representatives,
June 7, 1861.
The above resolutions passed.
EDWARD SAWYER, Clerk.
June 7, 1861.
These resolutions being read before the Senate, were adopted.
WILLIAM A. PRESTON, Clerk of the Senate.
Rev. H. E. Parker:
Dear Sir – The undersigned, agreeably to the foregoing resolution of the two branches of the Legislature respectfully present you with the same, and solicit a copy of your sermon delivered on the 6th instant.
AARON P. HUGHES,
N. W. WESTGATE.
June 11, 1861
Messrs. Wentworth, Chamberlain, Hughes and Westgate,
Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives:
The joint resolution of the Senate and House, communicated through yourselves to me, speaks in too kind a manner of my late discourse before the Legislature for me not to acknowledge their kindness very gratefully. Wishing the discourse had been more worthy of the occasion, I yet place it at your disposal.
I remain, gentlemen,
Yours, very respectfully,
HENRY E. PARKER
Concord, June 12, 1861.
Gentlemen of our State Executive and of our State Legislature:
I am happy to be your instrument today in the revival of a good and ancient custom – the annual Election Sermon of former times. A sagacious historian has made a remark like this: That when any people find themselves in difficulty and peril, it is an omen of promise if they are seen returning to the early principles and good usages of their fathers.
The passage of Scripture selected for the text is the following:
JEREMIAH 18: 7, 8, 9, 10.
“At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil. I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them.”
As the reader of history peruses and ponders the past, few things arrest his attention more fitly or forcibly than the vitality of nations. As his eye runs along the different lines of those nations whose names and deeds have filled the historic page, he sees that, however illustrious or obscure their origin however wide apart their location, however various their boundaries, governments, laws, languages, physical characteristics, manners and religions, yet they all seem to have been endowed with a principle of vitality of wonderful strength and permanence.
Four thousand years ago Egypt presents to us the picture of an even then well organized nation, powerful and prosperous. And, although we dimly see her early dynasty supplanted by those tattooed barbarians under the lead of the Shepherd Kings, these after long years giving way to the great line of the Pharaohs, and from one period to another transferred to Ethiopian, Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, roman and Mussulman power, and changing from the loftiest heights of art, science and culture, to the lowest depression and abasement, yet through all we see her living on; her existence on as broad and permanent a basis, apparently, as her pyramids, and having a name even at this day; and the Coptic portion of her population giving evidence that they are the descendants of the same race which occupied her soil in her best and earliest days.
Quite as early do we find the famous cities of Babylon and Nineveh being founded, and the great Chaldean and Assyrian empires coming upon the stage, with the long story of their achievements, their conquests, their learning, their riches and their luxury, reaching far down through the centuries whatever changes, her name never lost, holds rank among the nations today. China, being a national career earlier perhaps than they all, is China still.
The national of Israel, able to exist, and existing under all possible conditions, as slaves or freemen, subject or independent, victorious or conquered, in their own land, or in other lands, or in all lands, or without a land, or language, or government of their own, still existing, never very numerous, yet never blotted out – their national vitality has been so wonderful the world has long since ceased attempting to account for it, and called it the miracle of god.
Phoenicia sent her fleets into every sea, became the mother of commerce and letters, stamped her influence on every ancient nation, lived long in opulence and power at the Mediterranean’s eastern extremity, longer still at its southwestern, in the power and opulence of her daughter Carthage, and she has left to this day something more than the names at least of her two most flourishing cities, Tyre and Sidon.
Thirty-eight centuries ago the Greeks sprang to view on that little peninsula which the Aegean and Adriatic deigned to spare when stretching out the bounds of the Mediterranean; and while the name and nation in some sense continued to the present hour, they more gloriously live through the lessons of Grecian art and philosophy in every civilized nation today. The life of the Roman nation – the mere mention of it – what a large portion of the world’s whole history it seems to cover! And the lately started cry of “Italy for the Italians” has almost seemed to affirm that the Roman nation was never destined to die.
Look at the history of any nation which has a name and place on the map of modern Europe – through what a variety of changes and commotions, wars and revolutions, have they all passed, and yet there is perhaps not one of them which does not today bid fairer to live on than it has ever done. How the world has been startled this very spring by that cry from Warsaw, showing that Polish sympathies, character and institutions, were not extinct, as they were thought to be. And what an illustration does the whole history of unhappy Poland furnish of the tenacity with which vitality clings to a nation.
And we, my countrymen, this nation, our nation, had fondly thought that a long as well as illustrious national life was to be ours in history also. We never associated with our nation’s life the thought, hardly, of any possible, certainly not of any premature decay. Advancement, progress, expansion, extension, with unexampled rapidity and without limit, seemed the undeviating law of her life. W never witnessed an interruption in the operation of this law – we never imagined there could be one. We often lost ourselves in contemplating the magnitude of her destiny, admiring and amazed; but we never had our hearts sink within us at any suppositions of her decline and death. Each succeeding census showed us not merely moving steadily forward with a gentle, gradual growth of population, territory and resources, but leaping onward, from decade to decade, with gigantic bound. From our national cradlehood, in the short space of eighty-five years, we had become a first-class power in the earth. The world was looking upon us with wonder. We shared the admiration and the envy of every land. Heaven seemed to have denied us no element of power, prosperity, greatness or permanence. We seemed like Mount Zion of old, “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth;” no such national vigor and bloom to be found in all the world elsewhere, when, suddenly, deep gloom overspreads our horizon, such as is wont to precede an earthquake. The ground heaves beneath us; it cleaves asunder; huge fissures appear; our whole civil fabric totters; it seems about to fall and to be swallowed up. Were we then so utterly deceived in regard to our security? This wonderfully rapid maturing of our national life, was it to be a transient as precocious? Was all this fair and flourishing appearance of life and longevity totally deceptive? Was this wide and rapid growth of ours a mere mushroom, starting up and putting forth, short-lived as rank and hasty? Or was there all the while some worm gnawing fatally at the root of all this apparent thriftiness and beauty, such as destroyed that grateful leafiness and shade of the prophet’s arbor which grew in a night and perished in a night; so that we who dwelt so happily beneath such protection and attractions are now exposed to be smitten and withered by the scorching fires of anarchy or despotism? Or were we more like that lofty and wide-spreading tree, the pride and beauty of the field, upon which the bolt of heaven falls, riving and scattering afar its blasted, broken parts?
We who once presented so fair a sight are now a spectacle sad indeed to behold; - different sections of our country discordant and belligerent, in arms against each other; eleven of our States doing their utmost to destroy this Union, and subvert this government; filled with hostility and hate, and indulging in every taunt and malediction. Business no longer frequents the shop, the store, the office, the mill; — the commerce of the North is threatened; the ports of the South are closed. Prosperity no longer crowns our land with joy and plenty. Proclamations of hostility and resistance go forth from Montgomery and Washington to our shame before the world. Fraternal blood has already been spilt, and we know not to what dire lengths of disaster and deadly conflict we are destined. Our enemies abroad exult; our friends await the issue in consternation and dread. These fain would extend a helping hand, but they as yet know not how; — those point toward us the fi9ngwer of scorn, and fling out the cry of derision: “Behold you boasted Republic dropping to pieces; a disease, fatal as the leprosy of old is upon it, which no skill short of miracle can arrest, or prevent the wretched victims limbs dropping off one after another, joint by joint.” We who once were respected by all the world, for whom to command both respect and security it was enough in any quarter of the globe to say, “I am an American,” of late have found “none so poor to do us reverence,” and among us there are some who are filled not only with dismay but despair; who have not only lost confidence in the permanency of our government, but have doubts with regard to the stability and desireableness of even a republican form of government. They are inclined to regard our present convulsions as our nation’s death-throes; they are even now bidding her a sad adieu, and are just upon the point of uttering in lugubrious tones over our country’s remains, those words of Moses’ melancholy chant: “The days of our years are three-score years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be four score years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
It is quite possible that this Southern rebellion is writing a page in our country’s history at the perusal of which we and our descendants will forever blush; but, for one, I feel that nothing has yet transpired which makes despondency or despair in regard to our country’s present and future, either necessary or becoming.
The expression, hence, of some thoughts in respect to national vitality, with especial reference to the danger or endurance actually pertaining to our own nation’s life, it has seemed to me would not be idle or inappropriate at the present time. There are some thoughts connected with this topic of no little interest and importance; indeed, they are of so much importance that, unless they be before our minds with great distinctness, we shall be quite unfit for the present emergency; we shall not rise to any proper apprehension of the duties and responsibilities laid upon us, and we certainly shall fail to engage in the lofty work now given us to accomplish, with anything of that enthusiasm, energy and hopefulness which are both justified and demanded.
I. First, then, let us observe; this vitality of nations is a thing of God’s own arranging and appointment. It was he himself who, after the flood, directed to their several localities the tribes and races whom he had caused to spring up from “the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations; and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.” “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families in their nations.”
The Creator, for the accomplishment of his wise and beneficent purposes, appoints the life of each individual human being, with all its varied circumstances and surroundings, with all its wonderful powers, faculties and capacities, its influence and its destiny. The Creator, also, still in the fulfillment of his vast and excellent purposes, just as much requires and makes use of the life of nations, with all their varying peculiarities and characteristics. This great and suggestive truth the Hebrew Lawgiver, Poet and Prophet declared in his farewell words to the people of his race and love: “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” The text recognizes the same truth in its so distinct enunciation that all national vitality is entirely within the divine hands for the accomplishment of the divine purposes. “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it: if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them.” The allusions made at the outset o of this discourse show how plainly the providence of God in history has spoken of the vitality of nation. We are astonished to see how, amid the most amazing commotions, upheavings and changes, they still live, and live on, from century to century, from epoch to epoch. The destruction of a nation’s life is a most rare, and apparently, well nigh impossible thing. Medical science makes much of that recuperative energy resident in the human system which is so tenacious of health and antagonistic to disease. There is a more astonishing vis vitae in the organism of nations. You may undertake anything sooner, with greater hope of success, than the destruction of a nation’s life. The ordinance, the word and the providence of God, all say so. Vitality is the normal condition of a nation. I am sure the present and future of our own will anew affirm it. A nation is a wonderful and fearful thing; as has well been said, “a mighty moral mass, immortal in mortality.”
One of the most unpromising features in the present aspect of affairs has been the wavering and waning confidence of men in the stability of a republican form of government. Men who never in all their lives before questioned for one moment the sufficiency of our government for all that human society demands of a government; who have ever loved an honored our own as the best; have now had their faith seriously shaken and the ardor of their affection cooled. Good and sensible men have turned away their lifelong admiration from our won civil institutions, and seriously though sadly questioned whether for a great, powerful and enduring nation, other institutions were not better. But there is no just reason for any such doubts and questionings. I allow that if this rebellion prove successful, there will be. I allow, further, that if it prove successful we must bid adieu to republican institutions, for no body in all the world, not even we ourselves, will any longer have confidence in them. But in the point we are contemplating we have one of the strongest arguments against the success of this rebellion. If there is one form of government above another, most consonant and most promotive of national vitality, I should say it was our own. The people’s own work, controlled and upheld by them, it is less to be found fault with any other. It certainly is most in accordance with than any other. It certainly is most in accordance with the spirit of modern civilization and human progress, which respects more and more reverently and carefully the individual man in society; remembering his rights esteeming his capacities and developing and employing them, while opening before him every possible avenue of acquisition, knowledge, happiness and honor. We feel that thus it has the love of Heaven, which loves the highest welfare of every man, and thus has a new promise of vitality in Heaven’s smile and care. We feel that it is most in accordance with the Christian volume which makes so much of the individual man – the child of God and heir of immortality; object of redeeming love and a Savior’s death – which view men not in the mass, but addresses itself to individual duty and individual destiny. Without any question too, it most resembles that form of government which came the nearest to being of divine origin – the ancient Hebrew commonwealth, which was a representative, constitutional republic, with well established laws, a written constitution, an elective executive head, a senatorial chamber, and popular assembly. I would much sooner endeavor to show the divine right of republic s than the divine right of kings. There is one King whose right to rule is divine because he is divine. Let him reign king and king alone. Let not earthly creatures assume the title or place. So our fathers thought and said; so have we, up to the present time. Let not now our confidence or devotion with regard to the happy form of government or devotion with regard to the happy form of government which is ours, be disturbed. It had divine sanction eminently, I was almost saying solely, such is my own enthusiastic regard and preference for it. Let it have not only our most unwavering fealty, but let it also foster within us every fond assurance and firm belief in its sufficiency and permanence. History, too, gives us no more reason to distrust the permanency of republics than of monarchies and empires. If the Hebrew commonwealth, in that rude and early age, endured for five hundred years, until the people, in imitation of the nations round them, madly persisted in having a king, against every warning and expostulation of the illustrious Samuel, noble president and prophet of their republic; — if the ancient Athenian republic survived through nine centuries, that of Sparta for six hundred years, and the great Roman commonwealth five hundred, it is not time, yet at this day, when all over the world the people are reaching after and receiving that recognition which no longer condemns them to inferiority and servility, but permits them the indulgence of every noble aspiration native to the human breast, an secures to them more and more every facility for its realization, — it is not time yet, I say, for us to despair of the vitality of the republic.
III. Thirdly, the fact that God has some especial work to be accomplished through each individual nation, demanding the presence and ordinarily long continuance of a nation upon the stage of earthly influence and action, has a most pertinent and inspiring application to the American people. Though the particular design, vast and good, associated in the divine mind with the existence of each separate nation, is not always discernible to our narrow and dimly penetrating vision, yet sometimes it is so obvious as to leave no doubt, and full scope is given to our admiring view. The wonderful providences connected with the building up and preserving, the making so distinctive and separate, the ancient Jewish people, sufficiently explain themselves as we see that people made a suitable receptacle for the maintenance and guardianship of the religion of Jehovah; a fit depositary for the great gift of the Hebrew Scriptures, and prepared ultimately for presenting the gospel and the Savior to the world. We hardly question the design of providence in permitting Alexander to conquer the world; when thereby the Greek language was spread over the nations in which the New Testament might be most worthily written with its heaven-given, earth-saving truths. Nor do we hesitate adoringly to declare the providence of God in subsequently giving to the Romans universal empire; when their power, their laws, and their perfected methods of intercommunication gave such consolidation, sanitary life and facility of intercourse to the nations, thereby furnishing the most open highways everywhere to the spread of the gospel in the earliest days of its blessed communication to the world. And when we see what God has made this nation of ours, what elements of growth, influence and power he has given us, what light and wealth and greatness, what institutions of government, law, liberty, learning and religion, when we see how the world has wanted our presence, how it has hailed our example, how already the power of this example has happily modified every government on the globe; when we see what inventions and discoveries of value we have given to the world, and, more, what an impulse to national and constitutional freedom, to Christian civilization, and the spread of the virtues and hopes and infinite benefits of the Christian religion, — the world wanting our work now more than ever, craving it more, and we never so well fitted to render it, — is it for one moment to be despairingly supposed that our existence and our work are now to be terminated? We may gratefully seize upon the argument furnished by our country’s manifest mission, yet so obviously barely begun to be accomplished, and have no doubt that we are destine yet to live.
IV. Again, we may observe, fourthly, the source and circumstances of a people’s origin have much to do as regards the promise of national vitality. And here, with assuring and grateful joy we may revert to the sources and circumstances of our own origin. Rom the then foremost nation on the globe foremost in laws, in liberty, in learning, in religion, in wealth and in power, there came the best representatives of English Protestantism to our shores. Better men have not trod the earth than the Pilgrims of New England and the Quakers of Pennsylvania; and no nation ever sent forth a Catholic colony of such character as the men who accompanied Lord Baltimore to Maryland. God-fearing and liberty-loving men came to New York from Holland. Protestant Danes and Norwegians of sterling worth found their way to New Jersey; and with immigrants of a less worthy character there came to our southern coasts multitude of the French Huguenots, a noble, godly race. We came of a good stock; we inherited a vigorous constitution, promising to last long and well. Together with the various motives of mingled purity which naturally actuated those who left the old world to try their fortunes in the new, nobler motives never influenced men than found a place in the bosoms of those whose influence was most potential in the formation of these States.
Our ancestors established here the institutions of law, liberty, learning and religion, just as soon as they reared themselves dwellings to live in, and felled the forests to open fields whose tillage should give them food. During those years of suffering and struggle, from 1776 to 1783, pregnant with a new nation’s birth, never were shown more willing sacrifices, nobler heroism, sincerer patriotism, grander efforts, heartier faith in God, more unhesitating offerings of blood and treasure. Prayers and faith, Christian lives and deeds, the devoutest recognition of God, the living and acting as in his sight, as dependent upon him and accountable to him, characterize the whole progress of our nation’s forming period, from the day when the Pilgrims kept holy their first Sabbath in Plymouth Bay, till Washington, before Congress at Annapolis, “after commending the interests of his country to the protection of Heaven, resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the American army,” our name and place among the nations at length having been fully won and acknowledged. If ever a nation’s origin had about it that any promise of permanency, whether looking earthward or heavenward for the reasons, I think we may thankfully, humbly claim it for our own.
V. Again, it may be observed, when a nations is in its decline and in the process of decay, the premonitions of it have been long furnished, and the proofs clearly indicated. Apply this, too, to ourselves. Has our history, since we gained our independence, shown any interruptions in our course – any standing still – any retrogression? Why, on the contrary there has been on unbroken, unexampled course of progress. From thirteen states we have become thirty-four. From six millions we have become thirty; doubling our population almost every twelve years. From occupying States skirting only our Atlantic border, we have stretched across the continent; no States more flourishing than those most inland, and those on the Pacific side. We have doubled our area of territory. We have more than a thousand-fold multiplied all the elements of national wealth and strength. We have covered our lakes and rivers and every ocean with our sails and steamers. We produce nearly everything, and we manufacture nearly everything. We build churches and we build schools as fast as we build towns and villages. We have as many miles of railroad and telegraph, and as many newspapers as all the rest of the world. Mind and hand were busy everywhere among us. The restless, world-wide activity and enterprise of Americans had become proverbial. The evidences of our vigor and power were before all eyes; — the sturdy pulsations of our heart-beats, and the activity and strength of the circulation coursing through all the channels of our national life, the world felt, and, astonished, called us the Young Giant of the West. Thus it was up to the time when 1860 was shutting down its closing hours upon us. There never was greater evidence of national vitality.
Recall vividly to your minds the happy picture of national vitality our country then presented. Mere vitality in a nation is nothing very remarkable, or even especially desirable; the Caffirs and Fejees have that. But a healthy, beautiful vitality is a glorious thing ! and such was ours. All over our land the various callings and trades of men gave honorable occupation and comfortable livelihoods to those who filled them. The student and the professional man were busy in their high pursuits. The clergyman from Sabbath to Sabbath delighted to point out to his listening congregation the bright path from early sin and sorrow to heavenly peace and rest; or on other days moved in his quiet round of pastoral duty, in sympathy and attempted usefulness among the families and friends of his parish. The lawyer in his office prepared his briefs, and listened to his clients, or sought their interests, and plead their cause with argument and eloquence at the bar. The physician listened to the call of the poor and of the rich, hastening to every bedside of the sick where he might be summoned, to do what professional skill might do for the restoration of health, and the bringing back from the gates of death. The husbandman, from season to season, covered the earth with verdure and fruits, and stored his garners with abundance. The mechanic and the artisan, with stalwart arm or skillful hand, wrought out their work; by the bench, by the anvil, with chisel, with awl, with needle, with brush – the workman with whatever tools, plied diligently and successfully the implements of his craft. The merchant occupied himself with the calculations and cares of trade. The architect busied himself over his plans; the builder in the structure he was rearing; the moneyed man with his investments; the teacher with his pupils. There were men for every calling, there were calling for every man. There were not consumers without producers; there were no more producers than consumers. There was no useless surplus, no troublesome plethora, but demand and scope for all. Plenty, with inverted horn, moved over the land, scattering every where her treasures and abundance. The press, the mail, the telegraph bore tidings and intelligence to every spot at each one’s will, according to each one’s wan. Everywhere stood the halls of legislation and justice, every where respected. All over the land, lining the cities, streets, dotting the river-sides, gemming valley and hilltop and plain, stood the thousand myriad dwellings of our people – happy homes- within whose walls were the family altars of a pious people, the beauty and peace and sweetness and charm of a free, intelligent and virtuous people, and the accumulation of all those blessed domesticities and joys represented by the dear names of father and mother, husband and wife, son and daughter, brother and sister. And upon all the people and each citizen of this land no law bore heavily, no burden of government rested oppressively; no one would be conscious of either government or law, except in the experience of security and social order, which gave perfect protection to him and his, and every facility and encouragement for every laudable employment of head or hand. Our manufactures coined every watercourse into wealth. Our commerce, with her enterprise and nameless benefits, stirred every sea with her keel and helm. While Christian philanthropy, gospel in hand, bore to every nation the arts and sciences, the light, the virtues and the heaven of Christian civilization. Such was the national life which God had made our own. It challenged the admiration of the nations. It was every way worthy their praise, their envy and their imitation, with one sole exception, in a single institution – the only thing the world could point to as an inconsistency and a blot. We lamented it. We apologized for it at home, and especially abroad. We cared to say but little about it, most of us. We rather averted our eyes from it, and silently sorrowfully went backward, as it were, bearing a covering mantle with which to hide a parent’s shame and exposure. With his single exception, the aspect of our nation’s life was without a blemish. The world never saw its parallel for vigor and beauty.
And now let us observe that it was against such a national vitality that this southern movement arrayed itself. It sought, designed and undesignedly, to blot out all this fair picture. It has already laid its paralyzing influence on nearly every department of business; it has required the largest sacrifices of treasure and of life it may be; it has sent gloom and foreboding to the patriot’s heart; it has sent gloom and foreboding to the patriot’s heart; it has exposed us to the scorn or pity of the nations; and into all our homes it has sent clouds an shadows, of greater or less darkness, sorrow and unknown apprehension – fears of what we as yet dare not whisper. It is a fearful thing, of dire responsibility, to aim a blow a national vitality, if that vitality be tolerably answering the purposes of God’s design. Life, all life, is with him a sacred thing; national life most sacred. I would almost write this southern rebellion down as the crime of the ages. There never was anything, it seems to me, conceived and carried on more iniquitously. Pray, what names are there of wickedness and crime which do not belong to it. Plots, snares, falsehood, robbery, treachery, treason, rebellion, despotism, anarchy, murder, piracy, — have they not all been connected with it. And was such multitudinous and wholesale perjury ever heard of in the history of the world; — senators, representatives, judges magistrates, attorneys, collectors of customs, keepers of government funds, — all violating their most solemn oaths to support our national government, and even with them and worst of all, officers of our navy and army, educated and long supported at the nation’s expense, expressly for the nation’s defense, violating their military oaths – among all nation’s from time immemorial, held to sacred. The holiest word we have almost, that which signifies more of solemn, sacred obligation perhaps, than any other, namely, sacrament, it is generally allowed we took from the Roman name of the military oath. The name of the best6 element in the early ancestry of the south, Eignots or Huguenots, signified those bound by an oath. How sadly have these descendants of theirs lost all claim to that venerable and almost holy name! I have, with no uncareful eye, endeavored to find and appreciate the reasons put forward by themselves to justify their course. It is most difficult to ascertain them. I find an abundance of vague, indefinite statement. But little that is specific and less that is true. It will puzzle the future historian to state the causes of this rebellion, or, if he apprehend them, he will blush to record them as we do now. Whatever charges of actual offence and injury we have committed against them, which they definitely specify, are positively trifling, and will not bear the test of a moment’s examination as justifying their acts. But whatever may be said, this one fact stands out patent to every eye, a fact which will condemn their course in the view of the whole world and to all future ages; it is this, that not one charge do they bring against the general government which they are seeking to overthrow, or, what is the exact equivalent, separate from it violently, lawlessly, unconstitutionally. With not a majority in more than a single State in favor of secession at the outset, we know how it has spread like some pestilential contagion, or like the growing whirlwind or whirlpool, till it has swept within its maw eleven of our once noble and may I not say still loved sister states. Appeals to pride, passion, prejudice, deceptive prospects of increasing power and greatness, have been the means employed; — and most of all, the fostering, the mistaken idea that there was the old glory of striking for independence about it; forgetful that it entirely depends upon the character of that we declare ourselves independent of, whether such declaration be noble and justifiable or not; since otherwise Satan himself could claim sympathy and glory for that act of his, and the rebel angels when they declared themselves independent of the Almighty. And is it to be supposed that this rebellion is to be successful! Every sentiment of righteousness and patriotism within our breasts, every principle of justice and right, every obligation to country and good government, and every ground of reliance upon a heaven- loving equity, truth and the good government say No. Shall we suppose that our national vitality is by any possibility to give way before it? No, indeed! A thousand times, no, has been the response from every section in every faithful State. This unlooked for, this amazing uprising of the people with united heart and united arm, is sufficient and glorious proof of the continuance of our national vitality. There was a panic in the winter, most painful even to look back upon, when all was uncertainty and foreboding; when nothing definite and decisive was done or attempted by our general government, and really, for a while, it did seem a question whether we had any national life or not. The lamp of it seemed at best but dimly flickering and going out. But, as sometimes a burglar and assassin with fell intent steals into a house whose owner is wrapped in the security of his dreams, but whose ear partly catches some unusual sound, and the step toward his bed is not so stealthy but that his slumber is a little disturbed and he partly hears it. Nearer still the step comes: the sleeper is half awake; he is almost a-mind to ask who is there. The clothes have his person are slightly moved. He thinks – what? He does not know. When the moon, hitherto obscured, throws its sudden beams into his apartment, and he sees the villain with dagger already lifted to strike. An instant leap, — that lifted hand is seized – a brief, sharp struggle, the villain is smitten down, and the destined victim with his family is save. So when the flash of Sumpter’s first gun lighted up the bewildering darkness of our national sky, and the fell intent and attempt upon our nation’s life was discerned, at a single bound the nation started with the quick instinct of self preservation, and please God, the assassin will be thwarted. The people will not return to their repose again till safety is once more within the dwelling. Every event which has thus far occurred proves it more and more. Even the recent death of that eminent citizen of Chicago and Senator of our country, the tidings of Chicago and Senator of our country, the tidings of which sent sadness to all our hearts, as we felt we could ill spare such a lover of his country, leaves his last public speeches a dying legacy to those who loved to follow him as their political chief; a legacy they will cherish, in their own most fervent love of country and devoted maintenance of her integrity. This meeting of all classes and parties on a common ground, and mingling of heart with heart, as citizens are lifted above party to the lofty, holy heights of patriotism, is so delightful, and so becoming fellow-countrymen, that it will not soon be forgotten or foregone. We may apply the words of DeTocqueville, respecting Great Britain, to the great political parties of our own land. “There are always,” he says, “two parties in England, who fight with the pen and with intrigue; but they invariably unite when there is need to take up arms in defense of their country and their liberty; they may hate each other, but they love the State; they are like jealous lovers, whose rivalry is to see which shall serve their mistress best.” Let nothing, then in this rebellion, awaken one fear that our nation’s vitality is like to be destroyed. It will only be invigorated and intensified. The idea of civil war seems terrible; it is terrible. But civil wars do not of necessity destroy a nation. There is no great nation but has had them, and passed through many of them. In may almost be a question whether they have not as often resulted in good as in evil. The bloodiest of England’s civil wars, so fierce and general that one in ten of her whole population bore arms to the battlefield, gave her, it has been said, her House of Commons. Her civil wars in the seventeenth century, when Hampden and Pyrm, and Maston and Cromwell won eternal names, secured to England, and placed William and Mary upon the throne, secured Protestantism to Great Britain. History will not, I think, however, record this struggle as a civil war; but only as a rebellion; — a rebellion attempted, a rebellion quelled. There is really but a single consideration which may fill the reflective mind with any serious fears at the present, with regard to the possible overthrow of our nation’s life, — and that is the one suggested by the text, which plainly intimates that a nation’s sins are its destruction; — that the Almighty, in whose had its vitality is alone and ever held, will not support it f its wickedness, grievous and unrepented, provoke him to withdraw his care. On this point we can only speak with the deepest humility. May he induce us to repent sincerely of our pride and arrogance, our covetousness and unrighteousness, our disregard of his word and sacred institutions; may he listen to our confessions; and may he hear the innumerable supplications which ascend night and day from the thousands and hundreds of thousands of his true children who are scattered through all our land! And yet in this aspect of our theme, also as well as in every other, do I see deepening accumulating reason for hope and assurance in regard to the vigor and permanency of our national life.
And now permit me to offer the general remark, that not only is it our duty to cherish confidence in God’s kind design to continue us as a nation, and a republican nation, but we are also under the high obligation to do all that is possible to perpetuate and perfect the nation’s life, for God keeps nations only as they keep themselves also.
This we should do by regarding the nation’s life as a most sacred thing, and every attempt against it as a crime of unmeasured magnitude. We must cherish, unyieldingly, the principle that unity is necessary to national life; that every part of our civil organism is vitally connected with the whole, - that for one part to say we can dispense with any other, is like the severance of a limb from the body, each being essential to the other; - or it is the repetition of Aesop’s fable of the belly and the members. We must remember that disintegration of our body politic will be fatal and irremediable; — that to suppose when once broken asunder we can hope to unite again under any improved form or condition will be as absurd as the listening of the daughters of Pehis to the falsehood of Medea that she could make their aged parent young and beautiful again, if they would only cut his decrepit form in pieces and throw them into her magic cauldron; and the experiment will prove as futile and as fatal. We must render the most devout and undeviating loyalty to government, as indispensable to any true national life; as having its form from men but its sanction from God. We must habitually render a most hearty deference and submission to law. We must be ready to put forth every effort, and make any sacrifice for our country’s welfare. The bearing arms in her defense at the present time, if called upon, is, I believe, a high duty and most righteous act; one deserving the commendation of the patriot and Christian. Say not that in urging this I show a fondness for war. I hate it as much as ever, and that most deeply. But as every good citizen will rejoice that the strong arm of the law exists, and wish it success in seizing, restraining and punishing the dangerous criminal, so we may be thankful for the means government has at its command for repressing this rebellion. It is not the subjugation of a proud and noble people that we seek. It is not subjugation. It is simply compelling them to return to an equality with ourselves, and preventing their ruining themselves and us. Cromwell’s battle-cry at Lincoln was “Truth and peace.” We take the same; — striking for the former whilst we seek the latter; knowing that this without that would be worthless, were it not impossible. It is with no feelings of malice nor to achieve revenge that we enter the strife but only eager for the right and ready to hail the day when it shall be acknowledged and reconciliation effected.
For stronger far, and in their strength
More honorably due to fame,
Are they who through the stormy length
Of combat keep a flawless name;
Who, reddened to the brows with strife,
Have nourished hearts not cruel still;
Men who, though widely taking life,
Shed Blood for conscience sake, not will,
And sheathe the sword when peace may be,
And bravely glad, confess it gain.”
God bless the men who have gone to the field of danger periling their own lives to rescue our imperiled Union! And he will bless them; —nor will their country ever forget them.
We each one of us do our duty toward the preservation and perfecting of our nation’s life when we fully and faithfully as possible fill our individual place in the social state, and do our utmost to secure the smile of Heaven; for, as the text so unmistakably affirms, our prosperity and perpetuity absolutely depend upon our having the smile of Heaven; and that smile is found only as we are living in accordance with Heaven’s commands and will. Those words of Washington, in his first Presidential Address to the American people, were equally the dictates of piety and of patriotism: “There is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we wrought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment intrusted to the hands of American people.”
In the entertaining of the views which have been expressed, I dismiss all fear in regard to the issue of the contest in which we are engaged. I feel confident that ere long even a different spirit will be awakened in the breasts of our alienated brethren. Sorrowful regrets will start for the good old government of earth; tearful and touching memories of the nation’s flag, whose respect is worldwide, and whose history glorious, and under which their fathers and ours marched and fought together all the way from Massachusetts to the Carolinas, and over every battlefield, from Bunker Hill to Yorktown; and it will not be long before the meet and crowning sentiment of patriotism will again find and welcome and a home in their fraternal breasts. It is in the entertaining of such views as I have expressed that, with “a solemn joy” even, I hail the issues of the hour. I see them leading us to a wholesome return and firmer adherence to the good principles of our father. I see them necessary for the revival of a purer patriotism. There is a providential purpose in their occurring within the very twelvemonth in which we have consigned to the grave the last of our Revolutionary fathers. Those patriot heroes are no longer with us, to tell us what our government is worth by what it cost them of sacrifice, toil, treasure and blood; and we need to have our own appreciation of its value deepened by similar sacrifices which we ourselves may make. I see the greatest test possible of a republican government now being made; of a republican government now being made; of its stability and strength. I see it bearing the test, and anew commending itself, not only to us but to all the world. I see Providence fitting us as a nation for a greater influence and work than ever. I see him humbling, purifying and then exalting us. I see the oppressed, the liberty-loving and freedom-loving all over the earth, and the approaching millions of countless generations yet to come, with the sainted shades of our departed fathers hanging with intensest interest over the work we are called to undertake in preserving the Republic. Nor do I think they are at all destined to be disappointed. We, of course, cannot now see all God’s designs in the permission of this great crisis which has come upon us. Its history must first be completed. Still, I firmly believe we may take the view which has been presented; and so, energetically and joyfully, go forward in what remains to us for restoring our Union to its pristine position, and hopefully wait for whatever god may yet have in store for us; certain always of this, that the world goes not backward, and that God loves freedom and right; certain, too, that we shall yet say, with a new adoration:
“All is best, though we oft doubt
What the unsearchable dispose
Of highest Wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.
Of the seems to hide his face,
But unexpectedly returns,
And to his faithful champions hath in place
Bore witness gloriously;” the fore thence “mourns,
And all that band them to resist
His uncontrollable intent;
His servants he, with new acquist
Of true experience, from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismissed,
And calm of mind, all passion spent.”