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LECTURE IV.

.

IMPORTANCE OF MORAL AND RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN

A REPUBLIC

BY WILLIAM D. NORTHEND,

OF SALEM, MASS,

It is our good fortune to live under a free and liberal form of government--one established by the people of the country, and one which recognizes in the people virtue and ability for self-government. We have lived under this government over one half a century. During that period, we have been engaged in two wars with foreign powers, which have been brought to a successful termination. We have met with and suppressed civil dissentions in different forms. Various vexed controversies respecting boundaries and infringed rights have been settled. The ordinary difficulties which perplex and test the efficiency of human governments have been coped with; and in all, and through all, our government has not only been preserved unchanged, but, with every year of its continuance, has given additional evidence of its adaptation for the wants of the people.

When we take into consideration the absolute dependence of the government upon the will of the people, this result seems truly wonderful. Despotic governments, fortified against the impulses of the masses of the people, confederacies and leagues, protected by the large powers delegated to the government, have existed for a longer period of time. But in no other instance, in ancient or in modern times, has the world beheld the sublime spectacle of a government, representing faithfully the will, and influenced by the impulses of the people, recognizing their unqualified right to alter laws, and even to modify and entirely change the very principles upon which it is based, which has continued with such success, and has produced such beneficial effects upon the people of the country. There has never existed a confederacy, with no stronger governrnental obligations than those which unite the different States of this Republic under the General Government, which has continued, or could, under any but the most extraordinary circumstances, have maintained itself, for the period which has elapsed since the formation of this Union.

The success of our government has not only been unprecedented in the history of nations, but it has excited the wonder and admiration of the whole civilized world. In 1787, the thirteen original States on this continent, impoverished, weak, prostrated by the eight years struggle just then terminated, with no bond of union but that of mutual interest, with no efficient general government, with no commerce and no manufactures, met together by their delegates, for the purpose of establishing a permanent Union of the States, with a popular government for their protec

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tion. And when, after a continued session of more than four months, they promulgated to the world the Constitution of the United States of America, as an instrument that was to effect this great result, the act was looked upon as idle and visionary, and the constitution regarded as an experiment which would not and could not stand the test of experience. But upon the ashes of the old confederacy, under the guidance of the master spirits of the time, this new system was commenced. The wheels of government were set in motion, and the experiment was at once successful ! We were immediately recognized as one of the nations of the globe; treaties with foreign powers were made; commerce filled our ports with its flowing sails; man. ufactures sprung up; the arts flourished; the credit of the nation was established; and, by the close of Washington's administration, the States were on the high road to prosperity and power. This success

. was regarded with amazement and admiration, and the operations of our government have, since that time, been anxiously watched, and the continued tokens of its prosperity hailed with delight by the friends of freedom throughout the world.

Such is the government under which we live, and such is the success which has attended its existence thus far; and it becomes us all, as citizens, as individuals having each a responsibility in perpetuating the blessings which have been entailed upon us, to inquire what have been the sources of this prosperity and what must be done to ensure its continuance.

In order to answer these questions correctly, it is necessary to look at the causes which impart strength and prosperity to a government. A government cannot stand of itself. You may frame a perfect form of government for a people, but, with nothing more, itwill remain a dead letter. It must go into operation, and be sustained, if at all, by force of absolute power either originally delegated to it by the people, or usurped by the rulers, or it must exist by the free consent of the governed. All governments are said to exist only by the consent of the people. This may be theoretically true; but, practically, all despotic governments exist in defiance of the free will of the governed, unless by consent is intended a tacit acquiescence when opposition would be fruitless, or a forced obedience to what the people are too debased and ignorant to resist. Practically, in all despotic governments, the power of making the laws is vested in the reigning sovereign, and these laws he is to enforce, if necessary, by inilitary power. The military is the right arm of such a government; and the government is strong or weak, according to the extent of the force it can employ. And, under such a system, the more ignorant and degraded the subjects, the more readily can they be awed and controlled by physical force.

On the other hand, in governments which are continued by the consent of the governed, and under which the people reserve to themselves, by a written constitution like the one under which we live, the law-making power, success depends upon very different conditions. Under such a government, there is no necessity for a military force to carry the laws into effect. If the constitutional rights of the citizen be infringed upon, there is a power in the judiciary to give him redress. If laws are enacted by the legis

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lature which are unacceptable to the people, they have the power to change them by the election of new legislators. Of course, such a government will be good or bad, according to the character of the people it is to control.

Apply these principles to the state of affairs in this country. Our government depends upon the will of the people. It will, then, of course represent the opinions of the people. If they are debased and ignorant, if they have not intelligence or virtue sufficient to enable them to appreciate the blessings of a correct and wholesome government, disorder and confusion must inevitably ensue—no laws can be permanent-the salutary influence of precedent will be swept away-and, sooner or later, the government will be resolved into an anarchy, which, in its turn, will be succeeded by a tyranny in its worst form ; or, what is equally deplorable, the reins of government will be seized by some ambitious usurper, who will pervert its power to his own aggrandizement, and poison the fountains intended for the well-being and happiness of the people.

The history of our neighboring Republic of Mexico affords a striking example of the influence of a degraded population upon the operations of a Republican form of government. With a constitution copied from our own, changes in the government have been more constant than the seasons. A favorite with the army, by a pronunciamento from the military, which the people are too debased to resist, is elevated to the Presidential chair, and, after a brief reign, is deposed to make room for another, who has won from him the favor of this President-making body. As a con

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