Page images
PDF
EPUB

press ?

but brethren of the same family have lifted up the heel against each other, each one contending for his peculiarities and opinions with much of that asperity of feeling and biting sarcasm which mark the conduct of political journalists. This spirit and conduct, so far as they have prevailed, have been productive of animosity, strife, and envy. Hence some denominations are now bleeding at every pore, and are literally torn to pieces by factions. How much the injudicious management of the religious press has contributed to this unhappy result, it would be well for all concerned to examine, and be more guarded in future. Editors, like all others, are fallible men. They have, equally with their readers, prejudices to combat, peculiar opinions of their own either to be sustained or sacrificed for the public good, and are liable to be biased by the same influences, unless well fortified by a prudent regard to the good of the community, which move and determine the conduct of all other men ; while their position gives them a command over the opinions and feelings of their numerous readers, which involves a fearful responsibility. They sacrifice, therefore, either for good or ill, to a vast amount.

Should not this thought suggest the necessity of a cautious conduct on the part of those who have command of the public press, and more especially of the religious

Such, indeed, is the vitiated taste of the public mind, that a paper which deals in personal abuse and individual detraction is more likely to be extensively patronized than any other. Hence the avidity with which such are sought after and read—a melancholy proof this of the depravity of the human heart, and of the facility with which means can be furnished to feed and pamper its vitiated appetite.

The unrestrained freedom of the press, when wielded in the cause of truth and virtue, is one of the greatest safeguards to free institutions. But, like all other good things, it opens a door for the most flagrant abuses; and in the hands of raw and inexperienced men, is susceptible of incalculable mischief; and more especially so, when it is controlled by those who are destitute of moral principle, urged on, as they frequently are, by a malignant hatred to a wholesome restraint, and to that order and subordination, which are essential to the well. being of human society. In this state of things, no sooner does a man take it into his head that his own interest can be advanced by resorting to the press, than he hastily puts his thoughts to paper, and, if he can enlist a sufficient number in his favor to commence the pub. lication of a daily or weekly sheet, he pours forth upon the community the effusions of his distempered and distorted brain, regardless of truth and honesty, reckless of the reputation of his neighbor, and equally indifferent to the interests of his country. And what is more astonish. ing still, if you presume to lift up your voice against this violent abuse of the press, you are denounced as an enemy to its freedom! These moral vampires, who feed themselves upon the characters of their countrymen, assume to themselves the right not only to dictate what shall be published, but they also seem to flatter themselves you are bound to read them, and pay them for their slanders. If you warn the people against their vituperations, and endeavor to guard the community from their contaminating influence, you are instantly stigmatized as an enemy to free discussion. Should not such men consider that we have the same right to refuse to patronize and read as they have to publish? that we have the same right to condemn their vile trash as they have to pander it upon the public? Or, are they so blinded to the perceptions of equal rights that they have persuaded themselves that the freedom of the press consists altogether in the right to slander unmolestedly, to pour forth their political and moral heresies without opposition, and to poison the fountains of truth without censure!

Who will say that these things have not a deleterious influence upon us as a nation? Shall we become a nation of personal revilers ? Shall we become distinguished for reciprocal recriminations? Will not such a course of conduct weaken the bonds of our civil compact, and ultimately drive us into that anarchy which is subversive of all order and good government? When mutual respect and confidence are destroyed, where can mutual safety be had? All those, therefore, who wish well to their country, should unite in frowning such principles and practices into silence. Let all such make the voice of reprobation be heard against this vile abuse of the freedom of speech and of the press, which leads to the indulgence of a licentiousness so hateful in its character, and so destructive to the tranquillity and prosperity of our beloved country. Let, indeed, the press itself take a bold, decided, and unflinching stand against such flagrant abuses of its freedom and independence. This it owes to its own character. What man, who values his reputation as an editor, is willing to identify himself with those hireling vassals who shout for the multitude, regardless of the rignts of truth, probity, and honor, and who cater for the raven appetites of those who fatten themselves upon the spoils of such as are slain by those who delight in butchering the characters of their fellow-men!

We say, therefore, that every honest patriot who has any thing to do in controlling the press, owes it to himself and to his country to refrain from this merciless warfare upon human beings. And if such men would come forward fearlessly, and lift up their voice with that independent boldness which becomes men of truth and probity, in favor of morals and against that desecration of freedom we are now deprecating, the augean stable would soon be cleansed, the demon of discord would be compelled to confine himself to those only who are worthy of his society, while the virtuous and good would rally to the rescue, and seize on the golden moment to save our land and nation from the grasp of its hireling enemies.

3. Another evil, of no small magnitude, is the tendency which is manifested, in all our public men, to throw the government into the hands of the populace, and then to call their voice the voice of public sentiment. We confess that we have been no less disgusted than astonished at hearing our public speakers, apparently with a view to court popular applause, harp upon the “sovereignty of the people," and the voice of their constituents,” when they have been solicitous to carry some favorite measure; knowing, at the same time, that this sovereignty and constituency knew no more about the measure in question, until they heard it announced by their delegate, than they did of the secret movements of the caucus which nominated him to his office. And these have rung

the changes upon the “sovereignty of the people" so long, and with such a sick

men

[ocr errors]

ening repetition, that the people have at length determined to let us know that they are indeed our sovereigns in the broadest sense of that word; that they are, in reality, above all law and order, superior to the magistrate, and have the right to act in their collective capacity without any reference to either law or justice. Hence the mobs which have disturbed and disgraced our country. Hence civil courts have been set at defiance, magistrates insulted, the regular process of justice impeded and outraged, while the echo from our halls of legislation, “ the sovereignty of the people,” has been made the basis of these riotous proceedings. Such are the perversions of truth! Such the abuses of those principles which lie at the foundation of our social and civil compact !

But we do not wish to be misunderstood upon this topic. We mean not to say that the people do not possess the original right of self-government, and that, therefore, the government did not emanate from em. This is admitted. But what we mean to say is, that having declared their preference for the form of government which they wish to "reign over them,” they are bound to submit to it; to have it administered as the constitution of their own framing has directed ; and to allow the laws to have their full “force, power, and virtue,” according to their meaning and design ; and to acknowledge that whenever an attempt is made, by a tumultuous assemblage of the people, to usurp the powers of government, to control the magistrate in the lawful exercise of his high trust, or to supersede his powers by the interference of a mob, and thus to trample the laws beneath their feet, they are rising against the government of their choice, and contributing most effectually to prostrate the liberties guarantied to them by the constitutional compact. Against this evil, therefore, let every true man raise his voice.

4. We are not certain that crime increases in our country ; but it is unquestionable that virtue is essential to the stability of our institutions. Read the history of the world, and you will find that the prevalence of wickedness, and the indulgence of luxury, idleness, and profaneness, have always been the precursors of the downfall of nations. It is easy to see how these things naturally work the destruction of good governments. Riches beget pride, and pride leads to the gratification of the senses, and this to all manner of licentiousness; and all these together produce that effeminacy of spirit and manners which incapacitates man for either self-government or for defence against the invasions of an enemy. As wealth, therefore, increases among us, habits of industry are laid aside, and indolence, self-indulgence, and licentiousness, with all their train of evils, will pour in upon us like an overflowing flood, and sweep our institutions from the face of the earth. In addition to the natural results of these vices, they provoke God to anger against us, and thereby expose us to that destruction which comes upon those against whom his wrath is kindled. The awful judgments which came upon the Israelites, at different times, as punishments for their defection from the laws of their God, should admonish us of the danger to be apprehended from similar provocations of his just indignation. He is not only just, but also impartial in the distribution of his rewards and punishments. And think you that He, who punished the old world for their shameful defection from his laws, their rebellion

[ocr errors]

against his government, and so often interposed his authority when the descendants of Abraham gave themselves up to their own hearts' lusts, will spare us if we provoke him to anger by similar acts of rebellion against his righteous government? The very thought that he will do so is an indication that his judgments linger not, because it is an impeachment of the holiness and justice of his character.

5. What tends to enhance our wickedness, and to hasten the day of retribution, is the introduction of a vicious foreign population. We have no objection to an increase of population. Were it of the right character, -intelligent, virtuous, and industrious,—it would augment our national strength, and thereby, add to our capabilities to defend ourselves against foreign aggressions. But is this the character, generally, of that flood of immigration which is inundating our country? "Very far from it. The greater proportion of those who come among us are an ignorant, vicious race of beings, who are encouraged by their own governments to people our shores because they are a nuisance at home. These bring their vices with them; and, however insignificant they may appear in the estimation of some, they are no sooner naturalized here, which, indeed, requires but a short probation, than they have as much weight at our polls, and thereby have as great a share in the government of the country, as the wisest and best among us. This, therefore, is an evil of almost an uncontrollable character. They corrupt our morals, and, uniting their suffrages with those of our own citizens, who are equally reckless of the character and interests of their country, they often exert a preponderating influence over our municipal and state authorities.

To say nothing of their religious principles, which, in general, are averse to that republican simplicity by which our nation should be distinguished, their very political breath has a contagious influence, breeding civil disease and death wherever it is inhaled. As to their religion, if we may judge of its character by its fruits, it has none of that purifying and hallowing influence which pure Christianity always carries with it, and which tends to exalt man to his true dignity, and secure to him his rights and privileges. Surely a foreign population of this character, unless proper means are adopted to purify its morals, to rectify its principles, and to correct its political biases

, must exert a deleterious influence upon our republican institutions, and should, therefore, be guarded against with all that vigilance which true patriotism always inspires.

In the midst of these alarming evils which prevail in our land, and threaten to undermine our free institutions and prostrate our civil and religious liberties, the lover of his country anxiously inquires, Is there no remedy? To this important inquiry we answer, most emphatically, There is. CHRISTIANITY IS THAT REMEDY. pure and hallowing principles be promulgated. Let its renovating power be felt in the hearts of our fellow-citizens, and its holy precepts exemplified in practical life, and all is well. This divine system of religion presents an invulnerable shield to the Christian patriot, which will ward off every blow of the adversary of his country's rights, and enable him to defend himself against every intruder into the fair fields of liberty and happiness. What does it inculcate? It makes the laws of eternal truth, justice, and

Let its

goodness, the basis of all human conduct; and though it finds man in possession of passions and propensities which lead him to war against these laws, yet it proposes a remedy even for these heart evils; and no sooner are its prescriptions taken and its injunctions obeyed, than the disease is removed, and the patient is restored to sound moral health. This is, therefore, the sovereign remedy for every evil we have mentioned. Do not all men see, that whenever the ruler and the ruled are governed by these laws all unrighteousness must cease ? Let love, peace, and good will pervade all hearts, and actuate every man in his intercourse with his fellow, and where is there any room for rebellion against the laws of truth, justice, and goodness? This is so manifest in itself that it needs no argument to make it more so.

The conclusion, then, is this :-That it is the imperious duty of all who wish well to their country, to use their influence to propagate this religion far and near. Let the press aid the pulpit in thi grand enterprise. Let those of its conductors who see and deplore the evils arising from the abuse of this powerful engine, lift up their voice in favor of just laws and civil and religious order. If all such were to unite their energies to suppress the licentiousness of those presses which pour forth their slanders, and propagate their political and moral heresies over our land, who can calculate the amount of good they might do?

What shall we say to the professedly religious press? We say, Let its conductors cease their bickerings one against another. Let these set an example to the others of their love of truth, of Christian moderation, of respect for the personal reputation of their fellow-men, their Scriptural regard for magistrates, for the laws of their country, and for that order and subordination which are essential to social existence, and they shall contribute mightily to advance their country's welfare. Let them all unite to inculcate a suitable reverence for the constitution of their country, a love for its civil and religious institutions, and a just regard for its enactments. Let all the secular and religious conductors of the press unite in frowning indignantly upon those editors who pollute their pages with personal abuse, with detraction of individual character, and with sentiments of immoral tendency, and which lead to insubordination and anarchy and to rebellion against the constituted authorities. If we can succeed so far as to make these vehicles of slander and abuse unpopular, we shall have rendered a service to the rights of humanity, to the interests of our country, and to the happiness of the present and future generations, of an untold amount. Let, then, theeffort be made. The cause is worthy of a mighty effort. If we succeed, we shall have saved our country. If we fail, we shall have deserved success by the very effort we made in so noble a cause, and, therefore, our reward is no less certain.

We would call upon all men who value their country's welfare, and who have the smallest influence, to use that influence in a cause so deeply interesting as this. Let the presidents of our colleges, the principals of our academies, the teachers of our common schools, together with all that are concerned in the education of our youth, employ their great influence in teaching the fear of God, a reverence for Christianity, a love of justice, truth, and goodness, and

« EelmineJätka »