The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 18 out of 25

one of such importance that I will not now pass it by; I mean, the
mortifying state of the public credit of this country at this time. I
cannot help thinking, that if the statesmen of a former age were among
us, if Washington were here, if John Adams, and Hamilton, and Madison
were here, they would be deeply concerned and soberly thoughtful about
the present state of the public credit of the country. In the position I
fill, it becomes my duty to read, generally with pleasure, but sometimes
with pain, communications from our public agents abroad. It is
distressing to hear them speak of _their_ distress at what they see and
hear of the scorn and contumely with which the American character and
American credit are treated abroad. Why, at this very time, we have a
loan in the market, which, at the present rate of money and credit,
ought to command in Europe one hundred and twenty-five per cent. Can we
sell a dollar of it? And how is it with the credit of our own
Commonwealth? Does it not find itself affected in its credit by the
general state of the credit of the country? Is there nobody ready to
make a movement in this matter? Is there not a man in our councils large
enough, comprehensive enough in his views, to undertake at least to
_present_ this case before the American people, and thus do something to
restore the public character for morals and honesty?

There are in the country some men who are indiscreet enough to talk of
_repudiation_,--to advise their fellow-citizens to _repudiate_ public
debt. Does repudiation pay a debt? Does it discharge the debtor? Can it
so modify a debt that it shall not be always binding, in law as well as
in morals? No, Gentlemen; repudiation does nothing but add a sort of
disrepute to acknowledged inability. It is our duty, so far as is in our
power, to rouse the public feeling on the subject; to maintain and
assert the universal principles of law and justice, and the importance
of preserving public faith and credit. People say that the intelligent
capitalists of Europe ought to distinguish between the United States
government and the State governments. So they ought; but, Gentlemen,
what does all this amount to? Does not the general government comprise
the same people who make up the State governments? May not these
Europeans ask us how long it may be before the national councils will
repudiate public obligations?

The doctrine of repudiation has inflicted upon us a stain which we ought
to feel worse than a wound; and the time has come when every man ought
to address himself soberly and seriously to the correction of this great
existing evil. I do not undertake to say what the Constitution allows
Congress to do in the premises. I will only say, that if that great fund
of the public domain properly and in equity belongs, as is maintained,
to the States themselves, there are some means, by regular and
constitutional laws, to enable and induce the States to save their own
credit and the credit of the country.

Gentlemen, I have detained you much too long. I have wished to say,
that, in my judgment, there remain certain important objects to engage
our public and private attention, in the national affairs of the
country. These are, the settlement of the remaining questions between
ourselves and England; the great questions relating to the reciprocity
principle; those relating to colonial trade; the most absorbing
questions of the currency, and those relating to the great subject of
the restoration of the national character and the public faith; these
are all objects to which I am willing to devote myself, both in public
and in private life. I do not expect that much of public service remains
to be done by me; but I am ready, for the promotion of these objects, to
act with sober men of any party, and of all parties. I am ready to act
with men who are free from that great danger that surrounds all men of
all parties,--the danger that patriotism itself, warmed and heated in
party contests, will run into partisanship. I believe that, among the
sober men of this country, there is a growing desire for more moderation
of party feeling, more predominance of purely public considerations,
more honest and general union of well-meaning men of all sides to uphold
the institutions of the country and carry them forward.

In the pursuit of these objects, in public life or in a private station,
I am willing to perform the part assigned to me, and to give them, with
hearty good-will and zealous effort, all that may remain to me of
strength and life.

[Footnote 1: The office of Representative in Congress.]

[Footnote 2: Lord Ashburton.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Edward Everett.]

[Footnote 4: Mr. Andrew Stevenson.]

[Footnote 5: Mr. Parmenter.]

[Footnote 6: Mr. R.C. Winthrop.]



[The great Pilgrim festival was celebrated on the 22d of December, 1843,
by the New England Society of New York, with uncommon spirit and
success. A commemorative oration was delivered in the morning by Hon.
Rufus Choate, in a style of eloquence rarely equalled. The public dinner
of the Society, at the Astor House, at which M.H. Grinnell, Esq.
presided, was attended by a very large company, composed of the members
of the Society and their invited guests. Several appropriate toasts
having been given and responded to by the distinguished individuals
present, George Griswold, Esq. rose to offer one in honor of Mr.
Webster. After a few remarks complimentary to that gentleman, in
reference to his services in refuting the doctrine of nullification and
in averting the danger of war by the treaty of Washington, Mr. Griswold
gave the following toast:--

"DANIEL WEBSTER,--the gift of New England to his country, his whole
country, and nothing but his country."

This was received with great applause, and on rising to respond to it
Mr. Webster was greeted with nine enthusiastic cheers, and the most
hearty and prolonged approbation. When silence was restored, he spoke as

MR. PRESIDENT:--I have a grateful duty to perform in acknowledging the
kindness of the sentiment thus expressed towards me. And yet I must say,
Gentlemen, that I rise upon this occasion under a consciousness that I
may probably disappoint highly raised, too highly raised expectations.
In the scenes of this evening, and in the scene of this day, my part is
an humble one. I can enter into no competition with the fresher geniuses
of those more eloquent gentlemen, learned and reverend, who have
addressed this Society. I may perform, however, the humbler, but
sometimes useful, duty of contrast, by adding the dark ground of the
picture, which shall serve to bring out the more brilliant colors.

I must receive, Gentlemen, the sentiment proposed by the worthy and
distinguished citizen of New York before me, as intended to convey the
idea that, as a citizen of New England, as a son, a child, a _creation_
of New England, I may be yet supposed to entertain, in some degree, that
enlarged view of my duty as a citizen of the United States and as a
public man, which may, in some small measure, commend me to the regard
of the whole country. While I am free to confess, Gentlemen, that there
is no compliment of which I am more desirous to be thought worthy, I
will add, that a compliment of that kind could have proceeded from no
source more agreeable to my own feelings than from the gentleman who has
proposed it,--an eminent merchant, the member of a body of eminent
merchants, known throughout the world for their intelligence and
enterprise. I the more especially feel this, Gentlemen, because, whether
I view the present state of things or recur to the history of the past,
I can in neither case be ignorant how much that profession, and its
distinguished members, from an early day of our history, have
contributed to make the country what it is, and the government what it

Gentlemen, the free nature of our institutions, and the popular form of
those governments which have come down to us from the Rock of Plymouth,
give scope to intelligence, to talent, enterprise, and public spirit,
from all classes making up the great body of the community. And the
country has received benefit in all its history and in all its
exigencies, of the most eminent and striking character, from persons of
the class to which my friend before me belongs. Who will ever forget
that the first name signed to our ever-memorable and ever-glorious
Declaration of Independence is the name of John Hancock, a merchant of
Boston? Who will ever forget that, in the most disastrous days of the
Revolution, when the treasury of the country was bankrupt, with unpaid
navies and starving armies, it was a merchant,--Robert Morris of
Philadelphia,--who, by a noble sacrifice of his own fortune, as well as
by the exercise of his great financial abilities, sustained and
supported the wise men of the country in council, and the brave men of
the country in the field of battle? Nor are there wanting more recent
instances. I have the pleasure to see near me, and near my friend who
proposed this sentiment, the son of an eminent merchant of New England
(Mr. Goodhue), an early member of the Senate of the United States,
always consulted, always respected, in whatever belonged to the duty and
the means of putting in operation the financial and commercial system of
the country; and this mention of the father of my friend brings to my
mind the memory of his great colleague, the early associate of Hamilton
and of Ames, trusted and beloved by Washington, consulted on all
occasions connected with the administration of the finances, the
establishment of the treasury department, the imposition of the first
rates of duty, and with every thing that belonged to the commercial
system of the United States,--George Cabot, of Massachusetts.

I will take this occasion to say, Gentlemen, that there is no truth
better developed and established in the history of the United States,
from the formation of the Constitution to the present time, than
this,--that the mercantile classes, the great commercial masses of the
country, whose affairs connect them strongly with every State in the
Union and with all the nations of the earth, whose business and
profession give a sort of nationality to their character,--that no class
of men among us, from the beginning, have shown a stronger and firmer
devotion to whatsoever has been designed, or to whatever has tended, to
preserve the union of these States and the stability of the free
government under which we live. The Constitution of the United States,
in regard to the various municipal regulations and local interests, has
left the States individual, disconnected, isolated. It has left them
their own codes of criminal law; it has left them their own system of
municipal regulations. But there was one great interest, one great
concern, which, from the very nature of the case, was no longer to be
left under the regulations of the then thirteen, afterwards twenty, and
now twenty-six States, but was committed, necessarily committed, to the
care, the protection, and the regulation of one government; and this was
that great unit, as it has been called, the commerce of the United
States. There is no commerce of New York, no commerce of Massachusetts,
none of Georgia, none of Alabama or Louisiana. All and singular, in the
aggregate and in all its parts, is the commerce of the United States,
regulated at home by a uniform system of laws under the authority of the
general government, and protected abroad under the flag of our
government, the glorious _E Pluribus Unum_, and guarded, if need be, by
the power of the general government all over the world. There is,
therefore, Gentlemen, nothing more cementing, nothing that makes us more
cohesive, nothing that more repels all tendencies to separation and
dismemberment, than this great, this common, I may say this overwhelming
interest of one commerce, one general system of trade and navigation,
one everywhere and with every nation of the globe. There is no flag of
any particular American State seen in the Pacific seas, or in the
Baltic, or in the Indian Ocean. Who knows, or who hears, there of your
proud State, or of my proud State? Who knows, or who hears, of any
thing, at the extremest north or south, or at the antipodes,--in the
remotest regions of the Eastern or Western Sea,--who ever hears, or
knows, of any thing but an American ship, or of any American enterprise
of a commercial character that does not bear the impression of the
American Union with it?

It would be a presumption of which I cannot be guilty, Gentlemen, for me
to imagine for a moment, that, among the gifts which New England has
made to our common country, I am any thing more than one of the most
inconsiderable. I readily bring to mind the great men, not only with
whom I have met, but those of the generation before me, who now sleep
with their fathers, distinguished in the Revolution, distinguished in
the formation of the Constitution and in the early administration of the
government, always and everywhere distinguished; and I shrink in just
and conscious humiliation before their established character and
established renown; and all that I venture to say, and all that I
venture to hope may be thought true, in the sentiment proposed, is,
that, so far as mind and purpose, so far as intention and will, are
concerned, I may be found among those who are capable of embracing the
whole country of which they are members in a proper, comprehensive, and
patriotic regard. We all know that the objects which are nearest are the
objects which are dearest; family affections, neighborhood affections,
social relations, these in truth are nearest and dearest to us all; but
whosoever shall be able rightly to adjust the graduation of his
affections, and to love his friends and his neighbors, and his country,
as he ought to love them, merits the commendation pronounced by the
philosophic poet upon him

"Qui didicit patriae quid debeat, et quid amicis."

Gentlemen, it has been my fortune, in the little part which I have acted
in public life, for good or for evil to the community, to be connected
entirely with that government which, within the limits of constitutional
power, exercises jurisdiction over all the States and all the people. My
friend at the end of the table on my left has spoken pleasantly to us
to-night of the reputed miracles of tutelar saints. In a sober sense, in
a sense of deep conviction, I say that the emergence of this country
from British domination, and its union under its present form of
government beneath the general Constitution of the country, if not a
miracle, is, I do not say the most, but one of the most fortunate, the
most admirable, the most auspicious occurrences, which have ever fallen
to the lot of man. Circumstances have wrought out for us a state of
things which, in other times and other regions, philosophy has dreamed
of, and theory has proposed, and speculation has suggested, but which
man has never been able to accomplish. I mean the government of a great
nation over a vastly extended portion of the surface of the earth, _by
means of local institutions for local purposes, and general institutions
for general purposes_. I know of nothing in the history of the world,
notwithstanding the great league of Grecian states, notwithstanding the
success of the Roman system, (and certainly there is no exception to the
remark in modern history,)--I know of nothing so suitable on the whole
for the great interests of a great people spread over a large portion of
the globe, as the provision of local legislation for local and municipal
purposes, with, not a confederacy, nor a loose binding together of
separate parts, but a limited, positive general government for positive
general purposes, over the whole. We may derive eminent proofs of this
truth from the past and the present. What see we to-day in the
agitations on the other side of the Atlantic? I speak of them, of
course, without expressing any opinion on questions of politics in a
foreign country; but I speak of them as an occurrence which shows the
great expediency, the utility, I may say the necessity, of local
legislation. If, in a country on the other side of the water (Ireland),
there be some who desire a severance of one part of the empire from
another, under a proposition of repeal, there are others who propose a
continuance of the existing relation under a federative system: and
what is this? No more, and no less, than an approximation to that system
under which we live, which for local, municipal purposes shall have a
local legislature, and for general purposes a general legislature.

This becomes the more important when we consider that the United States
stretch over so many degrees of latitude,--that they embrace such a
variety of climate,--that various conditions and relations of society
naturally call for different laws and regulations. Let me ask whether
the legislature of New York could wisely pass laws for the government of
Louisiana, or whether the legislature of Louisiana could wisely pass
laws for Pennsylvania or New York? Everybody will say, "No." And yet the
interests of New York and Pennsylvania and Louisiana, in whatever
concerns their relations between themselves and their general relations
with all the states of the world, are found to be perfectly well
provided for, and adjusted with perfect congruity, by committing these
general interests to one common government, the result of popular
general elections among them all.

I confess, Gentlemen, that having been, as I have said, in my humble
career in public life, employed in that portion of the public service
which is connected with the general government, I have contemplated, as
the great object of every proceeding, not only the particular benefit of
the moment, or the exigency of the occasion, but the preservation of
this system; for I do consider it so much the result of circumstances,
and that so much of it is due to fortunate concurrence, as well as to
the sagacity of the great men acting upon those occasions,--that it is
an experiment of such remarkable and renowned success,--that he is a
fool or a madman who would wish to try that experiment a second time. I
see to-day, and we all see, that the descendants of the Puritans who
landed upon the Rock of Plymouth; the followers of Raleigh, who settled
Virginia and North Carolina; he who lives where the truncheon of empire,
so to speak, was borne by Smith; the inhabitants of Georgia; he who
settled under the auspices of France at the mouth of the Mississippi;
the Swede on the Delaware, the Quaker of Pennsylvania,--all find, at
this day, their common interest, their common protection, their common
_glory_, under the united government, which leaves them all,
nevertheless, in the administration of their own municipal and local
affairs, to be Frenchmen, or Swedes, or Quakers, or whatever they
choose. And when one considers that this system of government, I will
not say has produced, because God and nature and circumstances have had
an agency in it,--but when it is considered that this system has not
prevented, but has rather encouraged, the growth of the people of this
country from three millions, on the glorious 4th of July, 1776, to
seventeen millions now, who is there that will say, upon this
hemisphere,--nay, who is there that will stand up in any hemisphere, who
is there in any part of the world, that will say that the great
experiment of a united republic has _failed_ in America? And yet I know,
Gentlemen, I feel, that this united system is held together by strong
tendencies to union, at the same time that it is kept from too much
leaning toward consolidation by a strong tendency in the several States
to support each its own power and consideration. In the physical world
it is said, that

"All nature's difference keeps all nature's peace,"

and there is in the political world this same harmonious difference,
this regular play of the positive and negative powers, (if I may so
say,) which, at least for one glorious half-century, has kept us as we
have been kept, and made us what we are.

But, Gentlemen, I must not allow myself to pursue this topic. It is a
sentiment so commonly repeated by me upon all public occasions, and upon
all private occasions, and everywhere, that I forbear to dwell upon it
now. It is the union of these States, it is the system of government
under which we live, beneath the Constitution of the United States,
happily framed, wisely adopted, successfully administered for fifty
years,--it is mainly this, I say, that gives us power at home and credit
abroad. And, for one, I never stop to consider the power or wealth or
greatness of a State. I tell you, Mr. Chairman, I care nothing for your
Empire State as such. Delaware and Rhode Island are as high in my regard
as New York. In population, in power, in the government over us, you
have a greater share. You would have the same share if you were divided
into forty States. It is not, therefore, as a State sovereignty, it is
only because New York is a vast portion of the whole American people,
that I regard this State, as I always shall regard her, as respectable
and honorable. But among State sovereignties there is no preference;
there is nothing high and nothing low; every State is independent and
every State is equal. If we depart from this great principle, then are
we no longer one people; but we are thrown back again upon the
Confederation, and upon that state of things in which the inequality of
the States produced all the evils which befell us in times past, and a
thousand ill-adjusted and jarring interests.

Mr. President, I wish, then, without pursuing these thoughts, without
especially attempting to produce any fervid impression by dwelling upon
them, to take this occasion to answer my friend who has proposed the
sentiment, and to respond to it by saying, that whoever would serve his
country in this our day, with whatever degree of talent, great or small,
it may have pleased the Almighty Power to give him, he cannot serve it,
he will not serve it, unless he be able, at least, to extend his
political designs, purposes, and objects, till they shall comprehend the
whole country of which he is a servant.

Sir, I must say a word in connection with that event which we have
assembled to commemorate. It has seemed fit to the dwellers in New York,
New-Englanders by birth or descent, to form this society. They have
formed it for the relief of the poor and distressed, and for the purpose
of commemorating annually the great event of the settlement of the
country from which they spring. It would be great presumption in me to
go back to the scene of that settlement, or to attempt to exhibit it in
any colors, after the exhibition made to-day; yet it is an event that in
all time since, and in all time to come, and more in times to come than
in times past, must stand out in great and striking characteristics to
the admiration of the world. The sun's return to his winter solstice, in
1620, is the epoch from which he dates his first acquaintance with the
small people, now one of the happiest, and destined to be one of the
greatest, that his rays fall upon; and his annual visitation, from that
day to this, to our frozen region, has enabled him to see that progress,
_progress_, was the characteristic of that small people. He has seen
them from a handful, that one of his beams coming through a key-hole
might illuminate, spread over a hemisphere which he cannot enlighten
under the slightest eclipse. Nor, though this globe should revolve round
him for tens of hundreds of thousands of years, will he see such another
incipient colonization upon any part of this attendant upon his mighty
orb. What else he may see in those other planets which revolve around
him we cannot tell, at least until we have tried the fifty-foot
telescope which Lord Rosse is preparing for that purpose.

There is not, Gentlemen, and we may as well admit it, in any history of
the past, another epoch from which so many great events have taken a
turn; events which, while important to us, are equally important to the
country from whence we came. The settlement of Plymouth--concurring, I
always wish to be understood, with that of Virginia--was the settlement
of New England by colonies of Old England. Now, Gentlemen, take these
two ideas and run out the thoughts suggested by both. What has been, and
what is to be, Old England? What has been, what is, and what may be, in
the providence of God, _New_ England, with her neighbors and associates?
I would not dwell, Gentlemen, with any particular emphasis upon the
sentiment, which I nevertheless entertain, with respect to the great
diversity in the races of men. I do not know how far in that respect I
might not encroach on those mysteries of Providence which, while I
adore, I may not comprehend; but it does seem to me to be very
remarkable, that we may go back to the time when New England, or those
who founded it, were _subtracted_ from Old England; and both Old England
and New England went on, nevertheless, in their mighty career of
progress and power.

Let me begin with New England for a moment. What has resulted,
embracing, as I say, the nearly contemporaneous settlement of
Virginia,--what has resulted from the planting upon this continent of
two or three slender colonies from the mother country? Gentlemen, the
great epitaph commemorative of the character and the worth, the
discoveries and glory, of Columbus, was, that he had _given a new world
to the crowns of Castile and Aragon_. Gentlemen, this is a great
mistake. It does not come up at all to the great merits of Columbus. He
gave the territory of the southern hemisphere to the crowns of Castile
and Aragon; but as a place for the plantation of colonies, as a place
for the habitation of men, as a place to which laws and religion, and
manners and science, were to be transferred, as a place in which the
creatures of God should multiply and fill the earth, under friendly
skies and with religious hearts, he gave it to the whole world, he gave
it to universal man! From this seminal principle, and from a handful, a
hundred saints, blessed of God and ever honored of men, landed on the
shores of Plymouth and elsewhere along the coast, united, as I have said
already more than once, in the process of time, with the settlement at
Jamestown, has sprung this great people of which we are a portion.

I do not reckon myself among quite the oldest of the land, and yet it so
happens that very recently I recurred to an exulting speech or oration
of my own, in which I spoke of my country as consisting of nine millions
of people. I could hardly persuade myself that within the short time
which had elapsed since that epoch our population had doubled; and that
at the present moment there does exist most unquestionably as great a
probability of its continued progress, in the same ratio, as has ever
existed in any previous time. I do not know whose imagination is fertile
enough, I do not know whose conjectures, I may almost say, are _wild_
enough to tell what may be the progress of wealth and population in the
United States in half a century to come. All we know is, here is a
people of from seventeen to twenty millions, intelligent, educated,
freeholders, freemen, republicans, possessed of all the means of modern
improvement, modern science, arts, literature, with the world before
them! There is nothing to check them till they touch the shores of the
Pacific, and then, they are so much accustomed to water, that _that's_ a
facility, and no obstruction!

So much, Gentlemen, for this branch of the English race; but what has
happened, meanwhile, to England herself since the period of the
departure of the Puritans from the coast of Lincolnshire, from the
English Boston? Gentlemen, in speaking of the progress of English power,
of English dominion and authority, from that period to the present, I
shall be understood, of course, as neither entering into any defence or
any accusation of the policy which has conducted her to her present
state. As to the justice of her wars, the necessity of her conquests,
the propriety of those acts by which she has taken possession of so
great a portion of the globe, it is not the business of the present
occasion to inquire. _Neque teneo, neque refello._ But I speak of them,
or intend to speak of them, as facts of the most extraordinary
character, unequalled in the history of any nation on the globe, and the
consequences of which may and must reach through a thousand generations.
The Puritans left England in the reign of James the First. England
herself had then become somewhat settled and established in the
Protestant faith, and in the quiet enjoyment of property, by the
previous energetic, long, and prosperous reign of Elizabeth. Her
successor was James the Sixth of Scotland, now become James the First
of England; and here was a union of the crowns, but not of the
kingdoms,--a very important distinction. Ireland was held by a military
power, and one cannot but see that at that day, whatever may be true or
untrue in more recent periods of her history, Ireland was held by
England by the two great potencies, the power of the sword and the power
of confiscation. In other respects, England was nothing like the England
which we now behold. Her foreign possessions were quite inconsiderable.
She had some hold on the West India Islands; she had Acadia, or Nova
Scotia, which King James granted, by wholesale, for the endowment of the
knights whom he created by hundreds. And what has been her progress? Did
she then possess Gibraltar, the key to the Mediterranean? Did she
possess a port in the Mediterranean? Was Malta hers? Were the Ionian
Islands hers? Was the southern extremity of Africa, was the Cape of Good
Hope, hers? Were the whole of her vast possessions in India hers? Was
her great Australian empire hers? While that branch of her population
which followed the western star, and under its guidance committed itself
to the duty of settling, fertilizing, and peopling an unknown wilderness
in the West, were pursuing their destinies, other causes, providential
doubtless, were leading English power eastward and southward, in
consequence and by means of her naval prowess, and the extent of her
commerce, until in our day we have seen that within the Mediterranean,
on the western coast and at the southern extremity of Africa, in Arabia,
in hither India and farther India, she has a population _ten times_ as
great as that of the British Isles two centuries ago. And recently, as
we have witnessed,--I will not say with how much truth and justice,
policy or impolicy, I do not speak at all to the morality of the action,
I only speak to the _fact_,--she has found admission into China, and has
carried the Christian religion and the Protestant faith to the doors of
three hundred millions of people.

It has been said that whosoever would see the Eastern world before it
turns into a Western world must make his visit soon, because steamboats
and omnibuses, commerce, and all the arts of Europe, are extending
themselves from Egypt to Suez, from Suez to the Indian seas, and from
the Indian seas all over the explored regions of the still farther East.

Now, Gentlemen. I do not know what practical views or what practical
results may take place from this great expansion of the power of the two
branches of Old England. It is not for me to say. I only can see, that
on this continent _all_ is to be _Anglo-American_ from Plymouth Rock to
the Pacific seas, from the north pole to California. That is certain;
and in the Eastern world, I only see that you can hardly place a finger
on a map of the world and be an _inch_ from an English settlement.

Gentlemen, if there be any thing in the supremacy of races, the
experiment now in progress will develop it. If there be any truth in the
idea, that those who issued from the great Caucasian fountain, and
spread over Europe, are to react on India and on Asia, and to act on the
whole Western world, it may not be for us, nor our children, nor our
grandchildren, to see it, but it will be for our descendants of some
generation to see the extent of that progress and dominion of the
favored races.

For myself, I believe there is no limit fit to be assigned to it by the
human mind, because I find at work everywhere, on both sides of the
Atlantic, under various forms and degrees of restriction on the one
hand, and under various degrees of motive and stimulus on the other
hand, in these branches of a common race, the great principle _of the
freedom of human thought, and the respectability of individual
character_. I find everywhere an elevation of the character of man as
man, an elevation of the individual as a component part of society. I
find everywhere a rebuke of the idea, that the many are made for the
few, or that government is any thing but an _agency_ for mankind. And I
care not beneath what zone, frozen, temperate, or torrid; I care not of
what complexion, white or brown; I care not under what circumstances of
climate or cultivation,--if I can find a race of men on an inhabitable
spot of earth whose general sentiment it is, and whose general feeling
it is, that government is made for man,--man, as a religious, moral, and
social being,--and not man for government, there I know that I shall
find prosperity and happiness.

Gentlemen, I forbear from these remarks. I recur with pleasure to the
sentiment which I expressed at the commencement of my observations. I
repeat the gratification which I feel at having been referred to on this
occasion by a distinguished member of the mercantile profession; and
without detaining you further, I beg to offer as a sentiment,--

"_The mercantile interest of the United States_, always and everywhere
friendly to a united and free government."

Mr. Webster sat down amid loud and repeated applause; and
immediately after, at the request of the President, rose and

Gentlemen, I have the permission of the President to call your attention
to the circumstance that a distinguished foreigner is at the table
to-night, Mr. Aldham; a gentleman, I am happy to say, of my own
hard-working profession, and a member of the English Parliament from the
great city of Leeds. A traveller in the United States, in the most
unostentatious manner, he has done us the honor, at the request of the
Society, to be present to-night. I rise, Gentlemen, to propose his
health. He is of that Old England of which I have been speaking; of that
Old England with whom we had some fifty years ago rather a serious
family quarrel,--terminated in a manner, I believe, not particularly
disadvantageous to either of us. He will find in this, his first visit
to our country, many things to remind him of his own home, and the
pursuits in which he is engaged in that home. If he will go into our
courts of law, he will find those who practise there referring to the
same books of authority, acknowledging the same principles, discussing
the same subjects which he left under discussion in Westminster Hall. If
he go into our public assemblies, he will find the same rules of
procedure--possibly not always quite as regularly observed--as he left
behind him in that house of Parliament of which he is a member. At any
rate, he will find us a branch of that great family to which he himself
belongs, and I doubt not that, in his sojourn among us, in the
acquaintances he may form, the notions he may naturally imbibe, he will
go home to his own country somewhat better satisfied with what he has
seen and learned on this side of the Atlantic, and somewhat more
convinced of the great importance to both countries of preserving the
peace that at present subsists between them. I propose to you,
Gentlemen, the health of Mr. Aldham.

Mr. Aldham rose and said:--"Mr. President and Gentlemen of the New
England Society, I little expected to be called on to take a part
in the proceedings of this evening; but I am very happy in being
afforded an opportunity of expressing my grateful acknowledgments
for the very cordial hospitality which you have extended to me, and
the very agreeable intellectual treat with which I have been
favored this evening. It was with no little astonishment that I
listened to the terms in which I was introduced to you by a
gentleman whom I so much honor (Mr. Webster). The kind and friendly
terms in which he referred to me were, indeed, quite unmerited by
their humble object, and nothing, indeed, could have been more
inappropriate. It is impossible for any stranger to witness such a
scene as this without the greatest interest. It is the celebration
of an event which already stands recorded as one of the most
interesting and momentous occurrences which ever took place in the
annals of our race. And an Englishman especially cannot but
experience the deepest emotion as he regards such a scene. Every
thing which he sees, every emblem employed in this celebration,
many of the topics introduced, remind him most impressively of that
community of ancestry which exists between his own countrymen and
that great race which peoples this continent, and which, in
enterprise, ingenuity, and commercial activity,--in all the
elements indeed of a great and prosperous nation,--is certainly
not exceeded, perhaps not equalled, by any other nation on the face
of the globe. Gentlemen, I again thank you for the honor you have
done me, and conclude by expressing the hope that the event may
continue to be celebrated in the manner which its importance and
interest merit."

Mr. Aldham sat down amid great applause.



[The heirs at law of the late Stephen Girard, of Philadelphia,
instituted a suit in October, 1836, in the Circuit Court of the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania, sitting as a court of equity, to try the
question of the validity of his will. In April, 1841, the cause came on
for hearing in the Circuit Court, and was decided in favor of the will.
The case was carried by appeal to the Supreme Court of the United
States, at Washington, where it was argued by General Jones and Mr.
Webster for the complainants and appellants, and by Messrs. Binney and
Sergeant for the validity of the will.

The following speech was made by Mr. Webster in the course of the trial
at Washington. A deep impression was produced upon the public mind by
those portions of it which enforced the intimate connection of the
Christian ministry with the business of instruction, and the necessity
of founding education on a religious basis.

This impression resulted in the following correspondence:--

"_Washington, February 13, 1844._

"SIR,--Enclosed is a copy of certain proceedings of a meeting held in
reference to your argument in the Supreme Court of the case arising out
of the late Mr. Girard's will. In communicating to you the request
contained in the second resolution, we take leave to express our earnest
hope that you may find it convenient to comply with that request.

"We are, Sir, with high consideration, yours, very respectfully,

WILLIAM RUGGLES, } _Committee._


"At a meeting of a number of citizens, belonging to different religious
denominations, of Washington and its vicinity, convened to consider the
expediency of procuring the publication of so much of Mr. Webster's
argument before the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of
Francois F. Vidal et al., Appellants, v. The Mayor, Aldermen, and
Citizens of Philadelphia, and Stephen Girard's Executors, as relates to
that part of Mr. Girard's will which excludes ministers of religion from
any station or duty in the college directed by the testator to be
founded, and denies to them the right of visiting said college; the
object of the meeting having been stated by Professor Sewall in a few
appropriate remarks, the Hon. Henry L. Ellsworth was elected chairman,
and the Rev. Isaac S. Tinsley secretary.

"Whereupon it was, on motion, unanimously resolved,

"1st. That, in the opinion of this meeting, the powerful and eloquent
argument of Mr. Webster, on the before-mentioned clause of Mr. Girard's
will, demonstrates the vital importance of Christianity to the success
of our free institutions, and its necessity as the basis of all useful
moral education; and that the general diffusion of that argument among
the people of the United States is a matter of deep public interest.

"2d. That a committee of eight persons, of the several Christian
denominations represented in this meeting, be appointed to wait on Mr.
Webster, and, in the name and on behalf of this meeting, to request him
to prepare for the press the portion referred to of his argument in the
Girard case; and, should he consent to do so, to cause it to be speedily
published and extensively disseminated.

"The following gentlemen were appointed the committee under the second
resolution: Philip R. Fendall, Esq., Rev. Horace Stringfellow, Rev.
Joshua N. Danforth, Rev. R. Randolph Gurley, Professor William Ruggles,
Rev. President J.S. Bacon, Doctor Thomas Sewall, Rev. William B.

"The meeting then adjourned.

"H.L. ELLSWORTH, _Chairman_

"ISAAC S. TINSLEY, _Secretary_."

"_Washington, February 13, 1844._

"GENTLEMEN,--I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your
communication. Gentlemen connected with the public press have, I
believe, reported my speech in the case arising under Mr. Girard's will.
I will look over the report of that part of it to which you refer, so
far as to see that it is free from material errors, but I have not
leisure so to revise it as to give it the form of a careful or regular

"I am, Gentlemen, with very true regard, your obedient servant,


"To Messrs. P.R. FENDALL,

The following mottoes were prefixed to this speech, in the original
pamphlet edition.

"_Socrates._ If, then, you wish public measures to be right and
noble, _virtue_ must be given by you to the citizens.

"_Alcibiades._ How could any one deny that?

"_Socrates._ _Virtue_, therefore, is that which is to be first
possessed, both by you and by every other person who would have
direction and care, not only for himself and things dear to
himself, but for the state and things dear to the state.

"_Alcibiades._ You speak truly.

"_Socrates._ To act justly and wisely (both you and the state), YOU

"_Alcibiades._ It is so."--_Plato._

"Sic igitur hoc a principio persuasum civibus, dominos esse omnium
rerum ac moderatores, deos."--_Cicero de Legibus._

"We shall never be such fools as to call in an enemy to the
substance of any system, to supply its defects, or to perfect its

"If our religious tenets should ever want a further elucidation, we
shall not call on atheism to explain them. We shall not light up
our temple from that unhallowed fire."

"We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is, by his
constitution, a religious animal."--_Burke._


It is not necessary for me to narrate, in detail, the numerous
provisions of Mr. Girard's will. This has already been repeatedly done
by other counsel, and I shall content myself with stating and
considering those parts only which are immediately involved in the
decision of this cause.

The will is drawn with apparent care and method, and is regularly
divided into clauses. The first nineteen clauses contain various devises
and legacies to relatives, to other private individuals and to public
bodies. By the twentieth clause the whole residue of his estate, real
and personal, is devised and bequeathed to the "mayor, aldermen, and
citizens of Philadelphia," in trust for the several uses to be after
mentioned and declared.

The twenty-first clause contains the devise or bequest to the college,
in these words:--

"And so far as regards the residue of my personal estate in trust,
as to two millions of dollars, part thereof, to apply and expend so
much of that sum as may be necessary in erecting, as soon as
practicably may be, in the centre of my square of ground, between
High and Chestnut Streets, and Eleventh and Twelfth Streets, in the
city of Philadelphia, (which square of ground I hereby devote for
the purpose hereinafter stated, and for no other, for ever,) a
permanent college, with suitable out-buildings sufficiently
spacious for the residence and accommodation of at least three
hundred scholars, and the requisite teachers and other persons
necessary in such an institution as I direct to be established, and
in supplying the said college and out-buildings with decent and
suitable furniture, as well as books, and all things needful to
carry into effect my general design."

The testator then proceeds to direct that the college shall be
constructed of the most durable materials, avoiding needless ornament,
and attending chiefly to the strength, convenience, and neatness of the
whole; and gives directions, very much in detail, respecting the form of
the building, and the size and fashion of the rooms. The whole square,
he directs, shall be enclosed with a solid wall, at least fourteen
inches thick and ten feet high, capped with marble, and guarded with
irons on the top, so as to prevent persons from getting over; and there
are to be two places of entrance into the square, with two gates at
each, one opening inward and the other outward, those opening inward to
be of iron, and those opening outward to be of wood-work, lined with

The testator then proceeds to give his directions respecting the
institution, laying down his plan and objects in several articles. The
third article is in these words:--

"3. As many poor white male orphans, between the ages of six and
ten years, as the said income shall be adequate to maintain, shall
be introduced into the college as soon as possible; and from time
to time, as there may be vacancies, or as increased ability from
income may warrant, others shall be introduced."

The fifth direction is as follows:--

"5. No orphan should be admitted until the guardians, or directors
of the poor, or a proper guardian or other competent authority,
shall have given, by indenture, relinquishment, or otherwise,
adequate power to the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of
Philadelphia, or to directors or others by them appointed, to
enforce, in relation to each orphan, every proper restraint, and to
prevent relations or others from interfering with or withdrawing
such orphan from the institution."

By the sixth article, or direction, preference is to be given, first, to
orphans born in Philadelphia; second, to those born in other parts of
Pennsylvania; third, to those born in the city of New York; and, lastly,
to those born in the city of New Orleans.

By the seventh article, it is declared, that the orphans shall be
lodged, fed, and clothed in the college; that they shall be instructed
in the various branches of a sound education, comprehending reading,
writing, grammar, arithmetic, geography, navigation, surveying,
practical mathematics, astronomy, natural, chemical, and experimental
philosophy, and the French and Spanish languages, and such other
learning and science as the capacities of the scholars may merit or
want. The Greek and Latin languages are not forbidden, but are not

By the ninth article it is declared, that the boys shall remain in the
college till they arrive at between fourteen and eighteen years of age,
when they shall be bound out by the city government to suitable
occupations, such as agriculture, navigation, and the mechanical trades.

The testator proceeds to say, that he necessarily leaves many details to
the city government; and then adds, "There are, however, some
restrictions which I consider it my duty to prescribe, and to be,
amongst others, conditions on which my bequest for said college is made,
and to be enjoyed."

The second of these restrictions is in the following words:--

"Secondly. I enjoin and require _that no ecclesiastic, missionary,
or minister, of any sect whatever, shall ever hold or exercise any
station or duty whatever in the said college; nor shall any such
person ever be admitted for any purpose, or as a visitor, within
the premises appropriated to the purposes of the said college_.

"In making this restriction, I do not mean to cast any reflection
upon any sect or person whatsoever; but, as there is such a
diversity of opinion amongst them, I desire to keep the tender
minds of the orphans who are to derive advantage from this bequest
free from the excitement which clashing doctrines and sectarian
controversy are so apt to produce; my desire is, that all the
instructors and teachers in the college shall take pains to instil
into the minds of the scholars _the purest principles of morality_,
so that on their entrance into active life they may, _from
inclination_ and habit, evince _benevolence towards their
fellow-creatures, and a love of truth, sobriety, and industry_,
adopting at the same time such religious tenets as their _matured
reason_ may enable them to prefer."

The testator having, after the date of his will, bought a house in Penn
Township, with forty-five acres of land, he made a codicil, by which he
directed the college to be built on this estate, instead of the square
mentioned in the will, and the whole establishment to be made thereon,
just as if he had in his will devoted the estate to that purpose. The
city government has accordingly been advised that the whole forty-five
acres must be enclosed with the same high wall as was provided in the
will for the square in the city.

I have now stated, I believe, all the provisions of the will which are
material to the discussion of that part of the case which respects the
character of the institution.

The first question is, whether this devise can be sustained, otherwise
than as a charity, and by that special aid and assistance by which
courts of equity support gifts to charitable uses.

If the devise be a good limitation at law, if it require no exercise of
the favor which is bestowed on privileged testaments, then there is
already an end to the question. But I take it that this point is
conceded. The devise is void, according to the general rules of law, on
account of the uncertainty in the description of those who are intended
to receive its benefits.

"Poor white male orphan children" is so loose a description, that no one
can bring himself within the terms of the bequest, so as to say that it
was made in his favor. No individual can acquire any right or interest;
nobody, therefore, can come forward as a party, in a court of law, to
claim participation in the gift. The bequest must stand, if it stand at
all, on the peculiar rules which equitable jurisprudence applies to
charities. This is clear.

I proceed, therefore, to submit, and most conscientiously to argue, a
question, certainly one of the highest which this court has ever been
called upon to consider, and one of the highest, and most important, in
my opinion, ever likely to come before it. That question is, _whether,
in the eye of equitable jurisprudence, this devise be a charity at all_.
I deny that it is so. I maintain, that neither by judicial decisions nor
by correct reasoning on general principles can this devise or bequest be
regarded as a charity. This part of the argument is not affected by the
particular judicial system of Pennsylvania, or the question of the power
of her courts to uphold and administer charitable gifts. The question
which I now propose respects the inherent, essential, and manifest
character of the devise itself. In this respect, I wish to express
myself clearly, and to be correctly and distinctly understood. What I
have said I shall stand by, and endeavor to maintain; namely, that in
the view of a court of equity this devise _is no charity at all_. It is
no charity, because the plan of education proposed by Mr. Girard is
derogatory to the Christian religion; tends to weaken men's reverence
for that religion, and their conviction of its authority and importance;
and therefore, in its general character, tends to mischievous, and not
to useful ends.

The proposed school is to be founded on plain and clear principles, and
for plain and clear objects, of infidelity. This cannot well be doubted;
and a gift, or devise, for such objects, is not a charity, and as such
entitled to the well-known favor with which charities are received and
upheld by the courts of Christian countries.

In the next place, the object of this bequest is against the public
policy of the State of Pennsylvania, in which State Christianity is
declared to be the law of the land. For that reason, therefore, as well
as the other, the devise ought not to be allowed to take effect.

These are the two propositions which it is my purpose to maintain, on
this part of the case.

This scheme of instruction begins by attempting to attach reproach and
odium to the whole clergy of the country. It places a brand, a stigma,
on every individual member of the profession, without an exception. No
minister of the Gospel, of any denomination, is to be allowed to come
within the grounds belonging to this school, on any occasion, or for any
purpose whatever. They are all rigorously excluded, as if their mere
presence might cause pestilence. We have heard it said that Mr. Girard,
by this will, distributed his charity without distinction of sect or
party. However that may be, Sir, he certainly has dealt out opprobrium
to the whole profession of the clergy, without regard to sect or party.

By this will, no minister of the Gospel of any sect or denomination
whatever can be authorized or allowed to hold any office within the
college; and not only that, but no minister or clergyman of any sect
can, for any purpose whatever, enter within the walls that are to
surround this college. If a clergyman has a sick nephew, or a sick
grandson, he cannot, upon any pretext, be allowed to visit him within
the walls of the college. The provision of the will is express and
decisive. Still less may a clergyman enter to offer consolation to the
sick, or to unite in prayer with the dying.

Now, I will not arraign Mr. Girard or his motives for this. I will not
inquire into Mr. Girard's opinions upon religion. But I feel bound to
say, the occasion demands that I should say, that this is the most
opprobrious, the most insulting and unmerited stigma, that ever was
cast, or attempted to be cast, upon the preachers of Christianity, from
north to south, from east to west, through the length and breadth of the
land, in the history of the country. When have they deserved it? Where
have they deserved it? How have they deserved it? They are not to be
allowed even the ordinary rights of hospitality; not even to be
permitted to put their foot over the threshold of this college!

Sir, I take it upon myself to say, that in no country in the world, upon
either continent, can there be found a body of ministers of the Gospel
who perform so much service to man, in such a full spirit of
self-denial, under so little encouragement from government of any kind,
and under circumstances almost always much straitened and often
distressed, as the ministers of the Gospel in the United States, of all
denominations. They form no part of any established order of religion;
they constitute no hierarchy; they enjoy no peculiar privileges. In some
of the States they are even shut out from all participation in the
political rights and privileges enjoyed by their fellow-citizens. They
enjoy no tithes, no public provision of any kind. Except here and there,
in large cities, where a wealthy individual occasionally makes a
donation for the support of public worship, what have they to depend
upon? They have to depend entirely on the voluntary contributions of
those who hear them.

And this body of clergymen has shown, to the honor of their own country
and to the astonishment of the hierarchies of the Old World, that it is
practicable in free governments to raise and sustain by voluntary
contributions alone a body of clergymen, which, for devotedness to their
sacred calling, for purity of life and character, for learning,
intelligence, piety, and that wisdom which cometh from above, is
inferior to none, and superior to most others.

I hope that our learned men have done something for the honor of our
literature abroad. I hope that the courts of justice and members of the
bar of this country have done something to elevate the character of the
profession of the law. I hope that the discussions above (in Congress)
have done something to meliorate the condition of the human race, to
secure and extend the great charter of human rights, and to strengthen
and advance the great principles of human liberty. But I contend that no
literary efforts, no adjudications, no constitutional discussions,
nothing that has been done or said in favor of the great interests of
universal man, has done this country more credit, at home and abroad,
than the establishment of our body of clergymen, their support by
voluntary contributions, and the general excellence of their character
for piety and learning.

The great truth has thus been proclaimed and proved, a truth which I
believe will in time to come shake all the hierarchies of Europe, that
the voluntary support of such a ministry, under free institutions, is a
practicable idea.

And yet every one of these, the Christian ministers of the United
States, is by this devise denied the privileges which are at the same
time open to the vilest of our race; every one is shut out from this, I
had almost said _sanctum_, but I will not profane that word by such a
use of it.

Did a man ever live that had a respect for the Christian religion, and
yet had no regard for _any one_ of its ministers? Did that system of
instruction ever exist, which denounced the whole body of Christian
teachers, and yet called itself a system of Christianity?

The learned counsel on the other side see the weak points of this case.
They are not blind. They have, with the aid of their great learning,
industry, and research, gone back to the time of Constantine, they have
searched the history of the Roman emperors, the Dark Ages, and the
intervening period, down to the settlement of these colonies; they have
explored every nook and corner of religious and Christian history, to
find out the various meanings and uses of Christian charity; and yet,
with all their skill and all their research, they have not been able to
discover any thing which has ever been regarded as a Christian charity,
that sets such an opprobrium upon the forehead of all its ministers. If,
with all their endeavors, they can find any one thing which has been so
regarded, _they may have their college_, and make the most of it. But
the thing does not exist; it _never had a being_; history does not
record it, common sense revolts at it. It certainly is not necessary for
me to make an ecclesiastical argument in favor of this proposition. The
thing is so plain, that it must instantly commend itself to your honors.

It has been said that Mr. Girard was charitable. I am not now going to
controvert this. I hope he was. I hope he has found his reward. It has
also been asked, "Cannot Mr. Girard be allowed to have his own will, to
devise his property according to his own desire?" Certainly he can, in
any legal devise, and the law will sustain him therein. But it is not
for him to overturn the law of the land. The law cannot be altered to
please Mr. Girard. He found that out, I believe, in two or three
instances in his lifetime. Nor can the law be altered on account of the
magnitude and munificence of the bounty. What is the value of that
bounty, however great or munificent, which touches the very foundations
of human society, which touches the very foundations of Christian
charity, which touches the very foundations of public law, and the
Constitution, and the whole welfare of the state?

And now, let me ask, What is, in contemplation of law, "a charity"? The
word has various significations. In the larger and broader sense, it
means the kindly exercise of the social affections, all the good
feelings which man entertains towards man. Charity is love. This is that
charity of which St. Paul speaks, that charity which covereth the sins
of men, "that suffereth all things, hopeth all things." In a more
popular sense, charity is alms-giving or active benevolence.

But the question for your honors to decide here is, What is a charity,
or a charitable use, in contemplation of law? To answer this inquiry, we
are generally referred to the objects enumerated in the 43d of
Elizabeth. The objects enumerated in that statute, and others analogous
to them, are charities in the sense of equitable jurisprudence.

There is no doubt that a school of learning is a charity. It is one of
those mentioned in the statutes. Such a school of learning as was
contemplated by the statutes of Elizabeth is a charity; and all such
have borne that name and character to this day. I mean to confine myself
to that description of charity, the statute charity, and to apply it to
this case alone.

The devise before us proposes to establish, as its main object, a school
of learning, a college. There are provisions, of course, for lodging,
clothing, and feeding the pupils, but all this is subsidiary. The great
object is the instruction of the young; although it proposes to give the
children better food and clothes and lodging, and proposes that the
system of education shall be somewhat better than that which is usually
provided for the poor and destitute in our public institutions

The main object, then, is to establish a school of learning for
children, beginning with them at a very tender age, and retaining them
(namely, from six years to eighteen) till they are on the verge of
manhood, when they will have expended more than one third part of the
average duration of human life. For if the college takes them at six,
and keeps them till they are eighteen, a period of twelve years will be
passed within its walls; more than a third part of the average of human
life. These children, then, are to be taken almost before they learn
their alphabet, and be discharged about the time that men enter on the
active business of life. At six, many do not know their alphabet. John
Wesley did not know a letter till after he was six years old, and his
mother then took him on her lap, and taught him his alphabet at a single
lesson. There are many parents who think that any attempt to instil the
rudiments of education into the mind of a child at an earlier age, is
little better than labor thrown away.

The great object, then, which Mr. Girard seemed to have in view, was to
take these orphans at this very tender age, and to keep them within his
walls until they were entering manhood. And this object I pray your
honors steadily to bear in mind.

I never, in the whole course of my life, listened to any thing with more
sincere delight, than to the remarks of my learned friend who opened
this cause, on the nature and character of true charity. I agree with
every word he said on that subject. I almost envy him his power of
expressing so happily what his mind conceives so clearly and correctly.
He is right when he speaks of it as an emanation from the Christian
religion. He is right when he says that it has its origin in the word of
God. He is right when he says that it was unknown throughout all the
world till the first dawn of Christianity. He is right, pre-eminently
right, in all this, as he was pre-eminently happy in his power of
clothing his thoughts and feelings in appropriate forms of speech. And I
maintain, that, in any institution for the instruction of youth, where
the authority of God is disowned, and the duties of Christianity derided
and despised, and its ministers shut out from all participation in its
proceedings, there can no more be charity, true charity, found to exist,
than evil can spring out of the Bible, error out of truth, or hatred and
animosity come forth from the bosom of perfect love. No, Sir! No, Sir!
If charity denies its birth and parentage, if it turns infidel to the
great doctrines of the Christian religion, if it turns unbeliever, it is
no longer charity! There is no longer charity, either in a Christian
sense or in the sense of jurisprudence; for it separates itself from the
fountain of its own creation.

There is nothing in the history of the Christian religion; there is
nothing in the history of English law, either before or after the
Conquest; there can be found no such thing as a school of instruction in
a Christian land, from which the Christian religion has been, of intent
and purpose, rigorously and opprobriously excluded, and yet such school
regarded as a charitable trust or foundation. This is the first instance
on record. I do not say that there may not be charity schools in which
religious instruction is not provided. I need not go that length,
although I take that to be the rule of the English law. But what I do
say, and repeat, is, that a school for the instruction of the young,
which sedulously and reproachfully excludes Christian knowledge, is no
charity, either on principle or authority, and is not, therefore,
entitled to the character of a charity in a court of equity. I have
considered this proposition, and am ready to stand by it.

I will not say that there may not be a charity for instruction, in which
there is no positive provision for the Christian religion. But I do say,
and do insist, that there is no such thing in the history of religion,
no such thing in the history of human law, as a charity, a school of
instruction for children, from which the Christian religion and
Christian teachers are excluded, as unsafe and unworthy intruders. Such
a scheme is deprived of that which enters into the very essence of human
benevolence, when that benevolence contemplates instruction, that is to
say, religious knowledge, connected with human knowledge. It is this
which causes it to be regarded as a charity; and by reason of this it is
entitled to the special favor of the courts of law. This is the vital
question which must be decided by this court. It is vital to the
understanding of what the law is, it is vital to the validity of this

If this be true, if there can be no charity in that plan of education
which opposes Christianity, then that goes far to decide this case. I
take it that this court, in looking at this subject, will see the
important bearing of this point upon it. The learned counsel said that
the State of Pennsylvania was not an infidel State. It is true that she
is not an infidel State. She has a Christian origin, a Christian code of
laws, a system of legislation founded on nothing else, in many of its
important bearings upon human society, than the belief of the people of
Pennsylvania, their firm and sincere belief, in the divine authority and
great importance of the truths of the Christian religion. And she should
the more carefully seek to preserve them pure.

Now, let us look at the condition and prospects of these tender
children, who are to be submitted to this experiment of instruction
without Christianity. In the first place, they are orphans, have no
parents to guide or instruct them in the way in which they should go, no
father, no religious mother, to lead them to the pure fount of
Christianity; _they are orphans_. If they were only poor, there might be
somebody bound by ties of human affection to look after their spiritual
welfare; to see that they imbibed no erroneous opinions on the subject
of religion; that they run into no excessive improprieties of belief as
well as conduct. The child would have its father or mother to teach it
to lisp the name of its Creator in prayer, or hymn His praise. But in
this experimental school of instruction, if the orphans have any friends
or connections able to look after their welfare, it shuts them out. It
is made the duty of the governors of the institution, on taking the
child, so to make out the indentures of apprenticeship as to keep him
from any after interference in his welfare on the part of guardians or
relatives; to keep them from withdrawing him from the school, or
interfering with his instruction whilst he is in the school, in any
manner whatever.

The school or college is to be surrounded by high walls; there are to be
two gates in these walls, and no more; they are to be of iron within,
and iron bound or covered without; thus answering more to the
description of a castle than a school-house. The children are to be thus
guarded for twelve years in this, I do not mean to say a prison, nor do
I mean to say that this is exactly close confinement; but it is much
closer confinement than ordinarily is met with, under the rules of any
institution at present, and has a resemblance to the monastic
institutions of past ages, rather than to any school for instruction at
this period, at least in this country.

All this is to be within one great enclosure; all that is done for the
bodily or mental welfare of the child is to be done within this great
wall. It has been said that the children could attend public worship
elsewhere. Where is the proof of this? There is no such provision in the
devise; there is nothing said about it in any part of Mr. Girard's will;
and I shall show presently that any such thing would be just as adverse
to Mr. Girard's whole scheme, as it would be that the doctrines of
Christianity should be preached within the walls of the college.

These children, then, are taken before they know the alphabet. They are
kept till the period of early manhood, and then sent out into the world
to enter upon its business and affairs. By this time the character will
have been stamped. For if there is any truth in the Bible, if there is
any truth in those oracles which soar above all human authority, or if
any thing be established as a general fact, by the experience of
mankind, in this first third of human life the character is formed. And
what sort of a character is likely to be made by this process, this
experimental system of instruction?

I have read the two provisions of Mr. Girard's will in relation to this
feature of his school. The first excludes the Christian religion and all
its ministers from its walls. The second explains the whole principles
upon which he purposes to conduct his school. It was to try an
experiment in education, never before known to the Christian world. It
had been recommended often enough among those who did not belong to the
Christian world. But it was never known to exist, never adopted by
anybody even professing a connection with Christianity. And I cannot do
better, in order to show the tendency and object of this institution,
than to read from a paper by Bishop White, which has been referred to by
the other side.

In order to a right understanding of what was Mr. Girard's real
intention and original design, we have only to read carefully the words
of the clause I have referred to. He enjoins that no ministers of
religion, of any sects, shall be allowed to enter his college, on any
pretence whatever. Now, it is obvious, that by sects he means Christian
sects. Any of the followers of Voltaire or D'Alembert may have
admission into this school whenever they please, because they are not
usually spoken of as "sects." The doors are to be opened to the opposers
and revilers of Christianity, in every form and shape, and shut to its
supporters. While the voice of the upholders of Christianity is never to
be heard within the walls, the voices of those who impugn Christianity
may be raised high and loud, till they shake the marble roof of the
building. It is no less derogatory thus to exclude the one, and admit
the other, than it would be to make a positive provision and all the
necessary arrangements for lectures and lessons and teachers, for all
the details of the doctrines of infidelity. It is equally derogatory, it
is the same in principle, thus to shut the door to one party, and open
the door to the other.

We must reason as to the probable results of such a system according to
natural consequences. They say, on the other side, that infidel teachers
will not be admitted in this school. How do they know that? What is the
inevitable tendency of such an education as is here prescribed? What is
likely to occur? The court cannot suppose that the trustees will act in
opposition to the directions of the will. If they accept the trust, they
must fulfil it, and carry out the details of Mr. Girard's plan.

Now, what is likely to be the effect of this system on the minds of
these children, thus left solely to its pernicious influence, with no
one to care for their spiritual welfare in this world or the next? They
are to be left entirely to the tender mercies of those who will try upon
them this experiment of moral philosophy or philosophical morality.
Morality without sentiment; benevolence towards man, without a sense of
responsibility towards God; the duties of this life performed, without
any reference to the life which is to come; this is Mr. Girard's theory
of useful education.

Half of these poor children may die before the term of their education
expires. Still, those who survive must be brought up imbued fully with
the inevitable tendencies of the system.

It has been said that there may be lay preachers among them. Lay
preachers! This is ridiculous enough in a country of Christianity and
religion. [Here some one handed Mr. Webster a note.] A friend informs me
that four of the principal religious sects in this country, the
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists, allow no lay
preachers; and these four constitute a large majority of the religious
and Christian portion of the people of the United States. And, besides,
lay preaching would be just as adverse to Mr. Girard's original object
and whole plan as professional preaching, _provided it should be
Christianity which should be preached_.

It is plain, as plain as language can be made, that he did not intend to
allow the minds of these children to be troubled about religion of any
kind, whilst they were within the college. And why? He himself assigns
the reason. Because of the difficulty and trouble, he says, that might
arise from the multitude of sects, and creeds, and teachers, and the
various clashing doctrines and tenets advanced by the different
preachers of Christianity. Therefore his desire as to these orphans is,
that their minds should be kept free from all bias of any kind in favor
of any description of Christian creed, till they arrived at manhood, and
should have left the walls of his school.

Now, are not laymen equally sectarian in their views with clergymen? And
would it not be just as easy to prevent sectarian doctrines from being
preached by a clergyman, as from being taught by a layman? It is idle,
therefore, to speak of lay preaching.

MR. SERGEANT here rose, and said that they on their side had not
uttered one word about lay preaching. It was lay teaching they
spoke of.

Well, I would just as soon take it that way as the other, _teaching_ as
preaching. Is not the teaching of laymen as sectarian as the preaching
of clergymen? What is the difference between unlettered laymen and
lettered clergymen in this respect? Every one knows that laymen are as
violent controversialists as clergymen, and the less informed the more
violent. So this, while it is a little more ridiculous, is equally
obnoxious. According to my experience, a layman is just as likely to
launch out into sectarian views, and to advance clashing doctrines and
violent, bigoted prejudices, as a professional preacher, and even more
so. Every objection to professional religious instruction applies with
still greater force to lay teaching. As in other cases, so in this, the
greatest degree of candor is usually found accompanying the greatest
degree of knowledge. Nothing is more apt to be positive and dogmatical
than ignorance.

But there is no provision in any part of Mr. Girard's will for the
introduction of any lay teaching on religious matters whatever. The
children are to get their religion when they leave his school, and they
are to have nothing to do with religion before they do leave it. They
are then to choose their religious opinions, and not before.

MR. BINNEY. "Choose their tenets" is the expression.

Tenets are opinions, I believe. The mass of one's religious tenets makes
up one's religion.

Now, it is evident that Mr. Girard meant to found a school of morals,
without any reference to, or connection with, religion. But, after all,
there is nothing original in this plan of his. It has its origin in a
deistical source, but not from the highest school of infidelity. Not
from Bolingbroke, or Shaftesbury, or Gibbon; not even from Voltaire or
D'Alembert. It is from two persons who were probably known to Mr. Girard
in the early part of his life; it is from Mr. Thomas Paine and Mr.
Volney. Mr. Thomas Paine, in his "Age of Reason," says: "Let us devise
means to establish schools of instruction, that we may banish the
ignorance that the ancient _regime_ of kings and priests has spread
among the people. Let us propagate morality, unfettered by

MR. BINNEY. What do you get that from?

The same place that Mr. Girard got this provision of his will from,
Paine's "Age of Reason." The same phraseology in effect is here. Paine
disguised his real meaning, it is true. He said: "Let us devise means to
establish schools to propagate morality, unfettered by _superstition_."
Mr. Girard, who had no disguise about him, uses plain language to
express the same meaning. In Mr. Girard's view, _religion_ is just that
thing which Mr. Paine calls _superstition_. "Let us establish schools of
morality," said he, "unfettered by religious tenets. Let us give these
children a system of pure morals before they adopt any religion." The
ancient _regime_ of which Paine spoke as obnoxious was that of kings and
priests. That was the popular way he had of making any thing obnoxious
that he wished to destroy. Now, if he had _merely_ wished to get rid of
the dogmas which he says were established by kings and priests, if he
had no desire to abolish the Christian religion itself, he could have
thus expressed himself: "Let us rid ourselves of the errors of kings and
priests, and plant morality on the plain text of the Christian religion,
with the simplest forms of religious worship."

I do not intend to leave this part of the cause, however, without a
still more distinct statement of the objections to this scheme of
instruction. This is due, I think, to the subject and to the occasion;
and I trust I shall not be considered presumptuous, or as trenching upon
the duties which properly belong to another profession. But I deem it
due to the cause of Christianity to take up the notions of this scheme
of Mr. Girard, and show how mistaken is the idea of calling it a
charity. In the first place, then, I say, this scheme is derogatory to
Christianity, because it rejects Christianity from the education of
youth, by rejecting its teachers, by rejecting the ordinary agencies of
instilling the Christian religion into the minds of the young. I do not
say that, in order to make this a charity, there should be a positive
provision for the teaching of Christianity, although, as I have already
observed, I take that to be the rule in an English court of equity. But
I need not, in this case, claim the whole benefit of that rule. I say it
is derogatory, because there is a positive rejection of Christianity;
because it rejects the ordinary means and agencies of Christianity. He
who rejects the ordinary means of accomplishing an end, means to defeat
that end itself, or else he has no meaning. And this is true, although
the means originally be means of human appointment, and not attaching to
or resting on any higher authority.

For example, if the New Testament had contained a set of principles of
morality and religion, without reference to the means by which those
principles were to be established, and if in the course of time a system
of means had sprung up, become identified with the history of the world,
become general, sanctioned by continued use and custom, then he who
should reject those means would design to reject, and would reject, that
morality and religion themselves.

This would be true in a case where the end rested on divine authority,
and human agency devised and used the means. But if the means themselves
be of divine authority also, then the rejection of them is a direct
rejection of that authority.

Now, I suppose there is nothing in the New Testament more clearly
established by the Author of Christianity, than the appointment of a
Christian ministry. The world was to be evangelized, was to be brought
out of darkness into light, by the influences of the Christian religion,
spread and propagated by the instrumentality of man. A Christian
ministry was therefore appointed by the Author of the Christian religion
himself, and it stands on the same authority as any other part of his
religion. When the lost sheep of the house of Israel were to be brought
to the knowledge of Christianity, the disciples were commanded to go
forth into all the cities, and to preach "that the kingdom of heaven is
at hand." It was added, that whosoever would not receive them, nor hear
their words, it should be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha than for
them. And after his resurrection, in the appointment of the great
mission to the whole human race, the Author of Christianity commanded
his disciples that they should "go into all the world, and preach the
Gospel to every creature." This was one of his last commands; and one of
his last promises was the assurance, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to
the end of the world!" I say, therefore, there is nothing set forth more
authentically in the New Testament than the appointment of a Christian
ministry; and he who does not believe this does not and cannot believe
the rest.

It is true that Christian ministers, in this age of the world, are
selected in different ways and different modes by different sects and
denominations. But there are, still, ministers of all sects and
denominations. Why should we shut our eyes to the whole history of
Christianity? Is it not the preaching of ministers of the Gospel that
has evangelized the more civilized part of the world? Why do we at this
day enjoy the lights and benefits of Christianity ourselves? Do we not
owe it to the instrumentality of the Christian ministry? The ministers
of Christianity, departing from Asia Minor, traversing Asia, Africa, and
Europe, to Iceland, Greenland, and the poles of the earth, suffering all
things, enduring all things, hoping all things, raising men everywhere
from the ignorance of idol worship to the knowledge of the true God, and
everywhere bringing life and immortality to light through the Gospel,
have only been acting in obedience to the Divine instruction; they were
commanded to go forth, and they have gone forth, and they still go
forth. They have sought, and they still seek, to be able to preach the
Gospel to every creature under the whole heaven. And where was
Christianity ever received, where were its truths ever poured into the
human heart, where did its waters, springing up into everlasting life,
ever burst forth, except in the track of a Christian ministry? Did we
ever hear of an instance, does history record an instance, of any part
of the globe Christianized by lay preachers, or "lay teachers"? And,
descending from kingdoms and empires to cities and countries, to
parishes and villages, do we not all know, that wherever Christianity
has been carried, and wherever it has been taught, by human agency, that
agency was the agency of ministers of the Gospel? It is all idle, and a
mockery, to pretend that any man has respect for the Christian religion
who yet derides, reproaches, and stigmatizes all its ministers and
teachers. It is all idle, it is a mockery, and an insult to common
sense, to maintain that a school for the instruction of youth, from
which Christian instruction by Christian teachers is sedulously and
rigorously shut out, is not deistical and infidel both in its purpose
and in its tendency. I insist, therefore, that this plan of education
is, in this respect, derogatory to Christianity, in opposition to it,
and calculated either to subvert or to supersede it.

In the next place, this scheme of education is derogatory to
Christianity, because it proceeds upon the presumption that the
Christian religion is not the only true foundation, or any necessary
foundation, of morals. The ground taken is, that religion is not
necessary to morality, that benevolence may be insured by habit, and
that all the virtues may nourish, and be safely left to the chance of
flourishing, without touching the waters of the living spring of
religious responsibility. With him who thinks thus, what can be the
value of the Christian revelation? So the Christian world has not
thought; for by that Christian world, throughout its broadest extent, it
has been, and is, held as a fundamental truth, that religion is the only
solid basis of morals, and that moral instruction not resting on this
basis is only a building upon sand. And at what age of the Christian era
have those who professed to teach the Christian religion, or to believe
in its authority and importance, not insisted on the absolute necessity
of inculcating its principles and its precepts upon the minds of the
young? In what age, by what sect, where, when, by whom, has religious
truth been excluded from the education of youth? Nowhere; never.
Everywhere, and at all times, it has been, and is, regarded as
essential. It is of the essence, the vitality, of useful instruction.
From all this Mr. Girard dissents. His plan denies the necessity and the
propriety of religious instruction as a part of the education of youth.
He dissents, not only from all the sentiments of Christian mankind, from
all common conviction, and from the results of all experience, but he
dissents also from still higher authority, the word of God itself. My
learned friend has referred, with propriety, to one of the commands of
the Decalogue; but there is another, a first commandment, and that is a
precept of religion, and it is in subordination to this that the moral
precepts of the Decalogue are proclaimed. This first great commandment
teaches man that there is one, and only one, great First Cause, one, and
only one, proper object of human worship. This is the great, the ever
fresh, the overflowing fountain of all revealed truth. Without it, human
life is a desert, of no known termination on any side, but shut in on
all sides by a dark and impenetrable horizon. Without the light of this
truth, man knows nothing of his origin, and nothing of his end. And when
the Decalogue was delivered to the Jews, with this great announcement
and command at its head, what said the inspired lawgiver? that it should
be kept from children? that it should be reserved as a communication fit
only for mature age? Far, far otherwise. "And these words, which I
command thee this day, shall be in thy heart. And thou shalt teach them
diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sittest
in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down,
and when thou risest up."

There is an authority still more imposing and awful. When little
children were brought into the presence of the Son of God, his disciples
proposed to send them away; but he said, "Suffer little children to come
unto me." Unto _me_; he did not send them first for lessons in morals
to the schools of the Pharisees, or to the unbelieving Sadducees, nor to
read the precepts and lessons _phylacteried_ on the garments of the
Jewish priesthood; he said nothing of different creeds or clashing
doctrines; but he opened at once to the youthful mind the everlasting
fountain of living waters, the only source of eternal truths: "Suffer
little children to come _unto me_." And that injunction is of perpetual
obligation. It addresses itself to-day with the same earnestness and the
same authority which attended its first utterance to the Christian
world. It is of force everywhere, and at all times. It extends to the
ends of the earth, it will reach to the end of time, always and
everywhere sounding in the ears of men, with an emphasis which no
repetition can weaken, and with an authority which nothing can
supersede: "Suffer little children to come unto me."

And not only my heart and my judgment, my belief and my conscience,
instruct me that this great precept should be obeyed, but the idea is so
sacred, the solemn thoughts connected with it so crowd upon me, it is so
utterly at variance with this system of philosophical _morality_ which
we have heard advocated, that I stand and speak here in fear of being
influenced by my feelings to exceed the proper line of my professional
duty. Go thy way at this time, is the language of philosophical
morality, and I will send for thee at a more convenient season. This is
the language of Mr. Girard in his will. In this there is neither
religion nor reason.

The earliest and the most urgent intellectual want of human nature is
the knowledge of its origin, its duty, and its destiny. "Whence am I,
what am I, and what is before me?" This is the cry of the human soul, so
soon as it raises its contemplation above visible, material things.

When an intellectual being finds himself on this earth, as soon as the
faculties of reason operate, one of the first inquiries of his mind is,
"Shall I be here always?" "Shall I live here for ever?" And reasoning
from what he sees daily occurring to others, he learns to a certainty
that his state of being must one day be changed. I do not mean to deny,
that it may be true that he is created with this consciousness; but
whether it be consciousness, or the result of his reasoning faculties,
man soon learns that he must die. And of all sentient beings, he alone,
so far as we can judge, attains to this knowledge. His Maker has made
him capable of learning this. Before he knows his origin and destiny, he
knows that he is to die. Then comes that most urgent and solemn demand
for light that ever proceeded, or can proceed, from the profound and
anxious broodings of the human soul. It is stated, with wonderful force
and beauty, in that incomparable composition, the book of Job: "For
there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that the tender branch thereof will not cease; that, through the
scent of water, it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. _But
if a man die, shall he live again?_" And that question nothing but God,
and the religion of God, can solve. Religion does solve it, and teaches
every man that he is to live again, and that the duties of this life
have reference to the life which is to come. And hence, since the
introduction of Christianity, it has been the duty, as it has been the
effort, of the great and the good, to sanctify human knowledge, to bring
it to the fount, and to baptize learning into Christianity; to gather up
all its productions, its earliest and its latest, its blossoms and its
fruits, and lay them all upon the altar of religion and virtue.

Another important point involved in this question is, What becomes of
the Christian Sabbath, in a school thus established? I do not mean to
say that this stands exactly on the same authority as the Christian
religion, but I mean to say that the observance of the Sabbath is a part
of Christianity in all its forms. All Christians admit the observance of
the Sabbath. All admit that there is a Lord's day, although there may be
a difference in the belief as to which is the right day to be observed.
Now, I say that in this institution, under Mr. Girard's scheme, the
ordinary observance of the Sabbath could not take place, because the
ordinary means of observing it are excluded. I know that I shall be told
here, also, that lay teachers would come in again; and I say again, in
reply, that, where the ordinary means of attaining an end are excluded,
the intention is to exclude the end itself. There can be no Sabbath in
this college, there can be no religious observance of the Lord's day;
for there are no means for attaining that end. It will be said, that the
children would be permitted to go out. There is nothing seen of this
permission in Mr. Girard's will. And I say again, that it would be just
as much opposed to Mr. Girard's whole scheme to allow these children to
go out and attend places of public worship on the Sabbath day, as it
would be to have ministers of religion to preach to them within the
walls; because, if they go out to hear preaching, they will hear just as
much about religious controversies, and clashing doctrines, and more,
than if appointed preachers officiated in the college. His object, as he
states, was to keep their minds free from all religious doctrines and
sects, and he would just as much defeat his ends by sending them out as
by having religious instruction within. Where, then, are these little
children to go? Where can they go to learn the truth, to reverence the
Sabbath? They are far from their friends, they have no one to accompany
them to any place of worship, no one to show them the right from the
wrong course; their minds must be kept clear from all bias on the
subject, and they are just as far from the ordinary observance of the
Sabbath as if there were no Sabbath day at all. And where there is no
observance of the Christian Sabbath there will of course be no public
worship of God.

In connection with this subject I will observe, that there has been
recently held a large convention of clergymen and laymen in Columbus,
Ohio, to lead the minds of the Christian public to the importance of a
more particular observance of the Christian Sabbath; and I will read, as
part of my argument, an extract from their address, which bears with
peculiar force upon this case.

"It is alike obvious that the Sabbath exerts its salutary power by
making the population acquainted with the being, perfections, and
laws of God; with our relations to him as his creatures, and our
obligations to him as rational, accountable subjects, and with our
character as sinners, for whom his mercy has provided a Saviour;
under whose government we live to be restrained from sin and
reconciled to God, and fitted by his word and spirit for the
inheritance above."

"It is by the reiterated instruction and impression which the
Sabbath imparts to the population of a nation, by the moral
principle which it forms, by the conscience which it maintains, by
the habits of method, cleanliness, and industry it creates, by the
rest and renovated vigor it bestows on exhausted human nature, by
the lengthened life and higher health it affords, by the holiness
it inspires, and cheering hopes of heaven, and the protection and
favor of God, which its observance insures, that the Sabbath is
rendered the moral conservator of nations.

"The omnipresent influence the Sabbath exerts, however, by no
secret charm or compendious action, upon masses of unthinking
minds; but by arresting the stream of worldly thoughts, interests,
and affections, stopping the din of business, unlading the mind of
its cares and responsibilities, and the body of its burdens, while
God speaks to men, and they attend, and hear, and fear, and learn
to do his will.

"You might as well put out the sun, and think to enlighten the
world with tapers, destroy the attraction of gravity, and think to
wield the universe by human powers, as to extinguish the moral
illumination of the Sabbath, and break this glorious main-spring of
the moral government of God."

And I would ask, Would any Christian man consider it desirable for his
orphan children, after his death, to find refuge within this asylum,
under all the circumstances and influences which will necessarily
surround its inmates? Are there, or will there be, any Christian parents
who would desire that their children should be placed in this school,
to be for twelve years exposed to the pernicious influences which must
be brought to bear on their minds? I very much doubt if there is any
Christian father who hears me this day, and I am quite sure that there
is no Christian mother, who, if called upon to lie down on the bed of
death, although sure to leave her children as poor as children can be
left, who would not rather trust them, nevertheless, to the Christian
charity of the world, however uncertain it has been said to be, than
place them where their physical wants and comforts would be abundantly
attended to, but away from the solaces and consolations, the hopes and
the grace, of the Christian religion. She would rather trust them to the
mercy and kindness of that spirit, which, when it has nothing else left,
gives a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple; to that spirit
which has its origin in the fountain of all good, and of which we have
on record an example the most beautiful, the most touching, the most
intensely affecting, that the world's history contains, I mean the
offering of the poor widow, who threw her two mites into the treasury.
"And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the
treasury; and he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two
mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath
cast in more than they all; for all these have, of their abundance, cast
in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the
living that she had." What more tender, more solemnly affecting, more
profoundly pathetic, than this charity, this offering to God, of a
farthing! We know nothing of her name, her family, or her tribe. We only
know that she was a poor woman, and a widow, of whom there is nothing
left upon record but this sublimely simple story, that, when the rich
came to cast their proud offerings into the treasury, this poor woman
came also, and cast in her two mites, which made a farthing! And that
example, thus made the subject of divine commendation, has been read,
and told, and gone abroad everywhere, and sunk deep into a hundred
millions of hearts, since the commencement of the Christian era, and has
done more good than could be accomplished by a thousand marble palaces,
because it was charity mingled with true benevolence, given in the fear,
the love, the service, and honor of God; because it was charity, that
had its origin in religious feeling; because it was a gift to the honor
of God!

Cases have come before the courts, of bequests, in last wills, made or
given to God, without any more specific direction; and these bequests
have been regarded as creating charitable uses. But can that be truly
called a charity which flies in the face of all the laws of God and all
the usages of Christian man? I arraign no man for mixing up a love of
distinction and notoriety with his charities. I blame not Mr. Girard
because he desired to raise a splendid marble palace in the neighborhood
of a beautiful city, that should endure for ages, and transmit his name
and fame to posterity. But his school of learning is not to be valued,
because it has not the chastening influences of true religion; because
it has no fragrance of the spirit of Christianity. It is not a charity,
for it has not that which gives to a charity for education its chief
value. It will, therefore, soothe the heart of no Christian parent,
dying in poverty and distress, that those who owe to him their being may
be led, and fed, and clothed by Mr. Girard's bounty, at the expense of
being excluded from all the means of religious instruction afforded to
other children, and shut up through the most interesting period of their
lives in a seminary without religion, and with moral sentiments as cold
as its own marble walls.

I now come to the consideration of the second part of this clause in the
will, that is to say, the reasons assigned by Mr. Girard for making
these restrictions with regard to the ministers of religion; and I say
that these are much more derogatory to Christianity than the main
provision itself, excluding them. He says that there are such a
multitude of sects and such diversity of opinion, that he will exclude
all religion and all its ministers, in order to keep the minds of the
children free from clashing controversies. Now, does not this tend to
subvert all belief in the utility of teaching the Christian religion to
youth at all? Certainly, it is a broad and bold denial of such utility.
To say that the evil resulting to youth from the differences of sects
and creeds overbalances all the benefits which the best education can
give them, what is this but to say that the branches of the tree of
religious knowledge are so twisted, and twined, and commingled, and all
run so much into and over each other, that there is therefore no remedy
but to lay the axe at the root of the tree itself? It means that, and
nothing less! Now, if there be any thing more derogatory to the
Christian religion than this, I should like to know what it is. In all
this we see the attack upon religion itself, made on its ministers, its
institutions, and its diversities. And that is the objection urged by
all the lower and more vulgar schools of infidelity throughout the
world. In all these schools, called schools of Rationalism in Germany,
Socialism in England, and by various other names in various countries
which they infest, this is the universal cant. The first step of all
these philosophical moralists and regenerators of the human race is to
attack the agency through which religion and Christianity are
administered to man. But in this there is nothing new or original. We
find the same mode of attack and remark in Paine's "Age of Reason." At
page 336 he says: "The Bramin, the follower of Zoroaster, the Jew, the
Mahometan, the Church of Rome, the Greek Church, the Protestant Church,
split into several hundred contradictory sectaries, preaching, in some
instances, damnation against each other, all cry out, 'Our holy

We find the same view in Volney's "Ruins of Empires." Mr. Volney arrays
in a sort of semicircle the different and conflicting religions of the
world. "And first," says he, "surrounded by a group in various fantastic
dresses, that confused mixture of violet, red, white, black, and
speckled garments, with heads shaved, with tonsures, or with short
hairs, with red hats, square bonnets, pointed mitres, or long beards, is
the standard of the Roman Pontiff. On his right you see the Greek
Pontiff, and on the left are the standards of two recent chiefs (Luther
and Calvin), who, shaking off a yoke that had become tyrannical, had
raised altar against altar in their reform, and wrested half of Europe
from the Pope. Behind these are the subaltern sects, subdivided from the
principal divisions. The Nestorians, Eutychians, Jacobites, Iconoclasts,
Anabaptists, Presbyterians, Wickliffites, Osiandrians, Manicheans,
Pietists, Adamites, the Contemplatives, the Quakers, the Weepers, and a
hundred others, all of distinct parties, persecuting when strong,
tolerant when weak, hating each other in the name of the God of peace,
forming such an exclusive heaven in a religion of universal charity,
damning each other to pains without end in a future state, and realizing
in this world the imaginary hell of the other."

Can it be doubted for an instant that sentiments like these are
derogatory to the Christian religion? And yet on grounds and reasons
_exactly these_, not _like_ these, but EXACTLY these, Mr. Girard founds
his excuse for excluding Christianity and its ministers from his school.
He is a tame copyist, and has only raised marble walls to perpetuate and
disseminate the principles of Paine and of Volney. It has been said that
Mr. Girard was in a difficulty; that he was the judge and disposer of
his own property. We have nothing to do with his difficulties. It has
been said that he must have done as he did do, because there could be no
agreement otherwise. Agreement? among whom? about what? He was at
liberty to do what he pleased with his own. He had to consult no one as
to what he should do in the matter. And if he had wished to establish
such a charity as might obtain the especial favor of the courts of law,
he had only to frame it on principles not hostile to the religion of the

But the learned gentleman went even further than this, and to an extent
that I regretted; he said that there was as much dispute about the Bible
as about any thing else in the world. No, thank God, that is not the

MR. BINNEY. The disputes about the meaning of words and passages;
you will admit that?

Well, there is a dispute about the translation of certain words; but if
this be true, there is just as much dispute about it out of Mr. Girard's
institution as there would be in it. And if this plan is to be advocated
and sustained, why does not every man keep his children from attending
all places of public worship until they are over eighteen years of age?
He says that a prudent parent keeps his child from the influence of
sectarian doctrines, by which I suppose him to mean those tenets that
are opposed to his own. Well, I do not know but what that plan is as
likely to make bigots as it is to make any thing else. I grant that the
mind of youth should be kept pliant, and free from all undue and
erroneous influences; that it should have as much play as is consistent
with prudence; but put it where it can obtain the elementary principles
of religious truth; at any rate, those broad and general precepts and
principles which are admitted by all Christians. But here in this scheme
of Mr. Girard, all sects and all creeds are denounced. And would not a
prudent father rather send his child where he could get instruction
under any form of the Christian religion, than where he could get none
at all? There are many instances of institutions, professing one leading
creed, educating youths of different sects. The Baptist college in Rhode
Island receives and educates youths of all religious sects and all
beliefs. The colleges all over New England differ in certain minor
points of belief, and yet that is held to be no ground for excluding
youth with other forms of belief, and other religious views and

But this objection to the multitude and differences of sects is but the
old story, the old infidel argument. It is notorious that there are
certain great religious truths which are admitted and believed by all
Christians. All believe in the existence of a God. All believe in the
immortality of the soul. All believe in the responsibility, in another
world, for our conduct in this. All believe in the divine authority of
the New Testament. Dr. Paley says that a single word from the New
Testament shuts up the mouth of human questioning, and excludes all
human reasoning. And cannot all these great truths be taught to children
without their minds being perplexed with clashing doctrines and
sectarian controversies? Most certainly they can.

And, to compare secular with religious matters, what would become of the
organization of society, what would become of man as a social being, in
connection with the social system, if we applied this mode of reasoning
to him in his social relations? We have a constitutional government,
about the powers, and limitations, and uses of which there is a vast
amount of differences of belief. Your honors have a body of laws, now
before you, in relation to which differences of opinion, almost
innumerable, are daily spread before the courts; in all these we see
clashing doctrines and opinions advanced daily, to as great an extent as
in the religious world.

Apply the reasoning advanced by Mr. Girard to human institutions, and
you will tear them all up by the root; as you would inevitably tear all
divine institutions up by the root, if such reasoning is to prevail. At
the meeting of the first Congress there was a doubt in the minds of many
of the propriety of opening the session with prayer; and the reason
assigned was, as here, the great diversity of opinion and religious
belief. At length Mr. Samuel Adams, with his gray hairs hanging about
his shoulders, and with an impressive venerableness now seldom to be met
with, (I suppose owing to the difference of habits,) rose in that
assembly, and, with the air of a perfect Puritan, said that it did not
become men, professing to be Christian men, who had come together for
solemn deliberation in the hour of their extremity, to say that there
was so wide a difference in their religious belief, that they could not,
as one man, bow the knee in prayer to the Almighty, whose advice and
assistance they hoped to obtain. Independent as he was, and an enemy to
all prelacy as he was known to be, he moved that the Rev. Mr. Duche, of
the Episcopal Church, should address the Throne of Grace in prayer. And
John Adams, in a letter to his wife, says that he never saw a more
moving spectacle. Mr. Duche read the Episcopal service of the Church of
England, and then, as if moved by the occasion, he broke out into
extemporaneous prayer. And those men, who were then about to resort to
force to obtain their rights, were moved to tears; and floods of tears,
Mr. Adams says, ran down the cheeks of the pacific Quakers who formed
part of that most interesting assembly. Depend upon it, where there is a
spirit of Christianity, there is a spirit which rises above forms, above
ceremonies, independent of sect or creed, and the controversies of
clashing doctrines.

The consolations of religion can never be administered to any of these
sick and dying children in this college. It is said, indeed, that a
poor, dying child can be carried out beyond the walls of the school. He
can be carried out to a hostelry, or hovel, and there receive those
rites of the Christian religion which cannot be performed within those
walls, even in his dying hour! Is not all this shocking? What a
stricture is it upon this whole scheme! What an utter condemnation! A
dying youth cannot receive religious solace within this seminary of

But, it is asked, what could Mr. Girard have done? He could have done,
as has been done in Lombardy by the Emperor of Austria, as my learned
friend has informed us, where, on a large scale, the principle is
established of teaching the elementary principles of the Christian
religion, of enforcing human duties by divine obligations, and carefully
abstaining in all cases from interfering with sects or the inculcation
of sectarian doctrines. How have they done in the schools of New
England? There, as far as I am acquainted with them, the great elements
of Christian truth are taught in every school. The Scriptures are read,
their authority taught and enforced, their evidences explained, and
prayers usually offered.

The truth is, that those who really value Christianity, and believe in
its importance, not only to the spiritual welfare of man, but to the
safety and prosperity of human society, rejoice that in its revelations
and its teachings there is so much which mounts above controversy, and
stands on universal acknowledgment. While many things about it are
disputed or are dark, they still plainly see its foundation, and its
main pillars; and they behold in it a sacred structure, rising up to the
heavens. They wish its general principles, and all its great truths, to
be spread over the whole earth. But those who do not value Christianity,
nor believe in its importance to society or individuals, cavil about
sects and schisms, and ring monotonous changes upon the shallow and so
often refuted objections founded on alleged variety of discordant creeds
and clashing doctrines. I shall close this part of my argument by
reading extracts from an English writer, one of the most profound
thinkers of the age, a friend of reformation in the government and laws,
John Foster, the friend and associate of Robert Hall. Looking forward to
the abolition of the present dynasties of the Old World, and desirous to
see how the order and welfare of society is to be preserved in the
absence of present conservative principles, he says:--

"Undoubtedly the zealous friends of popular education account
knowledge valuable absolutely, as being the apprehension of things
as they are; a prevention of delusions; and so far a fitness for
right volitions. But they consider religion (besides being itself
the primary and infinitely the most important part of knowledge) as
a principle indispensable for securing the full benefit of all the
rest. It is desired, and endeavored, that the understandings of
these opening minds may be taken possession of by just and solemn
ideas of their relation to the Eternal Almighty Being; that they
may be taught to apprehend it as an awful reality, that they are
perpetually under his inspection; and, as a certainty, that they
must at length appear before him in judgment, and find in another
life the consequences of what they are in spirit and conduct here.
It is to be impressed on them, that his will is the supreme law,
that his declarations are the most momentous truth known on earth,
and his favor and condemnation the greatest good and evil. Under an
ascendency of this divine wisdom it is, that their discipline in
any other knowledge is designed to be conducted; so that nothing in
the mode of their instruction may have a tendency contrary to it,
and every thing be taught in a manner recognizing the relation with
it, as far as shall consist with a natural, unforced way of keeping
the relation in view. Thus it is sought to be secured, that, as the
pupil's mind grows stronger, and multiplies its resources, and he
therefore has necessarily more power and means for what is wrong,
there may be luminously presented to him, as if celestial eyes
visibly beamed upon him, the most solemn ideas that can enforce
what is right."

"Such is the discipline meditated for preparing the subordinate
classes to pursue their individual welfare, and act their part as
members of the community...."

"All this is to be taught, in many instances directly, in others by
reference for confirmation, from the Holy Scriptures, from which
authority will also be impressed, all the while, the principles of
religion. And religion, while its grand concern is with the state
of the soul towards God and eternal interests, yet takes every
principle and rule of morals under its peremptory sanction; making
the primary obligation and responsibility be towards God, of every
thing that is a duty with respect to men. So that, with the
subjects of this education, the sense of _propriety_ shall be
_conscience_; the consideration of how they ought to be regulated
in their conduct as a part of the community shall be the
recollection that their Master in heaven dictates the laws of that
conduct, and will judicially hold them amenable for every part of

"And is not a discipline thus addressed to the purpose of fixing
religious principles in ascendency, as far as that difficult object
is within the power of discipline, and of infusing a salutary
tincture of them into whatever else is taught, the right way to
bring up citizens faithful to all that deserves fidelity in the
social compact?...

"Lay hold on the myriads of juvenile spirits before they have time
to grow up through ignorance, into a reckless hostility to social
order; train them to sense and good morals; inculcate the
principles of religion, simply and solemnly, as religion, as a
thing directly of divine dictation, and not as if its authority
were chiefly in virtue of human institutions; let the higher
orders, generally, make it evident to the multitude that they are
desirous to raise them in value, and promote their happiness; and
then, _whatever_ the demands of the people as a body, thus
improving in understanding and sense of justice, shall come to be,
and _whatever_ modification their preponderance may ultimately
enforce on the great social arrangements, it will be infallibly
certain that there never _can_ be a love of disorder, an insolent
anarchy, a prevailing spirit of revenge and devastation. Such a
conduct of the ascendent ranks would, in this nation at least,
secure that, as long as the world lasts, there never would be any
formidable commotion, or violent sudden changes. All those
modifications of the national economy to which an improving people
would aspire, and would deserve to obtain, would be gradually
accomplished, in a manner by which no party would be wronged, and
all would be the happier."[1]

I not only read this for the excellence of its sentiments and their
application to the subject, but because they are the results of the
profound meditations of a man who is dealing with popular ignorance.
Desirous of, and expecting, a great change in the social system of the
Old World, he is anxious to discover that conservative principle by
which society can be kept together when crowns and mitres shall have no
more influence. And he says that the only conservative principle must
be, and is, RELIGION! the authority of God! his revealed will! and the
influence of the teaching of the ministers of Christianity!

Mr. Webster here stated that he would, on Monday, bring forward
certain references and legal points bearing on this view of the

The court then adjourned.


The seven judges all took their seats at eleven o'clock, and the


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