Category Archives: Elections

Item of the Day: Letter from Charles Carroll to James McHenry (1800)

Full Title: Manuscript letter from Charles Carroll to Secretary of War, James McHenry, November 4, 1800.

 

Annapolis, 4th Nov. 1800

I regret my absence form this city when Mr. Caldwell brought your letter of the 21st past, as it deprived me of shewing those attentions & that civility to which his character & his connection with you justly entitled him.

I hoped to have had the pleasure of a visit from you at the Manor. I wished much to see you to discourse on a variety of subjects & particularly on the present critical situation of this country. The President remarks that we are fallen upon evil times. I fear a great part of the evil may be attributed to his shifting conduct, his passions, his indescretion, vanity & jealousy. I had a high opinion of Mr. Adams, & still I believe him to be an honest man, but his integrity cannot compensate for his weaknesses, which unfit him for his present station. With a competition for places & power between the friends & opposers of the administration the only object of the contest, it would be a matter of indifference to me by what party the governt. should be administered. If Mr. Adams should be reelected I fear our Constitution would be more injured by his unruly passions, anitpathies & jealousy, than by the whimsies of Jefferson. I am not acquainted with the characters of the leaders of the opposition but it is to be apprehanded [sic], that to obtain & retain power they might sacrifice the true interests & real independence of this country to France. Judge Duvall says that now well informed man can doubt of there being a british faction among us wishing to establish a monarchy in lieu of a republican govent. If he unites the north I own I am not one of the number of the well informed. I know of no such faction; if it exists & is endeavouring to effect such a change, its attempts should be crushed. If our country should continue to be the sport of parties, if the mass of the people should be exasperated & roused to pillage the more wealthy, social order will be subverted, anarchy will follow, succeeded by despotism; these changes have in that order of succession taken place in France. Yet the men so far as I am informed, who stile themselves republicans, very generally wish success to France; in other words, the friends of freedom here are the friends of Bounaparte, who has established by a military force the most despotic government in Europe; how are we to reconcile this contradiciton of their avowed principles? Is their aversion to the English constitution the cause of this inconsistency? Do they consider the naval power of that nation as the strongest barrier to the revolutionary arts by which all the rulers of France, each in their turn, have endeavoured & are endeavouring to weaken & subvert all othe governments, that France may establish an influence over all, & thus become too powerful? They dare not avow the sentiments, yet their wishes & their conduct point to it. I wish the british to retain the empire of the seas, while the rulers of France are activated by such motives; the decided naval superiority of Britain is ye only effectual check to ye ambition of that republick; the true interests and independence of this country require that those rival nations should be balanced.

If the people of this coutnry were united it would have nothing to fear from foreign powers; but unhappily this is not the case. Many of the opposers of the present administration, I suspect want a change of the federal constitution; if that should be altered or weakened so as to be rendered a dead letter, it will not answer the purposes of its formation and will expire from mere inanity: other confederacies will start up & ye scene of ye Grecian states after an interval of more than two thousand years will be renewed on this contintent, & some Philip or Bounaparte will met the whole of them into one mass of despotism.

These events will be hastened by the pretended philosophy of France; divine revelation has been scoffed at by the Philosophers of the present day, the immortality of the soul treated as the dreams of fools, or the invention of knaves, & death has been declared by public authority an eternal sleep; these opinions are gaining ground amont us & silently saping the foundations of religion & encouragement of good, the terror of evildoers and the consolation of the poor, the miserable, and the distressed. Remove the hope & dread of future reward & punishment, the most powerful restraint on wicked action, & ye strongest inducement to virtuous ones is done away. Virtue, it may be said, is its own reward; I believe it to be so, and even in this life the only soruce of happiness, and this intimate & necessary connection between virtue & happiness here, & between vice & misery, is to my mind one of the surest pledge of happiness or misery in a future state of existence. But how few practice virtue merely for its own reward? Some of happy dispositon & temperament, calm reflecting men, exempt in a great degree form the turbulance of passions may be vituous for vitrtue’s sake. Small however is the number who are guided by reason alone, & who can always subject their passions to its dictates. He can thust act may be said to be virtuous, but reason is often inlisted on the side of the passions, or at best, when most waanted, is weakest. Hence the necessity of a superior motive for acting virtuously; Now, what motive can be stronger than ye belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without mortals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness are underming the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government.

If there be force in this reasoning what judgement ought we to form of our pretended republicans, who admire & applaud the proceedings of the revolutionary France!

These disclaimers in favor of freedom and equality act in such a questionable shape that I cannot help suspecting their sincerity.

This is a long & preaching letter and I fear a tedious & dull one, but you wished to know my sentiments about the present parties & impending fate of our country, and I could not give them without developing the reasons for my opinion. You see that I almost despair of the Commonwealth. The end of every legitimate government is the security of life, liberty and property: if this country is to be revolutionised none of these will be secure. Perhaps the leaders of the opposition, when they get into office, may be content to let the Constitution remain as it is, & may pursue the policy & measures of Washington’s administration, but what will become in that case of their consistency? Patriots you will say are not always consistent; granted, yet other patriots and opposers will arise to arraign this inconsistency, & the storm once raised, who will stop its fury?

Celui que met un pein a la fureur des flots

Sait aussi des mechans arreter les complots

My only hope is in that being who educes good out of evil. May he in his abundant mercy incline the hearts of our countrymen to tpeace, justice and concord.

I have read Mr. Hamilton’s pamphlet; the drift of its publication at this time I conjecture was not so mcuh with a view of vindicating his character as to prevent the electors in Massachusetts from scattering their votes in order to secure the election of Mr. Adams in preference to Mr. Pinckney. All with whom I have conversed, blame however Mr. Hamilton and consider his publication as ill timed, altho I pay a deference to the opinions of others, whose motives I know to be good, yet I cannot help differing from them in this instance. The assertions of the pamphlet I take it for granted are true, and if true, surely it must be admitted that Mr. Adams is not fit to be president, and his unfitness should be made known to the electors, and ye public. I conceive it a species of treason to conceal from the publick his incapacity . . .

Although your remaining rather a spectator of than an actor in the passing scenes is founded on a proper motive, yet you will find it impossible to retain an neutral character, nor do I think it fit you should. We ought all, each in our several spheres, to endeavour to set the publick mind right, & to administer antodotes to the poison that is widely spreading throughout the country.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 1800's, Early Republic, Elections, Federalists, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, John Adams, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: Mr. Bridge’s Election Sermon (May 27, 1789)

Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governour; His Honor Benjamin Lincoln, Esq. Lieutenant-Governour; The Honourable The Council, Senate and House of Representatives, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 27, 1789. Being the Day of General Election. By Josiah Bridge, A.M. Pastor of the Church in East-Sudbury. Boston: Printed by Adams & Nourse, Printers to The Honourable General Court, M,DCC,LXXXIX. [1789]

 

AN

Election SERMON.

PSALM LXXXII. VERSE I.

GOD standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty; He judgeth among the GODS.

THIS passage of scripture may well possess the minds of this mumerous and respectable audience, with reverence and a sacred awe, before him, who is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints; and who will be sactified in all them that come nigh to him: It is particularly adapted to arrest the most serious attention of our honoured Rulers; at whose invitation we are assembled in the House of God on this auspicious anniversay, –to supplicate the Divine Presence with them, and his smiles and blessing upon the special business of the day; and their admiration of government the ensuing year; and to enquire of him from his word, agreeable to the laudable practice of our pious Progenitors, from the first settlement of the country, to the present period.

Our text has a primary reference to the Rulers of God’s ancient covenant people. But as this passage of scripture is of no private interpretation, it will as fitly apply to our civil fathers now before God, as the the Jewish Sanhedrim of old.

The words before us, will naturally lead us —“To make some brief and general observations on government.” —The propriety and usefulness of an assembly, for conducting the important affairs of it. —The sublime characters rulers sustain. —The Surpeme Ruler present with them, as an observer, and judge; ready for their assistance and support, when acting up to their character; and carefully noticing whenever they lose sight of the great end of their appointment: And the powerful influence, the consideration of his presence and inspection must have, to engage them in a conscientious discharge of the duties of their exalted stations. May I be indulged your serious and candid attention, while I attempt to dilate a little, upon these several particulars; all obviously contained in, or easily deducible from our text. God standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty: He judgeth among the Gods.

That our text applies to the supreme government of a community, and involves the various departments of it, is readily seen by looking into the Psalm before us; where we find this congregation of the mighty, reproved for the improper use of their power, and a different mode of conduct enjoined upon them. “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and needy: Deliver the poor and needy, rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Civil government is both a dictate of nature, and revelation; and is accordingly indifferently denominated, the ordinance of God, and the ordinance of man. Man was originally formed for society, and furnished with faculties adapted thereto: Faculties for the improvement of which social intercourse is indispensably necessary. Some of the most important duties, and refined delights of human life are of the social kind.

In order to obtain the benefits of society, civil rule is essentially requisite. Those lusts of men, from whence come wars and fightings, are so prevalent in this apostate world, that they are obliged to form compacts and combinations, for mutual assistance and support. And there is perhaps no people no [sic] earth, however uncultivated and barbarous, but who have adopted some kind of civil polity.

The light and law of nature, which uniformly urges to this mode of procedure, may well be accepted, as an expression of the divine will: For God addresses the human mind in divers manners; and he does it by the voice of reason, as well as revelation.

The providence of God is particularly concerned, in elevating man to post of honour and dignity; and giving them a seat among the congregation of the mighty. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and fitteth up another.” “By me (says wisdom, or that glorious Being who is the wisdom of God) by me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” And in the New-Testament, we have the same idea held up, in terms equally express. “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power, but of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” Again, “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the King, as supreme, or unto Governours, as unto them that are sent by him for the pinishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God.”

These declarations apply to civil government in general, which is indispensably necessary to social felicity and safety. But they are by no means to be extended to every mode of government that has obtained among mankind: Not certainly to despotic and lawless domination. This is not the ordinance of God. Nor indeed any other government, but such a sprotects the subjects in the peaceable possession of their just rights, properties and priviledges.

. . . Power is an intoxicating quality; and for a single individual to be vested with sovereign rule, is subjecting him to a temptation too strong for human virtue. A desire of pre-eminence is a natural passion, and when properly restrained, may prove highly beneficial to society. But when it has a full free course, and attains the summit of its wish, and feels itself without controul; the  subject of this undue elevation, is apt to be puffed up with pride, to become intolerably supercilious and tyrannical; and to trample upon those rights of the community, and individuals, which it is the prime design of government to protect.

Wherever the will of a despot is the supreme law, the great end of government is usually perverted. This is sufficently attested by facts: And it is no other than what might justly be expected from the nature of man.  . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under 1780's, Early Republic, Elections, Government, Massachusetts, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Sermons

Item of the Day: Mr. Adams Election Sermon May 29, 1782

Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq; Governour; His Honor Thomas Cushing, Esq; Lieutenant-Governor; The Honorable The Council , And The Honorable The Senate, And House Of Representatives Of The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, May 29, 1782. Being the Day of General Election. By Zabdiel Adams, A.M. Pastor of the Church in Lunenburg. Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Printed by T. & J. Fleet and J. Gill, [1782]

 [Excerpted from pp. 17-20]

Republican governments are said not only to be destitute of energy, but to be slow and unperforming. This defect may be removed by allowing such prerogatives to a single person as are necessary to the vigor and dispatch of public measures. However, in large assemblies, where there is a diversity of interests and opinions, matters of importance will never be speedily discussed. This is an inconvenience to which we must submit, and it is the price we pay for our liberties. It ought to be remembred [sic] there is safety, tho’ there is expence in these slow and tedious discussions; and if we allow it a defect, we certainly can find no form of government, but what is chargeable with as great or greater.

In all free states the people have a right, not only to say who shall be their rulers, but also by what tenure they shall hold offices, and the steps by which they shall arrive at them.

In order to avoid the feuds and factions that the election of a chief magistrate would occasion in some large nations, the constitution provides, that certain families should rule by hereditary right. Though this establishment avoids some, it is exposed perhaps to greater inconveniences. By means hereof, they may oftentimes have for their first ruler, tho’ not a compleat ideot [sic], yet perhaps one separated therefrom, only by a thin partition. Further, when children are born heirs apparent to some high and important station in government, their education is commonly such, as to fill them with ideas of superiority, unfriendly to the rights of mankind. To govern well, we ought to be acquainted with human nature in the lowest walks of life.

In elective kingdoms, the election for the most part, is either for life or for a considerable number of years. The better way is to chuse our rulers frequently. The term ought to be known and ascertained; at the expiration of which we may omit them if we please. This is true if they conduct ever so well; and there is great reason for it, if they have been guilty of mal-administration. But tho’ frequent elections may be proper, yet it must be highly imprudent, frequently to change those who are qualified for their trust and disposed to do the duties of it. This observation is true of any officer, but more especially of those who are high in command. There may be reasons for electing the chief magistrate annually; but if a new person is yearly chosen, it will lessent the influence of authority, weaken the sinews of government, crumble the people into parties, and establish habits inconsistent with that spirit of submission which is highly necessary to the good for society. A monopoly of office should never be permitted; a rotation indeed excludes it; and changes at proper intervals, excite people to a laudable application to business and books, that they may become qualified for posts of eminence and distinction. But on the contrary, if the man who holds the first place in the government, knows that he shall enjoy it but a short space, let his deportment be ever so unexceptionable, he will hardly be warm in his office, get but a miserable acquaintance with his duty, acquire no facility in the performance of it, and lose a grand stimulus to excel. Unless therefore we were born governors, legislators, &c. it must be wise in a people to elect their principal officers for a succession of years, provided they answer the end of their elevation. In this way, we shall secure to ourselves more of the beneficial influences of government, than it is possible for us in the contrary practice.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1780's, Elections, Massachusetts, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Sermons