David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) online

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Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 19 of 39)
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erty, which are its constituent elements.

Why has the child already some rights ? Because it will be a
free being. Why have the old man, returned to infancy, and the
insane man still some rights ? Because they have been free
beings. We even respect liberty in its first glimmerings or its
last vestiges. Why, on the other hand, have the insane man and
the imbecile old man no longer all their rights ? Because they
have lost liberty. Why do we enchain the furious madman ?
Because he has lost knowledge and liberty. Why is slavery an
abominable institution ? Because it is an outrage upon what
constitutes humanity. This is the reason why, in fine, certain
extreme devotions are sometimes sublime faults, and no one is
permitted to offer them, much less to demand them. There is
no legitimate devotion against the ver}'- essence of right, against
liberty, against justice, against the dignity of the human person.



THERE is an education of liberty as well as our other faculties.
It is sometimes in subduing the body, sometimes in gov-
erning our intelligence, especially in resisting our passions,
that we learn to be free. We encounter opposition at each step.
— the only question is not to shun it. In this constant struggle
liberty is formed and augmented, until it becomes a habit.

Finally, there is a culture of sensibility itself. Fortunate are
those who have received from nature the sacred fire of enthusi-
asm ! They ought religiously to preserve it. But there is no
soul that does not conceal some fortunate vein of it. It is nec-
essary to watch it and pursue, to avoid what restrains it, to seek
what favors it, and, by an assiduous culture, draw from it, little
by little, some treasures. If we cannot give ourselves sensibility,
we can at least develop what we have. We can do this by giv-
ing ourselves up to it, by seizing all the occasions of giving our-
selves up to it, by calling to its aid intelligence itself; for the
more we know of the beautiful and the good, the more we love
it. Sentiment thereby only borrows from intelligence what it re-
turns with usury. Intelligence in its turn finds, in the heart, a
rampart against sophism. Noble sentiments, nourished and de-
veloped, preserve from those sad s.ystems that please certain
spirits so much only because their hearts are so small.

Man would still have duties, should he cease to be in relation
with other men. As long as he preserves any intelligence and any
liberty, the idea of the good dwells in him, and with it duty.
Were we cast upon a desert island, duty would follow us thither.
It would be beyond belief strange that it should be in the power
of certain external circumstances to affranchise an intelligent
and free being from all obligation towards his liberty and his
intelligence. In the deepest solitude he is always and con-
sciously under the empire of a law attached to the person itself,
which, by obligating him to keep continual watch over himself,
makes at once his torment and his grandeur.

If the moral person is sacred to me, it is not because it is in
me — it is because it is the moral person. It is in itself respect-
able; it will be so, then, wherever we meet it.

It is in you as in me, and for the same reason. In relation
to me it imposes on me a duty; in you it becomes the founda-


tion of a right, and thereby imposes on me a new duty in rela-
tion to you.

I owe to you truth as I owe it to myself; for truth is the
law of your reason as of mine. Without doubt there ought to
be measure in the communication of truth, — all are not capable
of it at the same moment and in the same degree. It is neces-
sary to portion it out to them in order that they may be able to
receive it; but, in fine, the truth is the proper good of the intel-
ligence; and it is for me a strict duty to respect the develop-
ment of your mind, not to arrest, and even to favor its progress
towards truth.

I ought also to respect your liberty. I have not even always
the right to hinder you from committing a fault. Liberty is so
sacred that, even when it goes astray, it still deserves, up to a
certain point, to be managed. We are often wrong in wishing
to prevent too much the evil that God himself permits. Souls
may be corrupted by an attempt to purify them.

I ought to respect you in your affections, which make part of
yourself; and of all the affections there are none more holy than
those of the family. There is in us a need of expanding our-
selves beyond ourselves, yet without dispelling ourselves, of es-
tablishing ourselves in some souls by a regular and consecrated
affection, — to this need the family responds. The love of men
is something of the general good. The family is still almost the
individual, and not merely the individual, — it only requires us to
love as much as ourselves what is almost ourselves. It attaches
one to the other, by the sweetest and strongest of all ties —
father, mother, child; it gives to this sure succor in the love of
its parents — to these hope, joy, new life, in their child. To vio-
late the conjugal or paternal right is to violate the person in
what is perhaps its most sacred possession.

I ought to respect your body, inasmuch as it belongs to you,
inasmuch as it is the necessary instrument of your person. I
have neither the right to kill you, nor to wound you, unless I
am attacked and threatened; then my violated liberty is armed
with a new right, the right of defense and even constraint.

I owe respect to your goods, for they are the product of
your labor; I owe respect to your labor, which is your liberty
itself in exercise; and, if your goods come from an inheritance,
I still owe respect to the free will that has transmitted them to


Respect for the rights of others is called justice; every viola-
tion of a right is an injustice.

Every injustice is an encroachment upon our person, — to re-
trench the least of our rights is to diminish our moral person,
is, at least, so far as that retrenchment goes, to abase us to the
condition of a thing.

The greatest of all injustices, because it comprises all others,
is slavery. Slavery is the subjecting of all the faculties of one
man to the profit of another man. The slave develops his intel-
ligence a little only in the interest of another, — it is not for the
purpose of enlightening him, but to render him more useful, that
some exercise of mind is allowed him. The slave has not the
liberty of his movements; he is attached to the soil, is sold with
it, or he is chained to the person of a master. The slave should
have no affection, he has no family, no wife, no children, — he
has a female and little ones. His activity does not belong to
him, for the product of his labor is another's. But, that nothing
may be wanting to slavery, it is necessary to go further, — in the
slave must be destroyed the inborn sentiment of liberty; in him
must be extinguished all idea of right; for, as long as this idea
subsists, slavery is uncertain, and to an odious power may re-
spond the terrible right of insurrection, that last resort of the
oppressed against the abuse of force.

Justice, respect for the person in every thing that constitutes
the person, is the first duty of man towards his fellow-man. Is
this duty the only one ?

When we have respected the person of others, when we have
neither restrained their liberty, nor smothered their intelligence,
nor maltreated their body, nor outraged their family, nor injured
their goods, are we able to say that we have fulfilled the whole
law in regard to them ? One who is unfortunate is suffering be-
fore us. Is our conscience satisfied, if we are able to bear wit-
ness to ourselves that we have not contributed to his sufferings ?
No ; something tells us that it is still good to give him bread,
succor, consolation.

There is here an important distinction to be made. If you
have remained hard and insensible at the sight of another's
misery, conscience cries out against you; and yet this man who
is suffering, who, perhaps, is ready to die, has not the least
right over the least part of your fortune, were it immense; and,
if he used violence for the purpose of wresting from you a single


penny, he would commit a crime. We here meet a new order
of duties that do not correspond to rights. Man may resort
to force in order to make his rights respected; he cannot impose
on another any sacrifice whatever. Justice respects or restores;
charity gives, and gives freely.

Charity takes from us something in order to give it to oui
fellow-men. If it go so far "as to inspire us to renounce our
dearest interests, it is called devotedness.

It certainly cannot be said that to be charitable is not obli-
gatory. But this obligation must not be regarded as precise, as
inflexible as the obligation to be just. Charity is a sacrifice;
and who can find the rule of sacrifice, the formula of self-
renunciation ? For justice, the formula is clear, — to respect the
rights of another. But charity knows neither rule nor limit. It
transcends all obligation. Its beauty is precisely in its liberty.


TRUE politics does not depend on more or less well-directed his-
torical researches into the profound night of a past forever
vanished and of which no vestige subsists; it rests on the
knowledge of human nature.

Wherever society is, wherever it was, it has for its founda-
tions: ist, The need that we have of our fellow-creatures, and
the social instincts that man bears in himself; 2d, The perma-
nent and indestructible idea and sentiment of justice and right.

Man, feeble and powerless when he is alone, profoundly feels
the need that he has of the succor of his fellow-creatures in
order to develop his faculties, to embellish his life, and even to
preserve it. Without reflection, without convention, he claims
the hand, the experience, the love of those whom he sees made
like himself. The instinct of society is in the first cry of the
child that calls for the mother's help without knowing that it
has a mother, and in the eagerness of the mother to respond to
the cries of the child. It is in the feelings for others that
nature has put in us — pity, sympathy, benevolence. It is in the
attraction of the sexes, in their union, in the love of parents for
their children, and in the ties of every kind that these first ties
engender. If Providence has attached so much sadness to soli-
tude, so much charm to society, it is because society is indispen-


sable for the preservation of man and for his happiness, for his
intellect and moral development.

But if need and instinct begin society, it is justice that com-
pletes it.

In the presence of another man, without any external law,
without any compact, it is sufficient that I know that he is a
man, that is to say that he is intelligent and free, in order to
know that he has rights, and to know that I ought to respect his
rights as he ought to respect mine. As he is no freer than I
am, nor I than he, we recognize towards each other equal rights
and equal duties. If he abuse his force to violate the equality
of our rights, I know that I have the right to defend myself and
make myself respected; and if a third party be found between us,
without any personal interest in the quarrel, he knows that it is
his right and his duty to use force in order to protect the feeble,
and even to make the oppressor expiate his injustice by a chas-
tisement. Therein is already seen entire society with its essential
principles, — justice, liberty, equality, government, and punish-

Justice is the guaranty of liberty. True liberty does not con-
sist in doing what we will, but in doing what we have a right
to do. Liberty of passion and caprice would have for its conse-
quence the enslavement of the weakest to the strongest, and the
enslavement of the strongest themselves to their unbridled de-
sires. Man is truly free in the interior of his consciousness only
in resisting passion and obeying justice; therein also is the type
of true social liberty. Nothing is falser than the opinion that so-
ciety diminishes our mutual liberty; far from that, it secures it,
develops it; what it suppresses is not liberty, it is its opposite,
passion. Society no more injures liberty than justice, for society
is nothing else than the very idea of justice realized.

In securing liberty, justice secures equality also. If men are
unequal in physical force and intelligence, they are equal in so
far as they are free beings, and consequently equally worthy of
respect. All men, when they bear the sacred character of the
moral person, are to be respected, by the same title, and in the
same degree.

The limit of liberty is in liberty itself; the limit of right
is in duty. Liberty is to be respected, provided it injure not
the liberty of another. I ought to let you do what you please,
but on the condition that nothing v/hich you do will injure my


liberty. For then, in virtue of my right of liberty, I should re-
gard myself as obligated to repress the aberrations of your will,
in order to protect my own and that of others. Society guaran-
tees the liberty of each one, and if one citizen attack that of
another, he is arrested in the name of liberty. For example, re-
ligious liberty is sacred. You may, in the secret of consciousness,
invent for yourself the most extravagant superstition; but if you
wish publicly to inculcate an immoral worship, you threaten the
liberty and reason of your citizens: such preaching is interdicted.

From the necessity of repressing, springs the necessity of a
constituted repressive force.

Rigorously, this force is in us; for if I am unjustly at-
tacked, I have the right to defend myself. But, in the first
place, I may not be the strongest; in the second place, no one is
an impartial judge in his own cause, and what I regard or give
out as an act of legitimate defense may be an act of violence
and oppression.

So the protection of the rights of each one demands an im-
partial and disinterested force, that may be superior to all par-
ticular forces.

This disinterested party, armed with the power necessary to
secure and defend the liberty of all, is called government.

The right of government expresses the rights of all and each.
It is the right of personal defense transferred to a public force,
to the profit of common liberty.

Government is not, then, a power distinct from and independ-
ent of society; it draws from society its whole force. It is not
what it has seemed to two opposite schools of publicists, — to
those who sacrifice society to government, — to those who con-
sider government as the enemy of society. If government did
not represent society, it would be only a material, illegitimate,
and soon powerless force ; and without government, society would
be a war of all against all. Society makes the moral power of
government, as government makes the security of society. Pas-
cal is wrong when he says that not being able to make what is
•just powerful, men have made what is powerful just. Govern-
ment, in principle at least, is precisely what Pascal desired, — jus-
tice armed with force.

It is a sad and false political system that places society and
government, authority and liberty, in opposition to each other, by
making them come from two different sources, by presenting


them as two contrary principles. I often hear the principle of
authority spoken of as a principle apart, independent, deriving
from itself its force and legitimacy, and consequently made to
rule. No error is deeper and more dangerous. Thereby it is
thought to confirm the principle of authority; far from that,
from it is taken away its solidest foundation. Authority — that is
to say, legitimate and moral authority — is nothing else than jus-
tice, and justice is nothing else than the respect of liberty; so
that there is not therein two different and contrary opinions, but
one and the same principle, of equal certainty and equal grand-
eur, under all its forms and in all its applications.



Jlways one of the readiest and most fluent, and often one of the
most instructive and forcible among the American speakers
of his day, "Sunset" Cox, narrowly missed becoming a very
great orator. He had every faculty which characterizes a great orator,
in addition to one which no political orator can have and remain great,
— a governing sense of humor. He was never safe from the temptation
to become humorous at the expense of power. His speech of June 3d,
1879, against the "Ironclad Oath," might easily have become one of the
great orations of Congress. Mr. Cox had mastered the entire Hterature
of the subject, he was intensely in earnest, he looked beyond the pas-
sions of his day to the eternal verities, but arguing toward a climax in
which he intended to appeal to the principles of "The Sermon on the
Mount," he could not resist the temptation to stop, midway his tri-
umphant progress towards great success, to convulse the House with
the story of how Cornelius O'Flaherty "swore off" from drinking. In
spite of his humor, and in a certain sense because of it, Mr. Cox exerted
a wide influence during his generation, but so accustomed did the pub-
lic grow to expecting humor from him, that the serious work of his life
has never been fully recognized. Political life was a serious business
for him, however, from the beginning, — so serious that his reactions
into humor are not to be wondered at. He was born in Ohio, Septem-
ber 30th, 1824. When he entered Congress as a Member of the House
of Representatives, elected from Ohio, he found himself as a Democrat
almost completely isolated by the events which followed the fall of Fort
Sumter. He was an earnest and logical supporter of the constitutional
Union of the States, but his sympathies for all Americans, North and
South, w^ere strong. He was more actively a war Democrat than Val-
landigham, or even than Pendleton, but the whole Civil War was a grief
"to him, and during the period of scarcely less violent political struggle
which followed the cessation of actual hostilities, his efforts were di-
rected to mollify prejudice, mitigate animosity, and restore as much as
possible of the good-will between all Americans on which the American
institutions he believed in were necessarily based. He entered poli-
tics as a Douglas Democrat, and one of the best of his earliest

speeches was delivered on the death of Douglas in 1861. He served




in Congress as a representative from Ohio from 1857 to 1865. Re-
moving to New York city, he was again elected to Congress as a
Democrat in 1869, serving with an intermission of one term until
1885, when he was appointed United States Minister to Turkey.
After his return in 1886, he was re-elected to Congress and again re-
elected in 1888. He died in New York city, September loth, 1889.
Of his books, his * Three Decades of Federal Legislation ^ is the most
valuable, while his < Diversions of a Diplomat* is the most charac-
teristic and entertaining.

(From a Speech in the House of Representatives, June 3d, 1879)

THERE was a bitter contest in England after the revolution of
1640; it turned upon an oath. It was not merely prelacy,
or the wearing of the surplice, or the use of a liturgy, or
the Book of Common Prayer, or the sign of the cross which
tried the soul of Richard Baxter and others like him, who would
not conform to the Established Church. It was the et cetera oath.
It had a clause from which it is named : " Nor will I ever give
my consent to alter the government of the Church by archbishops,
bishops, deans, and archdeacons, etc., as it stands now established
and ought to stand.** This was an oath promissory; an oath
binding fallible men never to change opinions. It included in
it an et cetera — no one knew what. An adjuration thus indefi-
nite was like our ironclad, so indefinite as to be the essence of
folly and despotism. [Applause.] Instead of helping the prel-
acy to be unchangeable, it roused up the Baxters of that day to
resist; it became an advantage to the cause of dissent. The
Long Parliament seized upon it, along with the ship-money ques-
tion, to vindicate freedom and inflame the people against royalty.
Puritanism thrived upon this insane proscription. It gave new
truth to the French verse as to the English monarch: —

* Le roi d'Angleterre
Est le roi d'enfer.*

Pym, Fiennes, Digby, and others of the Puritan heroes of
Parliament, thundered against it. It was a part of the incitement
which gave to the commonwealth its synod in spiritual and its
Parliament for temporal matters.


After the restoration other oaths were enacted. Those in the
service of the Church were required to promise subjection to the
canons and abjure the solemn league and covenant. They were
required to abjure the taking up of arms against the King and
his officers. By this the English Church lost two thousand of its
best ministers. Still another law was passed requiring of min-
isters an oath which, if they refused, they should not come within
five miles of any city or corporation, or any place where they
had lived or which sent burgesses to Parliament. This is the
oath : —

I, A B, do swear that it is not lawful, upon any pretense whatso-
ever, to take arms against the King; and that I do abhor that trai-
torous position of taking arms by his authority against his person, or
against those that are commissioned by him, in pursuance of such
commission; and that I will not, at any time, endeavor any alteration
of the government, either in Church or State.

Some took this oath, for they had no subsistence for their
families among the strange country places to which they were
expelled. ^* No severity,'^ says Hallam, "comparable to this cold-
blooded persecution has been inflicted by the late powers even
in the ferment and fury of a civil war.'* All sorts of subterfuges
and reservations were resorted to, to take the oath and not feel
it binding in a certain sense. It was the fruitful source of pre-
varication and perjury.

In the persecutions under this oath, and while Sydney and
others were falling under the ax of the despot, Richard Baxter,
the leader of nonconformity, fell under the tender mercy of Jef-
freys at Westminster. This judicial fiend was well selected to ex-
ecute such laws, for never in the career of infamous judges is
there anything to compare with his brutal treatment of this
meek and just man. " Does your lordship think any jury will
pass a verdict upon me upon such a trial?'* asked the author of
the Holy Commonwealth of this judge. "I'll warrant you,* said
Jeffreys ; " don't you trouble yourself about that. * The packed
and corrupt jury, summoned to do the bidding of the obsequious
tool of a licentious court, laid their heads together and found
him guilty without leaving the box.

Out of the ordeal of these odious oaths and mock trials,
sprang the noble army of nonconformist confessors whose labors
and sufferings gave to them an immortalization on earth by the


muse of history, and gave to their immortality in heaven the
beauty of holiness which was their ^* saints' rest '^ forever. It
gave that grace and spirituality to the better part of the Puritan
character, of which there is so much just boasting in our own
country, and that, too, by men who have forgotten their shining

It is sad, almost savage satire on those who thus vaunt of
these stanch men of spiritual faith and austere manners, that
their ^* stalwart ^^ descendants in the New World are the loud lead-
ers in perpetuating the same system of proscriptive oath-taking
and mock-jury trial which gave to England her revolution of
1688 and to America her earliest and bravest lovers of liberty.
The lesson it teaches to New England is that —

* Those who on glorious ancestors enlarge,
Produce their debt, instead of their discharge.*^ [Laughter.]

These very test oaths, sir, drove many a Puritan, Quaker
and Catholic to the New World. It was reserved for their de-
scendants to re-enact them here in the noon of our century, not
only to affect religion and State, but to inflict penalties and per-
petuate hatred. Ah, where is that old Puritan spirit which led
to the abolition of the Star Chamber, the High Commission, and

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 19 of 39)