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thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.
A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it, 10 which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us
of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of
the public weal against invasion by the others, has been evinced 115 by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country
and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.
If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be 120 corrected by an amendment in the way which the constitution
designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The
precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any 125 partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should
labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these 130 firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere poli
tician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.
Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for 135 reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the
oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be
conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar 140 structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that
national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with
more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that 145 is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the
structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is 150 essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the
usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running 155 the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But,
if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the
mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of 160 pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
How far in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public
records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you 165 and to the world. To myself; the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.
Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible
of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed 170 many errors. Whatever they may be I fervently beseech the
Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my
life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults 175 of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who
views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for sev180 eral generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that re
treat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the
ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, 185 of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.
THE MEMORY OF OUR FATHERS
HENRY WARD BEECHER
We are called upon to cherish with high veneration and grateful recollections the memory of our fathers. Both the ties of nature and the dictates of policy demand this. And surely no nation had
ever less occasion to be ashamed of its ancestry, or more occasion 5 for gratification in that respect; for, while most nations trace their
origin to barbarians, the foundations of our nation were laid by civilized men, by Christians. Many of them were men of distinguished families, of powerful talents, of great learning and of
preëminent wisdom, of decision of character, and of most inflexible 10 integrity. And yet not unfrequently they have been treated as if
they had no virtues; while their sins and follies have been sedulously immortalized in satirical anecdote.
The influence of such treatment of our fathers is too manifest. It creates and lets loose upon their institutions the vandal spirit 15 of innovation and overthrow; for, after the memory of our fathers
shall have been rendered contemptible, who will uphold and sustain their institutions? The memory of our fathers should be the watchword of liberty throughout the land; for, imperfect as they were,
the world before had not seen their like, nor will it soon, we fear, 20 behold their like again. Such models of moral excellence, such
apostles of civil and religious liberty, such shades of the illustrious dead looking down upon their descendants with approbation or reproof, according as they follow or depart from the good way,
constitute a censorship inferior only to the eye of God; and to 25 ridicule them is a national suicide.
The doctrines of our fathers have been represented as gloomy, superstitious, severe, irrational, and of a licentious tendency. But when other systems shall have produced a piety as devoted, a
morality as pure, a patriotism as disinterested, and a state of 30 society as happy, as have prevailed where their doctrines have been
most prevalent, it may be in season to seek an answer to this objection.
The persecutions instituted by our fathers bave been the occasion of ceaseless obloquy upon their fame. And, truly, it was a 35 fault of no ordinary magnitude, that sometimes they did persecute.
But let him whose ancestors were not ten times more guilty cast the first stone, and the ashes of our fathers will no more be disturbed. Theirs was the fault of the age, and it will be easy to
show that no class of men had, at that time, approximated so 40 nearly to just apprehensions of religious liberty; and that it is to
them that the world is now indebted for the more just and definite views which now prevail.
The superstition and bigotry of our fathers are themes on which some of their descendants, themselves far enough from super45 stition, if not from bigotry, have delighted to dwell. But when we
look abroad and behold the condition of the world, compared with the condition of New England, we may justly exclaim, “Would to God that the ancestors of all the nations had been not only almost, but altogether such bigots as our fathers were."
Biographical: Henry Ward Beecher was a noted preacher, orator, and writer. For forty years he was pastor of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn. He lectured extensively throughout the country, taking up the great issues of his time. He died in 1887 at the age of seventy-four.