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Art. VI.

An Oration, delivered at the re-
quest of the Society of
ϕBK, in the
Chapel of Havard College, on the
day of their anniversary, July
1798. By John Thornton Kirk-
land. 8vo. pp. 24. Boston. J.
Russell. 1798.

WE should not notice a per-
formance of so transitory a
nature as the present, so long

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after its appearance, if its compara-
tive merit were not so great as to
render it more worthy of attention
than most of the class of similar
publications. We regret that it was
not put into our hands at an earlier
period; but, should it be indebted
to this circumstance for a longer
existence, the writer may be com-
pensated for our tardy approbation.

The mystical name of this society
mentioned in the title-page, excited
our curiosity and apprehension.
We were at a loss to comprehend
the meaning of the three Greek
letters which constitute its title;
and, had not an academical friend
relieved us from our uncertainty
and fear, by unfolding their hidden
purport, and the objects of the as-
sociation, we should have hastily
concluded that a society, whose de-
signs are represented as innocent
and laudable, but who, erroneously,
if not immorally, pretend to se-
was one of those occult com-
munities which have produced so
much terror and alarm, and still
vex the repose of many good men.
This will teach us to beware of rash
and precipitate conclusions, and not
to substitute hypothesis for fact,
and the phantoms of our own ima-
gination for real existences. We
have, perhaps, many moral and
spiritual Quixotes, but not one

After claiming indulgence for
that partial fondness for the consti-
tution, fortune, and future felicity
of our own country, “so natural
to every feeling and generous
breast,” Mr. K. states the topics
which he proposes to illustrate;
“the principles, manners, and institu-
which are the price and
pledge of every other natural bles-

“The first of political prin-
ciples,” says Mr. K. “which we
have received, a principle often
expressed in very indefinite lan-
guage, and whose misconception,

or perversion, has, in a manner,
annihilated society in one country
in Europe, is this, ‘that all men are
born free and equal.
’ The blas-
phemies uttered, the crimes com-
mitted, and the desolation spread
within the space of a few years, in
the name of liberty and equality, have
associated such turpitude and horror
with the words, that the blood
freezes, the heart sickens at their
sound. Viewed in this association,
instead of tutelary divinities de-
manding the love and veneration
of men for the blessings which
they shed, they appear tremendous
spectres, born of chaos, and stalk-
ing through the earth with the
scythe of destruction.

“But breaking this unnatural
association, we find that we have
not so learned liberty, and that,
well understood, it is the first of
blessings. As it is taught in our
school, the liberty of a nation, with
respect to other nations, is the
right of governing itself in consist-
ency with
their rights. Such a liber-
ty we possessed, before our separa-
tion from the parent country, until
her system of aggression began.
We ever denied her claim to bind
us in any case without our consent.
Since revolution has come to mean
subversion, it means too much to
be applied to that alteration of our
political relations made by inde-
pendence. We contended for pre-
servation, not acquisition, to keep
the rights we had, rather than to
gain those we never had; and the
separation was resorted to chiefly as
a necessary means of maintaining
the ancient ground.

“By liberty, as it respects our in-
ternal relations, we understand pro-
tection of rights; and by rights, the
claim of every member of the com-
munity to all the advantages which
he can obtain and enjoy, without
injuring others. These rights are
declared to be the right to life and
personal security, the right to ac-

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quire, hold, and transmit property,
the right to liberty of action, the
right to reputation, the right to li-
berty of opinion, of speech, and
of religious profession and worship.
But we consider all these rights sub-
ject to various limitations and ex-
ceptions. We deny that they allow
any one to be judge in his own
cause, or to exert them in any way
inconsistent with law. Society
here does not secure life to the mur-
derer, freedom of action to the mad-
man, property to the thief, robber,
or knave, reputation to the villain,
nor liberty of speech and writing
to the tongues or pens, which mis-
lead the ignorant or corrupt the
pure, which blaspheme God and
trumpet sedition. Our common-
wealth claims to limit even the rights
of conscience. Whilst it tolerates
every denomination of religious
teachers, it requires the mainten-
ance of some denomination; and,
whilst it extends protection to the
Jew, Mahometan, and Gentoo, it
insists that a christian people will
commit the enaction and adminis-
tration of their laws to none but
those who profess to be christians.

“In the extension of like privi-
leges to all persons in like circum-
stances, consists American equality,
an equality which secures the rich
from rapacity, no less than the poor
from oppression; the high from en-
vy, no less than the low from con-
tempt; an equality which proclaims
peace alike to the mansions of the
affluent, and the humble dwellings
of the poor.”

Mr. K. vindicates that part of the
political constitution and laws of
his country which requires the
qualifications of age, property, and
sex, in electors, from the attacks of
the advocates of the universal right
of suffrage.
On a subject of so
great interest and moment, there
will always be diversities of opini-
ons, arising from the different points
of view in which it is considered.

as well as from the different associ-
ations, habits, and pursuits of the
several partisans. Most of them
will, probably, concur in the belief
that we ought to be satisfied with
the liberty we possess, rather than
to trust, at this time of general con-
tention, calamity, and misrule, to
the uncertain issue of experiments,
and thereby to hazard that rich and
ample portion of freedom and hap-
piness now enjoyed in security and

Whether our fair sisters will ac-
quiesce in the justice of their ex-
clusion from the exercise of political
rights, we presume not to conjec-
ture. They may, in some degree,
be reconciled to their condition, by
the very courteous and plausible
description of Mr. K. who artfully
appeals to them for their decision
in his favour.

“Had the new theory of the
Rights of Women enlightened the
world at the period of the formation
of our constitution, it is possible
the framers, convinced by its argu-
ments, might have set aside the old
system of exclusion, upon which
the world has always proceeded till
this reforming age, as selfish, illibe-
ral, and tyrannical; perhaps they
might have felt it absurd and inso-
lent for man to claim the honour of
being the protector and guardian of-
woman; and pernicious also, if they
had acknowledged with the cham-
pion of her sex's rights, that it is a
consequence of the present order to
compel women to resort to art, in-
sincerity, and meanness, in order
to supply, by influence, the want
of prerogative. To disprove this
consequence, however, we appeal
to the simplicity and frankness of
manners, and dignity of sentiment
of American females; and, to test
this singular theory, we may sub-
mit to them the question, whether
they are not as free, as lovely, as
respectable, and happy, in their
present situation in society, as they

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would be if their sexuality of cha-
racter and employments were done
away, and law and custom allowed
them to exchange the distaff for the
plough, the needle and the pencil
for the axe and the hammer; and
their stations as mistresses of their
families, companions of their hus-
bands, guides and protectors of
their children, and equal sharers of
domestic pursuits and pleasures,
to be lawyers, legislators, and town-
meeting patriots. We submit to
them, whether they are not content
to make the best part of the object
of all government, which is society,
and to leave to us the drudgery and
vexation, the contest and danger,
of providing the means of securing
that object.”

This view of political rights is
thus summed up:

“These are our rights of man;
this is our liberty; this, our equality.
There is another sort of liberty and
equality which we consider to be
spurious—‘'tis Fancy's child, and
Folly is its father, made of such
stuff as dreams are, and baseless as
the fantastic visions of the evening,’
and which we leave to those who
choose it—to that regenerated nation
whose government considers the
people as made for the government,
and not the government for the peo-
ple; preserves the freedom of elec-
tions by the bayonet, and coins
money by the guillotine, makes it
death to emigrate, and death to stay
at home.
We leave it to those
wonderful philosophers who, in the
plenitude of their wisdom, have no
use for the fund accumulated by
past ages; who have discovered
that the collective good depends on
the sacrifice of the individual good;
that the end sanctifies the means;
that property is a prejudice, and pre-
scription of no validity; and we
leave to them, also, all the order,
justice, security,
and liberty, which
they derive from their precious dis-

In opposition to those whom he
supposed to have endeavoured to
decry patriotism, and substitute the
principle of universal benevolence
in its place, Mr. K. maintains that
the love of our country is a virtue;
and traces its origin in the combined
energy and operation of all our so-
cial and moral affections.

“We are taught,” says Mr. K.
“to believe that religion is the only
support of morality, and revelation
of religion.” “Under the pavilion
of religion only, can society find a
covert from the tempests of the
passions which is ever ready to
burst on its head. Religion lays
her hand on the movements of the
heart, and directs her eyes to the
secret haunts of iniquity. She awes
the insolence of the high, and re-
presses the envy of the low. Destroy
her influence, and universal tyranny

For the preservation of these just
principles and pure morals, we are
indebted to our excellent religious,
political, and social institutions;
our constitutions, laws, system of
education, schools, and colleges.
“These deserve to be maintained,”
says Mr. K. “and transmitted pure
to our posterity. But have they
been thus maintained? Will they
be thus transmitted? There are
spots in thy garments, my country!
There is somewhat against thee,
because thou hast left thy first love.
Many of thy children have degene-
rated from that spirit of order and
religion which marked the precepts
and the example of their fathers.

“But,” concludes Mr. K. “we
are returned to ourselves. We see
the precipice on which we have
stood, and are eagerly [hastily] step-
ping back. May the enthusiasm
in the cause of our altars and laws
which the exigency has kindled, be-
come a habit of the soul, and live a
vestal fire in every bosom.”

Mr. K. sometimes indulges in
invective; but it is of that temperate

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and dispassionate kind, springing
from a feeling and virtuous heart,
regarding with affectionate sensi-
bility and concern, the errors of
the misguided, and the vices of the
profligate, awakens attention, and
excites the good will of those against
whom it is directed. Aware that
violence and passion produce each
other, and defeat the purpose of in-
struction, he softens the severity of
censure by a spirit of benevolence,
which seeks the reformation, not
the destruction of its object. He
reproves with the mild earnestness
of a friend, and the anxious zeal of
a parent, not with the scourge of a
tyrant, or the maledictions of an
enemy. The delicacy, beauty, and
force of the following passage, will
justify our commendation, and af-
ford a favourable specimen of the
style of the writer.

“The poison of the skeptical and
disorganizing philosophy, which is
now perverting and corrupting man,
has been administered in writings,
many of which want no confidence
of assertion to overawe, no subtilty
of argument to perplex, no spright-
liness of wit to amuse, and no
charms of eloquence to entice. But
whilst to indulge curiosity, to taste
the beauties of composition, or to
gratify the vanity of general reading,
we peruse them, it is at the hazard
of being entangled in their sophistry,
and depraved by their immoral sen-
timents. It is proper advice to all,
at least to such, whose minds are
immature, and whose habits are un-
formed; look not into their infec-
tious pages. Tread not on the bed
of flowers, under which a serpent
lurks. ‘What! forbid free inqui-
ry?” Forbid imprudent, rash, in-
discriminate inquiry; inquiry which
can do us little good, and may do
us infinite mischief! The intense
heat of this untried region will melt
the waxen wings of the indiscreet
Icarus, who disdains the bounded
flight of his father, and plunge him

into the sea of doubt and despair.
Will the wise man, who counts the
cost, leave safety in the camp to at-
tack the enemy with unequal force
in the field? Will the traveller
who wishes to secure an agreeable
journey, forsake the beaten road at
the peril of being entangled in in-
extricable wilds? Believe not that
discoveries are to be made in mo-
rality; or that any way will be
found of existing happily in this
world, or in the next, but that which
the Lord our God hath illuminated
with the brightness of a sunbeam,
‘Do justly, love mercy, and walk
humbly with thy God.’ These
men cant about universal benevo-
lence, sensibility, and morality.
Disinterested benevolence! which
teaches that the vilest means are
consecrated by a benevolent end,
and that it is noble to destroy the
parts to serve the whole. Sweet
sensibility! which feels for every
thing except that which touches it;
for all mankind, except those with
whom it is in contact, and to whom
it may be useful; which weeps over
the injustice of governments, and
sends its children to the hospital.
Rigid morality! which is shocked
with the vices of society, and
charmed with the purity of the na-
tural state, yet writes licentious
novels for the rich; which plants a
sting in the conscience for stealing
an apple, and seduces a wife, and
betrays a friend, without self-re-

As an orator, Mr. K. appears in
the dress, and with the manners of
a gentleman; not with the tinsel
decoration, fantastic ornaments, and
extravagant gestures of a mounte-
bank declaimer. He does not at-
tempt to tickle the ears of his au-
dience with high-sounding but ill
chosen epithets, with studied al-
literations, and a pompous phrase-
ology; to dazzle their imaginations
by extravagant and incongruous
metaphors; to mislead their judg-

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ment by artful exaggeration and
specious analogies. He appears to
possess a pure and correct taste;
and, though his style abounds with
long and intricate periods, yet the
parts are so nicely adjusted and well
arranged, that there is neither con-
fusion nor obscurity, and the sense
of the whole is readily comprehend-
ed without hesitation or embarrass-
ment. After this general and de-
served praise, we may be allowed
to point out a few faults, which are
too obvious to escape even the less
attentive observer.

“Though the eulogy of the bless-
ings and prospects of America is so
common as to want the attraction of
novelty.” The word eulogy is here
used in an improper manner. We
eulogise the benefactor, not the
blessing. We may admire and
blazon the gift, but our praises are
bestowed on the giver. Latter,
instead of later mixtures, is prob-
ably an error of the press. “Ephe-
productions of a day,” is pal-
pable tautology. The following
sentence abounds with incongruous
images and gross errors:

“Let them defend it from the
demons, infidelity, ambition, and
faction, which are prowling around
it, ready to pluck its fruits, to strip
is foliage, with the blast of their
to kill its vegetating virtue,
and, with their vengeful axe, to
hew it down and cast it into that
fire, which is lighted at the infernal
pile to lay waste the natural and
moral world.”

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