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will not intrude upon their consecrated ground, nor trespass on the province of the spiritual teacher. Be it mine to speak of men in their social and temporal capacities; be it his to fit them for intercourse with holier spirits, in a more enduring habitation.
The inquiry proposed is deeply interesting; and, whatever the statesman or the philosopher, the philanthropist or the misanthrope, the man of business or the man of pleasure, may offer in reply, the answer, in a single word, is HAPPINESS. But though the object of our labor is so apparent-though the temple is ever in sight--the avenues, which lead thither, are not so distinctly visible. They are shadowed with clouds, and enveloped in mists; and he, who commences the pilgrimage, though the point where all the avenues centre may be ever present to his eye, little knows what dangers and difficulties beset his path— through what fires and floods he must walk-what giants and demons may assault him and defeat his purposes. Human life is a life of uncertainty and hope, of discouragement and expectation ; and he who rejects the conditions, must relinquish his title to the freehold.
By far the greater portion of mankind have found that personal and individual happiness is promoted by association; that the highest state of enjoyment is that, in which there can exist an interchange of sentiment, opinion, and feeling—a comparison and coincidence of taste and inclination-a convention of purposes and means; and this disposition in men to unite with others, having congenial tempers, similar
habits, and common interests, was the origin of society.
Man is a being that loves himself. All his natural desires and propensities have a conservative tendency. Every moment of his existence he is striving-often, perhaps, unconscious of the effort-- to make that existence more agreeable. It is only to augment his capacity for enjoyment-to increase his power of obtaining individual happiness, and to facilitate the fruition of his desires, that he consents to unite his efforts with those of his fellow-men. These general principles are inherent in his nature, and are interwoven with every fibre of his physical and intellectual composition. They exist from necessity, and must continue to exist as long as man himself shall endure. No truth is more sacred or immutable than the oftrepeated maxim,“ Self love and social are the same." To every thinking mind it is a self-evident proposition, though its commonness has subjected it, sometimes, to the sneer of superficial moralists, as an apology for licentiousness and profligacy. Philosophically viewed, it lies at the foundation of the whole moral system. It is, in a modified sense, the essence of the Divinity.
And what is the moral system, but a combination of elementary principles, a coacervation of fundamental truths, embracing the duties, obligations and responsibilities of men, living together in society?obligations and responsibilities founded in necessity, because the chief good cannot be attained without the employment of the requisite means ? The
knowledge of these means constitutes the science of ethics.
Morality, in this extended sense of the term, is another name for Public Spirit. And what is Public Spirit! I use the definition of one who wrote more than a hundred years ago.* It is a combination of every laudable passion, and takes in parents, kindred, friends, neighbors, and every thing dear to mankind. It is the highest virtue, and embraces almost all the others-steadfastness to good purposes — fidelity to one's trust-resolution in difficulties- defiance of danger-contempt of death-impartial and active benevolence to all mankind. The office of Public Spirit is to combat fraud and delusion-to reconcile the governors and the governed—to expose imposture- to resist oppression. It fills the country where it operates with industrious and happy laborers, and the town with intrepid and useful citizens; and maintains the whole in liberty, plenty, ease, and security. Public Spirit is a passion to promote universal good, even at the hazard of personal pain, loss, and privation. It is one man's care for many, and the concern of every man for all.
Men are not always ruled by principle, but oftentimes by passion. Almost every action is an evidence that friendship for themselves extinguishes their regard for others, and that they adopt or reject prin
* This definition, together with the substance of the next three paragraphs, is abridged, with some variations in language in order to adapt the sentiment to this age and country, from “Cato's Letters," published in London, about the year 1720.
ciples, just as these principles promote or contravene their passions. The good they do to each other is not always done because it is just, nor because it is commanded ; nor do men always refrain from the commission of evil deeds because they are unjust or forbidden: but every thing is done from choice or from fear. The best, as well as the worst, actions are selfish, and self love is thus the parent of moral good and evil.
Men suit their principles, too, to the circumstances they are in, or the circumstances they would be in. When their point is gained, their principles are forgotten. Statesmen and politicians have one set of principles when they are in power, and another when they are out of it. They that command and they that obey have seldom the same motives. Men change with their condition, and opinions change with men. Truly was it said by a celebrated French philosopher, “ The understanding is the tool of the heart."
I repeat, that every passion, which men have, is selfish to a greater or less degree. When, by the agency of these passions, individuals or the public are benefited, and the consequences of their operations are such as tend to the general good, they may properly be called disinterested, in the common acceptation of that word. A man is disinterested, and then only, when the views of his mind and the purposes of his heart combine to produce and to secure the safety, security, and happiness of others—when his own personal pleasure and gratification and glory
consist in the service of his fellow-men. other sense than this, there is no such thing as disinterestedness. The best actions often arise from fear, or vanity, or shame, or some other passion equally unworthy in itself. When the passions of men operate in such forms, and are exercised in such modes, as to encourage enterprise, promote useful inventions, reward industry, enlarge the circle of social affections, or in any way produce good to society, the motive is called virtue, morality, public spirit, and, in our modern phraseology, Patriotism. On the other hand, when the passions produce the opposite effects, the motive is properly called selfishness, dishonesty, lust, meanness, and other names of infamy and reproach. To pretend that men act independently of their passions, is an absurdity, which none but a fool, a madman, or a hypocrite, would advocate.
In these desultory remarks, I am not aware that any new doctrine is promulgated. I am sure that the sentiments are not original with me, and I can hardly claim any property in the language, in which they are clothed. The reason of their introduction at this time and place must be obvious to every auditor; the fitness of their application requires no extraordinary degree of ingenuity to make it apparent. What is the association, which I have now the honor of addressing, but a confederation of individuals, governed by the same interests, operated upon by the same motives, excited by the same passions, and acting in the aggregate as when each is acting for himself individually? What is it, but a link in the