« PrécédentContinuer »
in a word, that reciprocal benevolence which we will labour earnestly to impress on the minds of our fellow-creatures.
The Society is not unacquainted with the magnitude of the task which it has undertaken, and which perhaps some may deem rash and unadvised; it is well aware that the most laudable designs continually meet with obstacles, and that to the peculiar difficulties attendant on the nature of its labours, may probably be added opposition from human malice, from false constructions, and malevolent inferences, nay, even from those calumnies with which some delight to vilify the purest motives; but at the same time it cannot forget that these are the impediments which must necessarily be encountered in the path of virtue, as though they were meant to teach us that, in this path, we must redouble our courage and our perseverance; and our Society will not be deficient in either of these duties.
The real difficulty is in the enterprise itself. The Society will have to contend with ignorance, the greatest scourge which infests the world; that ignorance which paralyzes every thing in man,his heart and his intellect, which closes up the way of virtue by concealing it from his view, which leaves him unacquainted with his duties, and with the means of happiness, by preventing him from attaining to a knowledge of them, so that he finally closes his eyes to the light, and resists its evidence through the blindness of error and prejudice.
This then, Gentlemen, is the principal enemy with which this Society will have to contend; this, the duty which it ought to impose, and which it will impose upon itself. Christian morality will supply it with the means; it points out, it prescribes to man all his duties, whether as a private individual or as a citizen. Religion, the social as well as civic virtues, love of labour, and love of mankind, resistance to the passions,
obedience to the laws, respect to authorities, submission and devotion to his Prince, all these duties are contained in THE SACRED Volume. There we shall find not only precepts, but examples of persevering courage, of a mild benevolence, of an immovable patience, which, to attain a good object, spares neither time nor pains. There is nothing which can affect the happiness of man, to which the Society will not extend its labours.
The Society warmly embraces this truth; that man is placed in the world only to do good, that such is the end of his being; it is his duty, and at the same time his most certain means of happiness. Wretched indeed, Gentlemen, are they whose hearts do not feel this appeal; they must be deprived of the sweetest of enjoyments; of that enjoyment which is not limited to any age or situation of life, which is even a consolation under misfortune, and the certain recompense of those who are employed in the welfare of their fellowmen.
Behold, Gentlemen, the object of our Society! such are its duties, and such its expectations. Called to preside at its first Meeting, the only return I can make for this favour, which I had no right to expect, is my gratitude and my devotedness to its interests. My race is too nearly run for me to expect to effect much for the Society by my own exertions; but I shall, at least, witness the dawning of its success; and shall console myself for my own want of ability to contribute towards it, by the reflection, that it will be perfected by men who are as much impressed as myself with the importance of the noble task which the Society has undertaken, and who are much better qualified to carry its designs into effect."
This speech, which so eloquently expressed the views of the Meeting, was heard in profound silence, and was concluded amidst great applause. The Count de Laborde af
GENTLEMEN,Commissioned by my colleagues to report to you the result of the labours of your Provisional Committee, I think that it is proper to go back to the origin of the Society, on account of those members who have been admitted subsequent to that period.
To contribute, with Establishments previously existing, towards diffusing the knowledge and practice of virtue, and towards developing its admirable principles, as they are taught in the sacred books of the Christians; to prove the necessity of these divine precepts, and to cause them to be admired, by bring ing to light the accordance of virtue with our nature and with our noblest sentiments; to excite a generous and worthy emulation among men of every class, of every denomination, and of every country, demonstrating from facts the happy influence which the practice of virtue exercises over the destinies of humanity; to make it pervade more and more every part of the public system, by applying it to all the social relations; to diminish the causes of intestine discord and foreign wars, by opposing party hatred, and the prejudices of an ex: travagant and blind patriotism; to promote, indeed, every religious, moral and philanthropic Institution, by noticing, bringing forward into view, and giving publicity to their organization and resolutions: In one word, to adduce at the same time, both precept and example, to do good, and to excite others, to do good: such is the object, vast and varied, but withal one and the same,
which the infant Society purposes to effect.
The interest of no party, whether political or religious, presided at its conception;-to the sole desire of doing good, of promoting the interests of humanity, it owes its existence. No mental reservation, nor concealment, veiled any other end under a deceitful guise. We propose simply to establish a Society for the encouragement of every moral virtue, of all that can forward and extend the progress of civilization. Scarcely was this philanthropic project known, than it was approved by persons of opposite opinions and different views.
The first authors of this project were soon joined by men eminent for their knowledge, and for their zeal in promoting the happiness of mankind. A Provisional Committee was appointed to organize the Society. A wise caution governed its deliberations; more than ten Sittings were employed in the discussion of its regulations, which, after having been adopted by a previous General Meeting, will to-day be submitted for your final sanction. That Meeting appointed a new Committee, more numerous than the first, and gave it in commission to apply to Government for the necessary authority publicly to announce the existence of the Society, to arrange the plan of the Periodical Work which was intended to be published, and then to call another General Meeting, by which the Society would be put in a situation to enable it to begin its labours.
A Peer of France, whose name is well known in the annals of benevolence, entered freely into the views of the Committee, and put himself at the head of the Association. A letter, signed by the Duke de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, by Messrs. the Count Alexander de Laborde, the Baron de Gerando, Giopp, the Count de Lasteyrie, the Baron de StaëlHolstein, Stapfer and Würtz, was addressed to the Minister of the In
Proceedings, &c. of the Society of Christian Morals.
terior, requesting him to give to our proceedings the authority required by the laws: this authority was granted.
The Society having thus a legal existence, was enabled to add to it new members, and to announce its formation to the public A Prospectus was published, inserted in such of the Journals as would admit it, and sent to a great number of individuals as well as to philanthropic Associations, whether of France or of other countries.
[See this Prospectus, Herald vol. iii. p. 366.] This Prospectus was well received by the public; several Periodical Publications, both in France and elsewhere, gave a favourable account of it. If some individuals conceived prejudices against the infant Society, it is to be attributed, probably, to the general terms which were adopted in the Prospectus, and to the title by which the announcement of the Society was preceded..
To this we must reply, that it was difficult, perhaps impossible, to avoid all obscurity, and to anticipate every objection in describing the necessarily complicated plan of a new Institution. With respect to the title, it was selected only for its brevity; properly to understand it, it is necessary to take the trouble to connect with it the explanation which follows, and which expresses more clearly the object of our Association. As for the rest, the Society has reason to hope that every prejudice will be removed by the forthcoming Publication of its first labours. Already justice is generally done to it. A considerable number of individuals in Paris, and in the Departments, have enrolled themselves among its members, also foreigners distinguished by their personal merit, and by the exalted stations which they fill.
The Provisional Committee has -neglected nothing towards procuring an abundant supply of material for the Periodical Work which
the Society is about to publish, and which, in the beginning at least, must be the principal means of its operations. A correspondence has been opened with individuals residing in Germany, Switzerland, England, and the United States of America. The philanthropic and religious Societies in France and other countries, and particularly the Peace Societies, have been invited to send to the Society their Annual Reports, their Periodical Works, and every useful information. Some of these Societies have already returned satisfactory
[Here follow some details of Organization.] Such, Gentlemen, is the history of the origin and of the progress of the Society. It remains with you to confirm its existence, by sanctioning to-day its regulations, and by appointing its final functionaries; it remains with you to ensure its success by coming to a determined resolution to support: it by every means in your power, and by thoroughly imbibing its genuine spirit. Strengthened by an approv ing conscience, by the purity of your intentions, and by the approbation of all good men; fully convinced of the utility of our labours, resolved to follow them up with firmness and constancy; you will refute every objection, you will remove every unjust prejudice, and courageously defy every enemy, supposing the possibility that a design so virtuous, so generous as yours, can ever have to encounter opposition.
After this Report, which was heard with the most lively interest, the Count de Laborde read a project of the Regulations.
[Here follow the Regulations; for the substance of which see Herald, vol. ii. p. 268.]
The following are the members of the Committee as then chosen: PRESIDENT.-The Duke de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt.
VICE-PRESIDENTS.-The Duke de la Vauguyon, the Count de Lasteyrie, the Baron de Türckheim.
We live in an age distinguished by the fearless and unhesitating discussion of every subject relative to the well-being of Man. Old questions are revised, and results, far different from those of former periods, are frequently obtained. It is thus that the boundaries of science and of art are daily enlarged. Indeed, when once the human mind, emancipated from the thraldom of old precedents and old prejudices, exercises its undoubted privilege to examine and reason, the field of research widens before it, and universal truth becomes the province of its legitimate range.
Thus, whilst the dogmas of religion retain their full integrity, when submitted to the severest scrutiny, and preserve their character unchanged, through every generation and every age, they become divested of much of the obscurity, which human ignorance and human passions had thrown around them. One subject, however, has been too long and fearfully disregarded, The peaceful tendency, and benevolent spirit of the gospel of Christ,
have counted but few advocates, and still fewer practical friends. The history of ages pours a full tide of glory on the heroes and achievements of war; the cries of suffering humanity are hushed amidst the din of arms; and the advocates of the religion of peace, in its general and individual application, are rudely silenced by the myriads that fatten on its sacrifices. It is time, therefore, to bring this one point to a more general discussion, and to call upon men, professing the religion of the gospel, to study its declarations, its spirit, and its tendencies on the subject of War.
What time more favourable than the present for the mature consideration of this momentous question ? Nations have retired from the contest like the wearied gladiators of old, and with perhaps as little advantage, after the expenditure of so much toil, treasure and blood. It is at a period when lassitude has produced peace, that it becomes the friends of peace to stand between the combatants, and to claim a fair and patient hearing for the high commands and sacred philanthropy of the religion of Jesus. This task they would undertake with all the tremblings of unbelief, and would soon abandon with all the misgivings of despondency, did they not believe in that mighty and mysterious agency whose in fluence never deserts the cause of truth and mercy.The friends of their kind believe that every principle founded on truth, must eventua ly establish itself in the convictions, and conscience, and conduct of every fellow-being. Undis mayed, therefore, by the smallness of their numbers, and the formida ble resistance presented by the passions and interests of men, they look with confidence to the final result.
The object of the Guernsey Auxiliary Peace Society will be found in
3-That such Tracts shall be circulated as accord with the principles and object of the London Society.
4. That the friends of peace in this island shall endeavour to direct the public attention to the subjects of peace and humanity, by the circulation of Tracts, &c. tending to demonstrate the evils of War, and its opposition to the benign influence of the Christian Religion.
5. That all subscriptions and donations, after deducting incidental expences, shall be remitted to the Treasurer of the Society in London, for the promotion of the great objects of the Institution.
6. That every annual subscriber of five shillings and upwards, and every donor of two pounds and upwards, shall be a Member of this Society, and shall be entitled to receive, within the year, Tracts to the amount of one half his subscription.
7-That the following gentlemen do constitute the Committee for the present year. with power to add to their number, of whom five shall be a quorum :-Messrs. H. T. Brehaut, E. Richards, Dr. Mauger, J Marrett, T. Le Lievre, P. Bienvenu, C G. Hamilton, N. Blondell.
8.-That Nathaniel Cosins, Esq. be appointed Treasurer, and the
Your very humble Servant, THADDEUS BURR. GENTLEMEN, Yesterday, my neighbour, Mr. Lewis, called on me with a paper styled au Association, which he informed me was sent by your desire, with a view that I should subscribe it. Of that paper I requested a copy, that I might have time to consider of the propriety of the desired subscription, and was served with it about noon; and now I beg the candid attention of the Gentlemen of the Committee, whilst I give them my answer to their requisition.
I shall first consider the paper with respect to its particular parts, and then with regard to its general intention. The first clause contains a recital of some of those things which are commonly charged against the mother country as unconstitu