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among us, will do much, by the opportunities which it offers to the young for intellectual and moral culture and enjoyment. Our Savings Bank is an instrument of great moral power. And much is to be done by legislation, and by municipal regulations. But a power is wanted, beyond and above all these, to secure their proper effects upon a community; and, without which, their excellent influences will be comparatively, and may be alarmingly, counteracted. A power is wanted, without which, even the best religious and literary institutions will be very limited in their operations, and even the wisest laws may become a dead letter. I refer to the power of an enlightened, and wisely extended public sentiment, on the great subjects which concern at once the well-being of the individual, and the order, security and happiness of society. What, indeed, will be the best institutions, or the best laws and ordinances, if public sentiment should be turned against them, or should want the energy that is demanded to support them ? Or, should laws and municipal regulations even run in advance of public sentiment - and this will not often be the case – how inefficiently will they be administered, and executed ? This is a very simple and elementary truth, and therefore is too commonly treated as a mere truism, which is heard only to be disregarded. But it is a truth which must be understood in its great bearings, and acted upon, if we would either have legislation what it should be, or secure the benefits to be derived from wise and wholesome laws. Allow me, then, in a few words, to say what I mean by an enlightened public sentiment, and of its importance on the great subject of poverty and crime, as the most effectual means by which to remedy, or to prevent, the growth of these evils.
By an enlightened public sentiment, then, I mean a public sentiment which receives its light, and its direction, at once from the great essential principles of human nature, and of christian truth and duty. I mean a public sentiment, which regards man universally, be he high or low, rich or poor, as an intellectual, a moral, and an immortal being ; which implies in those who possess it, a just sense of the worth and excellence of their own nature, as children of God; and a corresponding sense of the worth and excellence of the nature of every individual of their race. I mean a public sentiment respecting virtue, as the supreme good of every intelligent and moral nature ; and respecting talents, and all means of promoting good and happiness, as responsibilities. I mean a public sentiment, which regards the rights of others as dearly, and as faithfully, as its own; which honors and supports virtue wherever it is to be found ; and, while it makes no compromise with that which it believes to be morally evil, will yet feel that the transgressor is a brother, who is to be reclaimed, and saved, and not cast off and destroyed, or left to find his destruction in his sin. I mean, in fine, that sentiment, which, while it comprehends the most impartial, and incorruptible justice, equally comprehends the most enlarged sympathy and benevolence of the religion of Jesus Christ. Let this be the public sentiment of a city, and of a state, and institutions for the advancement of knowledge, and piety, and virtue, will be supported, and extend more and more widely their healing and saving influences. And then laws will be what they should be, and they will be obeyed. What, indeed, are laws, but the authorized declarations of public sentiment? They will therefore be conformed to the de
mands of society ; or, in other words, they will be conformed to the prevailing state of character, among the people for whom they are made. Public opinion will be their dictator, and to public opinion will legislators look for their sanction. What, then, can be of greater importance to the well-being of society, than an enlarged and enlightened public sentiment respecting its great vital interests, and the true means of advancing and perpetuating them ?
And is public sentiment what it should be, and what by proper efforts it might be, respecting even those causes of crime and moral ruin, of which no one can be ignorant who desires to know them; of the tendencies of which upon others, no one, however secure he may
feel himself to be, has a right to be indifferent ? I know, indeed, that there are those, who feel deeply on these subjects ; but, unhappily, they are little known to each other, and therefore cannot bring the force of a united sentiment to bear upon the objects, which they would fain see accomplished. Besides, almost every man feels that he has enough to do in the care of himself, and his business, and his family. He is therefore willing to leave public concerns to the agents to whom they are entrusted; and the work of reforming great abuses, and of purifying the sources of moral corruption around him, to those who may have been affected, or injured by them. And what is the consequence of this? Evils may be springing up, and growing, and extending about him, and he knows nothing of thern; or, if he be told of them, he feels no responsibility concerning them, till, perhaps, their contagion has reached the heart of his child, and blighted the fairest hopes of his life. And even then his great concern is, not to secure others
against this plague which has reached his own house; but simply, if indeed it be possible, to rescue one so dear to himself from ruin. And why is it so ? Is it because there is actually no sympathy in his heart with what others do, or who may suffer like himself ? No. It is because he thinks that others are as unconcerned respecting these evils, as he himself once was; and therefore he knows not how, or where, to look for a removal of them. I dare appeal on this subject to hundreds, even in our own city. Hundreds of fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, suffer from them; and other hundreds, though they have little knowledge compared with what they might have respecting them, are yet sometimes aware that evil and danger from these sources are near to thein. And what is wanted to call forth public sentiment, and to give it a right direction, in regard to persons and places which ought to be held infamous? I answer, that public sentiment must be enlightened upon these subjects. The truth must be told, and it must be told plainly. Let things be called by their right namės, and the causes and instruments of evil be exposed in their true character; and, let it appear that there are numbers who feel, and feel strongly, the evils which ought not to be tolerated; and I believe that it will not then be difficult to bring an efficient action ‘against them. A report of a single case of yellow fever, or of plague in our city, would excite universal alarm; and the infected house would be barricaded, and shunned as the very gate of death. Or, if it were felt that the public security required it, the infected house would be razed to the ground. And in proportion as public sentiment can be made christian respecting the dram-shop, by whatever name it be called, and by whomever it
may be frequented, and the gambling-house, however it may be designated, and the brothel, and every sink of sin which sends out its foul miasmata to poison the soul; nay, in proportion as public sentiment can be combined even in the cause of the highest order of worldly morality, these moral nuisances will be felt to be objects, which call for a general and uncompromising determination for their removal. To whom, then, are we to look for this union of public sentiment? Who are to bring these great subjects and interests into those strong lights, in which they are to be seen in their true character? To whom has society a right to look for this great moral service? I should feel no difficulty in giving a most explicit answer to these questions. But I will only say, that we have many who could do much in this work. Let each one, then, feel his own responsibility to do what he can in it, and there will be among us a public sentiment, which will be far more effectual than legal enactments, and which will save hundreds, and perhaps thousands, from moral destruction.
The doctrine has too easily been admitted, and too long acted upon without dispute, that there must be every where, and especially in cities, a certain amount of poverty and crime. This doctrine, however, as it is commonly received, is as false as it is vague, and as disgraceful to those who support it, as it is ruinous to those whom it wickedly leaves to the evils from which they might be rescued. It has done, and continually is doing, more to paralyze effort in the highest departments of human benevolence, and more to repress, and even to extinguish,
highest and best sympathies of our nature, than any, or than all the other causes, which have restrained the enlightened and virtuous in their cares and endeavors