This is an excerpt from an essay on the Means of promoting Federal Sentiments in the United States, by a Foreign Spectator that appeared in The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1871.
It must not be concealed, that many persons make religion too grave and austere: the unreasonable pernicious doctrine, that innocent amusements are inconsistent with Christianity, withdraws numbers of youths from the paths of virtue; creates surly and selfish dispositions; it favors avarice in a degree very amazing; because when life is engrossed by the pursuits of gain, and the gratifications permitted to center within ones self, the heart grows more narrow, and devoted to interest.
Levity and dissipation are out of question — But shall any man dare to represent God as a gloomy tyrant! Is not his kingdom peace and joy? Are not the ways of heavenly wisdom pleasant?
How can a Christian condemn music, when the felicity of heaven is in part represented by it? Does not the wise king say, that there is a time to laugh, and to dance — That inferior dancing, which only promotes exercise and gaiety, is yet preferable to vulgar amusements — but there is a kind of dancing, that requires dignity and delicacy; in which the brocade shoe and diamond buckle, the liveliest activity, and the most elegant form are not sufficient; when the soul is seen in the beaming eye, the animated feature and glowing tint; and the whole frame vibrates to all the varying movements of a fine sensibility, like a harpsichord under the hand of a master.
After such a dance a woman feels herself a more affectionate wife and daughter; and a young patriot is well disposed for a grand national debate, or to meet his country’s foe sword in hand. I know this will appear nonsense to some grave sensible people; but I appeal to competent judges. Without disputing about particulars, rational, innocent, ingenious, social amusements are of great consequence to manners and national felicity.
Laws have a near connexion with manners, and thereby a great influence on government, independent of their direct support of it. Want or bad execution of important laws renders people licentious, and by a longer continuance impatient of all rule and order. Needless severity is inconsistent with a free, generous government; but injudicious mildness is far more dangerous, where the people have an overdriven sense of liberty.
Purity of manners is very necessary in republics; but a want of it in America would be a symptom of greater corruption; because exceeding few women are by a cruel indulgence tempted to sell their virtue, or at least receive the insidious friendship of a seducer — that debasing inequality is not known, which may induce a vain and less virtuous girl rather to be the mistress of a nobleman, than a laborer’s wife — marriages are not impeded or forced by poverty or the necessity of living in a certain stile; this neither separates true lovers, nor urges the titles wretch to give his daughter’s hand without her heart.
In this state of society, illicit amours evidence in most cases a greater relaxation of moral principles; a degree of vanity, luxury, avarice, licentiousness, insincerity, very baneful to federal states. It is an execrable species of false honor, and happily as yet little known in America, that permits a gentleman, who scorns to be a villain in other things, to steal from his best friend the heart of his wife. In America the marriage vow should be sacred, and its violation an atrocious crime. Seduction of young women must also be very criminal; and should in most cases be marked with peculiar infamy, and severe punishment.
Ye generous maids revenge your sex’s wrong;
Let not the mean destroyer e’er approach
Your sacred charms —-
America protect thy lovely daughters! Spurn from thy councils, from the bands of thy brave warriors, the perfidious deceiver, who, by laboured sighs, sacred oaths, and a thousand solemn vows, wins female tenderness, and trusting innocence — the base voluptuary of despicable coxcomb, who, to gratify vanity or animal appetite, destroys the happiness of a whole family, regardless of a father’s grief, a mother’s never ceasing anguish — the infamous coward, who exults in the insidious conquest of female weakness , the spoil of innocency, the ruin of beauty — the barbarian, who brings to an untimely grave the lovely maid that would die for him, or, what is worse, to a disgrace, that all the tears of repentance, all the blood of a broken heart, cannot wash away.
Source: The Pennsylvania Gazette, September 12, 1787.
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