It is wrong to believe that frank sentiments and the candor of the mind are the exclusive share of the young; they ornament oftentimes old age, upon which they seem to spread a chaste reflection of the modest graces of their younger days, where they shine with the same brightness as those flowers which are often seen peeping, fresh and laughing, from among ruins.
Of late, men seem to have been possessed by an incomprehensible impulse to strip themselves of everything with which nature has endowed them in order to make them superior to the beasts of burden. A philosopher is a gentleman who sits down four times a day to the best meals he can possibly obtain, and who considers that virtue, glory and noble sentiments should be indulged in only when they do not interfere with those four indispensable functions and all the rest of his little personal comforts. At this rate, a mule is a better philosopher by far, because in addition to all this he puts up with blows and hardship without complaint.
There must be a co-education of the different social classes as well as of the two sexes. I might have founded a school giving lessons gratuitously; but a school for poor children only would not be a rational school, since, if they were not taught submission and credulity as in the old type of school, they would have been strongly disposed to rebel, and would instinctively cherish sentiments of hatred.
I know that theater people often have very simplistic view of politics and tend to express very black and white patriotic sentiments but perhaps that is because we know the value of illusion, how it can help strengthen the weak, and stimulate the weary
If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.
Under certain given circumstances, and only under those circumstances, an agglomeration of men presents new characteristics very different from those of the individuals composing it. The sentiments and ideas of all the persons in the gathering take one and the same direction, and their conscious personality vanishes. A collective mind is formed, doubtless transitory, but presenting very clearly defined characteristics. The gathering has thus become what, in the absence of a better expression, I will call an organized crowd, or, if the term is considered preferable, a psychological crowd. It forms a single being and is subject to the law of the mental unity of crowds.
Ethical ideas and sentiments have to be considered as parts of the phenomena of life at large. We have to deal with man as a product of evolution, with society as a product of evolution, and with moral phenomena as products of evolution.
To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality toward belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold the union of the States as the basis of their peace and happiness; to support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally incorporated with and essential to the success of the general system; to avoid the slightest interference with the right of conscience or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction; to preserve in their full energy the other salutary provisions in behalf of private and personal rights, and of the freedom of the press; to observe economy in public expenditures; to liberate the public resources by an honorable discharge of the public debts; to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics — that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe; to promote by authorized means improvements friendly to agriculture, to manufactures, and to external as well as internal commerce; to favor in like manner the advancement of science and the diffusion of information as the best aliment to true liberty; to carry on the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to the conversion of our aboriginal neighbors from the degradation and wretchedness of savage life to a participation of the improvements of which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized state — as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the fulfillment of my duty, they will be a resource which can not fail me.
In this life we never behold the true state of our interior: our attention is engaged by the few serious sentiments with which we are occasionally animated; and the judgment which we form of ourselves is generally influenced by the last impressions which are made upon our minds.
Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them, especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings, sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.
Among the sentiments of most powerful operation upon the human heart, and most highly honorable to the human character, are those of veneration for our forefathers, and of love for our posterity. They form the connecting links between the selfish and the social passions. By the fundamental principle of Christianity, the happiness of the individual is Later-woven, by innumerable and imperceptible ties, with that of his contemporaries: by the power of filial reverence and parental affection, individual existence is extended beyond the limits of individual life, and the happiness of every age is chained in mutual dependence upon that of every other.
The mind of man will never be able to contemplate the being, perfections, and providence of God without meeting with inexplicable difficulties. We may find sufficient reason for acquiescing in the darkness which involves these great subjects, but we must never expect to see them set in a perfectly clear light. But notwithstanding this, we may know enough of the divine being, and of his moral government, to make us much better and happier beings than we could be without such knowledge; and even the consideration of the insuperable difficulties referred to above is not without its use, as it tends to impress the mind with sentiments of reverence, humility, and submission.
In an age of egoism, it is so difficult to persuade man that of all studies, the most important is that of himself. This is because egoism, like all passions, is blind. The attention of the egoist is directed to the immediate needs of which his senses give notice, and cannot be raised to those reflective needs that reason discloses to us; his aim is satisfaction, not perfection. He considers only his individual self; his species is nothing to him. Perhaps he fears that in penetrating the mysteries of his being he will ensure his own abasement, blush at his discoveries, and meet his conscience. True philosophy, always at one with moral science, tells a different tale. The source of useful illumination, we are told, is that of lasting content, is in ourselves. Our insight depends above all on the state of our faculties; but how can we bring our faculties to perfection if we do not know their nature and their laws! The elements of happiness are the moral sentiments; but how can we develop these sentiments without considering the principle of our affections, and the means of directing them? We become better by studying ourselves; the man who thoroughly knows himself is the wise man. Such reflection on the nature of his being brings a man to a better awareness of all the bonds that unite us to our fellows, to the re-discovery at the inner root of his existence of that identity of common life actuating us all, to feeling the full force of that fine maxim of the ancients: 'I am a man, and nothing human is alien to me.
Man ... differs from all other animals in having a brain which can and largely does bring all the various elements of experience into contact, instead of keeping them in a series of wholly or largely separate compartments or channels. This not only provides the basis for conceptual thought, and so for all man's ideas and philosophic systems, ideals and works of art and creative imagination, but also for his battery of complex sentiments unknown in animals, such as reverence and religious awe, moral feelings (including hate and contempt arising from moral abhorrence), and love in its developed form.
A man's sentiments are generally just and right, while it is second selfish thought which makes him trim and adopt some other view. The best reforms are worked out when sentiment operates, as it does in women, with the indignation of righteousness.
The tongue of man is powerful enough to render the ideas which the human intellect conceives; but in the realm of true and deep sentiments it is but a weak interpreter. These are inexpressible, like the endless glory of the Omnipotent.
Adolescence is the time to enlarge the natural sentiments of pity, friendship, and generosity, the time to develop an understanding of human nature and the varieties of human character, the time to gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of all men and to study the history of mankind.
The soul is a fire that darts its rays through all the senses; it is in this fire that existence consists; all the observations and all the efforts of philosophers ought to turn towards this Me, the centre and moving power of our sentiments and our ideas.
As for myself, I can only exhort you to look on Friendship as the most valuable of all human possessions, no other being equally suited to the moral nature of man, or so applicable to every state and circumstance, whether of prosperity or adversity, in which he can possibly be placed. But at the same time I lay it down as a fundamental axiom that "true Friendship can only subsist between those who are animated by the strictest principles of honour and virtue." When I say this, I would not be thought to adopt the sentiments of those speculative moralists who pretend that no man can justly be deemed virtuous who is not arrived at that state of absolute perfection which constitutes, according to their ideas, the character of genuine wisdom. This opinion may appear true, perhaps, in theory, but is altogether inapplicable to any useful purpose of society, as it supposes a degree of virtue to which no mortal was ever capable of rising.