, part four

, Walter Forward “resumed his remarks”:

But the gentleman from Luzerne said here was a tax. Would gentlemen compel the payment of a tax? Would any set of men interpose between the collector and the Constitution to the wants of the country? No. If it was a tax, he would yield it. But what was the nature of the tax? A tax on a tender conscience. We are to tax men’s consciences, for giving way to feelings not to be resisted. He would yield the argument there, but it was a tax on conscience. We lay a penalty on a man because he is in default and is censurable or criminal. We make him pay — for what? For enjoying his own conscience; and what was the difference between this and adoring the Creator according to the dictates of conscience? In both cases it was a scruple — a duty. We come to make it penal in this land of liberty, if it was not profane to use the name of liberty in such case, to enjoy the rights of conscience. There was no man who could stand before his fellow man, or before his Creator, with this argument. We may call it exaction, penalty for scruples, or what we will, here is the fact.

He agreed with the learned judge from Philadelphia, (Mr. Hopkinson,) that there might be a period when if government could not enforce a tribute for emergencies, it could not exist. We might impel citizens into the ranks, under the influence of a grand and public necessity. The citizen must then yield his rights. So it was as to those who held religious scruples. They must yield to the majority for the purpose of maintaining the government. But they were not bound to yield further than the existence of this necessity. The language of the amendment was this: “Those who conscientiously scruple to bear arms shall not be compelled to do so, nor, except in times of exigency or war, to pay an equivalent therefor.” “Exigency in war!” What was the meaning of the words? Who were to judge of the exigency? Were the Legislature to judge? Were we to submit it to Legislative decision to say when an exigency would exist? What was an exigency? It was contra-distinguished from war? It was the threat of war. The exigency arose with the threat. The militia were then to be prepared, enrolled, drawn out, because the country required their services. They were required to be ready in arms. This was the exigency intended, and not the calm, halcyon days of peace. He agreed with those who insisted that we ought to be prepared in times of exigency to be equipped and mustered for war. In this he entirely agreed. And in a case of war, or exigency, which would induce these preparations, there ought to be an equivalent paid because a natural right must be surrendered. But in peace, in a state of profound peace, where was the necessity, where the expedience, which would justify such a call?

He had heard sentiments which ought to be repudiated everywhere: that the rights of conscience were not natural rights, that any exemption on account of scruples was the creation of improper distinctions, and that there should be personal service without equivalent. He was not to be caught by such arguments. No nation had ever suffered by adopting the policy of toleration. What country ever did? He had heard it said that there could be no mode of testing consciences, and that any man might claim exemption with equal justice. This would be obviated by adopting the system of voluntary service. There could exist no difficulty in drawing the line. Let the gentleman from Franklin look back to the history of Pennsylvania, and he would find that there had never been any difficulty in determining who were those entitled to exemption on account of their conscientious scruples. It had been construed to extend to Quakers, Menonists and others, whose tenets were well known, and who could not be suspected of pretending to possess tender consciences merely for the purpose of evading a further duty. He who would set up such pretext from such a motive might well be dispensed with in the service, for he would prove a traitor there. No such charge could attach to that large class of citizens, void of self reproach, who had adopted the peaceful creed as the guide of their actions.

But it had been said that a man would start up and claim this privilege when his neighbors all around him can say that he did not believe in those scruples; that he would come to claim the privilege, not upon religious grounds, because he was not a religious man, but just because he chose to claim it, and that, too, in the presence of men who would brand him as a base hypocrite. Would any man dare to meet the infamy which might fall upon him for such a course of conduct as this? There was no argument could be built on this ground. In point of fact, the discrimination was easy and certain. There were not ten men who would incur the infamy, under pretences which were known to be false. A man of no religion claim an exemption on the score of a tender conscience! No: he would not dare to invoke the scowl of society and the hootings of his neighbors.

He (Mr. F.) would now come back to the point from which he had started; namely, that those who were in favor of abridging the rights of conscience could only do so on the ground of public necessity. He affirmed that the existence of this public necessity had not been shown, and that therefore, this class of our citizens might rightfully claim this exemption. Every exigency which could justify a claim on them had been provided for in the amendment. The class by whom this exemption was asked was renowned for its love of order — for its obedience to the laws — for its charity. Was this aristocratic? Was this odious? Was this criminal? Look at the history of the world, and who could deny that to this little community, mankind were more indebted for liberal principles than any nation in the world. How long was it since toleration had been known on the earth? Probably, we might go back to the age of William Penn, but not much further. Where did it arise? Among religious men. It was a religious principle which had been engrafted on free government after the example of William Penn and others. But let us go back for two centuries and what should we find? We found men taxing other men’s consciences upon the very ground taken here; that was to say, should a man set up his conscience against a tax gatherer?

In other countries, a tax was paid for keeping up a national church; taxes were annually collected for that purpose. In such countries, a man might say he had conscientious scruples, and he would be asked, shall a man set up his conscience against the tax gatherer? For, after all, it was but a tax for the maintenance of an established church. That was the argument, and the same argument might be found in this Hall.

Again, we found gentlemen here doubting the sincerity of these persons. We had the charter, and we had the conditions of the charter. We still found gentlemen doubting whether these scruples were sincere or not. This was the argument of , when men went to the stake to be burnt, and all sects, except the Quakers, were persecuted. They went to the stake and they met death unflinchingly; it was said their opinions were so absurd that they ought to suffer for entertaining such scruples. And this was just the argument which had been urged here — that they were setting up their consciences against the defense of their country. How absurd! It was the old chapter of tyranny and intolerance. What right had he, or any other man, to substitute his own opinions for the consciences of other men, and to bring charges of fraud and deceit against them, simply because their opinions differed from his own?

In conclusion, he was of opinion that the Convention could not misunderstand the nature of this request. The principle was clear to his mind that public necessity alone could justify the Convention in calling upon this class of men. Let it be shown that such a necessity existed, and he (Mr. F.) would go cheerfully as far as that necessity required. If it could be shown that these trainings were actually necessary for the defense of the country, or as a preparation against emergency or war; if, he repeated, this necessity could be made clear to his mind, he would go with the gentlemen who opposed the wishes of these individuals. But, said Mr. F., till you show that necessity, the argument is mine, and the conclusion is mine.

Ephraim Banks had his own ideas of the legal ramifications of conscientious belief. He…

…knew what the argument was which had been used, and very forcibly used, by the gentleman from Allegheny, (Mr. Forward) that conscience might interpose its authority and save one man from doing that which all others were bound to do under the laws of the Commonwealth. That gentleman contended that you taxed a man’s conscience when you charge him with the payment of public dues or of taxes to support your government. Tax his conscience! No — you tax his property, and if his conscience interferes and says that it is wrong, would you call that taxing his conscience? All of us, under this plea, when taxed for the support of the government in any of its branches, might say it was improper because we thought the legislation wrong and our consciences disapproved it. Would it be right for us to say we would not pay because legislators were mistaken in their views, in putting upon the people charges which were not called for or expedient? And were not our rights the same in regard to toleration?

Did any man ever hear of the species of toleration which has been urged upon the attention of the committee in the course of this argument? Exempt a man from bearing arms if he chooses to pay an equivalent for personal service, and do you not thus tolerate him to choose that which he prefers? You put no compulsion on such a man. If you leave the legislature free to say that all men should bear arms when the exigencies of their country required, he (Mr. B.) contended that no imposition was thus placed upon the consciences of men. No such thing. Every man chose that which he preferred; namely, whether he would carry arms, the country requiring his services, or whether he would pay an equivalent for personal service, and for that protection which others gave him by marching to the tented field and by baring their bosoms to the bayonets of the enemy.

Government had in view the good of the whole people; and all Legislatures, and all enactments by Legislatures, had certain avowed objects in view: of giving protection to all and prescribing rules of action for all with an equal and impartial hand. The desire of all was that they should have protection, and it was right that every man should contribute from his means, as his neighbors did, to the maintenance of that protection. Would we not, by the very act of exempting one portion of our citizens from this necessary burden, place them above their neighbors and fellow citizens in relation to the matter of military service? He knew that this class of citizens believed it to be wrong to take up arms to defend their country, their persons, or property, or their neighbor’s property; but what of that; while I, in my person, protect them and their property, they are bound in justice to support me. What was remarked by the gentleman from the city of Philadelphia, (Mr. Hopkinson) that he did not choose to stand at his neighbor’s door with a musket to defend him, whilst he was packing up his plate, must have left an impression on the minds of those who heard, not to be effaced. This was a forcible allusion to the condition in which the country had been placed, and might be placed again. That being the case, was it not right that these individuals should contribute their portion to the support of the government? The portion of Proud’s History which had been read by the gentleman from Luzerne, (Mr. Woodward) was sufficient certainly to satisfy us that this doctrine was right. If they did not contribute to the support of their government, they were not acting like good citizens. If they allowed the Legislature to pass acts of assembly authorizing these militia trainings, and did not choose either to give their personal services or to pay an equivalent, were they acting in good faith to the Commonwealth? Certainly not. And if they would not so contribute was it not proper to coerce payment — to take their property if they possessed any? Might he not go further and say, that the collectors of militia dues should lay their hands on their persons, and to dispose of them, or to compel payment of these just demands? He would not go so far as to say they should be tied to dead bodies for punishment, as was sometimes done in ancient Rome; nor did he think that they should be sold, as debtors were according to the provisions of the civil law. But he did think that they should be compelled to pay in the same way as the law compels the payment of all other dues. Surely, if one portion of our fellow citizens ought to be compelled to pay, every other portion should.

…In his humble opinion, it was the bounden duty of every man to do all in his power to aid and support the government under which he lives, and to further the welfare of his fellow men. Every man who refused to do this ought not to be entitled to, and certainly was not worthy of, the protection of the government.…

The delegate from Allegheny had spoken of conscience as being a natural right. Now, he (Mr. Banks) did not understand it to be a natural right, but his belief was that conscience was a moral sense. If he was not mistaken, it was the celebrated Locke who said “Conscience is to the judgment what the understanding is to the will.” Somewhere else, too, he had read “what conscience dictates to be done or teaches not to do.” But in all governments — whether in the government of the United States, or any other well regulated government, as in that of Pennsylvania, inconveniences must be endured by the few for the benefit of the whole.

Nothing at all was sought to be imposed upon any portion of the Commonwealth which would not operate on all alike. Then why should we be asked to exclude the Quakers from the operation of a general law? Now, the gentleman from Allegheny, (Mr. Forward) and others, knew just as well as he did, that it would be wrong and unfair to grant any privilege to one body of men over another. He would ask the delegate from Allegheny whether he could, consistently with his sense of duty to the country, do any thing which should not induce every citizen, in the time of danger, to come forward and repel the foreign invader? No man, he believed, that had ever thought for one moment on the subject, could believe it. He might agree to it, in a time of peace, on account of the tender consciences of those who refuse to bear arms. He might agree to it, because the exigencies of the country are not such as to require that he should repair to the tented field. But money was no equivalent, in a time of war, to a man for risking his life. Would all the money that the Society of Friends could collect be any equivalent to me, (said Mr. B.) if I should lose my life in saving their property and persons? Would it be an equivalent to my wife and children if I should be so cut off from them? No such thing. And such would be the opinion of every properly constituted and correct mind.… No man who desired the perpetuation of the free institutions under which he had lived and been instructed, and which he ought to cherish as his life, would object to sacrifice some of his means and his comfort in order that military trainings might be kept up, so that in the hour of danger we should be the better prepared to defend our homes, our firesides, and our liberties.

Emanuel C. Reigart “resumed”:

The gentleman from Allegheny had referred to the Constitution of as giving greater privileges to those who scruple to bear arms than the present Constitution. The sixth section of the first chapter of the Declaration of the Rights to which he refers, provides that “every member of society has a right to be protected in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property; and therefore is bound to contribute to the expense of that protection and yield his personal service, when necessary, or an equivalent thereto.” This did not mean, in his opinion, an equivalent in money, but in personal service; so, in the next clause, it is declared that “no man who is conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms can be justly compelled thereto if he will pay such equivalent:” — that is, if he will furnish a substitute, who will render the personal service required of him, and who would fight the battles of the country in the manner in which a free citizen is expected to do. The new Constitution was more indulgent to the scruples of citizens than the old one, and it went so far as expressly to exonerate them from personal service in the militia on the payment of an equivalent in money. The same people now come to us and demand that they shall go scot free. We admitted liberty of conscience to be a natural right. The right claimed by the friends was that, being conscientiously scrupulous of shedding blood, they should be free from the burden of militia duty on paying an equivalent for it in time of peace. That was the extent of the right claimed. But if there was any principle of consistency in the claim, would it not extend also to time of war? The right of conscience, in this case, was limited to a conscientious scruple to shed blood in time of peace, but not upon an aversion to war. This inconsistency upset the whole of the argument which the gentleman from Allegheny, (Mr. Forward) in his able and ingenious speech, founded upon the freedom of conscience as a natural right. It was admitted that, in the emergencies of war, the right claimed for the scrupulous must yield to the necessity of the case, and in this view of the matter the whole question ended.

It was related in one of the histories of this Commonwealth that in James Amon, the founder of the sect called the Amonists, petitioned the proprietary government to be relieved from the payment of all taxes. He represented that he had no occasion for the aid of the courts nor of the civil power; that he had no suits, and no quarrels with anybody, and needed no protection. But the proprietary government said no. You are under the same protection of the government that every other citizen is and you must contribute your share of the tax levied for the support of the government. So here, in answer to the demand made upon us by the Friends, we say you must pay an equivalent. They reply, we will meet you half way. We will pay the equivalent in time of war if you will relieve us from it in time of peace.

The gentleman from Philadelphia asked what brought our ancestors here? It was a desire to enjoy freedom of conscience. They fled from the intolerance and bigotry of the old world, where they were persecuted like felons for the crime of worshipping God after their own consciences; there they were not permitted to enjoy any religious freedom. The two cases were not parallel. There they would gladly have paid an equivalent for the sake of enjoying their own mode of worship and their own religious opinions. They came to the wilds of America to get clear of religious restraint, and here they and their descendants, to this hour, are free to worship in their own way without any restraint. The only question was whether one portion of them should be exempted from the military taxation, while the other was not. It was the exclusive privileges of the old countries which was the cause of all their persecution and suffering, and the object of all their complaints and aversion. Carrying out the principles of the gentlemen from Allegheny they fall to the ground. The argument is over and the contention is over.

Let us see what other states have done on this subject. In Massachusetts, the Friends and others who were exempted from personal service in the militia pay an equivalent, and so every New England State except Maine. The Constitution of Tennessee has a remarkable expression in relation to this subject: “non-resistance,” it says, “is absurd.” That is the argument of the Constitution of Tennessee, and it is one that cannot be got over.…

James Merrill then tried to address the many criticisms of conscientious objection and of the reasonableness of legislators trying to respect it:

That freedom of conscience is the very foundation of our institutions, no one would doubt. It would be perceived by reference to almost every fundamental law, and to the proceedings of almost every public body. A strict observance of the rights of conscience was insisted upon by all the founders of our institutions. The very clause of the present Constitution which was now under debate recognized this principle. The third section of the ninth article of the same instrument was still more explicit. It declared that “no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” That was the declaration of , which was then authorized by the people of Pennsylvania, and had since been acted on for forty-seven years — that “no human authority can control the rights of conscience.” Is that true or is it not? Is this principle held and believed in Pennsylvania? I cannot doubt it.

One question arises, how far is the principle to be acquiesced in? — and another is, how far are those who profess conscientious scruples sincere in their professions? Though there had been no positive declarations that the Friends are insincere in their professions, yet there had been indications of distrust in their sincerity. On this point the question must rest. Do you believe that those who profess conscientious scruples are sincere? Who makes those scruples? What is their character and tenor of life? Are they men who would report one thing while they believed another? If they were sincere, then “no human power can interfere” with them. Then had these scruples been assumed to mean some bad and wicked purpose, or are those who profess them men of such character and deportment as to afford a guaranty of their sincerity? That there are men among them who may act from the paltry motive of advantage is probable; but does such a motive operate upon the whole sect? They are sober, quiet, industrious, and benevolent, and their mode of worship and belief holds out no allurements of any sort. Theirs is not a popular belief in this State. It never was, nor could it ever be, the popular and predominant mode of belief anywhere. Do you believe that those people have separated themselves from the popular belief for an interested motive? Would they make more money by it than by any other faith? No. Their belief was unpopular, and it was held against the sentiments of a vast majority of the people of the State. That was the strongest possible proof that we could have of their sincerity. Who professed their religion in early times for the sake of interest? Those who first began to profess it were persecuted to imprisonment and death. Are we to be told that they were not sincere? What better evidence can man give of his sincerity, than his willingness to stake his life and his reputation upon his professions? What evidence can we have of the sincerity of any political man, that is stronger than we have in this case? These scruples then being in sincerity entertained, our fundamental laws declare that “no human power can control” them. Are we now going to subvert this principle, and to say that the rights of conscience shall be protected only so far as suits our convenience? Shall we say that no one has a right to claim protection in matters of conscience; that his protection shall depend upon the discretion of the Legislature; that the rights of the minority shall be left to the decision of a fluctuating majority; and that every thing which the minority does shall be wrong, and every thing done by the majority shall be right? Can we not go a step further and invade personal rights and rights of property, with as much reason as we do those of conscience? If one be doomed to destruction, how long will it be before the other is offered up a sacrifice?

I believe, said Mr. Merrill, that the right of conscience is as sacred a right and as perfect a right as any other; while at the same time it is less capable of being protected, and more liable to abuse than any other. It is a perfect right and is to be enjoyed as we enjoy all other rights. In time of peace there should be full and free toleration of these scruples; in war, those who profess them and those who do not must share alike the common hazard. In this way, all will be put on a common footing. Every thing will be tolerated in peace; but in war, all must partake of the common burden and hazard. Is it not fair and proper that we should put this matter to the Friends in this way? They can ask no more; we can offer no less. I have no doubt, sir, said Mr. M. that the conscientious scruples of the Friends are as great in time of war as in peace; perhaps much greater; but we say to them that in that emergency you must partake with us in the common danger.

The gentleman from Susquehanna says that granting them this is putting them on a different footing from our other citizens. This he denied. He had no idea of placing them on a different footing, and did not ask it, and he would not grant it. He would tell them that in time of peace, their conscientious scruples should be regarded; but in time of war, he would tell them that they had a stake in the community, and that they must help to maintain it, or lose it: he would tell them that they received equal protection with all other citizens, and they must return equal services to the country; therefore, this was only securing equal and exact justice to all our fellow citizens. Then, if the scruples of these people are honest and sincere, which none can doubt, we will regard them when the exigencies of the country does not require their services. Could we do less than this? He thought every consideration demanded this of us. They at one time were the inheritors of this land, and they practised toleration to all mankind; we are now in the majority and we ought to practise toleration to them — they had a right to expect this. When they were in the majority in this State, they might have excluded the Presbyterians and Lutherans and other religious sects, but they did not do this. We came here by their indulgence in the first place, perhaps by their invitation, he did not know, but we enjoyed their indulgence and their protection, and now when we are in the ascendancy, we should practice the same kind of toleration to them.

He was sorry to hear the truth and sincerity of the professions of these people doubted. The first doubt in relation to their conscientious scruples was raised by the gentleman from Luzerne, (Mr. Woodward.) He could not understand the conscientious scruples of the Society of Friends — they were totally incomprehensible to him. Why, other men may not understand his conscientious scruples; and does he expect all other men to give way to him. Certainly not. He does not allow his word to be doubted in relation to any matter — why then does he doubt the word of others when they tell him they have conscientious scruples. But he does not understand their conscientious scruples, therefore, he would allow them no liberty at all. Why, where would this thing lead us to if carried out. The king of Babylon could not understand Daniel’s conscientious scruples; He could not see the necessity of any man’s praying three times a day — and therefore he threw Daniel into the lion’s den. Charles the Fifth could not understand the conscientious scruples of Martin Luther. Henry the Eighth could not understand anybody’s conscientious scruples who did not profess the same faith with himself, let that be what it might; and the government of England at one time could not understand any man’s conscientious scruples who would not contribute to their church; and how many ministers were sacrificed, and how much ruin was brought upon that country, because many individuals would not conform to this doctrine. He might not be able to make the Quakers understand why he preferred the Presbyterian church or the Lutheran church to theirs. You, Mr. Chairman, might not be able to make the Episcopalians understand why you preferred the Presbyterian church, but that did not say that his doctrine was any the less correct, because they could not understand it. His duty was a matter with his own conscience, and he was not to be controlled or driven from his belief because others could not understand it. Again, gentlemen might recollect that in Scotland, Knox and a large portion of the reformers of that day wished to appropriate certain lands to the education of the children of the kingdom — but those in the possession of them could not understand any such doctrines, so they divided them among themselves. The laws of England required every man to pay tithe for the support of the established church, and the rulers of that country could not understand the consciences of any person who was not willing to do this. They must pay tithes to a church which they never enter. Suppose such a law was to be passed in this country, would not gentlemen have conscientious scruples about paying it? Would not they ask to be relieved from this burden? There would be no difficulty then in understanding where gentlemen’s consciences were. All he asked then of gentlemen now, was to do what they would expect to receive under similar circumstances.

Let us go one step further. If conscience is a thing that is to be judged of by other men, those who are least informed and take least pains to examine into matters of conscience are to be the judges: and those who take great pains to come to right conclusions, are to be the victims. All any man has to say is that he don’t understand another man’s conscience, and on this principle you can justify every persecution which has ever been practised in the world. Are we to follow the example of the dark ages of Europe, or are we to be governed by the light of modern reform? Are we to go back to those ages when no man could understand the conscience of those who did not believe with him, or are we to practice upon the blessed doctrine of toleration to all? It is right and proper that every man should be left to judge for himself in relation to conscience; and if gentlemen who could not understand the consciences of others would examine their own breasts, they would see that this should be the case. It was to be observed that they who had but little sympathy for other men’s consciences, had generally a very great determination to stand by their own and not yield it up to any person or on any occasions. The Presbyterians, when the attempt was made to force Episcopacy upon them, were most strenuous in resisting it. Their consciences would not permit of their receiving the doctrine; they could not come to the same conclusion, and they rejected the doctrine. This matter then, of judging of the consciences of men, is a dangerous matter, for it will always happen that the less informed, the more ignorant, and those who have never taken any pains to inquire into the scruples of conscience, will be the judges.

It has been objected to this amendment, that it will raise up privileged classes and create inequalities in society, and that we must not make exemptions from a general law. Why, there are more exemptions now from this militia law than any other general law in the State; all who are over forty-five years are exempted; all who have served seven years in a volunteer corps are exempted; and men are exempted by name or title. Judges of courts, ministers of the Gospel, justices of the peace, postmasters, and others are exempted. Then this argument that there must be no exemption from general law went for nothing.

He wished now to say a word with regard to the cry “exemption from taxes” which are levied for the support of the government. Now it was easy to call every thing by a name, but he wanted to have every thing called by its right name. Moneys demanded and collected from men for a failure to perform certain duties was not a tax, it could not be looked upon as a tax. It was declared in the law to be a fine, and to turn round and say it was a tax, and say that the Friends ought not to be excused from paying this fine because it was a tax, was a perversion of terms. It was wholly absurd to call these fines a tax. It is true that both take money from the purse, and in this light alone could it be viewed as a tax. But were they both for the same object? No sir; one is in aid of the government, and the other is a penalty for a delinquency in the performance of certain duties. It was nothing more nor less than what it professed to be, a fine.

Now he would ask whether by any implication in the world there was any ground to suppose that when conscience would not allow a man to do one thing, it would allow him to do another in precisely the same form. He could see no reason for any such supposition. He himself had none of these conscientious scruples, nor did he know that he had a half dozen of constituents who had; or who desired this change to be made; but he desired to grant the Friends this right. He had no doubt that they had conscientious scruples; it was not to be doubted by any one — no man could doubt it. Do you suppose if they had no conscientious scruples about paying an equivalent for personal service, that they would allow their property to be levied upon to pay this fine? Would they allow their most necessary furniture to be taken and sold? Would they allow such men as the collector of fines referred to by the gentleman from the city, (Mr. Cope) to enter their houses and take away their property when they had the money in their pockets to pay the fine? Would they subject themselves to the scoffs of ruffians if they were not conscientiously scrupulous against paying this equivalent? It was not to be doubted then for a moment that they were sincere in their pretensions. All their acts prove it, and we have not the least room to doubt it.

He then asked gentlemen to consider this matter solemnly and seriously, and endeavor to remove all prejudices from their minds, before they give their votes. He would ask the gentlemen to examine themselves and see if they were not acting on this matter from some selfish consideration; whether it was not possible that some political feeling, some old grudge, something which may have existed in their minds for years, might improperly influence them in this matter. He would ask gentlemen to view this question in all its bearings, and examine well the danger of disregarding the right of conscience. If we do not hold the right of conscience sacred, we have nothing to recommend our institutions to the oppressed of other nations. On it rests our only hope, and if it is given up, there is nothing in our institutions worth preserving. It is a sacred right and must be held sacred by the freemen of America, if we would recommend republican institutions to the rest of the world.

Find Out More!

For more information on the topic or topics below (organized as “topic → subtopic → sub-subtopic”), click on any of the ♦ symbols to see other pages on this site that cover the topic. Or browse the site’s topic index at the “Outline” page.