June 1830 — Bowery Theatre, New York City
[The Declaration of Independence lies open beside the speaker throughout the speech.]
THINGS move fast in a new world. The human mind, once launched, shoots like a ray of the living sun in a free country. One short year of preparation, and the people of this city are already in action. What say I — of this city? The nation stirs through all its commonwealths; and suggestions, which but yesterday passed for the dreams of enthusiasm, promise ere long to assume the shape and substance of realities.
And it was time for America to give evidence to the world of her advancement in civilization. It was time for her to exercise the high privileges she possessed over the rest of the nations. She owed it to herself, and she owed it to the human race, to exhibit once more in healthy action, that moral energy she displayed in her revolution, and which her free institutions should have nurtured and purified, not quelled and perverted.
After a sleep of many years, this nation awakes to a knowledge of its powers, and a consciousness of its responsibility. The present will count as an epoch, not in the annals of this country alone, but in those of human civilization. Reform once started here, it will make the tour of the globe, and Americans, who have been hitherto known in the ports of trade as gamblers and speculators. will be the heralds of knowledge and virtue to all the people of the earth.
Such is the high destiny this nation was called to fill, when, in its Areopagus of sages, the equal rights of human kind were proclaimed to a startled world. I turn, fellow citizens! to the instrument of your independence, and I see that you stand sponsors for the human race; I look around on the face of the land, and I see the pledge about to be remembered and fulfilled.
And more than I have read in the signs of the times this augury. More than I have distinguished that the ear of the popular minds is open. and its eye bent on the searching out of all hidden things. Yes! we are told in these days by enemies no less than friends, that “the design exists to subvert the present order of things.” Such is the cry raised by every short-sighted office-holder and office-hunter, and echoed by every knave throughout the corrupt ranks of society. But woe to the evil-minded! the kindling patriot and the righteous reformer echo back to the panders of corruption, the cry of their own raising. It is returned to their ear, not in the note of alarm, but in that of exultation. “The present order of things” is weighed in the balance of public opinion and found wanting, and the free people of this city, and this commonwealth, have sworn to subvert it. And who are they that would challenge the pledge? You shall find them in our pulpits of sloth and of slander, in our colleges of exclusion, in our banks of dishonesty, in our law courts of extortion, in our legislatures of special pleading, in all and every of those anti-American institutions invented or perverted to favour the pretensions of the few, and to crush down the rights of the many.
Yes! I for one will admit the charge, and admit it in the name of a daily increasing mass of reflecting citizens. “The design does exist to subvert the present order of things.” But how? Here is the question whose answer is fraught with alarm, or with peace and security. Let our priests and our missionaries, our stock-jobbers and place-hunters, our ring-leaders of faction, and their worthy tools, the hirelings of a venal press — let those solve the question, by what means and to what end the present order of things is to be changed, and they will answer, with the fool in his folly, by the preaching of infidels to the massacre of christians, and the confiscation of their houses and furniture. But let us ask the peaceful citizen, how he anticipates a change in the face of society, and he will say, by the substitution of practical inquiry forspiritual dreamings, which shall lead to the gradual detection and correction of abuses, and to the adoption of such measures for the training of youth as shall absolve future generations from the errors of the present.
In the simple answer of the peaceful citizen, what is there to apprehend? Nothing for the honest man. every thing for the knave. I say every thing for the knave. — I mean every thing according to the false calculations induced by habits of dishonest speculation.
It is not that wholesome reform would in reality be injurious to any. One man’s loss ought not in reason to be another’s gain: would not, in fact, be another’s gain, if men were only trained in similar habits, and with similar feelings. This they are not; and, because they are not, are their interests ever at variance, and their mental sight but too often blinded to those true and natural interests which point to other motives of action, and to a more just organization of society.
Yet however obvious the evils in our present motives and practice — in our present systems of trade and of law, in the multitude of false employments, and in the excessive competition which so frequently threatens with ruin all employments, the honest as the dishonest. — However obvious these evils, and however opposed to the true interests of all classes and all individuals, it were idle to expect all classes and individuals to co-operate in their correction. Convince the reason, and habit would run counter still. The gambler, how often soever the game may run against him, will still haunt the board which tempts with one chance of gain against a thousand chances of ruin. The speculator, rather than seek a moderate and unfluctuating profit, will risk bankruptcy and starvation in sight of a bare possibility of seizing upon uncertain wealth. The vain man, blinded by a false education to real honour and dignity, will prefer an uneasy conscience and mean dependence, to honest, but, unhappily, despised labour; and even genius will ambition paltry distinctions, the trappings and profits of office, rather than the high consciousness of advancing the public weal.
How salutary then soever reform may be, many will there be found to oppose it. Corruptions of old growth are dear to those who have grown old with them; and, as all reformers have seen, so see we at the present hour, that the misguided partizans of error will cling to the false, anti-social, and anti-American fabric, raised on the noble foundation laid by the fathers of this people, until it crumble to dust before the magic influence of a more enlightened public opinion, and give place, in a new generation, to an edifice truly American, the pillars of which shall rest on republican education, and its walls shall embrace a nation of freemen, equal in knowledge, in rights, in duties, and in condition.
Such is the change “in the present order of things,” the reformers of the present day have dared to anticipate; the people of this city and commonwealth have sworn to effect, and the American nation will be found ready to imitate. No other than a change thus peaceful has been proposed; no other than a change thus gradual could be feasible, and no less than a change thus radical can effect the practical development of American principles.
Upwards of half a century these principles have claimed the love of this people and the admiration of the world. Upwards of half a century has “Liberty and Equality” been the motto of this nation. Upwards of half a century has this motto existed in words, these principles in theory; and now that the people have resolved the practical development of the same, we hear them, at this hour, in this city, denounced as visionary, impeached as iniquitous, and their advocates and vindicators blasphemed as incendiaries and infidels!
Is it come to this? Has treason gone so far in this land, for EQUALITY to be denounced as a dream of enthusiasts, an innovation of foreigners, and a doctrine of Marats and Robespierres? Fathers of this nation! well are ye asleep in your graves! By the sword of Washington, by the wisdom of Franklin, by the honest democracy of Jefferson, it is time for Americans to arouse, and to vindicate the words of this charter!
Fellow citizens! the season is arrived when what is here set forth as abstract truth, must be referred to with a view to practice. The equal rights of human beings are here proclaimed self-evident to reason, inherent in the nature of things, and inalienable in justice. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, stand particularized among the equal, inherent, and inalienable rights held in virtue of our existence.
Wisely did the framers of this instrument declare these truths self-evident: for he to whose intellect and moral feelings they speak not at once, convincingly, unanswerably, has been perverted by sophistry and corrupted by false habits and example beyond the reach of argument or the persuasion of eloquence. These moral truths speak to the mind, as physical truths to the eye. They speak alike to the child, the savage, and the sage; the blind and heartless advocates of the past and “present order of things,” as existing in what is unblushingly termed civilized society, can alone resist their force, or question their universality.
The truths here set forth as self-evident ¾ for which the blood of patriots has been shed, and to which the honour of the dead and the living has been pledged or is pledged ¾ these truths self-evident involve all that the sage ever pictured, or the philanthropist desired. In the equal rights of all to life, liberty, and happiness, lies the sum of human good. Let us pause, fellow citizens! on the words, and see what is required for their fulfilment.
Life. Respected as it is in this land, compared to all other lands beside, our laws still sanction homicide — enforcing the decree of an ignorant and cruel superstition, “blood for blood.”
Liberty. Fresh and ever gathering in strength as she dwells under the shadow of this charter, how trammelled as yet are her young limbs and her glorious mind! Still bigotry challenges her thoughts, and prejudice her actions. Still sex, and sect, and class, and colour, furnish pretences, for limiting her range, and violating her purity!
Happiness! Alas! where is it on the face of the earth? Who pursues that whose pursuit is here guaranteed to all? Every one or none. Every one, if we listen to the vague assertions of men; none, if we look to their actions. Happiness enters not even into human calculation. Man has placed his time, and his labour, and the fruits of his labour, and his pleasures, and his affections, yea! even his honour and his liberty, at the mercy of gold. From youth to age he sees but money; and, in pursuing it, pursues the shadow of a shade.
Yet, to secure these our equal rights, we read that “government is instituted among men.” Is it so? What has government done up to this hour towards securing the equal rights and equal happiness of our race? You will say it has done much m these United States.
Fellow citizens! Permit me the remark, and reflect ere you pronounce it erroneous. Government, even in this land, blessed above all others ¾ government, even here, has favoured unless by what it has done, than by what it has not done. In the declaration of rights, which limits its powers, find we the source of all the good we possess over other nations. Restrained behind the bulwark of prohibitory constitutional decrees, government here has established no throne, installed no aristocracy, armed no church dominant and militant, erected no hereditary power, sanctioned no hereditary honours, instituted no secret tribunals, effected no arbitrary arrests, imagined no constructive treason, ejected no exiles and aliens, revenged no assaults of the tongue, or even libels of the pen — or, if ever it attempted aught or any of such transatlantic violations of this charter of a new world, Jefferson s were found to sound the alarm, and a nation to stir at the call.*
Thanks, then, to the restrictive constitutional provisions which sprang out of this charter, American government has steered clear of violence. Time is it also, that it should steer clear of corruption, and apply itself actively to the purpose for which we here read it to have been instituted ¾ the development and protection of the equal rights, together with the promotion of the equal happiness, of each member of the human family.
I may not now investigate the object, end, and duties of government in detail. Circumstances will not at the present time permit to me this labour, nor are we, moreover, advanced to that stage of action, when from the truths discoverable in the investigation, it could be useful to deduce all their practical consequences. Our object at all times should be, not merely to develope truth, but to develope it with method and in order. This necessary precaution has been ever too much lost sight of by reformers, who, in consequence, hurrying forward in argument ahead of the popular judgment, impel to measures before their motives are duly weighed, and their results duly calculated — thus producing change rather than reform, advancing only afterwards to retrograde, and, by creating confusion, giving opportunity to the evil-minded to excite disorder and even to provoke to violence.
I observed in a former discourse, that numerous are the topics which a prudent people (and such I conceive the American people to be) will leave to an era more advanced, and a generation more wise than the present. To prepare for that better era, and to model that wiser generation, is our duty; and a worthier, a nobler, a more sublime, never fell, nor ever will fall, to the lot of any. To speculate beyond what we can execute is folly; in these days it is worse — it is madness. So much lies within our reach ¾ so much challenges our attention ¾ so many lets and hinderances have to be removed from our path before we can make one effective step in advance, that for us, my
fellow citizens! to be dreaming about all the probable or possible governmental regulations, or modes of social life which may hereafter be adopted by our race, were but to lower our understandings to the level of spiritual enthusiasts, who, while walking on the earth, have their imaginations in the stars.
I would not, however, be understood to mean, that, while limiting our progress, coolly and firmly, to one step at a time, we should not examine in what course and to what final goal that step is to lead. I would not counsel that in bringing our united power to bear upon one measure, we should not consider well the general result we intend that measure to produce. I am not for walking myself, nor for having others walk, in the dark. This would be well were we treading the path of error; but, on entering that of truth, we must have an open eye, and an awakened mind. If prudence require that we move slowly therein, dignity and good sense demand that we move fearlessly. To move thus we must see the road before us, and distinguish the final object it is our ambition to attain.
What is then that object, my friends? What is the purpose of our souls? When we speak of reform, what hope we to produce? The universal improvement of our human condition. When we bend our minds and efforts to the great measure of a republican system of education, what do we intend to effect? The equalization of our human condition; the annihilation of all arbitrary distinctions; the substitution of the simple character of human beings for that of all others — the honourable title of American citizen, for that of all the silly and mischievous epithets introduced by sectarian superstition and anti-social prejudice, to the confounding of our understandings, the corrupting of our feelings, the depraving of our habits, and the subversion of our noble institutions.
I said that our object was at once the equalization and the universal improvement of our common condition. It is necessary to bear this two-fold specification in view, as otherwise, it may convey alarm to many, and false impressions to all.
Under the existing arrangements of society — the misapplication of human labour, devoted by more than one half to what is useless or mischievous, and rewarded, not only unequally and arbitrarily, but in a ratio inverse to its utility — the misapplication also of machinery acting, at the time present, nor to the relief but to the oppression of the human labourer — the false operation of money, as now in use, laying ever at the mercy of the holder of specie or its paper representative, the real wealth of society — namely, the productions of human industry. — Under such and other existing circumstances, to speak of equalizing the general condition excites vague apprehensions on the part of the more favoured classes, that benefit is intended to the mass, at expense of injury to individuals.
True it is that we might here demand, where, under “the present order of things,” however panegyrised by the dishonest or unreflecting, where is there a class truly favoured? where even an individual who feels himself securely happy, and placed beyond the reach of worldly disaster or reverses? But we are not reduced to any begging of the question. Let men construe as they will the advantages or disadvantages of their peculiar class, profession, or position, I would say to all, that poor indeed were the reform which should lower any, that only can be reform which should raise all.
I do not speak here of worldly fortunes, such as Rothchild’s or Gerard’s. I do not consider any individual as intrinsically happier for a wealth beyond human ingenuity to employ, nor have my observations regard to any such extreme, and fortunately in this country, rare cases. Undoubtedly the social regulations of a wise generation would render impossible the accumulation of inordinate wealth, not indeed by prohibitory statutes, but by the abrogation of all unequal privileges, the absence of all false stimuli, and, above all, by the spread of sound knowledge, the universality of just habits, and the consequent moderation of human desires, and greater moral elevation of human ambition.
But if I do imagine that an improved state of society would present us with no inordinate fortunes, I feel equally satisfied, that it must present us with universal ease, comfort, and security. The equalization of human condition, as ambitioned by philanthropy, or, say but common sense, cannot surely presuppose the disturbing the happy, but the comforting the wretched; not the depriving any of real advantages, but the extending and securing every possible advantage to all.
But how is this to be effected? will be hastily asked. Certainly not by wresting violently the possessions of some to bestow them upon others, or to divide them among all. Certainly not by upsetting the frame of society which surrounds us, and hastily patching up another out of its ruins. Certainly not by lessening any of the securities, already too few and too weak, by which property is held at this hour, and individual rights and enjoyments, even such as we see them, are secured. The universal improvement of our condition, can only be effected by creating new and more certain securities than any up to this hour known among men. The greatest evil now existing in society is the want of security ¾ the uncertainty to which the tenure of all property, and the fluctuations to which the value of all property is subjected. Could any community, or any portion of a community, not afflicted with confluent madness, propose for object the increase of the very evils which make our curse at the present hour? Could any people, accustomed even to the forms of law, not to speak of justice, be brought to plan and execute the subversion of the very principles it is most for their common interest to respect, the outrage of the very feelings it is most for their honour, and their peace, and their welfare, to cultivate? Individuals, biassed by peculiar circumstances, or excited by a false education, or secluded habits, to speculate rather than to reason, or to reason in the absence of sufficient observation, may indeed shape in their fancy, motives of action at war with all the principles of the human mind, and a state of things as opposed to reason as what we see around us with novelty superadded to render the proposed substitute more insupportable. Certainly individuals may be found, and ever have been found, to advance unwise propositions, and to support the same by unsound arguments. But what then? have we not as good a right to reject as others to make them? What necessity is there for our adopting, either in our individual or national capacity, the proposals of any one, even should the proposals be wise, let alone their being foolish? Or what probability is there of our adopting collectively what is hostile to the habits and feelings of all individually? Truly the alarmists of the present day must themselves perceive something very attractive in the proposal for a national auction of all the lands of the state, and all the goods and chattels of its citizens, to apprehend its adoption by the people of the New-York commonwealth. Or is it only that they consider the understandings of America’s citizens unequal to the distinguishing truth from error, the just from the unjust, the useful from the mischievous? Verily it is not they who cover our city walls, and disturb our public meetings with the senseless cries of “infidelity and agrarianism,” whom we shall authorize to take the measure of the popular intellect, albeit they have had some opportunity of estimating the popular forbearance!
But no! neither the one nor the other suspicion has originated these shouts of Babel among the scouts and whippers-in of corruption. They well know the zeal and righteous purpose which their plots and cries are impotently devised to hide and to drown; and well they know too, that the people of this city and commonwealth see to distinguish and prefer wise measures from foolish, and are bent upon distinguishing and preferring honest servants from rouges. No! our intriguers, political or spiritual, are not blind to the true dangers of the hour. They know that the danger is to hypocrisy not to virtue, to party not to patriotism, to fraud not to industry, to speculation not to property. They know what is threatened by the quickening spirit of a reviving people — even the party-jobbing, intrigue, and corruption, which have made of this city a by-word in the land, and sent, through the foul conduit of the foulest press which ever libelled a nation in the eyes of the world, the rank steam of political iniquity, forth to the ports of distant empires, blasting the fair fame of a free people where most, for the honour of liberty and the weal of the human race, it should shine resplendent, even in the courts of kingly pride and garrisons of military power.
No! the partizans of corruption are neither ignorant themselves nor deem their fellow citizens ignorant of the true object of reformers at this hour, although I deem they have nourished the hope of frightening them into a temporary disclaiming of their object, through fear of seeing it confounded with the crude schemes and ill digested arguments of Thomas Skid more in the columns of the Courier and Inquirer. But let them despair of their hope. Our object is not too righteous, but, in this land, too constitutional, to require concealment or apology. Our object, however harsh it may sound in the ear of the spoiled child of fashion or pretension, (alas! that such should be found within the pale of this democracy,) will ever be dear to a heart truly American, whether it beat in the breast of a rich man or a poor. Our object, however reviled by false ambition, odious to knavery, offensive to vanity, or misconceived of by error, will ever be recognised by the great mass of this people as consistent with their national institutions, and as requisite for the practical development of the truths set forth in their declaration of independence. No! we shall not be driven to deny, nor seduced to qualify, the object, to which, as to the ultimate goal of reform, we, as Americans, are constitutionally pledged to aspire. That object — that ultimate goal is, as I have said, practical equality, or, the universal and equal improvement of the condition of all, until, by the gradual change in the views and habits of men, and the change consequent upon the same, in the whole social arrangements of the body politic, the American people shall present, in another generation, but one class, and, as it werebut one family — each independent in his and her own thoughts, actions, rights, person, and possessions, and allcooperating, according to their individual taste and ability, to the promotion of the common weal.
Taking this comprehensive view of all that is embraced in our ultimate object, every intelligent mind will distinguish that it is not attainable in this generation, and that all we can do, (though this all is immense,) is to exercise our own minds, and school our own feelings, in and by its contemplation, to correct such abuses as more immediately tend to exalt, at the present time, individuals or bodies of men at the expense of the mass of the community and, first and last, and above all, to prepare the way for the entire fulfilment of what I conceive to constitute the one great constitutional duty of Americans — namely, the equal promotion of the happiness of all, by laying the foundation of a plan of education in unison with nature, with reason, with justice, and with THIS INSTRUMENT.
Such then is our ultimate object, and let us boldly declare it; such are the means — gradual and constitutional, but sure and radical, by which we propose that object to be obtained. Such is our ultimate object, and let those who challenge it forego the name, even as they have foresworn the feelings of Americans. Such are the means we stand ready to adopt, and let those who blaspheme them forego the title even as they have foresworn the principles of honest men. Here — in our design or in the mode laid down for effecting that design, there is nothing to conceal, and nothing to concede or to extenuate. I will take on me to speak, in this matter, in the name of my fellow citizens — constitutional is our object, righteous our means, and determined our resolve. We have no fear, no doubt, no hesitation, and no concealment. Why should we have? thought here is free, speech is free, and all action free, which has in view our own benefit, combined with the benefit of our fellow man.
Behold, we have every advantage with us, which, as honest citizens, or as reasonable beings, we could ambition — a righteous object, a constitutional object, and an object feasible without violence to any, and with certain benefit to all. In Europe, the reformer, how expanded soever his mind, or generous his heart, may indeed hesitate to express the fulness of his desire. Liberty and equality there, is a cry whose very thought is treason, and its utterance death; but here, treason lies only in its challenge. How then should there be a point at issue with American reformers? All true and honest citizens must, upon reflection, have the same object — for, behold! it is engraven on their national escutcheon — it is engraven in never dying letters, in this holy bible of their country’s faith, their country’s hope, their country’s love. To commence the practical illustration of the truths proclaimed to the world by the fathers of this nation’s liberties, is what we ask at this day — no more could human philanthropy desire, no less could American patriotism demand.
For myself, I feel proud to declare, that no less perfect and entire is the democracy of my views and principles, than what by this charter is demanded of an American citizen: and, had I felt it otherwise, I had not claimed the noble title. I would see the righteous declaration here penned by Jefferson, signed by sages, sealed with the blood of the fathers of this nation, and solemnly sworn to by their sons on each anniversary of its birth. — I would — what shall I say? see its realization? That cannot be. But see such measures adopted as shall secure its realization for posterity, to the fullest extent ever conceived or conceivable by the human mind. Yes! my democracy has no reservations; my yearnings for the liberty of man acknowledge no exceptions, no prejudices, no predilections. Equal rights, equal privileges, equal enjoyments — I would see them shared by every man, by every woman, by every nation, by every race on the face of the globe. But, as I distinguish that equal rights must originate in equal condition, so do I also distinguish that equal condition must originate in equal knowledge, and that sound knowledge; in similar habits, and those good habits; in brotherly sympathies, and those fostered from youth under a system of RATIONAL AND NATIONAL REPUBLICATION EDUCATION.
I have now broadly stated the ultimate object of reformers at this hour. I have admitted it to be the gradual but effectual attainment of equality in rights, privileges, and opportunities, for the pursuit of happiness. They who assert such equality to exist at the present time, are blind to all facts, or wantonly trifle with words; and they who imagine such equality attainable by any other process than that of a just and similar training of the thoughts, feelings, and habits of human beings, in youth, distinguish not the nature of existing errors, nor have a conception of what is requisite for their reform. As they who would fell a tree must strike at the root, so they who would rectify the practice of men, must dive to the springs of action, which are in the mind. True it is — most lamentably true, that change may be impelled, even as it may be prevented, by compulsion; but reform, that is, wise and lasting change, can only be wrought by conviction. Theorists may dream dreams, tyrants may issue edicts, legislators may enact statutes, but wise education alone, by awakening just views, and forming just habits, can produce a rational and really republican state of society.
What may be the measures adopted by a generation nurtured as equals under the wings of their country, it is not for us to say; but of this I am persuaded — that no measure will by them be adopted, but with the common consent of all. The feelings even of the minority on any question will then be consulted, and co-operation rather waited for than enforced. New motives of action will then originate in the human breast, new circumstances will gently arise in and around those young nurseries of freedom, such as lofty minds and pure hearts can picture, but which to speak of now would be but to theorize.
Yet, while declining myself, and recommending to others to refrain from idly recounting our dreams of earthly futurity, as certain to occasion dispute as those so long encouraged respecting the futurity of a heaven, I would fain enter my protest against all challenge of the liberties of those who choose to forestall time and circumstance, to advance false arguments, to propose wild measures, or even to harangue, if such could be found, in favour of crime and confusion. Under the blessed institutions of this country, and favoured by that habit of reflection and spirit of forbearance which they have generated, we need never apprehend evil from boundless liberty of speech and of the press. Let all who will, speculate, and publish their speculations. Let all who choose, advocate rash measures, or wrong measures, or prudent measures, or wise. This is no country for error to make proselytes when Truth is in the field; nor is this a country where challenge can be given to human rights in any case, without shaking the pillars of its constitution. The whole fabric of American government is based upon confidence in human reason — that is, in the capacity of man to distinguish between what is for his good and what for his evil, when both are fairly presented to his mind.
In full confidence in this his capacity have I spoken; and, though I have dared much, and of course, something encountered from the wrath of incensed parties and misguided individuals, I feel at this hour my confidence strengthened, not only in the truth, but in the final triumph of the principles, of which I have been a zealous, and, I feel, an honest advocate. The task then, thus far, has not been thankless, if it has been arduous; and, though in its execution I should have offended many, perhaps even they may live to render justice to my intentions, or, what were far better, if truth be on my side, to approach more nearly to my views. This only will I say, that I have assailed what I believe abuses; that I have advocated equal rights in place of unequal privileges, appealed to fact from faith, to reason from credulity, to justice from law, to virtue from prejudice, to the ever-during principles of the inner mind from the changing and fleeting forms of ceremony and superstition, and, bear witness, fellow citizens! from the unconstitutional and anti-republican divisions of sect, class, and party, as existing around us, to this sacred charter of the common rights of equal freemen and American citizens. Oft have I appealed to this charter, and never without reverence; nor without reverence this night I claim it for the text book of all my heresies, the authority for all my suggestions, and the warrant for all my confidence. On this — the first sure anchor of moral truth — the only inspired scripture, written for human kind, and destined to be acknowledged by all nations — on this may the reformer build his hopes as on the rock of ages, on this have I builded mine, on this must all Americans build theirs.
And now, my fellow citizens! after two years of public exertion in a work I have believed righteous, and called for by the accumulated corruptions and errors which had gathered in and around our social edifice, I feel warned, for a season, to retire. The people are now awake to their own interests. They have taken the cause of reform into their own hands; and the same boldness which, when they slumbered, I was encouraged to assume, would now appear to me as presumptuous as it has, perhaps at all times, appeared to others. But this is not all. The unwarrantable use made of my name by the abettors of old abuses, during and since the period of the last elections, would alone determine me to remove this poor pretext for party cries and appeals to old prejudices. It is not enough for the people of this city to know that they are rallied around principles and not individuals; the same must be known to the nations at large and, as soon as may be to the world. So long as I alone was concerned, the noise of priest and politician was alike indifferent to me, but I wish not my name to be made a scarecrow to the timid, or a stumbling-block to the innocently prejudiced, at a season when all should unite round the altar of their country, with its name only in their mouths, and its love in their hearts. For these motives, which I trust my fellow citizens will appreciate, I shall take the present season for attention to some more private interests of my own, and shortly leave this city and the country for a few months, not to return, until after the decision of the autumnal elections.
Source: Course of Popular Lectures, With Three Addresses, or Various Public Occasions, and a Reply to the Charges Against the French Reformers of 1789, by Frances Wright (London: Watson, Printer) c. 1828, pp. 206-220.