. A .

    “A Rational Christian”

    “From the Woods”         23 November 1785

    To Mr. I. O1

    Not being able to discover any any natural or moral connection between the Civil Government of a State making no encouragement or Support of Divine Worship and its Destruction I cannot think it eit[her] impertinent or unfair, however [diff]icult it may be, to call on you to point out some State or Kingdom whose Ruin sprang out was owing to its not having made provision for the Worship of God in its Civil Constitution or some other evidence of that matter. Your Criticism on the two first sentences of the peace from the Woods I look upon rather as an evasive Quibble to get over a difficulty than as containing any real contradiction in the sense of the piece—

    Were it a truth as your favorite Author asserts2 that no people can long subsist in a State of freedom & happiness unless they provide for the public Worship of God in their Civil Constitution—I look on it as a very important truth indeed—And what most essentially concerns a people to be acquainted with—and which, I should suppose, it would be capable of being made plain, to a mind open to conviction, in some manner or other—It might be expected to admit of an historical demonstration from the Governments that have brought on their own Ruin by this essential defect in their not providing for the public Worship of the Deity in their civil Constitution Constitution—or would admit that degree some other kind of moral proof which is always satisfactory, drawn from the nature of man & his implanted powers, & their effects in particular combinations

    Truths are either self evident—or such as are tho not at first discovered by the mind but are capable of being made clear by some kind of proof, of which there are various kinds, each adapted to its proper Subject—Therefore when I requested you to point out some State or Kingdom that had lost its freedom & by reason of its not having incorporating the Worship of God &c in its civil Constitution I thought it a kind of proof that might be expected in the case—tho not the only kind the nature of the case subject would admit And were it a real truth as that Writer lais it down I confessed myself ignorant of what was there laid down for truth—and by the Query—I wished for information—And I did not know but in some period of the World within the reach of History, and among the great variety of States that have been dissolved in Ruin, & amongst the multiplicity of causes conspiring thereto, some one at least might be pointed out wherein the people had neglected to provide for public Worship in their civil Constitution, by Reason whereof, by & the operation of moral causes acting as invariable as natural, their Destruction inevitably followed—

    This being done, tho in one instance only, it would, as I observed before, be one step on a firm basis to the establishment of your the Position—And go very far in convincing me of the propriety & justice of the Civil Constitution comprehending & enjoining some public mode of Worshiping the Deity3

    Truth needs not Sophisms to support her cause—nor Government recommending propositions to go out of itself to keep a proper controul over the excesses of the passions of men—as one will always support itself, so the other may ever be effected without hunting in the Regions of eternity for Restraints on the passions of Human Nature4—Hence Moses, whom Divines allow to be a wise is generally acknowledged to have been no unskillfull Legislator never went beyond the natural objects of that world for Rewards & punishments for peoples Conduct—And Jesus Christ expressly said his Kingdom was not of this world—

    Since the happiness of individuals of a Community is for the most part equally affected by the mode of Government established over them—it is equally the Right, perhaps, a duty of every subject to express their sentiments on the Laws that are from time to time enacted to regulate their Conduct & property—And however various may be their sentiments upon the same matter common Charity forbids the censuring or Ridiculing each others opinions at the same time, it allows a free discussion on the principles of Reason & good Pollicy—Among the various pieces that have of late appeared in support of the Laws & Constitution of a State intermeddling in matters of Religion—the piece patronised presented by Mr. I.O. intitled Religion patronised by Government, appears the most exceptionable—It is made up [of] general assertions5 & unmeaning propositions whose truth are by no means apparent to the comprehension of Readers in general—and calculated to mislead them & in confirming early prejudice than enlighten their understanding. &

    In order to shew the necessity of Government having much to do with Religion, it is asked what would be the consequence if all Laws against injustice, fraud, perjury, profaneness, theft, drunkenness &c were abolished and men were left to pursue without controul the dictates of their own lusts. Could Society subsist? And because he supposes every body must at first thought answer in the negative—he readily concludes that the same answer must be given to the question when it relates to Laws made in support of a Sabbath and6 public Worship—which is too manifestly beging the question in debate—to need a confutation—And let it be observed that although public Worship may be a direct means of preventing vice & Immorality when it is observed as it was originally among the primitive Christians voluntarily & without the interposition of the civil Authority it does not follow that it would have the same effect when it becomes contaminated with the unhallowed breath of the children of this world whose grand object is the mammon of unrighteousness—and is always effected “by whips, prisons & Cords”

    When Religion is considered in itself it is allowed to have nothing in it tending to disturbances tumults, or confusion—but on the Contrary every thing that is amiable & lovely & naturally tending to produce the most happy effects on the Lives & manners of man—which was the case with Christianity for ages after its founder left this world—& tis probable from moral causes it ever would have been the case with Religion had the Civil power treated it with the Respect due to so divine a Blessing—

    ’Tis said by this Writer—“That no free Government was ever maintained without some form of Religion” true—but of what benefit is this general proposition? how does it tend to the information of mankind

    Have there not existed many free Governments—among which various kinds of Religion have been patronised? Were these Various Religions, tho perhaps essentially different all true—if not—What is the Consequence? It appears to me that it is necessary to answer these Questions, before we the benefit of the aforegoing proposition can be properly understood—But let us make one proposition, or two more—& examine them together, possibly—they may cast light upon one another—No tyrannical Government was ever maintained without some form of Religion. Is this true or not? if true—of what consequence to mankind? but permit me to make one m[ore] I dont pretend to say that either [of] them are universally true—as there may be exceptions without destroying general principles—

    Governments are more or less Tyrannical in proportion as the union of Civil & Ecclesiastical powers are more or less perfect—

    But it is of little consequence to know otherwise than to gratify as a matter of Curiosity, the effects other any Religions than the Christian, have had on the Governments where they were patronised—Since this is the Religion looked at in the Constitution of this Government

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    FC:dft, Thacher’s Tracts, v. 12. A modified version of this letter, addressed to “Messieurs PRINTERS,” appeared in the [Maine] Falmouth Gazette of 3 Dec. 1785, with the internal date 22 Nov.; significant variations are footnoted into the text. As with the “One of the People” essay printed below, the manuscript draft was chosen as the source text because it is a primary iteration of GT’s thinking and provides a rare demonstration of how it evolved into his more public newspaper voice.