Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> Speech on the Justice of Receiving Petitions for the Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia >> Page 42

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Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 42
perhaps, since the reign of Charlemagne. The progress
and the philosophy of the events which have brought
us to this state may be readily perceived and stated.
Formerly all learning was confined to the clergy all
political power to the hereditary rulers of the people.
The invention of printing dispersed knowledge among
the middle classes. The clergy could no longer ab-
sorb it all. The first effect of this was the destruction
of ecclesiastical despotism, which was consummated by
the Reformation. The next, a war of intelligence
against political oppression. But the glittering temp-
tations of power seduced it from its purposes allured
it to its assistance, and used its energies to rivet more
closely their chains upon the people. At length,
Government vould no longer absorb all the talents and
acquirements and ambition of the world. Then the
effects of the contest began to show themselves. The
tremendous conflicts for political ascendancy which
took place in the British Parliament during the reign
of George the Second, were followed by the American
Revolution, which was initiated by the great intellects
of this country, whom the mother government could
neither conciliate to its abuses, nor purchase, nor in-
timidate. Next came that terrible tragedy, the French
Revolution, which was confessedly brought about by
the writings of the great philosophers of France. Since
that period, man appears no longer to be the being
that he was. His moral nature seems to have been
changed as by some sudden revelation from the lips
of the Almighty ; although the close observer sees that
the great cause which had been so long and so silent-
ly, but surely working to effect this purpose, was the
wide increase of knowledge. Bursting from the tram-