Beacon Broadside reminds us of the anniversary of the burning of the Ursuline Convent Caleb Stetson gave a sermon on that bleak event "DISCOURSE ON THE DUTY OF SUSTAINING THE LAWS, OCCASIONED BY THE BURNING OF THE URSULINE CONVENT." in August of 1834. An excerpt...
"It cannot be disguised that we " have fallen upon evil tongues and evil times." Who can predict what tomorrow may bring forth ? There is a stern and angry questioning of principles which have been held sacred for centuries. Old establishments are breaking * loose from their strong foundations in public affection. The common respect for what is permanent and venerable is giving way to an alarming extent. The influence of great and good men is despised and rejected. The whole bosom of the community is heaving with profound and unwonted agitation. The incoming tides and currents of opinion are rushing with restless violence from their time-worn channels; and who can calculate their direction or their force? The riotous destruction of churches and dwelling-houses in some of our large cities, and a similar act of outrage in our immediate neighborhood, are the more alarming, because they are* to be regarded as nothing more than partial outbreakings of this unquiet spirit which has long been fomenting and agitating society. We are amazed at the delusion, as well as the wickedness of our fellow-citizens ! What results can they expect from disorderly violence, which fills the friends of humanity with grief and dismay ? If an exasperated mob is allowed to supersede the laws—if vengeance may take the place of justice—if unpopular persons or establishments may be destroyed without trial, or jury, or judge, there is an end of our civil and religious freedom. Every observer of the " signs of the time " has perceived a vehement tendency to the reign of will and passion, instead of the government of law and reason. If this wild spirit of anarchy and misrule should continue and increase, the laws can derive no efficiency from public regard; all veneration for authority and right will be done away; and our cherished institutions, whose deep foundations are laid in the supposed virtue and wisdom of the people, must perish in the general wreck of liberty, order, and social justice. I am afraid of the downward tendency of the public mind. The multitude seem to be driven about by fierce passions; and demagogues enough are found to inflame and mislead them. " The land is full of idols." The laws and principles which bind together the elements of society, are falling into contempt and reproach. Many of our fellow-citizens, otherwise virtuous and estimable, are coming under the influence of a wild and absurd political fanaticism, fatal equally to the security of private rights and of public tranquillity.
I am afraid of the direction which public sentiment is taking. It no longer comes up in its majesty to the support of law and justice, and the institutions of the country. It "goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking what it may destroy."
The full sermon can be found at Google Books.