Excerpt from Baccalaureate: Addressed to the Senior Class, at the Late Commencement; September, 1846
The subject to which your attention is invited is, Common Sense in relation to affairs of State.
There is nothing in the world so truly admirable as a good moral character, such a state of mind as constantly determines a man to do nothing but what is right.
Such a character may be considered as com.posed of three things; a clear understanding, so as to discern what right is; a power of conscience strongly to approve it; and integrity of heart, to put into practice what conscience approves.
It is in the last of these particulars that men principally fail in their duty. Men actually do what is wrong, or neglect to do what is right not so much because they do not know what is right, or because they do not approve it, and prefer it to the contrary; but because they are wanting in integrity. They see and approve the right, but follow the wrong; because the dictates of reason and conscience are in them counteracted and overcome by inclination. Their heart is not in their duty. Something in the shape of pleasure, or gain, or power, engrosses their care, and leads them off, in the pursuit of it, from the path of rectitude.
Still, it is a matter of no small moment what kind of notions a person entertains respecting right and wrong; since, if incorrect, they will leave him without restraint on that side of his character where restraint is most needed; and as water confined will break through in whatever place the barrier which confines it is the weakest; so the impulses which drive men into wrong doing will force a way for themselves, through those parts of their character which are rendered infirm by some lurking error in the judgment.
In the case of such as are governed by reason and conscience, the only thing requisite to right action is right judgment. But the misfortune is that the majority are not in this case. They do not follow the guidance of reason and conscience. These are oracles which they do not consult: for they do not investigate, reflect and consider.
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