Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

Testator positively enjoins, "That all the instructors and teachers in the College shall take pains to instil into the minds of the scholars the purest principles of morality, so that on their entrance into active life they may, from inclination and habit, evince benevolence towards their fellow-creatures, and a love of truth, sobriety and industry, adopting at the same time, such religious tenets as their matured reason may enable them to prefer." Now it may well be asked, what is there in all this, which is positively enjoined, inconsistent with the spirit or truths of Christianity? Are not these truths all taught by Christianity, although it teaches much more? Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly, as from the New Testament? Where are benevolence, the love of truth, sobriety and industry, so powerfully and irresistibly inculcated as in the sacred volume? The Testator has not said how these great principles are to be taught, or by whom, except it be by laymen, nor what books are to be used to explain or enforce them. All that we can gather from his language is, that he desired to exclude sectarians and sectarianism from the College, leaving the instructors and officers free to teach the purest morality, the love of truth, sobriety and industry by all appropriate means; and of course, including the best, the surest and the most impressive. The objection then, in this view, goes to this, either that the Testator has totally omitted to provide for religious instruction in his scheme of education, (which, from what has been already said, is an inadmissible interpretation) or that it includes but partial and imperfect instruction in those truths. In either view, can it be truly said that it contravenes the known law of Pennsylvania upon the subject of charities, or is not allowable under the article of the Bill of Rights, already cited? Is an omission to provide for instruction in Christianity, in any scheme of school or college education a fatal defect, which avoids it according to the law of Pennsylvania? If the instruction provided for is incomplete and imperfect, is it equally fatal? These questions are propounded, because we are not aware that any thing exists in the Constitution or laws of Pennsylvania, or the judicial decisions of its tribunals, which would justify us in pronouncing that such defects would be so fatal. . . .

Looking to the objection, therefore, in a mere judicial view, which is the only one in which we are at liberty to consider it, we are satisfied that there is nothing in the devise establishing the College, or in the regulations and restrictions contained therein, which are inconsistent with the Christian religion, or are opposed to any known policy of the State of Pennsylvania.

Source: Arguments of the Defendants' Counsel, and Judgment of the Supreme Court, U.S. in the Case of Vidal and Another, Complainants and Appellants, versus the Mayor, &c. of Philadelphia, the Executors of S. Girard, and Others, Defendants & Appellees( Philadelphia, 1844), pp. 274-279[2 Howard 127].


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

M. Baxter, Daniel Webster and the Supreme Court ( Amherst, Mass., 1966), pp. 156-168.

L. Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom ( Boston, 1933), pp. 212-214.

A. P. Stokes, Church and State in the United States ( New York, 1952), III, 381-382.

-205-

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