Your Daily Jeremiad
In colonial days, New England governors and magistrates would often declare days of fasting or days of humiliation, and ask the churches to reflect on communal problems, and the sins which had, rightfully of course, led God to punish the people by inflicting these problems. Maybe the crops weren’t coming in, and the clergy could tell that problem was that people had been dancing again; or the dam broke because someone’s wife wasn’t showing her proper deference, etc…
The tradition continued into the nineteenth century, though it became slightly secularized. It was traditional, in early April, for the Massachusetts governor to declare a day of fasting, and ministers used the opportunity to get to mouth off about whatever political issue they wanted, able to openly discuss politics for one of the few times during the year. It was sort of like the end of the year lists from Time. Except you got to hear the greatest communal sins of the last 12 months, rather then best videogames.
Anyways… I’ve been going through a whole bunch of them from the 1840s. Fun stuff, you can imagine. I sort of loved this quote, though, from a Unitarian preacher named Caleb Stetson, and thought I’d share it with you.
Men, who have had the management of great moneyed institutions, that have broken down under them,– after violating every principle of honor and good faith,– betraying every trust,– devouring the houses of widows and orphans without number,– embezzling or wasting millions upon millions committed to their charge,– can still walk the streets with face erect, among the proudest of the land. The poor, ragged criminal, that has picked a pocket of a few dollars, is sent to the tread-mill or the State Prison; while the great felon, who has reduced thousands to beggary, and poisoned the very fountains of public morality, is permitted to enjoy his plunder unmolested in the bosom of luxury and fashion. “O where is the ancient faith?”