Robert Charles Winthrop

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Robert Charles Winthrop (1809-05-121894-11-16) was an American philanthropist, congressman from Massachusetts and one-time Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

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  • I confess, Sir, I am at a loss to conceive how any man, who has ever read our Constitution as originally framed, or as it now exists, can listen a moment to such an argument. If anything be clearer than another on its face, it is, that it was intended to constitute a Christian State. I deny totally the gentleman's position, that the religious expressions it contains were intended only to show forth the pious sentiments of those who framed it. They were intended to incorporate into our system the principles of Christianity, — principles which belonged not only to those who framed, but to the whole people who adopted it. Sir, the people of that day were a Christian people; they adopted a Christian Constitution; they no more contemplated the existence of infidelity than the Athenian laws provided against the perpetration of parricide. They established a Christian Commonwealth; they wrote upon its walls, Salvation, and upon its gates, Praise; and Christianity is as clearly now its corner-stone, as if the initial letter of every page of our Statute Book, like that of some monkish manuscript, were illuminated with the figure of the Cross!
    • Speech, "The Testimony of Infidels" (1836-02-11), delivered before the Massachusetts House of Representatives in opposition to a bill that would allow atheists to testify in court, quoted in Robert Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions, Little, Brown and Company, 1852, pp 194-195 [1]
  • Our Country,—whether bounded by the St. John's and the Sabine, or however otherwise bounded or described, and be the measurements more or less,—still our Country, to be cherished in all our hearts, to be defended by all our hands.
    • Toast at Faneuil Hall on the Fourth of July, 1845. Compare: "Our country! in her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong", Stephen Decatur (1779–1820), toast offered by at a public dinner at Norfolk, Va., April, 1816.
  • All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.
    • Speech to the Massachusetts Bible Society (1849-05-28), quoted in Robert Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions, Little, Brown & Co., 1852, p. 172 [2]
  • A star for every State, and a State for every star.
    • Address on Boston Common (1862).
  • There are no points of the compass on the chart of true patriotism.
    • Letter to Boston Commercial Club (1879).
  • The poor must be wisely visited and liberally cared for, so that mendicity shall not be tempted into mendacity, nor want exasperated into crime.
    • Yorktown Oration (1881).
  • Slavery is but half abolished, emancipation is but half completed, while millions of freemen with votes in their hands are left without education. Justice to them, the welfare of the States in which they live, the safety of the whole Republic, the dignity of the elective franchise,—all alike demand that the still remaining bonds of

ignorance shall be unloosed and broken, and the minds as well as the bodies of the emancipated go free.

    • Yorktown Oration (1881).

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