Слике страница

love for the people—all who have new theories of government, which they wish to put to the test of experiment-think this country the field for their enterprise, as they presume that where opinion is free, bad opinions may find advocates and an audience. We have never heard of an American giving a course of lectures on liberty to the autocrat of Russia, or his subjects-or that any one tried to rouse the people of Italy--or addressed a mob in England on the absurdity of their monarchy, church and hereditary peerage. We have been accused of being lukewarm in the cause of freedom, because we did not interfere in the affairs of other people, and yet strangers have had the audacity to come and direct us, and meddle in our disputes, and by what right ? Why is it that we are to receive the flood of melting tallow that pours from the intellectual chandlery of foreign outcasts? If their opinions are worth any thing, why not give them to the people of their own country? and why should we be made to hold the bowl for the ejected matter of their corrupt hearts and malignant passions? The answer is obvious, we have already hinted at it: it is because we are considered as utterly ignorant of governmentbecause we are considered as of low origin–because we have no dignity of national character–because we are without power, in comparison with the empires of Europe--and because we are neither understood nor appreciated—or if we are, the opinions which strangers form of us differ so completely from those we form of ourselves, that we do not know urselves and cannot endure the reflection. Who is right must be left to history; though it is possible, that, as individuals conceal from themselves their infirmities, we are misled by our vanity. If so, the mistake, as we grow older, will become at last fatal. Among the reasons why strangers—even those the most liberally disposed—have such feelings concerning us, is because their habits of thinking are aristocratic. Though radicals and levellers, under the shade of their monarchical institutionswhere the character is new, and gives a kind of distinction to those who wish a rapid notoriety and have not sufficient ability to make fame by following the track of old principles—when brought to the test and put in contact with, and made to feel, practically, the doctrines they have admired in the distance, the real depth of their vaunted liberality is seen in the disgust with which they shrink from the contamination of the condition which bears in truth the full blown lustre of all their notions. An English radical turns here with contempt from the peoplefor those he has regarded as the people are the low and ignorant. He cannot here understand the word, for he finds that, except in large towns, there are none of the class which he supposes. The “Plebs urbana” are his synonyme for people; -NO. 43



but a large, intelligent community under that name, is to him a strange, perplexing anomaly. He has come from countries where oppression is exercised—where the whole powers of government are wielded by an aristocracy-and where the liberties of a nation are or were at the mercy of the few. The people are not there the entire nation, but the humble and the poor, and this is all the idea he has of that comprehensive, and, as we think it, exalted term. Such a man expects to find the same inflammable materials as at home, among whom he can toss the lighted torch of revolution, and let it be swung from hand to hand, till every one holds the implement of destruction. He is surprised to find that no government is safer or stronger, on the whole, than that which the entire body of the nation upholds. Law and order are both supported by public opinion; and the pillars of the state and its liberties have their base on the hearts and souls of every citizen. This, to one who has lived where there are classes and grades of rank, and who has been in the habit of considering some as his superiors, some as his inferiors, although filled with a strong levelling spirit

, seems so strange that he fancies it, either false in fact, or, if true to any extent, to be so over utopian as to be far from likely to endure. His idea is, that what are radical doctrines in England come the nearest to republican doctrines, and are the peculiar sentiments of the people of America. But he finds, on his arrival, that any opinions which tend to revolution are not encouraged here, but, on the contrary, looked upon with contempt and suspicion. He is thus driven from his stronghold, and either retires from us with a parting curse upon our aristocracy, or, if he remain, is to be heard of in the taverns and gin-shops, where the lowest of his countrymen resort, who, drunk with the intoxicating fumes of his specious falsities, are turned from honest labour, made to desire change, and fitted for desperate conduct. They are told that the true democratic condition is that where there is no inequality of fortune, where there are no rich, nor poor; and, therefore, that all who are not very nearly in their own situation, are rapacious, grinding aristocrats, living on other men's toil, and fed with the poor man's blood.

It is very easy to fill men with these notions. They swallow them with a relish, because it is merely administering a stimulus to hope and the love of change; and there are in all communities what an old dramatist calls a sort of discontented creatures that bear a stingless envy to great ones; and these will wrest the doings of any man to their base, malicious appliment." With such men, working on such materials as may be found in all large towns, no society is safe. We cannot say how far these feelings have extended, nor how it is that they have been excited. That they exist, to a considerable degree, is manifest.

The disposition to overawe the law, and to bring every grievance to the remedy of mob direction and physical force, has become almost a matter of course-it may soon become habitual. There can hardly be a doubt that it will increase with the growth of our cities, and there we shall have the end and aim of democracy—the rule of the worst; or, as a great lover of liberty calls it, the government of an aristocracy of blackguards.

A good deal of this corruption in the social body is a necessary evil-one of the penalties of liberty. No free country has escaped or can escape them. Much of it, however, is owing to the conduct of the last administration. It required popularity to bear on, and bear out its errors, and beat down to the ground the better reason of its opponents. Popular excitement was its principle of action—the bringing of the tide of anarchy to overwhelm the helplessness of order its consequence, if not its aimn. It made divisions in society--the most dangerous and most unnatural-a division between the poor and the rich—or, as it should be called in this country, between those who enjoy the fruits of their industry and those who are labouring to attain them. It declared itself the friend of poverty and ignorance, and the foe of all property and intelligence. The first were the only elements of society this form of government was intended for. Under those qualities lay all virtue, all republican purity; the whole essence of a republic was to bring out and put forward those to whom fortune had given no privileges. Such were its doctrines, and they answered its purpose. They are fearfully ominous of the stability of our institutions and the happiness that may be enjoyed under them.

Now, what devil whispered into the ear of the executive that the people meant the poor. Was this Jeffersonian, or was it meant to be more than politicma temporary wheedling of a majority, to bring about its objects—an appeal to the natural Jacobinism of the lower portions of society—the cant which the demagogue addresses to the ready ears of the depraved and ignorant? By “people” are meant here, if no where else, the entire nation. If the poor are put aside as the sole supporters of the government, and the only objects of its care, then our republic ends, for all other parts are proscribed. The more respectable are losing, or were losing, under late circumstances, a large share of their interest in general affairs. They were of no weight, and of course withdrew. This is the extremest evil a country can endure; for let power be placed where there is no moral sense, and so placed that it cannot be recalled, and the ruin of a country is accomplished without farther action or farther hope. We were to all appearances coming to this. The virtue of the nation was growing quiescent under the

incessant shock and excitement of party struggles-for its weapons were not so sharp-edged, nor of the same temper, as those of its adversaries. This state of things will grow worse and worse, the more the idea spreads that this country was meant to be a democracy and not a republic—that all power was intended to be exercised directly by the people, instead of through the check and balance of delegation. A representative republic is not a democracy; it was constructed to avoid its dangers, on which Greece and Rome went to pieces—by the preponderance of the democratic elements. Polybius foretold that the republic of Rome would be destroyed when the people knew their power. With the aid of their tribunes they soon discovered this, and, after gaining entire control, sank into a despotism. The happy invention of representation, instead of the direct exercise of popular influence, gave a chance of duration to the otherwise quickly exhausted and self-consuming energies of a democracy. A breach has been made in this sole hope and opportunity of continuance, by the right of instruction: a right, if we were meant to be a democracy, perfectly just; but if for a republic, then unsafe and at war with good govern

The demagogue and democrat may talk as they please about the sovereignty of the people, but we can conceive of no form of government worth supporting, where the spirit of incessant change enters as a principle of action-of no institutions worthy of admiration that were not designed, from their very foundation, to be as lasting as God will allow any work of man to be. Now this instructing system forms the entering port of all the mischief it was hoped we might avoid-for it not only destroys the independence of the representative, which is bad enough, but it renders all legislation irregular and insecure. Law becomes the creature of popular feeling—is liable to all its excitements—and is no longer the stable guardian and instrument of public opinion. The law-maker himself is a mere tool

a miserable substitute for the wisdom of those who send him. He has no independent judgment—he can neither think nor act for himself—but on every occasion, when his voice is heard in the halls of legislation, or his vote is recorded, it is the mere distant echo of the desires of his constituents a concession, even against his own opinions, to the accidental majority of his neighbourhood.

The absurdity of this right of instruction appears in thisthat it implies a want of confidence in the representative, in the very man who has just been chosen for his qualities as worthy of all confidence. The presumption is, when a man is elected to the important office of a legislator, that he has something more than mere popularity to offer as a qualification ; that he has capacity beyond the majority of those who prefer him; and

tried integrity. These are presumed to be essentials, or the system of representation becomes at once useless and ridiculous, though undoubtedly to those who have no very lofty idea of popularity or popular men, it may seem very possible for both fools and knaves to stand foremost in the affections of a body of electors. Still there is something extremely absurd in this immediate doubting of a man, apparently for no other reason than because he has power. It does not speak well for our institutions that their management is to be committed to those over whom it is necessary to hold the severe check of a suspicion as to motives. One of its results, and the most mischievous, will be that none will be elected who are not ready to submit to this suspicion, and may, therefore, be considered as acknowledging the right, with those who choose him, of doubting his integrity of purpose—to which no honourable man will submit. There are situations in which, perhaps, the right of instruction may be exercised with propriety, as in the minor affairs of local legislation, or it may be in those of a state. In neither of these positions is it presumed that there is any very considerable inequality as to qualification between the electors and the elected. But, for the legislature of the Union, the individual elected is supposed to be superior to those who send him; to be fitted to decide upon all the questions that concern the interests of the nation, and to have thrown his view over and studied all the various subjects which can come before him in that body. Is it not then a solecism to destroy the free will and cripple the judgment of such a man, and besides degrade him with the doubt of his honesty, that is involved in the very principle of instruction ? But this doctrine is only the lengthening and carrying out the notions that are called democratic, which might be effected much more readily by destroying the congress, and doing every thing at home. For, if they become sources of action with the majority, then our courts of law—the judges on the bench-will be driven to decide by the dictation of this power. The body whose creation was for the express purpose of keeping down hasty legislation, and checking the sudden and crude demands of popular feeling, has been placed beneath

and the multitude have in this way entered the walls of the senate, and directed and domineered over its duties and its rights. The next step will be towards the supreme court, and, when all this is completed, we shall have reached the millennium of knavery; for, by the terms of the proposition, no man, whose character is not doubtful, can hold an office. This will be a very peculiar position. The Roman tribunes sat at the doors of the senate, and cried out their veto; we place them within the walls, so that popular excitement, instead of bearing indirectly on those who were intended to be withdrawn from it,


« ПретходнаНастави »