Слике страница
PDF
ePub

gravely counts up several victims of democratic rage, as proofs, that democracy is more pernicions than monarchy or aristocracy. Such a computation is a spectre, calculated to arrest our efforts, and appal our hopez, in pursuit of political gooil. If it be correct, what motives of preference between forms of government remain ? On one hand, Mr. Adams calls our attention to handreds of wise and virtuous patricians, mangled and bleeding victims of popular fury; on the other, he might have exhibited millions of plebeians, sacrificed to the pride, fully and ambition of monarchy and aristocracy; and, to complete the picture, he ong!ıt to have placed right before us, the effects of these three principles commixed, in the wars, rebellions, persecutions and oppres. sions of the English form, celebrated by Mr. Adams as the most perfect of the mixed class of governments. Is it pos. sible to convince us, that we are compelled to elect one of these evils ? After having discovered principles of government, distinct from monarchy, aristocracy or democracy, in the experience of their efficacy, and the enjoyment of their benefits; can we be persuaded to renounce the discovery, to restore the old principles of political navigation, and to steer the commonwealth into the disasters, against which all past ages have pathetically warned us? It is ailmitted, that man, physically, is “always the same;" but denied that lic is so, morally. Upon the truth or error of this distinction, the truth or error of Mr. Adams's mode of reasoning and of this essay, will somewliat depend. If it is untrue, then the cloud of authorities collected by him from all ages, are irrefutable evidence, to establish the fact, that political misery is unavoidable; because man is always the same. But if the moral qualities of human nature are not always the same, but are different both in nations and individuals; and if government ought to be construeled in relation to these moral qualities, and not ja relation to factitions orelers; these authorities do not pro. duce a conclusion so deplorable. The variety in the kinds and degrees of political misery, is alone conclusive evidence of distinct degrees of moral character, capable of unknown moral efforts.

Supposing that none of Mr. Adams's quotations had been taken from poetical and fabulous authors; that no doubt could exist of the truth of those furnished by ancient his. torians; and that they had not been dexterously selected to fit an hypothesis ; yet their whole weight would have depended upon the similarity of moral circumstances, between the people of America, and those of Greece, Italy, Switzerland, England, and a multitude of countries, collected from all ages into our modern theatre.

Do the Americans recognize themselves in a group of Goths, Vandals, Italians, Turks and Chinese? If not, man is not always morally the same. If man is not always morally the same, it is not true that he requires the same political regimen. And thence a conclusion of considerable weight follows, to overthrow the ground work of Mr. Adams's system; for by proving, if lic had proved it, that his system was proper for those men, and those times, resorted to by him for its illustration, he proves that it is not proper for men and times of dissimilar moral characters and circumstances.

The traces of intellectual originality and diversity; the shades and novelties of the human character, between the philosopher and the savage; between different countries, different governments, and different eras; exhibit a complexity, which the politician and pliilologist have never been able to wravel. Out of this intellectual variety, arises the impossibility of contriving one form of government, suitable for every nation; and also the fact, that human nature, instead of begetting one form constantly, demonstrates its moral capacity, in the vast variety of its political productions./

Having apprized the reader, by these general remarks, of the political principles to be vindicated or assailed in this essay; and that an cffort will be made to prove, that the policy of the United States is rooted in moral or intellec

1

tual principles, and not in orders, clans or casts, natural or factitious ; this effort must be postponed, until the way is opened to it, by a more particular review of Mr. Adams's system. To this, therefore, I return.

He supposes ó that every society must naturally produce an aristocratical order of men, which it will be impossible to confine to an equality of rights with other men." То determine the truth of this position, an inquiry must be made into the mode by which these orders have been produced in those countries, placed before us by Mr. Adams, as objects of terror or imitation.

In order to understand the question correctly, it is proper to hear Mr. Adams state it himself. Throughout his book, it is constantly appearing, as constituting the great principle upon which his system is founded; but here it can only appear in a quotation, selected as concise, explicit and unequivocal.

** These sources of inequality," says he, “ which are “common to every people, and can never be altered by * any, because they are founded in the constitution of nature; this natural aristocracy among mankind, has been dilated on, because it is a fact essential to be considered “ in the constitution of a government. It is a body of men “ which contains the greatest collection of virtues and abi" lities in a free government; the brightest ornament and glory of a nation; and may always be made the greatest " blessing of society, if it be judiciously managed in the ** constitution. But if it is not, it is always the most dan"gerous; nay, it may be added, it never fails to be the de"struetion of the commonwealth. What shall be done to " guard against it? There is but one expedient yet disco" vered, to avail the society of all the benefits from this • body of men, which they are capable of affording, and at ** the same time prevent them from undermining or inva

ding the public liberty; and lhal is to throw them all, or " at least the nost remarkable of them, inio one assembly

Adams's Def, p. 116-117-- vol. i. 3d Philadelphia cdition.

together, in the legislature; to keep all the executive “ power entirely out of their hands, as a body; to erect a « first magistrate over them, invested with the whole execu“ tire authority; to make them dependant on that execu* tive magistrate for all public executive employments; to “ give that magistrate a negative on the legislature, by “ which he may defend both himself and the people from • all their enterprises in the legislature ; and to erect on “ the other side of them, an impregnable barrier against " them, in a house of commons fuirly, fully, and adequately representing the people, who shall have the power of “ negativing all their attempts at encroachinents in the le“ gislature, and of with holding both from them and the o crown all supplies, by which they may be paid for their o services in executive offices, or even the public service 66 carried on to the detriment of the nation.”

This is the text on which it is proposed to comment; incidentally considering several of the arguments, by which its doctrine is defended, without the formality of frequent quotations. It contains the substance of Mr. Adams's system, and is evidently the English form of government, excepting an equal representation of the people, in the proposed house of commons.

The position first presenting itself is, “ that an aristoeracy is the work of nature.” A position equivalent to the antiquated doctrinc, “ that a king is the work of God.” A particular attention will be now paid to this point, because Mr. Adams's theory is entirely founded upon it.

Superior abilities constitutes one among the enumerated causes of a natural aristocracy. This cause is evidently as fluctuating as knowledge and ignorance; and its capacity to produce aristocracy, must depend upon this fluctuation. The aristocracy of superior abilities will be regulated by the extent of the space, between knowledge and ignorance. As the space contracts or widens, it will be d minished or increased ; and if aristocracy may be thus diminished, it follows that it may be thus destroyed.

No certain state of knowledge, is a natural or unavoidable quality of man. As an intellectual or moral quality, it may be created, destroyed and modified by human power. Can that which may be created, destroyed and modified by human power, be a natural and inevitable cause of aristoeracy?

It has been modified in an extent, which Mr. Adams does not even compute, by the art of printing, discovered subsequently to almost the whole of the authorities which have convinced Mr. Adams, that knowledge, or as he miglit have more correctly asserted, ignorance, was a cause of aristocracy.

The peerage of knowledge or abilities, in consequence of its enlargement by the effects of printing, can no longer be collected and controlled in the shape of a noble order or a legislative department. The great body of this pcerage must remain scattered throughout every nation, by the enjoyment of the benefit of the press. By endowing a small portion of it with exclusive rights and privileges, the indignation of this main body is excited. If this endowment should enable a nation to watch and control an inconsider. able number of that species of peerage produced by knowledge, it would also purchase the dissatisfaction of its numberless members unjustly excluded; and would be a system for defending a nation against imbecility, and inviting aggression from strength, equivalent to a project for defcating an army, by feasting its vanguard.

If this reasoning is correct, the collection of that species of natural aristocracy (as Mr. Adams calls it) produced by superior abilities, into a legislative department, for the purpose of watching and controlling it, is now rendered impracticable, however useful it might have been, at an era when the proportion between knowledge and ignorance was essentially different; and this impracticability is a strong indication of the radical inaccuracy of considering aristocracy as an inevitable natural law. The wisdom of uniting cielusive knowledge by exclusive privileges, that it may be

« ПретходнаНастави »