Слике страница
PDF
ePub

natural to the British policy, such as a court interest, a military interest, a stock interest, and various other separate interests, whose business it is to get what they can from the rest of the nation. Like the armies of Bonaparte, all such parties subsist upon contributions, and repay them with arrogance and contempt. By such parties, or by enlisting under some statesman or general, agriculture and arts have been universally degraded from political influence, and subjected to a tutelage formed to plunder them.

Ą few texts are selected from Mr. Adams's defence of the constitutions of the United States, because its candour furnished the best materials for a distinct exhibition of certain subjects; and the inviolable obligation of freely examining his doctrines, was not inconsistent with a high opinion of his virtue and talents.

The author has only to add, that he has nothing to plead in excuse of the imperfections of these essays, but his incapacity, and that a common sentinel may awaken an army. He has devoted to them the occasional spare time of a busy life, during twenty years. Their revision and publication was deferred, until age had abated temporal interests and diminished youthful pre juclices; so that they are almost letters from the dead. And he offers them near the end of his life, as an oblation to those political principles, for which he was indebted for much happiness in his passage through it.

It is necessary to inform the publick that these essays were written before the 17th day of November, 1811, when the contract was made for printing them; to disclose the reason, why o use has been made of any subsequent event.

THE AUTHOR.

SECTIOV THE FIRST.

ARISTOCRICI.

Mr. Adams's political system, deduces government from a natural fate; the policy of the United States deduces it from moral liberty. Every event proceeding from a motire, may, in a moral sense, be termed natural. And in this view,“ natural” is a term, which will cover all kuman qualities. Lest, therefore, the terms “natural and inoral" niay not suggest a correct idea of the opposite principles, which have produced rival political systems, it is a prinary object to ascertain the sense ia which they are here used.

Man, we suppose to be compounded of two qualities, distinguishable from each other; matter and mind. By mind, we analyze the powers of matter; by matter we cannut analyze the powers of mind. Matter being an agent of inferior power to mind, its powers may be ascertained by mind; but mind being an agent of sovereign power, there is no power able to limit its capacity. The subject cannot be an adequate menstruum for its own solution. Therefore, as we cannot analyze mind, it is generally allowed to be a supernatural quality.

To the human gencies, arising from the mind's power ef abstraction, we apply the term “ moral;" to such as are the direct and immediate effect of matter, independent of abstraction, the terms o natural or physical.” Should Mr. Adams disallow the application of this distinction to his theory, by saying, that when he speaks of natural political systems, lie refers both to inaa's mental and physical powers,

وو

and includes whatever thic term “ moral" can reach ; I answer, that it is incorrect to confound in one mass the powers of mind and body, in order to circumscribe those of mind, by applying to the compound, the term “natural,” if it is impossible for mind to limit and ascertain its own powers.

Whether tlie human mind is able to circumscribe its own powers, is a question, between the two modern political parties. One (of which Mr. Adams is a disciple) asserts that man can ascertain his own moral capacity, deduces eonsequences from this postulate, and erects thereon schemes of government-right, say they, because natural. The other, observing that those who affirun the doctrine, have never been able to agree upon this natural form of government; and that human nature has been perpetually escaping from all forms; considers government as capable of unascertained modification and improvement, from moral causes.

To illustrate the question ; let us confront Mr. Adams's opion that aristocracy is natural, and therefore unavoida'ile,” with one that it is artificial or factitious, and therefore avoidable." He seems to use the term "natural" to convey an idea distinct from moral, by coupling it with the idea of fatality. But moral causes, being capable of human modification, events flowing from them, possess the quality of freedom or evitation. As the moral efforts, by which ignorance or knowledge are produced, are subjects themselves of election, so ignorance and knowledge, the effects of these moral efforts, are also subjects of election ; and ignorance and knowledge are powerful moral causes. If, dierefore, by the term “ natural” Mr. Adams intended to include si moral,” the idea of " fatality” is inaccurately coupled with it; and if he resigns this idea, the infallibility of his system, as being natural, must also be resigned.

That he inust resign his political predestination, and all its consequences, I shall attempt to prove, by showing, that aristocracies, both ancient and modern, liave been variable and artificial; that they have all proceeded from moral, not

*

from natural causes; and that they are evitable and not inevitable.

An opinion “that nature makes kings or nobles” has been the creed of political fatalists, from the commencement of the sect; and confronts its rival creed “ that liberty and slavery are regulated by political law.” lIowever lightly Mr. Adams may speak of Filmer, it is an opinion in which they are associated, and it is selected for discussion, because by its truth or falsehood, the folly or wisdom of the policy of the United States is determined.

In the prosecution of these objects, frequent use will be made of the word “ aristocracy,” because the ideas at present attached to it, make it more significant than any other.

Mr. Adams rears his system upon two assertions: “ That " there are only three generical forms of government; “ monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, of which all other “i forms are mixtures; and that every society naturally pro“ duces an order of men, which it is impossible to confine “ to an equality of rights.” Political power in one man, without division or responsibility, is monarchy; the same power in a few, is aristocracy; and the same power in the whole nation, is democracy. And the resemblance of our system of government to either of these forms, depends upon the resemblance of a president or a governor to a monarch; of an American senate, to an hereditary order; and of a house of representatives, to a legislating nation.

Upon this threefold resemblance Mr. Adams has seized, to bring the political system of America-within the pale of the English system of checks and balances, by following the analysis of antiquity; and in obedience to that authority, by modifying our temporary, elective, responsible governors, into monarchs; our senates into aristocratical orders; and our representatives, into a nation personally exercising the functions of government.

Whether the terms “ monarchy, aristocracy and demo eracy,” or the one, the few, and the inany, are only numierical; or characteristic, like the calys, petal and stamina of plants; or complicated, with the idea of a balance; they have never yet singly or collectively been used to describe a government dedured from good moral principles.

Ji ye are unable to discover in our form of government, arly resemblance of moarely, aristocracy or democracy, 24 defined by ancient writers, and by Mr. Adams himself, it cannot be compouled of all, but must be rooted in some other political eleinent; whence it follows, that the opinion which supposes monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, or inixtures of them, to constitute all the elements of government, is an error', which lias produced a numerical or exterivr classification, instead of one founded in moral princi. ples.

By this error, the moral efforts of marikind, towards political improvement, have bec: restrained and disappointed. Under every mo:discative of circumsiances, these three

generical principles of government, or a mixture of them, have been universally allowed to comprise Die whole extent of political volition; and whilst the liberty enjoyed by the other sciences, has produced a series of wonderful discoveries; polities, circumscribed by an universal opinion (as astronomy was for centuries) remained stationary from the earli-st ages, to the American revolution.

It will be an effort of this essay to prove, that the United States liave refuted the ancient axiom, “ that monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, are the only elements of government," by planting theirs in moral principles, without any reference to those elements; and that by demolishing the barrier hitierto obstructing the progress of political science, they have cleared the way for improvement.

Mir. Adams's system promiscs nothing. It tells us that human nature is always the same: that the art of government can never change; that it is contracted into three simple principles; and that inankind must cither suífer the evils of one of these simple principles ; as at Athens, Venice, or Constantinople; or those of the same principles compo!uded, as at London, Rone, or Lacedemon. And it

« ПретходнаНастави »