網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

astonishing growth, during the present century in the richest products, material and intellectual, of a rapidly maturing civilization, furnish a sufficient defence against the general charge. Men do not gather the grapes and figs of science, art, taste, wealth, and manners from the thorns and thistles of lawlessness, venality, fraud, and violence. These fair fruits grow only in the gardens of public peace, and industry protected by the Law.

In the outset let it be observed then, that the assumed and assigned cause of the reproachful' and deplorable state of things alleged to exist in the United States is as imaginary, as the effects are exaggerated or wholly unfounded in fact. The “checks established by Washington and his associates on an unbalanced democracy” in the general government have never, as is alleged, “ been swept away,”

—not one of them. The great constitutional check of this kind, as far as the General Government is concerned, is the limitation of the granted powers of Congress; the reservation of the rights of the States; and the organization of the Senate as their representative. These constitutional provisions, little comprehended abroad, which give to the smallest States equal weight with the largest, in one branch of the national legislature, impose a very efficient check on the power of a numerical majority; and neither in this nor in any other provision of the Constitution, bearing

on the subject, has the slightest change ever been made. Not only so, but the prevalent policy since 1800 has been in favor of the reserved rights of the States, and in consequent derogation of the powers of the General Government. In fact, when the Reform Bill was agitated in England, and by the conservative statesmen of that country stigmatized as “a revolution," it was admitted that the United States possessed in their written Constitution, and in the difficulty of procuring amendments to it, a conservative principle unknown to the English government.

In truth, if by “ an unbalanced democracy” is meant such a government as that of Athens, or republican Rome, or the Italian Republics, or the English Commonwealth, or revolutionary France, there not only never was, but never can be such a thing in the United States, unless our whole existing system should be revolutionized, and that in a direction to which there never has been the slightest approach. The very fact that the great mass of the population is broken up into separate States, now thirty-three in number and rapidly multiplying, each with its local interests and centre of political influence, is itself a very efficient check on such a democracy. Then each of these States is a representative commonwealth, composed of two branches, with the ordinary divisions of executive, legislative, and judicial power. It is true, that in some of the States, some trifling property qualifications for

mo

I

eligibility and the exercise of the elective franchise have been abrogated, but not with any perceptible effect on the number or character of the voters. The system, varying a little in the different States, always made a near approach to universal suffrage; and the great increase of voters has been caused by the increase of population. Under elective governments, with a free press, with ardent party divisions, and in reference to questions that touch the heart of the people, petty limitations on the right of suffrage are indeed cobwebs,” which the popular will breaks through. The voter may be one of ten, or one of fifty of the citizens, but on such questions he will vote in conformity with the will of the great mass. If he resists it, the government itself, like that of France in 1848, will go down. Agitation and popular commotion scoff at checks and balances, and as much in England as in America. When Nottingham Castle is in ruins and half Bristol a heap of ashes, monarchs and ministers must bend. The Reform Bill must then pass 6 through Parliament or over it,” in the significant words of Lord Macaulay; and that, whether the constituencies are great or small. That a restricted suffrage and a limited constituency do not always insure independence on the part of the Representative, may be inferred from the rather remarkable admission of Lord Grey, in this very debate, that “a large proportion of the members of the present House of Commons are, from various circumstances, afraid to act on their real opinions,on the subject of the Reform Bill then before them.

I have already observed that it would be impossible, within the limits of this address, to enter into a detailed examination of all the matters laid to our charge, on the occasion alluded to. The ministerial leader (Lord Granville) candidly admitted, in the course of the debate, that, though he concurred with his brother peer in some of his remarks, “ they were generally much exaggerated.” We too must admit with regret, that for some of the statements made to our discredit, there is a greater foundation in fact, than we could wish; that our political system, like all human institutions, however wise in theory and successful in its general operation, is liable to abuse; that party, the bane of all free governments, works its mischief here; that some bad men are raised to office and some good men excluded from it; that public virtue here as elsewhere sometimes breaks down under the temptation of place or of gold; that unwise laws are sometimes passed by our legislatures, and unpopular laws sometimes violated by the mob; in short, that the frailties and vices of men and of governments are displayed in Republics as they are in Monarchies, in the New World as in the Old; whether to a greater, equal, or less degree, time must show. The question of the great Teacher, to which the reverend Chap

ma

vever

CM

r

now

lain has just called our attention, may as pertinently be asked of Nations as of individuals, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, and considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

An honest and impartial administration of justice is the corner-stone of the social system. The most serious charges brought against us, on the occasion alluded to, are, that, owing to the all-pervading corruption of the country, the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, who once commanded the public respect at home and abroad, are now appointed for party purposes, and that some of their decisions have excited the disgust of all high-minded men; that the Judges of most of the State Courts hold their offices by election, some by annual election; that the undisputed dominion of the numerical majority, which has been established, will not allow the desires and passions of the hour to be checked by a firm administration of justice; and that in consequence the laws in this country have become mere cobwebs to resist either the rich, or the popular feeling of the moment; in a word that the American Astræa, like the goddess of old, has fled to the stars. I need not say, fellow-citizens, in your hearing, that wherever else this may be true, (and I believe it to be nowhere true in the United States,) it is not true

in our ancient commonwealth ; and that Westminster | Hall never boasted a Court more honored or more

Ion

« 上一頁繼續 »