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The appeal of these claimant creditors is enhanced beyond the pecuniary interests involved when we consider the nature of their assumption by the Government, and especially that in this way our country obtained a final release from embarrassing stipulalations with France, contracted in the war for national independence, and is the only part remaining unpaid.”
Very lately, in May, 1882, Mr. Frye, from the Committee on Claims of the Senate, made an elaborate report in favor of a bill for the payment of these claims, and expressed an opinion that the gravity of the case, and justice both to the claimants and the Government, demanded an immediate and final settlement of the vexed questions involved.
A bill for the relief of these claims passed the Senate in 1883, but was not taken up in the House.
It has been introduced into both Houses of Congress during the present session of 1884.
But this being a political or presidential session, the chance for its passage is not great.
THE QUESTION OF COMPENSATION.
Now, is it to be considered that this great Government intended to make compensation to these claimants and has merely delayed it, or that it intended to shirk its obligations under the treaty of alliance with France, and absolve itself from all reclamation, by a trick played upon its own citizens, creeping out, at the same time, of the national obligation every government owes to its citizens to enforce their lawful rights ?
In either aspect the position of this Government is contemptible; for a delay of eighty years in doing justice is tantamount to a denial of it ; and the delay to make compensation is a virtual repudiation of the debt, no matter what was the original design.
The United States stands now in the position of the Receiver of Stolen Goods, which goods it has used to pay its national obligations.
Since 1800 we have compelled the payment of the claims of our citizens against many nations, as matters of national duty and national right. Many millions from England, $5,000,000 from France in 1831, $2,000,000 from Naples, and large amounts from Mexico, from Denmark, and Spain ; and latterly again from England in the “ Alabama” claims. And yet, we who persistently make others pay their debts do not feel obliged to pay our own.
The moral logic of all this is not clear; the practical result, however, is national spoliation and repudiation.
There may be possibly a partially philosophic basis for this virtual re
pudiation. The sense of moral obligation, like the sense of danger, becomes weakened when the obligation or the danger is shared by many.
What is the duty of all appears, at times, the duty of none; and the claims of conscience seem less urgent when the responsibility is divided and the conscientiousness diffused.
Charles Sumner, in closing his report to the Senate made in January, 1870, says:
“But how can these claimants forbear to exclaim at the sacrifice that has been required of them, that they alone, the pioneers of our commercial fag, are compelled in suing long to bide,' while a part of the debt of national independence is .cast upon their shoulders, and the whole country enjoys priceless benefits at their expense! Well may these disappointed suitors, hurt by unfeeling indifference to their extensive losses and worn with infinite delay, cry out in bitterness of heart, ‘Give us back our vessels !! But this cannot be done. It only remains that Congress should pay for them.”
These claims are not held by speculators. The great Speculator, as Senator Sumner remarks, has been “ Death" !
Time and Death have been active agents for the Government, which never dies; while owners and heirs have been crazed and beggared, and driven underground.
Time and Death have been active in destroying proofs of loss and in removing the unfortunate owners and their families.
I conclude this slight sketch with the remark that the facts connected with these claims should be spread broadcast throughout the land ; and I assert that the honor, the dignity, the reputation of this Great Republic demand that these claims should be paid, and at once.
ROUSSEAU IN PHILADELPHIA
“Your Declaration of Independence," said M. Drouyn de Lhuys to me one evening, “is not the work of Jefferson and Franklin, but of Rousseau and his school. All this talk about equality, popular rights, the laws of nature, is not American. It is French." This dictum, thus bluntly uttered, voices an opinion somewhat prevalent not only in France, but in England and America. Mr. James Russell Lowell, in one of his essays,* calls Rousseau “the father ... in politics of Jefferson and Thomas Paine." Mr. John Morley, in his monograph on the philosopher of the Hermitage, does not hesitate to say that "it was from Rousseau's writings that the Americans took the ideas and phrases of their great charter.” Sir Henry Maine, in his masterly work on “Ancient Law” seems inclined to a similar view. “The American lawyers of the time," says he, "and especially those of Virginia, appear to have possessed a stock of knowledge which differed chiefly from that of their English contemporaries in including much which could only have been derived from the legal literature of continental Europe. A very few glances at the writing of Jefferson will show how strongly his mind was affected by the semi-juridic, semi-popular opinions which were fashionable in France."
These views of Lowell, of Morley, and of Maine, we hold, are not borne out by historic facts. An exhaustive study of the political literature of the Colonies in the middle of the eighteenth century discovers that French political philosophy was not strikingly influential, while, on the other hand, English political philosophy marks every other page.
It will be the object of this paper to present some of the facts tending to show that the doctrines of the Declaration of 1776, such as equality, popular rights, no taxation without representation, and the duty of revolution, were of Anglican and not of Gallican origin.
No two sections could well have been more widely different in institutions and laws, more thoroughly hostile in interests and politics, than were France and the British Colonies in the middle of the last century. They could not understand one another, and would not. They were as distant in sympathy as they were in space. The Anglo-Saxons in the North and the
* Lowell: Among My Books, I. p. 353. Morley: Rousseau. I. Introduction. Maine: Ancient Law (Am. Ed.), p. 91.
South looked with distrust or hatred upon the French for their conduct in the then recent Franco-Indian war, and regarded them as the hereditary foes of the mother country; while the Huguenots, the Dutch, the Swedes, the Germans, scattered throughout the colonies, were ever mindful of the past policy of France toward their fathers and toward them.
The educated Americans of the period, the Franklins, Jeffersons, Dickinsons, cold and phlegmatic in temperament, like most sons of the North, simple and practical like most pioneers, were mainly bent on the material pursuits of daily life and little given to philosophic speculation. Born or raised in an Anglican environment which was republican in all but in name, they had the Anglican love of precedent and the Anglican horror of hasty innovation. "Before the Revolution," wrote Jefferson,“ we were all good English Whigs."
The cultured citizens of Paris, Marseilles, Bordeaux, versatile and brilliant like most of the Latin race, the subjects of a highly civilized and corrupt monarchy, contrasted the reported liberties of Greece and Rome with the arbitrary system under which they lived, and speculated boldly as to the means of returning to an assumed political state of pristine perfection. The Americans of education read the Bible, Milton, Sidney, the Treatise of Locke, the Tracts of Somers, for their political guidance. The French grew rapturous over Rousseau, Diderot, Raynal, Helvetius, D'Alembert. The American statesmen modified their laws gradually, and only then when there was great necessity. The French philosophers would have rashly overturned the existing order of things and placed society on a new basis.
When the speculative gentlemen who were wont to meet and discuss in the salons of Madame d'Houdetot or Madame d'Epinay framed their ideal constitutions for ideal states, they turned to the laws of Solon and Lycurgus. When the farmers and gentlemen who were assembled in Philadelphia drew up a Declaration, they went back to British precedent, to the Magna Charta, the Petition of Right, the Bill of Rights, and read the counsels of experienced politicians. The man who drafted the great State paper of 1776, and the men who put to it their signatures, never considered their Declaration as anything but a statement of generally known axioms and a justification of past conduct.
The signers were matter-of-fact men, who did their work without flourish or parade. The Declaration conveyed neither to them nor apparently to their constituents doctrines that were either new or startling. Richard Henry Lee said so at the time, and John Adams said so years later. Had the paper been stamped with French ideas we should certainly have heard of it. As it was, the Declaration of Independence was criticised by some as inopportune and inexpedient; by no contemporary, however, was it denounced as a strange or dangerous importation.
We shall now proceed to indicate by extracts from certain works then popular in the colonies how clearly the doctrines, often the very phrases of the Declaration can be traced back to Anglican sources.
Literature of a theologico-political kind was much read in America during the eighteenth century, and this literature promulgated such sentiments as these :
"All men,” said Samuel Sewell, in 1700, “ as they are the sons of Adam are co-heirs, and have equal right unto liberty, and all other comforts of life.”
“ Nature having set all men upon a level and made them equals,” said John Wise in 1717, “no servitude or subjection can be conceived without inequality, and this cannot be made without usurpation in others, or voluntary compliance in those who resign their freedom and give away their degree of natural being."
“ The end of all good government,” he says again, “is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all, and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor and so forth.”
The works of Wise, originally published in 1710 and 1717, were, at the patriots' request, reprinted in 1777, on the eve of the contest for constitutional liberty.
In the collections of the Massachusetts and New York Historical Societies there are scores of sermons and theological tracts which contain doctrines similar to those expounded by these divines. These men were among the heralds of the Declaration, and these heralds caught their inspiration from the Bible. Rousseau had learned his republicanism at Geneva-Sewell and Wise had, in a large measure, also learned it therebut the Americans preached and practiced it in the townships of New England years before Rousseau set pen to paper. The books of the Old and New Testaments were arsenals from which the American advocates of abstract rights drew some of their strongest weapons, and in doing this they but followed the example of the Puritans of the Commonwealth and the Englishmen of the Revolution.
Next in importance and influence to the theological tract in those times was the political pamphlet. Let us turn the pages of some of the most celebrated of these pamphlets and see whether they derived their political doctrines from France or from England. The “Defence of the New England Charters" by Jeremiah Dummer, was one of the most noteworthy literary productions of the American Colonies. The author, born in Boston and educated abroad, was an admirer of Bolingbroke.