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of paper bearing a remission stamped with the pontiff's name. The act of George III. required that “all deeds and receipts and other legal documents should be written or printed on stamped paper, and that this paper should be sold by the tax-collectors ;” and we have the authority of Erasmus, that “the remission of purgatorial torment was not only sold, but forced upon those who refused it.” 1
We are not, then, to judge a great movement simply by the watchwords of the hour: these catch the ear of the people, and rouse their passions for the conflict; they put in concrete form some vital fact or principle, commonly overstated in the heat of controversy or the intensified language of proverb. But, if the movement is really great and lasting, it will be found that back of it lie a history and a philosophy that reach to the profoundest sources of human action. Hence, as Ranke argues, it was not a fortuitous circumstance that the Reformation was, in the first instance, an attack upon the abuses practised in the matter of indulgences. The conversion into an outward traffic of that which was most essentially a concern of the inward man was of all things the most diametrically opposite to the conceptions drawn from the profoundest German theology. Hence nothing could be more shocking and repulsive than the system of indulgences to a man like Luther, with a deep and lively sense of religion, filled with the notions of sin and justification as they had been expressed in books of German theology before his time, and strengthened in these views by the Scriptures, which he had drunk in with a thirsty heart.2 As the springs of the German Reformation lay deeper than resistance to the sale of indulgences, so the springs of the American Revolution lay deeper than resistance to arbitrary taxation; and as in Germany there were reformers before the Reformation, so in the American Colonies there were defenders of the right of popular government long before the battle of Lexington had made that a question to be decided at the cannon's mouth.
To find the original sources of the American Revolution, we must go back to English customs, precedents, and institutions hoary with antiquity; must go back beyond the history of Saxons and Angles upon the soil of Britain: and those who are wont to sneer at the American Republic as a thing of accident, an experiment without a history, may be shamed, if not edified, by the teaching of history, that the tap-root of that self-government for which America revolted against Britain was in that primitive local government of the Teutonic race, which for long was lost in Germany through the usurpations of petty princes; which, however, had been transplanted to England, and there thrived under more favoring conditions, but which had well-nigh been lost in Britain also, had not the Colonies, with an offshoot of that principle invigorated by a virgin soil, startled Britain into the consciousness of her own decaying liberty by the vital force of theirs.
1 Præf. I., Epist. Corinth., opera vii. 851. 2 Ranke's History of the Popes: Introduction, chap. ii.
The colonists did not resist with violence a taxation which was to them illegal; they did not draw blood to save money : with a steady, united, but peaceable front, they opposed one extortion after another as an encroachment upon their right of local government. But, when a blow was struck at the foundation of that right, they took up arms, not against taxes, but against tyranny. On the first page of the American Revolution it is written, in lines of blood, that the town-meeting made the Revolution, — made it in self-defence, for its own right of existence.
Now, what was this “town-meeting,” that dared go to war with a kingdom ? — this little democracy of New-England yeomen, that on the 19th of April, 1775, drawn up on the village green of Lexington, faced twelve times their number of British regulars, and took and gave back their fire? It was the old Anglo-Saxon “ town-moot,” the open assembly of the freemen of the village or the borough, where questions of local government were mooted, - debated, and decided by vote. Here and there in England is still pointed out a “moot-hill,” — the hill of meeting, - where such local assemblies, legislative and judicial, were held in the open air. And what was this AngloSaxon “ town-moot” but that free assembly of the people for choosing their rulers, and making and executing their laws, which Tacitus describes as the political constitution
of the Teutonic race? “The Germans," says Tacitus, “ choose their kings on account of their nobility, their leaders on account of their valor. On smaller matters the chiefs debate, on greater matters all men, but so that those things whose final decision rests with the whole people are first handled by the chiefs. ... It is lawful also in the assembly to bring matters for trial, and to bring charges of capital crimes. . . . In the same assembly, chiefs are chosen to administer justice through the districts and villages.” This principle of governing directly by the whole body of freemen in council assembled, the Teutonic constitution carried out to the farthest practicable subdivision of the body politic; viz., the Landesgemeinde. Concerning this seat of local sovereignty, a modern English publicist has observed, that, “in this earliest stage of Teutonic society, we find self-government in its most absolute and most uncompromising form. x The Greek ideal of a perfectly free State, of every citizen of which it can be said that he governs and is governed, - άρχειν και άρχεσθαι,
- is realized. Society and the State are exactly conterminous with each other: neither overlaps the other. Social rights are exactly balanced by public duties, public duties by social rights. The franchise of the old Teutonic community is the amount of public work done on behalf of the community. In a political society of this kind, it is clear that there is no room for even a rudiment of representative government. Society itself does the work of the State, and does not delegate it to others.”2 Upon this political unit“the true kernel,” as Mr. Freeman calls it, “ of all our political life” – was formed in the Teutonic constitution a representative system through a series of delegated assemblies; and the primitive political structure of England was formed in this manner, not by division from above downwards, but by union and growth from beneath upwards. In short, the fundamental conception of the State was society exercising its political functions, or local government, — that which Pres. Lincoln, in his home-bred philosophy, styled “the government of the people, by the people, and
1 Tacitus de Moribus Germaniæ, c. 7–13. See also Freeman's Growth of the English Constitution, chap. i.
2 R. B.'D. Morier: Cobien-Club Essays, third series, p. 365.
for the people.”1 This was town-meeting government; for in the town-meeting every freeman had not only his vote, but his word; and to many a man to have his say, or, as my good mother used to phrase it, to give a piece of his mind, is a far higher privilege than to elect others to office, or even to be elected himself. The New-England town-meeting had retained intact and untarnished the three essential rights of the Landesgemeinde of our Teutonic ancestors, — to talk, to vote, and, when meddled with, to fight. But the great glory of the American colonists is, that, while they recovered to political society that primitive institution of local government — the village council — which was the common heritage of the Aryan race in its wide dispersion, they showed how, without sacrificing any of the essentials of liberty, this simple democracy of Nature, the source and the last refuge of true popular liberty, could be made to harmonize with, and cven give stability to, that grand creation of modern civilization, — the nation with its oneness of interests and powers, its common consciousness, and its continuity of historical development. This was the rich and weighty contribution of the American Revolution to political science and the welfare of mankind.
The first tendency of civilization is in the direction of an apostasy from liberty. In every union for common ends, each individual must surrender somewhat of the personal to the good of the whole. Now, civilization calls for union, for the combination of interests through the concession of particulars. Civilization calls also for strength, in order to its own development and stability, and, it may be, strength for the protection of liberty itself. But there is danger always that this combination shall result in the absorption of the individual, this strength be perverted to the subverting of liberty. In Germany this process was insidious and gradual: first, the kingship grew from a personal superiority in honor to an official supremacy of power; next, the chief servants of the king grew to be great territorial lords, and, as princes, usurped to themselves local possession and rule; then followed hereditary estates, crystallizing society into castes. Cities
1 Speech at Gettysburg, Nov. 19, 1863.
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and leagues preserved the old principle of self-government and association; and the Hundred Court long survived as the unit of Teutonic freedom. The ThirtyYears' war swept away the ancient landmarks; and from that flood emerged the organized absolutism that stood for government, and the privileged classes that constituted the State. In England, happily, the transition from the old Anglo-Saxon forms, with their local political units, to the consolidated unity of the kingdom after the Norman conquest, was accomplished without the annihilation of local self-government; and this survived in charters and franchises held by boroughs, municipalities, and tradeguilds. Moreover, under the new order of things, by which government became concentrated in and around the throne, the principle of popular government emerged in the House of Commons, which asserted the right of originating all financial measures, and of voting all taxes and supplies.
These two principles, then, — that of distributive selfgovernment, and that of taxation only with consent of the taxed, — were thoroughly English. As far back as the reign of Edward III., in the fourteenth century, the Commons scrupled to tax their constituents without their consent, and refused also to grant supplies without pledges and concessions from the king. The same course was pursued under Henry IV.; and the Commons also appointed treasurers of their own to see that the supplies voted to the king were used in a proper and lawful way. More than once, the Commons made a stand against the arbitrary demands of Henry VIII. with regard to supplies to the crown. The greatly increased revenue of the crown under Elizabeth was due to the free grants of the Commons; and, when Charles I. attempted to revive the levying of new customs and imposts by royal prerogative, the Commons made that memorable stand for the control of the public purse by the people, through their representatives, that cost the wilful king, first his crown, and afterwards his head. This principle, then settled in England by statute forever, — that the branch of government that most directly represents the people shall regulate the taxes, and vote the supplies, - is now incorporated with