« 上一頁繼續 »
would say, It is better to leave them out of the legislative. • The execution of the laws is more important than the making • them.' In a letter to Paine, 1789, he expresses his apprehension, that a majority of the States-General cannot be induced to adopt this form of trial, — the only anchor ever yet imagined by • man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution. At this period be considered the French to be unprepared even for the protection of the Habeas Corpus act; and gave a curious specimen of his good faith by excepting the nobles out of a clause for the security of personal liberty, inserted by him in a charter of rights, which he then sketched out for the consideration of the patriots. Long afterwards he quotesto Madame de Stael the constitution of 1789, as sufficient for liberty and prosperity, "if wisdom could but have stayed at that point
the fervid but imprudent zeal of men who did not know the character of their own countrymen.' Reminding La Fayette of their discussions at that day, he admits that the people proved equal to the constitution of 1791; and fixes as the fatal error of the republicans (closet politicians merely, unpractised in the knowledge of men) their separation from the constitutionalists, under the idea that more could be obtained and borne. “They • did not weigh the hazards of a transition from one form of goovernment to another; the value of what they had already res·cued from those hazards, and might hold in security if they * pleased ; nor the imprudence of giving up the certainty of such
a degree of liberty, under a limited monarchy, for the uncer* tainty of a little more under the form of a republic. Whether the state of society in Europe can bear a republican govern
ment, I doubted, you know, when with you, and I do now.' It is some comfort that we are advancing quicker than he once expected. In 1786, he found in France oppression of body and mind, in every form, so firmly settled in the mass of the people, that their redemption from them could never be hoped.
If all the sovereigns of Europe were to set themselves to work to emancipate the minds of their subjects from their
present ignorance and prejudices, and that as zealously as they now endeavour the contrary, a thousand years would not place « them on that high ground on which our common people are now setting out. The people of England, I think, are less oppressed than here. But it needs but half an eye to see, when among them, that the foundation is laid in their dispositions • for the establishment of a despotism. In 1823, agreeing with Adams on the difficulties of a revolution from despotism to freedom, and that the generation which commences one is sarely competent to complete it, he acknowledges that the Press
prevents our condition from being desperate. A light has * dawned on the middling classes only of the men in Europe ; the • kings and the rabble, of equal ignorance, have not yet recei
ved its rays. Cicero's Letters, it appears, suggested to him a very different image from the poetical one of Brutus, rising effulgent from the godlike stroke, and bidding the father of his country hail. Steeped in corruption as the whole nation was, "what could even Cicero, Cato, Brutus, have done, had it been referred to them to establish a good government for their country? They had no ideas of government themselves, but of their degenerate Senate;
nor the people of liberty, but of the factious opposition of their Tribunes. I confess I can neither see how this enigma can be solved, nor how farther shown why it has been the fate of that delightful country never to have known to this day, and through a course of five and twenty hundred * years, the history of which we possess, one single day of free . and rational government. The treatises on government left us by antiquity, are not of a kind to have made much impression on the mind of Jefferson ; not even Cicero's De Republica, had it travelled to Monticello. He would find there no provision for what he considers the two great objects of a constitution—first, that of preventing the ascendency of an artificial aristocracy, grounded on wealth and birth ; next, that of securing in its public offices, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society, a pure selection from among nature's most precious gifts, the natural aristocracy of talent and of virtue. It will be much easier to protect a community from being loaded with misery by kings, priests, and nobles, which descriptions of men are an abandoned confederacy against the happiness of the people,'than to prescribe a successful arrangement for the latter equally important purpose. Jefferson declares that the scurrility of their Press is alone sufficient to drive the best men, whose sensibilities are stronger than their confidence in public justice, from aspiring to exalted stations. "I may say, from intimate knowledge, that we should have lost the services of the greatest character of our country, had he been assailed with the degree of licentiousness now practised. The torture he felt under rare and • slight attacks, proved that, under those of which the federal bands have shown themselves capable, he would have thrown
up the helm in a burst of indignation. The Republic of Plato was to Jefferson the heaviest task-work of any reading he ever undertook. He concluded it by congratulating mankind, that • Platonic republicanism had not obtained the same favour as • Platonic Christianity:' since it could have had no other consequence than that we should be now all living, men women and children, pell-mell together, like beasts in the forest.
An exaggerated passion for independence, seems at times to pervert the correctness of Jefferson's judgment on points connected with our physical and moral constitution, as well as with the principles of society. Not satisfied with telling his young pupil, that a gun, and not a book, ought to be the constant companion of his walks, he proceeds to question the good sense of the Europeans, in valuing themselves upon having subdued the horse to the uses of man. I doubt whether we have not lost
more than we have gained by the use of this animal. No one • has occasioned so much the degeneracy of the human body. • An Indian goes on foot nearly as far in a day for a long journey, as an enfeebled white does on his horse, and he will tire
the best horses. Our substitution of positive institutions for individual intelligence and force, collected in a gipsy state seems to have produced an equally pernicious effect on our characters. • I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) • which live without government, enjoy in their general mass 6 an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live * under the European governments. Among the former, public
opinion is in the place of law, and restrains as powerfully as laws • ever did anywhere. Among the latter, under the pretence of governing, they have divided their nation into classes, wolves and sheep.' In another place, describing to Madison in strong terms the curse of existence under every government except that of America, and, in some slight degree, except under that of England, he goes so far as to declare, that it is a problem not clear in his mind that the condition of the Indians, without any government, is not yet the best of all. This sort of language much more resembles the fanaticism of some fulminator of paradoxes like Rousseau, than the gravity of a statesman, to whose discretion the interests of a civilized community might be safely left.
The commentary on Montesquieu by Destutt Tracy, unquestionably the ablest living writer on abstract subjects,' appears to be his favourite work on the principles of government. It is called the most precious gift the present aga has recei. ved.' Taylor's Enquiry, in opposition to Adams' Defence, represents the theory of the constitution of America, as understood by the dominant party at the present day; whilst Hume's History, as republicanised by Baxter, is referred to for the free principles of the English constitution. This latter work seems to have been printed in England, where it is said not * to be popular, because it is republican.' Popularity or unpopularity can hardly be predicated of a work, of whose existence
the most omnigenous readers among our acquaintance have never heard. Brought up in the neighbourhood of indigenous Indians, and living at head-quarters during two revolutions, Jefferson had splendid opportunities for the examination and discussion of first principles. After complaining that there is no good work on the organization of society into civil government, he quotes the well-known condition of the Tribes, and especially the present example of the Cherokees, as conclusive against the patriarchal hypothesis. His expectations in 1789, were apparently turned not merely to the establishment of a national government in France, but to the discovery of new truths in politics. These truths were to be such as would rouse Americans even from the errors in which they had been hither
to rocked ;' but were scarce likely to benefit an Englishman, as they are pronounced to be reasonable beyond his reach, who,
slumbering under a kind of half reformation in politics and in • religion, is not excited by any thing he feels or sees to ques• tion the remains of prejudice ! We cannot compliment him on what appears to be the only discovery, in the class of new truths, he has thought worth preserving. It is a proof, which, in his horror of the
corrupting consequences of a national debt, he volunteers against any possible right in one generation of men to bind another. This doctrine was so great a favourite with its author, that he sent it to Madison all the way from Paris, and at the lapse of a quarter of a century is seen urging it with undiminished carnestness, on the head of the Committee of Finance. Though, like some other natural rights, it has not yet entered into any declaration of them, it is said to be no less a law. Had we a shilling in the American funds, we should feel not over and above easy when tbe honest and vigorous understanding of the ex-President could be duped by such strange sophistry; especially, since his school is zealous in preaching the necessity of declarations of natural rights, strenuous for re-setting the law of nations upon true principles, and resolved to establish their theories by force, the year they are strong enough to do so.
It has been our object, by a reference to opinions upon gence ral subjects, with which most readers might be supposed to take more or less interest, to give some idea of Jefferson bimself. We perceive that we have said nothing of his views on religion, and his sanguine 'trust that there is not a young man now living rage which breaks out on occasion of the honorary institution of the Cincinnati, and the arbitrary distinctions of Europe, is often likei nsanity. The Throne of Heaven should be besieged with eternal prayers to extirpate from creation that class of • human lions, tigers, and mammoths, called Kings;' among whom, there is not a crowned head in Europe, whose talents
in the United States, who will not die a Unitarian.' Our extracts, too, will give a very feeble notion of the fierceness of his thoughts and language concerning a hundred things, as well as persons, on which his blood seems to have never cooled. The
VOL. LI. NO, CII,
or merits would entitle him to be elected a vestry man, by the * people of any parish in America. George the Third is ma• niac George Louis the Sixteenth goes for nothing. He hunts one-half the day, is drunk the other, and signs whatever he is bid.' It ought to be acknowledged, that in the case of Louis the Sixteenth, as in that of Washington, it requires more ingenuity than we are master of, to reconcile the contradictions which wait upon the writer's spleen. Within a twelvemonth, the King of France is the honestest man in his king
dom, the most regular and economical.' A clergy is said to live like printers, by the zeal they can kindle and the schisms • they can create. The mild and simple principles of the Christ. ian philosophy would produce too much calm, too much re‘gularity of good, to extract from its disciples a support for a
numerous priesthood, were they not to sophisticate it, ramify 'it, split it into hairs, and twist its texts, till they cover the
divine morality of its author with mysteries, and require a priesthood to explain them. The Quakers seem to have discovered this. They have no priests, therefore no schisms.'
It is as an American citizen that Jefferson earned and deserves his fame. We have not space to enter, except very briefly, on the honourable detail of his public life. As a Virginian legislator, himself a slave-owner, he there set the example of an effort (unfortunately for his countrymen, an unsuccessful one) for permission to emancipate their slaves. Again, himself a lawyer, aided only by his two friends Wythe and Pendleton, he completed, and reported to the General Assembly, in eighteen months, the extensive improvements both in the principle and the form of their laws, which their new circumstances required. The extravagant compliments with which our own little attempts at consolidation of some chapters in criminal law have been overlaid, and the fatted calf which Sir Robert Peel kills thereupon regularly every session to bis own glory, are things which must make our legislative wisdom reasonably suspected among the Americans. They know what they have themselves done in the self-same matter, and can therefore estimate our vaunting and our astonishment at its true value. In a few months, and in this single work, the three colleagues brought so much of the common law as it was thought necessary to alter-all the British