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new conquest by terror, and an old one suppose the corruption of human naby love; in a word, it declares in calm ture:” as if all just laws had more in statement, what deeds the best and them of probibition than of commandgreatest of men may be compelled to do, leaving men free only within the limits if they aim at empire over a disorganized, of right. The characteristic of despotcorrupted people, to whom virtue had ism is to command, rather than to forbid; become a laughter, religion a terror or a but civil society is admitted, by our law, trade, vice a business, and freedom a to be for protection* and restitution, and dream.
not for the diminution of any natural The idea of this treatise seems to have right. occurred to Machiavel while he was Inquiring into whose hands the defence composing his Discourses; for, in va- of liberty should be entrusted, he declares rious passages of the latter, he alludes to for the people—" since they are least the peculiar necessities of princes, and likely to usurp and oppress ;" but he marks a broad distinction between their holds that a people cannot retain their polity and that of free republics. In the liberty without virtue, but become incafirst book of the Discourses, he devotes a pable and forgetful of freedom with the condemnatory section to those who erect decline of morals. “The nobles are ama tyranny where they might found a free bitious of rule ;—the people seek only to state; and shows, by clear distinctions, defend their rights;" “and the people, what soil is fitted for the growth of though they be ignorant, are yet capable liberty.
enough of truth, and easily submit to it Free institutions, he affirms, can exist from one whom they trust." And again : only with a virtuous people, whose reli- “Good examples proceed from good edugion is not divided from their morality- cation, and good education from good with whom purity of manners sustains laws, and good laws from those popular the sanctity of law—whose constitutions, tumults which so many inconsiderately founded at the first in right, may be re- condemn.” verted to as a source of perpetual reno. He is of opinion that the defence of a vation.
free commonwealth should be entrusted “ Those States are the most unhappy, to the people; and that a people always whose principles were false at first;" for armed, of a bold spirit, and who depend the evil grows with the good. They, too, on no others for what they need, can are unfortunate, who begin with the never be subdued; and that the weight simpler forms of authority; " pure mon- of a broad territory is dangerous only to archy tending to Despotism, Aristocracy weak commonwealths, like the Spartan to Oligarchy, and Democracy to An- and Venetian, whose laws, though cal. archy." “ The wisest legislators have culated for long endurance, were yet intherefore framed a government that should adequate to the government of an empire. consist of all these.” For in a perfect Against civil enemies, and for the congovernment, every condition of society servation of the republic, he esteems must be represented; else, the unre- nothing more important than liberty of presented portion, deprived of self-gov- accusation; and that no member of the ernment becomes an enemy in the state; state should fear to impeach another. as it happened to the Greek cities, where The want of this liberty in Florence left the aristocracy prevailed alternately with the people without a remedy against the populace, each endeavoring to ex- abuses of power, and made conspiracy clude and oppress the other; and in and rebellion their only and justifiable Florence, where the aristocracy triumph- cure. Machiavel advises his countrying, was continually divided against it- men to avoid conspiracies, though in self, and those who were excluded from never so excellent a cause, showing that office conspired against those in power. in a popular state they are always fatal
Whatever, then, be the social divisions to their contrivers. of a people, those divisions must be repre. He judges that calumny should be se. sented in the composition of its legisla- verely punished, thinking it ruinous to ture.
the morals and mutual confidence of Concerning the grounds of legislation, men; and that laws should be justly and he says, that “ the legislator should pre- severely administered, preferringeren
* Blackstone, 1, 7, 2.
an occasional injury to a private retribu. err, yet, when liberty and national honor tion, however just.
is at stake, and in questions of necessity Religion he believes to be the basis of and interest, they are usually right in society, and that without it no state can judgment; and that in the election of exist; but that priests should have no magistrates, “no wise man will despise part in civil government, such interfer- the judgment of the people.” Upon this ence tending to the ruin equally of church : persuasion, to secure a fortunate election, and people. With Dante, he looks upon he advises that a mean candidate should the Church of Rome as the curse of Eu- be opposed by one of great virtue and rope, and her temporal assumptions and respectability :-But when rulers are superstitious practices as the greatest chosen from the mass, even without remisfortune of the world.*
gard to their capacity, the danger of injury He is of opinion that a government is is diminished by that change of opinion shaped by the manners of the people. If which affects such persons when they they are habituated to a prince and an look from their official height; what aristocracy, nothing but these will satisfy seemed easy when they saw it from bethem. Nor will a people accustomed to low, looks impossible from the station monarchy ever sustain a free constitu- of office. Finally, to preserve freedom, tion. That “ liberty is desired only by “no man should have power to oppose the few;" the mass being contented to or control the public acts of the State.”+ obey, if they prosper in their fortunes- Admitting that the people are easily deThat states whose morals are corrupted ceived and misled, oftentimes, by the apwill not retain their liberty for any con- pearance of good, he adds, that they are siderable time; for the laws are founded as easily persuaded to what is best; and upon the habits and manners of the peo. that a multitude are more placable, and ple, and, apart from these, are of no more pliable to good counsel, than a force or duration ;—That the happiness prince or an aristocracy. of a people must not be left to the wis The ingratitude and inconstancy of the dom and sagacity of one man; but pro- multitude has been a favorite theme with ceed from the care of a succession of vir- moralists and biographers; but Machiatuous citizens, such as will be produced vel denies that free states are more un. in a well educated commonwealth ;- grateful than princes ; nay, he shows by That the causes of corruption are found a number of examples, that gratitude is chiefly in “ inequalities of rank ;” “no less possible in princes than in the poputhing being more pernicious than an idle lace; for that despots are of necessity gentry, living at ease upon their estates," suspicious of those who serve them: That but that an unhappy choice of rulers will if the Romans and Athenians were jealous be equally ruinous; for a mean and self of their great men, history shows that ish nature is made worse by advancement, they had cause to be so; and when this and a bad man, exalted to office, corrupts jealousy gave place to favor and adulaall who are subject to his influence. tion, they lost their liberties.
Not to endanger the commonwealth, Finally, he concludes, that, “ as the he thinks it prudent that legislators multitude is wiser and more constant than should temporize with inconveniences, a prince,” so they are more open to the and reform them gradually, avoiding all persuasions of prudence. That they know sudden revolutions; and that they should better whom to choose for governors; and anticipate danger by closing every door are more prosperous and powerful than to private aggrandizement.
principalities, “ because their constituHe advocates such a modesty in the tions are intrinsically better.” That, of conduct of influential persons, that, the two, “the people are less extravathough at one time vested with the high- gant, and more honorable,” than princes; est offices, “ they shall not afterward de and that although “ princes have the adcline the less :" a spirit which makes all vantage of them in the enactment of salustations reputable, and favors republican tary laws, popular governments are better equality, while it multiplies the chances able to observe and enforce such laws as of an honest administration :
they have. That free commonwealths He affirms, in favor of the people, that, agree better, and hold firmer friendship though in maxims of general policy they among themselves ;-that their faith is
* “ Letter to Buondelmontius," and 1st B. of the “ Discourses."
† But the acts of a mere majority are not the acts of the State. VOL. I.-NO. VI.
better and their truce surer ;-for, while body of men avails against the lawful princes and aristocracies entertain a thou- liberty even of a child. Nor is that sand ambitious schemes, the people seek liberty given by charter, that it may be only to enjoy security and liberty.
resumed at pleasure ; it is neither given, Such were the opinions, and such the nor can it be forfeited; it is not a franchise, maxims of a statesman, whose name is but a right. No man assumes it, to be even to this day, a by-word of reproach, the avenger, and no crime is punished significant of all that is false in principle for its own sake, as though one could and wicked in policy. The insult offer- judge the iniquities of another; and if ed to his memory is but the continuance the law takes away life and liberty, it is of what he suffered in his life; for, as the for protection and not for vengeance. people whom he served, alternately em. Whatever is necessary for that protection, ployed and oppressed their advocate, is just; not because a majority have leaving him to endure poverty and tor- willed it, but because they have ascer. ture, under the jealousy of their princes; tained it. Whoever, therefore, suggests, so, the authors and moralists of later that the will of the many, or of the nadays, while they appropriated his wis- tion, can make anything right, or force dom, took no care for his fame, but let it the opinion even of a child, or do more rot, as though Machiavel was indeed the than declare how far it seems expedient common enemy of liberty and of man. to limit the public actions of men, as
Why his memory should have so suf- sumes the tone of despotism, and for free fered, may be worth a more particular in- constitutions puts a rescript of democracy, quiry than could be given within the or an edict of majorities. By these limits of this article; suffice it, then, to principles a free constitution makes a say, that he suffers in common with virtue of the nation's necessity, and rethose kings and legislators, whose for- moves from individuals and from the tune it has been to conquer, or to pacify, people, the responsibility of willing in. a corrupt and lawless nation; but with justice and violence, making not will but this difference, that he alone dared avow just necessity to be the Law. It may be the terrible necessities of despotism; de- not unfitting in this connection, to in. ceived by no chivalrous pretences, he quire how perfectly Machiavel's idea of saw no difference of wrong, between freedom has been realized by our constiopen violence and hidden guile; destruc- tutions; and whether in all particulars, tion, the end of both, if right in any we have escaped those causes of cor. sense, seemed right by any means; and ruption to which he attributes the decline if cruel ambition, under the mask of ho- of freedom. nor, may ruin and oppress, unblamed, It is confessed, by the impartial, that strategy and conspiracy, under that of the mass of population, in these states, expediency, may do no less. Nor is the excepting portions that have been corpower of cruelty a discovery proper to rupted by the influx of foreigners, or Machiavel. It was doubtless the maxim sunk by remoteness from the means of of his age, and must have been common education, compare well with other nato every warlike and conquering people: tions, in respect of private conduct, and Froissart, speaking in the persons of Van in morals are at least equal with the best. Ardteveldt and Du Bois, declares that the That our nation will not soon lose this free commoners of his day despised a honorable security, is the more to be belenient governor, and would obey him lieved, in that they are not immediately only, who set no value on men's lives, liable to corruption, by that superstition and would show as much of cruelty to to which Machiavel attributes the imenemies as of kindness to friends. morality of Italy—the superstition of
The right of self-defence, nature's last the Romish Church, which enslaves men, resort, may compel a prince who is un- under a pretence of sanctity, and precept of supported by laws, and in danger from obedience. Indeed, the religion professed faction, to commit deeds which more by that church, appears among us with a than anticipate justice; but it is the new face, and stripped of half its tinsel; happiness of free states, that, in them, so as to bear a tolerable semblance to the these terrible responsibilities rest upon faith it professes. But to what can this the laws. No man dares, no man is be owing, if not to the superior morals of suffered, to assume it. The authority, our nation, which by an irresistible force of neither of a single person, nor of any opinion, must convert even Romanism to
what its best advocates desire it may be enough of truth,” they are no less capacome.
ble of error, and with wonderful comBut we have another hope for the du- plaisance accept it from those who mean ration of our liberties—in that Consti- : to abuse them. Our prosperity depends tution, whose principles are the very therefore upon the courage and vigilance testament of freedom." That a sect or of the wisest; and no less upon their commonwealth be long lived it must be courage than upon their vigilance ; for often reformed and brought back to even in popular assemblies it is dangerits first principles."* If those principles ous to speak the truth; the opinion of are despotic or injurious, revolution is the many destroys liberty of speech, and the only cure. It is the peculiar happi- converts oratory into an echo of the po. ness of our nation, to have inherited the pular cry. If free states depend for their civil freedom of England, without that existence in great part upon the honesty weight of social inequality, which im- and docility of the uninstructed many, paired the liberties of our ancestors. Fu. they rest then, no less upon the hope ture centuries may recur to the maxims thai a few will have the courage and the of our legislation, as to sacred pre- power to sway them right. Among the cedents, without fear of reviving, with potent causes of corruption in a state is the wisdom, the inhumanity of feudal the increase of dependent classes, ignoages.
rant and servile. .By this cause England Nor have our institutions that fatal has lost her liberties, and lies at the mersimplicity, which suffers them to fall in- cy of an aristocracy. The tenant wears to extremes; they stand the perfect ex- the color, and votes at the pleasure of pression of the moral nature of man, his lord; and in the towns, bribery and signifying every law. The person of the intimidation accomplish the same end. body politic is represented by a power. In America this evil is but just beginning ful executive, absolute and unimpeded, to be felt, and only in the cities and within the limits of Honor and of Right. manufacturing towns; to what extent it The abstract principles of law, and the may grow, as the number of poor articommon duties of the social state are ex sans and foreigners shall increase, can plained and enforced by a Judiciary, be only guessed. If the wages of our unbribed, and rarely overawed-a legis. manufacturing population be ever per. lature, representing the desires and inter- manently reduced by foreign competi. ests of every part, ascertaining by the tion, to the standard of pauper labor, and balance of majorities what is expedient manufactures, from the same cause, pass for the whole. Each system moves with entirely into the hands of wealthy capifreedom in its own sphere; and, by rea. talists, results may be anticipated, that son of their common origin, harmonizes must endanger our liberties; or even in a whole which is the State-a State, should the form of these liberties remain, which deserves to be called a State, because their spirit must be impaired. it is a perfect image of the wisdom, the While the States remain a Union, authority, and the desire of each individual there is no fear that the great cities will in the nation.
ever be possessed by a monied aristocraThe preservation of this vast system, cy, such as seized upon Florence, and of which every power and member has oppressed the smaller states of Greece. but one aim and purpose, the defence of The traders of Venice, when their city personal liberty, is entrusted to the peo- had become populous, began to exclude ple; and as every excellence it may have strangers and new-comers from a share must depend upon their virtue and vigi. in the government, and by voting themlance, so will its decay be a consequence selves gentlemen, founded the Venetian of their corruption and negligence. Aristocracy; a nobility of wealth, re
The freedom of election keeps it markable for arrogance and impotence, in their power to ruin or sustain this but fortunate in their situation, and prusystem. Are there then no causes at dent in the use of their advantages. work to defeat the ends of such a trust, They remain to this day incapable of and convert it to a curse? We know growth, and unworthy to govern; and that though the people are “capable Machiavel, who seems to have had
• Machiavel Discourses, B. iii. c. i.
no love for them, blames their ignorance of birth. A mean-spirited son may seek for attempting conquests on the main a society despised by his more generous land, and confiding in mercenary troops, father; and the son, in turn, rises in his “ as though courage were the sinews grade above the father. Each takes the of war.”
place appointed him by nature. Po. Nor is it reasonable to suppose that verty, even, has ceased to be an impedi. any war could ruin us; much less impairment to honor. Our legislative assemthe Union or the Constitution. Though blies have no representatives of fashion ; the cities on the coast should be destroy as the best of them stand for character ed, and trade suspended for a century, and opinion, rather than for interest. we should learn better to live within In this spirit the nation has begun, and ourselves, and rely upon the soil, and in this, (if the precedents of history de. upon manufactures, the strength of the ceive not,) it must continue. interior.
The first laws of a nation stamp their Political prophets threaten us with ruin principles so deeply in its character and from another, and apparently more de- substance, no wearing can destroy it while structive, tendency than the one toward an the race exists. In the history of every aristocracy of wealth ; the same, namely, people, the old thread of policy runs on which anciently afflicted Athens, and, of for centuries, and may be followed back late, Paris, in the Reign of Terror--a social to its origin in the early circumstances of equality declining to a social tyranny, and their State. If Rome, from Numa to this ending in a despotism. But the prepara- day, has not ceased to be the Church of tory steps to such a catastrophe have not Italy; if England, from the conquest, reso much as begun among us; religion mains a usurping aristocracy, while Ireis not less powerful than formerly, prie land agitates and laments, as, of old, she vate morals not less recognized and in agitated and lamented; if the Frenchman force, and the Constitution, notwithstand- loves monarchy, and the Swiss his liberty ing many violent assaults made upon it in despite of every change, and the slow by those who talk most loudly about the wear of ages ;—then may we believe, that Republic and the people, is still revered in our Constitution, grounded as it is, in the the hearts of the great mass of our coun- very nature and character of the nation, trymen. Our nation even now possesses is not, as some imagine, an experiment what France desired, and so imperfectly of polity, of doubtful issue, but must re. attained by its revolution, the organiza- main while our race lasts. tion of a monarchy, without its ruinous In a little time, we shall be the most encumbrances. We have substituted a powerful nation of the world; a nation, spirit of obedience, for a spirit of servility. warlike and ambitious from the first, and Rejecting differences of rank, (which, if beginning now to glory in its strength. they mean anything, mean differences of What changes in human affairs this spirit privilege,) we suffer no distinctions but may effect cannot easily be predicted; those of nature; each associates with his enough, that not we alone, but the world, natural equal, unrestrained by prejudice may have cause to dread them. J. D. W
BY J. H. COLLIER.
'Twas the morning gray,
Before the bright sun rose
of people in a dose;