« PoprzedniaDalej »
countries in ruin. The alleged inaptitude of man for liberty, is the effect of the oppressions which he has suffered ; and until a free government can shed its propitious influence over time—until
, perhaps, a new generation has risen up under the new order of things, with new habits and new principles, society will be in a state of agitation and mutation, faction will be lord of the ascendant, and frenzy and fury, denunciation and proscription, will be the order of the day. The dilemma is inevitable. Either the happiness of the many, or the predominance of the few, must be sacrificed. The flame of liberty and the light of knowledge, emanate from the same sacred fire, and subsist on the same aliment: and the seeds of instruction, widely disseminated, will, like the serpent's teeth in the Pagan mythology that were sown into the earth, rise up against oppression in the shape of the iron men of Cadmus. In such a cause, who can hesitate to make an election? The factions and convulsions of free governments, are not so sanguinary in character, or terrific in effects, as the animosities and intestine wars of monarchies, about the succession-the insurrections of the military—the proscriptions of the priesthood, and the cruelties of the administration. The spirit of a republic is the friend, and the genius of a monarchy is the enemy, of peace. The potentates of the earth have, for centuries back, maintained large standing armies, and on the most frivolous pretexts, have created havoc and desolation. And when we compare the world, as it is under arbitrary power, with the world as it was under free republics, what an awful contrast does it exhibit! What a solemn lesson does it inculcate! The ministers of famine and pestilence, of death and destruction, have formed the van, and brought up the rear, of despotic authority. The monuments of the arts—the fabrics of genius and skill, and the sublime erections of piety and science, have been prostrated in the dust; and the places where Demosthenes and Cicero spoke, where Homer and Virgil sang, and where Plato and Aristotle taught, are now exhibited as mementos of the
perishable nature of human glory. The forum of Rome is converted into a market for cattlc :* the sacred fountain of Castalia is surrounded, not by the muses and the graces, but by the semi-barbarous girls of Albania :f the laurel groves, and the deified heights of Parnassus, are the asylum of banditti: Babylon can only be traced by its bricks: the sands of the desert have overwbelmed the splendid city of Palmyra, and are daily encroaching on the fertile territories of the Nile; and the Malaria has driven man from the fairest portions of Italy, and pursued him to the very gates of the Eternal City.
Considerations like these announce to us, in the most impressive manner, the importance of our position in the civilized world, and the necessity of maintaining it. The reciprocal action of knowledge and free government on each other, partake in some measure of the character of identity; for wherever liberty is firmly established, knowledge must be a necessary concomitant. And if we desire to occupy this exalted ground-if we wish to improve, to extend, and to perpetuate the blessings of freedom, it is essential, absolutely essential, to improve, to extend, and to perpetuate the blessings of education. Let us not deceive ourselves by the delusions of overweening confidence, and the chimeras of impregnable security, and fondly suppose that we are to rise superior to the calamities of other nations. Our climate is salubrious, and we are free from pestilence—our soil is fertile, and famine is a stranger-our character is pacific, and war is a rare occurrence; but if we only suppose a relaxation of the sinews of industry, and the presence of a tiger-like thirst for human blood, then the consequent neglect of productive industry, and the vast accumulation of taxes, would drain the resources of individuals, and impoverish the public treasury; and plague and famine, poverty and depopulation, would follow in the train of pre-existing calamities. Nor is
* Eustace's Italy. VOL. V.
† Hughes' Travels.
it to be concealed, that dangers of the most formidable nature may assail us from other sources—some peculiar to our situation, and others that are common to all free states.
Faction and luxury—the love of money and the love of power, were the hydra-headed monsters that destroyed the ancient republics. At the time that the Roman commonwealth was overturned, all ranks of men were so corrupted, that tables were publicly set out, upon which the candidates for offices were professedly ready to pay the people the price of their votes; and they came not only to give their voices to the man who had bought them, but with all manner of weapons to fight for him. Hence it often happened, that they did not part without polluting the tribunal with blood and murder, and the city was a perpetual scene of anarchy.* The justice of heaven pursued the perpetrators of these enormities, and Rome was scourged with a series of the most detestable tyrants that ever disgraced the character of humanity. Although corruption will not at first present itself under such hideous forms, yet its approaches will be insidious, undermining and dangerous. It will appeal to cupidity and to ambition, by magnificent promises and by donatives of office, if not by largesses of money. Good men are too often lethargic and inactive-bad men are generally bold and adventurous. And unless arrested by the vigilant intelligence and virtuous indignation of the community, faction will, in process of time, contaminate all the sources of public prosperity—a deleterious poison will be infused into the vital principles of the body politic-intrigue, ignorance, and impudence will be the passports to public honorsand the question will be, not whether the man is fit for the office, but whether the office is fit for the man. In this crisis of the republic, its degenerate and unprincipled sons will unite in a common crusade against the public good, and will encircle the land with a cordon of corrupt and daring spirits, like the peccant humors of the body, which, in a dangerous disease, collect in the morbid part of the system.
There are also peculiar circumstances in our situation, which ought to silence high-toned arrogance, and admonish us of the dangers which surround us. The experiment of a great empire, founded on the federative principle, has not been fully tested by the efflux of time and the pressure of events. The ancient democracies, where the people legislated in person, were ruined by the smallness of their area. The impulses of faction were sudden, unchecked, and overwhelming. An extensive republic, like ours, may be destroyed by a conspiracy of the members against the head, or the power of government may be spent as it extends, like à circle in the water, which is lost by its own expansion. And an apprehension of this occurrence may induce the establishment of standing armies in the extremities of the empire, which as in the days of ancient Rome, will rush to the capital, to divide the spoils of power
and wealth. Nor is it to be concealed, that a spirit is active in the community, which tends to the destruction of the union, and the consequent subversion of the best hopes of man. It may be considered as giving too much into refinement, to intimate that the sectional prejudices which prevail in certain parts of the union, may be derived from hereditary antipathies and feelings; and that as the eastern states were chiefly settled by the Puritans or Roundheads of England, and the principal southern states by the Cavaliers or Royalists, a diversity of manners was entailed on their progeny, which has tended to increase and exasperate the ancient animosities that were at the same time transmitted. I shall not, although I should be fortified by the great names of Aristotle, Bacon, Berkeley, Buffon and Montesquieu, rely on the operation of physical causes, although perhaps they are not without their influence. It was the opinion of the Stagyrite, that the climate of Greece was the best possible one for the production of great men.
The Greeks, said he, hold a middle place in physical and moral qualities, as well as topographical situation, between
the northern Europeans and the southern Asiatics, possessing the courage of the former, without their torpor of intellect, and the ingenuity of the latter, without their abject disposition. Lord Bacon has observed, that the inbabitants of the south are in general more ingenious than those of the north; but that where the native of a cold climate has genius, he rises to a higher pitch than can be realized by the southern wits. And Bishop Berkeley* has illustrated this opinion, by comparing the southern wits to cucumbers, which are commonly all good in their kind, but at best are an insipid fruit, while the northern geniuses are like melons, of which not one in fifty is good, but when it is so, it has an exquisite relish. However pertinent this doctrine may be, where it was intended to apply, it can have but little weight in reference to us. The difference of latitude and temperature is not so great as to produce the predicated results; and so far as facts can be ascertained, they will not bear out the ascription. It is probable that the causes so much to be deprecated, come under the denomination of moral, and are to be found in slavery; for wherever it prevails, it generates an anti-commercial and anti-manufacturing spirit; and at the same time, it produces a lofty sense of independence, which is among the strongest preservatives of our republican governments. In the other states, where commerce and manufactures are cultivated as well as agriculture, there is no real collision of interest with the states purely agricultural. There is, on the contrary, an identity; and although the prosperity of each is the prosperity of all, yet jealousies will spring out of legislative encouragement and protection of these great interests. To encourage the fabrics of art, is to encourage the fabrics of natureto protect manufactures, is to advance the growth of the raw materials of which they are made-to countenance commerce, is to countenance cheapness of transportation and goodness of market-and to promote the wealth of any member or section of the
* Berkeley's Minute Philosopher.