Imágenes de páginas

it, and urge it on to harrass and oppress, there is no living for you. It is resistless and remorseless. Its eyes penetrate every cranny, and its power finds out and uncovers every hiding-place. It leaves a covert for none,-shelter for neither soul nor body,--and is well termed, in our strong old Anglo-Saxon phrase, “ Hell broke loose.”

We confess, therefore, that we have a lively horror of mobs, and not even a polite Parisian mob, courteously and with inimitable grace and delicacy begging us just to permit it to fusilade us or to cut onr throats, is able to inspire us with confidence in them. If we must die under the operation of drugs administered to restore us to health, let them be prescribed by the mediciner with a diploma in his pocket, and a gold-headed cane to his nose, -not by the unanthorized quack. If the regular practitioner kills us it is his affair and he must answer for it; but if the quack kills us, our death is a sort of suicide, for which we are ourselves responsible. So, if we must be stripped of our rights, robbed of our manhood, and reduced to abject slavery, let it be by the crowned head and the sceptred hand, not by the untitled multitude.

As mobs at best are despots, and as kings can be only despots at worst, we are not prepared to raise the shout of joy merely because a mob in its wrath has deposed a king, burnt a throne, put an end to a dynasty, and resolved the state into its original elements. We judge it prudent to wait a little and see what is likely to follow,-whether any thing for real political and social well-being is likely to be gained. We are no apologists for kings in general, and certainly not for the late king of the French in particular. We have never admired Louis Philippe as a man; we have never admitted his right to the throne he occupied, and we have seen much in his policy to censure, and but little to approve. A mob made him king, and it was not unfitting that a mob should unmake him. Nevertheless, France did exist under his reign,-in some respects even prospered, and began to show symptoms of returning sanity, common sense, faith, and piety. If she could have loyally accepted the Orleans dynasty, and cordially coöperated with it in correcting and approving the administration, instead of exerting herself to embarrass the government, or collecting and concentrating her energies for one bold and vigorous effort to change its constitution, it seems to us that she might have found her condition tolerable, have gradually recovered from the disastrous effects of her previous revolutions, and resumed her place at the head of modern civilization. The very worst way in the world to improve the temper or to facilitate the beneficial operations of a government is to keep it in constant apprehension for its own safety. Assuredly, we have little sympathy with Lonis Philippe; but worse kings have been borne with, and we sincerely hope that France, who in a moment of delirium made him king, may never have cause to regret that in another moment of delirium she has unmade him.

We may be told that the abolition of royalty is in itself a great gain, and that, as friends of liberty, we ought to rejoice in the triumphs of democracy. We trust that it is not necessary for us at this late day to proclaim our love of liberty, or our devotion to the cause of the people. Let those of our countrymen who have more steadily devoted themselves to that cause than we have, or at a greater sacrifice claimed and exercised the highest of all freedoms, reproach us if they will. We are stanch republicans,—for our own country. Not, indeed, because we believe the American people, in civilization, intelligence, morals, religion, to be in advance of the European nations; but because republicanism is the form of government which Almighty God in his providence has established for us; because it is here the legal and the only legal form; and because it has its roots in our national life, and is the only government to which our national habits, manners, and usages are adapted. It is coeval with our national existence, has grown up with us, and is a part of our concrete selves. We are, so to speak, natural-born republicans, and instinctively, without deliberation, adopt republican modes, and act to republican ends. But while these are good and sufficient reasons for maintaining republicanism at home, they are not good and sufficient reasons for asserting its superiority over all other forms for other nations, whose training has been different from ours. The French people, for instance, may even surpass us in religion, morals, intelligence, and refined civilization ; but, trained as they have been under the centralized monarchical system of modern Europe, they are necessarily destitute of those forms of interior life essential to republicanism, and without which it must be something foreign and unnatural. There is a wide difference between their case and ours. We, in order to support and carry on our government, have little else to do but to fall into the established routine; we are not required to make any effort, to change or do violence


to any of our habits of life or modes of activity. All follows in the ordinary course of things. But it is not so with a nation that throws off an old monarchical government, and seeks to establish the republican order. The new order imposes a new language, new forms of interior as well as exterior life, un wonted modes of action. Nothing flows on spontaneously. All is strange, and no one feels himself at home. You can conform to the new order only as you deliberate, make an effort, force your activity into new channels. All your indeliberate and instinctive action takes a wrong direction. You must be constantly on your guard, and can allow yourself no relaxation, no abandon. All your faculties must be strained taut, and every man must be a profound political philosopher and a thoroughly accomplished statesman, or be liable to blunder, and to blunder, perhaps, fatally. It is not the change of one king, or one dynasty, for another, but it is the destruction of the old nation, and the attempt to mould a new nation out of its ashes. It is a fearful change. It requires the whole past life of the nation to be stricken ont, and reduces the great body of the people to political infancy, sends them back to the cradle or the nurse's arms, just at the moment when they have the most need to be full-grown men. May we not, then, without forfeiting our claim to be reckoned among the friends of liberty, when we see a great nation trying this change, pause awhile before concluding it to be necessarily the triumph of the popular cause?

There are, indeed, politicians among us, and not without influence on public affairs, who will tell us that no danger is to be apprehended ; that all is safe as soon as kings are got rid of, and the people take the management of affairs into their own hands; but these politicians will excuse us for saying that their appropriate place is in the nursery, not in the professor's chair, the halls of legislation, or the cabinets of ministers. As long as they consider it a proof of their wisdom to turn up their little noses at the bare idea of an infallible church, they must not expect us to swallow an infallible people, and especially, if such as they can be its leaders. The people are, no doubt, in general, honest in their aims, but they lack discriinination and forecast, and are, for the inost part, the dupes of their leaders or of their own passions. Rarely in what they approve or in what they oppose do they distinguish between the good and the evil they find mingled together,—between the essential and the accidental, the use and the abuse. They know, of course, that such distinction exists and should be made; bet they do not know how or where to make it. If a system has worked ill in consequence of its having been abused, or in consequence of matters accidentally connected with it, but not springing from it, their approved and usual remedy is to sweep it away. The remains of the barbarism which preceded its establishinent, and sprang from other sources, disturbed the workings of feudalism, and they cried out, Down with feudalism! Corrupt and courtly prelates basked in the sunshine of royalty, forgot their flocks, and failed to denounce the tyrant, and they exclaimed, Down with the church! The king abused his powers and oppressed his subjects, and they screamed out, Down with monarchy, and up with democracy! In their eagerness to throw off the evil, they almost invariably throw away the good in juxtaposition with which they find it, just as your modern philanthropists, in pursuing some special object, trample down more good by the way than they could possibly remove of evil by gaining the end they seek. There is no use in denying or in seeking to disguise this fact, which is obvions to every one who has studied popular movements with the least attention.

Where republicanism is already constituted, as it is with us, and has grown up with the life of the nation, we have nó lack of confidence in the capacity of the people, through their representatives, to administer the government as wisely and as beneficially as human governments can be administered ; but we have yet to be convinced that wise and good government is sure to follow, the moment the people have thrown off royalty, and taken upon themselves the task of reconstituting the state, and of administering the public affairs. In point of fact, whatever the form of government established or proposed, the great body of the people count for little or nothing in determining its character or its policy. The questions which arise are decided by the few, and the many have simply the liberty to grumble, or acquiesce in silence. The action of the government, whether monarchical or democratical, is determined by the natural or artificial chiefs of the people, and will be wise and beneficial for the public good, in proportion to the intelligence, wisdom, firmness, and disinterestedness of these chiefs. If these chiefs are able and disposed to administer the government for the public good, it will be so administered, and if not able and so disposed, it will not be so administered, whatever its form. The reliance is always on the few, frequently on one man alone; as is evinced by the manner in which inoderate republicans now speak of Lamartine, and the radicals of Ledru-Rollin. Save in a sen timental point of view, universal suffrage counts for far less than is coinmonly supposed. The real constituency of the government is never the numerical majority of the people, but the numerical ininority composed of the active politi. cians of the country. Viewed in the abstract, we confess, the question as to which is the best form of government is not in our judgment of primary importance. Forms of government, as somebody says, are like the forms of shoes, those are best which best fit the feet that are to wear them. The motives which should decide us in favor of one form or another are extrinsic, not intrinsic. Any form is good, if adapted to the people for whom it is designed; and any form is bad, if not so adapted. The existing forın is always the best; and we consider it a capital mistake for a people to look upon the form of government to which it is wedded as a thing that can be changed. The nation should always look upon its established form of government as immutable; as every married couple should always look upon their marriage as indissoluble. If, whenever something unpleasant occurs in their mutual relations, instead of taking each a charitable view of it, and coöperating with the other to overcome it and restore the sunshine of domestic peace, married couple contemplate and threaten a separation and a change of partners, their union is henceforth constrained and unnatural; love and confidence take their departure; each suspects the other; each magnifies the slightest imperfections or errors of the other into enormous faults or crimes, and both find their condition intolerable. So is it with a nation. The moment the people once get their heads filled with the notion, that their marriage to the state is dissoluble at their will, and that the remedy for their real or imaginary grievance is in throwing off the existing form and adopting a different one, they place themselves out of the condition of being well governed. They have no longer the moral state to judge properly of the acts of the government, or to be satistied with a single measure it can adopt. The first law of every government, as well as of the individual, is self-preservation; and how can a government improve its administration, redress grievances, and lighten the burdens


« AnteriorContinuar »