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less to inquire what the Americans might do to forward this inquiry, since it is certain that they have hitherto done nothing at all. There does not exist a single individual at the present day, in America or in Europe, who can inform us what each citizen of the Union annually contributes to the public charges of the nation.* Hence we must conclude, that it is no less difficult to compare the social expenditure, than it is to estimate the relative wealth of France and of America. I will even add, that it would be dangerous to at. tempt this comparison ; for when statistics are not founded upon computations which are strictly accurate, they mislead instead of guiding aright. The mind is easily imposed upon by the false affectation of exactitude, which prevails even in the mis-statements of the science, and adopts with confidence the errors which are apparelled in the forms of mathematical truth. We abandon, therefore, our numerical investigation, with the hope of meeting with data of another kind. In the absence of positive documents, we may form an opinion as to the proportion which the taxation of a people bears to its real prosperity, by observing whether its external appearance is flourishing; whether, after having discharged the calls of the State, the poor man retains the means of subsistence, and the rich the means of enjoyment; and whether both classes are contented with their position, seeking however to meliorate it by perpetual exertions, so that industry is never in want of capital, nor capital unemployed by industry. The observer who draws his inferences from these signs will, undoubtedly, be led to the conclusion, that the American of the United States contributes a much smaller portion of his income to the State than the citizen of France. Nor, indeed, can the result be otherwise. A portion of the French debt is the consequence of two successive invasions; and the Union has no similar calamity to fear. A nation placed upon the continent of Europe is obliged to maintain a large standing army; the isolated position of the Union enables it to have only 6,000 soldiers. The French have a fleet of 300 sail; the Americans have 52 vessels.✻ How, then, can the inhabitant of the Union be called upon to contribute as largely as the inhabitant of France 1 No parallel can be drawn between the finances of two countries so dif. ferently situated. - It is by examining what actually takes place in the Union, and not by comparing the Union with France, that we may discover whether the American Government is really economical. On casting my eyes over the different republics which form the confederation, I perceive that their Governments lack perseverance in their undertakings, and that they exercise no steady control over the men whom they employ. Whence I naturally infer, that they must often spend the money of the people to no purpose, or consume more of it than is really necessary to their undertakings. Great efforts are made, in accordance with the democratic origin of society, to satisfy the exigencies of the lower orders, to open the career of power to their endeavors, and to diffuse knowledge and comfort among them. The poor are maintained, immense sums are annually devoted to public instruction, all services whatsoever are remunerated, and the most subordinate agents are liberally paid. If this kind of government appears to me to be useful and rational, I am nevertheless constrained to admit that it is expensive. Wherever the poor direct public affairs and dispose of the national
A kind of analogy may very readily be perceived between certain budgets in the two countries: but as the elements of which they are composed always differ more or less, no fair comparison can be instituted between them.
* Even if we knew the exact pecuniary contribution of every French and American citizen to the coffers of the State, we should only come at a portion of the truth. Governments not only demand supplies of money, but they call for personal services, which may be looked upon as equivalent to a given sum. When a State raises an army, besides the pay of the troops which is furnished by the entire nation, each soldier must give up his time, the value of which depends on the use he might make of it if he were not in the service. The same remark applies to the militia : the citizen who is in the militia devotes a certain portion of valuable time to the maintenance of the public peace, and he does in reality surrender to the State those earnings which he is prevented from gaining. Many other instances might be cited in addition to these. The Governments of France and America both levy taxes of this kind, which weigh upon the citizens; but who can estimate with accuracy their relative amount in the two countries 1
This, however, is not the last of the difficulties which prevent us from comparing the expenditure of the Union with that of France. The French Government contracts certain obligations which do not exist in America, and vice versa. The French Government pays the clergy; in America the voluntary principle prevails. In America there is a legal provision for the poor; in France they are abandoned to the charity of the public. The French public officers are paid by a fixed salary : in America they are allowed certain perquisites. In France contributions in kind take place on very few roads: in America upon almost all the thoroughfares: in the former country the roads are free to all travellers: in the latter turnpikes abound. All these differences in manner in which contributions are levied in the two countries, enhance the difficulty of comparing their expenditure; for there are certain expenses which the citizens would not be subjected to, or which would at any rate be much less considerable, if the State did not take upon itself to act in the name of the public,
* See the details in the Budget of the French Minister of Marine; and for America, the National Calendar of 1833, p. 228.
resources, it appears certain, that as they Budget of the expenditure of the State, they are apt to augment that expenditure.
I conclude therefore, without having recourse to inaccurate computations, and without hazarding a comparison which might prove incorrect, that the democratic government of the Americans is not a cheap government, as is sometimes asserted: and I have no hesitation in predicting, that if the people of the United States is ever involved in serious difficulties, its taxation will speedily be increased to the rate of that which prevails in the greater part of the aristocracies and the inonarchies of Europe.
CORRUPTION AND VICES OF THE RULERS IN A DEMOCRACY, AND CONSEQUENT EFFECTS UPON PUBLIC MORALITY.
In aristocracies rulers sometimes endeavor to corrupt the people.—In democracies rulers frequently show themselves to be corrupt.—In the former their vices are directly prejudicial to the morality of the people.—In the latter their indirect influence is still more pernicious.
A distinction must be made, when the aristocratic and the democratic principles mutually inveigh against each other, as tending to facilitate corruption. In aristocratic governments the individuals who are placed at the head of affairs are rich men, who are solely desirous of power. In democracies statesmen are poor, and they have their fortunes to make. The consequence is, that in aristocratic States the rulers are rarely accessible to corruption, and have very little craving for money; while the reverse is the case in democratic nations. But in aristocracies, as those who are desirous of arriving at the head of affairs are possessed of considerable wealth, and as the number of persons by whose assistance they may rise is comparatively small, the government is, if I may use the expression, put up to a sort of auction. In democracies, on the contrary, those who are covetous of power are very seldom wealthy, and the number of citizens who confer that power is extremely great. Perhaps in democracies the number of men who might be bought is by no means smaller, but buyers are rarely to be met with ; and, besides, it would be necessary to buy so many persons at once, that the attempt is rendered nugatory.
Many of the men who have been in the administration in France during the last forty years, have been accused of making their fortunes at the expense of the State or of its allies; a reproach which was rarely addressed to the public characters of the ancient monarchy. But in France the practice of bribing electors is almost unknown, while it is notoriously and publicly carried on in England. In the United States I never heard a man accused of spending his wealth in corrupting the populace ; but I have often heard the probity of public officers questioned; still more frequently have I heard their success attributed to low intrigues and immoral practices. If, then, the men who conduct the government of an aristocracy sometimes endeavor to corrupt the people, the heads of a democracy are themselves corrupt. In the former case the morality of the people is directly assailed; in the latter, an indirect influence is exercised upon the people, which is still more to be dreaded. As the rulers of democratic nations are almost always exposed to the suspicion of dishonorable conduct, they in some measure lend the authority of the Government to the base practices of which they are accused. They thus afford an example which must prove discouraging to the struggles of virtuous independence, and must foster the secret calculations of a vicious ambition. If it be asserted that evil passions are displayed in all ranks of society; that they ascend the throne by hereditary right; and that despicable characters are to be met with at the head of aristocratic nations as well as in the sphere of a democracy; this objection has but little weight in my estimation. The corruption of men who have casually risen to power has a coarse and vulgar infection in it, which renders it contagious to the multitude. On the contrary, there is a kind of aristocratic refinement, and an air of grandeur in the depravity of the great, which frequently prevents it from spreading abroad. The people can never penetrate the perplexing labyrinth of court intrigue, and it will always have difficulty in detecting the turpitude which lurks under elegant manners, refined tastes, and graceful language. But to pillage the public purse, and to vend the favors of the State, are arts which the meanest villain may comprehend, and hope to practice in his turn. In reality it is far less prejudicial to be a witness to the immorality of the great, than to that immorality which leads to greatness. In a democracy, private citizens see a man of their own rank in life, who rises from that obscure position, and who becomes possessed of riches and of power in a few years: the spectacle excites their surprise and their
envy : and they are led to inquire how the person who was yesterday their equal, is to day their ruler. To attribute his rise to his talents or his virtues is unpleasant ; for it is tacitly to acknowledge that they are themselves less virtuous and less talented than he was. They are therefore led (and not unfrequently their conjecture is a correct one,) to impute his success mainly to some of his defects; and an odious mixture is thus formed of the ideas of turpitude and power, unworthiness and success, utility and dishonor.
The Union has only had one struggle hitherto for its existence.—Enthusiasm at the commencement of the war.—Indifference towards its close.—Difficulty of establishing a military conscription or impressment of seamen in America.--Why a democratic people is less capable of sustained effort than another.
I here warn the reader that I speak of a government which implicitly follows the real desires of the people, and not of a government which simply commands in its name. Nothing is so irresistible as a tyrannical power commanding in the name of the people, because, while it exercises that moral influence which belongs to the decisions of the majority, it acts at the same time with the promptitude and the tenaci. ty of a single man. It is difficult to say what degree of exertion a democratic govern. ment may be capable of making, at a crisis in the history of the nation. But no great democratic republic has hitherto existed in the world. To style the oligarchy which ruled over France in 1793, by that name, would be to offer an insult to the republican form of government. The United States afford the first example of the kind. The American Union has now subsisted for half a century, in the course of which time its existence has only once been attacked, name. ly, during the War of Independence. At the commencement of that long war, various occurrences took place which betokened an extra. ordinary zeal for the service of the country.✻ But as the contest was
* One of the most singular of these occurrences was the resolution which the Americans took of temporarily abandoning the use of tea. Those who know that men usually cling more to their habits than to their life, will doubtless admire this great and obscure sacrifce which was made by a whole people.