« AnteriorContinuar »
every statesman a higher law than the popular will, that of right, of justice, of the public good. A truly national party should aim to form as well as to follow public opinion, and it should be prompt to call back public opinion to the constitution, to the genius and essential nature of our political and social system, whenever it departs from them either on the right hand or the left.
We think, as we have often said, that public opinion misinterprets the American political and social system, and makes it far more democratic than it really is, and that the prevailing public opinion on the subject cannot be safely followed. It is that public opinion we wish to see corrected. To correct it is, no doubt, a difficult task, but not in our judgment impracticable, for we believe the great body of the American people are yet sound at the heart. We do not believe the old Federalists were free from errors, but we do believe that they had in their
political creed the corrective of the errors of the present Democratic party. Hence we believe that the publication and study of the writings they have left beliind them will have a salutary effect on the public mind. A few by the study of these writings will no doubt adopt old Federalism as a whole, and utterly condemn their opponents, which in our judgment would be both unjust and foolish. Times have changed, and Federalism has passed away. But the larger class of readers, while they will not make themselves Federalists, will yet learn that the question involved has two sides, and that all the truth, the wisdom, or the patriotisın was not on the side of Jefferson and his party, and they will take broader and juster views of our institutions themselves, and modify their previons doctrine by the addition or infusion of the political truths held by the old Federalists, which have been rejected or not sufficiently appreciated by their Republican opponents.
The merit of the Federalists was in their just appreciation of the un-American character of the Jacobinism favored by Mr. Jefferson and his party. They may have leaned too much to the English system, and failed to make sufficient account of the modifications which that system might and ought to undergo in being transplanted to this New World. They perhaps were unwilling to allow the democratic element of that system so prominent a place as it had already attained in the Anglo-Ainerican colonies, and it is probable that this is the reason why they failed to maintain themselves in power. In the American modification and development of the English system, the democratic element has and will have a prominent place. Under any just interpretation of our system the democratic element must be recognized, and the labor of the statesman must not be to exclude or suppress it, but to prevent it, as it is constantly striving to become, from becoming exclusive. Restricted to this, the old Federalists were right, and meritorious. Understood simply as maintaining that our system is not a pure democracy, that it is, on the contrary, a mixed system, in which none of the simple elements of government are excluded, or permitted to be exclusive, their writings are just the sort of thing now to be studied, and the study of them will go far to check the tendency to render the democratic element exclusive, and to bring back the thonght of the country to the genius of its institutions. To this end will contribute the publication of the papers of Hamilton, the life and correspondence of Gonverneur Morris, and the life and works of the elder Adams, edited by his grandson, Charles Francis Adams. These works bring up the other phase of American politics, and coinpel us to reëxamine our system from the other point of view.
Among the recent publications of this class, there is none from which we augur more practical utility than the volumes before us, which are not a simple republication of the volume published in 1809, with an exquisitely written life of Fisher Ames by the late Dr. Kirkland. The edition contains one volume of entirely new matter, never before published, consisting chiefly of the correspondence of the author during the period he held a seat in congress. There may have been greater men in the Federal party than Fisher Ames, but there were none purer, honester, or more sagacious. We have read no American writer who had a clearer or more just appreciation of the nature and elements of government. He foresaw and distinctly pointed out the dangers of Jacobinisin, both at home and abroad. We can almost read in his pages the political history of our country for the whole period since his death. His writings seem to us specially adapted to our times, and the patriotic warnings witli which they are filled are as applicable now as they were when written. In fact, the strugkle between Americanisın and Jacobinisin liad commenced in his time, and still continues withi wabated fury.
We regret that our limits do not permit us to enrich our pages with some extracts from these most interesting volumes. We can only say, that they are full of just thought, of deep reflection, of sagacious remark, and of patriotic warning, clearly, freshly, and vigorously expressed, in a style of rare purity and elegance. We must add, that they are sent out by the publishers in a casket not unworthy of the gems they contain. They are printed in a style of chaste beauty and elegance that we have never seen equalled by any productions of the American press. We are happy also to learn from the publishers that the work meets a ready sale. This is encouraging, and indicates that, whatever the external appearances, the American people are still politically sound at the heart, and that it is yet too soon to despair of the republic. We hope much from the younger educated men growing up in all parts of the country, while we trust they will avoid the rock on which the old Federalists split. We hope they will grow up wedded to genuine Americanism, ready to sacrifice themselves to defend it against all attacks, whether made from the side of democracy, from that of monarchy, or that of aristocracy. The destiny of our country is bound up with constitutional republicanism, in which the will of the people constitutionally expressed is law, and is endangered alike by efforts to convert it into a monarchy, an aristocracy, or a pure democracy.
CATHOLICS OF ENGLAND AND IRELAND.*
(From Brownson's Quarterly Review for January, 1853.]
As far as we can judge, at this distance and with our very limited information, England is rapidly verifying the old saying, Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat.
She received from God, with the Catholic religion, a most excellent political and civil constitution; but she seems to be resolved on doing her best to destroy it. The so-called reformation in the sixteenth century, which followed close upon the destruction of the old nobility in the wars of the Roses, by uniting in the king both the temporal and spiritual sor.
* The Quarterly Review. Art. VIII. Parliamentary Prospects. Lon. don: October, 1852.
ereignty, disturbed the proper balance of the estates of the kingdom, and made once free and merry England, under the Tudors and the Stuarts, virtually an absolute monarchy; the rebellion in the seventeenth century, which beheaded Charles I., and the revolution which placed Dutch William on the throne, and more lately the elector of Hanover, unduly depressed the authority of the crown, threw too much power into the hands of the aristocracy, and converted the government into an oligarchy; the reform bill of 1832, and kindred measures which have since followed, have in turn broken the power of the aristocracy, given predominance to the commons, and subjected the government to the fluctuating interests and passions of the business population. A further change, which shall clear away both monarchy and aristocracy, and favor the British empire with a Jacobinical reign of terror, would seem to be only a question of time.
The reform bill established the supremacy of the commons, and introduced the elementary principle of democracy; the free trade policy, which Sir Robert Peel found himself unable to resist, places the nation under the control of the trading and manufacturing classes, to the serious detriment of the agricultural interests, and to the rain or emigration of the rural population. To remedy the evils which necessarily follow, new political reforms are demanded, and these, if obtained, will demand others still, and thus on to the end of the chapter, because each new political reforin will only aggravate the evil it was intended to
English statesmen have been applauded, and have applauded themselves, for the wisdom with which, during the convulsions of continental Europe, they have staved off revolution and civil war by well-timed concessions to popular demands; but concession to popular demands is a mere temporizing policy, and a temporizing policy seldom fails in the end to be ruinous to every government that adopts it. It deprives it of the moral strength which is derived from fixed and determinate principles, and reduces it to a mere creature of expediency. A struggle immediately commences between it and its subjects, they to get all they can, and it to concede as little as possible, -in which they are sure to come off victorious at last.' The fact that the government yields at all, is a concession that it holds its power rather by sufferance than riglıt, and gives an air of justice to the popular demands against it.
The effects of the past policy of the British government may be seen in the uncertain movements of the present nominally conservative ministry. It is a ministry withont any mind of its own. It lacks morality, it lacks principle, and seems to have no other plan of government than to keep itself in place. It has no high and commanding policy, no comprehensive or far-seeing statesmanship; and, in fact, does not rise above the lowest forms of mere temporary expediency. It sinks to the common Whig level, and even below it, and stands on a par with our own Whig party, who seem long since to have abandoned all principle in order to be able to triumph over their Democratic opponents. It seems prepared to accept with hardly a wry face, the free trade policy of Sir Robert Peel, which its members, when out of power, denounced as ruinons to the country. Whether the ministry could do otherwise and retain its place, may be a question; but they ought to be aware, that the adoption of that policy coinmits the government to a series of measures wlich cannot fail to subvert the British constitution, and they should leave to others the sad privilege of consummating the revolution. It they accept that policy, they must go further, grant a new reform bill involving the principle of universal suffrage, and change the commons from an estate to the people, or give way to the accession to power of Messrs. Cobden, Bright & Co.; and in either case they can only prepare the way for a democratic revolution, and consequent anarchy and military despotism.
The ministry seem to us to be hastening on this deplorable result,—deplorable for England, and of no advantage to us,-by their madness in renewing the old Protestant persecution of Catholics. Henry and his daughter Elizabeth, unhappily for their own country and the world, made England a Protestant state. · The most shameful and barbarous persecution of Catholics preserved her as such down to 1829, when the Catholic relief bill, reluctantly conceded by Wellington and Peel, in order to avoid the horrors of a threatened civil war, changed her in principle from an exclusively Protestant state to a state professing no religion in particular, and leaving its subjects free to be of any religion they choose, providing it be nominally Christian. Great Britain then threw open the imperial parliament to Catholics, as she had already done to Dissenters, and recognized them as subjects and free citizens of the em