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Section the First: ARISTOCRACY - John Taylor, An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States 
An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (Fredericksburg, VA.: Green and Cady, 1814).
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Section the First
Mr. Adams’s political system, deduces government from a natural fate; the policy of the United States deduces it from moral liberty. Every event proceeding from a motive, may, in a moral sense, be termed natural. And in this view, ‘natural’ is a term, which will cover all human qualities. Lest, therefore, the terms ‘natural and moral’ may not suggest a correct idea of the opposite principles, which have produced rival political systems, it is a primary object to ascertain the sense in which they are here used.
Man, we suppose to be compounded of two qualities, distinguishable from each other; matter and mind. By mind, we analyze the powers of matter; by matter we cannot analyze the powers of mind. Matter being an agent of inferior power to mind, its powers may be ascertained by mind; but mind being an agent of sovereign power, there is no power able to limit its capacity. The subject cannot be an adequate menstruum for its own solution. Therefore, as we cannot analyze mind, it is generally allowed to be a supernatural quality.
To the human agencies, arising from the mind’s power of abstraction, we apply the term ‘moral;’ to such as are the direct and immediate effect of matter, independent of abstraction, the terms ‘natural or physical.’ Should Mr. Adams disallow the application of this distinction to his theory, by saying, that when he speaks of natural political systems, he refers both to man’s mental and physical powers, and includes whatever the term ‘moral’ can reach; I answer, that it is incorrect to confound in one mass the powers of mind and body, in order to circumscribe those of mind, by applying to the compound, the term ‘natural,’ if it is impossible for mind to limit and ascertain its own powers.
Whether the human mind is able to circumscribe its own powers, is a question, between the two modern political parties. One (of which Mr. Adams is a disciple) asserts that man can ascertain his own moral capacity, deduces consequences from this postulate, and erects thereon schemes of government—right, say they, because natural. The other, observing that those who affirm the doctrine, have never been able to agree upon this natural form of government; and that human nature has been perpetually escaping from all forms; considers government as capable of unascertained modification and improvement, from moral causes.
To illustrate the question; let us confront Mr. Adams’s opinion ‘that aristocracy is natural, and therefore unavoidable,’ with one ‘that it is artificial or factitious, and therefore avoidable.’ He seems to use the term ‘natural’ to convey an idea distinct from moral, by coupling it with the idea of fatality. But moral causes, being capable of human modification, events flowing from them, possess the quality of freedom or evitation. As the moral efforts, by which ignorance or knowledge are produced, are subjects themselves of election, so ignorance and knowledge, the effects of these moral effects, are also subjects of election; and ignorance and knowledge are powerful moral causes. If, therefore, by the term ‘natural’ Mr. Adams intended to include ‘moral,’ the idea of ‘fatality’ is inaccurately coupled with it; and if he resigns this idea, the infallibility of his system, as being natural, must also be resigned.
That he must resign his political predestination, and all its consequences, I shall attempt to prove, by shewing, that aristocracies, both ancient and modern, have been variable and artificial, that they have all proceeded from moral, not from natural causes; and that they are evitable and not inevitable.
An opinion ‘that nature makes kings or nobles’ has been the creed of political fatalists, from the commencement of the sect; and confronts its rival creed ‘that liberty and slavery are regulated by political law.’ However lightly Mr. Adams may speak of Filmer, it is an opinion in which they are associated, and it is selected for discussion, because by its truth or falsehood, the folly or wisdom of the policy of the United States is determined.
In the prosecution of these objects, frequent use will be made of the word ‘aristocracy’, because the ideas at present attached to it, make it more significant than any other.
Mr. Adams rears his system upon two assertions: ‘That there are only three generical forms of government; monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, of which all other forms are mixtures; and that every society naturally produces an order of men, which it is impossible to confine to an equality of rights.’ Political power in one man, without division or responsibility, is monarchy; the same power in a few, is aristocracy; and the same power in the whole nation, is democracy. And the resemblance of one system of government to either of these forms, depends upon the resemblance of a president or a governor to a monarch; of an American senate, to an hereditary order; and of a house of representatives, to a legislating nation.
Upon this threefold resemblance Mr. Adams has seized, to bring the political system of America within the pale of the English system of checks and balances, by following the analysis of antiquity; and in obedience to that authority, by modifying our temporary, elective, responsible governors, into monarchs; our senates into aristocratical orders; and our representatives, into a nation personally exercising the functions of government.
Whether the terms ‘monarchy, aristocracy and democracy,’ or the one, the few, and the many, are only numerical; or characteristic, like the calyx, petal and stamina of plants; or complicated, with the idea of a balance; they have never yet singly or collectively been used to describe a government, deduced from good moral principles.
If we are unable to discover in our form of government, any resemblance of monarchy, aristocracy or democracy, as defined by ancient writers, and by Mr. Adams himself, it cannot be compounded of all, but must be rooted in some other political element; whence it follows, that the opinion which supposes monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, or mixtures of them, to constitute all the elements of government, is an error, which has produced a numerical or exterior classification, instead of one founded in moral principles.
By this error, the moral efforts of mankind, towards political improvement, have been restrained and disappointed. Under every modification of circumstances, these three generical principles of government, or a mixture of them, have been universally allowed to comprise the whole extent of political volition; and whilst the liberty enjoyed by the other sciences, has produced a series of wonderful discoveries; politics, circumscribed by an universal opinion (as astronomy was for centuries) remained stationary from the earliest ages, to the American revolution.
It will be an effort of this essay to prove, that the United States have refuted the ancient axiom, ‘that monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, are the only elements of government,’ by planting theirs in moral principles, without any reference to those elements; and that by demolishing the barrier hitherto obstructing the progress of political science, they have cleared the way for improvement.
Mr. Adams’s system promises nothing. It tells us that human nature is always the same; that the art of government can never change; that it is contracted into three simple principles; and that mankind must either suffer the evils of one of these simple principles; as at Athens, Venice, or Constantinople; or those of the same principles compounded, as at London, Rome, or Lacedemon. And it gravely counts up several victims of democratic rage, as proofs, that democracy is more pernicious than monarchy or aristocracy. Such a computation is a spectre, calculated to arrest our efforts, and appal our hopes, in pursuit of political good. If it be correct, what motives of preference between forms of government remain? On one hand, Mr. Adams calls our attention to hundreds of wise and virtuous patricians, mangled and bleeding victims of popular fury; on the other, he might have exhibited millions of plebeians, sacrificed to the pride, folly and ambition of monarchy and aristocracy; and, to complete the picture, he ought to have placed right before us, the effects of these three principles commixed, in the wars, rebellions, persecutions and oppressions of the English form, celebrated by Mr. Adams as the most perfect of the mixed class of governments. Is it possible to convince us, that we are compelled to elect one of these evils? After having discovered principles of government, distinct from monarchy, aristocracy or democracy, in the experience of their efficacy, and the enjoyment of their benefits; can we be persuaded to renounce the discovery, to restore the old principles of political navigation, and to steer the commonwealth into the disasters, against which all past ages have pathetically warned us? It is admitted, that man, physically, is ‘always the same;’ but denied that he is so, morally. Upon the truth or error of this distinction, the truth or error of Mr. Adams’s mode of reasoning and of this essay, will somewhat depend. If it is untrue, then the cloud of authorities collected by him from all ages, are irrefutable evidence, to establish the fact, that political misery is unavoidable; because man is always the same. But if the moral qualities of human nature are not always the same, but are different both in nations and individuals; and if government ought to be constructed in relation to these moral qualities, and not in relation to factitious orders; these authorities do not produce a conclusion so deplorable. The variety in the kinds and degrees of political misery, is alone conclusive evidence of distinct degrees of moral character, capable of unknown moral efforts.
Supposing that none of Mr. Adams’s quotations had been taken from poetical and fabulous authors; that no doubt could exist of the truth of those furnished by ancient historians; and that they had not been dexterously selected to fit an hypothesis; yet their whole weight would have depended upon the similarity of moral circumstances, between the people of America, and those of Greece, Italy, Switzerland, England, and a multitude of countries, collected from all ages into our modern theatre.
Do the Americans recognize themselves in a group of Goths, Vandals, Italians, Turks and Chinese? If not, man is not always morally the same. If man is not always morally the same, it is not true that he requires the same political regimen. And thence a conclusion of considerable weight follows, to overthrow the groundwork of Mr. Adams’s system; for by proving, if he had proved it, that his system was proper for those men, and those times, resorted to by him for its illustration, he proves that it is not proper for men and times of dissimilar moral characters and circumstances.
The traces of intellectual originality and diversity; the shades and novelties of the human character, between the philosopher and the savage; between different countries, different governments, and different eras; exhibit a complexity, which the politician and philologist have never been able to unravel. Out of this intellectual variety, arises the impossibility of contriving one form of government, suitable for every nation; and also the fact, that human nature, instead of begetting one form constantly, demonstrates its moral capacity, in the vast variety of its political productions.
Having apprized the reader, by these general remarks, of the political principles to be vindicated or assailed in this essay; and that an effort will be made to prove, that the policy of the United States is rooted in moral or intellectual principles, and not in orders, clans or casts, natural or factitious; this effort must be postponed, until the way is opened to it, by a more particular review of Mr. Adams’s system. To this, therefore, I return.
He supposes ‘that every society must naturally produce an aristocratical order of men, which it will be impossible to confine to an equality of rights with other men.’ To determine the truth of this position, an inquiry must be made into the mode by which these orders have been produced in those countries, placed before us by Mr. Adams, as objects of terror or imitation.
In order to understand the question correctly, it is proper to hear Mr. Adams state it himself. Throughout his book, it is constantly appearing, as constituting the great principle upon which his system is founded; but here it can only appear in a quotation, selected as concise, explicit and unequivocal.
‘These sources of inequality,’ says he, ‘which are common to every people, and can never be altered by any, because they are founded in the constitution of nature; this natural aristocracy among mankind, has been dilated on, because it is a fact essential to be considered in the constitution of a government. It is a body of men which contains the greatest collection of virtues and abilities in a free government: the brightest ornament and glory of a nation; and may always be made the greatest blessing of society, if it be judiciously managed in the constitution. But if it is not, it is always the most dangerous; nay, it may be added, it never fails to be the destruction of the commonwealth. What shall be done to guard against it? There is but one expedient yet discovered, to avail the society of all the benefits from this body of men, which they are capable of affording, and at the same time prevent them from undermining or invading the public liberty; and that is to throw them all, or at least the most remarkable of them, into one assembly together, in the legislature; to keep all the executive power entirely out of their hands, as a body; to erect a first magistrate over them, invested with the whole executive authority; to make them dependant on that executive magistrate for all public executive employments; to give that magistrate a negative on the legislature, by which he may defend both himself and the people from all their enterprises in the legislature; and to erect on the other side of them, an impregnable barrier against them, in a house of commons fairly, fully, and adequately representing the people, who shall have the power of navigating all their attempts at encroachments in the legislature, and of withholding both from them and the crown all supplies, by which they may be paid for their services in executive offices, or even the public service carried on to the detriment of the nation.’∗
This is the text on which it is proposed to comment; incidentally considering several of the arguments, by which its doctrine is defended, without the formality of frequent quotations. It contains the substance of Mr. Adams’s system, and is evidently the English form of government, excepting an equal representation of the people, in the proposed house of commons.
The position first presenting itself is, ‘that an aristocracy is the work of nature.’ A position equivalent to the antiquated doctrine, ‘that a king is the work of God.’ A particular attention will be now paid to this point, because Mr. Adams’s theory is entirely founded upon it.
Superior abilities constitutes one among the enumerated causes of a natural aristocracy. This cause is evidently as fluctuating as knowledge and ignorance; and its capacity to produce aristocracy, must depend upon this fluctuation. The aristocracy of superior abilities will be regulated by the extent of the space, between knowledge and ignorance. As the space contracts or widens, it will be diminished or increased; and if aristocracy may be thus diminished, it follows that it may be thus destroyed.
No certain state of knowledge, is a natural or unavoidable quality of man. As an intellectual or moral quality, it may be created, destroyed and modified by human power. Can that which may be created, destroyed and modified by human power, be a natural and inevitable cause of aristocracy?
It has been modified in an extent, which Mr. Adams does not even compute, by the art of printing, discovered subsequently to almost the whole of the authorities which have convinced Mr. Adams, that knowledge, or as he might have more correctly asserted, ignorance, was a cause of aristocracy.
The peerage of knowledge or abilities, in consequence of its enlargement by the effects of printing, can no longer be collected and controlled in the shape of a noble order or a legislative department. The great body of this peerage must remain scattered throughout every nation, by the enjoyment of the benefit of the press. By endowing a small portion of it with exclusive rights and privileges, the indignation of this main body is excited. If this endowment should enable a nation to watch and control an inconsiderable number of that species of peerage produced by knowledge, it would also purchase the dissatisfaction of its numberless members unjustly excluded; and would be a system for defending a nation against imbecility, and inviting aggression from strength, equivalent to a project for defeating an army, by feasting its vanguard.
If this reasoning is correct, the collection of that species of natural aristocracy (as Mr. Adams calls it) produced by superior abilities, into a legislative department, for the purpose of watching and controlling it, is now rendered impracticable, however useful it might have been, at an era when the proportion between knowledge and ignorance was essentially different; and this impracticability is a strong indication of the radical inaccuracy of considering aristocracy as an inevitable natural law. The wisdom of uniting exclusive knowledge by exclusive privileges, that it may be controlled by disunited ignorance, is not considered as being an hypothetical question, since this aristocratical knowledge cannot now exist.
Similar reasoning applies still more forcibly to the idea of nature’s constituting aristocracy, by means of exclusive virtue. Knowledge and virtue both fluctuate. A steady effect, from fluctuating causes, is morally and physically impossible. And yet Mr. Adams infers a natural aristocracy, from the error, that virtue and knowledge are in an uniform relation to vice and ignorance; sweeps away by it every human faculty, for the attainment of temporal or eternal happiness; and overturns the efficacy of law, to produce private or public moral rectitude.
Had it been true, that knowledge and virtue were natural causes of aristocracy, no fact could more clearly have exploded Mr. Adams’s system, or more unequivocally have dissented from the eulogy he bestows on the English form of government. Until knowledge and virtue shall become genealogical, they cannot be the causes of inheritable aristocracy; and its existence, without the aid of superior knowledge and virtue, is a positive refutation of the idea, that nature creates aristocracy with these tools.
Mr. Adams has omitted a cause of aristocracy in the quotation, which he forgets not to urge in other places; namely, exclusive wealth. This, by much the most formidable with which mankind have to contend, is necessarily omitted, whilst he is ascribing aristocracy to nature; and being both artificial and efficacious, it contributes to sustain the opinion, ‘that as aristocracy is thus artificially created, it may also be artificially destroyed.’
Alienation is the remedy for an aristocracy founded on landed wealth; inhibitions upon monopoly and incorporation, for one founded on paper wealth. Knowledge, enlisted by Mr. Adams under the banner of aristocracy, deserted her associate by the invention of alienation, and became its natural enemy. Discovering its hostility to human happiness, like Brutus, she has applied the axe to the neck of what Mr. Adams calls her progeny; and instead of maintaining the exclusiveness of wealth, contributes to its division by inciting competition, and assailing perpetuities. How successfully, let England illustrate. She, no longer relying upon nature for an aristocracy, is perpetually obliged to repair the devastations it sustains from alienation; the weapon invented by knowledge; by resorting to the funds of paper systems, pillage, patronage and hierarchy, for fresh supplies.
The reader will be pleased to recollect the question in debate. Mr. Adams asserts, that an aristocratical body of men is necessary, as being natural. Having thus gotten it, he admits that it will be ambitious and dangerous to liberty. Being ambitious and dangerous, he infers, that it ought to be controlled. And this, he says, can only be effected by a king over it, and a house of commons under it; thus placing it between two fires, on account of its strength, danger and ambition.
The entire hypothesis rests upon a single foundation, ‘that aristocracy is natural and inevitable;’ and therefore this groundwork ought to be well examined.
The contrivance for erecting a system, by asserting and setting out from the will of God, or from nature, is not new. Most of those systems of Government, to which Mr. Adams refers us for instruction, resorted to it; and therefore the propriety of reviving the principle, upon which these ancient systems were generally or universally founded, to revive its effects, must be admitted. ‘It is the will of Jupiter,’ exclaimed some artful combination of men. ‘The will of Jupiter is inevitable,’ responded the same combination to itself; and ignorance submitted to a fate, manufactured by human fraud.
Whenever it is impossible to prove a principle, which is necessary to support a system, a reference to an inevitable power, calling it God or nature, is preferable to reasoning; because every such principle is more likely to be exploded, than established by reasoning. For instance; it would be difficult to convince us, that we ought to erect an aristocracy spontaneously; the folly of which, Mr. Adams unwarily admits, by insisting upon the great danger to be apprehended from it, to enhance the merit of his system, in meeting this danger with a king and a house of commons. And therefore, the short and safe expedient is, to tell us that nature has settled the question, by declaring that we shall have an aristocracy; being induced to believe and concede this, the difficulty is over; and the whole system, bottomed upon the concession, becomes irrefutable.
Hence have been derived, the sanctity of oracles, the divinity of kings, and the holiness of priests; and now that these bubbles have become the scoff of common sense, experiment is to decide, whether there remains in America a stock of superstition, upon which can be ingrafted, ‘an aristocracy from nature.’
Should it grow upon this stem, Mr. Adams is not entitled to the reputation of an inventor. He states the origin of the thought, in speaking of the aristocracies of Greece. These, he says, had the address to persuade the people, that they deduced their genealogies from the Gods; of course their titles to aristocratical preeminences were of divine origin, and inheritable quality. But Mr. Adams’s system, it must be admitted, improves upon the idea, in relying upon some perpetual operation of nature, as a less fortuitous resource for an aristocracy, than the amorous adventures of heathen deities.
In old times, kings as well as nobles were believed to be heaven-born. But Mr. Adams confines the procreative power of nature to an aristocracy, and thus makes room for the human invention of a king and a house of commons, to check and discipline nature’s unkindness. So Filmer might have acquired political fame, by proposing a house of lords and a house of commons, as checks upon his divine or natural king.
A short review of a few of the aristocracies quoted by Mr. Adams, will exhibit the affinity between the ancient idea of a divine, and Mr. Adams’s, of a natural aristocracy.
In speaking of the aristocracies of Greece, he observes, that they derived themselves from some of the heathen deities, taking great care to retain the priesthood and religious mysteries in their own hands; and that these precautions had great influence towards restraining democratical innovations, by inspiring the lower orders with fear and veneration for their superiors.
Here then is the origin of a Grecian aristocracy. Was it founded in fraud, or begotten by the Gods, as it asserted? A divine origin is not contended for by Mr. Adams; he deduces it from a deception; yet if Jupiter and his associates had maintained their influence to this day, aristocracy would not have renounced its parentage; but the degradation or modern chastity of the heathen deities, compelled it to adopt another ancestor more analogous to modern theology, and whose progeny was not likely to fail. The election has fallen on nature; and the new question, ‘whether aristocracy is fraudulent or natural,’ has, from this circumstance, become the substitute of the old, ‘whether it was fraudulent or divine.’
The Grecian commonalty were never easy, even under this heaven-born aristocracy. Bound in the chains of superstition, and blinded by the mist of ignorance, something was still telling them that it was not right; something was still urging them to correct an evil of which they were sensible. It was thy inspiration, Oh! divine nature! Thou didst unfold to man glimmerings of truth, even in ages of superstition and ignorance! And yet thou art arraigned as the author of aristocracy, which thou art for ever inciting thy children to destroy!
The struggle between aristocracy and democracy in Greece, is repeatedly urged by Mr. Adams, to prove the advantage of balancing them against each other in our legislatures. But it was previously incumbent upon him to have proved, both that the Grecian aristocracy was natural and unavoidable, and also that our state of manners and knowledge is so exactly theirs, that we cannot avoid a similar aristocracy; namely, one of divine blood; before these precedents, any more than magna charta, could be made useful in his mode, to modern liberty. He was unable to do this. We know that man, yoked to obedience by superstition, and half bereft of his faculties by ignorance, was yet impatient under aristocracy; though he believed it to be the offspring of the Gods: the inference which presents itself is, that, enlightened by the effects of printing, he will not easily be subjected by one, which he knows to be the offspring of men.
An opposition to aristocratical power seems to have been constantly coeval with an advance of national information. It began in Greece, appeared at Rome, and has continued the companion of mental improvement, down to the present day. As knowledge advanced in England, this opposition gained ground, and at length a victory, before that wise and natural aristocracy discovered its danger.
By the natural coalition between knowledge and an enmity to aristocracy, that of England was substantially annihilated, whilst its forms remained. The nobility have ceased to be feared, because they have ceased to be powerful; and the prohibition of ennobled orders in America, is the formal effect of their previous substantial destruction, by the progress of knowledge in England.
Knowledge and commerce, by a division of virtue, of talents, and of wealth among multitudes, have annihilated that order of men, who in past ages constituted ‘a natural aristocray,’ (as Mr. Adams thinks) by exclusive virtue, talents and wealth. This ancient object of terror has shrunk into a cypher; whilst a single executive, proposed by Mr. Adams as its check, has become, by the aid of patronage and paper, a political figure, at the head of a long row of decimals.
From the tyranny of aristocracy, Mr. Adams takes refuge under the protection of a king, and considers him as so essentially the ally and protector of the people, as positively to declare, that, ‘instead of the trite saying, “no bishop, no king,” it would be a much more exact and important truth to say, no people, no king, and no king, no people; meaning, by the word king, a first magistrate, possessed exclusively of executive power.’∗
Throughout his system, Mr. Adams infers a necessity for a king, or (what is the same thing) of a ‘first magistrate, possessed exclusively of executive power,’ from the certainty of a natural aristocracy. But if aristocracy is artificial and not natural, it may be prevented, by detecting the artifice; and by preventing aristocracy (the only cause for a king) the king himself becomes useless. His utility, according to Mr. Adams’s system, consists in checking aristocratical power; but if no such power naturally exists, it would evidently be absurd to create a scourge (as Mr. Adams allows it to be) merely as a cause for a king.
In order to illustrate the opinion, that the aristocracy exhibited to us by Mr. Adams, as creating a necessity for his system, is only a ghost, let us turn our eyes for a moment towards its successor.
As the aristocracies of priestcraft and conquest decayed, that of patronage and paper stock grew; not the rival, but the instrument of a king; without rank or title; regardless of honour; of insatiable avarice; and neither conspicuous for virtue and knowledge, or capable of being collected into a legislative chamber. Differing in all its qualities from Mr. Adams’s natural aristocracy, and defying his remedy, it is condensed and combined by an interest, exclusive, and inimical to public good.
Why has Mr. Adams written volumes to instruct us how to manage an order of nobles, sons of the Gods, of exclusive virtue, talents and wealth, and attended by the pomp and fraud of superstition; or one of feudal barons, holding great districts of unalienable country, warlike, high spirited, turbulent and dangerous; now that these orders are no more? Whilst he passes over in silence the aristocracy of paper and patronage, more numerous, more burdensome, unexposed to public jealousy by the badge of title, and not too honorable or high spirited to use and serve executive power for the sake of pillaging the people. Are these odious vices, to be concealed under apprehensions of ancient aristocracies, which, however natural, are supplanted by this modern one?
This subject will hereafter be resumed, as possessing in every view, a degree of importance, beyond any political question at this era affecting the happiness of mankind. Then having previously attempted to prove that even the titled aristocracy of England, is no longer an order, requiring the combined efforts of a king and a people to curb; I shall proceed to shew, that a new political feature has appeared among men, for which Mr. Adams’s system does not provide; and that England itself cannot now furnish materials for a government conformable to her theory, because her theory was calculated for a nation less advanced in the division of knowledge and lands, and in the arts of patronage and paper. Now we will return to the subject of a natural aristocracy.
Mr. Adams, with particular approbation, uses the Spartan government, as an illustration of his hypothesis. The wisdom of Lycurgus, he observes, was evinced by a mixture of monarchial, aristocratical, and democratical principles; and the prudent manner in which he adjusted them, appeared by its continuance for eight hundred years. Conceding the Spartan experiment to be a correct emblem of the system it is used to exemplify, it is only important to be understood, for the sake of beholding in fact, the results to be expected from this system itself.
The kings of Sparta held a relation to the Spartans or nobles, somewhat similar to that existing between the kings, and what is called ‘the monied interest’ in England. No vestige of a democratical balance was discernible during the operation of this admired mixture. On the contrary, Sparta was the constant patron of the aristocratical factions throughout Greece, and finally ruined it, by a treacherous league with the Persians, entered into under the pretence of freeing tributary cities, but with the design of advancing the interest of aristocratical factions in neighbouring states. Does this form of government earn the eulogy, of being the best in Greece, because it produced its ruin, by leaguing itself with absolute monarchy?
Lycurgus, by the influence of a bought and lying oracle, placed the government in the hands of a minority, excused this minority from labour and taxes, and supported it by the labour of the majority. The Helots, who were the slaves of the government but not of individuals, filled the place of every majority, however denominated, subjected to the will of an aristocracy. All the difference is, that the Spartan aristocracy obtained of its Helots, subsistence and leisure for itself, by the goad and the lash; and the aristocracy of paper and patronage, obtains of theirs, wealth and luxury, by war, sinecure and taxation. This emblem of Mr. Adams’s system, commenced in fraud; flourished, a tyrant; and died, a traitor; and although Lycurgus divided the Spartan aristocracy into several bodies; distributed it into different chambers; and placed at its head, dependant chiefs; impartiality will only behold an organization of an aristocratical minority for self security, however an eagerness to establish a system, may transform it into the effigy of an entire nation.
How exactly emblematical this precedent is of the English government! A minority organized, not to preserve, but to suppress, popular influence. Such is the effect of aristocratical orders, according to the examples adduced in their defence.
More intricate sections of an aristocratical interest existed at Venice, than at Sparta or London. Were these also contrived to check that interest, for the sake of advancing the democratic interest, or for its own safety?
It does not appear, whether Lycurgus left the number of his aristocracy, to be regulated by the efforts of the Heathen Gods or of nature; but neither the oracle, the Gods, or nature could keep it alive. It became naturally extinct before the artificial cords of superstition, which bound its victims to obedience, were broken.
Nor is duration, evidence of political perfection. Such an argument includes with equal complacency, the despotisms of the Roman Empire, of China, of France and of Turkey; the aristocracy of Venice, and the hierarchies of Judea and modern Rome.
The aristocracy of Sparta owed its origin to an oracle, that of Rome, to a king. Whilst we see Lycurgus, of the royal family and near the throne, and Romulus, himself a king, creating an aristocracy in antient times; and modern kings, almost universally doing the same thing; it suggests a doubt, whether kings and noble orders, are really the enemies and rivals of each other; and it is a doubt of importance, because the single effect beneficial to a nation, expected by Mr. Adams himself from his system, is, that its king will defend the people against its nobility.
It is admitted that patricians and barons have destroyed kings, and disclosed an enmity to royalty. It is equally true, that aristocratical orders are at this day their friends and instruments. A correct theory could only be formed upon an estimate of both facts; Mr. Adams endeavours to establish his upon one. Armies have frequently exhibited an enmity to generals and kings; ought armies therefore to be considered as checks upon their ambition, and balances of their power?
By comparing the causes of the antient enmity with those of the modern affection of noble orders for royalty, we obtain a result, accounting for these phenomena, fatal to Mr. Adams’s theory.
Clientage, clanship, and feudality, have sown various countries with petty kings, under various titles, and these have been inspired with enmity to a great king, and a great king with an enmity to these, by a mutual interest to annoy each other; but now that clanship is melted down into one mass of civilization, and baronies into private estates, petty kingship is annihilated, and noble orders are completely sensible, that ribbon, livery and escutcheon, are not means for assaulting kings, equivalent to subjects, castles and principalities.
Admitting monarchy to be an evil, the ratio of the evil must be increased or diminished by its quantity, and it was evidently the comparative interest of the people to diminish the number of kings, for the sake of contracting the oppressions of monarchy. In England, one king, would be less mischievous than one hundred. This motive actuated the people to assist the great king to destroy the little kings; and ambition, not the popular interest, induced the great king to avail himself of this assistance. But when the petty monarchies, which had excited the jealousy, and produced the coalition, of one king and the people, were destroyed, this jealousy transferred itself to the allies. Having acquired a complete victory, they became objects of danger to each other and resorted to mutual precautions. Representation, invented by the crown to destroy the barons, was used by the people against the crown; and is now used by the crown against the people. The conquered nobility, reduced from sovereigns to subjects, became the chief disciples of royal patronage; and having lost the power of annoying the king, revenged itself upon the people, by uniting with the king to annoy them.
The result we obtain from this short history, is, that noble orders, divested of royalties, and reduced to the degree of subjects, are the instruments of kings; but that such orders, chiefs of clans, and possessed of dominions, are inimical to a monarchy, sufficiently powerful to suppress their own. Thus these phenomena are reconciled, and the alliance between kings and nobles in some cases, and their enmity in others accounted for. When the reasons inducing kings to destroy barons and to create lords are understood, the interest of the people to aid them in the first work, and to oppose them in the second, will be discerned; and Mr. Admas’s system must sustain the shock of admitting, that a king cannot be a good remedy against the evils of any species of aristocracy, created by himself for an instrument, not for a check of monarchical power.
The aristocratical varieties just described, evince a factitious origin; and the frauds practiced by the Roman aristocracy for self-preservation, in common with its Grecian predecessor, acknowledge a similar ancestry. It usurped the dignities of government, monopolized public property, enriched itself by conquest and by forcing the people to borrow at exorbitant usury of itself, to supply the loss of labour whilst fighting for the lands it monopolized, assumed the priesthood, practiced upon the vulgar superstition, and impressed an idea that its progeny was well born, by prohibiting the connubial intercourse between itself and inferior orders. Nature needed not these arbitrary and fraudulent helps, in manufacturing aristocracy, had she been its parent.
And what was the fate of this Roman aristocracy, thus entrenched behind law, religion and robbery? It was modified occasionally by popular lucid intervals, until the people, wearied with its injuries and frauds, took refuge from the oppression of five hundred tyrants under that of one. Then this ancient aristocracy merged in a despotism, and for centuries remained in a state of abeyance. Why may not a modern aristocracy merge in the principle of representation? The peerage of England, like the conscript fathers under an Emperor, being in this state of abeyance, so little requires Mr. Adams’s king and commons to control it, that it would naturally became extinct, except for the nourishment of royal patronage.
Mr. Adams’s hypothesis, being evidently borrowed from the English model, we will view that model with more attention than will be devoted to other forms of government.
For the sake of perspicuity, I shall call the ancient aristocracy, chiefly created and supported by superstition, ‘the aristocracy of the first age;’ that produced by conquest, known by the title of the feudal system, ‘the aristocracy of the second age;’ and that erected by paper and patronage, ‘the aristocracy of the third or present age.’ If aristocracy is the work of nature, by deserting her accustomed constancy, and slily changing the shape of her work, she has cunningly perplexed our defensive operations; to create the aristocracy of the first age, she used Jupiter; of the second, Mars; and of the third, Mercury. Jupiter is dethroned by knowledge; the usurpations of Mars are scattered by commerce and alienation; and it only remains to detect the impostures of Mercury.
And in order to avoid the confusion, arising from a complication of ideas, it is necessary to remind the reader, that Mr. Adams does not use the terms ‘natural aristocracy’ in relation to a fluctuating superiority in mind or body; but in relation to a superiority, capable of being collected into a legislative chamber, and permanently transmitted by descent. To this latter idea he limits his meaning, by illustrating it with the British system. Therefore superiorities in mind or body, must be excluded from a correct survey of Mr. Adams’s natural aristocracy; for these would still adhere to the wisest or tallest individual, and not to the issue of an hereditary nobility.
England furnishes a perfect view of the aristocracies of the second and third age; and it is probable that a modification of the aristocracy of the first age, existed there also in the times of the Druids; but we shall only use the example of England for the illustration of the two others.
In France, the aristocracy of the second age, had become so feeble, that it fell, almost without a struggle; and being more numerous and wealthy than the same species of aristocracy in England, its imbecility furnishes a suspicion, that its English correlative does not substantially exist.
A real aristocracy is allowed to be formidable and dangerous; but the qualities, necessary to create an aristocracy according to Mr. Adams, should appear in the English peerage, to defend the precaution of monarchy; just as a danger of war, could only defend the bitter precaution of a standing army.
Reader, pause, and recollect several of the ingredients compounding aristocracy, in the opinion of Mr. Adams. Do you behold them in the English peerage? Do you behold an exclusive mass of virtue, almost inducing you to exclaim ‘these are the sons of the Gods?’ Do you behold an exclusive mass of talents, compelling you to acknowledge ‘that these are sages qualified to govern?’ Do you behold an exclusive mass of wealth, purchasing and converting into armies, clients and followers? Or do you behold a band of warriors inured to hardships, skilled in war, and inspiring fear and love? Truth compels you to acknowledge, that you cannot discern a solitary particle of these qualities, so essential to aristocracy according to Mr. Adams. And will you, against an acknowledgment which you cannot withhold, concur with Mr. Adams in believing, that such a body of men as the English nobility, ought to be placed in a legislative branch, that it may be guarded by a king and a house of commons?
Place the democracy of England on one side, and the nobility on the other; engage them in hostilities, and view the combat. Let the warfare be moral or physical. Still the combat would be like that between the universe and an atom. The king, without his aristocracy of the third age, would be but a feather on either side. This fact was experimentally settled in France. The French nobility civil and hierarchical, were more numerous, and exceeded the English in every aristocratical ingredient mentioned by Mr. Adams; yet with the king at its head, it was hardly felt as a power by the democracy, and would not have been felt, except for the combination of kingdoms by which it was aided. Is there then any real cause of apprehension in the fallen peerage of England?
Suppose the people of England should attempt to abolish monarchy. Both the aristocracy of the present age, and the nobility would arrange themselves in its defence. Which would be most formidable? The remnant or hieroglyphick of the feudal system, would indeed display a ridiculous pomp, and imbecile importance; it would appear armed with title, ribbon and symbol, and evince its weakness by tottering under shadows. But the real aristocracy of the present age; neither begotten by the Gods, the curse of conquest, nor the offspring of nature; the aristocracy of patronage and paper would draw out its fleets, armies, public debt, corporate bodies and civil offices. Which species of aristocracy, I ask again, would be the strongest auxiliary for despotism, and the most dangerous enemy to the nation? And yet Mr. Adams has written three volumes, to excite our jealousy against the aristocracy of motto and blazon, without disclosing the danger from the aristocracy of paper and patronage; that political hydra of modern invention, whose arms embrace a whole nation, whose ears hear every sound, whose eyes see all objects, and whose hands can reach every purse and every throat.
The faint traces discernible in England, of the aristocracy of the second age, evidently disclose a revolution in its qualities, which must have been produced by a cause; and when we perceive, that the present nobility no longer awaken the jealousy of the king, or attract the attention of the people, it behoves us to ascertain this cause, in order to understand what aristocracy is; and to distinguish between that which is nominal and that which is real; between a Chilperic, and a Charles Martel.
The circumstances which constituted the cause of this revolution, disclose the wounds which destroyed the aristocracy of the second age, and the impossibility of its existence, whilst these circumstances remain. Its essence consisted of chivalry, principality, sovereignty, splendor, munificence and vassalage; its shadow, of title. Of all these constituents, except the last, it has been stript by subjecting it to a competition with talents, and exposing it to the effects of commerce and alienation. Plebeians are now the compeers of these titled patricians in wealth, and they, the compeers of Plebeians in subjection to law; and the equalising spirit of knowledge has exalted one class, and reduced the other, to the common standard of mortal men.
An endeavour to record the magnanimity, ambition and consequence, exhibited by the British peerage, would conduct us precisely to the era of the change, at which the history would stop of itself, in defiance of the historian; it would terminate where the history of patronage and paper begins, because one form of aristocracy supplants another, and it would pass on from the dead to the living, as in the case of any other succession. Thence forward, the English peerage gradually sunk into the aristocracy of the third age; it became the creature of patronage, and the subject of paper; and although it is seen on account of a legislative formulary, it is as little regarded by the nation, as a butterfly by a man in agony. Its number is recruited from the corps raised and disciplined by the system of patronage and paper; and the claims it once possessed to superior knowledge, virtue, wealth and independence, have been long since immolated at the shrines of printing, alienation and executive power.
Nor does Great Britain possess the materials for reviving the aristocracy of the first or second age, or erecting one in any respect correspondent to that contemplated by Mr. Adams’s political scheme. If this assertion is established, his hypothesis is destroyed. It is therefore allowable to bring it again into view, that an argument so important, may be better understood.
Every society, in Mr. Adams’s opinion, will naturally produce a class of men minor in number, but superior to the major class in virtue, abilities and wealth; and hence, important, dangerous and ambitious. That they may be watched and controlled, they must be thrown into a separate legislative body, and balanced by a king on one side, and a house of Commons on the other; otherwise they will usurp the government.
This assertion depends upon a plain computation. Can a class of men, capable of being condensed in a legislative chamber, under the eye of the king and the Commons, be found in Great Britain, possessing more virtue, wisdom and wealth, than the rest of the nation; or even a portion sufficiently exclusive, to render it important, dangerous and ambitious? And if such a class could have been found, would not its importance and ambition presently become victims to printing, alienation and commerce?
If it be admitted, that the mass of virtue, wisdom and wealth, remaining with the people of Great Britain, infinitely exceeds that collected into the present house of lords, Mr. Adams’s system contains the palpable error, of providing against the importance, danger and ambition of a diminutive portion of the virtue, wisdom and wealth of a nation, and of not providing against the importance, danger and ambition of the great mass of these qualities. This great mass, it may be answered, will be prevented from doing harm to the nation, by the representative principle to be found in the house of commons. If that principle is capable of managing the great mass of virtue, wisdom and wealth, it is also capable of managing an inconsiderable portion of this mass; and hence results the propriety of an elective, and the impropriety of an hereditary senate, upon Mr. Adams’s own principles.
In this argument, Mr. Adams’s definition of aristocracy is adhered to; he makes it to consist in a dangerous share of virtue, wisdom and wealth, held by a number of individuals, so few, as to be capable of constituting a legislative branch. The difference between us is, that his computation to make out a fact analogous to his system, must refer to the period of feudal aristocracy; mine takes the fact now existing, as the best foundation for political inferences, to be now applied.
But his definition undoubtedly possesses a considerable share of truth, and suggests an observation extremely plain. The possession by a few, of the major part of the whole stock of renown, talents or wealth, within the compass of a society, was the moral cause which supported the aristocracies of the first and second ages; when the cause ceased, the effects ceased also; and the aristocracies of superstition and the feudal system disappeared. But this effect may be revived by reviving its cause. A monopoly by a few, of renown, talents or wealth, may be reproduced, by superstition, conquest or fraud; and the question is, whether this would be advisable, for the sake of trying the efficacy of his system.
We must turn our eyes once more towards England, in order to illustrate the necessity for this reproduction, as the only means of erecting an aristocracy. We see there a chamber of mobility. But where is its exclusive renown? Vanished with superstition and entails. Where are its exclusive talents? Buried by the art of printing in the same grave with ignorance. Where is its exclusive wealth? Pouring through the sluices of dissipation, opened by alienation and commerce. And where is its heroism? Consecrated in the temple of luxury. These elements of aristocracy are gone, and the spectre only remains, to assail our fears in behalf of the system I am contesting. But the system of patronage and paper has reproduced a monopoly of wealth. What! have Pylades and Orestes at length quarrelled, and does one adhere to the English peerage, whilst the other deserts to this English system?
This apparition of aristocracy is not however devoid of malignity, arising from its privilege of uttering legislative incantations. As to that kind of ambition which impels heroes to the perpetration of crimes; as to those enterprises which disturb nations, and excite the jealousy of kings; the innocence of the English nobility is incontestable. Therefore these nobles are no longer jealous of the king, nor the king of them. And however speciously the system of king, lords and commons, is attempted to be filtered by the supposition of a mutual jealousy; however correctly the fact might have warranted such a supposition, when English lords were feudal barons; now that they are only titled courtiers, mutual harmony, the probable effect, is equally warranted by the actual fact. King, lords and commons are melted up together by the aristocracy of the third age, retaining, like Cerberus, three mouths, and yet possessing all the defects of political power collected into one body, so ably demonstrated by Mr. Adams; and the unhappy English are exposed to all the oppressions of a substantial aristocracy existing in the monopolies of paper and patronage, and to all the evils of a legislative power in the ghost of an unsubstantial one.
We are ready to acknowledge that extraordinary virtue, talents and wealth united, will govern, and ought to govern; and yet it is denied that this concession is reconcileable with the system of king, lords and commons. If a body of men which possesses the virtue, talents and wealth of a nation, ought to govern; it follows, that a body of men, which does not possess these attributes, ought not to govern.
The aristocracy of Rome for instance, did, at certain periods, possess a greater proportion of virtue, talents and wealth, than can be found in any cast or order of men at present, among commercial nations; which, and not the house of lords in England, Mr. Adams must have had in his eye, when in speaking of an aristocracy, he utters the following expressions, ‘it is the brightest ornament and glory of a nation, and may always be made the greatest blessing of society, if it be judiciously managed in the constitution;’ unless he can shew us, that the English house of lords merits this eulogy.
Plebeian ignorance was both the cause and justification of the Roman aristocracy. That might have been a worse magistrate, than patrician knowledge; and the magic circle drawn by superstition around the conscript fathers, might have been necessary to restrain the excesses of a rude nation inclosed within a single city. But this supplies no argument in favour of an aristocracy, in societies not of national aggregation, but of national dispersion; not of national ignorance, but of national intelligence; not sustained by superstition, but by a common interest.
Similar causes produced the feudal aristocracy. The conquering tribes were moving cities and colonising armies; and hereditary privileges were preferred to national annihilation. The feudal commanders, compared with their ignorant vassals, possessed that superiority in renown, talents and wealth, which might have produced the feudal system, as the moral effect of these moral causes. Such a form of government might have been the best which these moving cities, these tribes or these armies could bear, and yet execrable for a nation, not in the same moral state.
Having thus conceded to Mr. Adams, that wherever a few possess the mass of the renown, virtue, talents and wealth of a nation, that they will become an aristocracy, and probably ought to do so; it would be a concession, strictly reciprocal, to admit, that wherever no such body is to be found, an aristocracy ought not to be created by legal assignments of wealth and poverty. As the first species of minority will govern, because of the power arising from such monopolies only, so no other species can, without these sources of power. Where its sources are, power will be found; and hence the great mass of wealth, created by the system of paper and patronage, has annihilated the power of the didactick and titled peerage of England; because it has not a sufficient mass of virtue, renown, talents or wealth, to oppose against stock and patronage.
The aristocracies of the first and second ages were indebted for their power to ignorance, fraud and superstition; now reason, sincerity and truth, are demanded by the human mind. It disdains to worship a pageant or fear a phantom, and is only to be guided by views of interest or happiness. This change in the human character indicates an impossibility of reviving the principles which sustained the aristocracies of the first and second age, when mankind believed in the Gods of a pantheon, and in the prophetic powers of convulsed women.
Talents and virtue are now so widely distributed, as to have rendered a monopoly of either, equivalent to that of antiquity, impracticable; and if an aristocracy ought to have existed, whilst it possessed such a monopoly, it ought not also to exist, because this monopoly is irretrievably lost. The distribution of wealth produced by commerce and alienation, is equal to that of knowledge and virtue, produced by printing; but as the first distribution might be artificially counteracted, with a better prospect of success than the latter, aristocracy has abandoned a reliance on a monopoly of virtue, renown and abilities, and resorted wholly to a monopoly of wealth, by the system of paper and patronage. Modern taxes and frauds to collect money, and not ancient authors, will therefore afford the best evidence of its present character.
A distribution of knowledge, virtue and wealth, produced public opinion, which ought now to govern for the reason urged by Mr. Adams in favour of aristocracy. It is the declaration of the mass of national wealth, virtue and talents. Power, in Mr. Adams’s opinion, ought to follow this mass in the hands of a few, because it is the ornament of society. It is unimportant whether an aristocracy is a natural, physical or moral effect, if its cause, by means, natural, physical or moral, may be lost or transferred. Whenever the mass of wealth, virtue and talents, is lost by a few and transferred to a great portion of a nation, an aristocracy no longer retains the only sanctions of its claim; and wherever these sanctions deposit themselves, they carry the interwoven power. By spreading themselves so generally throughout a nation, as to be no longer compressible into a legislative chamber, or inheritable by the aid of perpetuity and superstition, these antient sanctions of aristocracy, become the modern sanctions of public opinion. And as its will (now the rightful sovereign upon the self-same principle, urged in favor of the best founded aristocracy) can no longer be obtained through the medium of an hereditary order, the American invention of applying the doctrine of responsibility to magistrates, is the only one yet discovered for effecting the same object, which was effected by an aristocracy, holding the mass of national virtue, talents and wealth. This mass governed through such an aristocracy. This mass cannot now govern through any aristocracy. This mass has searched for a new organ, as a medium for exercising the sovereignty, to which it is on all sides allowed to be entitled; and this medium is representation.
When the principles and practice of the American policy come to be considered, one subject of inquiry will be, whether public opinion, or the declaration of the mass of national virtue, talents and wealth, will be able to exercise this its just sovereignty, in union with the system of paper and patronage. If not, it is very remarkable, that this system, denominated the aristocracy of the third age, is equally inimical to Mr. Adams’s principles and to mine. We both assign political power to the mass of virtue, talents and wealth in a nation. He only contends for an aristocracy from a supposition that it must possess this mass, and be the only organ of its will; I acknowledge the sovereignty of these qualities, deny their residence in a minority compressible into an aristocracy, and contend for a different organ. In order to discover whether the aristocracy of paper and patronage, is a good organ for expressing the will of the sovereign we have agreed upon, let us return to England, and consider, whether the revolution, which finally destroyed the aristocracy of the second age, and established that of the third, has placed the government in the hands of the wealth, virtue and talents of the nation, or subjected it to the influence of public opinion.
If you had seen the vulture preying upon the entrails of the agonized Prometheus, would you have believed, though Pluto himself had sworn it, that the vulture was under the control of Prometheus? If you could not have believed this, neither can you believe, that the concubinage between a government, and the system of paper and patronage, is an organ of national opinion, or of the wealth, virtue and talents of the nation, and not a conspiracy between avarice and ambition; because, it is as impossible that a nation should derive pleasure from a government founded in the principle of voraciousness, as the man from the laceration of his bowels.
It has been said, that paper and office are property; and as by their means, a minority may bring into its coffers, the whole profit of national labour, so it ought to be considered as the nation. Had Prometheus fattened by being fed upon by the vulture, it would have given some colour to this ingenious deception.
Again it has been said, that the system of paper and patronage encourages commerce, agriculture, manufactures and conquest; it aggravated the misery of Prometheus, that his liver was made to grow for the gratification of a harpy, without appeasing its voracity.
The difficulty of producing a correct opinion of the cause and consequences of the new-born aristocracy of paper and patronage, surpasses the same difficulty in relation to the aristocracies of the first and second ages, as far as its superior importance. The two last being substantially dead, their bodies may be cut up, the articulation of their bones exposed, and the convolution of their fibres unravelled; but whenever the intricate structure of the system of paper and patronage is attempted to be dissected, we moderns surrender our intellects to yells uttered by the living monster, similar to those with which its predecessors astonished, deluded, and oppressed the world for three thousand years. The aristocracy of superstition defended itself by exclaiming, the Gods! the temples! the sacred oracles! divine vengeance! and Elysian fields!—and that of paper and patronage exclaims, national faith! sacred charters! disorganization! and security of property!
Let us moderns cease to boast of our victory over superstition and the feudal system, and our advancement in knowledge. Let us neither pity, ridicule or despise the ancients, as dupes of frauds and tricks, which we can so easily discern; lest some ancient sage should rise from his grave, and answer, ‘You moderns are duped by arts more obviously fraudulent, than those which deceived us. The agency of the Gods was less discernible, than the effects of paper and patronage. We could not see, that the temporal and eternal pains and pleasures, threatened and promised by our aristocracy, could not be inflicted or bestowed by it; you see throughout Europe the effects of your aristocracy. Without your light, oracles were necessary to deceive us; with the help of printing, and two detections, you are deceived by aristocracy in a third form, although it pretends neither to the divinity nor heroism claimed by its two first forms. And under these disadvantages, the impositions of our aristocracy were restrained within narrower bounds than those of yours. Did any aristocracy of the first age, extend its annual spoliation from one to thirty-five millions of pounds sterling, in less than a century?’
Whenever one fraud is detected, ambition and avarice have hitherto invented another. The aristocracy of the second age, being weakened in England, by the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, Henry the seventh seized the opportunity of breaking its power. The four succeeding kings, (excluding Edward) uncontrolled by the remaining aristocracy, though more warlike and wealthy than the present; or by the degree of knowledge, virtue and wealth among the people; were so completely despotic, as to be even able to modify religion, according to the suggestions of their amours, their bigotry, or their minions. The barons were conquered, and knowledge, virtue and wealth, had not been sufficiently dispersed to create the sovereignty of public opinion. So that during these four reigns, society remained in an anomalous state, between the suppression of an aristocracy, and the acquisition of knowledge, virtue and wealth by the people, from printing and commerce. Charles the first lost his life, because he either did not mark the progress of this acquisition, or had not liberality enough to yield to it. His son, less magnanimous than his father, escaped a similar fate by the national weariness of bigotry, fraud and tyranny united; and by practising in some degree the system of corruption. William of Orange farther advanced this baleful system; and Sir Robert Walpole completely organized the aristocracy of the present age, for the purpose of corrupting those, whom the progress of knowledge had enlightened.
From Henry the eighth to that time, the nobility had been but slightly felt as a political power; and Walpole’s project for the modern aristocracy, substantially annihilated them. During this interval, superstition, ignorance and feudal power were declining. By their aid, minorities had oppressed nations. By their aid, minorities had erected themselves into the aristocracies of the first and second ages; and patronage and paper became the substitute for these forms of aristocracy, because avarice and ambition, having discovered that man could no longer be made subservient to their designs by means of his ignorance, saw the necessity of obtaining the same subserviency by means of his avarice.
We discern but two kinds of aristocracy; that which is the tyrant itself, and that which is the instrument of the tyrant. The ancient feudal and hierarchical aristocracies of England were tyrants themselves. The modern nobles and bishops; the patronage and stock interests; the generals and titulars of Bonaparte, and the mandarins of China, are instruments of tyranny. The same reasons inducing the people to unite with kings against aristocracies, which were themselves tyrants, ought to determine them to assail such as are the instruments of kings. Independent of kings, they are universally the first kind of evil; dependent on them, the second. But mankind are distracted by an host of political doctors, who utter prejudices imbibed from obsolete cases or existing interests. The whole college agree that the British policy is afflicted with some inveterate distemper, but each doctor asserts his favorite limb to be sound; and whilst the aggregate by one opinion pronounces it to be in the agonies of death, the same aggregate by many opinions pronounces it to be in perfect health. Funding, banking, patronage, charter, mercenary armies and partial bounties, are each admired as a panacea by some one; even corruption is defended as a happy expedient for managing the house of commons; and doctor Balance, venerable with the rest of antiquity, excites universal astonishment by declaring with unaffected gravity, that a nobility endowed with enormous wealth, virtue and talents, is only wanting to renovate it throughout. Such doctors are labouring to patch up a policy for the United States, out of the self-same limbs, with an animal thus compounded, lying in convulsions before their eyes.
The advantage of studying the anatomy of a dead body, is the knowledge of a living one. In like manner, the usefulness of our observations in relation to the aristocracies of the first and second ages, consists in opening our way towards that of the third. A knowledge of this last, is capable of a beneficial application; whereas a knowledge of the aristocracies of superstition and the feudal system, abstracted from the light they may reflect on that of paper and patronage, is only a steril amusement.
And it was also necessary to lay the ghost of the feudal aristocracy, now conjured up only as a decoy to draw the publick attention from its regenerated body, to come fairly to the objects of this essay; among which, an investigation of the system of paper and patronage occupies a chief place.
Preparatory to this, a political analysis is offered to the reader, as a key to the system of reasoning, subsequently to be pursued.
It has already been observed, that government is founded in moral, and not in natural or physical causes. Now the moral qualities of man, being only good and evil, every form of government must be founded in that principle of the two, which prevails, like every other human action of a moral nature. This analysis is anterior to that of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, and is capable of displaying the true character of every government, of each of its sections, and of all its measures; objects to which the numerical analysis is utterly incompetent.
For instance: A government, a section of it, or a measure, founded in an evil moral principle, such as fraud, ambition, avarice or superstition, must produce correspondent effects, and defeat the end of government; but resting upon a good moral principle, such as honesty, self-government, justice and knowledge, its effects will also be good, and conformable to the duty and office of government. Whereas the numerical analysis cannot with certainty enable us to foresee the character of a government, because it has no reference to moral causes or effects, good or evil. An absolute monarch, guided by the good moral qualities of man, may produce national happiness; and so any other anomalous case under the numerical analysis, may serve to perplex the science of politicks; because the publick happiness ensuing from it, instead of being attributed to the accidental preponderance of the good class of moral qualities, in the monarch, the aristocracy, or the democracy, is too often attributed to numerical classification. By exploding this analysis, and substituting that of government, bottomed upon good or evil moral principles, human happiness will less frequently fluctuate with the characters of individuals.
The reader will be often reminded of these principles, which are now to be applied to the aristocracy of paper and patronage.
This being suggested by, or founded in, the evil moral qualities of avarice and ambition, must inevitably produce evil effects; because a system is merely a moral being, and a moral demon cannot be a saint. Under either member of the numerical classification, a nation has a chance for happiness, however inconsiderable, because men may be guided by good moral principles; but none under the vicious system of paper and patronage, because an evil moral principle cannot produce good moral effects. That a system, founded like this, upon evil moral principles, is incapable of amelioration from the personal virtues of magistrates, is proved by its steady unfluctuating course of effects in England, where its rigorous consistency, and growing severity, is neither interrupted nor softened in the smallest degree by the virtues of individuals. Martial law and stock law, are naturally and necessarily tyrants, but a man may be a tyrant or a patriot. If a political system, founded in evil moral principles, proceeds consistently and certainly in the dispensation of evil to nations, without sustaining impediments from the virtues even of its administrators; is it not conceivable, that one founded in good moral principles, is discoverable, capable of dispensing good, independently also of the vices of its administrators? One as free from evil qualities, as that of paper and patronage is from good, would probably effect so desirable an object.
An enumeration of the effects of the system of paper and patronage, will disclose the consistency, between causes and effects in the moral world, the vast political influence of this system, and its operation upon human happiness. The first, is that of its enabling a minor interest, to guide and subsist upon a major interest.
It is not the mode by which this is effected, but the effect, which causes oppression. It is the same thing to a nation whether it is subjected to the will of a minority, by superstition, conquest, or patronage and paper. Whether this end is generated by errour, by force, or by fraud, the interest of the nation is invariably sacrificed to the interest of the minority.
If the oppressions of the aristocracies of the first and second ages, arose from the power obtained by minorities, how has it happened, that a nation which has rejoiced in their downfall, should be joyfully gliding back into the same policy? How happens it, that whilst religious frauds are no longer rendered sacred, by calling them oracles, political fraud should be sanctified, by calling it national credit? Experience, it is agreed, has exploded the promises of oracles; does it not testify also to those of paper stock?
Paper stock always promises to defend a nation, and always flees from danger. America and France saved themselves by physical power, after danger had driven paper credit out of the field. In America, so soon as the danger disappeared, paper credit loudly boasted of its capacity to defend nations, and though a deserter, artfully reaped the rewards due to the conqueror. In France, it transferred to fraud and avarice the domains which ought to have aided in defending the nation, or to have been restored to the former owners.
Paper credit is a disciple of the doctrine, that truth is best ascertained by the sword. The utmost exertion it has ever made to enlighten the mind, was by this instrument. And the crusade against France, in preference to leaving to the arbitrament of man’s intellectual powers, an estimate of fair experience, is a proof that it only counts its own interest, and forgets the evils it inflicts. Otherwise, could paper credit have inflicted upon Britain all the calamities of a war, to be closed by her ruin, or by a debt of several hundred millions of pounds sterling, merely to prevent the French from forming a government for France?
Had there existed in England, a single chaste organ for expressing and enforcing the public interest, this crusade to guide opinion, would have been escaped by England, as it was by America; and if no such organ did exist, to what but the system of patronage and paper was it owing? It is therefore a menstruum, capable of dissolving the several sections of a government, however divided, into one interest or centre; and of infusing the most unprincipled avarice and ambition into the mass.
Sinecure, armies, navies, offices, war, anticipation and taxes, make up an outline of that vast political combination, concentrated under the denomination of paper and patronage. These, and its other means, completely enable it to take from the nation as much power and as much wealth, as its conscience or its no conscience will allow it to receive; and lest the capacity of public loaning to transfer private property should be overlooked, it has proceeded in England to the indirect sale of private real property. If a land tax is sold for a term amounting to the value of the land, a proprietor is to buy his own land at its value, or admit of a co-proprietor, to whom he must pay that value by instalments; and thus a paper system can sell all the lands of a nation. If national danger should occur after this sale, it can only be met by the people; and the purchaser from a paper system, of an exemption from the land tax to-day, must be again taxed or fight for his land to-morrow. The case of this individual is precisely that of every nation, made use of directly or indirectly to enrich a paper system; it is perpetually at auction, and never receives any thing for itself; because, however ingeniously a paper system can manage artificial danger for its own emolument, it is neither able nor willing to meet real danger; and however rich it is made by a nation, the nation must still defend itself, or perish.
This catastrophe has already arrived in Britain. Swindled out of endless wealth, by the vauntings of paper credit, of its will and ability to defend liberty and property; that hapless nation sees itself taxed and impressed, to increase the penalty of its own credulity, and to protect that which promised to yield protection; its annual taxes beget annual additions to permanent debt, and its endless war with France was commenced by the fears of its paper system, however this war may have gradually changed its ground.
The effect of opposite interests, one enriched by and governing the other, correctly follows its cause. One interest is a tyrant, the other its slave. In Britain, one of these interests owes to the other above ten hundred millions of pounds sterling, which would require twelve millions of slaves to discharge, at eighty pounds sterling each. If the debtor interest amounts to ten millions of souls, and would be worth forty pounds sterling round, sold for slaves, it pays twelve and an half per centum on its capitation value, to the creditor interest, for the exclusive items of debt and bank stock. This profit for their masters, made by those who are called freemen, greatly exceeds what is generally made by those who are called slaves. But as nothing is calculated except two items, by including the payments for useless offices, excessive salaries, and fat sinecures, it is evident that one interest makes out of the other, a far greater profit than if it had sold this other, and placed the money in the most productive state of usance.
Such is the freeman of paper and patronage. Had Diogenes lived until this day, he would have unfledged a cock once more, and exhibited him as an emblem, not of Plato’s man, but of a freeborn Englishman. Had Sancho known of a paper stock system, he would not have wished for the government of an island inhabited by negroes. Has Providence used this system to avenge the Africans, upon the Europeans and Americans?
Whatever destroys an unity of interest between a government and a nation, infallibly produces oppression and hatred. Human conception is unable to invent a scheme, more capable of afflicting mankind with these evils, than that of paper and patronage. It divides a nation into two groups, creditors and debtors; the first supplying its want of physical strength, by alliances with fleets and armies, and practising the most unblushing corruption. A consciousness of inflicting or suffering injuries, fills each with malignity towards the other. This malignity first begets a multitude of penalties, punishments and executions, and then vengeance.
A legislature, in a nation where the system of paper and patronage prevails, will be governed by that interest, and legislate in its favour. It is impossible to do this, without legislating to the injury of the other interest, that is, the great mass of the nation. Such a legislature will create unnecessary offices, that themselves or their relations may be endowed with them. They will lavish the revenue, to enrich themselves. They will borrow for the nation, that they may lend. They will offer lenders great profits, that they may share in them. As grievances gradually excite national discontent, they will fix the yoke more securely, by making it gradually heavier. And they will finally avow and maintain their corruption, by establishing an irresistible standing army, not to defend the nation, but to defend a system for plundering the nation.
An uniform deception resorted to by a funding system, through legislative bodies, unites with experience in testifying to its uniform corruption of legislatures. It professes that its object is to pay debts. A government must either be the fraudulent instrument of the system, or the system a fraudulent instrument of a government; or it would not utter this falsehood to deceive the people.
This promise is similar to that of protecting property. It promises to diminish, and accumulates; it promises to protect, and invades. All political oppressors deceive, in order to succeed. When did an aristocracy avow its purpose? Sincerity demanded of that of the third age, the following confession: ‘Our purpose is to settle wealth and power upon a minority. It will be accomplished by national debt, paper corporations, and offices, civil and military. These will condense king, lords and commons, a monied faction, and an armed faction, in one interest. This interest must subsist upon another, or perish. The other interest is national, to govern and pilfer which, is our object; and its accomplishment consists in getting the utmost a nation can pay. Such a state of success can only be maintained by armies, to be paid by the nation, and commanded by this minority; by corrupting talents and courage; by terrifying timidity; by inflicting penalties on the weak and friendless, and by distracting the majority with deceitful professions. That with which our project commences, is invariably a promise to get a nation out of debt; but the invariable effect of it is, to plunge it irretrievably into debt.’
The English system of paper and patronage, has made these confessions by the whole current of its actions for a century, and laboured to hide them by its words. That guilt should eternally endeavour to beguile, is natural. Is it also natural, that innocence should eternally be its dupe? Is it the character of virtue, in spite of common sense, to shut her eyes upon truth, and open her ears to falsehood?
A nation exposed to a paroxysm of conquering rage, has infinitely the advantage of one, subjected to this aristocratical system. One is local and temporary; the other is spread by law and perpetual. One is an open robber, who warns you to defend yourself; the other a sly thief, who empties your pockets under a pretence of paying your debts. One is a pestilence, which will end of itself; the other a climate deadly to liberty.
After an invasion, suspended rights may be resumed, ruined cities rebuilt, and past cruelties forgotten; but in the oppressions of the aristocracy of paper and patronage, there can be no respite; so long as there is any thing to get, it cannot be glutted with wealth; so long as there is any thing to fear, it cannot be glutted with power; other tyrants die; this is immortal.
A conqueror may have clemency; he may be generous; at least he is vain, and may be softened by flattery. But a system founded in evil moral qualities, is insensible to human virtues and passions, incapable of remorse, guided constantly by the principles which created it, and acts by the iron instruments, law, armies and tax gatherers. With what prospect of success, reader, could you address the clemency, generosity or vanity of the system of paper and patronage? Wherefore has no one tried this hopeless experiment? Because clemency, generosity and vanity, are not among the moral qualities which constitute the character of an evil moral system.
The only two modes extant of enslaving nations, are those of armies and the system of paper and patronage. The European nations are subjected by both, so that their chains are doubly riveted. The Americans devoted their effectual precautions to the obsolete modes of title and hierarchy, erected several barriers against the army mode, and utterly disregarded the mode of paper and patronage. The army mode was thought so formidable, that military men are excluded from legislatures, and limited to charters or commissions at will; and the paper made so harmless, that it is allowed to break the principle of keeping legislative, executive and judicative powers separate and distinct, to infuse itself into all these departments, to unite them in one conspiracy, and to obtain charters or commissions for unrestricted terms, entrenched behind publick faith, and out of the reach, it is said, of national will; which it may assail, wound and destroy with impunity. This jealousy of armies, and confidence in paper systems, can only be justified, if the following argument in its defence is correct.
‘An army of soldiers have a separate interest from the nation, because they draw their subsistence from it, and therefore they will combine for their own interest against the national interest; but an army of stockjobbers have no such separate interest, and will not combine. Soldiers admitted into the legislature, would legislate in favour of soldiers; but stockjobbers will not legislate in favour of stockjobbers. Soldiers may use our arms to take our money; but stockjobbers cannot use our money to take our arms. Soldiers may adhere to a chief in preference to the nation, as an instrument for gratifying their avarice and ambition upon the nation; but stockjobbers have no avarice nor ambition to be gratified, and will not therefore adhere to a chief for that purpose. Soldiers are dangerous, because they assail the liberty of a nation by open force; stockjobbers harmless, because they do it by secret fraud. All are jealous of soldiers, and therefore they will not be watched; few are jealous of stockjobbers, and therefore they will be watched. Many instances have occurred of the oppressions by the army system; one instance only of a perfect capacity in the paper system for oppression can be adduced; and as that has lasted only a single century, it would be precipitate to detect and destroy the aristocracy of paper and patronage, in less time than was requisite to detect and destroy those of superstition and the feudal system.’
Alas! is it true, that ages are necessary to understand, whilst a moment will suffice to invent, an imposture? Is it true, that the example of their venerable ancestor, groaning for a century under the oppressions of this modern system of aristocracy, is incapable of awakening the Americans; and that they themselves must also become a beacon for the benefit of a more enlightened era? Cæsar profited by the failure of Marius, in the art of enslaving his country; will no nation ever profit by the failure of another in the art of preserving its liberty?
Let us drop the subject for a moment, and consider whether we ought to reject truth, because it is plainly told? Because Marcus Aurelius was despotick, should we therefore speak tenderly of despotism? Because Washington was a soldier, should we therefore speak tenderly of standing armies? And because we see around us stockjobbers whom we love, ought we therefore to speak tenderly of paper systems? A despot may condemn tyranny; a soldier may condemn standing armies; and a stockjobber may condemn paper systems. In reasoning boldly against the system of paper and patronage, no private reputation is attacked, more than that of Marcus Aurelius would be, by reasoning against despotism; or Washington’s, by reasoning against standing armies. To insinuate truth only, is to betray it. Veracity in terms cannot be censurable, if veracity in matter is entitled to approbation. The discharge of a duty, cannot require an apology, and without making one, I will proceed.
A paper system proposes to fulfil its promise of defending a nation, by giving it credit; from which credit, it infers an increase of national strength. Let us ascertain what national strength is, before we hastily conclude, that it can be created by a stock system. It consists of people and revenue. If by any means a nation was deprived of half its people, would this add to its strength? If by a paper system, it is deprived of half its revenue, can this either add to its strength? Revenue, like people, is subject to numerical limits. Suppose the people of Britain are able to pay a revenue of forty millions sterling, but that thirty are appropriated to the use of the system of paper and patronage: Are not three fourths of their strength gone, so far as it consists of revenue? But Great Britain with her ten millions of free revenue can borrow two hundred millions. If strength is to be measured by the power of borrowing, she could have borrowed four times as much, had her whole revenue been free, and consequently would have been four times as strong.
Strength arising from revenue, is relative. If the free revenue of Great Britain is ten millions, and the whole revenue of a rival nation fifteen, all of which is free, then the rival nation would possess more money and more credit, capable of being applied to national use, than Great Britain with an actual revenue of forty millions, thirty whereof were enslaved.
Hence it is obvious, that debt, so far from being either strength or credit, is a diminution of both; and that freedom from debt, is the only genuine source of national strength depending on revenue.
England and France are rival nations. If England was bound to pay to France the whole amount of the annual interest of her debt, it would obviously increase the strength and credit of France, and diminish those of England. This proves, that it is the receiver and not the payer, who obtains an addition of strength and credit. And it also furnishes a complete illustration of the effect of the system of paper and patronage, upon the real productive interests of society. The unproductive but subsisting interests of this system, and the productive and taxed interests of society, may be called natural enemies, with more justice than France and England. If the payment by England of thirty millions annually to France would subject England to France, will not the payment by the productive and taxed interests, of the same sum to their natural enemy, the unproductive interest, subject them also to their natural enemy? This demonstrates, that strength is gained by the receiver, and not by the payer; and displays the certainty with which the system of paper and patronage will subject a nation, under pretence of enabling it to defend itself.
Hereafter, the doctrine of anticipation will be considered: but this machine cannot shake our arguments to prove that a nation is weakened, and consequently enslaved by debt, unless the power of anticipation is infinite like debt, and increases with it; which will hardly be asserted.
But if this anticipating resource, did naturally swell with debt, still an indebted nation, would be in a state of subjection. New anticipations are exclusively governed by old anticipations; to borrow, recourse must be had to the monied interest, and the funds or old anticipations, united with paper corporations, constitute that interest. A nation therefore which depends upon anticipation, must be governed by that interest which governs anticipation; so that it cannot will and judge for itself, like a poorer nation, which is independent of anticipation.
Thus whilst a paper system pretends to make a nation rich and potent, it only makes a minority of that nation rich and potent, at the expense of the majority, which it makes poor and impotent. Wealth makes a nation, a faction or an individual, powerful; and therefore if paper systems extracted the wealth they accumulate from the winds, and not from property and labour, they would still be inimical to the principles of every constitution, founded in the idea of national will; because the subjection of a nation to the will of individuals or factions, is an invariable effect of great accumulation of wealth; but when the accumulation of a minority, impoverishes a majority, a double operation, doubly rivets this subjection.
The delusion of all paper projects is at once detected by turning upon them their own doctrine. All boast of doing good to a nation. Suppose a nation was to decline this beneficence, and propose to reward it, by doing good to paper projects, exactly in the same way they propose to benefit the nation; that is, by taking from the owners of stock, their income, and consigning over to them the taxes and the credit attached to the debtor, with the blessing of a paper circulation; the credulity which believes, that these institutions do really impose upon nations debt and taxes, direct and indirect, from motives of public good, would be presently cured by the faltering tongues, the wan faces, and the distressing lamentations, which a proposition for this exchange would produce. These paper projects which pretend to be blessings to nations, would be deprecated as curses by themselves, if the case was thus altered.
It is said that paper systems being open to all, are not monopolies. He who has money, may buy stock. All then is fair, as every man (meaning however only every moneid man) may share in the plunder.
Every man may enlist in an army, yet an army may enslave a nation. A monopoly may be open to a great number, yet those who do engage in it, may imbibe the spirit of faction; but it cannot be open to all, because no interest, which must subsist upon a nation, can consist of that nation; as I cannot fatten myself by eating myself. If every citizen should go into an army, it would transform that army into the nation itself, and its pay and subsistence would cease; in like manner the profits of paper, were they generally or universally distributed, would cease; because each citizen would be his own paymaster. Had the objection been as true in practice as it is plausible in theory, these answers suffice to prove, that it would have converted paper aristocracies into paper democracies.
The reason, however, for this apparent common power of becoming a stockjobber, consists in the constant necessity felt for recruits by every species of aristocracy. The Mamelukes of Egypt have sufficient penetration to discover this. No individual, nor an inconsiderable number of individuals, can enslave a nation. A despot raises soldiers by bounties. This system is also recruited by bounties. The soldier sometimes deserts, or takes part with the nation, after his bounty is spent; but the bounty of paper systems is so contrived, that it is perpetually going on, and annually repeated; so that the aristocracy of an oppressive system, never deserts or takes part with the nation, as the army of an oppressive prince has sometimes done.
Where avarice and ambition beat up for recruits, too many are prone to enlist. Kings, ministers, lords and commons will be obliged to command the army, and share in the plunder, or submit to be cashiered. The makers and managers of aristocracy, gamble with a certainty of winning, for a stake extorted and increased by themselves. If they deposit their penny, they draw a pound, and augment their power. The system of paper and patronage, freights annual galleons for a government and a faction, at a national mine called industry; and bestows on the people such blessings, as those enjoy who dig up the ores of Peru and Mexico. The receivers of the profit drawn from this mine, reap wealth and power; the earners reap armies, wars, taxes, monopolies, faction, poverty and ten hundred millions of debt. This is an English picture. America hopes that her governors and citizens are neither ambitious nor avaricious, and upon this solid hope, is committing the custody of her liberty to the same system. Oh! America, America, thou art the truly begotten of John Bull! It is not proposed to follow this system throughout its deleterious effects upon the morals of private citizens. But if it is capable of corrupting publick officers, or government itself, a remark to exhibit its superior malignity over the aristocracies of the first and second ages, cannot be suppressed. The manners and principles of government, are objects of imitation, and influence national character. The aristocracy of the first age, exhibited sanctity, veneration for the Gods, and moral virtues, to the publick view; not unuseful in their operation, and particularly so in times of ignorance; that of the second, the virtues of generosity, honour and bravery, not unuseful in softening barbarism into civilization, by the magnanimity and even the folly of chivalry: but what virtues for imitation appear in the aristocracy of the present age? Avarice and ambition being its whole soul, what private morals will it infuse, and what national character will it create? It subsists by usurpation, deceit and oppression. A consciousness of fraud, impels it towards perpetration. By ever affecting, and never practising sincerity, it teaches a perpetual fear of treachery, and a perpetual effort to insnare. Its end is distrust and fraud, which convert the earth into a scene of ambuscade, man against man. Its acquisitions inflict misery, without bestowing happiness; because they can only feed a rapacity which can never be satisfied, and a luxury which cannot suppress remorse. In relation to private people, this system may only encourage idleness, teach swindling, ruin individuals, and destroy morals; but allied to a government, it presents a policy of such unrivalled malignity, as only to be expressed by saying, ‘the government is a speculator upon the liberty and property of the nation.’
A pamphlet written by Doctor Johnson, to disprove the principles which produced the independence of America, comprises in its title, ‘taxation no slavery,’ the whole argument to which the system of paper and patronage, finally flees for refuge. Taxation is not liberty. But the distinction is obvious. It lies plainly between taxes imposed for the benefit of a nation, or for the benefit of a minority; between those designed to defend, or to enslave. Taxation to enrich a minority or aristocracy, is robbery; to endow it gradually with power, treason.
It is strange, that it is so difficult to distinguish between honest and fraudulent taxes, imposed by a minor interest on the publick interest, and so easy to discern the real design of taxes imposed by one nation upon another. In the latter case, monopoly is clearly understood to be an indirect mode of taxation. The United States know, that the monopoly of their commerce by the English, was a tribute; but they refuse to know, that the monopoly of a circulating medium by banking, is also a tribute. Useless offices, established here by the English government, were clearly perceived to be a tribute; but useless offices established by our own government are denied to be so. Pretexts for taxation invented by England, were detected by dullness herself; but pretexts invented at home, seem to deceive the keenest penetration.
And yet correct reasoning must conclude, that if one nation, by means of a monopoly, can impoverish another; a combination or corporate body, may also impoverish the rest of a nation, by the same means. That a monopoly which enriches, will correspondently impoverish, unless it produces or creates; that if Britain possessed the privilege of furnishing America with bank paper, at the annual profit of eight per centum, it would have constituted a tax, enriching Britain and impoverishing America—co-extensively with her former commercial monopoly; that if this privilege would have enriched the English at our expense, it must also equally enrich stockholders, at the expense of those who are not stockholders; that if national indigence is gradually produced by a subjection to a foreign monopoly, the indigence of the mass of a nation, will be produced by a domestick monopoly, profitable, but unproductive; and that if a nation has a moral right to liberate itself from an indirect tribute to another nation, it has also a moral right to liberate itself from a similar tribute to a domestick combination; unless it is a moral duty heroically to withstand evils imposed by foreigners, for the purpose of penitentially embracing them when imposed by natives. If these effects of the contemplated monopoly are true, they terminate inevitably in the aristocracy of the third age.
Doctor Johnson’s maxim could never convince us, that taxation by banking, funding systems, protecting duties or patronage, was no slavery, if the profits arising from such institutions were re-received by English capitalists: does the substitution of a different receiver, alter the case? If not, ‘taxation’ is ’slavery,’ however moderate the tax may be when the object of the tax is not the publick benefit, but to enrich and impoverish individuals, and thereby undermine the principles necessary to preserve national liberty.
As to oppressive taxation, there are few cases capable of justifying it; and none, those excepted, wherein it repels a greater evil than itself. Admit that it expels tyranny; it is itself a tyrant. Admit that tyranny will obliterate moral virtues, and replenish the mind with vices; oppressive taxation will do it also. A nation oppressed by taxes, can never be generous, benevolent or enlightened. If the lion was burdened like the ass, he would presently become cowardly, and stupid. But oppressive taxation, by law and monopoly, direct and indirect, to create or sustain the system of paper and patronage, proposes nothing retributory for reducing a people to the condition of asses, except an aristocracy to provide for them a succession of burdens.
Hereditary aristocracy, supported by perpetuities, is preferable to a paper and patronage aristocracy, because its taxation would be less oppressive, since its landed estate would furnish it with opulence and power; whereas eternal and oppressive taxation is necessary to supply the aristocracy of paper and patronage, with these vital qualities.
As a government is melted by law, into the aristocracy of the third age, the ligaments which united it with the nation, are gradually broken; and a consciousness of this, gradually drives the government, for defending itself against the people, into war, armies, corruption, debt, charters, bounties, and every species of patronage for which a pretext can be invented; and a sinking fund cloaks its drift, as proclamations did that of Lewis the fourteenth, declaring, previously to his inundating Europe with Christian blood, his anxiety to prevent its effusion.
When this process is managed by a government, it proves that the government is welded to that interest which the process advances; it substantially destroys the English theory; divides a nation into two interests, and cooks one in the modes most delicious to the appetite of the other. Such is the essential evil of every species of bad government, by whatever name distinguished. A particular interest thus quartered upon the general interest, has never failed to harass a nation: a government is good, when it is coupled to the general interest; and bad, when it is coupled to a particular interest of any kind, whether military, hierarchical, feudal, or stock.
It is admitted by Mr. Adams, that an order of men having great wealth, will acquire a correspondent degree of power. If this wealth consists of land, it may be measured and balanced. Suppose a nation should establish a landed nobility, and should conclude that the possession of one third of the lands, would confer a share of wealth on this order so unequal, as to make it unmanageable, and of course despotick; this nation might restrict their landed order to one fourth of all the lands in the state, concluding that the three fourths divided among all other orders, might suffice to check the power arising from condensing one fourth in one interest. This is what Lord Shaftesbury means by ‘a balance of property.’ But if an order of paper and patronage is erected, (remember that nothing makes an order but one interest,) in what manner is its power to be checked by a balance of property? The wealth of paper and patronage is daily growing, wherefore it cannot be measured or limited; it is therefore impossible to balance it; and yet without this balance of property, the power which clings to wealth, will destroy liberty, even in the opinion of the English theorists. According to Mr. Adams’s principles, this syllogism presents itself. Exorbitant wealth will obtain a degree of power dangerous to society, if not checked or balanced; paper systems will bestow exorbitant wealth, to check or balance which, no means have been invented; therefore, paper systems are dangerous to society.
Not land, but its profit, constitutes wealth and power. By taxation, the profit arising from land may be apportioned between the possession, and the system of paper and patronage; or it may be wholly transferred to the system. If then an order, such as the late nobility and clergy of France, by an income consisting of the profit of one third of the lands of France, attracted a degree of power oppressive to the nation; does it not evidently follow, whenever the system of paper and patronage, has acquired one third of the profit produced by all the lands of a nation, that it will also acquire the oppressive degree of power, interwoven with that degree of wealth?
Although I am considering this system in relation to Britain, an ignorance of any rule by which to compute the profit of all the land of that island, compels me to refer to America for an illustration of the last observation.
All the exports from the United States, may probably amount to the whole profit yielded by land, allowing subsistence to the possessors, which forms no part of rent or profit. This amount has never extended to sixty millions of dollars annually, yet for the purpose of including the whole, we will estimate the annual profit of land at that sum. If the interest of paper and patronage received twelve millions annually from direct taxation, and eight millions annually from indirect, by bounties and the circulation of bank paper, then this system would possess that degree of wealth, which rendered the former civil and religious nobility of France, dangerous and oppressive; and it would be obvious, that a system, which had so rapidly absorbed one third of the profit of the land in the United States, possessed a capacity of extending that third to a moiety, or even beyond a moiety, as in England; and that as no mode of collecting a dangerous degree of wealth into one interest, with equal rapidity, had ever yet appeared, there is none so alarming to a nation, or which so loudly demanded the application of Mr. Adams’s or Lord Shaftesbury’s idea of a balance of property.
To display the celerity with which this system collects wealth, and changes forms of government, it is only necessary to recollect, that the mode of monopolizing wealth by conquest, required above six hundred years to destroy the Roman Republick; whereas the system of paper and patronage, by changing the nature of the English government in less than a century, has verified the savage opinion, that certain conjurers by hieroglyphical representations, could take away life; it transfers property and kills governments by a like graphical art. It paints as many pounds or dollars upon paper as it pleases, which transfers money and power from the holders of land and industry, to the holders of the paper. Let casuists decide between the morality of taking away life in the mode of the Indian conjurer, and taking away property and liberty in the mode of the paper conjurer.
Is it on account of this sorcery, that the aristocracy of the third age considers painting as one of the fine arts, and devotes its whole philosophy to a taste for this species of it? The aristocracies of superstition and ennobled orders, by cultivating the circle of the sciences, checked their passions, and humanized their rule; this cultivates a science to take away the property of its friends, like that used by a savage to take away the life of his foe. The savage passion of vengeance is however appeased, by the death of the father, and thirsts not for the blood of the son; but the passion which seeks property by hieroglyphical representation, is never appeased, and what it takes from one generation, only whets its malignity towards the next. Is this sorcery really preferable to the ancient modes of aristocracy?
It is universally agreed that power is attracted by wealth. Ten hundred millions of pounds sterling, being a great sum of wealth, must therefore attract some share of power to the paper interest of England. Whatever it attracts was not bestowed by the English form of government, and is of course an unconstitutional and revolutionary acquisition. This must be admitted, or it must be proved, that great wealth acquired by a particular interest, does not attract power. If the system of paper and patronage, will destroy the principles of limited monarchy without changing its forms, either by amalgamating king, lords and commons, or by creating a new power, may it not also destroy the principles of a republican government, and leave its form also standing?
United interests, or an aggregation of wealth by one interest, are equally at enmity with Mr. Adams’s system of a balance of power and property; and if the system of paper and patronage produces both or either, his cannot exist a moment in communion with that. An unconquerable enmity in theory and principle, would crown an attempt to foster both these systems, with several ludicrous inconsistencies. Mr. Adams’s system requires an illustrious, high-spirited, enlightened, virtuous and wealthy house of Lords; and the system of paper and patronage would fill it with the spawn of stockjobbing and corruption. How long will it require to purge off the contaminations of the father before the son will be well born? Or will not the system of paper and patronage recontaminate faster, than the generative process can purify, so as to prevent Mr. Adams from ever collecting the necessary qualities in his noble senate? Without superior qualities, his system does not contend for superior distinction; but it is notorious that the system of paper and patronage peoples the two houses of parliament in England, and so completely moulds their character, that all sorts of men, make the same sort of lords and commons.
We may conceive the manner in which the aristocracy of the third age is consolidated with a government, by supposing the territory to be represented by a multitude of landscapes, which the government could transfer with the lands they represented, just as it transfers wealth by pictures of money. Would not the individuals who administered the government, take to themselves some of these landscapes? Would they not purchase accomplices and protectors with others? and would not this unjust mode of taking away lands, presently generate a center of power and interest, infinitely more oppressive than Turgot’s centre, so justly censured by Mr. Adams?
If the system of paper and patronage has made any impression upon the English theory, it behoved Mr. Adams accurately to have explained this impression, before he made use of that theory in his defence of the American constitutions. Without this explanation, we are at a loss to know whether the object of his reference and admiration is the ancient theory or modern practice: Whether it is the king, lords and commons of the fourteenth or of the eighteenth century.
Had this explanation appeared, his arguments would have been better understood, and the practicability of his system more easily estimated; nor could he possibly have escaped some coincidence of opinion with the principles of this essay, except by proving that the system of paper and patronage had made no impression on the English theory. Otherwise, by applauding the old theory, he must have coincided in a disapprobation of the new system of paper and patronage, because it corrupts this old theory; or if he applauded the new system, he must have condemned the old theory destroyed by it. He could not have justified the new system of paper and patronage, without surrendering his idea of checks and balances, or discovering checks and balances in this new system.
The checks and balances of the old English theory and the new English system, seem to have little or no relation to each other. The former consisted of king, lords and commons. The two first were weights, by reason of domains, manors, prerogatives and tenures; the last, from the confidence of the people attracted by responsibility. These weights or checks and balances, no longer exist. Bidders for loans and dealers in omnium, constitute the most ponderous weight next to the king, and the vibrations of stock possess ten fold the power of the house of lords. The nearest approach towards the idea of checks and balances made by the invention of paper and patronage, is by dividing a nation into two weights, one consisting of the government, stockjobbers and office holders; the other of the people. It places pecuniary voraciousness in one scale, and Promethean patience in the other; and with these weights, produces a political system, as wide from one founded in a balance among kings, lords and commons, according to Mr. Adams’s explanation of it, as can be imagined.
Without discriminating between the English theory, unattended by the system of paper and patronage, or influenced by it, Mr. Adams arranges the Roman, Lacedemonian, and other governments, in the class of mixed forms, together with the English; as being of a similar nature, and yielding similar inferences. If from this alliance, we are compelled for the sake of maintaining the consistency of Mr. Adams’s arguments, to consider him as referring to the old English theory, the old practice, and the old balances, it follows, that his whole political system is built with materials which have vanished; and that it is as imaginary and romantick gravely to talk of patricians, plebeians, and feudal barons at this day, as it would be to propose the restoration of oracles, or the revival of chivalry.
To bring this argument within the full view of the reader, was one design for devoting so much time to the explanation of the new English system of paper and patronage; because, if it is proved, that this has made a material impression upon the balances of the old theory, it follows, that the English form of government has undergone a revolution; that the new system of paper and patronage, corrupts and destroys the old system of checks and balances; that if the American forms of government are, as Mr. Adams asserts, founded in the old theory of checks and balances, they are exposed to destruction by this new foe, which has evinced its power over that old theory, by undermining it in England; that Mr. Adams’s argument is eminently defective, in having overlooked the destroyer of his favourite theory of checks and balances; and that this new enemy to human liberty must be met by some other form of government; that composed of checks and balances modified according to the old theory, having become its victim, after a feeble resistance.
To prove that the new English practice is inconsistent with the old English theory, let us consider the declaration of Mr. Adams, ‘that among the ancient forms of government, the Lacedemonian approached nearest to the English,’ wherefore he bestows on it particular commendations. Our evidence results from a comparison between the present English form of government and the Lacedemonian.
By one, money was despised; of the other, it is the God. One inspired heroism; the other avarice. One taught nobles to fight for their country; the other, to become the sycophants of a king. In one, the legislature controlled two kings; in the other, one king corrupts two legislative bodies. One inspired a love of country; the other, a derision of patriotism. One taught frugality and temperance; the other, profusion and luxury. In short, one disclosed the few virtues natural to the aristocracies of the first and second ages; the other, all the vices natural to the aristocracy of the third.
That forms of government mould manners, will not be denied; and as the manners of the Spartans and the modern English, bear no similarity to each other, it follows that the principles of their governments were also essentially different. To assert, that the principles were the same, but the effects different, would destroy the only solid ground of reasoning, namely, that similar causes will produce similar effects; and deprive us of the entire motive for a preference between forms of government.
If this difference exists, between the principles and manners of the Spartans and the modern English, the resemblance between the English and Spartan governments seen by Mr. Adams, must have arisen from a comparison of the Spartan, not with the present English government, because between these there is no resemblance, but with that which was compounded of an hierarchy rendered powerful by superstition, of an honest legislature, and of a frugal, warlike and hardy nobility, able to control and punish kings.
By classing the English with the Spartan, and other mixed forms of government, it is obvious that Mr. Adams, throughout his book, has only considered that era of the English government, in which its form has some resemblance to the ancient governments with which he compares it; and that he has wholly omitted to consider the present English aristocracy of paper and patronage, or the present English government; since that, neither in its causes or effects, has any resemblance to a single ancient form of government, from which Mr. Adams has drawn his illustrations.
Throughout his system, Mr. Adams deduces his aristocracy from oracles, a supposed descent from the Gods, or a superiority of virtue and talents; and his essential effort is to ascertain the best mode of checking it. These are the aristocracies of the first and second ages; and if his mode of checking them is well contrived, it might have been useful to Lycurgus and Solon, to the Italian republicks, and to nations of the ancient and middle ages. But would it therefore follow, that the same check or balance will secure the liberty of nations against the modern mode of invading it? Will his system check corruption, restrain patronage, control armies, and limit the draughts of avarice upon national wealth and labour? Behold England, if his system exists there, and answer the question. If it does not exist there, it follows, that Mr. Adams’s system is irrelative to the existing case, or to the subject which he professed to consider, and which I profess to consider; namely, the nature of the existing American and English forms of government. In drawing his comparison, Mr. Adams refers to a landed aristocracy; I refer to an aristocracy of paper and patronage. Let us endeavour to discover which of us is fencing with a shadow.
Perhaps the discovery may be made by the following questions. Would a dissertation upon the system of paper and patronage, have explained Mr. Adams’s system of checks and balances to the people of Greece? If not, can a dissertation upon checks and balances, explain the effects of a system of paper and patronage to the present age? Suppose an author in the fifteenth century, had proved the system of paper and patronage to be right, and inferred, that the feudal aristocracy, or the then existing English government, was therefore the best in the world; would it not have been precisely analogous to an inference, that the now existing English government, under the system of paper and patronage, is also proved to be the best form in the world, by proving the feudal system of the fifteenth century to have been so? In fact, we all see a distinction between the English governments of the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries: Where does it lie, except between the systems of checks and balances, and of paper and patronage? One is the feudal, the other the monied aristocracy. For which does Mr. Adams contend? It would be a whimsical event, if the landed interest of the United States, should be induced by Mr. Adams’s compliments to the landed aristocracy of the second age, to erect the paper aristocracy of the third. That by being convinced of its own natural right to be a master, it should be induced to become a slave. And that the praises bestowed on its own virtues, should make it blind to the vices of corruption and avarice, nourished by the aristocracy of paper and patronage. Will it be just to punish a wish to erect a landed aristocracy, by making the landed interest a dupe and a victim? If so, Mr. Adams’s dissertation may have the merit of an avenger. For it will hereafter be shewn, that the English system, though it is able to introduce into the United States, the aristocracy of paper and patronage, is unable to introduce a landed aristocracy; and that the landed interest has no alternative, under our circumstances, but that of supporting an equal, free government, or becoming a slave to the system of paper and patronage. Where indeed could we find an interest, for the landed interest of the United States to mount in the form of an aristocracy?
Not less whimsical would it be, if the system of paper and patronage, which has substantially destroyed a landed aristocracy in England, should create one here; particularly if our form of government (as Mr. Adams believes) is similar to the English, which has proved either a feeble foe or a convenient instrument to a monied aristocracy.
Hereafter, when our constitution is considered, the competency of its security against the aristocracy of paper and patronage, or that of the present age, will be computed; and then it is not meant to shrink from the consideration of this species of aristocracy, in reference to the United States; on the contrary, an effort will be made to place it in several points of view, inadmissible, whilst considering it in relation to England.
At present, supposing that the paper and patronage system of England, is a modern political power of vast force; that it has corrupted or supplanted the old English form of government; that its oppressions overspread the land; that its principles are vicious, and its designs fraudulent; we will proceed to inquire what ought to be done.
Superstition and noble orders were defended by the strongest sanctions within the scope of human invention. Penalties, temporal and eternal; splendour, pomp and honour; united to terrify, to dazzle, to awe and to flatter the human mind: and the real or external virtues of charity and meekness, hospitality and nobleness of mind, induced some to love that, which most hated, and all feared. Yet the intellect of the last age pierced through the delusions, behind which the oppressions of hierarchy and nobility had taken shelter.
We pity the ancients for their dullness in discovering oppressions, so clearly seen by ourselves now that they are exploded. We moderns; we enlightened Americans; we who have abolished hierarchy and title; and we who are submitting to be taxed and enslaved by patronage and paper, without being deluded or terrified by the promise of heaven, the denunciation of hell, the penalties of law, the brilliancy and generosity of nobility, or the pageantry and charity of superstition.
A spell is put upon our understandings by the words ‘publick faith and national credit,’ which fascinates us into an opinion, that fraud, corruption and oppression, constitute national credit; and debt and slavery, publick faith. This delusion of the aristocracy of the present age, is not less apparent, than the ancient divinity of kings, and yet it required the labours of Locke and Sidney to detect that ridiculous imposture.
Publick faith is made with great solemnity to mount the rostrum, and to pronounce the following lecture:
‘Law enacted for the benefit of a nation, is repealable; but law enacted for the benefit of individuals, though oppressive to a nation, is a charter, and irrepealable. The existing generation is under the tutelage of all past generations, and must rely upon the responsibility of the grave for the preservation of its liberty. Posterity, being bound by the contracts of its ancestry, in every case which diminishes its rights, man is daily growing less free by a doctrine which never increases them. A government intrusted with the administration of publick affairs for the good of a nation, has a right to deed away that nation for the good of itself or its partisans, by law charters for monopolies or sinecures; and posterity is bound by these deeds. But although an existing generation can never reassume the liberty or property held by its ancestor, it may recompence itself by abridging or abolishing the rights of its descendant.’
Such is the doctrine which has prevented the eye of investigation from penetrating the recesses of the aristocracy of the present age. It simply offers the consolation of softening injuries to ourselves by adding to the wretchedness of our descendants. By this artifice, (the offspring of interest and cunning,) whenever men cut off their shackles with the sword, they are riveted on again by the pen. A successful war, to avenge a small and temporary injury, is made to gain a great and lasting calamity. Victory over enemies is followed by defeat from friends. And an enemy destroyed abroad, is only the head of an hydra, which produces two at home. This is not exaggeration, if the idea of the aristocracy of paper and patronage is not chimerical. And thence occur these curious questions: Can the United States kill one Englishman or Frenchman, without converting two at least of their own citizens, into members of this aristocracy? Which would be most dangerous and burdensome to the union, one of these foreigners abroad, or two of these aristocrats at home?
The best argument in favour of the mortgage of a nation to a faction, is, that it is a purchase; an argument however, which does not extend to the family of law charters in general. A few of a nation, have bought the nation. Cæsar by plunder and rapine, amassed the means of buying or corrupting the Roman government; was his title to despotism over the Roman people therefore sound? If Jugurtha had been rich enough to buy Rome, ought the nation to have submitted to the sale, because the bargain was made with the government? If a freeman has no right to enslave his child by selling him, can one generation sell another? And if one generation has no right to sell another, can a government which exercises the double character of seller and buyer, in erecting the aristocracy of the present age, transform the most atrocious iniquity into political or moral rectitude, by writing in its forehead ‘publick faith?’ Then let us acquit every thief, who assumes for his motto the words ‘honest man.’
This kind of faith and honesty, have invented the opinion ‘that policy and justice require a law, beneficial to ‘individuals at the expense of a nation, to exist for the period prescribed;’ to sustain which, it is necessary to reverse the elemental political maxim ‘that the good of the whole, ought to be preferred to the good of a few.’ Government is erected for the purpose of carrying this maxim into execution, by passing laws for the benefit of a nation; and shall a violation of the purpose of its institution, by passing laws injurious to a nation, in creating or fostering the aristocracy of paper and patronage, be cleansed of its guiltiness, because individuals have become the accomplices of the government?
A law or a contract, prescribing an immoral action, is void. No sanction can justify murder, perjury or theft. Yet the murder of national liberty, the perjury of a traitorous government, and the theft of national wealth, by the gradual introduction of the aristocracy of the third age, are varnished into a gloss by a cunning dogma, capable even of dazzling men, so excessively honest as to put other men to death for petty thefts, committed to appease hunger or cover nakedness.
The same mouth will solemnly assert, that the principles of equity annul every contract, which defrauds an individual; and that justice or policy requires a catalogue of law charters which defraud a nation, to exist and have their effect.
This is owing to the artful conversion of good words, into knavish dogmas. It is not new, to see errour take refuge under the garb of truth. Superstition has in all ages called itself religion. Thus law charters, with the faithless design of enslaving a nation by the introduction of the aristocracy of the present age, crouch behind the good and honest words ‘publick faith and national credit,’ to prevent a nation from destroying that, which is destroying it. And they succeed; because we are as unsuspicious that a false and fraudulent dogma, is hidden under fair language, as that a well dressed gentleman indicates a thief.
To come at truth, we ought not to stop at a verbal investigation. We must consider whether the effects of every law and every measure, by whatever names the law or measure are called, are on the side of virtue or vice.
An irrepealable law charter is a standing temptation to governments to do evil, and an invitation to individuals to become their accessaries; by its help, a predominant party may use temporary power, to enact corporate or individual emoluments for itself, at the national expense. Successive parties will repeat the same iniquity; and even the outs or opposition will be corrupted, to do obeisance at the shrine of the dogma, that they also may reap of the fruit it bestows, when a nation shall fall into their hands; which upon every change of administration, will have its hopes of reform gratified, by new pillages under the sanctions of publick faith and national credit.
This modern system of law charters, is founded in the same design, with the ancient system of a social compact. Under the sanction of social compact, governments have formerly tyrannised over nations. Under the sanction of law charters, governments now buy a faction, rob nations of enormous wealth, and soar beyond responsibility. The inviolability of a social compact was the old dogma; the inviolability of law charters is the new; for effecting the same end. The last is however an engine in the hands of avarice and ambition, of power far superior to the first. It is able to corrupt and pillage a nation without limit. The first was an opinion unable to purchase partisans; the last offers every thing to its disciples, which can gratify pernicious passions, and meets arguments with bribes. Thus a nation, which won self-government by exploding the doctrine of the antiquated compact dogma, may lose it again in the modern law charter dogma; and thus a nation, which thought it morally wrong to suffer slavery from troops hired by clothes, pay and rations, may be persuaded that it is morally right to suffer slavery from troops hired by dividends, interest upon stock, and protecting duty bounties.
As the English began to emerge from Gothic ignorance, the idea of liberty by compact, and not of natural right, led them to extort charters from their princes; but woefully is the doctrine of deriving a right to liberty from charters, turned upon this gallant nation. By allowing them to bestow, it was discovered that they could destroy. Such as diminish, and not those which enlarge national freedom, have become the sacred charters. The errour of parchment liberty, has made liberty the creature of parchment. A government, good or bad, can easily take away that liberty by charters, which was created by charters. Before the idea of deriving liberty from charter or compact became fashionable, the evils produced by bad governments were temporary; now, slavery, as liberty condescended to be, is created by charters, so as to perpetuate these evils, and to hem in the efforts of patriotism so narrowly, as to destroy the effect of virtue in office.
By admitting that donations of publick property by a government to individuals, should irrevocably transform it into private property, it is obvious that the stock of publick rights will be continually whittled away. Tyranny is only a partial disposition of publick rights, in favour of one or a few. The system of paper and patronage, bottomed upon charters and commissions, enables avarice and ambition to draw more extensively upon the national stock, than any system hitherto invented. It can convert publick property into private, with unexampled rapidity, or transfer wealth and power from the mass of a nation to a few. Its guilt is made its sanction. Neither ‘private nor publick property’ is allowed to be a sanction against the frauds and invasions of paper and patronage, until the fraud or invasion is committed; and then ‘private property’ (good words, as are ‘publick faith and national credit’) is converted into a dogma for the protection of this fraud and invasion. Titles, tythes, feudal services, monasteries, South Sea and Mississippi projects, funding and banking systems, sinecure offices, and every species of fraud, monopoly and usurpation, call the pillages of private property, private property, and generally contrive to make it so by laws or armies.
But in the eye of justice, property, publick or private, cannot be transferred by fraud. A nation erects a government for the publick benefit and does not empower it to bring about the aggrandisement of itself, and its faction, to the publick detriment. If this is effected by a transfer of property, publick or private, the transfer is fraudulent, and void; because the nation never empowered the government, by that or any other mode, to injure its liberty or happiness. The principles of moral rectitude, do not forbid a nation to resume power, usurped by a government; nor property, chartered away to individuals, by fraudulent laws; because otherwise they could not resume just rights, since power and law are the vehicles in which these rights are constantly taken away.
The ideas annexed to the words ‘publick faith, national credit and private property’ in England, may be correct in reference to the English civil policy, and erroneous in relation to the civil policy of the United States. Monopoly is the leading principle of their political, religious, and mercantile systems; everything the reverse of monopoly, constitutes our political, religious and mercantile systems. The king, with his annual million, his prerogatives, and his patronage, made up of fleets, armies, offices, and corruption; a house of inheritable legislation, without responsibility, entrenched behind the crown, and flanked with privileges; a house of commons, purchasers of diplomas bestowing an exclusive power to tax and to receive; a hierarchy, tythe gatherers and test makers; mercantile corporations, masters of kingdoms and islands; a bank of England, which can make it unlawful to pay its own debts; a funding system, mortgaging the nation for more money than the world possesses; a multitude of places obsolete, except as to fees and salaries; and a variety of rights and privileges, exercised by corporations, trades, companies and districts—form a vast mass of monopoly, which in a multitude of ways incorporates with itself the talents and power of the nation, and has therefore annexed ideas to the words ‘publick faith, national credit and private property’ adapted to nourish and not destroy itself.
If the English ideas of these expressions, have been inculcated by the most complicated and wide spreading system of monopoly which has ever existed; and if this system would not have inculcated such ideas, had they been unfriendly to its ambition and avarice; it follows, that their construction of these expressions being suggested by and friendly to a system of monopoly and aristocracy, must be unfriendly to a system, at enmity with monopoly and aristocracy.
Fraud and ambition can never succeed, except by subtilty. Hence they seize upon our virtues by plausible phrases, and manage nations by prejudices they themselves plant. By these phrases and prejudices they rear and nurture a multitude of opinions, which concur in advancing their designs and interest. Could fraud and ambition be compelled to substitute sincerity in the place of this subtilty, they would acknowledge that the invariable result of their doctrines, is, the sacrifice of a nation to the ambition and avarice of a few; but an acknowledgment of this end, would explode all their arguments, however specious; and repeal all their laws, however sanctioned. It is the felicity of the United States, to commence a government at a period, when the aristocracies of the first, the second, and the third ages, have all sincerely and unequivocally displayed their end and purpose, by effects. The purpose of the ideas annexed in England, to the words ‘publick faith,’ ‘national credit’ and ‘charter’ is displayed in the state of the people; this, and not the brilliancy of the government or the splendour of individuals, is the object which an honest politician will contemplate. The wealth found by Khouli Khan in Delhi, and the riches collected by Nabobs, were no proofs of the happiness of Hindostan, or the goodness of its government.
Nations, by false dogmas, have been restrained from defending their liberties, and armies have paid their lives for their prejudices. The sacred nature of law charters, is the sword of their enemies at the threats of the bigoted Israelites on their Sabbath day. They are extended to periods, within which the grantees may acquire so much wealth, and corrupt such a proportion of talents, as to secure a continuance. The question is, shall the nation destroy charters, or charters destroy the nation? The dogma declares charters to be sacred, and forbids the nation to resist until they have acquired an irresistible maturity. Even the Jews, obstinate as they were, at length discovered fighting on the sabbath day to be preferable to death; but the enlightened nations of Europe, who laugh at their sabbatism, piously believe, that there is a charm in the words charter, credit and publick faith; making slavery preferable to a fair and free government.
A gradual monopoly of lands and wealth, overturned the Roman Republick. By assailing it in time, it might have been suppressed. The murder of the Gracchi is a proof, that usurpation can only be corrected in its infancy, and that fraudulent acquisitions will perpetuate any crime for self-defence. But this system of monopoly was suffered to proceed to maturity, and the commonwealth was poisoned by the miasma it diffused. It was a consequence of the Roman conquests which avenged the injured nations; but do the Americans equally merit the vengeance of the English system of paper and patronage, for having vindicated their liberty against it?
The idea annexed by this system of monopoly to private property, requires a nation to sacrifice itself for the benefit of an individual. This is a new principle of moral rectitude, which fraud only could suggest, and folly alone adopt. Heretofore, individuals who sacrificed themselves for a nation, have been celebrated as performing an act of heroick virtue. Heretofore, a suppression of personal appetites, for the sake of advancing public good, has been thought a species of morality, highly meritorious; and a destruction of publick good, to gratify personal appetites, a species of immorality, highly vicious. Place in one scale publick liberty and happiness; in the other, the gratifications of individuals by the system of paper and patronage, with the label ‘private property’ fixed upon these gratifications: morality, it is agreed, ought only to determine which scale should preponderate. Will she too be the dupe of a fraudulent dogma, and a treacherous badge? Will she too devote a nation to oppression and misery, to feed the lusts of individuals, under the influence of a superstitious sanction? A crocodile has been worshipped, and its priesthood have asserted, that morality required the people to suffer themselves to be eaten by the crocodile; to encourage them, the people might also have been told, that the crocodile would die in time, and that then, they would be no longer eaten. In this species of morality the people believed, and whenever the old crocodile was about to expire, a young one was put in his place, and the people continued to be eaten. Law charters are a family of those crocodiles.
Publick faith is the moral principle, called upon to defend monopoly and law charter, under the name of private property. Let us consider what this sanction is in a free government. If the government should solemnly, by law, enter into a contract with a number of individuals, the object of which was to diminish the liberty and wealth of the people, by increasing the power and wealth of the government and these individuals, does publick faith require from the nation a fulfilment of this contract? If the question is answered in the negative, a correct definition of publick faith, must comprise both a faithfulness to the publick good, and also a faithfulness in contracts with individuals; nor can these two duties be made inconsistent with each other by publick faith, without admitting it to be a principle of a double character, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Because, if it compels the performance of one duty, by the breach of another; and if the duty required to be fulfilled, is trivial, compared with that required to be infringed; it would bestow on publick faith a mixed character, and even a prevalence of evil. Publick faith then, considered as a good moral principle, must either include and reconcile, a loyalty both to the publick good and to contracts with individuals; or if the former is not a duty imposed by publick faith, it must be a duty of superior and superseding obligation.
The construction of publick faith by monopoly, avarice and ambition, is precisely the reverse of this. They confine it to a fulfilment of every species of contract made by a government with individuals, especially if entered into for the purpose of gratifying themselves at the expense of a nation; and thus limited, consider it as the most sacred of all duties. And so far are these glossographers, from considering publick faith as a good moral principle, that they make it enforce contracts, entered into for every conceivable vicious purpose; from those of betraying nations, armies, cities and forts, down to those of perjury, theft and assassination. Under this construction, whenever the publick good and a contract with an individual come in conflict, publick faith is made to decide, that the contract shall prevail; and thus its definition will come out, ‘national duty to suffer oppression, and lose its liberty, by laws, charters or contracts, made by a government for that purpose, provided they convey an interest to individuals.’ So soon as it is thus changed from a good to a vicious principle, its effects change also. From being a pledge of publick good, it becomes the protector of political fraud; it compels a nation to be an accomplice in its own ruin; it takes from it the right of self-preservation; and it becomes the modern subterfuge of the modern aristocracy.
Hitherto, in comparing the duty of a government to a nation, and to a law charter, the comparison has been exhibited in the most favourable light for the latter, by forbearing to insist upon any degree of criminality in a faction, which accepts of a charter from a government, injurious to a nation. It is, however, questionable, whether the priesthood were innocent, which executed the evil of hierarchy; or the barons, who sustained that of the feudal aristocracy; or the solicitors and holders of sinecure offices; or those who pilfer a nation by means of a law charter. If their accomplices are not guilty, tyrants themselves must be innocent.
Individuals may be aiders and abetters in projects replete with publick evil, without discerning their tendency; but the rarity of this case is evinced, by the tacit compact and union produced by such projects. This compact and union, disclose a thorough knowledge of the interest on one side, and the injury on the other, because it is the plain effort of profit; and a fear of losing profit can only be inspired by a conviction of committing an injury in its acquisition. This fear makes every individual who is conscious of drawing wealth from a nation unjustly, the friend and encomiast of the strongest power he can find; because power is the only protector of injustice. And if he cannot find a power strong enough to protect injustice, he will exert himself to erect one. When such a power exists, the more unfaithful it is to the publick good, the more its publick faith will be celebrated by those who receive the benefit of its unfaithfulness. Lewis the fourteenth, an ignorant, fanatical and tyrannical prince, was celebrated even by philosophers, because he robbed the French nation, to give them pensions.
Individuals, who do not derive their acquisitions from projects replete with public evil, are never formed into a tacit compact or union, because, being unconscious of drawing gain from a nation unjustly, they have nothing to fear. Being unconscious of injustice, they are not naturally the friends and encomiasts of a power, strong enough to protect injustice. And deriving no benefit from the unfaithfulness of a government to the publick good, they will not celebrate a government for it. In order to see the force of this comparison, it is only necessary to conceive a society consisting of two classes, one made up of agriculturists, professions, trades and commerce, all unconnected with banking, funding and patronage; the other, of a funding system, bank charters, pensions and patronage. Which class would be the disciple and parasite of despotism? If this is discernible, the consequence of erecting this modern species of aristocracy is also discernible.
The exact similarity in nature and principle, between laws or charters establishing funding systems, banks, or sinecure profit of any kind; and laws or charters establishing privileged orders or endowed hierarchies; appears in their common union with, and devotion to, a power capable of protecting injustice.
It is still objected ‘that unless laws, beneficial to individuals, though injurious to a nation, are supported, confidence in government will be destroyed, and national credit, lost.’ The doctrine amounts to this: ‘that it is good policy in a nation, to make a few individuals its masters or owners, to excite an inclination in these few individuals to lend it money, for a handsome premium and high interest.’ And this policy is literally pursued, by establishing a certain number of paper systems and charters, for drawing money from the nation directly or indirectly, in order to enable a few to lend a part of this money to the nation.
To this item of the value of a confidence ‘that laws and charters, injurious to a nation, but beneficial to individuals, will be maintained,’ must be added a corruption of manners, arising from the traffick between a government and a faction, for the objects of gratifying the ambition of one dealer, and the avarice of the other; and the customary violent and wretched parties, between the commencement of this confidence and its catastrophe.
On the other hand, a confidence that laws and charters injurious to a nation, will be repealed, whenever their pernicious tendency is discovered, will prevent the destructive evils generated by a contrary opinion; will enable honest governments to correct the frauds of knavish; and will check or even cure the malevolence of factions. And one effect of inestimable value flowing from this latter confidence, would be the detection and overthrow of an insidious sanction, under cover of which the modern aristocracy of paper and patronage, is fast fettering modern nations.
The analysis of aristocracy, by the first, the second, and the third ages, has been used for the purpose of a distinct arrangement of the arguments adduced to explain the superstitious, feudal, and fiscal modes of enslaving nations, by placing the powers in the hands of a minority; an effect, however produced, denominated aristocracy throughout this essay. But it is not intended to insinuate, that the causes of aristocracy have generally acted singly; on the contrary, they more frequently unite.
It was necessary thoroughly to understand the most prominent causes of aristocracy, before we proceeded to a closer examination of our civil policy, and Mr. Adams’s principles; in order to keep in mind that we have never seen a venerated and wealthy hierarchy, an army stronger than the nation, an endowed, titled and privileged order of men, or an incorporated, enriched or united faction, without having at the same time seen the aristocracy of the first, the second, or the third age. By recollecting this testimony, derived from universal experience, an inference, equivalent to mathematical certainty, ‘that such ends will eternally flow from such means,’ will unavoidably present itself.
Few would deny these premises or the inference, if it was proposed to revive oracles or feudal services. These causes of aristocracy are distinctly seen, because they do not exist. They have no counsel in court. They are, therefore, better understood than when they flourished. But both the premises and the inference are denied when they implicate the aristocracy of paper and patronage. This cause of aristocracy is not seen, because it does exist; and the more oppressive it shall become, the greater will be the difficulty of discovering its existence. The two first are exposed naked to our view; and the third, disguised in the garb of republicanism, and uttering patriotick words, joins the mob in kicking them about, by way of diverting the publick attention from itself. An opinion that aristocracy can only exist in the form of a hereditary order, or a hierarchy, is equivalent to an opinion, that the science of geometry can only be illustrated by a square or a triangle.
[∗]Adams’s Def. vol. 1, pp. 116–117., 3d Philadelphia edition.
[∗]Adams’s Def. vol. i, p. 87.