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Section the Second: THE PRINCIPLES OF THE POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES, AND OF THE ENGLISH POLICY - 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 Second
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES, AND OF THE ENGLISH POLICY
Before we proceed to the consideration of the policy of the United States, it is necessary to discover a political analysis, founded in some moral principle; because government is as strictly subject to the moral, as a physical being is to the physical laws of nature. Persons are not principles; and hence the operations of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy (governments founded in persons) are fluctuating; generally evil, but sometimes good; whereas the effects of a moral principle are ever the same. Mr. Adams, however, adopts the ancient analysis of governments, asserts that it comprises all their generical forms, and adds ‘that every society naturally produces an order of men, which it is impossible to confine to an equality of rights;’ and he erects his system upon the foundations of this ancient analysis, and of a natural or unavoidable aristocracy. If society cannot exist without aristocracy, (as it cannot, if aristocracy is natural to society,) then democracy and monarchy cannot be generical forms of government, unless they can exist without society or with aristocracy. This disagreement between the ancient analysis, and a system bottomed upon it, at the threshold of their association; and Mr. Adams’s idea that one of his generical forms of government was a natural consequence of society, without contending that the others were, excited doubts of the correctness of that analysis. If monarchy, aristocracy and democracy are all natural or generical forms of government, nature has determined on Mr. Adams’s mixed government, and his labours in favour of her will, were superfluous; but if either of these forms is artificial, it could not be natural or generical, and an invention of one form by the human intellect, is no proof that it is unable to invent another. The terms monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, convey adequate ideas of particular forms of government, but they are insufficient for the purpose of disclosing a government which will certainly be free and moderate, since the effects of each depend on the administration of wise and good, or of weak and wicked men: and all are therefore founded in the same principle, however differing in form. This both suggests a doubt of the soundness of the ancient analysis, and a solution of the phenomenon ‘that all these natural or generical forms of government should produce bad effects.’ The effects of these three forms are bad, because they are all founded on one principle, namely, an irresponsible undivided power; and that principle is bad. We want an analysis, distinguishing governments in point of substance, and not limited to form.
The moral qualities of human nature are good and evil. An analysis founded in this truth, however general, can alone ascertain the true character, and foretell the effects of any form of government, or of any social measure. Every such form and measure must have a tendency to excite the good or the evil moral qualities of man; and according to its source, so will be its tendency with moral certainty.
The strongest moral propensity of man, is to do good to himself. This begets a propensity to do evil to others, for the sake of doing good to himself. A sovereignty of the people, or self-government, is suggested by the first moral propensity; responsibility, division, and an exclusion of monarchy and aristocracy, by the second.
Self love, being the strongest motive to do evil to others, as well as good to ourselves, will operate as forcibly to excite an individual or a faction to injure a nation for advancing self good, as to excite a nation to preserve its own happiness. Therefore, whilst national self government, is founded in the strongest moral quality for producing national good; every other species of government, is founded in the strongest moral quality for producing national evil.
The objection to this analysis is, that nations may oppress individuals or minorities. An imperfection does not destroy comparative superiority; and should one be found in a form of government bottomed upon the quality of a nation’s love for itself, it will not diminish the defects of forms, bottomed upon the self love of individuals or minorities, if these are as likely to oppress majorities, as majorities are to oppress these.
The quality, self love, stimulates in proportion to the good or gratification in view. This prospect to an individual or minority, having power to extract good or gratification from a nation, must be infinitely more alluring, than to a nation, having power to extract good or gratification from an individual or a minority; and as the excitement to injure others, for gratifying ourselves, will be in proportion to the extent of the gratification, it follows, that an individual or minority will be infinitely more likely to oppress a nation for self gratification, than a nation, for the same end, to oppress an individual or minority.
The certainty with which moral inferences flow from moral causes, is illustrated by a computation of the cases, in which the quality of self love, has induced nations to oppress individuals, or individuals to oppress nations. The anomaly of a nation’s becoming a tyrant over an individual, would be nearer to the character of prodigy, than even that of monarchy or aristocracy, preferring national good or gratification, to its own.
It is from the want of some test, to determine whether a form of government, or law, is founded in the good or evil qualities of man, that the disciples of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, have entered into the field of controversy, with so much zeal. Each, though blinded to the defects of the system he defends, from education, habit, or a supposed necessity of enlisting under one, clearly discerns the defects of the system espoused by his adversary; and despises him for a blindness, similar to his own. That monarchy, aristocracy and democracy will all make men miserable, is universally assented to, by two out of the three members of this analysis itself; and a contrary effect from either, is allowed by two to one to be out of the common course of events. A violation of the relation between cause and effect, awakens the admiration of mankind, whenever a good moral effect proceeds from a government founded in evil moral qualities.
It is not enough for the illustration of our analysis, that a good effect from either monarchy, aristocracy or democracy, is by this majority considered as a phenomenon; a few reasons, accounting for it according to the principles of that analysis, will be added.
Monarchy and aristocracy, have the strongest tendency of any conceivable human situation, to excite the evil moral quality, or propensity, of injuring others for our own benefit, both by the magnitude of the temptation, and the power of reaching it. A long catalogue of evil moral qualities, are included in this. These forms of government are therefore founded in the evil moral qualities of man, and it is unnatural that evil moral qualities, should produce good moral effects.
Mr. Adams allows that evil consequences unavoidably arise from monarchy and aristocracy, by endeavouring to provide against them. The probable success of his endeavour will appear, by concisely reciting their cause. It consists in a degree of power capable of exciting evil moral qualities, craving self gratification at the expense of others. Nothing can prevent this excitement, but a removal of the power; and if the power is removed, the principle of monarchy or aristocracy is destroyed, though the name should remain. Mr. Adams’s remedy can only remove the cause or leave the cause. If it remains, the effects follow. Our state governours would not be monarchs or despots, if they were called kings; because they want the degree of power necessary to excite and bring into action, the evil moral qualities of monarchs or despots. Henry the eighth would have been a monarch or despot, though he had been called governour, because he possessed that degree of power. His species of government was founded in evil, and that of the States in good moral qualities.
Democracy is not less calculated to excite evil moral qualities of one kind, than monarchy and aristocracy of another. By democracy is meant, a nation exercising personally the functions of government. Turbulence, instability, injustice, suspicion, ingratitude, and excess of gratitude, are among the evil moral qualities, which this form of government has a tendency to excite. Democracy, therefore, is a form of government founded in evil moral qualities.
All these forms of government were intended to be destroyed in America, and a government, founded in the good moral qualities of man to be erected; that is, one which would cautiously avoid to excite his evil qualities, and carefully attempt to suppress them if they should appear.
Democracy was destroyed by election; and one errour of Mr. Adams consists in proposing to bring into the field monarchy and aristocracy, after their plebeian foe no longer exists. As election has destroyed democracy, election, responsibility and division of power, were intended also to destroy monarchy and aristocracy. And if democracy may be destroyed, or at least filtered of its evil moral qualities by election, why may not monarchy and aristocracy be destroyed or filtered of their evil qualities likewise by election, responsibility and a division of power? Or if for the sake of a balance of orders, it would be adviseable to revive monarchy and aristocracy in their natural malignancy, ought not democracy to be also revived in its natural malignancy, to make out a complete system of checks and balances, in conformity to the ideas of Aristotle, who is quoted by Mr. Adams?
Aristotle, and all the ancient authors, by the term ‘democracy,’ intended to describe a nation, legislating, judging and sometimes even executing in person. Such is the form of government to which is ascribed all the evils of democracy, and which has in reality produced those evils. And Mr. Adams has transplanted all these evils from this ancient democracy into his book, as charges against the elective and responsible system of America; with what degree of justice, will depend upon a resemblance between our system, and a nation exercising political and civil power within the walls of Athens or Rome. The democracy of Athens, and our policy, were founded in principles exactly opposite to each other. One was calculated to excite a multitude of evil moral qualities, which the other will suppress, by representation, responsibility and division. An imperfect representation in England, suppressed the evil effects attached to the Athenian democracy, and though imperfect, evinced the excellence of the principle of representation, by moderating the malignancy of monarchy and aristocracy. Had democracy, monarchy and aristocracy, according to the ancient ideas annexed to these terms, been mingled and balanced, a government would have been produced, which may be contemplated, by placing an English king at the head of the democracy and aristocracy of Rome. By the addition of one good principle to two bad ones, the paroxysms of good, and the predominance of evil, under the English form, are accounted for. And by removing the evil principles, monarchy and aristocracy, to make room for division and responsibility; as the evil principle, democracy, has been removed by representation; mankind will probably escape the calamities inflicted by these evil principles, on the English nation.
The inherent evil nature of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, can only furnish a solution of the fact, testified by all history, ‘that each separately, any two, and the three however mingled, have uniformly produced evil effects, which have driven mankind into a multitude of exchanges and modifications.’ From all, disappointment has issued, because good effects could not be extracted from evil principles. At length, all philosophers, politicians and learned men have been taught by experience to unite in one opinion. They universally agree, that monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, acting separately, will produce evil to nations; they agree, that any two will operate oppressively; and they also agree that the three, however blended, excluding the modern idea of representation, will also operate oppressively. Is it then possible, that the ancient analysis of political systems, which separately or combined, presented only a form of government now universally acknowledged to be bad, could have been correct?
From a belief that a political analysis does exist, capable of arranging all forms of government into two classes; one rooted in good, and the other in evil moral qualities; and that monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, singly or united, belong to the latter class; the idea has been brought before the reader preparatory to arguments designed to prove, that the civil policy of the United States must be assigned to the first class; that it is of course at enmity with Mr. Adams’s mixture of monarchy, aristocracy and representation; but that certain of its details and laws, are at enmity with its essential principles, for want of some distinct analysis as a test to ascertain their nature and effects. A position contended for is, ‘that political temptations, which propel to vice, are founded in evil moral principles.’
The reader is solicited for the last time, to keep in mind, that in this essay, the term ‘democracy’ means ‘a government administered by the people,’ and not ‘the right of the people to institute a government, nor the responsibility of magistrates to the people.’ The contrast of the ancient analysis between its three forms of government, is imperfect unless democracy is thus understood, since the two terms opposed to it, are used to specify governments, as numerically administered. Monarchy and aristocracy mean, governments administered by one or a few, and not a right in one or a few to institute a government, and make it responsible to the institutor. Democracy also meant, a government administered by the people personally. The distinction is considered as useful, for relieving the mind from an association, between the sovereignty of the people, and the evils produced by a nation’s exercising the functions of government.
Let us now take up the thread of this essay. I have endeavoured to prove that aristocracy is artificial and not natural; that the aristocracies of superstition and landed wealth, have been destroyed by knowledge, commerce and alienation; that a new aristocracy has arisen during the last century from paper and patronage, of a character so different from titled orders, as not to be compressible within Mr. Adams’s system; and that his system is evidently defective, in having silently past over this powerful aristocracy, now existing in England.
By the civil policy of the United States, I mean the general and state constitutions, as forming one system. Most of the state constitutions existed when Mr. Adams wrote, and no new principles have been introduced by those since created. The differences among them all, consist only in modifications of the same principles. As immaterial is the anachronism of applying Mr. Adams’s reasoning to the general constitution, because if his system is inimical to that, it must have been more so to the state constitutions he professed to defend; as in that, the executive and senatorial lines are drawn with a stronger pencil than in those.∗
Mr. Adams’s system simply is, ‘that nature will create an aristocracy, and that policy ought to create a king, or a single, independent executive power, and a house of popular representatives, to balance it.’
Let one of the state constitutions speak for the rest. That of Massachusetts declares, that ‘all men are born free and equal.’ That ‘no man, or corporation, or association of men, have any other title to obtain advantages, or particular and exclusive privileges, distinct from those of the community, than what arises from the consideration of services, rendered to the publick. And this title being, in nature, neither hereditary, nor transmissible to children, or descendants, or relations by blood, the idea of a man born a magistrate, law giver or judge, is absurd and unnatural.’ ‘That the people have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves.’ That ‘government is instituted for the common good, for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honour, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.’ And that ‘in order to prevent those, who are vested with authority, from becoming oppressors, the people have a right, at such periods, and in such manner, as they shall establish by their frame of government, to cause their publick officers to return to private life; and to fill up vacant places, by certain and regular elections and appointments.’ Two principles are clearly expressed by them all; one, that every person in authority is responsible and removable; the other, that talents, virtue, and political power, are not inheritable.
These principles are precisely levelled at the opinions, that monarchy is divine, and nobility natural; the first asserted by Filmer, the last by Mr. Adams. And they treat the idea of hereditary power, contended for by Mr. Adams, as ‘absurd and unnatural.’∗
The constitutions build their policy upon the basis of human equality—‘all men are born free and equal;’ and erect the artificial inequalities of civil government, with a view of preserving and defending the natural equality of individuals. Mr. Adams builds his policy upon the basis of human inequality by nature—’aristocracy is natural;’ and proposes to produce an artificial level or equality, not of individuals, but of orders, composed of individuals naturally unequal. Yet the disciples of the balance, accuse the republicans of levelism.
It is necessary to affix a correct idea to the term ‘equality,’ contended for by the constitutions, and denied by Mr. Adams. They do not mean an equality of stature, strength or understanding, but an equality of moral rights and duties. The constitutions admit of no inequality in these moral rights and duties, excepting that produced by temporary and responsible power, conferred ‘for the common good.’ Mr. Adams contends for a natural inequality of moral rights and duties, in contending for a natural aristocracy. The constitutions establish the inequalities of temporary and responsible power, with a view of maintaining an equality of moral rights and duties among the individuals of society; and Mr. Adams proposes orders, with a view of maintaining his natural inequality among men, by balancing or equalising the rights of orders.
The constitutions consider a nation as made of individuals; Mr. Adams’s system, as made of orders. Nature, by the constitutions, is considered as the creator of men; by the system, of orders. The first idea suggests the sovereignty of the people, and the second refutes it; because, if nature creates the ranks of the one, the few and the many, the nation must be compounded of these ranks; and one rank, politically, is the third part of a nation. These ranks composing the nation, have of course a power to alter the form of government at any time, without consulting the people, because the people do not constitute the nation. An illustration of this idea has several times occurred in the English practice of Mr. Adams’s system.
By most of the constitutions, a plural executive is created; by a few, a qualified negative upon laws is given to the executive power; but in all, that power is made subordinate to the legislative power. Mr. Adams declares, that a single executive, having an unqualified negative upon the laws, and power sufficient to defend himself against the other two branches of the legislature, is essential to his system.
In short, Mr. Adams’s system is bottomed upon a classification of men; our constitutions, upon an application of moral principles to human nature. He arranges men into the one, the few and the many, and bestows on the one and the few, more power than he gives to the many, to counterbalance numerical or physical strength; our constitutions divide power with a view to the responsibility of the agent, and jealous of the danger of accumulating great power in the hands of one or a few, because all history proves that this species of condensation begets tyranny, bestow most power on their most numerous functionary.
Mr. Godwin, in his ‘Political Justice,’ v. 2. p. 180, asserts that ’scarcely any plausible argument can be adduced in favour of what has been denominated by political writers a division of power.’ This authoritative decision seems to have been made, without any consideration of the ground upon which a division of power is justified in this essay. Mr. Adams confines a division of power, to a division of orders of men; Mr. Godwin extends it to a division of orders of power, such as legislative, executive and judicative; but this essay, considering a classification of power into orders, as little less erroneous than a classification of men, extends the idea of its division to the counteraction of monopoly in any form, by a man, an order or a government, in a degree sufficient to excite ambition, avarice or despotism. This idea of a division of power is consonant to the policy of the United States, as is evinced by the responsibility of the executive, the allotments of power to the state and the general governments, and the reservations from the powers of both, retained by the people; and is distinct from the ideas both of Mr. Adams and Mr. Godwin. The latter gentleman’s opinions in favour of a division of property, and against a division of power, are inconsistent, if a monopoly of either, will beget a monopoly of both; if wealth attracts power, and power wealth. The same principles dictate a distribution of both; and the same effects flow from an accumulation of either. A law of primogeniture in respect to power, is similar to a law of primogeniture in respect to property. The objection to both is comprised in their enmity to the principle of division. This subject will occur again in a subsequent part of this essay.
Let us pause, and take a glance at the title of Mr. Adams’s treatise. Why was it called ‘a defence of the constitutions of government of the United States of America?’ It assails the principle, upon which these constitutions are founded; it asserts doctrines which they condemn; and it justifies a system of government which would be a revolution of them all. If this unsuitable title, arose from an incapacity to distinguish between the principles of our policy, and those of a system of balanced orders, the errour is pardonable, and only destroys the authority of the treatise; but if it was an artifice, to mask under a pretended affection for our principles of government, an attack upon them, the erudition of the treatise will not be able to conceal, nor the freedom of political disquisition to justify, the insincerity of such an intention.
To prove the correctness of this criticism, it is necessary to return more particularly to Mr. Adams’s treatise, for the purpose of elucidating its drift beyond the possibility of misapprehension. Thus also we shall advance in a knowledge of the policy of the United States, and of that of England; which are important objects of this essay.
The pretext for Mr. Adams’s treatise, appears in the first page of the first volume, in the following extract of a letter from Mr. Turgot, to Doctor Price: ‘that he is not satisfied with the constitutions which have hitherto been formed for the different States of America. That by most of them the customs of England are imitated, without any particular motive. Instead of collecting all authority into one centre, that of the nation, they have established different bodies, a body of representatives, a council, and a governour, because there is in England a house of commons, a house of lords, and a king. They endeavour to balance these different powers, as if this equilibrium, which in England may be a necessary check to the enormous influence of royalty, could be of any use in republicks founded upon the equality of all the citizens, and as if establishing different orders of men was not a source of divisions and disputes.’
Against this charge, Mr. Adams exhibits a defence for the constitutions in a mode entirely new. He labours to prove that every word of it is true, and that the balance of power, and orders of men, spoken of by Mr. Turgot, have been borrowed by us from England, and do in fact constitute the only good form of government.
The task of proving the charge untrue, would have been much easier. I will concisely endeavour to do so, before I proceed in the examination of the use Mr. Adams has made of it.
A celebrated author has pronounced in a tone of great authority, that ‘government is in all cases an evil.’∗ This assertion, and Mr. Turgot’s misconception, are founded in the same errour; that of contemplating monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, as an analysis comprising every form of government. These being all founded in evil moral principles, would produce evil effects, and Mr. Godwin beholding this fact, pronounces ‘that government is in all cases an evil,’ because he had not conceived any other elements of governments, except those of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy; and these producing much evil, his remedy is to destroy government itself. But had he considered, that government could not be an evil, if it was founded in principles which would excite the good moral qualities of human nature, he would have searched for some such form, capable of excluding monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, all of which produce evil, because of their tendency to excite man’s evil qualities.
The same analysis led Mr. Turgot into a misconception of the principles of our policy. Supposing us to be tied down to a form compounded of the whole analysis, or of one or two members of it, and preferring democracy to a mixed government, he concluded that our governments were compounded of the whole analysis, because he could not discern the object of his preference; and in not being able to discern democracy among our state constitutions, Mr. Turgot justifies the idea, which supposes that the evil ‘democracy’ is as capable of remedy, as the evils ‘monarchy and aristocracy,’ and that it is actually removed by our system of government.
Mr. Turgot, not seeing the object of his preference, hastily concluded our policy to have copied the English; and founds his conclusion in an opinion, that it makes state governours kings, balances powers, and establishes orders of men. All this is obviously erroneous. We have less of monarchy and aristocracy in our policy, both of which he pretends to see, than of democracy, which he could not see. Instead of balancing power, we divide it and make it responsible, to prevent the evils of its accumulation in the hands of one interest. And such is the force of this principle of dividing power, to excite the good, and suppress the evil qualities of man, that among several hundred state governours who have already existed, not one instance has appeared of kingly qualities, of usurpation, or of war between neighbouring states. Why have the state governments escaped the evils of monarchy? For the same reason that they have escaped those of aristocracy and democracy. This example of the good moral conduct of their governours, testifies to the correctness of our analysis. Instead of monarchy, which excites evil qualities, our division (not a balance) of power, renders it responsible, and brings good qualities out of governours; and instead of a tumultuary nation, election, by division also, is filtered of its worst vice, and brings good qualities out of the mass of the people. Whereas a balance of power or a balance of orders (for it will amount to the same thing) has constantly produced a spirit as bitter as the animosity between rival clans, and caused distraction and misery, until the latter becomes permanent in a despotism, begotten by the predominance of one order or of one power.
Mr. Turgot’s errour in supposing our constitutions to have been formed by the English model, and his condemnation of such an imitation, afforded an opportunity precisely fitted for Mr. Adams’s purpose. He assumes our defence against the condemnation, and assails Mr. Turgot’s preference for collecting all authority into one centre. In justifying us against Turgot’s condemnation for having copied the English system, it was incumbent on Mr. Adams to prove that system to be the most perfect model of civil policy; in endeavouring to effect this, he was enabled to make some use of our prepossessions, by scattering in his first volume a few compliments to our constitutions; these however are bestowed upon them as copies, but like copies, they are presently forgotten in the admiration excited by the original.
Turgot condemns a balance of power, and different orders of men, and approves of collecting all authority into one centre, the nation. Mr. Adams tacitly admits our constitutions to be artificers of this balance and these orders, converts Turgot’s centre into a single chamber of representatives, engages these phantoms in hostility, and astounds us with history, anecdote, poetry and fable, to prove—what? That Mr. Turgot was mistaken in supposing that there were political orders created by our constitutions? No. To prove that such orders naturally existed, and that no good government could be formed, except by balancing power among such orders.
Whether Mr. Turgot approves or not, of concentrating all power in a single house of representatives, is immaterial; except that Mr. Adams, by supposing him to do so, has very artificially interwoven, an assault upon that idea, a vindication of a mixed or limited monarchy, and a few slight compliments to our constitutions. He uses the constitutions as a weak ally in carrying on the war against Turgot’s centre of power, places the system of limited monarchy in the van of the battle, and gives it all the credit of conscious victory.
Turgot’s idea of ‘collecting all authority into one centre,’ ‘that of the nation,’ might possibly have extended to national sovereignty only, without condemning a distribution of power among publick functionaries by a moderate scale; but Mr. Adams, by making that centre to consist of one house of representatives, seized upon the strongest ground for exhibiting representative government in distortion. To render monarchy most hateful, all power ought to be exhibited in the hands of a single man; so to render representation hateful, the best exhibition, is all power in the hands of a single house. We caricature what we wish to make odious, and adorn what we wish to recommend. Thus Mr. Adams contrasts republicanism in its most hideous, with monarchy, in its most becoming dress. One he adorns with his checks and balances, his jealousy among orders, and his patrician virtues; and tells no tale of woe produced by its vices: the other he places in a centre of monopoly, from whence she is made to hurl legislative, executive and judicial destruction on friends and enemies. It is admitted that the object of his embellishment, might possibly be some relief against the monster disfigured for its foil.
But the question so important to America, is not to be thus eluded. Because Mr. Turgot has charged us with having established governments, bottomed upon the English system of balancing classes of power, and creating orders of men; and because Mr. Adams has defended our governments against this charge, not by denying it, but by endeavouring to prove that system to be the best; it does not follow that our political policy is really that of the English. It only results from the charge and defence, that Mr. Turgot condemned and Mr. Adams approved of the English policy. And although Mr. Adams has been pleased to engage that policy in hostilities with Turgot’s phantasm, of concentrating all power in one chamber of representatives, (if such an opinion is justly ascribed to him) a victory on either side can furnish no conclusion or inference applicable to the civil policy of the United States. That consists neither of Mr. Adams’s orders and balance, nor of Turgot’s chamber. It stands aloof, and like a giant looks down without interest on this pigmy war. Shall one of the pigmies, because he has beaten the other, be considered as having also obtained a victory over the giant?
The question is not to be eluded. Whether Mr. Turgot’s chamber, or Mr. Adams’s orders and balances, constitute the best form of government, is not a question with which the United States have any concern; and that is the question discussed by Mr. Adams. If he has gained a victory over Turgot, it is not a victory also over the policy of the United States, unless that policy is Turgot’s, though disclaimed by him; nor is our policy entitled to any share of his laurels, unless it is, as Turgot asserted, the English policy.
However disguised, the true question is discernible. It simply is, whether the existing form of government of the United States, or the English limited monarchy is preferable. It is in this question that we are interested. This question has not been discussed by Mr. Adams, in mauling Turgot’s chamber with his balances. But we ought to acquire a thorough knowledge of the English system and its principles, and of our own system and its principles, to discover wherein they differ, and to bestow with justice the contested preference. Much of our labour has already been appropriated towards this important object; more is yet necessary. At present we will proceed in our endeavours to ascertain with preciseness the opinion of the author upon whose work we are commenting.
Mr. Adams’s second volume commences with the following motto: ‘As for us Englishmen, thank heaven we have a better sense of government delivered to us form our ancestors. We have the notion of a publick, and a constitution; how a legislature, and how an executive is moulded; we understand weight and measure in this kind, and can reason justly on the balance of power and property. The maxims we draw from hence, are as evident as those of mathematicks. Our increasing knowledge, shows every day what common sense is in politicks.’∗
In a motto, an author condenses his opinion and his subject to the utmost of his power. This combines a strong idea of the English system, with a stronger approbation of it. No preference can be stronger than one founded in mathematical evidence; and no room remains for farther political discovery, after mathematical demonstration. If the English system possesses this degree of perfection, it excels ours by the confession of our constitutions, in provisions for their own improvement.
Shaftesbury wrote this sentence, about a century past, when the system of paper and patronage was neither understood nor felt in England, and when a portion of the landed wealth of the nobility remained, sufficient to bestow some importance upon that order. What does he say produced these mathematical political maxims of the English system? ‘A balance of power and property:’ power and property are the indissoluble companions by which the system was regulated. If property and nobility became divided, would power and nobility continue united? Neither the actual nor comparative wealth of the English nobility is now what it was a century past. Paper systems, patronage and commerce, have overturned the balance which furnished Shaftesbury’s mathematical political maxims. And as according to these maxims, power with mathematical certainty will follow property, so the existence of the aristocracy of paper and patronage, contended for by this essay, is established upon Lord Shaftesbury’s principles, and by Mr. Adams’s motto.
When Lord Shaftesbury wrote, the balance of property in England was created on the part of the king, by the domains annexed to his office, by certain pecuniary acquisitions derived from prerogative, by some patronage, and by an annuity for life; and on the part of the nobility, by the extent and value of their manors. Now, the last weight, is no longer in the scale; and the first, has become ponderous. Is the balance between these two orders, even without taking into the account the new weight created by paper and patronage, what it was a century past? If not, will different weights, a new or a broken balance, supply Mr. Adams with the same mathematical maxims of government, which Shaftesbury, mathematically also, extracted from a different balance?
Both these authors unequivocally affirm the necessity of a balance of property, whereon to establish the balance of power constituting the English system. Let us apply this awful acknowledgment to the situation of the United States, without suffering political prejudice to suspend our judgments. Does this balance of property, indispensable to the British and Mr. Adams’s system, in the opinion of Shaftesbury and Mr. Adams, exist here? If not, with what propriety has Mr. Adams contended that his system, was the system of the United States? Of his, this balance of property is the essence; of theirs, it forms no part.
The admitted necessity of a balance of property, for the existence of Mr. Adams’s system, unfolds visibly to every politician, however superficial, that his system cannot exist without it; and the mode of introducing a balance of property here, is then to be considered.
By two ways only, has it ever been effected in England. First, by royal domains and feudal baronies. Secondly, by a million annuity, executive patronage, and the paper system. To effect this balance of property here in the first mode, it would be necessary to strip a sufficient number of landholders of their property, for the purpose of creating a landed king, and a landed aristocracy; but as this mode of making a balance of property among orders, would be too direct to be safe, the observation only furnishes a conclusive proof, that a landed aristocracy can never be created in the United States, as a member of Mr. Adams’s system.
The other mode of coming at this balance, is to transfer property to the system of paper and patronage. And this being the only practicable mode, those who calculate that the system of balancing power and property, will bestow on them an unequal share of both, will use it as the only means of advancing that system. This would create a monopoly of property, not by taking the lands from the owners directly, but by taking their profits indirectly, with charters of profit, stock and patronage. By this mode, the president must be endowed with the patronage and the annual million of the king of England, to bestow on him the wealth necessary to form one order, and a monied aristocracy must be raised by such pretexts as may occur, to create another.
The motto therefore proposes two questions for the reader’s consideration. One, whether this English system of balancing power and property, as existing when Shaftesbury wrote, or at this time, is the system of the United States; the other, whether it would be wise or just in the United States, to exchange their system for it.
To determine the first question, the fact will suffice. That, as stated by Lord Shaftesbury, and contended for by Mr. Adams, simply is, that an allotment of property and power is necessary among the one, the few and the many, to sustain or create, the English or Mr. Adams’s system of government. And it is explicitly declared, that this allotment must amount to a balance or an equality. Hence, it is obvious, that the orders consisting of the one and the few, must each be endowed with a portion of power and property equal to that bestowed on the order consisting of the many. Therefore the system can neither subsist or be introduced without a vast accumulation of power and property in the individual and the minor order. Such is the fact on one side. On the other, it is a fact equally undeniable, that it is the policy of the United States to divide, and not to accumulate power and property. It follows that the system of balancing power and property in the hands of orders, is not the system of the United States.
To determine the second question, the argument of this essay must be estimated. Here it is only necessary to remark, that the wisdom of an exchange of our system for Mr. Adams’s, will often be affirmed or denied by the dictates of self interest. Requiring as it does, that two thirds of the power and property of the nation, should be transferred to the one, and the few, it is probable that those who expect a share of this acquisition, so wonderfully adapted to solicit the exertions of ambition and avarice, will attempt to persuade us, that the exchange would be wise; on the contrary, as the order of the many, must furnish nearly the whole of the power and property necessary to bring up the two other orders to a balance with itself, it is as probable, that no individual, who understands the subject, and believes that he will be a member of the order to be despoiled, will approve of the exchange. He will see, that to make orders equal in power and property, is to make individuals unequal; and that it would be simply a case of dividing twelve millions of children belonging to one man, into three orders, of one, of about one hundred and fifty, and of eleven millions nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, eight hundred and forty nine; and of bestowing one third of the inheritance upon each order. It is very conceivable that the individuals who composed the two first orders, might be very well pleased with the system of such a balance of power and property, and that those belonging to the third, would have no great cause to rejoice. Nor would a child of the multitude, be easily convinced of the justice and wisdom of the system of balancing power and property, by a difference in the mode of effecting it; whether this was done by the force of the feudal system, or the fraud of paper and patronage, would make no difference in the consequences to him. He would therefore prefer the inequalities produced by talents and industry, to the system of levelling orders.
We will now proceed with our quotations, to exhibit a few of the amplifications of this motto to be found throughout Mr. Adams’s second and third volumes, his unqualified approbation of its doctrine, and his unsuccessful efforts to compress the policy of the United States within its tenour.
‘When it is found in experience, and appears probable in theory, that so simple an invention as a separate executive, with power to defend itself, is a full remedy against the fatal effects of dissentions between nobles and commons, why should we still finally hope that simple governments, or mixtures of two ingredients only, will produce effects which they never did, and we know never can? Why should the people be still deceived with insinuations, that these evils arose from the destiny of a particular city, when we know that destiny common to all mankind?’∗
It is obvious that Mr. Adams is here contemplating monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, and not moral principles, as the only ingredients of government; and that in his division of power, he thinks it necessary to assign to the executive order (which he in other places limits to a single person) a quota, sufficient to enable him to defend himself against the plebeian order. In the United States, the executive power is dependent on the people. The quota of power cannot by his system be given, without a correspondent balance of wealth. The wealth then of Mr. Adams’s executive order, must also balance the wealth of the plebeian order.
The assertion, that neither one nor two of these ingredients, can produce effects correspondent to our hopes, though exactly as true, as that a mixture of all three will equally disappoint us, positively affirms the necessity of this mixture; and when coupled with the deception into which such hopes have seduced the people, acknowledges, both that the policy of the United States did not embrace this mixture, and that it was an experiment unpromising in theory, and forbidden by experience. The treatise is addressed to the people of the United States; no other people who could come to a knowledge of it, entertained an enmity in 1786, against kings and nobles; the deprecated deception and the political errour, alleged in the extract, to exist, must therefore exclusively refer to the publick opinion of the people of the United States, and to the texture of their governments. And thus are justified by the admission of Mr. Adams, the opinions asserted in this essay; that our policy is not the English; and that Mr. Adams, instead of defending it, as he proposed, has, under colour of refuting Turgot’s project of a single centre of power, laboured to establish its inferiority to the English system.
‘Here was the best possible opportunity for introducing the most perfect form, by giving the executive power to one of the Medici, the power of the purse to the people, and the legislative power to both, together with the nobility.’∗
The best possible opportunity in this extract spoken of, was a conjuncture in the history of Florence, at which the people expelled an usurper or a monarch of the Medicean family, and attempted to establish a popular government. That conjuncture was analogous to our expulsion of a monarch of the Guelph family. The Florentine conjuncture, says Mr. Adams, afforded the best possible opportunity for introducing the most perfect form of government, namely that of king, lords and commons. And the king was to be taken from the usurping and expelled family.
The last extract consisted of a positive declaration, that limited monarchy was the most perfect form of government, and a positive opinion as to the best conjuncture for introducing it. The following is of a similar character.
‘The sovereign or rather the first magistrate of this monarchical republick, is the king of Prussia. Without descending to a particular account, of this princely republick, let me refer you to the Dictionaire de la Martiniere, and to Faber, printed at the end of the sixth volume of it, and to Coxe’s sketches, and to conclude with hinting at a few features of this excellent constitution. None but natives are capable of holding any office, civil or military, excepting that of governor. The three estates shall be assembled every year. The magistrates and officers of justice shall hold their employments during good behaviour; nor is the king the judge of ill behaviour. The king at his accession takes an oath to maintain all rights, liberties, franchises, and customs, written or unwritten. The king is considered as resident only at Neuchattel, and therefore when absent can only address the citizens through his governour and the council of state. No citizen can be tried out of the country or otherwise than by the judges. The prince confers nobility, and nominates to the principal offices of state, civil and military. The prince in his absence is represented by a governor of his own appointing. He convokes the three estates.’†
It is not intended to insult the reader by pointing out the several eulogies upon monarchy and orders in this extract, nor is it hardly necessary to draw his attention to a repetition of an idea similar to that furnished by the preceding. In that, the reward of an usurping family, by placing one of it on a throne, would, it was said, have been good policy; and that the era of its expulsion, was the best possible opportunity for this experiment. In this, a government of orders, in which the king is absent, is said to be an ‘excellent constitution.’ Added to the absence of the king, the exclusion from office of all except natives, three estates assembled annually, a coronation oath, a fiction to acquire the presence of the king, trial within the country, a right in the prince to confer nobility and appoint officers, and a locum tenens king called governor, comprise every feature of the Neuchattel constitution, urged to convince us of its excellence.
I remember to have seen a book nearly contemporary with Mr. Adams’s defence, written by a Sir John Dalrymple, an Englishman, containing a proposition for a reunion between England and the United States, upon terms nearly similar to the constitution of Neuchattel, celebrated by Mr. Adams. And had these two gentlemen been appointed plenipotentiaries to treat of this proposal, the ônly point for discussion which seems to have been left unsettled by the extract and Dalrymple’s book, would have been, whether Neuchattel, in Switzerland, as divided from Prussia by land, was more commodiously situated for a Prussian, than the United States, for an English king.
As to the preferable form of government, no disagreement could have happened between the negociators, unless the following quotations are really eulogies upon our own policy.
‘But there is a form of government which produces a love of law, liberty and country, instead of disorder, irregularity and a faction; which produces as much and more independence of spirit, and as much undaunted bravery; as much esteem of merit in preference to wealth, and as great simplicity, sincerity and generosity to all the community, as others do to a faction; which produces as great a desire of knowledge, and infinitely better faculties to pursue it; which besides produces security of property, and the desire and opportunities for commerce, which the others obstruct. Shall any one hesitate then to prefer such a government to all others? A constitution in which the people reserve to themselves the absolute control of their purses, one essential branch of the legislature, and the inquest of grievances and state crimes, will always produce patriotism, bravery, simplicity and science; and that infinitely better for the order, security, and tranquillity they will enjoy, by putting the executive power in one hand, which it becomes their interest, as well as that of the nobles, to watch and control.’∗
This quotation contains the precise opinion, which it is the design of this essay to controvert. Dismissing Turgot’s phantom of a single house of representatives, Mr. Adams considers the people as an order, electing only one branch of the legislature, having no control over a single executive, and aided by nobles to watch and control this monarch; for when the people have made a king to check nobles, these nobles are to join the people in checking the king. And the approbation of such a form of government is as unbounded, as the censure of every other is unequivocal. That, he asserts, will produce a long string of blessings; others, specified calamities of great magnitude. Not a single defect is ascribed to the object of the eulogy, nor a single perfection to any other form. The words cannot be tortured to bring our policy within the sphere of the eulogy, nor to exclude it from that of the censure. And the English system is unequivocally preferred without hesitation to all others.
A single remark only will be made upon this encomium. The system of orders is said to produce security of property. But the system requires that property must be balanced among the three orders, or no balance of power can remain. ‘Wealth,’ says Mr Adams, ‘is the machine for governing the world.’ How can this balance of property be introduced or maintained, without invading property, for the indispensable purpose of enriching a king and some other interest, to make two orders? It must be invaded by force or fraud. The frauds of superstition first collected the wealth, which created and fed an aristocratical interest; then it was acquired by the force of the feudal system; and now it is drawn from the people by the frauds of paper and patronage. Can any one hesitate to prefer the security of property under the system of the United States, to such security as this?
‘A science certainly comprehends all the principles in nature which belong to the subject. The principles in nature which relate to government cannot all be known, without a knowledge of the history of mankind. The English constitution is the only one which has considered and provided for all cases that are known to have generally, indeed to have always happened in the progress of every nation; it is therefore the only scientifical government.’∗
‘Whenever the people have had any share in the executive, or more than one third part of the legislative, they have always abused it, and rendered property insecure.’†
‘But a mixed government produces and necessitates constancy in all its parts; the king must be constant to preserve his prerogatives; the senate must be constant to preserve their share; and the house theirs.’∗
‘It is therefore the true policy of the common people to place the whole executive power in one man, to make him a distinct order in the state, from whence arises an inevitable jealousy between him and the gentlemen.’†
Mr. Adams’s third volume‡ contains a reference to the parties under our present general government, by the terms ‘constitutionalist and republican;’ and in the same volume§ it is said, ‘that Lewis the 16th had the unrivalled glory of admitting the people to a share in the government;’ an observation for which no ground existed, previously to the establishment of the present general constitution. This volume must therefore have been written or revised after the existence of that constitution; of course, that instrument is entitled to share with the constitutions proposed by the title page to be defended, in the censures of these several quotations.
One of these is an adjudication assigning literally to the ‘English constitution’ the utmost conceivable political perfection; and to every other, a specified comparative inferiority, with a considerable portion of actual worthlessness. ‘The English constitution is the only one which has considered and provided for all cases known to have always happened in the progress of every nation.’ Comparative preference could not have been more strongly expressed. ‘It is the only scientifical government.’ A stronger expression of contempt for other forms of government could not have been used by a philosopher.
The confinement of the people to an influence over a third part of the legislature, the monarchical executive, and the independent senate, having the prerogatives of an order, are vital principles of the English system, and applauded; and that applause is an express censure of those vital principles of our policy, which extend the influence of the people far beyond the English limit, erect responsible executives short of monarchical power, and exclude the idea of prerogatived senatorial orders.
The meaning of the term ‘mixed,’ frequently used in Mr. Adams’s treatise, is defined by the third quotation so precisely, that the loosest imagination will be unable to misconstrue the author as intending by that expression to include the policy of the United States. He limits it to a mixture of ranks or orders, made up of king, lords and commons. A division of powers without an establishment of orders, is not then an object of Mr. Adams’s contemplation, when he uses this term.
Jealousy is often mentioned by Mr. Adams as the best effect of his system of balancing orders. In the last quotation, the jealousy of the common people against gentlemen, is used as a motive to propel them towards a king, for the purpose of acquiring this cardinal effect of the balances; namely, jealousy between the king and the gentlemen.
It has been stated, that a mixture of orders belonged to the class of governments founded in the evil qualities of man; and it is repeatedly asserted by Mr. Adams, that its fruit is jealousy. This is a tender term to convey an idea of the distrust, hatred and implacability, which have ever guided orders, possessed of the share of power and wealth required by Mr. Adams’s system. The calamities he details, are collected from experiments of mixed orders, and display the consequences of the evil quality of jealousy, and the prospect of its becoming the fountain of good. This jealousy is graduated by the approach towards the object, on the attainment of which the perfection of Mr. Adams’s system depends; and the exact adjustment of a balance of power and wealth between political orders, begets the utmost degree of its malignity; it becomes deadly, like that between two pretenders to the throne. It produces effects, like those produced in England, by a balance of wealth and power between the crown and the nobility. As equality in wealth and power, or a perfect political balance, is the utmost excitement of jealousy, so it is stifled by subordination; and the farther a form of government recedes from Mr. Adams’s point of perfection, the less it is exposed to the discord of a rivalry for dominion. As the violent struggles between the crown and nobles in England, demonstrate the consequences of an attainment of Mr. Adams’s political balance; so their long intermission demonstrates the consequences of a recession from his point of perfection. It is simply the question whether two or three kings are better than one, on account of the jealousy with which the one case will be blessed, and its absence from the second. The policy of the United States, by acknowledging the sovereignty of the people without a balance or a rival power, and by establishing a subordination to their opinion, has rejected the quality of jealously, contended for by its defender.
Mr. Adams’s book abounds with the evils inflicted on mankind by the contention of orders, but it omits to display the evils of their union in England; it opposes to its own facts a theory for their management, but omits to add that it has never succeeded; and it allows to nations a capacity for instituting and keeping in repair, an intricate equilibrium of power and wealth among orders, but denies that they are capable of self government.
The quotations demonstrate the enmity between the policy of the United States, and Mr. Adams’s system; and a view of the general structure of his treatise, will establish its strict concurrence with the tenor of the quotations. Republicks, or governments without a monarch, are represented as detestable; and the more popular they are, the more detestable are they represented. Our policy is slightly mentioned in the first volume, thrown into the back ground throughout the second, and spoken of in the third as an experiment unlikely to succeed. As Turgot’s projects of a single body of men exercising all power, is made the pretext for a collateral attack upon our policy in the first volume, Nedham’s ‘Excellency of a free state, or the right constitution of a commonwealth,’ is resorted to for opening a direct attack upon it in the third. Turgot was unfriendly to orders, and Nedham wrote to keep out a dethroned king; Mr. Adams assails them both.
Marchamont Nedham wrote about one hundred and fifty years past. Political science at that time depended upon ancient experiments, and the disciples of democracy, aristocracy or monarchy, would of course be now exposed to many just criticisms, furnished by the defects of each form, as then understood and practised. But Nedham’s treatise, and the American revolution, united in assailing the same limited monarchy, in the destruction of which, one failed and the other succeeded; and Mr. Adams selects the unsuccessful combatant against the same foe, takes the side of the victorious enemy, and fights the battle over again. Limited monarchy is made to insult over Nedham’s commonwealth, after having subdued it; and the commonwealth of the United States, is not allowed to take the field against limited monarchy which that has subdued. Monarchy shrinks from an avowed controversy with an erect enemy, and is by Mr. Adams decreed a new triumph over a fallen one. However it may accord with the rules of war, to undermine the main fortress by getting possession of a weak outwork, it is questionable whether this military mode of reasoning, will be considered as the right road to truth.
The policy of the United States ought not to be forced into an alliance with either Turgot’s or Nedham’s project. It is itself the Champion, ready to engage the English system, fairly and openly, hand to hand; nor ought the ghosts of these speculations, the one forgotten and the other unknown, to have been conjured up, for the purpose of transfixing that policy, under pretence of striking at shadows, and claiming for monarchy a victory whilst it flees from the contest.
The war is carried on with shadows; and by the help of definition, an attempt is made even to transfer the arms of these shadows to their adversary. If this can be effected, the chief weapon, the distinguishing superiority of our policy, is also lost. Let us return to Mr. Adams.
‘In the science of legislation, there is a confusion of languages, as if men were but lately come from Babel. Scarcely any two writers, much less nations, agree in using words in the same sense. Such a latitude, it is true, allows a scope for politicians to speculate, like merchants with false weights, by making the same word adored by one party and execrated by another.’∗
Two extracts will be selected, to show how far Mr. Adams has fulfilled the confidence which this just observation is calculated to inspire; one, containing a definition of a republick, the other of representation. Definition is indeed a false or a true weight. It discloses truth, or hides errour. It is a criminal, varnishing over law, to conceal his crime; or an unprejudiced judge, seeking for a true construction. It is a torture of words to suit a system, and deceive the superficial; or a mode of removing the mistakes arising from words, and extending our ideas to things. And it is as likely to complain of the unintelligible jargon produced by a want of precision in terms, when it purposes to deceive by this jargon, as a Jew is to complain of false weights, when he offers his sweated coin.
‘Others again, more rationally, define a republick to signify only a government, in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws. This indeed appears to be the true, and only true definition of a republick.’†
‘An uncertainty of law’ is a ‘glorious’ object to avaricious lawyers. ‘An uncertainty of republicanism,’ would be an object, not less desirable to ambitious politicians. A definition, which produces uncertainty as to what republicanism is, will excite and aid the views of ambition, just as an uncertainty of law excites and aids the views of avarice. It is therefore highly important to consider this definition of Mr. Adams.
The analysis contended for in this essay, divides governments into two classes, distinguished by the moral elements, good and evil. And the terms ‘republick and commonwealth,’ have been used to convey an idea of a government, which, being founded in good moral principles, or principles both exciting good and restraining evil qualities, will produce publick, common, or national benefit. But if ‘the subjection of all to law’ constitutes a republick, this idea of the term must be surrendered, and we must look out for some other, by which to make the reader comprehend the idea, of a form of government founded in good moral principles, and producing publick, common or national benefit.
A code of laws may be good or bad; and if bad, it is morally impossible that a subjection to such a code, can constitute a government founded in good moral principles. But according to Mr. Adams, equal subjection to any code of laws, constitutes a definition of a republick; if so, it follows, that this term gives us no idea of the principles or operation, of any government; and is equally pertinent to describe those calculated to dispense evil to the publick, as those calculated to dispense good.
Law may be enacted by a faction, to strip a nation, and enrich itself; and the faction may find an interest in subjecting to law, the individuals composing itself, equally with other citizens. The Doge and nobility of Venice, the East-India company and stock faction of England, are evidences of this assertion.
A code of laws may operate partially, in such modes, as the establishment of privileged orders or hierarchies; or by frittering away publick rights by law charters, to individuals or corporations, so as to reduce the majority of the nation to misery and wretchedness. Yet the bishop would be subject to law in receiving his benefice and his tythes, the labourer, in paying them; a nobility is subject to law in exercising its privileges; a corporation, in growing rich by the aid of its charter; a bank, in collecting from a nation, usury upon nominal money; and a king, in receiving a million, and expending thirty millions annually in corruption and patronage, at the national expense. Here are kings, bishops, nobility and corporations, all subject to law; but the laws are partial, unjust and oppressive.
There is no difficulty in framing laws, so as to oppress one portion of a community for the benefit of another; and yet every citizen may be subject to the laws, whilst the subjection of some will consist of acquisition or benefit, and of others, of loss or injury; and thus property to a vast amount may be annually transferred. Some may be combined in a priesthood, to aid a government in oppressing others; privileges may be conferred on some, to the injury and degradation of others; some may by law be excused from publick duties, so as to increase them upon others, as in the exemption of the nobility and clergy under the French monarchy from certain taxes; and some may by laws be enabled even to corrupt the government at the cost and charges of the people, as the paper and the executive orders of England.
In all these cases, and in a multitude of others which will occur to the reader, an equal subjection to the law, constitutes the only true and genuine republick, according to Mr. Adams; a definition equivalent to an assertion, that it is not the justice or partiality, the moderation or oppressiveness of laws, which furnish an idea of liberty or slavery, of a republick, or a tyranny, but merely the execution of law, bad or good, just or unjust.
According to this definition, all forms of government, which produce a particular effect of government, that is, ‘an equal subjection to the laws,’ instantly become republicks, how widely soever they may differ in structure or principles; and the same form, may sometimes be a republick, and sometimes not, as fluctuations in the equal execution of law are produced, by the passions of individuals, or the arts of factions, without any change in the structure of the government. So soon as it is settled, that effects are to alter the names of causes, without altering their nature or form, the term ‘republick’ can no longer convey an idea of a government, unless it is in operation; because, as the title of every form to that epithet, would depend upon its effect in producing ‘an equal subjection to law,’ so until this effect appears in the operation of a government, it could never be known, whether it was a republick, an aristocracy or a monarchy. Politicians, to the inquiry ‘what kind of government are you erecting?’ must answer like the painter spoken of by Cervantes, who being asked what he was painting, replied, ‘a cock or a fox, just as it happens.’
A partial execution of law by one party or faction upon another, would produce an unequal subjection to law, which must be detected and destroyed, to bring back such an erring government within the terms of the definition. It deprives us of the vernacular idea annexed to the phrases ‘republick and monarchy,’ and for the question ‘is this a republick or a monarchy?’ substitutes an inquiry, ‘whether all the citizens are equally subject to the laws?’
Without having seen the definition, an Englishman being asked, under what form of government he lived, would have answered, ‘a monarchy;’ and to the same question, an American would have answered ‘a republick.’ But this new dialect may make such answers improper. In England, the government party say ‘the laws govern.’ According to the definition, these monarchists must allow that their government is republican, and themselves republicans; in America, the party which called itself republican, believed that the sedition law was partially executed, so as to produce an unequal subjection to law; by the definition, this party must then have denied that our form of government was republican, whilst they were avowing an affection for it because it was so. We cannot therefore discern, how this definition is calculated to diminish the confusion of political dialect, or to establish an accurate idea of the term ‘republick,’ capable of becoming a fixed standard against the fraudulent use of it by ambition and deceit. Let us examine if more certainty and perspicuity is displayed in the following quotation.
‘An hereditary limited monarch is the representative of the whole nation, for the management of the executive power, as much as an house of representatives, as one branch of the legislature, and as guardian of the publick purse; and a house of lords too, or a standing senate, represents the nation for other purposes, viz.: as a watch set upon both the representatives and the executive power. The people are the fountain and original of the power of kings and lords, governours and senates, as well as the house of commons, or assembly of representatives; and if the people are sufficiently enlightened to see all the dangers that surround them, they will always be represented by a distinct personage to manage the whole executive power; a distinct senate to be guardians of property against levellers for the purposes of plunder, to be a repositary of the national tradition of publick maxims, customs and manners, and to be controllers in turn both of Kings and their ministers on one side, and the representatives of the people on the other, when either discover a disposition to do wrong; and a distinct house of representatives, to be the guardians of the publick purse, and to protect the people in their turn, against both kings and nobles.’∗
Having sunk republicanism in subjection to law, Mr. Adams here sinks representation in hereditary orders. By the definition of ‘republick’ any form of government may constitute it; and by this definition of representation, hereditary power in every shape, is as much a representative power, as that elected by the people. Let us consider whether this definition tends to introduce an unambiguous political dialect, and to secure the people against deception.
It was said, that Mr. Adams had attempted, by definition, to rob of their arms the shadows of his enmity, and to transfer these arms to their adversary; and that if this could be effected, the chief weapons and distinguishing superiorities of our policy would be also lost. These shadows, are Turgot’s chamber and Nedham’s commonwealth; the reality upon which this attempt will bear, is the policy of the United States.
The distinguishing superiorities of our policy, are, the sovereignty of the people; a republican government, or a government producing publick or national good; and a thorough system of responsible representation. All these, Mr. Adams transplants into his system of monarchy and privileged orders, from the policy of the United States, as Mahomet transplanted several of the best principles of Christianity into his system of religion. ‘The people,’ says he, ‘are the fountain and original of the power of kings, lords, governours and senates, as well as the house of commons, or assembly of representatives.’ Thus he seizes upon our principle of ‘the sovereignty of the people’ and appropriates it to the use of his system of kings and lords. He asserts that, an hereditary limited monarch and a house of lords are as much the representatives of the nation as an house of representatives elected by the people. Thus he seizes upon our principle of responsible representation, and bestows that also upon his system of kings and lords. And not contented with depriving our policy of these defences, and bestowing them upon a rival policy, to which they do not belong, he even robs it of its name, by defining a republick to be only ‘an equal subjection to law,’ and transfers that also to monarchy:—Leaving the policy of the United States, without principles, and without a name, by which it may be spoken of, or distinguished from the English system. Is this ‘a language of Babel,’ or one calculated to be understood? Is it calculated to furnish ambitious politicians ‘with false weights,’ or to come at truth?
In his effort to humour the publick opinion of the United States, in favour of ‘national sovereignty and representation,’ Mr. Adams lost sight of that, to prove the existence of ‘a natural aristocracy.’ One of these doctrines asserts ‘that the people are sovereign,’ or in Mr. Adams’s words, ‘the fountain and original of the power of kings and lords;’ the other, ‘that nature creates an order above and independently of the people.’ And to complete the confusion arising from thus confounding contradictory principles, Mr. Adams in the last quotation, has arranged kings and governours, lords and senators, in the class of representatives, and thus after taking from us words, takes away objects also, by which we may know our system of government, from that of king, lords and commons.
If the system of balancing power and property, contended for by Mr. Adams, would not be exploded by a disingenuous defence; an effort to convince the people of the United States, that their policy is the English system, ought to have no more influence upon the question, than an effort to convince the English nation, that their system was the policy of the United States. Considering such attempts as rather designed to ridicule, than mislead ignorance or prepossession, I will exhibit the essential difference between the two forms of government, in a view, heretofore transiently noticed, and hereafter to be impressed, as occasions occur.
In the last quotation, Mr. Adams recommends his noble, distinct or permanent Senate, ‘as guardians of property against levellers;’ and in a previous quotation he observes, that ‘whenever the people have had any share in the executive, or more than one third part of the legislative, they have always abused it, and rendered property insecure:’—Thus excluding the people from any share in the executive, and any influence over the Senate, (although the king and the nobility are, as he says, their representatives,) as the only means of protecting property or checking levellers.
The love of property possesses almost an unbounded influence over the human mind. It is therefore an engine to which avarice and ambition will forever resort to effect their purposes; and every institution designed to make the mass of a nation poorer by enriching itself, will invariably avow a contrary intention, for the purpose of inducing the nation to fall into the snare. This is sometimes baited, with a pretence, that the people will be abundantly reimbursed in heaven, for the money drawn from them to enrich a hierarchy; at others, with the delusion, that they are reimbursed for the wealth drawn from them to enrich paper corporations, by an enhanced price for their labour; even for such products as are priced by a foreign demand.
The fear of losing property, is as strong as the hope of obtaining it. For this reason, the grossest abuses artfully ally themselves with real and honest property; and endeavour to excite its apprehension, when attempts are made to correct them, by exclaiming against the invasion of property and against levelism, and by deceiving the publick with fraudulent epithets.
These, we shall endeavour to prove, are precisely the grounds taken by Mr. Adams, when he boldly charges all nations, having any share in their own government beyond a third part of the legislative power, with ‘rendering property insecure;’ when he proposes a noble senate as ‘guardians of property;’ and when he endeavours to draw upon those who approve of extending the power of the people beyond his limitation, the odium attached to the epithet ‘levellers.’ And we shall endeavour to prove, that the charges of levelism, and rendering property insecure, so repeatedly and profusely urged against republican principles throughout his book, do really recoil upon himself, and adhere to his own system.
The ’safety of property’ is the very point, by which it is allowed that the reader ought to be determined, in bestowing a preference upon our policy or the English system. Our manners do not thirst for blood; it is the thirst of avarice and ambition for wealth and power, that we have to withstand.
To understand the question, we ought previously to settle a satisfactory idea of property. Here it is probable that a disagreement will occur, between the disciples of corporation, monopoly and orders, and myself. It is acknowledged, that I do not include under the idea of property, any artificial establishment, which subsists by taking away property; such as hierarchical, kingly, noble, official and corporate possessions, incomes and privileges; and that I consider those possessions as property, which are fairly gained by talents and industry, or are capable of subsisting, without taking property from others by law.
If this definition is correct, an invasion of property constitutes the essential quality of Mr. Adams’s system. A king, a nobility and a hierarchy, cannot subsist without property, and this property must be taken away in some mode from others. The system requires a balance of property, as the only mode of balancing power; or, to use the epithet applied by Mr. Adams to those who differ from him, property and power must be levelled among three orders, and this level must be kept up, or the system falls into ruin. Therefore the supposed two orders cannot preserve a political existence, without constantly receiving the profits of two thirds of the property in a nation. This requires a regular system for invading private property to sustain a government consisting of balanced orders. A nation must toil like Sisyphus, whilst an invisible power must eternally defeat their labours, to keep this indispensable balance steady.
Nobility, separate interests or orders, have in all ages taken root and flourished, in an invasion of property. Some mode by which this is effected, will occur as an indissoluble adjunct to every such order or interest; as in the fraudulent division of conquered lands, which reared and fed the Roman patricians and feudal barons; in the sale of indulgences and other frauds of superstition, which reared and fed the popish hierarchy: and in the system of paper and patronage, which reared and feeds the English monied interest, and allies it with the crown, from a consciousness of delinquency in its perpetual invasion of property.
Supposing the charge exhibited against governments, under the national control, to be true; and admitting that they do tend towards levelism; it would then become necessary to compute, which species of levelism, that of dividing property between three orders according to Mr. Adams’s system, or that of dividing property among all the individuals of a nation according to the supposed tendency, would produce the most injustice or misery. The first kind of levelism, requires a perpetual balance, only to be obtained and supported, by an artificial transfer (either fraudulent or forcible) of two thirds of the national income, to two orders consisting of very few persons. This involves a perpetual invasion of the property of the order, comprising almost the whole nation, to the extent of two thirds. And an impoverishment of individuals, with all its calamities upon mind and body, follows such an invasion, to a vast extent; suffered, not for the purpose of supplying the wants of the two orders, or doing them any good, but merely for the political object of establishing a balance of power upon this balance of property.
The guardianship of property derived from the system of orders, must be paid for according to its essential principles, by two thirds of the property of the people; a price, one would think, which ought to secure fidelity in discharging the trust. Instead of this, the system does not admit of the remaining third being rendered more valuable by industry. For should the third left in the hands of the people, be improved up to the value of the two thirds, transferred to the other two orders, it would destroy the balance of power. Hence the system requires the acquisitions of industry to be taken away and transferred, as they appear, to keep up its vital principle of ‘a balance of property.’
This is effected in England by the aid of paper and patronage. The portion of property held by the people, began to grow as soon as perpetuities were abolished, and excited the efforts of avarice and ambition, to transfer to themselves the acquisitions of industry; to effect this object, recourse was had to the fraud of paper and patronage, so well calculated to goad on industry, and to pillage her gains. The levelism of property among three orders, created by perpetuities, domains, prerogatives, and tenures (which constituted the essence of the feudal system), had been destroyed by the acquisitions of the popular order, and in its place was invented what may be called ‘the perpetual level of property,’ by the perpetual motion of paper patronage and taxation. It was a discovery of the political longitude for hereditary and stock navigators. This perpetual motion, being regulated by these navigators, they can accelerate or retard its velocity, so as to maintain a perpetual level, by a regular transfer of the profit of labour and industry, from the mass of a nation, to themselves, an inconsiderable section of it. Thus, in fact, reducing Mr. Adams’s orders to two only, those who lose property and those who receive it; and producing the tyranny which he justly contends will result from one order governing another.
This attempt to level or balance property among orders, has been concealed in all ages, by charging those who oppose it with an intention of equalising, levelling or balancing property among individuals; a species of levelism which has seldom appeared in any shape, would be temporary if attempted, and is impracticable.
If levelism, balancing or equality was practicable, (for the words are the same, however, as Mr. Adams observes, they may be made to be adored by one party and execrated by another,) the merits of the different modes would appear by extending an idea already stated. By the system for equalising property among orders, one child gets a third of the whole, one hundred and fifty another third, and eleven millions nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, eight hundred and forty nine children, the remaining third; by that for equalising property among individuals, each child would receive an equal share. The first system of equality, by a distribution excessively oppressive upon individuals, excites ambition, avarice, and universal malignity, and all the train of evil moral qualities annexed to luxury and poverty; the second system of equality, would produce all the evils of sloth and ignorance.
It is admitted that a greater portion of a nation will receive a share, by the paper and patronage system for levelling property, on account of the necessity of extending corruption to defend a fraud, relatively to the extension of knowledge; and that this multiplication of chances for a share, operates as a spur to labour and industry, as the efforts of twelve millions of persons would be more vigourously excited by the enrichment of fifty thousand than of one hundred and fifty individuals. But the more avarice is thus excited, the more oppression becomes necessary to obtain the means of its gratification; an idea furnishing the ground for a comparison between the feudal and the paper aristocracy.
Whether the reader shall hold in most detestation the system of levelling property among orders or among individuals, is unimportant to the question proposed for his consideration. And the subject is only submitted to him that he may discern the ingenuity of the first species of iniquity, in endeavouring to crouch from his eye behind the second. Conscious that it is the policy of the United States to protect property against both these modes of invading it, the mode of balancing it among orders, artfully endeavours to excite an odium against that policy, by charging it with a tendency towards the mode of balancing it among individuals, hoping that a recoil of publick opinion from one species of iniquity, may throw the nation into the other.
The source of the charge excites distrust. It is brought forward by the system of levelling property among orders. The accusers are the witnesses. And if these accusers and witnesses succeed, their reward is a real two thirds of the wealth and power of the United States, for defeating an ideal balance of property among individuals. The people are gravely advised by Mr. Adams, to transfer two thirds of their property to two orders, and to keep themselves by perpetual taxation, under a perpetual incapacity of recovering it, for the preservation of the balance of power among orders, lest they themselves should adopt the visionary project of balancing property among individuals. A perpetual balance of property among orders, is the remedy proposed against a transitory project for balancing it among individuals. The temptations exciting a division of property among individuals, are feeble; hence it has no advocates, and hence in our present circumstances, it never will have advocates. Those exciting its division among orders, are powerful; hence it has advocates, and hence the danger of property lurks behind that project.
Property, like liberty, is only to be secured upon the broad basis of publick will. When hereditary orders or separate interests, tell a nation that it is an enemy to its own liberty, but that liberty will be safe in their care, it is done with a design to rob the nation of liberty; and when these hereditary orders or separate interests tell a nation, that property can only be made secure by investing them with two thirds of it, it is done to rob the nation of property.
A specifick balance of property among orders, or separate interests, in the present state of commerce and manners, cannot be effected, by assigning to each order or interest a third part of the land held by a nation; and hence it is obvious, that a landed order, or aristocracy, cannot be established. As land itself cannot be thus balanced, the only remaining mode of effecting this indispensable object to the system of orders, is taxation. Those who receive the transfers of wealth made by taxation, and not those who supply them, must constitute the order or separate interest. A cannot be made a nobleman by giving property to B. Many conclusions ensue. The objects of paper and patronage in England, receive the benefit of the balance of property, produced by taxation—the modern mode of managing this balance; therefore those objects, and not the titled nobility, constitute the real order or separate interest in England. Property is balanced by taxing land and labour, not by a division of land; and therefore land cannot be the basis of an aristocracy. Like all other property, it loses by the balance of property maintained by taxation; and it is the order which gains, and not that which loses, which invariably constitutes the aristocracy. An aristocracy, therefore, by the modern mode of creating it, cannot consist of a landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a professional interest, or of any species of interest, that excepted which receives the property annually collected by taxation, charters and privileges. It is the share of property received, which conveys the share of power, and produces the balance of both. Corruption, charters, patronage, pensions and paper systems, are the channels through which the property annually balanced by taxation, is distributed. Therefrom the distributes derive a power, enabling them to do what a titled order would in vain attempt; to defend themselves and their king or factor, against all other interests and orders.
Let us now proceed to consider the examples in relation to his system, drawn by Mr. Adams from the governments of the middle age.
Mr. Adams affects to despise theory, and to prove all his conclusions by experience. Without estimating the difference between the savage and the civilized; the superstitious and the enlightened; a city and a great country; he reasons as if every situation and all circumstances, moral and physical, demanded the same political regimen. The manners, the colour, and the social qualities, of the brute creation, are changed by education; is reason condemned to persist in errours, from which instinct has in some degree escaped? His examples are extracted in the second and third volumes, at great length, from the Italian republicks. To be guided by these, we must shut our eyes upon the day light shining around, and dive after our character and capacity into the caverns of antiquity. Can any ingenuity induce us to believe, that a picture of human depravity and ignorance, during the middle age, is our picture? In considering this rosary of causes, it will hardly be overlooked, that Mr. Adams has been as evidently a theorist, as in assigning power to title, and forgetting to assign it to wealth.
These cases are confined to the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. We relinquish the use of the deep ignorance with which these centuries had been overspread by the recent irruptions and conquests of barbarians, and will endeavour to reason in a mode more conclusive.
Mr. Adams considers Florence as affording an experiment of the most weight. He enumerates sundry evils endured by that city, and infers that his system would have prevented them. The inference is drawn, not from a comparison between the government of Florence, and other forms existing at the same period, which might have furnished probable conclusions; but from a comparison between governments which existed at periods extremely distant from each other. Parallels between contemporaries, will be allowed to furnish a sounder inference. His history of Florence commences in the year 1245. The parliament of England received the shape of king, lords and commons, as far back as that year; indeed, an act of parliament appears to have been pleaded, made in the reign of William the conqueror. From hence to the end of the fifteenth century, when Mr. Adams’s history of Italian miseries ends, the balance of power and property in England among orders, was more consonant to his theory than at present. The representation of the plebeian order, was more equal at that time than now; because inhabited and not depopulated boroughs were represented. Property was placed by perpetuities in a settled state of division and balance among orders; this division and balance is now superseded by its division through commerce and alienation among individuals, and by the balance of taxation between payers and receivers. The titled order then held a real share of power, attracted by their share of property; now, power is attracted from title by a richer order or interest.
Here was strong ground for a sober inquirer after truth. The contemporary evils generated by the king, lords and commons of England, and by the Italian republicks, ought to have been minutely detailed and compared. Then the preponderating mass might have been discovered; and then similar evils might have been referred to some common cause.
The feuds and wars among the barons, between these and the kings, between the kings and the people, between pretenders to the crown, between the nation and its neighbours; catalogues of executions, murders, confiscations, banishments; seizures of church lands and monasteries; changes of religion and persecutions, begotten by amours, or bigotry; and all the effects of prerogative, privilege and feudal tenure, ought to have been made to face the calamities of the Italian republicks, to enable us to determine which were most hideous.
These calamities brought face to face, would have exhibited a resemblance not to be obliterated. And the chief distinction between them, would have consisted of more art, civilization and knowledge, among the Italians than among the English, infused by their greater portion of republicanism. From the resemblance, however, would have resulted an illustration of an analysis which supposes, that evil moral effects are produced by monarchy, aristocracy or democracy, either simple or mixed. The democracies, aristocracies, monarchies and mixtures, both of England and Italy, produced evil effects. In both countries ranks or orders existed during the three centuries to which Mr. Adams confines himself.
Admitting an exchange of forms of government to have taken place, between England and Italy, an exchange of contemporary evils or effects might have also followed; and it is not improbable but that Italy would have made the worst of the bargain. Her little republicks, would have been converted into little kingdoms; and the rivalry and ambition of neighbouring commonwealths, would have been exchanged for the rivalry and ambition of neighbouring kings. The little commonwealths existed more centuries, than the kingdoms would have done years; if we may judge by the invariable fate of a cluster of small kings. Is not this a proof of the superior excellence or moderation, of the republican, to the monarchical principle?
The numerous disunited territorial divisions of Italy, was the substratum for her republican experiment; a territorial union, of the English experiment for balancing property and orders. Italy was distracted by the mutual annoyance of jealous neighbours, and the intrigues of the Pope and the Emperour. England was strong in its extent, fortified by nature, and less exposed to foreign influence. Under these disadvantages, during the three centuries we are estimating, Italy outstript England in arts, knowledge and wealth; and probably saved the science and civilization of the world, from being lost in those ages of darkness. Her evils were inferior to those of England, under the pressure of greater local difficulties; and her prosperity greater, with fewer local advantages. But the tincture of republicanism was infinitely stronger in the Italian forms of government, than in the English.
There existed however, it must be admitted, a strong resemblance between the evils suffered by both, which excites a reasonable suspicion, that these evils flowed from some cause, also common to both. The structure of the governments was dissimilar, therefore this structure could not have been the cause. But a similarity existed between England and Italy, in two material circumstances during these centuries; ignorance and nobility. England and Italy were both in a state of turbulence and misery during the contemplated period. The balances of England, would therefore have been an ineffectual experiment to cure the calamities of Italy; and the mixed republicanism of Italy, as ineffectual to cure the calamities of England. The evil moral causes, ignorance and nobility, being common to both countries, would still have produced evil effects, had they been transposed.
From the termination of the fifteenth century, the two chief calamities which had previously afflicted Europe, diminished in malignancy. Printing gradually mitigated the effects of ignorance; and commerce and alienation, gradually destroyed the balance of property and power among orders. To defend noble or privileged orders by a comparison between Italy, before the discovery of printing and under a feudal monopoly of land, and England, enlightened by that art, and relieved from this monopoly, is reasoning thus: As England, after the power and influence of her nobility were destroyed by alienation and the diffusion of knowledge, became happier than Italy, whilst afflicted with powerful noble orders, therefore noble orders are blessings.
The amelioration of the human condition, though general to Europe, was not precisely the same in each country. It seems in a great measure to have been graduated by the thermometer of nobility, and to have proceeded with celerity or tardiness, in proportion to the imbecility or strength of noble orders.
In Russia and Poland, the nobility long retained property and power, and the people, oppression and misery. In France and Germany, the nobility retained more of its property and power, than in England, and the people were more oppressed. In England nobility received the first and hardest blow, and she suddenly overtook and surpassed several countries in prosperity, which were previously ahead of her. And in the revolution of France, the abolition of nobility, made room for a wonderful national energy and superiority, which will not be forgotten by politicians.
The history of England supports these ideas. The reign of king John ended in 1216, and that of Henry the seventh in 1509, so that the collection of Italian troubles made by Mr. Adams, is contemporary with the troubles of England during the reigns of John, Henry 3d, Edward 1st, Edw. 2d, Edw. 3d, Richard 2d, Henry 4th, 5th and 6th, Edw. 4th, Rich. 3d, and Henry 7th.
During these reigns, the nobility were rich and powerful, and the troubles of England, dreadful and unremitting. Henry the seventh began to break their power by diminishing their property, and the situation of the nation began to mend. As commerce and alienation proceeded in this work, the situation of the nation grew better; and since the new project of annually balancing property by taxation, has been substituted for the old project of a specifick landed balance, the parish poor and the publick debt, the poverty and the luxury, the vices and the wretchedness of the nation have all increased.
Powerful and wealthy orders, in no country under any form of government, have existed in union with national happiness; a system therefore, which proposes so to balance them as to compel them to be subservient to it, is not experimental, and only a theory. Let us consider, whether it is entitled even to the weight of naked theory.
If Mr. Adams’s theory existed in England at any period, before the sixteenth century, it did not produce effects which can invite us to adopt it; and afterwards, the political progress of England received its direction from the assaults made upon the power and property of the nobility by Henry the seventh, and by alienation, commerce, paper and patronage. The system therefore is made worse than naked theory, by inimical experience. The miseries of the first period, were suddenly diminished, and the effects of the second gradually produced, by successful combatants against nobility, the corner stone of his system.
The animation of defending it, by the experience of the Italian republicks, is still more remarkable than the use made of the experience of England. The history of Florence, says Mr. Adams, is the history of them all. This is only a detail of the treasons and oppressions of a turbulent nobility. We hear constantly of the Buondelmonti, Uberti, Amadei, Donati, Cherchi, Neri, Bianchi, Medicei, Albigi, and others, with their castles; of publick calamities originating in the ambition, wickedness or folly of a nobleman; of confederations between orders, and between noble families; and of efforts and concessions on the part of the people to restrain these disorders. Whilst these disorders are ascribed to the nobility, Mr. Adams imputes them to the people; merely because they did not try exactly, as he thinks, his balance of orders; and felicitating his country in having discovered a remedy for these disorders, he is willing to rebuild castles for nobles, or to erect the more impregnable fortress of paper and patronage for aristocracy, to evince the dexterity with which the calamities endured by Florence from nobility, may be averted from the United States. Nobility was the source of evil to Florence; Florence therefore furnishes no experiment, shewing nobility to have been a source of good. A system to convert nobility into a blessing, is worse than theory, if experience exhibits it as a curse. A few other quotations from the book of experience are necessary to fix its character.
‘Machiavel,’ says Mr. Adams, ‘informs him, that the government of Florence was fallen into great disorder and misrule; for the Guelph nobility, being the majority, were grown so insolent, and stood in so little awe of the magistracy, that though many murders and other violences were daily committed, yet the criminals daily escaped with impunity, through favour of one or the other of the nobles.’∗
‘But the behaviour of the nobility was quite the contrary,’ says Machiavel, ‘for as they always disdained the thoughts of equality, even when they lived a private life, so now they were in the magistracy, they thought to domineer over the whole city, and every day produced fresh instances of their pride and arrogance; which exceedingly galled the people, when they saw they had deposed one tyrant to make room for a thousand.’
‘All this,’ says Mr. Adams, ‘one may safely believe to be exactly true, but what then? Why, they ought to have separated the nobles from the commons, and made each independent of the other.’∗
These nobles were tried ‘in private life and in the magistracy,’ in both they retained the vicious qualities of the vicious principle, nobility. True, says Mr. Adams, but they were not tried according to my theory. Many attempts in various modes, some approaching to his theory, were unsuccessfully made in Italy to gratify or purify the principle, nobility; all failed; it continued to exhibit vicious qualities. At this period, the nobles in England were separated from and independent of the house of commons, and that house of the nobles; yet the vicious qualities of nobility caused a multitude of disorders. Mr. Adams admits the insolence of nobility, and the disorders it produces; his remedy to cure insolence and ambition, is power and wealth.
The nobles of Poland, were rich and powerful; they ruined their country, rather than soften the condition of the people. Those of Russia receive districts with the inhabitants as donations from an emperour. But, says Mr. Adams, ‘hereditary kings and nobles are as much representatives of the people as those they elect.’ In Russia they represent them as part of their estates. Thus the feudal English barons represented the people, whilst possessed of their baronies; now, by selling them to the crown. We see in all instances, that nobility, with great wealth and power, is a tyrant; with little, a traitor; and that orders or interests, subsisting on the people, invariably oppress or sell them; for how can they otherwise subsist?
Mr. Adams allows wealth to be the great machine for governing the world, and yet he makes no distinction between a rich order or interest , and a poor one. He has seen a rich nobility in Poland overbalance both a king and a people. He has seen a rich nobility, clergy and king in the late monarchy of France, overbalancing the people. He has seen rich barons dethroning poor kings, and poor ones the creatures of rich kings. It is in vain to say that these poor nobles have a share in the legislature, if they have neither property nor influence, to restrain or balance the wealth and influence of the king, with his army, and his patronage. A constitution, which divides rights among orders, giving to one a share, but no power to defend it; and to another a share, with power to encroach, to menace and to corrupt, will be as defective, as one which should bestow all power upon an individual, or a single assembly, with an injunction not to abuse it.
These arguments tend to show, that a balance of orders cannot exist without a balance of property among these orders, as Lord Shaftesbury and Mr. Adams unite in asserting. Concurring with these authors, two inferences of importance present themselves.
One, that as a balance or equality of landed property cannot subsist in community with the present state of knowledge, commerce and alienation; and as a balance or equality of power, cannot subsist without a balance of property, so the system of equalising power and property between a confederation of orders, if established, could only sustain its perfection during the moment of transit over the true balance, which might occur in the flight of property on the wings of commerce, alienation and knowledge, from the minor to the numerous order. The same effects could not possibly result from the gas of a balance of property, as from a real balance itself.
The other is still more important. As no balance of specifick property among confederated orders, can exist in communion with the present state of knowledge, commerce and alienation, taxation becomes the only engine for distributing and balancing property; and must arrange society into the two orders of payers and receivers. The latter being the enriched, must govern the impoverished order; and being a minority, is by nature an aristocracy. Though a king, a titled and a plebeian order may continue to exist, the three nominal orders, are absorbed by the two real, and the evils follow, allowed by Mr. Adams to be invariable consequences of two orders.
The history of England demonstrates these remarks. The nobility were oppressive, whilst they held an over proportion of property, by laws for perpetuating inheritances; and the monied aristocracy has become more oppressive by laws for transferring to it an over proportion of property, not through manors, but through taxation. The poison of perpetuities is lodged in the property secured to a separate interest, not in the mode of securing it; nor can it be rendered innoxious, by the title of noble, clerical or stock. Had the feudal barons exchanged their perpetual inheritances, for the perpetual income of stock and patronage, their power would never have been broken, whilst this new species of perpetuity lasted.
This view of the subject accounts for the former and present conduct of the English nobility. Whilst their property gave them power, they despised the system of taxation and patronage, civil commotion was the fruit of their arrogance and ambition, and feudal tenures and services fed their avarice. But when their property was diminished, and the king became the annual dispenser of a treasury perpetually replenished by loaning and taxation, then this nobility were converted into the courtiers of the crown, and the satellites of its usurpations. They fell under an influence, equivalent to an annual distribution by the king, of ancient baronies, among the partisans of monarchy. Yet the United States have pointed their constitutional artillery against the aristocracies of superstition and the feudal system, after reason had destroyed the first, and knowledge, commerce and alienation, the second. Did they fear or love the living foe, the aristocracy of paper and patronage bottomed upon perpetual taxation? Or were they deceived at the formation of their constitutions, because it joined in trampling upon the dead bodies of its predecessors? They will no longer hesitate in discerning, that the project of equalizing property among titled orders, is as impracticable in communion with knowledge, commerce and alienation, or with the system of paper and patronage, as is the project of equalizing it among individuals, in communion with human mortality; that both must remain speculative theories, rebutted by experience, until perpetuities are re-established, or immortality without fecundity is bestowed on mankind; and that, excluding the idea of either, the election of the United States is confined to a distribution of property by industry and talents, or according to the avarice of a separate and minor portion of the society, by perpetual taxation, paper currencies and the arts of patronage. The feudal perpetuities cost the nation nothing; stock perpetuities are erected wholly at their expense. Is it better to entail stock on the nation to make an aristocracy, or to allow fathers to entail their lands on their sons for the same purpose?
Mr. Adams frequently endeavours to apply historical facts to his theory or the English system; these applications could not be past over, nor could the justifications of the American policy which his own facts furnished, be omitted. Our business proceeds either by shewing the insufficiency of the evidence, in favour of balancing property and power among confederated orders; the impossibility of introducing and supporting such a balance now, if it ever did exist; or the preference of our policy to that. We are not deviating therefore from the subject, in deviating somewhat from our quotations. To these let us return.
The evidence of Machiavel, ‘that the nobles were the cause of the publick calamities which afflicted Italy’ is admitted by Mr. Adams to be true. It is then admitted, that nobility distracted Italy for three centuries; that it caused innumerable publick calamities; and that ultimately it usurped tyrannical power, almost over every Italian republick. This is the evidence. It was said that the evidence adduced in favour of nobility by Mr. Adams, was against it.
But this is only the evidence acknowledged by Mr. Adams to be true. He omitted to acknowledge, that under the operation of the system of king, lords and commons in England, nobility were turbulent and tyrannical, as long as their property was nailed to them by entails, and that they gradually sunk into parasites of royalty, after the nail was drawn. Nobility, whenever it has appeared, has proved itself to be an evil moral principle by its effects. Experience is in full opposition to Mr. Adams’s theory. And the question is, whether the United States will overlook experience, to make one more attempt to convert nobility into a good moral principle, for the sake of satisfying Mr. Adams’s ardour.
Mr. Adams’s collection of Italian calamities, comes down but a few years lower than 1495. We have ascribed them partly to ignorance, believing that ignorance is an evil principle, which enables nobility to afflict human nature with additional misery. But Mr. Adams, without considering the different degrees of knowledge and ignorance, existing six centuries past and at this time, uniformly considers his theory as a complete panacea for every political body, whatever may be its malady.
And yet he says that ‘in 1495 a man appeared in Florence, who declared that God had constituted him his ambassador to Florence, with full power and express orders to declare his will; and this egregious impostor regulated the government.’∗
Mr. Adams believes that his theory was calculated to regulate the government of a society, in a state of manners and ignorance, adapted for the practices of an egregious impostor. Supposing him right in this opinion, some reason ought to have been given, why a system, suitable to a national inclination for imposition and fraud, would also be suitable for an enlightened people. Until this is done, it is evident, that if the experiments of the Italian republicks, prove, as Mr. Adams asserts, that his theory would have been suitable to a state of ignorance and manners, similar to the Florentine; it is by no means a consequence, that it is suitable also for a state of knowledge and manners similar to the American. Degrees of infatuation may exist, for which imposition is the only remedy; and it does not follow, that by proving a thing to be a remedy for infatuation, that it would be useful where there is no infatuation. Without illustrating the ignorance and infatuation of Italy by a history of the crusades, we will pass on to the following quotation.
‘The quarrel between Frederick the emperour, and Gregory the Pope, revived in Bologna the party distinctions of Guelphs and Ghibellines, drawn from Germany in the time of Henry the fourth. Not only some cities favoured the emperour, and others the pontiff, but in the city of Bologna, the citizens arrived to that degree of extreme madness, that, in hatred of each other, they strove to deprive each other of their lives and fortunes together. Sons became enemies to their fathers, and brothers to brothers; and, as if it was not enough to shed their own blood, like mad dogs, they proceeded to demolish houses, and to burning the cities, the trees and the corn. This diabolical pestilence produced such an aversion to each other, that they studied to distinguish themselves in all things: in their clothes, in the colours they wore, in their actions, their speech, their walk, their food, their salutations, their drink, their manner of cutting bread, in folding their napkins, in the cut of their hair, and innumerable other extravagances equally whimsical. A plague truly horrible, a flame wholly inextinguishable, which proved the extinction of so many noble families, and the ruin of so many miserable cities.’∗
This picture of the effects of orders, is urged by Mr. Adams in favour of orders. He ascribes the calamities of Italy to the popular forms of their governments, and tells us at the same time, that they were owing to an Emperour, a Pope, and a nobility. Here then are all his orders, and one more than he contends for; but one which will always be resorted to as an engine, in a rivalship between two others. A hierarchy is an engine which hereditary orders play upon each other, or upon the people. We find that the experiments of Italy were made with the one, the few, the many, and an established church. It was said, that they bore a strong resemblance to Mr. Adams’s theory, and the English system.
Let us suppose that Mr. Adams had written against orders, and in favour of the policy of the United States. Would he have considered the calamities in which the Italian republicks were involved by an Emperour, a Pope and a nobility, as justifying or condemning our policy in excluding a king, a metropolitan, and hereditary orders? Would the effects stated in the extract, of a jealousy among such orders, have been urged by him to prove, that they were a curse, or a blessing? Would he have advised the United States, after recapitulating the human miseries begotten by a jealousy of orders, in every instance of their existence, to surrender their peace and happiness, merely to try whether this evil principle, from which horrours innumerable have proceeded, might be made to produce good? No, he would have demonstrated, that no politician, no theorist, no moral alchymist, has skill able to change the nature of good and evil, and to reverse the moral laws of the Deity. And he would have warned us pathetically against suffering our governments to be modelled upon such a calculation, even though the projector should declare himself to be an ambassador from God.
Nothing can more evidently display an imagination heated beyond the temperature of impartial reason, than a resort to contradiction in supporting a project.
Mr. Adams tells us that ‘there were in Italy, in the middle age, one hundred or two of cities, all independent republicks, and all constituted in the same manner. The history of one is, under different names and various circumstances, the history of all.’ He addresses two volumes of examples, drawn from republicks consisting of single cities, as evidence to extensive countries; and, rejecting even the idea, that extensive territory, national strength, and national safety, would alone have obviated many misfortunes to which these little republicks were liable, he positively assures us, that human nature is always the same, and that therefore governments consisting of single cities, furnish correct precedents for the direction of numerous nations and extensive countries. Only promising, that the same argument would prove the propriety of teaching a great and free people how to govern themselves, by examples drawn from armies, crowded in dangerous garrisons, under their general, officers and chaplains, we will proceed directly to the alleged inconsistency.
Nedham, in his ‘right constitution of a commonwealth,’ had drawn arguments from the democratical cantons of Switzerland, which Mr. Adams thus disposes of.
‘There is not even a colour in his favour in the democratical cantons of Switzerland—narrow spots or barren mountains, where the people live on milk; nor in St. Marino or Ragusa: no precedents, surely, for England or American States, where the people are numerous and rich, the territory capacious, and commerce extensive.’∗
All Mr. Adams’s evidence, in his two last volumes, is drawn (Nieuchattel excepted, a narrow principality in Switzerland itself,) out of little republicks, composed of single cities, less than many cantons of Switzerland, in times of ignorance and superstition, and when the state of poverty was such, that it was a great distinction to own a horse. ‘No precedents, surely, for England or American States, where the people are numerous and rich, the territory capacious, and the commerce extensive.’ And thus he very correctly overturns, and disallows the whole evidence upon which his two last volumes are built.
He does more; he acknowledges an erroneous mode of reasoning in defence of his theory, in having wholly omitted to estimate the influence of physical or moral circumstances upon political experiments, and in hastily concluding human nature under all to be the same; by admitting the decisive force of such circumstances.
In the quotation, extent of territory, population, wealth and commerce, are expressly stated as affecting forms of government, and such an influence is even insinuated as likely to ensue from a milk diet. Still stronger differences ought to have occurred to Mr. Adams, between his Italian cities and American states. Their relative situation as to knowledge and ignorance, superstition and religion, privileged orders and equality, are differences, infinitely stronger than those, admitted of themselves sufficiently strong to destroy evidence similar to his own.
To contend both for the propriety and absurdity of the same evidence, by arguments urged for one object, and refuted for another, discloses an impetuosity in speculation, which ought at least to awaken an apprehension, that hereditary orders are more likely to repeat the crimes which Mr. Adams allows them to have committed, than to be converted into blessings by a balance of property and power.
Had not Mr. Adams’s evidence been inapplicable both to the moral and physical situation of the United States, it is brought forward in a mode better calculated to excite passion and prejudice, than reason and reflection. A mass of errour, rage and ambition; of tragical catastrophe, soliciting sympathy by naming the persons of the drama; and of demolished castles, mangled limbs, and putrid carcasses, is exhibited. But truth can only be discovered by considering the evidence on both sides. Another mass of these disgusting materials, labelled ‘Behold the effects of monarchy and aristocracy,’ might have saved the United States the humiliation of having their credulity experimentally removed. Or was it necessary to excite an abhorrence of republican governments, to prepare the mind for a patient contemplation even of the modest monarchy, called limited?
A search among the relicks of antiquity, for principles of which to form a modern government, requires a contemporaneous estimate. The superiority of the republican policy of the United States over the ancient monarchies of Persia and Macedonia, is an argument precisely as strong in favour of popular governments, as would have been the superiority of the present monarchy of Britain, over the republicks of Athens, Rome, Carthage and of Italy, in favour of monarchy, supposing Mr. Adams to have established it. In both cases the argument would be inconclusive. But although results of inconclusive authority only can arise from a comparison between ancient and modern governments; yet a comparison of ancient governments with each other, will furnish strong indications of preference and superiority between political principles.
These indications uniformly appear on the side of the popular principle; and the nearer the forms of government approached to the policy of the United States, the stronger are the indications of superiority. As rivals of Rome and Carthage, the contemporary monarchies are almost imperceptible; and above an hundred generations, almost forgetting what the rest of the world did at that time, have transmitted to us an admiration of the little Athenian democracy, which we shall hand down to a fathomless posterity.
But let us come to the world we live in; to a world, not guided by superstition but by religion. Instead of diving after wisdom into the gloom of antiquity, when men made gods, let us leave Mr. Adams in possession of his opinion, that under truth or superstition, under the Deity or Jupiter, the human character is the same. And leaving divines also to felicitate themselves on the inutility of their labours, which this doctrine admits, let us bring into comparison the existing competitors for pre-eminence. These are the first among republicks, and the first among monarchies.
If the comparison commences from the first settlement of the United States, several centuries of prosperity and good order present themselves under the colonial form of government. How can this prosperity and good order be accounted for? By the absence of jealous and rival orders; by the absence of the system of balancing power and property between such orders; by the absence of the system of paper and patronage, for perpetuating property to one interest at the expense of another; and by the absence of a nominal king. The errours in the form of the colonial government slept, because these evils were not present to awaken them; and the solitary good principle it possessed, operated under a sufferance, arising from the inattention of the evil principles united with it. Election sufficed to produce colonial prosperity and good order, and silently formed the national character and love of liberty, which sustained a furious war almost devoid of any other resource.
At length monarchy, aristocracy, and taxation, awakened. Mr. Adams’s hereditary representation and our elective representation, appeared to be principles exactly opposite, in producing opposite effects. His hereditary orders, and the system of paper and patronage, took one side, and the elective principle the other. Hereditary orders and the people, here, as in Rome and Italy, quarrelled. Had a portion of these orders, and the projects of banking and funding, been mingled with the elective system at the commencement of these hostilities, they would have destroyed its efficacy, in like manner as nobility has uniformly destroyed the efficacy of the elective principle, wherever it has been mingled with it; and as a paper influence has destroyed its efficacy in England. And as election has never produced equal beneficial effects, in communion with nobility or with paper and patronage, as when disunited from them in the instance of the United States, it probably never will.
In addition to the colonial prosperity, under the substantial auspices of the elective principle, that which we have experienced subsequently to the revolution is no theory, no hypothesis; it is plain matter of fact, of above thirty years standing. In every modification of their governments, the United States have adhered to it. When have we seen the people perpetrating the atrocious crimes charged to popular governments, plundering property, banishing merit, or tearing asunder the limbs of innocence? Where are wars, tumults, oppression, prosecutions and corruption, proceeding from the people? If these calamities have not appeared under our policy, we ought to conclude that they proceeded in former times from the causes which we have excluded; or that the human character has undergone a moral change, which secures a nation, if it will govern itself, against any danger from itself.
From the facts established by the experience of the United States, turn to the contemplation of those established by the experience of the English system of hereditary orders, paper and patronage, during the same period. Estimate the wars, entered into for the purpose of instructing Europe in political metaphysicks, or for the sake of these orders. Estimate the taxes, the tythes, the poor houses, the prisons, the fleets, the armies, the banishments to colonise a wilderness under martial law, the bastiles of state criminals, the well tenanted gibbets, the national debt, and the patronage and corruption which guides and poisons every publick measure.
If it be urged, that commotions have appeared under our system; without stopping to inquire, whether they ought to be ascribed to that, or to the arts of its rival system, it suffices to exhibit as a counterpoise to our bloodless wars, and comical excursions, the commotions in Ireland, marked by devastation and slaughter.
It cannot be omitted, that Connecticut underwent no change of government by the revolution. Here, more power has been condensed for centuries in representatives frequently elected, than is enjoyed by representatives in any other state of the Union. The happiness and good order of Connecticut, during the long operation of her popular form of government, infinitely exceeds the happiness and good order of England during the same, or any other period. Privileged orders had no influence in Connecticut, and whatever happiness and prosperity she enjoyed, was owing to the elective principle. The continued efficacy of election for two centuries in this instance, unconnected with privileged orders, accounts for its inefficacy in their presence. This remark is farther warranted, by the contemporary appearance of party malevolence and a paper system in the United States. So soon as an imitation of the English policy for dividing the nation into the two orders of payers and receivers, began to operate, the rivalry of orders, and the avarice of interest, began to make their accustomed efforts, to destroy the good effects of election.
Of the disgust against it, which they excite themselves, these vicious principles will be the first to take advantage. Mr. Adams has already seriously informed us, that hereditary kings and nobles are as much the representatives of the nation, as those they elect; and the following quotation will enforce the argument, accounting for the inefficacy of election in communion with privileged or separate interests; because it displays the intemperate enmity entertained by their disciples to the elective principle.
‘If the elections are in a large country like England, for example, or one of the United States of America, where various cities, towns, boroughs, and corporations are to be represented, each scene of election will have two or more candidates, and two or more parties, each of which will study its sleights and projects, disguise its designs, draw in tools, and worm out enemies. We must remember, that every party, and every individual, is now struggling for a share in the executive and judicial power as well as legislative, for a share in the distribution of all honours, offices, rewards and profits. Every passion and prejudice of every voter will be applied to; every flattery and menace, every trick and bribe that can be bestowed, and will be accepted, will be used; and what is horrible to think of, that candidate or that agent who has fewest scruples; who will propagate lies and slanders with most confidence and secrecy; who will wheedle, flatter and cajole; who will debauch the people by treats, feasts and diversions with the least hesitation, and bribe with the most impudent front, which can consist with hypocritical concealment, will draw in tools and worm out enemies the fastest; unsullied honour, sterling integrity, real virtue, will stand a very unequal chance. When vice, folly, impudence and knavery, have carried the election one year, they will acquire, in the course of it, fresh influence and power to succeed the next. In the course of the year, the delegate in an assembly that disposes of all commissions, contracts and pensions, has many opportunities to reward his friends among his constituents, and punish his enemies. The son or other relation of one friend has a commission given him in the army, another in the navy, a third a benefice in the church, a fourth in the customs, a fifth in the excise; shares in loans and contracts are distributed among his friends, by which they are enabled to increase their own and his dependents and partisans, or, in other words, to draw in more instruments and parties, and worm out their opposites. All this is so easy to comprehend, so obvious to sight, and so certainly known in universal experience, that it is astonishing that our author should have ventured to assert, that such a government kills the canker-worm faction.’∗
The reader will be pleased to remark, that Mr. Adams has had his eye fixed upon the operation of election in England, whilst he is giving its character. The enumerated modes of corruption, were most of them exclusively practised in England when he wrote this extract; and the means of practicing the greater part, did not even exist in the United States. Presently, we shall exhibit extracts, wherein Mr. Adams recommends hereditary orders as the refuge from the vices of election. He is obliged to bend his eye towards England, to get the contour of a detestable picture of election, and places it before our eyes, to induce us to introduce the policy of England. He will not see, that our elective system is more perfect than the English, because it is less corrupted by the very policy, which has furnished the ideas for his invective; but the United States will never be charmed to fly down the gaping throat of a dreadful monster, in order to escape its malignancy. They will behold this character of election when united with hereditary orders, or separate interests, as a confession of the enmity and inconsistency of the two principles, and of the certain corruption of the first, by an alliance with the second.
It will not be denied, that the elective system of the United States, is chargeable with several of the vices imputed to election by Mr. Adams; but it does not follow, that we ought to surrender it for a system exposed to them all. The use, which republicanism ought to make of the charge, is, to awaken her sons to the necessity of removing these vices. Their danger is imminent, when they are already made the ground of a treatise in recommendation of hereditary orders, as preferable to the vices of election. Nor does the difficulty of rendering the elective system more perfect in America, seem to be insurmountable, when it is recollected, that the whole catalogue of vices ascribed to it by Mr. Adams, arises from a capacity in the delegate to acquire or dispose of money and offices. The effects of this capacity prove it to be an evil political principle, exciting the evil moral qualities of human nature. It is capable of removal from legislative delegates, and if it produces the effects ascribed to it by Mr. Adams, it ought to be removed. But this subject belongs to the defects of the constitution of the United States.
Let us, therefore, return to a contemplation of Mr. Adams’s invective against election. It is a mode of attack, precisely similar to that used against popular governments. To discredit the one, a vast collection of evils is made, arising under a vast variety of governments, whether produced by the form of the government, or by other causes. To discredit the other, a picture is drawn of all the vices of election, acting with orders. ‘It is horrible to think of,’ says Mr. Adams. His horrour might have been considerably augmented, by collecting into a mass all the vices of human nature, which would have completely rounded up the doctrine ‘that republicanism was a hell, election its turbulence, and men its devils.’
Human reason must turn on preference, not on perfection. If election is exploded, shall we be requited for its loss by the virtual representation of kings and nobles; or by surrendering our government to paper and patronage? These are the objects, with which we must compare election, before we are seduced to give it up for a system more defective, because Mr. Adams contends, that, like every thing human, it is imperfect. Admitting it to be so, it is unnecessary in imitation of Mr. Adams’s mode of reasoning, to enrage our readers with a collection of the follies, oppressions and cruelties, committed by the fools, tyrants and madmen, to which hereditary representation has exposed the world; to prove that hereditary representation is more defective than actual election.
America has experienced both. Hereditary representation assailed her liberty and happiness; elected representation defended them. She has seen hereditary representation destroying the existence of the Irish nation; whilst elected representation, though unequal and corrupted, made some stand for it. There, hereditary representation disclosed that kind of responsibility, which Congress would disclose by a law for uniting these States with England; and had hereditary representation existed at the peace, a king like that enjoyed by Ireland, of the Neuchattel species, would probably have been one of its fruits.
Our quotation must be recollected to understand the remarks it suggests. It may be thus condensed. ‘In such countries as England and America, election will produce every species of villainy; the greatest rascals will succeed; and being once elected, will retain their power.’
Mr. Adams does not perceive, that his eagerness for hereditary orders, has here again entangled him in an inconsistency. For their sake he labours to inculcate an abhorrence of election, without recollecting, that he relies upon it for one branch of his own theory. Will he say, that election, united with hereditary orders, will be purged of its bad qualities? That it is abominable, applied to a senate, governour or president; but admirable, applied to a house of commons? And will he, by escaping from the inconsistency through these assertions, pass final sentence upon our policy in the opprobrious epithets of the extract?
But Mr. Adams cannot be permitted to avail himself of these assertions; and therefore his disapprobation of election, must stand, unqualified and unequivocal. It cannot be conceded as true, that election in England exhibits fewer vices, than in the United States; or that the elected order of that country, are less corrupt than the elected functionaries of this. If, therefore, he explodes the whole of our policy by discrediting election, he also explodes so much of his as depends upon the same principle, and leaves to his own theory, nothing that he commends, hereditary representation excepted.
It is not by inconsistent railings and unbounded applauses, that we are edified. It is not by magnifying the defects of election, and conceding its benefits, that we can estimate its value. Had a fair comparison been drawn between the state of election, in the United States and in England, a vast superiority in point of purity, would have appeared on the side of the United states. If so, frequency and purity of election, are in concord; and nobility and purity of election, in discord.
The idea and origin of election, have been generally, if not universally, defective, until the American revolution. In England, it is to this day a remnant of feudality, planted by prerogative. It is derived, not from the inherent natural right of self government, but from the gratuitous donation of a feudal monarch.
Ambition and avarice have been perpetually forming combinations, and practicing devices for depriving men of their rights. Hence ensue struggles for redress; in the progress of which, if the usurpers find it prudent to relax, they artfully deal out these relaxations, not as rights independent of their pleasure, but as meritorious acts of grace and favour.
Accordingly, election or self government being a right fatal to usurpation, whenever some portion of it could no longer be withheld form the people, usurpers have laboured to defeat it, first, by restricting it to the idea of an indulgence; and, secondly, by contaminating it with destructive modifications.
The struggles between the people and nobles of Rome; the indulgence and modification of suffrage; the mode of voting, so as to bestow the decision on wealth or poverty; the inveterate parties created by this division; and the vast indefinite powers retained by the senate; were artifices of hereditary orders to contaminate election and defeat its effects.
By stratagem, also, has election been managed in England. It was an indulgence of the kings. It was bestowed without rule, according to the suggestions of royal interest or ambition. And it is retained in its present corrupt state, to destroy its efficacy. It discloses no principle of right or justice, in origin, modification or practice.
Why then has Mr. Adams estimated the elective principle by the examples of Rome and England, where it was bottomed upon notorious fraud? In America, the principle is better understood: it feels the dignity of a right; we have no hereditary orders (its natural enemy) to poison it; and it enjoys the power of exercising its will. The difference in parentage between truth and errour; and in nurture, between fraud and honesty, are both so essential, as to justify expectations from the elective principle, which that principle, modelled by patrician craft, monarchical despotism, or paper frauds, does not inspire.
Much contention and ingenuity has arisen out of the question, whether society is natural or factitious. If society is natural, then natural rights may exist in, and be improved and secured by a state of society. Payne contends for the natural rights of man; Adams for the natural rights of aristocracy. If society is factitious, those who make it, can regulate rights. Society must be composed of, or created by individuals, without whom, it can neither exist nor act. Society exclusively of individuals, is an ideal being, as metaphysical as the idea of a triangle. If a number of people should inclose themselves within a triangle, they would hear with great astonishment, that they had lost the power of changing the form of the inclosure; and that the dead figure of the triangle governed living beings, instead of living beings who created that figure, governing it. So by the magick of avarice and ambition, the word society is severed from a nation, and converted into a metaphysical spectre, auspicious only to the tyrants of society. But the United States have detected the crafty absurdity; and Mr. Adams has expressly conceded to nations, a natural right to modify their governments. It is true he attempts to satisfy this right by the idea of hereditary representatives; allowing the existence of the right of self government, but attempting to evade its effect.
Thus the doctrine of distinguishing society from the individuals composing it, is ingeniously concealed under the notion of hereditary representation, so as to render the concession, that all societies have a right to modify their governments, nominal and ineffectual. As we have seen the principle of election artfully destroyed, by the hereditary orders of Rome and England; so here, the principle of society, namely, the right of self government, whilst it is allowed, is also annihilated by the idea of a representation of society by these same hereditary orders. For no sooner are these orders created, than they become the magick representatives of the people, according to Mr. Adams, and use the term society as an incantation, with which to transfer the rights of associated man, to associated orders. Upon the doctrines, that man has no natural rights, but that aristocratical orders, as the progeny of nature, have, is suspended the controversy between the political systems which divide mankind.
Mr. Adams, by allowing that all societies have a natural right to modify their governments, admits that some cannot possess more of this right than others; and that one generation cannot possess a natural right to violate the same natural right of another, by substituting rights of orders for the rights of society. Whenever this violation is submitted to, the natural right of a society to modify its government, acknowledged by Mr. Adams, merges in a factitious right of orders to do so; and thus this right is defeated, just as election was defeated at Rome and in England.
For Mr. Adams’s concession of the right of self government to all societies, attended by his system of orders, is only the admission of a right so momentary and evanescent, as to be lost in the instant of its exercise, and as to subject all generations to the will of one.
Between election, and the conceded right of self government, the connection must be indissoluble, or the concession will be nugatory and deceptious; and, therefore, it is by no means wonderful, that artificial orders, which constitute the most successful mode of destroying the right of self government, should employ every artifice to frustrate the only means of maintaining it; or that Mr. Adams, the champion of these orders, should treat election with a severity, only equalled by the severity with which he has treated republican governments; extracting his character of both from corruptions caused by his own orders. Election does not yet engage two orders of rich and poor in perpetual hostilities in the United States; but all ranks vote individually, interwoven and commixed; nor is it yet corrupted by commissions in armies, navies or churches, by loans or contracts, or by unequal representation and purchase. These are the corruptions, invented by political orders to destroy the efficacy of election, and these orders are the remedies proposed by Mr. Adams, for the evils of their own invention.
As in England, the national right of self government, is ever seized by orders; accordingly Judge Blackstone declares that ‘the parliament may change the nature of the government, without consulting the people;’ because the orders composing it, consider themselves as composing the society, and the people as no longer entitled to the right of modifying their government, allowed by Mr. Adams to every society. Of this allowance, the futility in communion with orders, is thus demonstrated by the practice and principles of Mr. Adams’s theory, in the instance of England.
By deducing election from the grace and favour of hereditary chiefs, and by the artifice of compounding society of orders, and not of individuals, the usurpation of a right to modify the government without consulting a nation, is also produced; it is this usurpation, which enslaves societies, under the sanction of society; thus the orders of Denmark abolished election, and made the monarch despotick; pretending to constitute the society, they usurped the power of modifying the government, and enslaved the society. So acted the orders of Ireland. So acted the orders of England, in changing the succession of the crown; and in appointing representatives for the people for four years, by a law extending the time of service from three to seven.
It was one effort of the first part of this essay, to prove that aristocracy in every form, was artificial; but if a reader can be found who dissents from that opinion, none will deny that hereditary orders are so. They are an effect of society, as much as hereditary estates in land. Both arise from laws. Society is paramount to law; law, therefore, cannot transfer social or national rights from its creator, society, to its creature, hereditary orders. An exclusive right to form or alter a government is annexed to society, in every moment of its existence; and therefore a direct or indirect exercise of it by a government, a combination or an individual, is a badge of usurpation, and a harbinger of despotism.
This doctrine is admitted by the acknowledgment of Mr. Adams, that hereditary orders are the representatives of the nation; an acknowledgement, however, artfully bottomed upon the theory, that all governments, are the representatives of nations; and defeated by betraying in practice national rights to these theoretical representatives.
It appears that hereditary orders have uniformly destroyed the doctrine of representation, by originating election from erroneous principles; by corrupting it with treacherous modifications; and by fraudulently constituting themselves into the society; a power above responsibility. Of all the mischiefs produced by them, experience testifies to none with more constancy, than their successful operations to destroy the efficacy of election. Mr. Adams depends upon this efficacy to control hereditary orders, whilst experience tells him, that these orders have invariably destroyed the efficacy itself. Yet he builds his theory upon experience. He himself testifies to the vices of election; yet he relies upon its virtue to correct the vices of hereditary orders; he sees the vices of election produced by these orders themselves, and he proposes a remedy, in the continuance of the cause. Experience uniformly tells him, that hereditary orders, and a fair representation of a real responsibility, have never subsisted together; and he subjoins to his theory the novel and mystical idea, that hereditary orders are representatives of the nation, which they have never admitted themselves, to reinstate a representation instead of that arising from election, which they corrupt and destroy.
The admonitions of experience cannot be mistaken by deliberation and prudence. They consist on the one hand, in the uniform corruption or destruction of election and representation by hereditary orders; on the other, in a long course of beneficial effects in the United States from election and representation, where there are no such orders. Mr. Adams has viewed the elective system through the first perspective, and shuts his eyes upon the second. From the first he collects its character, and disgusted with vices, reflected from the English system itself, he proposes by introducing that system, to remedy the elective system of the United States.
Nedham had said ‘that the people, by representatives successively chosen, were the best guardians of their own liberties.’∗ And that ‘the life of liberty, and the only remedy against self interest, lies in succession of powers and persons.’† In answer to which, Mr. Adams observes, ‘If this is so, the United States of America have taken the most effectual measures to secure that life and that remedy, in establishing annual elections of their governours, senators and representatives. This will probably be allowed to be as perfect an establishment of a succession of powers and persons, as human laws can make: but in what manner annual elections of governours and senators will operate, remains to be ascertained. It should always be remembered, that this is not the first experiment that was ever made in the world of elections to great offices of state: how they have operated in every great nation, and what has been their end, is very well known. Mankind have universally discovered that chance was preferable to a corrupt choice, and have trusted Providence rather than themselves. First magistrates and senators had better be made hereditary at once, than that the people should be universally debauched and bribed, go to loggerheads, and fly to arms regularly every year. Thank heaven! Americans understand calling conventions; and if the time should come, as it is very possible it may, when hereditary descent shall become a less evil than annual fraud and violence, such a convention may still prevent the first magistrate from becoming absolute, as well as hereditary.’∗
Nedham had also said ‘that it is but reason that the people should see that none be interested in the supreme authority, but persons of their own election, and such as must in a short time, return again into the same condition with themselves.’ In answer to which, Mr. Adams observes, that ‘the Americans have agreed with this writer in this sentiment. This hazardous experiment they have tried, and if elections are soberly made, it may answer very well’; but if parties, factions, drunkenness, bribes, armies and delirium, come in, as they always have done sooner or later, to embroil and decide every thing, the people must again have recourse to conventions, and find a remedy. Neither philosophy nor policy has yet discovered any other cure, than by prolonging the duration of the first magistrate and senators. The evil may be lessened and postponed, by elections for longer periods of years, till they come for life; and if this is not found an adequate remedy, there will remain no other but to make them hereditary. The delicacy or the dread of unpopularity, that should induce any man to conceal this important truth from the full view and contemplation of the people, would be a weakness, if not a vice.’†
The reader now perceives the necessity of considering election, as operating independently, or under the influence of hereditary orders; because if it is more vicious in the latter situation than in the former, Mr. Adams’s proposal to amend a less vicious elective system, by substituting for it one more so, is undoubtedly precipitate and erroneous. Election has been universally in the supposed vicious state, previously to the experiment of the United States, and from this vicious state Mr. Adams has drawn his inferences. At this moment it exists in the United States unconnected, and in England, connected, with hereditary orders; in the two situations between which a distinction has been attempted. The utmost pitch of his remedy is to exchange our elective and representative vices, for those of England. Election in England, being derived from an erroneous source, and corrupted by the artifices of hereditary power, is of course more vicious and less efficient than in America; and being an object of contempt on account of its vices, it attracts but a small share of national confidence, and forms but an inconsiderable obstacle to the tyranny and oppression of monarchy and aristocracy; in fact we shall hereafter endeavour to prove, that it is modified into an instrument for their use.
If it was true, therefore, as Mr. Adams asserts, ‘that the manner in which annual elections of governours and senators will operate in the United States remained to be ascertained, ‘yet, as the utter corruption of election by hereditary power, does not remain to be ascertained, neither philosophy nor policy have yet discovered, that a certain and malignant evil, was preferable to a possible good.
Philosophy, unbiased by affections superseding a love of wisdom, has seldom or never given her suffrage in favour of hereditary power, nor will she shut her eyes upon the elective experiment of the United States, although Mr. Adams in policy is pleased to assert, that it remains to be made. It has been made upon some hundreds of governours, and thousands of senators. Is nothing ascertained? Will an equal number of kings and lords act upon the political theatre, without ascertaining also the value of the hereditary principle?
The quotations place ‘corrupt choice’ in contrast with ‘chance;’ and ‘debauchery, bribery and annual civil war,’ with ‘hereditary government.’ The treatise, ascribes to aristocracy ‘virtue, wisdom and usefulness,’ and one of the extracts ascribes to election, the utmost degree of profligacy. Such a mode of reasoning is fictitious, because it suppresses all the shade of the hereditary principle, and all the light of the elective; and presenting a picture of each, which excludes the most striking features of both, by deforming one and embellishing the other, it excessively obstructs our efforts to draw a correct comparison between them. Yet these fictions really terrified Mr. Adams to such a degree, as to draw from him an ejaculation for the discovery of conventions, which would enable the Americans to take refuge from the ‘annual fraud and violence’ of election, under ‘hereditary descent;’ and invigorated his mind against the ‘dread of unpopularity,’ to announce ‘the important truth,’ that ‘hereditary first magistrates and senators’ were the final ‘remedy’ against the vices of the elective system.
Mr. Adams frequently strikes with such incautious fury at his adversary, as to wound himself. It was before remarked, that the profligacy he ascribes to election, would corrupt his own theory, as well as ours, had it merited his censures; and now it is very remarkable, that he flies to a ‘convention’ as a remedy against ‘election.’ Differing with all other politicians, he makes virtue the principle of hereditary power; vice, of elective power; and yet this vice is his resource, for the creation of this virtue.
Again. Mr. Adams considers a concentration of power in a single body of representatives, as a political errour of unequalled magnitude; yet he proposes to collect this very body, by the resource, so corrupt in his opinion, and confides in it to introduce his theory, which he is fascinated to believe, would be an act of the highest publick benefit. A single body of representatives, says he, is a political monster, yet it has already done great good in America; ‘thank heaven, Americans understand calling conventions;’ and it may, therefore, do one good thing more, that is, destroy all the good things it has hitherto done, and establish ‘hereditary descent.’ Thus allowing to the elective principle the utmost perfection, after having sunk all its useful faculties in an invective. But both the one and the other is done for the sake of an hypothesis.
The case of conventions will furnish the strongest arguments in favour of election, and many hints in relation to the organization of legislative bodies, of which it is probable, a very beneficial use will at some future period be made.
Conventions are creatures of election; of election, made upon the widest scale; they have been so successfully practised in America, as to awaken Mr. Adams’s piety; they have probably prevented, and have never excited civil war; they have justified none of the charges exhibited against election, and have begotten all the political happiness enjoyed in the United States, for nearly the last thirty years. This is an operation of election, through the organ of a single chamber.
Why has this operation been so completely consistent, both in war and peace, in danger and safety, in producing order and happiness? On the contrary, why has the same principle, election, as Mr. Adams proves by a multitude of examples, produced in more cases (excepting the United States) confusion, civil war, riot and crimes? Mr. Adams in commemorating the discovery of conventions, ought to have remarked and explained the reason of these different effects from the same principle.
The solution of the difficulty justifies one ground taken in defence of our elective system. Election, as heretofore practised, was of spurious birth, and corrupted by rivals. Here, privileged orders and hierarchies did not exist to corrupt it, and it drew its origin from a society composed of people, and not of orders. Heretofore election was the martyr of arts and obloquies invented and practiced by its enemies; and it only remains for us to determine, whether we will become the bubbles of examples, produced by frauds, of which the ancients were the victims.
The wonderful virtue and chastity of election and representation in the case of conventions, may be owing in a degree, to something different in the constitution of that species of power, from the constitution of an ordinary legislature. The chief differences usually existing are, that members of conventions are chosen by a greater number of electors, for a shorter space, and have no opportunities of acquiring or bestowing publick money or publick offices. To opposite causes, Mr. Adams ascribes the evils incident to a single chamber of representatives; these evils do not appear in conventions, because the causes are absent; a fact presenting a new illustration of our political analysis. As in the case of our governours, power is bestowed, so as to awaken the good and suppress the evil qualities of human nature; so the case of conventions proves the safety and utility of a single house of representatives, organized so as to suppress, and not to solicit, avarice and ambition.
An elective system, therefore, will be either good or bad, as it is calculated to suppress or excite the good or evil qualities of mankind; and its nature may be ascertained by applying to it the political analysis contended for in this essay. Election by irritated and inimical clans, arranged into factions, as at Rome; which places a nation in the hands of a minority, or exposes it to sale, as in England; or which exalts representation above responsibility, and enables it to invade or abridge the publick liberty, as in France; is founded in an evil principle, and will excite evil qualities. The cases of cæsar, Cromwell, Bonaparte, and numberless others, are illustrations. Election, which enables a legislature to convey office or wealth to themselves, directly or indirectly, will also convey evil qualities into the bosom of representation. And election, subjected to the arts of an interest distinct from and inimical to the nation, will generate the evils of lying, cheating, bribery, and several others enumerated by Mr. Adams. But election founded in good moral principles, will produce good effects. The cases of conventions and governours are eminent proofs of the correctness of this idea. Conventions have frequently disclosed virtuous sentiments, and seldom or never vicious. But they were not elected by inimical orders or interests, by minorities, or by bargain and sale; the representative was not placed beyond responsibility, or enabled to usurp despotick authority; nor was his avarice or ambition awakened, by making his election and representation the channel, for bringing office or money to himself. This subject so radically important to the United States, will demand a further consideration.
Here, I shall only add, that the experiment proposed by Mr. Adams, is extremely hazardous; it is not to correct, but to destroy two thirds of our elective system, and to corrupt the remaining third by hereditary orders. This is proposed to be effected by election itself, on its widest ground. If the elective and representative system, should be persuaded to destroy two thirds of itself, is it not questionable, whether the substituted hereditary principle, will be equally ready to submit to annihilation, should the experiment be unfortunate? Will a privileged order, once invested with power, follow the example of election and representation, by becoming a felo de se? The national repentance which succeeds the establishment of orders of monopolies, gains only derision, and an aggravation of the evil; none of the instruments of oppression are ever relinquished without civil war; and should they be introduced into the United States, we may certainly pronounce, that no other politician will have an opportunity of again congratulating this country on the discovery of conventions, until he has seen it drenched in blood. An attempt to persuade the elective system to yield to the hereditary, is an acknowledgment of its virtue; and the constant refusal of the hereditary to hear or suffer reasoning against itself, manifests its vice. Goodness, and not wickedness, is attempted to be made the victim of scepticism.
The recourse to conventions for the introduction of a government, bottomed upon the idea, that aristocracy is natural, surrenders the foundation of the whole theory. Is that natural which may or may not be created by a mode both novel and artificial? This mode consists of an expression of national will, by representation, and admits the right of national self government to be natural. Is aristocracy, so obviously inconsistent with this right, also natural? The reference to election and representation for obtaining national will, in the momentous affair of changing the form of government, concedes, that it can be obtained in no other way. If election and representation exclusively merit national confidence, when the consignment of power is greatest, why are they to be distrusted in inferiour agencies?
In 1789, the admiration of Mr. Adams in contemplating the effects of our policy, broke forth with fervour and solemnity, in an inaugural address to the creatures of that policy; and therefore it is probable, that he had relinquished his wish to destroy it by a convention previously expressed. The following extract from that address is not printed at the end of his treatise.
‘I should be destitute of sensibility, if upon my arrival in this city, and presentation to this legislature, and especially to this senate, I could see, without emotion, so many of those characters, of whose virtuous exertions I have so often been a witness—from whose countenances and examples I have ever derived encouragement and animation—whose disinterested friendship has supported me in many intricate conjunctures of publick affairs, at home and abroad: Those celebrated defenders of the liberties of this country, whom menaces could not intimidate, corruption seduce, nor flattery allure. Those intrepid assertors of the rights of mankind, whose philosophy and policy have enlightened the world, in twenty years, more than it was ever before enlightened in many centuries, by ancient schools, or modern universities.’
This eulogy is bestowed on our policy, as it had operated previously to the existence of the present general government, under the auspices of election and representation. It would be quite unphilosophical to assert, that Americans were insensible to the influence of intimidation, corruption and flattery; and therefore it must have been owing to our system of government, that its agents were uninfluenced by these vices. This is conceivable, by recollecting that our principle of division prevented an accumulation of power, capable of intimidating; that the system of paper and patronage did not exist to corrupt; and that we had no monarchy or aristocracy, to corrupt election and buy despotism with publick money. It does not weaken the force of these observations to urge that Mr. Adams chiefly refers in this part of the extract, to the arts and practices of the English system, in assailing ours. For he thereby debases that, and exalts ours, by allowing one to be a system, fitted for these vicious practices, and the other, fitted to resist them; and he also admits that effects ensued, in the absence of causes propelling to these vices, differing from those which their presence produces; of course such causes were not interwoven with our government.
Our own governments, however, were exclusively the evidence of the following declaration; ‘those intrepid assertors of the rights of mankind, whose philosophy and policy have enlightened the world, in twenty years, more than it was ever before enlightened in many centuries, by ancient schools or modern universities.’ In what did this modern light, or the previous darkness consist? Will a mixture of the ignorance of many centuries, with this enlightened policy, so recently invented, obscure, or render it more splendid? In short, why has Mr. Adams, neglecting the wonderful discoveries of this modern philosophy in favour of human rights, arrayed against it a cloud of quotations, chiefly collected from the deepest tints of ancient obscurity? Was it to explain, impress and accelerate a philosophy and policy, which had advanced more rapidly in twenty years than the philosophy and policy comprising his references had in twenty centuries?
The old school of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy is at issue with the new school, of modifying government with an aspect to moral qualities, and not to numerical orders. Mr. Adams’s efforts and praises appear on the side of the new school; his treatise, and his proposal to extinguish the light of our policy, so dazzling in 1789, on the side of the old; like the strokes of father and son taking different sides in a civil war to save the estate, though felt by the parties, they balance each other in the controversy.
It is necessary to understand thoroughly the ground of the controversy between ‘the philosophy and policy’ of the United States, and of ‘ancient schools and modern universities,’ to discover wherein the darkness of the one, and the light of the other, called the old, and the new school, consisted. For this purpose, let us divest our minds of all perplexing modifications of the one, the few and the many; of political terms tortured by construction; and of every analysis hitherto suggested, and endeavour to enlighten the controversy by considering, whether a government must not be founded in one or more simple elements, capable of ascertaining its nature, with great exactness.
These consist, we believe, of fraud, force and reason; the term reason, being considered as conveying an idea of a nation governed by its own will, or of self government. The element of the Roman government was first fraud, and then force. The fraud consisted of the use made of superstition, and of the privileges, pillage and usurpations of the nobility. The indignation excited by this element, was artfully managed by Julius and Augustus, to substitute the element of force for that of fraud. The government was called a republick, both before and after its elemental principle had changed; and yet neither of its elemental principles resembled the element of reason, national will or self government.
The catalogue of Italian republicks exhibits but one case resembling the Roman, which these little governments were frequently attempting to imitate. A variety exists in occasional acquisitions of superiority by the people; but these left the government upon its old element, because noble orders still existed; or because the division of election was wanting to prevent tumult and violence; or because election conveyed so much power as to induce the officer to practice fraud or force. So long as feudal tenure, superstition and ignorance flourished in England, the element of its government was a mixture of fraud and force. And here is an instance, similar to which, many might be quoted, of a change in the form, without any in the element of the government. Executive power, armies and patronage have beaten feudality out of the field, and the fraud of superstition is superseded by the fraud of paper stock; yet the elements of the government are unchanged.
Now if the elements of these governments, are not the elements of ours, then it is inferred, that the element of ours is not that of any government ancient or modern; because none can be adduced, not deeply participating of the same elements, with the governments quoted.
This brings us to the principles of the old and the new school; one founds government in the elements of force and fraud, by always bestowing power, so as to induce it to rest on those elements; the other bestows power; so as to secure its dependence on national will, and compels it to consult national reason. The essential difference of the principles of these two schools, causes the terms and phrases of the old to perplex rather than edify, the disciples of the new; because, when governments are founded on different elements, it is incorrect to reason upon their theory or effects, as if there was a similitude between them. A similitude exists between force and fraud, as being both vicious; these are proper subjects for comparison; but between force or fraud, and reason or self government, no similitude exists; because they possess no common quality. The very system of reasoning, therefore, pursued by Mr. Adams throughout his treatise, is erroneous, as being founded in comparison instead of contrast. No inference, which is the result of a comparison between dissimilar objects, can be relied on; whereas, the more dissimilar objects are, the more forcible will every argument be, which results from contrast.
Contrast alone is capable of producing the old and the new political schools, in fair competition; comparison, on the other hand, is the most dangerous weapon, with which the old can avenge its malevolence upon the new, for being ‘an intrepid asserter of the rights of man.’ For what can so completely blast the laurels with which Mr. Adams has himself exultingly crowned the American patriots, as the doctrine, that our new principles of policy, are similar to the old?
Let us apply the test of contrast to a few details, and if they will bear it, we may conclude with confidence, that no such ill boding similitude exists.
Upon our policy superstition has no influence; upon the ancient, its impression was powerful. In the first, there are no hereditary or privileged orders; in the second, they abounded. By the first, power is made responsible by division; in the second, either the use of division was unknown, or it was ineffectually applied. The first is enabled by the art of printing, to use the knowledge of a nation; the second used its ignorance. Formerly, the oracles of the Pythia, the flight of birds, the pecking of chickens, and the driving of nails into the capitol, were the arguments offered by governments to nations; now, reasoning, and not miracle, is used to beget opinion. Then, democracy being galled by the injuries of orders, upon casually breaking her fetters, disclosed the fury which oppression inspires; now, the democracy of the United States, if it is one, seeing only compeers, and suffering only the gentle chastening inflicted by herself, has for many years displayed rather the docility of an elephant, than the ferocity of a tiger.
Reasoning from contrast, and not from comparison, would also have disclosed with greater perspicuity, the differences between existing governments. Thus it would have unavoidably appeared, that in Europe, the elements of government continue to be force and fraud. The fraud and force of superstition, were overthrown by being discovered; wherefore it was necessary to invent a fraud, wider in its influence, and a force, physically stronger; this was done by paper and patronage and by standing armies.
The policy of the United States has laboured to prevent the introduction of force by armies, and of fraud by corruption; and to secure an allegiance of the government to the understandings of the people, and not an allegiance of the people by force or fraud, to the will of the government. Evincing that reason, and not fraud or force, is its element.
Governments, whose elements are fraud or force, will naturally excite the evil qualities of human nature; and those whose element is reason; can only excite its good. And if every government must rely for continuance, either on force or fraud, or on reason; it follows that every government must be founded in good or in evil moral principles.
To defend the elements of force and fraud, it has been said, ‘that man is naturally vicious, and his own worst enemy; and that this self-malignity disqualifies him for self government, and can only be restrained by force or fraud.’
The analysis contended for, admits that human nature is compounded of good and evil qualities, and hence it is not merely allowed, but strenuously contended throughout this essay, that government ought to be modelled with a view to the preservation of the good and the control of the evil. All nations have published their concurrence in this opinion, by establishing and enforcing municipal law, for the purpose of restraining private vices; and all (the United States excepted) have hitherto failed to discover a code of political law, calculated to restrain publick vices. By publick vices and political law, I mean, injuries committed by governments against nations, and regulations to prevent or punish them.
As the vices, the virtues, the passions and the interests of mankind are multiplied by civilization, the necessity for multiplying both kinds of law, gradually increases. In an indigent or savage state, few laws, municipal or political, suffice; because few interests exist to awaken our evil propensities. Therefore simple and unlimited forms of government, and few municipal laws, universally accompany such a state of society. But whenever society advances in the arts of civilization, and the interests of men are multiplied by wealth and commerce, the number and complexity of municipal laws must be increased, to meet the case of a new moral character. It is equally necessary to suppress the simple forms of government, which required no restraints, where there were no temptations; and to invent new political laws, analogous also to this new moral character, in order to counteract the force of these new temptations.
In every state of society, the vices of the individuals who administer the government, will, in relation to publick duties, be as great, and probably much greater, than will be the vices of those who do not administer it, in relation to private duties. Solicitations and excitements to avarice and ambition, will be offered to publick officers by the view of a rich nation, constituting temptations to vice, superior to any which can occur in private life. Therefore, political law should not only keep pace with municipal law, to provide for this new state of society; but the former ought to outstrip the latter in energy, in the same proportion as the violations of publick duties are likely to outstrip those of private, by reason of the superiority of the temptation.
The effects of this temptation, are seen in the history of most nations, to be exactly graduated by their cause. In a poor nation, the temptation being small, publick duties are seldom violated; and such violations are more frequent and more wicked, as a nation increases in opulence; proving that the appetite of the individuals who exercise a government, for gratifications arising from a breach of duty, is within the power of a poor nation, and beyond the power of a rich one, to satisfy.
The political elements, force and fraud, are begotten by national opulence, because nations have only provided new municipal laws to control the private vices produced also by this opulence; and have neglected to provide new political laws against the more injurious publick vices arising from the same cause. For private vices, they have provided the prison and the gallows; for publick vices, wealth and power. Can these contradictory remedies for similar evils be both effectual?
The United States, beholding this as an erroneous policy; and despairing of producing good manners, or a regard for private duties, by infusing into government the strongest solicitations to disregard publick duties; endeavour to secure the morality of government, as the best security against the licentiousness of the people. They forbear to excite ambition and avarice by hereditary orders, or separate interests; and provide against both, by election, responsibility and division of power. They exclude the vicious moral qualities, fear and superstition, as elements of government; and select for its basis, the most perfect moral quality of human nature.
It is as true, that a government may be vicious, as that a people may be vicious. By all hereditary systems, the people are placed extremely within the power of the government, and the government extremely without the power of the people; and a dereliction of the idea of political law, is considered as necessary to the existence of strong or rigorous municipal law. The utmost proposed by such systems is, to submit in despair to the effects of a vicious government, for the sake of curbing the vices of the people.
But the United States have aimed at a policy, possessing a capacity for regulating publick, as well as private duties; considering that government as weak, which can only regulate the latter; and that as strong, which is able to regulate both. For this purpose, they are cautious to bestow on each officer and department of government, only that portion of power, necessary to fulfil the annexed functions; to make these officers and departments, all dependent upon the nation or a section of it; and to enable the government to enforce the laws upon the individuals of the society. A policy by which the nation is considered as the executive of political law, and the avenger of violations of publick duties; and the government as the executive of municipal law, and the avenger of violations of private duties.
The contrast between this policy and the English, both in energy and perfection, is evident and forcible. One is able to prevent or punish the crimes which governments meditate or commit against nations, and also those committed by individuals; the other is unable to prevent or punish the first class of crimes, and even to punish the second, except by exciting the first. If the element of a government is force or fraud, it is obvious that the most pernicious class of crimes, namely, those perpetrated against nations by governments, are excited and not prevented or punished. But our policy provides both against the great injuries to which nations are liable from governments, and the small injuries which individuals may suffer from each other; conceiving a government to be weak and defective, however it may defend individuals against robbery and murder, which is unable to defend nations against oppression and despotism; and one to be stronger and more perfect, which, instead of exciting great crimes, for the purpose of punishing small, provides against both. A code of political law, too feeble to enforce publick duties, or to restrain publick offences, will form an ambitious and avaricious government; and the vicious moral qualities of such a government, will corrupt the manners of the people; but an energetick code of political law, by producing political morality, will re-act wholesomely upon private manners by the channels of influence and imitation. A policy which fosters publick, in order to control private vices, is in contrast with one, which enforces publick duties, as an inducement to general good manners. One submits to the justice it dispenses, the other punishes the crimes it creates.
The indissoluble ligament between cause and effect, is evidently on the side of the possibility of training a government by moral principles. That moral causes are able to control the moral nature of man, and that in the form of government, they have universally controlled it, are the sources from whence the reasoning of this essay is deduced. If the surprising regularity with which the characters of governments have been graduated by their principles, and the astonishing force of these principles in corrupting or purifying the characters of magistrates, had only been demonstrated in the persons of American governours and hereditary monarchs, it ought to invigorate the human mind to keep possession of the ground it has already gained, and to push its discoveries still farther into the political terra incognita.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 187 & 426.
[∗]Mr. Adams calls Filmer’s notions ‘absurd and superstitious.’—Vol. 1, 7.
[∗]Godwin on Pol. Jus: v. 2, 211.
[∗]In the edition of 1757, the words are ‘us Britons.’—Extracted from Shaftesbury’s Charact. v. 1, part 3d, sec. 1, p. 83.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 2, 53. The third Philadelphia edition is quoted throughout this essay.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 2, 163.
[†]Ibid., v. 2, 446 & 448.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 2, 387 & 388.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 368.
[†]Ibid., v. 3, 391.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 453.
[†]Ibid., v. 3, 460.
[‡]Ibid., p. 187.
[§]Ibid., p. 426.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 157, 158.
[†]Ibid., v. 3, 159.
[∗]Adams’s Defence, v. 3. 367.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 2, 18.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 2, 46.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 2. 144.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 2, 405, 406.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 355.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 275.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 213.
[†]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 282.
[∗]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 282, 283.
[†]Adams’s Def. v. 3, 296.