New York, 12 September, 1790.
Upon my return from Philadelphia, to which beloved city I have been, for the purpose of getting a house to put my head in next winter, I had the pleasure of receiving your favor of the second of this month. The sight of our old Liberty Hall and of several of our old friends, had brought your venerable idea to my mind, and continued it there a great part of the last week; so that a letter from you, on my arrival, seemed but in continuation. I am much obliged to the “confidential friend” for writing the short letter you dictated, and shall beg a continuance of similar good offices.
Captain Nathaniel Byfield Lyde, whom I know very well, has my hearty good wishes. I shall give your letter and his to the Secretary of the Treasury, the duty of whose department it is to receive and examine all applications of the kind. Applications will probably be made in behalf of the officers who served the last war in the navy, and they will be likely to have the preference to all others. But Captain Lyde’s application shall nevertheless be presented, and have a fair chance.
My family, as well as myself, are, I thank God, in good health, and as good spirits as the prospect of a troublesome removal will admit. Mrs. Adams desires her particular regards to your lady and yourself.
What, my old friend, is this world about to become? Is the millennium commencing? Are the kingdoms of it about to be governed by reason? Your Boston town meetings and our Harvard College have set the universe in motion. Every thing will be pulled down. So much seems certain. But what will be built up? Are there any principles of political architecture? What are they? Were Voltaire and Rousseau masters of them? Are their disciples acquainted with them? Locke taught them principles of liberty. But I doubt whether they have not yet to learn the principles of government. Will the struggle in Europe be any thing more than a change of impostors and impositions?
With great esteem and sincere affection,
I am, my dear sir, your friend and servant,
His Honor, Samuel Adams, Esq.,
Lieut.-Governor of Mass.
Boston, 4 October, 1790.
With pleasure I received your letter of September 12th. And as our good friend, to whom I dictated our last, is yet in town, I have requested of him a second favor.
You ask,—what the world is about to become? and,—is the millennium commencing? I have not studied the prophecies, and cannot even conjecture. The golden age, so finely pictured by poets, I believe has never as yet existed but in their own imaginations. In the earliest periods, when, for the honor of human nature, one should have thought that man had not learnt to be cruel, what scenes of horror have been exhibited in families of some of the best instructors in piety and morals! Even the heart of our first father was grievously wounded at the sight of the murder of one of his sons, perpetrated by the hand of the other. Has mankind since seen the happy age? No, my friend. The same tragedies have been acted on the theatre of the world, the same arts of tormenting have been studied and practised to this day; and even religion and reason united have never succeeded to establish the permanent foundations of political freedom and happiness in the most enlightened countries on the earth.
After a compliment to Boston town meetings and our Harvard College, as having “set the universe in motion,” you tell me,—every thing will be pulled down. I think with you, “So much seems certain.” But what, say you, will be built up? Hay, wood, and stubble, may probably be the materials, till men shall be yet more enlightened and more friendly to each other. “Are there any principles of political architecture?” Undoubtedly. “What are they?” Philosophers, ancient and modern, have laid down different plans, and all have thought themselves masters of the true principles. Their disciples have followed them, probably with a blind prejudice, which is always an enemy to truth, and have thereby added fresh fuel to the fire of contention, and increased the political disorder.
Kings have been deposed by aspiring nobles, whose pride could not brook restraint. These have waged everlasting war against the common rights of men. The love of liberty is interwoven in the soul of man, and can never be totally extinguished; and there are certain periods when human patience can no longer endure indignity and oppression. The spark of liberty then kindles into a flame, when the injured people, attentive to the feelings of their just rights, magnanimously contend for their complete restoration. But such contests have too often ended in nothing more than “a change of impostors and impositions.” The patriots of Rome put an end to the life of Cæsar, and Rome submitted to a race of tyrants in his stead. Were the people of England free, after they had obliged King John to concede to them their ancient rights and liberties, and promise to govern them according to the old law of the land? Were they free after they had wantonly deposed their Henrys, Edwards, and Richards, to gratify family pride? Or, after they had brought their first Charles to the block and banished his family? They were not. The nation was then governed by king, lords, and commons; and its liberties were lost by a strife among three powers, soberly intended to check each other and keep the scales even.
But while we daily see the violence of the human passions controlling the laws of reason and religion, and stifling the very feelings of humanity, can we wonder that in such tumults, little or no regard is had to political checks and balances? And such tumults have always happened within as well as without doors. The best formed constitutions that have yet been contrived by the wit of man, have, and will come to an end; because “the kingdoms of the earth have not been governed by reason.” The pride of kings, of nobles, and leaders of the people, who have all governed in their turns, have disadjusted the delicate frame, and thrown all into confusion.
What then is to be done? Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls; of inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthroby, and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small; in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system, which will happily tend to subdue the turbulent passions of men, and introduce that golden age, beautifully described in figurative language,—when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid; the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; none shall then hurt or destroy, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. When this millennium shall commence, if there shall be any need of civil government, indulge me in the fancy, that it will be in the republican form, or something better.
I thank you for your countenance to our friend Lyde. Mrs. Adams tells me to remember her to yourself, lady, and connections; and be assured, that I am, sincerely, your friend,
The Vice-President of the United States.
New York, 18 October, 1790.
I am thankful to our common friend, as well as to you, for your favor of the fourth, which I received last night. My fears are in unison with yours, that hay, wood, and stubble, will be the materials of the new political buildings in Europe, till men shall be more enlightened and friendly to each other.
You agree, that there are undoubtedly principles of political architecture. But, instead of particularizing any of them, you seem to place all your hopes in the universal, or at least more general, prevalence of knowledge and benevolence. I think with you, that knowledge and benevolence ought to be promoted as much as possible; but, despairing of ever seeing them sufficiently general for the security of society, I am for seeking institutions which may supply in some degree the defect. If there were no ignorance, error, or vice, there would be neither principles nor systems of civil or political government.
I am not often satisfied with the opinions of Hume; but in this he seems well founded, that all projects of government, founded in the supposition or expectation of extraordinary degrees of virtue, are evidently chimerical. Nor do I believe it possible, humanly speaking, that men should ever be greatly improved in knowledge or benevolence, without assistance from the principles and system of government.
I am very willing to agree with you in fancying, that in the greatest improvements of society, government will be in the republican form. It is a fixed principle with me, that all good government is and must be republican. But, at the same time, your candor will agree with me, that there is not in lexicography a more fraudulent word. Whenever I use the word republic with approbation, I mean a government in which the people have collectively, or by representation, an essential share in the sovereignty. The republican forms of Poland and Venice are much worse, and those of Holland and Bern very little better, than the monarchical form in France before the late revolution. By the republican form, I know you do not mean the plan of Milton, Nedham, or Turgot. For, after a fair trial of its miseries, the simple monarchical form will ever be, as it has ever been, preferred to it by mankind. Are we not, my friend, in danger of rendering the word republican unpopular in this country by an indiscreet, indeterminate, and equivocal use of it? The people of England have been obliged to wean themselves from the use of it, by making it unpopular and unfashionable, because they found it was artfully used by some, and simply understood by others, to mean the government of their interregnum parliament. They found they could not wean themselves from that destructive form of government so entirely, as that a mischievous party would not still remain in favor of it, by any other means than by making the words republic and republican unpopular. They have succeeded to such a degree, that, with a vast majority of that nation, a republican is as unamiable as a witch, a blasphemer, a rebel, or a tyrant. If, in this country, the word republic should be generally understood, as it is by some, to mean a form of government inconsistent with a mixture of three powers, forming a mutual balance, we may depend upon it that such mischievous effects will be produced by the use of it as will compel the people of America to renounce, detest, and execrate it as the English do. With these explanations, restrictions, and limitations, I agree with you in your love of republican governments, but in no other sense.
With you, I have also the honor most perfectly to harmonize in your sentiments of the humanity and wisdom of promoting education in knowledge, virtue, and benevolence. But I think that these will confirm mankind in the opinion of the necessity of preserving and strengthening the dikes against the ocean, its tides and storms. Human appetites, passions, prejudices, and self-love will never be conquered by benevolence and knowledge alone, introduced by human means. The millennium itself neither supposes nor implies it. All civil government is then to cease, and the Messiah is to reign. That happy and holy state is therefore wholly out of this question. You and I agree in the utility of universal education; but will nations agree in it as fully and extensively as we do, and be at the expense of it? We know, with as much certainty as attends any human knowledge, that they will not. We cannot, therefore, advise the people to depend for their safety, liberty, and security, upon hopes and blessings which we know will not fall to their lot. If we do our duty then to the people, we shall not deceive them, but advise them to depend upon what is in their power and will relieve them.
Philosophers, ancient and modern, do not appear to me to have studied nature, the whole of nature, and nothing but nature. Lycurgus’s principle was war and family pride; Solon’s was what the people would bear, &c. The best writings of antiquity upon government, those, I mean, of Aristotle, Zeno, and Cicero, are lost. We have human nature, society, and universal history to observe and study, and from these we may draw all the real principles which ought to be regarded. Disciples will follow their masters, and interested partisans their chieftains; let us like it or not, we cannot help it. But if the true principles can be discovered, and fairly, fully, and impartially laid before the people, the more light increases, the more the reason of them will be seen, and the more disciples they will have. Prejudice, passion, and private interest, which will always mingle in human inquiries, one would think might be enlisted on the side of truth, at least in the greatest number; for certainly the majority are interested in the truth, if they could see to the end of all its consequences. “Kings have been deposed by aspiring nobles.” True, and never by any other. “These” (the nobles, I suppose,) “have waged everlasting war against the common rights of men.” True, when they have been possessed of the summa imperii in one body, without a check. So have the plebeians; so have the people; so have kings; so has human nature, in every shape and combination, and so it ever will. But, on the other hand, the nobles have been essential parties in the preservation of liberty, whenever and wherever it has existed. In Europe, they alone have preserved it against kings and people, wherever it has been preserved; or, at least, with very little assistance from the people. One hideous despotism, as horrid as that of Turkey, would have been the lot of every nation of Europe, if the nobles had not made stands. By nobles, I mean not peculiarly an hereditary nobility, or any particular modification, but the natural and actual aristocracy among mankind. The existence of this you will not deny. You and I have seen four noble families rise up in Boston,—the Crafts, Gores, Dawes, and Austins. These are as really a nobility in our town, as the Howards, Somersets, Berties, &c., in England. Blind, undistinguishing reproaches against the aristocratical part of mankind, a division which nature has made, and we cannot abolish, are neither pious nor benevolent. They are as pernicious as they are false. They serve only to foment prejudice, jealousy, envy, animosity, and malevolence. They serve no ends but those of sophistry, fraud, and the spirit of party. It would not be true, but it would not be more egregiously false, to say that the people have waged everlasting war against the rights of men.
“The love of liberty,” you say, “is interwoven in the soul of man.” So it is, according to La Fontaine, in that of a wolf; and I doubt whether it be much more rational, generous, or social, in one than in the other, until in man it is enlightened by experience, reflection, education, and civil and political institutions, which are at first produced, and constantly supported and improved by a few; that is, by the nobility. The wolf, in the fable, who preferred running in the forest, lean and hungry, to the sleek, plump, and round sides of the dog, because he found the latter was sometimes restrained, had more love of liberty than most men. The numbers of men in all ages have preferred ease, slumber, and good cheer to liberty, when they have been in competition. We must not then depend alone upon the love of liberty in the soul of man for its preservation. Some political institutions must be prepared, to assist this love against its enemies. Without these, the struggle will ever end only in a change of impostors. When the people, who have no property, feel the power in their own hands to determine all questions by a majority, they ever attack those who have property, till the injured men of property lose all patience, and recur to finesse, trick, and stratagem, to outwit those who have too much strength, because they have too many hands to be resisted any other way. Let us be impartial, then, and speak the whole truth. Till we do, we shall never discover all the true principles that are necessary. The multitude, therefore, as well as the nobles, must have a check. This is one principle.
“Were the people of England free, after they had obliged King John to concede to them their ancient rights?” The people never did this. There was no people who pretended to any thing. It was the nobles alone. The people pretended to nothing but to be villains, vassals, and retainers to the king or the nobles. The nobles, I agree, were not free, because all was determined by a majority of their votes, or by arms, not by law. Their feuds deposed their “Henrys, Edwards, and Richards,” to gratify lordly ambition, patrician rivalry, and “family pride.” But, if they had not been deposed, those kings would have become despots, because the people would not and could not join the nobles in any regular and constitutional opposition to them. They would have become despots, I repeat it, and that by means of the villains, vassals, and retainers aforesaid. It is not family pride, my friend, but family popularity, that does the great mischief, as well as the great good. Pride, in the heart of man, is an evil fruit and concomitant of every advantage; of riches, of knowledge, of genius, of talents, of beauty, of strength, of virtue, and even of piety. It is sometimes ridiculous, and often pernicious. But it is even sometimes, and in some degree, useful. But the pride of families would be always and only ridiculous, if it had not family popularity to work with. The attachment and devotion of the people to some families inspires them with pride. As long as gratitude or interest, ambition or avarice, love, hope, or fear, shall be human motives of action, so long will numbers attach themselves to particular families. When the people will, in spite of all that can be said or done, cry a man or a family up to the skies, exaggerate all his talents and virtues, not hear a word of his weakness or faults, follow implicitly his advice, detest every man he hates, adore every man he loves, and knock down all who will not swim down the stream with them, where is your remedy? When a man or family are thus popular, how can you prevent them from being proud? You and I know of instances in which popularity has been a wind, a tide, a whirlwind. The history of all ages and nations is full of such examples.
Popularity, that has great fortune to dazzle; splendid largesses, to excite warm gratitude; sublime, beautiful, and uncommon genius or talents, to produce deep admiration; or any thing to support high hopes and strong fears, will be proud; and its power will be employed to mortify enemies, gratify friends, procure votes, emoluments, and power. Such family popularity ever did, and ever will govern in every nation, in every climate, hot and cold, wet and dry, among civilized and savage people, Christians and Mahometans, Jews and Heathens. Declamation against family pride is a pretty, juvenile exercise, but unworthy of statesmen. They know the evil and danger is too serious to be sported with. The only way, God knows, is to put these families into a hole by themselves, and set two watches upon them; a superior to them all on one side, and the people on the other.
There are a few popular men in the Massachusetts, my friend, who have, I fear, less honor, sincerity, and virtue, than they ought to have. These, if they are not guarded against, may do another mischief. They may excite a party spirit and a mobbish spirit, instead of the spirit of liberty, and produce another Wat Tyler’s rebellion. They can do no more. But I really think their party language ought not to be countenanced, nor their shibboleths pronounced. The miserable stuff that they utter about the well-born is as despicable as themselves. The ὲυγενεῖς of the Greeks, the bien nées of the French, the welgebohren of the Germans and Dutch, the beloved families of the Creeks, are but a few samples of national expressions of the same thing, for which every nation on earth has a similar expression. One would think that our scribblers were all the sons of redemptioners or transported convicts. They think with Tarquin, “In novo populo, ubi omnis repentina atque ex virtute nobilitas fit, futurum locum forti ac strenuo viro.”
Let us be impartial. There is not more of family pride on one side, than of vulgar malignity and popular envy on the other. Popularity in one family raises envy in others. But the popularity of the least deserving will triumph over envy and malignity; while that which is acquired by real merit, will very often be overborne and oppressed by it.
Let us do justice to the people and to the nobles; for nobles there are, as I have before proved, in Boston as well as in Madrid. But to do justice to both, you must establish an arbitrator between them. This is another principle.
It is time that you and I should have some sweet communion together. I do not believe, that we, who have preserved for more than thirty years an uninterrupted friendship, and have so long thought and acted harmoniously together in the worst of times, are now so far asunder in sentiment as some people pretend; in full confidence of which, I have used this freedom, being ever your warm friend.
His Honor, Samuel Adams, Esq.,
Lieut.-Governor of Mass.
Boston, 20 November, 1790.
My dear Sir,—
I lately received your letter of the eighteenth of October. The sentiments and observations contained in it demand my attention.
A republic, you tell me, is a government in which “the people have an essential share in the sovereignty.” Is not the whole sovereignty, my friend, essentially in the people? Is not government designed for the welfare and happiness of all the people? and is it not the uncontrollable, essential right of the people to amend and alter, or annul their constitution and frame a new one, whenever they shall think it will better promote their own welfare and happiness to do it? That the sovereignty resides in the people, is a political doctrine which I have never heard an American politician seriously deny. The constitutions of the American States reserve to the people the exercise of the rights of sovereignty, by the annual or biennial elections of their governors, senators, and representatives; and by empowering their own representatives to impeach the greatest officers of the state before the senators, who are also chosen by themselves. We, the people, is the style of the federal constitution. They adopted it; and, conformably to it, they delegate the exercise of the powers of government to particular persons, who, after short intervals, resign their powers to the people, and they will reëect them, or appoint others, as they think fit.
The American legislatures are nicely balanced. They consist of two branches, each having a check upon the determinations of the other. They sit in different chambers, and probably often reason differently in their respective chambers, on the same question. If they disagree in their decisions, by a conference, their reasons and arguments are mutually communicated to each other. Candid explanations tend to bring them to agreement; and then, according to the Massachusetts constitution, the matter is laid before the first magistrate for his revision. He states objections, if he has any, with his reasons, and returns them to the legislators, who, by larger majorities, ultimately decide. Here is a mixture of three powers, founded in the nature of man; calculated to call forth the rational faculties in the great points of legislation into exertion; to cultivate mutual friendship and good humor; and, finally, to enable them to decide, not by the impulse of passion or party prejudice, but by the calm voice of reason, which is the voice of God. In this mixture you may see your “natural and actual aristocracy among mankind,” operating among the several powers in legislation, and producing the most happy effects. But the son of an excellent man may never inherit the great qualities of his father; this is a common observation, and there are many instances of its truth. Should we not, therefore, conclude that hereditary nobility is a solecism in government? Their lordships’ sons or grandsons may be destitute of the faintest feelings of honor or honesty, and yet retain an essential share in the government, by right of inheritance from ancestors, who may have been the minions of ministers, the favorites of mistresses, or men of real and distinguished merit. The same may be said of hereditary kings. Their successors may also become so degenerated and corrupt, as to have neither inclination nor capacity to know the extent and limits of their own powers, nor, consequently, those of others. Such kind of political beings, nobles or kings, possessing hereditary right to essential shares in an equipoised government, are very unfit persons to hold the scales. Having no just conception of the principles of the government, nor of the part which they and their copartners bear in the administration, they run a wild career, destroy the checks and balances, by interfering in each other’s departments, till the nation is involved in confusion, and reduced to the danger at least of bloodshed, to remove a tyranny which may ensue. Much safer is it, and much more does it tend to promote the welfare and happiness of society, to fill up the offices of government after the mode prescribed in the American constitutions, by frequent elections of the people. They may, indeed, be deceived in their choice. They sometimes are. But the evil is not incurable; the remedy is always near; they will feel their mistakes and correct them.
I am very willing to agree with you, in thinking that improvements in knowledge and benevolence receive much assistance from the principles and systems of good government. But is it not as true that, without knowledge and benevolence, men would neither have been capable nor disposed to search for the principles or form the system? Should we not, my friend, bear a grateful remembrance of our pious and benevolent ancestors, who early laid plans of education? by which means, wisdom, knowledge, and virtue have been generally diffused among the body of the people, and they have been enabled to form and establish a civil constitution, calculated for the preservation of their rights and liberties. This constitution was evidently founded in the expectation of the further progress and extraordinary degrees of virtue. It enjoins the encouragement of all seminaries of literature, which are the nurseries of virtue, depending upon these for the support of government, rather than titles, splendor, or force. Mr. Hume may call this a “chimerical project.” I am far from thinking the people can be deceived, by urging upon them a dependence on the more general prevalence of knowledge and virtue. It is one of the most essential means of further, and still further improvements in society, and of correcting and amending moral sentiments and habits and political institutions; till, “by human means,” directed by Divine influence, men shall be prepared for that “happy and holy state,” when “the Messiah is to reign.”
“It is a fixed principle that all good government is, and must be republican.” You have my hearty concurrence; and I believe we are well enough acquainted with each other’s ideas to understand what we respectively mean when we “use the word with approbation.” The body of the people in this country are not so ignorant as those in England were in the time of the interregnum parliament. They are better educated; they will not easily be prevailed upon to believe that “a republican is as unamiable as a witch, a blasphemer, a rebel, or a tyrant.” They are charmed with their own forms of government, in which are admitted a mixture of powers to check the human passions and control them from rushing into exorbitances. So well assured are they that their liberties are best secured by their own frequent and free election of fit persons to be the essential sharers in the administration of their government, and that this form of government is truly republican; that the body of the people will not be persuaded nor compelled to “renounce, detest, and execrate” the very word republican “as the English do.” Their education has “confirmed them in the opinion of the necessity of preserving and strengthening the dikes against the ocean, its tides and storms;” and I think they have made more safe and more durable dikes than the English have done.
We agree in the utility of universal education, but “will nations agree in it as fully and extensively as we do?” Why should they not? It would not be fair to conclude that, because they have not yet been disposed to agree in it, they never will. It is allowed that the present age is more enlightened than former ones. Freedom of inquiry is certainly more encouraged; the feelings of humanity have softened the heart; the true principles of civil and religious liberty are better understood; tyranny in all its shapes is more detested; and bigotry, if not still blind, must be mortified to see that she is despised. Such an age may afford at least a flattering expectation that nations, as well as individuals, will view the utility of universal education in so strong a light, as to induce sufficient national patronage and support. Future ages will probably be more enlightened than this.
The love of liberty is interwoven in the soul of man. “So it is in that of a wolf.” However irrational, ungenerous, and unsocial the love of liberty may be in a rude savage, he is capable of being enlightened by experience, reflection, education, and civil and political institutions. But the nature of the wolf is, and ever will be, confined to running in the forest to satisfy his hunger and his brutal appetites; the dog is inclined, in a very easy way, to seek his living, and fattens his sides from what comes from his master’s kitchen. The comparison of La Fontaine is, in my opinion, ungenerous, unnatural, and unjust.
Among the numbers of men, my friend, are to be found not only those who have “preferred ease, slumber, and good cheer, to liberty;” but others, who have eagerly sought after thrones and sceptres, hereditary shares in sovereignty, riches and splendor, titles, stars, garters, crosses, eagles, and many other childish playthings, at the expense of real nobility, without one thought or care for the liberty and happiness of the rest of mankind.
“The people, who have no property, feel the power of governing by a majority, and ever attack those who have property.” “The injured men of property recur to finesse, trick, and stratagem to outwit them.” True. These may proceed from a lust of domination in some of both parties. Be this as it may, it has been known that such deceitful tricks have been practised by some of the rich upon their unsuspecting fellow-citizens, to turn the determination of questions so as to answer their own selfish purposes. To plunder or filch the rights of men, are crimes equally immoral and nefarious, though committed in different manners. Neither of them is confined to the rich or the poor; they are too common among both. The lords, as well as the commons, of Great Britain, by continued large majorities, endeavored by finesse, tricks, and stratagems, as well as threats, to prevail on the American colonies to surrender their liberty and property to their disposal. These failing, they attempted to plunder our rights by force of arms. We feared their arts more than their arms. Did the members of that hereditary house of lords, who constituted those repeated majorities, then possess the spirit of nobility? Not so, I think. That spirit resided in the illustrious minorities in both houses.
But, “by nobles,” who have prevented “one hideous despotism, as horrid as that of Turkey, from falling to the lot of every nation of Europe,” you mean, “not peculiarly an hereditary nobility, or any particular modification, but the natural and actual aristocracy among mankind;” the existence of which I am not disposed to deny. Where is this aristocracy found? Among men of all ranks and conditions. The cottager may beget a wise son; the noble, a fool. The one is capable of great improvement; the other, not. Education is within the power of men and societies of men. Wise and judicious modes of education, patronized and supported by communities, will draw together the sons of the rich and the poor, among whom it makes no distinction; it will cultivate the natural genius, elevate the soul, excite laudable emulation to excel in knowledge, piety, and benevolence; and, finally, it will reward its patrons and benefactors, by shedding its benign influence on the public mind. Education inures men to thinking and reflection, to reasoning and demonstration. It discovers to them the moral and religious duties they owe to God, their country, and to all mankind. Even savages might, by the means of education, be instructed to frame the best civil and political institutions, with as much skill and ingenuity as they now shape their arrows. Education leads youth to “the study of human nature, society, and universal history,” from whence they may “draw all the principles” of political architecture which ought to be regarded. All men are “interested in the truth.” Education, by showing them “the end of all its consequences,” would induce at least the greatest numbers to enlist on its side. The man of good understanding, who has been well-educated, and improves these advantages, as far as his circumstances will allow, in promoting the happiness of mankind, in my opinion, and I am inclined to think in yours, is indeed “well-born.”
It may be “puerile and unworthy of statesmen” to declaim against family pride; but there is, and always has been, such a ridiculous kind of vanity among men. “Statesmen know the evil and danger is too serious to be sported with.” I am content they should be put into one hole, as you propose; but I have some fears that your watchmen on each side will not well agree. When a man can recollect the virtues of his ancestors, he certainly has abundantly more solid satisfaction than another who boasts that he sprang from those who were rich or noble, but never discovers the least degree of virtue or true worth of any kind. “Family popularity,” if I mistake not, has its source in family pride. It is, by all means, sought after, that homage may be paid to the name of the title or estate, to supply the want in the possessor of any great or good quality whatsoever. There are individuals among men, who study the art of making themselves popular, for the purpose of getting into places of honor and emoluments, and, by these means, of gratifying hereafter the noble passion, “family pride.” Others are so enchanted with the music of the sound, that they conceive it to be supreme felicity. This is, indeed, vanity of vanities! and if such deluded men ever come to their senses, they will find it to be vexation of spirit. When they reflect on their own folly and injustice, in having swallowed the breath of applause with avidity and great delight, for merit which they are conscious they never had; and that many, who have been the loudest in sounding their praises, had nothing in view but their own private and selfish interests, it will excite in them the feelings of shame, remorse, and self-contempt. The truly virtuous man and real patriot is satisfied with the approbation of the wise and discerning; he rejoices in the contemplation of the purity of his own intentions, and waits in humble hope for the plaudit of his final judge.
I shall not venture again to trespass on the benevolence of our confidential friend. You will not be sorry. It will afford you relief; for, in common civility, you must be at the trouble of reading one’s epistles. I hope there will be a time when we may have “sweet communion together.” In the interim, let me not lose the benefit of your valuable letters. Adieu.
Believe me, your sincere friend,
The Vice-President of the United States.
THREE LETTERS TO ROGER SHERMAN, ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
Richmond Hill, (New York), 17 July, 1789.
I read over, with pleasure, your observations on the new federal constitution, and am glad to find an opportunity to communicate to you my opinion of some parts of them. It is by a free and amicable intercourse of sentiments, that the friends of our country may hope for such a unanimity of opinion and such a concert of exertions, as may sooner or later produce the blessings of good government.
You say, “it is by some objected that the executive is blended with the legislature, and that those powers ought to be entirely distinct and unconnected. But is not that a gross error in politics? The united wisdom and various interests of a nation should be combined in framing the laws by which all are to be governed and protected, though it should not be convenient to have them executed by the whole legislature. The supreme executive in Great Britain is one branch of the legislature, and has a negative on all the laws; perhaps that is an extreme not to be imitated by a republic; but the negative vested in the president by the new constitution on the acts of congress, and the consequent revision, may be very useful to prevent laws being passed without mature deliberation, and to preserve stability in the administration of government; and the concurrence of the senate in the appointment to office will strengthen the hands of the executive, and secure the confidence of the people much better than a select council, and will be less expensive.”
Is it, then, “an extreme not to be imitated by a republic,” to make the supreme executive a branch of the legislature, and give it a negative on all the laws? If you please, we will examine this position, and see whether it is well founded. In the first place, what is your definition of a republic? Mine is this: A government whose sovereignty is vested in more than one person. Governments are divided into despotisms, monarchies, and republics. A despotism is a government in which the three divisions of power, the legislative, executive and judicial, are all vested in one man. A monarchy is a government where the legislative and executive are vested in one man, but the judicial in other men. In all governments the sovereignty is vested in that man or body of men who have the legislative power. In despotisms and monarchies, therefore, the legislative authority being in one man, the sovereignty is in one man. In republics, as the sovereignty, that is, the legislative, is always vested in more than one, it may be vested in as many more as you please. In the United States it might be vested in two persons, or in three millions, or in any other intermediate number; and in every such supposable case the government would be a republic. In conformity to these ideas, republics have been divided into three species, monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical republics. England is a republic, a monarchical republic it is true, but a republic still; because the sovereignty, which is the legislative power, is vested in more than one man; it is equally divided, indeed, between the one, the few, and the many, or in other words, between the natural division of mankind in society,—the monarchical, the aristocratical, and democratical. It is essential to a monarchical republic, that the supreme executive should be a branch of the legislature, and have a negative on all the laws. I say essential, because if monarchy were not an essential part of the sovereignty, the government would not be a monarchical republic. Your position is therefore clearly and certainly an error, because the practice of Great Britain in making the supreme executive a branch of the legislature, and giving it a negative on all the laws, must be imitated by every monarchical republic.
I will pause here, if you please; but if you will give me leave, I will write another letter or two upon this subject. Meantime I am, with unalterable friendship, yours.
In my letter of yesterday I think it was demonstrated that the English government is a republic, and that the regal negative upon the laws is essential to that republic. Because, without it, that government would not be what it is, a monarchical republic; and, consequently, could not preserve the balance of power between the executive and legislative powers, nor that other balance which is in the legislature,—between the one, the few, and the many; in which two balances the excellence of that form of government must consist.
Let us now inquire, whether the new constitution of the United States is or is not a monarchical republic, like that of Great Britain. The monarchical and the aristocratical power in our constitution, it is true, are not hereditary; but this makes no difference in the nature of the power, in the nature of the balance, or in the name of the species of government. It would make no difference in the power of a judge or justice, or general or admiral, whether his commission were for life or years. His authority during the time it lasted, would be the same whether it were for one year or twenty, or for life, or descendible to his eldest son. The people, the nation, in whom all power resides originally, may delegate their power for one year or for ten years; for years, or for life; or may delegate it in fee simple or fee tail, if I may so express myself; or during good behavior, or at will, or till further orders.
A nation might unanimously create a dictator or a despot, for one year or more, or for life, or for perpetuity with hereditary descent. In such a case, the dictator for one year would as really be a dictator for the time his power lasted, as the other would be whose power was perpetual and descendible. A nation in the same manner might create a simple monarchy for years, life, or perpetuity, and in either case the creature would be equally a simple monarch during the continuance of his power. So the people of England might create king, lords, and commons, for a year, or for several years, or for life, and in any of these cases, their government would be a monarchical republic, or, if you will, a limited monarchy, during its continuance, as much as it is now, when the king and nobles are hereditary. They might make their house of commons hereditary too. What the consequence of this would be it is easy to foresee; but it would not in the first moment make any change in the legal power, nor in the name of the government.
Let us now consider what our constitution is, and see whether any other name can with propriety be given it, than that of a monarchical republic, or if you will, a limited monarchy. The duration of our president is neither perpetual nor for life; it is only for four years; but his power during those four years is much greater than that of an avoyer, a consul, a podestà, a doge, a stadtholder; nay, than a king of Poland; nay, than a king of Sparta. I know of no first magistrate in any republican government, excepting England and Neuchatel, who possesses a constitutional dignity, authority, and power comparable to his. The power of sending and receiving ambassadors, of raising and commanding armies and navies, of nominating and appointing and commissioning all officers, of managing the treasures, the internal and external affairs of the nation; nay, the whole executive power, coextensive with the legislative power, is vested in him, and he has the right, and his is the duty, to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. These rights and duties, these prerogatives and dignities, are so transcendent that they must naturally and necessarily excite in the nation all the jealousy, envy, fears, apprehensions, and opposition, that are so constantly observed in England against the crown.
That these powers are necessary, I readily admit. That the laws cannot be executed without them; that the lives, liberties, properties and characters of the citizens cannot be secure without their protection, is most clear. But it is equally certain, I think, that they ought to have been still greater, or much less. The limitations upon them in the cases of war, treaties, and appointments to office, and especially the limitation on the president’s independence as a branch of the legislative, will be the destruction of this constitution, and involve us in anarchy, if not amended. I shall pass over all particulars for the present, except the last; because that is now the point in dispute between you and me. Longitude, and the philosopher’s stone, have not been sought with more earnestness by philosophers than a guardian of the laws has been studied by legislators from Plato to Montesquieu; but every project has been found to be no better than committing the lamb to the custody of the wolf, except that one which is called a balance of power. A simple sovereignty in one, a few, or many, has no balance, and therefore no laws. A divided sovereignty without a balance, or in other words, where the division is unequal, is always at war, and consequently has no laws. In our constitution the sovereignty,—that is, the legislative power,—is divided into three branches. The house and senate are equal, but the third branch, though essential, is not equal. The president must pass judgment upon every law; but in some cases his judgment may be overruled. These cases will be such as attack his constitutional power; it is, therefore, certain he has not equal power to defend himself, or the constitution, or the judicial power, as the senate and house have.
Power naturally grows. Why? Because human passions are insatiable. But that power alone can grow which already is too great; that which is unchecked; that which has no equal power to control it. The legislative power, in our constitution, is greater than the executive; it will, therefore, encroach, because both aristocratical and democratical passions are insatiable. The legislative power will increase, the executive will diminish. In the legislature, the monarchical power is not equal either to the aristocratical or democratical; it will, therefore, decrease, while the other will increase. Indeed, I think the aristocratical power is greater than either the monarchical or democratical. That will, therefore, swallow up the other two.
In my letter of yesterday, I think it was proved, that a republic might make the supreme executive an integral part of the legislature. In this, it is equally demonstrated, as I think, that our constitution ought to be amended by a decisive adoption of that expedient. If you do not forbid me, I shall write to you again.
There is a sense and degree in which the executive, in our constitution, is blended with the legislature. The president has the power of suspending a law; of giving the two houses an opportunity to pause, to think, to collect themselves, to reconsider a rash step of a majority. He has a right to urge all his reasons against it, by speech or message; which, becoming public, is an appeal to the nation. But the rational objection here is, not that the executive is blended with the legislature, but that it is not enough blended; that it is not incorporated with it, and made an essential part of it. If it were an integral part of it, it might negative a law without much noise, speculation, or confusion among the people. But as it now stands, I beg you to consider it is almost impossible, that a president should ever have the courage to make use of his partial negative. What a situation would a president be in to maintain a controversy against a majority of both houses before a tribunal of the public? To put a stop to a law that more than half the senate and house, and consequently, we may suppose more than half the nation, have set their hearts upon? It is, moreover, possible, that more than two thirds of the nation, the senate, and house, may, in times of calamity, distress, misfortune, and ill success of the measures of government, from the momentary passion and enthusiasm, demand a law which will wholly subvert the constitution. The constitution of Athens was overturned in such a manner by Aristides himself. The constitution should guard against a possibility of its subversion; but we may take stronger ground, and assert that it is probable such cases will happen, and that the constitution will, in fact, be subverted in this way. Nay, I go further, and say, that from the constitution of human nature, and the constant course of human affairs, it is certain that our constitution will be subverted, if not amended, and that in a very short time, merely for want of a decisive negative in the executive.
There is another sense and another degree in which the executive is blended with the legislature, which is liable to great and just objection; which excites alarms, jealousies, and apprehensions, in a very great degree. I mean, 1st, the negative of the senate upon appointments to office; 2d. the negative of the senate upon treaties; and 3d. the negative of the two houses upon war. I shall confine myself, at present, to the first. The negative of the senate upon appointments is liable to the following objections:—
1. It takes away, or, at least, it lessens the responsibility of the executive. Our constitution obliges me to say, that it lessens the responsibility of the president. The blame of an injudicious, weak, or wicked appointment, is shared so much between him and the senate, that his part of it will be too small. Who can censure him, without censuring the senate, and the legislatures who appoint them? All their friends will be interested to vindicate the president, in order to screen them from censure. Besides, if an impeachment against an officer is brought before them, are they not interested to acquit him, lest some part of the odium of his guilt should fall upon them, who advised to his appointment?
2. It turns the minds and attention of the people to the senate, a branch of the legislature, in executive matters. It interests another branch of the legislature in the management of the executive. It divides the people between the executive and the senate; whereas, all the people ought to be united to watch the executive, to oppose its encroachments, and resist its ambition. Senators and representatives, and their constituents, in short, the aristocratical and democratical divisions of society ought to be united on all occasions to oppose the executive or the monarchical branch, when it attempts to overleap its limits. But how can this union be effected, when the aristocratical branch has pledged its reputation to the executive, by consenting to an appointment?
3. It has a natural tendency to excite ambition in the senate. An active, ardent spirit, who is rich and able, and has a great reputation and influence, will be solicited by candidates for office. Not to introduce the idea of bribery, because, though it certainly would force itself in, in other countries, and will probably here, when we grow populous and rich, it is not yet to be dreaded, I hope, ambition must come in already. A senator of great influence will be naturally ambitious and desirous of increasing his influence. Will he not be under a temptation to use his influence with the president as well as his brother senators, to appoint persons to office in the several states, who will exert themselves in elections, to get out his enemies or opposers, both in senate and house of representatives, and to get in his friends, perhaps his instruments? Suppose a senator to aim at the treasury office for himself, his brother, father, or son. Suppose him to aim at the president’s chair, or vice-president’s, at the next election, or at the office of war, foreign, or domestic affairs. Will he not naturally be tempted to make use of his whole patronage, his whole influence, in advising to appointments, both with president and senators, to get such persons nominated as will exert themselves in elections of president, vice-president, senators, and house of representatives, to increase his interest and promote his views? In this point of view, I am very apprehensive that this defect in our constitution will have an unhappy tendency to introduce corruption of the grossest kinds, both of ambition and avarice, into all our elections, and this will be the worst of poisons to our constitution. It will not only destroy the present form of government, but render it almost impossible to substitute in its place any free government, even a better limited-monarchy, or any other than a despotism or a simple monarchy.
4. To avoid the evil under the last head, it will be in danger of dividing the continent into two or three nations, a case that presents no prospect but of perpetual war.
5. This negative on appointments is in danger of involving the senate in reproach, censure, obloquy, and suspicion, without doing any good. Will the senate use their negative or not? If not, why should they have it? Many will censure them for not using it; many will ridicule them, and call them servile, &c. If they do use it, the very first instance of it will expose the senators to the resentment of not only the disappointed candidate and all his friends, but of the president and all his friends, and these will be most of the officers of government, through the nation.
6. We shall very soon have parties formed; a court and country party, and these parties will have names given them. One party in the house of representatives will support the president and his measures and ministers; the other will oppose them. A similar party will be in the senate; these parties will study with all their arts, perhaps with intrigue, perhaps with corruption, at every election to increase their own friends and diminish their opposers. Suppose such parties formed in the senate, and then consider what factious divisions we shall have there upon every nomination.
7. The senate have not time. The convention and Indian treaties.
You are of opinion “that the concurrence of the senate in the appointments to office, will strengthen the hands of the executive, and secure the confidence of the people, much better than a select council, and will be less expensive.”
But in every one of these ideas, I have the misfortune to differ from you.
It will weaken the hands of the executive, by lessening the obligation, gratitude, and attachment of the candidate to the president, by dividing his attachment between the executive and legislative, which are natural enemies. Officers of government, instead of having a single eye and undivided attachment to the executive branch, as they ought to have, consistent with law and the constitution, will be constantly tempted to be factious with their factious patrons in the senate. The president’s own officers, in a thousand instances, will oppose his just and constitutional exertions, and screen themselves under the wings of their patrons and party in the legislature. Nor will it secure the confidence of the people. The people will have more confidence in the executive, in executive matters, than in the senate. The people will be constantly jealous of factious schemes in the senators to unduly influence the executive, to serve each other’s private views. The people will also be jealous that the influence of the senate will be employed to conceal, connive at, and defend guilt in executive officers, instead of being a guard and watch upon them, and a terror to them. A council, selected by the president himself, at his pleasure, from among the senators, representatives, and nation at large, would be purely responsible. In that case, the senate would be a terror to privy counsellors; its honor would never be pledged to support any measure or instrument of the executive beyond justice, law, and the constitution. Nor would a privy council be more expensive. The whole senate must now deliberate on every appointment, and if they ever find time for it, you will find that a great deal of time will be required and consumed in this service. Then, the president might have a constant executive council; now, he has none.
I said, under the seventh head, that the senate would not have time. You will find that the whole business of this government will be infinitely delayed by this negative of the senate on treaties and appointments. Indian treaties and consular conventions have been already waiting for months, and the senate have not been able to find a moment of time to attend to them; and this evil must constantly increase. So that the senate must be constantly sitting, and must be paid as long as they sit. . .
But I have tired your patience. Is there any truth in these broken hints and crude surmises, or not? To me they appear well founded and very important.
I am, with usual affection, yours,
ROGER SHERMAN TO JOHN ADAMS.
The first letter of Roger Sherman, which occasioned this correspondence, has not been found. But his replies, giving the views entertained on his side, of the disputed provisions of the constitution, are sufficiently interesting to merit insertion.
New York, 20 July, 1789.
I was honored with your letters of the seventeenth and eighteenth instant, and am much obliged to you for the observations they contain.
The subject of government is an important one, and necessary to be well understood by the citizens, and especially by the legislators of these states. I shall be happy to receive further light on the subject, and to have any errors that I may have entertained corrected.
I find that writers on government differ in their definition of a republic. Entick’s Dictionary defines it,—“A commonwealth without a king.” I find you do not agree to the negative part of his definition. What I meant by it was, a government under the authority of the people, consisting of legislative, executive, and judiciary powers; the legislative powers vested in an assembly, consisting of one or more branches, who, together with the executive, are appointed by the people, and dependent on them for continuance, by periodical elections, agreeably to an established constitution; and that what especially denominates it a republic is its dependence on the public or people at large, without any hereditary powers. But it is not of so much importance by what appellation the government is distinguished, as to have it well constituted to secure the rights, and advance the happiness of the community.
I fully agree with you, sir, that it is optional with the people of a state to establish any form of government they please; to vest the powers in one, a few, or many, and for a limited or unlimited time; and the individuals of the state will be bound to yield obedience to such government while it continues; but I am also of opinion, that they may alter their frame of government when they please, any former act of theirs, however explicit, to the contrary notwithstanding.
But what I principally have in view, is to submit to your consideration the reasons that have inclined me to think that the qualified negative given to the executive by our constitution is better than an absolute negative. In Great Britain, where there are the rights of the nobility as well as the rights of the common people to support, it may be necessary that the crown should have a complete negative to preserve the balance; but in a republic like ours, wherein is no higher rank than that of common citizens, unless distinguished by appointments to office, what occasion can there be for such a balance? It is true that some men in every society have natural and acquired abilities superior to others, and greater wealth. Yet these give them no legal claim to offices in preference to others, but will doubtless give them some degree of influence, and justly, when they are men of integrity; and may procure them appointments to places of trust in the government. Yet, they having only the same common rights with the other citizens, what competition of interests can there be to require a balance? Besides, while the real estates are divisible among all the children, or other kindred in equal degree, and entails are not admitted, it will operate as an agrarian law, and the influence arising from great estates in a few hands or families will not exist to such a degree of extent or duration as to form a system, or have any great effect.
In order to trace moral effects to their causes, and vice versa, it is necessary to attend to principles as they operate on men’s minds. Can it be expected that a chief magistrate of a free and enlightened people, on whom he depends for his election and continuance in office, would give his negative to a law passed by the other two branches of the legislature, if he had power? But the qualified negative given to the executive by our constitution, which is only to produce a revision, will probably be exercised on proper occasions; and the legislature have the benefit of the president’s reasons in their further deliberations on the subject, and if a sufficient number of the members of either house should be convinced by them to put a negative upon the bill, it would add weight to the president’s opinion, and render it more satisfactory to the people. But if two thirds of the members of each house, after considering the reasons offered by the President, should adhere to their former opinion, will not that be the most safe foundation to rest the decision upon? On the whole, it appears to me that the power of a complete negative, if given, would be a dormant and useless one, and that the provision in the constitution is calculated to operate with proper weight, and will produce beneficial effects.
The negative vested in the crown of Great Britain has never been exercised since the Revolution, and the great influence of the crown in the legislature of that nation is derived from another source, that of appointment to all offices of honor and profit, which has rendered the power of the crown nearly absolute; so that the nation is in fact governed by the cabinet council, who are the creatures of the crown. The consent of parliament is necessary to give sanction to their measures, and this they easily obtain by the influence aforesaid. If they should carry their points so far as directly to affect personal liberty or private property, the people would be alarmed and oppose their progress; but this forms no part of their system, the principal object of which is revenue, which they have carried to an enormous height. Wherever the chief magistrate may appoint to offices without control, his government may become absolute, or at least aggressive; therefore the concurrence of the senate is made requisite by our constitution.
I have not time or room to add or apologize.
I received your letter of the twentieth instant. I had in mine, of the same date, communicated to you my ideas on that part of the constitution, limiting the president’s power of negativing the acts of the legislature; and just hinted some thoughts on the propriety of the provision made for the appointment to offices, which I esteem to be a power nearly as important as legislation.
If that was vested in the president alone, he might, were it not for his periodical election by the people, render himself despotic. It was a saying of one of the kings of England, that while the king could appoint the bishops and judges, he might have what religion and law he pleased.
It appears to me the senate is the most important branch in the government, for aiding and supporting the executive, securing the rights of the individual states, the government of the United States, and the liberties of the people. The executive magistrate is to execute the laws. The senate, being a branch of the legislature, will naturally incline to have them duly executed, and, therefore, will advise to such appointments as will best attain that end. From the knowledge of the people in the several states, they can give the best information as to who are qualified for office; and though they will, as you justly observe, in some degree lessen his responsibility, yet their advice may enable him to make such judicious appointments, as to render responsibility less necessary. The senators being eligible by the legislatures of the several states, and dependent on them for reëlection, will be vigilant in supporting their rights against infringement by the legislature or executive of the United States; and the government of the Union being federal, and instituted by the several states for the advancement of their interests, they may be considered as so many pillars to support it, and, by the exercise of the state governments, peace and good order may be preserved in places most remote from the seat of the federal government, as well as at the centre. And the municipal and federal rights of the people at large will be regarded by the senate, they being elected by the immediate representatives of the people, and their rights will be best secured by a due execution of the laws. What temptation can the senate be under to partiality in the trial of officers of whom they had a voice in the appointment? Can they be disposed to favor a person who has violated his trust and their confidence?
The other evils you mention, that may result from this power, appear to me but barely possible. The senators will doubtless be in general some of the most respectable citizens in the states for wisdom and probity, superior to mean and unworthy conduct, and instead of undue influence, to procure appointments for themselves or their friends, they will consider that a fair and upright conduct will have the best tendency to preserve the confidence of the people and of the states. They will be disposed to be diffident in recommending their friends and kindred, lest they should be suspected of partiality; and the other members will feel the same kind of reluctance, lest they should be thought unduly to favor a person, because related to a member of their body; so that their friends and relations would not stand so good a chance for appointment to offices, according to their merit, as others.
The senate is a convenient body to advise the president, from the smallness of its numbers. And I think the laws would be better framed and more duly administered, if the executive and judiciary officers were in general members of the legislature, in case there should be no interference as to the time of attending to their several duties. This I have learned by experience in the government in which I live, and by observation of others differently constituted. I see no principles in our constitution that have any tendency to aristocracy, which, if I understand the term, is a government by nobles, independent of the people, which cannot take place, in either respect, without a total subversion of the constitution. As both branches of Congress are eligible from the citizens at large, and wealth is not a requisite qualification, both will commonly be composed of members of similar circumstances in life. And I see no reason why the several branches of the government should not maintain the most perfect harmony, their powers being all directed to one end, the advancement of the public good.
If the president alone was vested with the power of appointing all officers, and was left to select a council for himself, he would be liable to be deceived by flatterers and pretenders to patriotism, who would have no motive but their own emolument. They would wish to extend the powers of the executive to increase their own importance; and, however upright he might be in his intentions, there would be great danger of his being misled, even to the subversion of the constitution, or, at least, to introduce such evils as to interrupt the harmony of the government, and deprive him of the confidence of the people.
But I have said enough upon these speculative points, which nothing but experience can reduce to a certainty.
I am, with great respect,
Your obliged humble servant,
LETTERS TO JOHN TAYLOR, OF CAROLINE, VIRGINIA, IN REPLY TO HIS STRICTURES ON SOME PARTS OF THE DEFENCE OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONS.
The treatises on the principles of Government, written by Mr. Adams, appeared at a time of great popular agitation in Europe and the United States, and furnished ready materials for use in the political contentions of the day. They were immediately attacked in the American newspapers and in pamphlets, as intended to subvert, instead of sustaining the republican forms already established, and to introduce the English system of hereditary orders,—a monarch and a house of lords. Although there is no just foundation for this charge, yet there can be no doubt that the tendency of the reasoning was all of it calculated to resist the current setting at the moment with great force towards unlimited democracy. The French revolution first roused this power, nor did it seriously decline, until the popular excesses to which it led awakened the minds of men to a sense of the dangers of the one, not less than of the other extreme. The writings of Mr. Adams, which had been directed to the same end, were then tacitly admitted to have force in them, even by many whose feelings and sympathies led them to regret that it was not otherwise. The popular impression had been made, from his opposition to the new theory of liberty, that he favored the old one of absolutism, and it became fixed by the circumstances attending the struggle at the close of the century, in which Mr. Adams’s position identified him with the success or failure of that party in the country supposed to hold the only conservative opinions.
It was perfectly natural, that, in violent party times, the sentiments and the language of the author, seldom guardedly expressed, should be subjected to all sorts of perversion and misrepresentation. Though fully sensible of this, and keenly alive to it, it does not appear that he ever took any steps to correct the impressions sought to be produced in the public mind. It was not until the publication, in 1814, by John Taylor of Caroline, Virginia, of an elaborate volume of six hundred and fifty pages, entitled “An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States,” and containing a running Commentary upon the Defence, that he was roused to make any reply. Mr. Taylor had been in the senate at the time he presided over that body; had subsequently led the opposition in the Virginia House of Delegates to his administration, by moving the celebrated resolutions of 1798, drawn up by Mr. Madison; and had always shown himself a conscientious and manly, though an earnest opponent of his theories of government and system of policy. It was Mr. Taylor’s book, then, though he frankly admitted his own disbelief that anybody ever would read it through, that Mr. Adams selected as the medium of a general reply to the strictures which had been made upon his own. Mr. Taylor’s work, the result of the reflections of twenty years, is marked with the characteristics of the Virginia school to which he belonged; the tendency to metaphysical niceties of speculation, the absence of a broad, logical grasp of statesmanship, and the love for technical distinctions without the corrective of extensive generalization. Occasionally he deals forcibly with a single proposition; but his conclusions are seldom the logical sequence of his premises. Especially does he fail as a controversialist, from his loose manner of performing an obligation of the first necessity to an adversary, the full and fair exposition of each doctrine which he means to contest. That this error proceeds from no evil intention, is clear enough from the perfectly unexceptionable temper in which he conducts his cause. It seems rather to be attributed to a want of early moral and intellectual discipline, the only broad foundation of accuracy of reasoning in later life. This defect makes itself frequently apparent in his ascription to Mr. Adams of propositions which are rather the result of violent inference than of his language. The object of the reply seems to be to expose this, which it does with success.
These letters appear to have been sent to Mr. Taylor, as they were written. They were copied, not into the general letter-book, but upon separate sheets of paper and stitched together as one work. Either they terminated abruptly, or the copy was not completed. The former is the most probable, as the writer shows signs of fatigue towards the end. Evidently intended as his last explanations of his meaning in the most disputed portions of his system, they seem necessary to the completeness of the present collection, and are therefore inserted. At first blush, it would not seem difficult for any one to comprehend the distinction between the equality of mankind in natural and moral rights at the moment of birth, and the inequality of condition, apart from the agency of positive law, always developed, wherever any advanced form of civilization is attained, and in some regular proportion to the degree of advancement. There can be little doubt that this inequality of external condition is much more marked in the old states now than it was at the beginning of the Revolution, notwithstanding the general acknowledgment of the equality of natural rights which was procured through that struggle. Yet the reluctance to admit this distinction as sound seems to have been the cause of much of the misconception of the author’s meaning. It must be conceded that he shares, perhaps, too little, in that hopefulness in the rapid improvement of the human race which makes so striking and so agreeable a feature in the speculations of writers of the present age. He deals with the realities of life as he finds them depicted in history and in his own experience. Yet, it is to be observed, that the latest advocates of speculative democracy, assuming them to be what he describes them, seek refuge from them in the doctrines of socialism, the only resource which would seem to be left open. And it yet remains to be seen, how far these doctrines will recommend themselves to the judgment of the nations in the nineteenth century.
The relations between Mr. Taylor and the author seem rather to have become more intimate than to have relaxed by reason of this correspondence, until they terminated in the remarkable letter of the eighth of April, 1824, which will be found in its place in the general correspondence.
TO JOHN TAYLOR.
Quincy, 15 April, 1814.
I have received your Inquiry in a large volume neatly bound. Though I have not read it in course, yet, upon an application to it of the Sortes Virgiliancæ, scarce a page has been found in which my name is not mentioned, and some public sentiment or expression of mine examined. Revived as these subjects are, in this manner, in the recollection of the public, after an oblivion of so many years, by a gentleman of your high rank, ample fortune, learned education, and powerful connections, I flatter myself it will not be thought improper in me to solicit your attention to a few explanations and justifications of a book that has been misunderstood, misrepresented, and abused, more than any other, except the Bible, that I have ever read.
In the first words of the first section, you say, “Mr. Adams’s political system deduces government from a natural fate; the policy of the United States deduces it from moral liberty.”
This sentence, I must acknowledge, passes all my understanding. I know not what is meant by fate, nor what distinction there is, or may be made or conceived, between a natural and artificial, or unnatural fate. Nor do I well know what “moral liberty” signifies. I have read a great deal about the words fate and chance; but though I close my eyes to abstract my meditations, I never could conceive any idea of either. When an action or event happens or occurs without a cause, some say it happens by chance. This is equivalent to saying that chance is no cause at all; it is nothing. Fate, too, is no cause, no agent, no power; it has neither understanding, will, affections, liberty, nor choice; it has no existence; it is not even a figment of imagination; it is a mere invention of a word without a meaning; it is a nonentity; it is nothing. Mr. Adams most certainly never deduced any system from chance or fate, natural, artificial, or unnatural.
Liberty, according to my metaphysics, is an intellectual quality; an attribute that belongs not to fate nor chance. Neither possesses it, neither is capable of it. There is nothing moral or immoral in the idea of it. The definition of it is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power; it can elect between objects, indifferent in point of morality, neither morally good nor morally evil. If the substance in which this quality, attribute, adjective, call it what you will, exists, has a moral sense, a conscience, a moral faculty; if it can distinguish between moral good and moral evil, and has power to choose the former and refuse the latter, it can, if it will, choose the evil and reject the good, as we see in experience it very often does.
“Mr. Adams’s system,” and “the policy of the United States,” are drawn from the same sources, deduced from the same principles, wrought into the same frame; indeed, they are the same, and ought never to have been divided or separated; much less set in opposition to each other, as they have been.
That we may more clearly see how these hints apply, certain technical terms must be defined.
1. Despotism. A sovereignty unlimited, that is,—the suprema lex, the summa potestatis in one. This has rarely, if ever, existed but in theory.
2. Monarchy. Sovereignty in one, variously limited.
3. Aristocracy. Sovereignty in a few.
4. Democracy. Sovereignty in the many, that is, in the whole nation, the whole body, assemblage, congregation, or if you are an Episcopalian, you may call it, if you please, church, of the whole people. This sovereignty must, in all cases, be exerted or exercised by the whole people assembled together. This form of government has seldom, if ever, existed but in theory; as rarely, at least, as an unlimited despotism in one individual.
5. The infinite variety of mixed governments are all so many different combinations, modifications, and intermixtures of the second, third, and fourth species or divisions.
Now, every one of these sovereigns possesses intellectual liberty to act for the public good or not. Being men, they have all what Dr. Rush calls a moral faculty; Dr. Hutcheson, a moral sense; and the Bible and the generality of the world, a conscience. They are all, therefore, under moral obligations to do to others as they would have others do to them; to consider themselves born, authorized, empowered for the good of society as well as their own good. Despots, monarchs, aristocrats, democrats, holding such high trusts, are under the most solemn and the most sacred moral obligations, to consider their trusts and their power to be instituted for the benefit and happiness of their nations, not their nations as servants to them or their friends or parties. In other words, to exert all their intellectual liberty to employ all their faculties, talents, and power for the public, general, universal good of their nations, not for their own separate good, or the interest of any party.
In this point of view, there is no difference in forms of government. All of them, and all men concerned in them,—all are under equal moral obligations. The intellectual liberty of aristocracies and democracies can be exerted only by votes, and ascertained only by ayes and noes. The sovereign judgment and will can be determined, known, and declared, only by majorities. This will, this decision, is sometimes determined by a single vote; often by two or three; very rarely by a large majority; scarcely ever by a unanimous suffrage. And from the impossibility of keeping together at all times the same number of voters, the majorities are apt to waver from day to day, and swing like a pendulum from side to side.
Nevertheless, the minorities have, in all cases, the same intellectual liberty, and are under the same moral obligations as the majorities.
In what manner these theoretical, intellectual liberties have been exercised, and these moral obligations fulfilled, by despots, monarchs, aristocrats, and democrats, is obvious enough in history and in experience. They have all in general conducted themselves alike.
But this investigation is not at present before us.
It is unnecessary to discuss the nice distinctions, which follow in the first page of your respectable volume, between mind, body, and morals. The essence and substance of mind and body, of soul and body, of spirit and matter, are wholly withheld as yet from our knowledge; from the penetration of our sharpest faculties; from the keenest of our incision knives, the most amplifying of our microscopes. With some of the attributes or qualities of each and of both we are well acquainted. We cannot pretend to improve the essence of either, till we know it. Mr. Adams has never thought “of limiting the improvements or amelioration” of the properties or qualities of either. The definition of matter is,—a dead, inactive, inert substance. That of spirit is,—a living, active substance, sometimes, if not always, intelligent. Morals are no qualities of matter; nor, as far as we know, of simple spirit or simple intelligence. Morals are attributes of spirits only when those spirits are free as well as intelligent agents, and have consciences or a moral sense, a faculty of discrimination not only between right and wrong, but between good and evil, happiness and misery, pleasure and pain. This freedom of choice and action, united with conscience, necessarily implies a responsibility to a lawgiver and to a law, and has a necessary relation to right and wrong, to happiness and misery.
It is unnecessary for Mr. Adams to allow or disallow the distinctions in this first page to be applicable to his theory. But if he speaks of natural political systems, he certainly comprehends not only all the intellectual and physical powers and qualities of man, but all his moral powers and faculties, all his duties and obligations as a man and a citizen of this world, as well as of the state in which he lives, and every interest, thing, or concern that belongs to him, from his cradle to his grave. This comprehension of all the perfections and imperfections, all the powers and wants of man, is certainly not for the purpose of “circumscribing the powers of mind.” But it is to enlarge them, to give them free scope to run, expand, and be glorified.
If you should speak of a natural system of geography, would you not comprehend the whole globe, and even its relations to the sun, moon, and stars? of astronomy, all that the telescope has discovered? of chemistry or natural history, all that the microscope has found? of architecture, every thing that can make a building commodious, useful, elegant, graceful, and ornamental?
In the second page, Mr. Adams is totally misunderstood or misrepresented. He has never said, written, or thought, “that the human mind is able to circumscribe its own powers.” Nor has he ever asserted or believed that, “man can ascertain his own moral capacity.” Nor has he ever “deduced any consequences from such postulata, or erected any scheme of government” upon them or either of them.
If mankind have not “agreed upon any form of government,” does it follow that there is no natural form of government? and that all forms are equally natural? It might as well be contended that all are equally good, and that the constitution of the Ottoman Empire is as natural, as free, and as good, as that of the United States. If men have not agreed in any system of architecture, will you infer that there are no natural principles of that noble art? If some prefer the Gothic, and others the Grecian models, will you say that both are equally natural, convenient, and elegant? If some prefer the Doric, and others the Corinthian pillars, are the five orders equally beautiful? If “human nature has been perpetually escaping from all forms,” will it be inferred that all forms are equally natural? equal for the preservation of liberty?
There is no necessity of “confronting Mr. Adams’s opinion, that aristocracy is natural, and therefore unavoidable, with the other, that it is artificial or factitious, and therefore avoidable,” because the opinions are both true and perfectly consistent with each other.
By natural aristocracy, in general, may be understood those superiorities of influence in society which grow out of the constitution of human nature. By artificial aristocracy, those inequalities of weight and superiorities of influence which are created and established by civil laws. Terms must be defined before we can reason. By aristocracy, I understand all those men who can command, influence, or procure more than an average of votes; by an aristocrat, every man who can and will influence one man to vote besides himself. Few men will deny that there is a natural aristocracy of virtues and talents in every nation and in every party, in every city and village. Inequalities are a part of the natural history of man.
I believe that none but Helvetius will affirm, that all children are born with equal genius.
None will pretend, that all are born of dispositions exactly alike,—of equal weight; equal strength; equal length; equal delicacy of nerves; equal elasticity of muscles; equal complexions; equal figure, grace, or beauty.
I have seen, in the Hospital of Foundlings, the “Enfans Trouvés,” at Paris, fifty babes in one room;—all under four days old; all in cradles alike; all nursed and attended alike; all dressed alike; all equally neat. I went from one end to the other of the whole row, and attentively observed all their countenances. And I never saw a greater variety, or more striking inequalities, in the streets of Paris or London. Some had every sign of grief, sorrow, and despair; others had joy and gayety in their faces. Some were sinking in the arms of death; others looked as if they might live to fourscore. Some were as ugly and others as beautiful, as children or adults ever are; these were stupid; those sensible. These were all born to equal rights, but to very different fortunes; to very different success and influence in life.
The world would not contain the books, if one should produce all the examples that reading and experience would furnish. One or two permit me to hint.
Will any man say, would Helvetius say, that all men are born equal in strength? Was Hercules no stronger than his neighbors? How many nations, for how many ages, have been governed by his strength, and by the reputation and renown of it by his posterity? If you have lately read Hume, Robertson or the Scottish Chiefs, let me ask you, if Sir William Wallace was no more than equal in strength to the average of Scotchmen? and whether Wallace could have done what he did without that extraordinary strength?
Will Helvetius or Rousseau say that all men and women are born equal in beauty? Will any philosopher say, that beauty has no influence in human society? If he does, let him read the histories of Eve, Judith, Helen, the fair Gabrielle, Diana of Poitiers, Pompadour, Du Barry, Susanna, Abigail, Lady Hamilton, Mrs. Clark, and a million others. Are not despots, monarchs, aristocrats, and democrats, equally liable to be seduced by beauty to confer favors and influence suffrages?
Socrates calls beauty a short-lived tyranny; Plato, the privilege of nature; Theophrastus, a mute eloquence; Diogenes, the best letter of recommendation; Carneades, a queen without soldiers; Theocritus, a serpent covered with flowers; Bion, a good that does not belong to the possessor, because it is impossible to give ourselves beauty, or to preserve it. Madame du Barry expressed the philosophy of Carneades in more laconic language, when she said, “La véritable royauté, c’est la beauté,”—the genuine royalty is beauty. And she might have said with equal truth, that it is genuine aristocracy; for it has as much influence in one form of government as in any other; and produces aristocracy in the deepest democracy that ever was known or imagined, as infallibly as in any other form of government. What shall we say to all these philosophers, male and female? Is not beauty a privilege granted by nature, according to Plato and to truth, often more influential in society, and even upon laws and government, than stars, garters, crosses, eagles, golden fleeces, or any hereditary titles or other distinctions? The grave elders were not proof against the charms of Susanna. The Grecian sages wondered not at the Trojan war when they saw Helen. Holofernes’s guards, when they saw Judith, said, “one such woman let go would deceive the whole earth.”
Can you believe, Mr. Taylor, that the brother of such a sister, the father of such a daughter, the husband of such a wife, or even the gallant of such a mistress, would have but one vote in your moral republic? Ingenious,—but not historical, philosophical, or political,—learned, classical, poetical Barlow! I mourn over thy life and thy death. Had truth, instead of popularity and party, been thy object, your pamphlet on privileged orders would have been a very different thing!
That all men are born to equal rights is true. Every being has a right to his own, as clear, as moral, as sacred, as any other being has. This is as indubitable as a moral government in the universe. But to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence in society, to equal property and advantages through life, is as gross a fraud, as glaring an imposition on the credulity of the people, as ever was practised by monks, by Druids, by Brahmins, by priests of the immortal Lama, or by the self-styled philosophers of the French revolution. For honor’s sake, Mr. Taylor, for truth and virtue’s sake, let American philosophers and politicians despise it.
Mr. Adams leaves to Homer and Virgil, to Tacitus and Quintilian, to Mahomet and Calvin, to Edwards and Priestley, or, if you will, to Milton’s angels reasoning high in pandemonium, all their acute speculations about fate, destiny, foreknowledge absolute, necessity, and predestination. He thinks it problematical, whether there is, or ever will be, more than one Being capable of understanding this vast subject. In his principles of legislation, he has nothing to do with these interminable controversies. He considers men as free, moral, and accountable agents; and he takes men as God has made them. And will Mr. Taylor deny, that God has made some men deaf and some blind, or will he affirm that these will infallibly have as much influence in society, and be able to procure as many votes as any who can see and hear?
Honor the day, and believe me no enemy.
That aristocracies, both ancient and modern, have been “variable and artificial,” as well as natural and unchangeable, Mr. Adams knows as well as Mr. Taylor, and has never denied or doubted. That “they have all proceeded from moral causes,” is not so clear, since many of them appear to proceed from physical causes, many from immoral causes, many from pharisaical, jesuitical, and Machiavelian villany; many from sacerdotal and despotic fraud, and as many as all the rest, from democratical dupery, credulity, adulation, corruption, adoration, superstition, and enthusiasm. If all these cannot be regulated by political laws, and controlled, checked, or balanced by constitutional energies, I am willing Mr. Taylor should say of them what Bishop Burnet said of the hierarchy, or the severest things he can express or imagine.
That nature makes king-bees or queen-bees, I have heard and read. But I never read in any philosopher or political writer, as I remember, that nature makes state-kings and lords of state. Though even this, for aught I know, might be sometimes pretended. I have read of hereditary rights from Adam to Noah; and the divine right of nobility derived from the Dukes of Edom; but those divine rights did not make kings, till holy oil was poured upon their heads from the vial brought down from heaven in her beak, by the Holy Ghost in the person of a dove. If we consult books, Mr. Taylor, we shall find that nonsense, absurdity, and impiety are infinite. Whether “the policy of the United States” has been wisdom or folly, is not the question at present. But it is confidently asserted, without fear of contradiction, that every page and every line Mr. Adams has ever written, was intended to illustrate, to prove, to exhibit, and to demonstrate its wisdom.
The association of “Mr. Adams with Filmer” in the third page, may excite a smile! I give you full credit, Mr. Taylor, for the wit and shrewdness of this remark. It is droll and good-humored. But if ever policy was in diametrical opposition to Filmer, it is that of the United States. If ever writings were opposed to his principles, Mr. Adams’s are so opposed. They are as much so as those of Sidney or Locke.
Mr. Adams thanks Mr. Taylor for proposing in the third page to analyze and ascertain the ideas intended to be expressed by the word “aristocracy.” This is one of those words which have been abused. It has been employed to signify any thing, every thing, and nothing. Mr. Taylor has read Mr. Locke’s chapter “on the abuse of words,” which, though it contains nothing but what daily experience exhibits to all mankind, ought, nevertheless, if he had never written any thing else, to secure him immortal gratitude and renown. Without the learning of Luzac, Vanderkemp, Jefferson, or Parsons, Mr. Adams recollects enough of Greek, to remember that “aristocracy” originally signified “the government of the best men.”
But who are to be judges of the best men? Who is to make the selection of the best men from the second best? and the third? and the fourth? and so on ad infinitum? For good and bad are infinitely divisible, like matter. Ay! there’s the rub! Despots, monarchs, aristocrats, and democrats have, in all ages hit, at times, upon the best men, in the best sense of the word. But, at other times, and much more frequently, they have all chosen the very worst men; the men who have the most devotedly and the most slavishly flattered their vanity, gratified their most extravagant passions, and promoted their selfish and private views. Without searching volumes, Mr. Taylor, I will tell you in a few words what I mean by an aristocrat, and, consequently, what I mean by aristocracy. By an aristocrat, I mean every man who can command or influence two votes; one besides his own.
Take the first hundred men you meet in the streets of a city, or on a turnpike road in the country, and constitute them a democratical republic. In my next, you may have some conjectures of what will appear in your new democracy.
When your new democratical republic meets, you will find half a dozen men of independent fortunes; half a dozen, of more eloquence; half a dozen, with more learning; half a dozen, with eloquence, learning, and fortune.
Let me see. We have now four-and-twenty; to these we may add six more, who will have more art, cunning, and intrigue, than learning, eloquence, or fortune. These will infallibly soon unite with the twenty-four. Thus we make thirty. The remaining seventy are composed of farmers, shopkeepers, merchants, tradesmen, and laborers. Now, if each of these thirty can, by any means, influence one vote besides his own, the whole thirty can carry sixty votes,—a decided and uncontrolled majority of the hundred. These thirty I mean by aristocrats; and they will instantly convert your democracy of one hundred into an aristocracy of thirty.
Take at random, or select with your utmost prudence, one hundred of your most faithful and capable domestics from your own numerous plantations, and make them a democratical republic. You will immediately perceive the same inequalities, and the same democratical republic, in a very few of the first sessions, transformed into an aristocratical republic; as complete and perfect an aristocracy as the senate of Rome, and much more so. Some will be beloved and followed, others hated and avoided by their fellows.
It would be easy to quote Greek and Latin, to produce a hundred authorities to show the original signification of the word aristocracy and its infinite variations and application in the history of ages. But this would be all waste water. Once for all, I give you notice, that whenever I use the word aristocrat, I mean a citizen who can command or govern two votes or more in society, whether by his virtues, his talents, his learning, his loquacity, his taciturnity, his frankness, his reserve, his face, figure, eloquence, grace, air, attitude, movements, wealth, birth, art, address, intrigue, good fellowship, drunkenness, debauchery, fraud, perjury, violence, treachery, pyrrhonism, deism, or atheism; for by every one of these instruments have votes been obtained and will be obtained. You seem to think aristocracy consists altogether in artificial titles, tinsel decorations of stars, garters, ribbons, golden eagles and golden fleeces, crosses and roses and lilies, exclusive privileges, hereditary descents, established by kings or by positive laws of society. No such thing! Aristocracy was, from the beginning, now is, and ever will be, world without end, independent of all these artificial regulations, as really and as efficaciously as with them!
Let me say a word more. Your democratical republic picked in the streets, and your democratical African republic, or your domestic republic, call it which you will, in its first session, will become an aristocratical republic. In the second session it will become an oligarchical republic; because the seventy-four democrats and the twenty-six aristocrats will, by this time, discover that thirteen of the aristocrats can command four votes each; these thirteen will now command the majority, and, consequently, will be sovereign. The thirteen will then be an oligarchy. In the third session, it will be found that among these thirteen oligarchs there are seven, each of whom can command eight votes, equal in all to fifty-six, a decided majority. In the fourth session, it will be found that there are among these seven oligarchs four who can command thirteen votes apiece. The republic then becomes an oligarchy, whose sovereignty is in four individuals. In the fifth session, it will be discovered that two of the four can command six-and-twenty votes each. Then two will have the command of the sovereign oligarchy. In the sixth session, there will be a sharp contention between the two which shall have the command of the fifty-two votes. Here will commence the squabble of Danton and Robespierre, of Julius and Pompey, of Anthony and Augustus, of the white rose and the red rose, of Jefferson and Adams, of Burr and Jefferson, of Clinton and Madison, or, if you will, of Napoleon and Alexander.
This, my dear sir, is the history of mankind, past, present, and to come.
In the third page of your “Inquiry,” is an assertion which Mr. Adams has a right to regret, as a gross and egregious misrepresentation. He cannot believe it to have been intentional. He imputes it to haste; to ardor of temper; to defect of memory; to any thing rather than design. It is in these words,—“Mr. Adams asserts, ‘that every society naturally produces an order of men, which it is impossible to confine to an equality of rights.’ ” This pretended quotation, marked as it is by inverted commas, is totally and absolutely unfounded. No such expression ever fell from his lips; no such language was ever written by his pen; no such principle was ever approved or credited by his understanding, no such sentiment was ever felt without abhorrence in his heart. On the contrary, he has through life asserted the moral equality of all mankind. His system of government, which is the system of Massachusetts, as well as the system of the United States, which are the same as much as an original and a copy are the same, was calculated and framed for the express purpose of securing to all men equal laws and equal rights. Physical inequalities are proclaimed aloud by God Almighty through all his works. Mr. Adams must have been destitute of senses, not to have perceived them in men from their births to their deaths; and, at the same time, not to have perceived that they were incurable and inevitable, by human wisdom, goodness, or power. All that men can do, is to modify, organize, and arrange the powers of human society, that is to say, the physical strength and force of men, in the best manner to protect, secure, and cherish the moral, which are all the natural rights of mankind.
The French are very fond of the phrase “social order.” The English commonly hear it, or read it with a broad grin. I am not Englishman enough to join in this ridicule. A “social order” there must be, unless we would return to the forests, and assert individual independence in a more absolute sense than Tartars or Arabs, African negroes, or North American Indians, or Samoyedes, or Hottentots have ever conceived.
A beggar said at my father’s house, full seventy years ago, “The world is very unequally divided. But I do not wonder at it, nor think much of it. Because I know, that if it were equally divided to-day, in one month there would be as great odds as ever.” The beggar’s proverb contained as certain and as important truths as any that was ever uttered by the wise men of Greece.
Will Mr. Taylor profess himself a downright leveller? Will he vote for a community of property? or an equal division of property? and a community of wives and women? He must introduce and establish both, before he can reduce all men to an equality of influence. It is, indeed, questionable, whether such laws would not produce greater inequalities than ever were seen in the world. These are not new projects, Mr. Taylor. They are not original inventions, or discoveries of philosophers of the eighteenth century. They were as familiar to Plato as they were to Helvetius or Condorcet. If I were a young man, I should like to write a romance, and send a hero upon his travels through such a levelling community of wives and wealth. It would be very edifying to record his observations on the opinions, principles, customs, institutions, and manners of this democratical republic and such a virtuous and happy age. But a gentleman whose mind is so active, studious, and contemplative as Mr. Taylor’s, must easily foresee, that some men must take care of the property of others, or it must perish with its owners; and that some men would have as many wives as Solomon, and others none at all.
See, what is no uncommon sight, a family of six sons. Four of them are prudent, discreet, frugal, and industrious men; the other two are idle and profligate. The father leaves equal portions of his estate to all the six. How long will it be before the two will request the four to purchase their shares? and how long before the purchase money will be spent in sports, gambled away at races, or cards, or dice, or billiards, or dissipated at taverns or worse houses? When the two are thus reduced to beggars, will they have as much influence in society as any one of the four?
Suppose another case, which is not without examples,—a family of six daughters. Four of them are not only beautiful, but serious and discreet women. Two of them are not only ugly, but ill tempered and immodest. Will either of the two have an equal chance with any one of the four to attract the attention of a suitor, and obtain a husband of worth, respectability, and consideration in the world?
Such, and many other natural and acquired and habitual inequalities are visible, and palpable, and audible, every day, in every village, and in every family, in the whole world. The imagination, therefore, of a government, of a democratical republic, in which every man and every woman shall have an equal weight in society, is a chimera. They have all equal rights; but cannot, and ought not to have equal power.
Unhappily, the cases before stated are too often reversed, and four or five out of six sons, are unwise, and only one or two praiseworthy; and four or five out of six daughters, are mere triflers, and only one or two whose “price is above rubies.” And may I not ask, whether there are no instances, in which the whole of six sons and daughters are found wanting; and instead of maintaining their single vote, and their independence, become all dependent on others? Nay, there are examples of whole families wasted and totally lost by vice and folly. Can these, while any of them existed, have maintained an equality of consideration in Society, with other families of equal numbers, but of virtuous and considerate characters?
Matrimony, then, Mr. Taylor, I have a right to consider as another source of natural aristocracy.
Will you give me leave to ask you, Mr. Taylor, why you employ the phrase, “political power” in this third page, instead of sovereign power,—the summa potestatis, the supreme power, the legislative power, the power from which there is no appeal, but to Heaven, and the ratio ultima regum et rerum-publicarum? This language would be understood by readers, by scientific people, and by the vulgar. But “political power” is so indefinite, that it belongs to every man who has a vote, and every woman who has a charm. What, Mr. Taylor, is the resemblance of a president or a governor to a monarch? It is the resemblance of Mount Vernon to the Andes; of the Tiber at Washington to the Ganges or Mississippi. A president has the executive power only, and that under severe restrictions, jealous restrictions; and as I am too old to court popularity, I will venture to say, in my opinion, very pernicious restrictions; restrictions that will destroy this constitution before its time. A president has no legislative power; a monarch has it all.
What resemblance has an American senate to a hereditary order? It has a negative upon the laws. In this, it resembles the house of lords in England; but in nothing else. It has no resemblance to any hereditary order. It has no resemblance even to the hereditary descent of lands, tenements, and hereditaments. There is nothing hereditary in it.
And here, Mr. Taylor, permit me to ask you, whether the descent of lands and goods and chattels does not constitute a hereditary order as decidedly as the descent of stars and garters? I will be still bolder. Has not this law of descents constituted the Honorable John Randolph one of a hereditary order, for a time, as clearly as any Montmorenci or Howard, any Julius, any of the Heraclides, or any of the blood of Mahomet, or any of his connections by marriage?
You must allow me twenty years to answer a book that cost you twenty years of meditation to compose.
You must allow me also to ask you a question still nearer home. You had the honor and felicity to marry the only child of my honest and sincere friend, the Honorable John Penn, of North Carolina. From this marriage, you derived, with an amiable consort, a handsome fortune.
If you complain that this is personal, I confess it, and intend it should be personal, that it might be more striking to you, and to all others who may ever see or hear of our controversy. In return, I give you full leave to ask me any questions relative to myself, my ancestors, my posterity, my natural or political friends. I will answer every question you can ask with the same frankness, candor, and sincerity.
I will be bolder still, Mr. Taylor. Would Washington have ever been commander of the revolutionary army or president of the United States, if he had not married the rich widow of Mr. Custis? Would Jefferson ever have been president of the United States if he had not married the daughter of Mr. Wales?
I am weary and so are you. Ceremonies avaunt.
What shall I say of the “resemblance of our house of representatives to a legislating nation?” It is perhaps a miniature which resembles the original as much as a larger picture would or could. But, sir, let me say, once for all, that as no picture, great or small, no statue, no bust in brass or marble, gold or silver, ever yet perfectly resembled the original, so no representative government ever perfectly represented or resembled the original nation or people.
Is not representation an essential and fundamental departure from democracy? Is not every representative government in the universe an aristocracy? Call it despotism; call it oligarchy; call it aristocracy; call it democracy; call it a mixture ever so complicated; still is it not an aristocracy, in the strictest sense of the word, according to any rational definition of it that can be given? that is, a government of a few, who have the command of two votes, or more than two, over the many, who have only one?
Representation and democracy are a contradiction in terms. Pursue your principles, then, sir; demolish all aristocratical and representative government; divide our continent from St. Croix to Mississippi, into districts not of geographical miles, yards, or feet, but of voters of one hundred men in each. I will not stay to make a mathematical calculation; but put a certain for an uncertain number. Suppose the number of free, sovereign, independent democracies to be eighty thousand. In these assemblies, all questions of war and peace, commerce, &c. &c. &c. are to be discussed and decided. And when and how, and what would be the national result?
I dare not comment upon your book, sir, without quoting your words. You say, in this third page,—
“Upon this threefold resemblance Mr. Adams has seized, to bring the political system of America within the pale of the English system of checks and balances, by following the analysis of antiquity; and, in obedience to that authority, by modifying our temporary, elective, responsible governors, into monarchs; our senates into aristocratical orders; and our representatives into a nation personally exercising the functions of government.”
I fear I shall fatigue you with my observations. But it is of no great importance, since this correspondence is intended for your amusement and mine. You are not obliged to read my letters any longer than they amuse you; and I am confident that if my letters were printed, there would not be found six people in the world who would read them with attention. We will then amuse ourselves a little with a few of my remarks.
1. Mr. Adams has seized “upon a threefold resemblance,” to “bring the political system of America within the pale of the English system.” Figurative language is as dangerous in legislation and jurisprudence as in mathematics. This word pale is a figure, a metaphor, an emblem, a hieroglyphic. What is a pale? A slice of wood sunk in the ground at one end, to inclose a plat. Here is another figure. A pale, or “the pale,” is used to express many pales; enough in number and measure to inclose a very spacious plat,—“the English system of checks and balances.” Now, sir, have I brought the system of America within the pale of the English system? What, indeed, had I to do with “the system of America?” America, when my three volumes were printed, had no system but the old confederation. My volumes had nothing in view but the state governments; and, in strict truth, nothing in view, but the state constitution of Massachusetts,—a child, of which I was, right or wrong, the putative father. How, then, is the system of America brought within the English system? In the English system, the executive power is universal, unlimited in all affairs, foreign and domestic, and hereditary to all generations. In the system of America, the executive power is limited, shackled in most matters, foreign and domestic, and so far from being hereditary, it is limited to four years. The cereus, once in its life, blooms at midnight, and for one, two, three, or four hours, glows, with transcendent splendor, then fades and dies. A poet might bring this flower within the pale of the sun, which shines with equal glory through all ages, seen or unseen by the little animals whose sight is often obscured by clouds, fogs, and vapors, or within the pale of American policy.
2. “By following the analysis of antiquity.” What is this analysis of antiquity? The one, the few, and the many. And why is this called the “analysis of antiquity,” rather than the analysis of modernity? Is there a nation, at this hour of this sixteenth day of June, 1814, on this globe, in which this analysis is not as obvious and undeniable as it ever was in any age or any nation of antiquity? Is there a state in this union, is there a district, a parish, a party, a faction, a sedition, a rebellion, in the world, in which this analysis is not glaring? Should you detect a conspiracy among your domestics, which I hope you will, if it should exist, while I devoutly pray it may never exist, you would find this analysis in its perfection. A one, a few, and a many.
Why, then, sir, do you throw all the odium of this eternal, unchangeable truth upon poor “antiquity?” An ancient might say to a modern, as Nathan said unto David, Thou art the man.
3. “And in obedience to that authority!” What authority? “The authority of antiquity!” And why not the authority of St. Domingo? of the Spanish colonies in America? of the British colonies in America before and since the revolution? of the French revolution and counter-revolutions, from Marat and Robespierre, nay, from Rochefoucauld, Condorcet, and Turgot, to Bonaparte, Talleyrand, and Sieyes, in the last scene of the last act of the tragedy? And why not the authority of every tribe of Indians in America? every nation or tribe of negroes in Africa? Why not in every horde of Arabs, Tartars, Hottentots, Icelanders, Samoyedes, or Kamtschatkans? These are all among my authorities, as well as all antiquity over the whole globe, where men have existed. These authorities are modern enough, and ancient enough, to prove the analysis of the one, the three, and the many, to be universal, and proceeding from natural causes. Which of these authorities, sir, will you deny, contradict, or explain away?
Observation fourth. “By modifying our temporary, elective, responsible governors into monarchs.” How have I modified our governors into monarchs? My three volumes were written in defence of the constitution of Massachusetts, against a rude and insolent attack of M. Turgot. This constitution, which existed in my handwriting, made the governor annually elective, gave him the executive power, shackled with a council, that I now wish was annihilated, and made him as responsible as any executive power in the United States, or any one of the separate states is to this day. How then are my annual governors modified into hereditary monarchs? my annual elective governors, limited and shackled, even in the exercise of the executive authority, and responsible for all things, modified into hereditary monarchs, possessed of unlimited legislative and executive power, or even only of unlimited executive power, and responsible for nothing?
Observation fifth. By modifying “our senates into aristocratical orders.” What is meant by “our senates?” My books had not in contemplation any senate of the United States; for no such senate existed, or was expected by me. M. Turgot’s attack was, in reality, on the senate of Massachusetts. That senate was annually elective; had no executive power, positive or negative; was merely an independent branch of the legislative power. How, then, did Mr. Adams modify “our senates into aristocratical orders?” What is the meaning, the definition, the analysis of “aristocratical orders?” My anomalistical friend, and friend of mankind, Horne Tooke, has said, “mankind are not sufficiently aware that words without meaning, or of equivocal meaning, are the everlasting engines of fraud and injustice.” This wise saying of my learned friend, is no more than every attentive, thinking, and reflecting mind sees, feels, and laments every day. Yet “mankind are not sufficiently aware.” You will charge me here with an aristocratical distinction; with erecting an aristocratical order of thinking men, in contradiction to the democratical order of unthinking men. Well! is there not such a distinction in nature? Are not some children thoughtful and others thoughtless from their earliest years? Among the thoughtful, indeed, there is a distinction. Some think for good and others for evil; and this distinction is manifest through life, and shows itself in all the prosperities and all the adversities of human life. Recollect the history of our own dear country for the last fifty years, and the principal, prominent characters in our political drama, and then tell me whether there has not been a very glaring distinction between thoughtful and thoughtless characters, both good and evil! Our governors resemble monarchs in nothing, but in holding, for short periods, the executive power of the laws, under shackles and trammels, that destroy the efficacy of the constitution. Our senates resemble “aristocratical orders” in nothing, but holding for short periods a negative upon the laws, with the addition of a participation in the executive power, in some instances, which mixes the legislative and executive power together, in such a manner as to destroy the efficacy of the constitution. Our national representatives have no more nor less power, that I recollect, than they ought to have.
“Whether the terms ‘monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy,’ or the one, the few, and the many, are only numerical; or characteristic, like the calyx, petal, and stamina of plants; or complicated, with the idea of a balance; they have never yet, singly or collectively, been used to describe a government deduced from good moral principles.”
Linnæus is upon my shelf, very near me, but I will not take him down to consult him about calyx, petal, and stamina, because we are not now upon gardening, agriculture, or natural history. Politics and legislation are our present subjects.
I have no clear idea of your distinction between “numerical and characteristic.” You say, if I understand you, that no simple or mixed or balanced form of government has ever yet singly or collectively been used to describe a government deduced from good moral principles.
What government, then, ever was deduced from good moral principles? Certainly none. For simple, or mixed, or complicated with a balance, surely comprehend every species of government that ever had a being, or that ever will exist. Because imagination cannot conceive of any government besides those of the one, the few, or the many, or such as are compounded of them, whether complicated with the idea of a balance or not. The whole is equal to all its parts, and all the parts are equal to the whole. In a right-angled triangle, the hypothenuse and the two legs comprehend the whole diagram.
Again, how are the United States distinguished from all other governments, or from any other government? What are the good moral principles from which the governments of the United States are deduced, which are not common to many other governments? In all that great number and variety of constitutions which the last twenty-five years have produced in France, in Holland, in Geneva, in Spain, we find the most excellent moral principles, precepts, and maxims, and all of them complicated with the idea of a balance. We make ourselves popular, Mr. Taylor, by telling our fellow-citizens that we have made discoveries, conceived inventions, and made improvements. We may boast that we are the chosen people; we may even thank God that we are not like other men; but, after all, it will be but flattery, and the delusion, the self-deceit of the Pharisee.
Is not the constitution of the United States “complicated with the idea of a balance?” Is there a constitution upon record more complicated with balances than ours? In the first place, eighteen states and some territories are balanced against the national government, whether judiciously or injudiciously, I will not presume at present to conjecture. We have seen some effects of it in some of the middle and some of the southern and western states, under the two first administrations; and we now behold some similar effects of it under the two last. Some genius more prompt and fertile than mine, may infer from a little what a great deal means. In the second place, the house of representatives is balanced against the senate, and the senate against the house. In the third place, the executive authority is, in some degree, balanced against the legislative. In the fourth place, the judiciary power is balanced against the house, the senate, the executive power, and the state governments. In the fifth place, the senate is balanced against the president in all appointments to office, and in all treaties. This, in my opinion, is not merely a useless, but a very pernicious balance. In the sixth place, the people hold in their own hands the balance against their own representatives, by biennial, which I wish had been annual elections. In the seventh place, the legislatures of the several states are balanced against the senate by sextennial elections. In the eighth place, the electors are balanced against the people in the choice of the president. And here is a complication and refinement of balances, which, for any thing I recollect, is an invention of our own, and peculiar to us.
The state legislatures can direct the choice of electors by the people at large, or by the people in what districts they please, or by themselves, without consulting the people at all. However, all this complication of machinery, all these wheels within wheels, these imperia within imperiis have not been sufficient to satisfy the people. They have invented a balance to all balances in their caucuses. We have congressional caucuses, state caucuses, county caucuses, city caucuses, district caucuses, town caucuses, parish caucuses, and Sunday caucuses at church doors; and in these aristocratical caucuses elections are decided.
Do you not tremble, Mr. Taylor, with fear, that another balance to all these balances, an over balance of all “moral liberty,” and to every moral principle and feeling, may soon be invented and introduced; I mean the balance of corruption? Corruption! Be not surprised, sir. If the spirit of party is corruption, have we not seen much of it already? If the spirit of faction is corruption, have we seen none of that evil spirit? If the spirit of banking is corruption, as you have uniformly proclaimed it to be, ever since I had the honor of your acquaintance, and as your “Arator” and your “Inquiry” everywhere sufficiently demonstrate, have you ever heard or read of any country in which this spirit prevailed to a greater degree than in this? Are you informed of any aristocratical institution by which the property of the many is more manifestly sacrificed to the profit of the few?
Are all these impure spirits “deduced from moral liberty,” or are any of them reconcilable to moral principle?
In your fourth page, you “are unable to discover in our form of government any resemblance of monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, as defined by ancient writers, and by Mr. Adams himself.”
As these words are technical terms, whose meaning is as well defined, both by ancients and moderns, as the words point, line, surface, or solid, in geometry, I shall not turn over volumes to quote authorities in a question of so easy a solution. To avoid misrepresentation, however, I shall explicitly premise that all intelligence, all power, all force, all authority, originally, inherently, necessarily, inseparably, and inalienably resides in the people.
In the language of civilians, the summa potestatis, the supreme, sovereign, absolute, and uncontrollable power, is placed by God and nature in the people, and they never can divest themselves of it. All this was truth, before the people themselves, by their own sagacity, or their moral sentiments, or, if you had rather say, by their own simplicity, credulity, and imbecility, began to distinguish the one and the few from their own average and level. For you may depend upon it, the people themselves, by their own observation and experience and feelings, their own sensations and reflections, made these distinctions before kingcraft, priestcraft, or noblecraft had any thing to do with them.
An inevitable consequence of this great truth is another, namely,—that all government, except the simplest and most perfect democracy, is representative government. The simplest despotism, monarchy, or aristocracy, and all the most complicated mixtures of them that ever existed or can be imagined, are mere representatives of the people, and can exist no longer than the people will to support them.
À bas le tyran, à bas le gouvernement, bon ou mauvais,—good, bad, or indifferent, whenever the people decree and proclaim its downfall, it falls.
Is this explicit concession democratical enough? I beg your pardon. I had forgotten for a moment that you do not allow “democracy to be deduced from moral liberty.” Let me vary my question then. Do you admit those two great truths to be consistent with “moral liberty” and “the constitution of the United States?”
But to return, and approach the question, if peradventure we can find it. Scientific definitions are commonly in the abstract merely ideal and intellectual and theoretical. For example,—“point has no parts;” “a line is longitude without latitude;” “a superficies is length and breadth without thickness;” yet, in practice, we can neither see nor feel these points, lines, or surfaces. Thus monarchy is defined to be “a sovereignty in one,” that is to say, all the rights, powers, and authorities of a whole nation, committed in trust to a single man, without limitation or restriction. Aristocracy, the same ample and unlimited power, vested in a small number of men. Democracy reserves all these rights, prerogatives, and privileges to the whole nation, and every act of its volition must be determined by a vote.
Now it is manifest, that no such simple government as either of these, ever existed in any nation; no, nor in any city, town, village, nor scarcely in any private social club. To say, then, that a mixed, balanced government can be formed of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, in this sense of the words, would be as absurd, as for a Hindoo to say, that the best government would be that of three omniscient and almighty Brahmins, mixed or commixed together and reciprocally balancing each other. Thus far, for what I know, we may be pretty well agreed. But when you say, that, “in our form of government,” no resemblance can be discovered of monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, I beg leave to differ from you.
The Prince of Orange, William V., in a conversation with which he honored me in 1788, was pleased to say, that “he had read our new constitution,” and he added, “Monsieur, vous allez avoir un roi, sous le titre de président,” which may be translated, “Sir, you have given yourselves a king, under the title of president.”
Turgot, Rochefoucauld and Condorcet, Brissot and Robespierre and Mazzei were all offended, that we had given too much eclat to our governors and presidents. It is true, and I rejoice in it, that our presidents, limited as they are, have more power, that is, more executive power, than the stadtholders, the doges, the podestàs, the avoyers, or the archons, or the kings of Lacedæmon or of Poland. To be brief, the general sense of mankind differs from you in opinion, and clearly sees, and fully believes, that our president’s office has “some resemblance of monarchy,” and God forbid that it should ever be diminished.
All these monarchical powers, however, “are deduced” in your judgment, “from moral liberty.” I agree that they are “deduced” from morality and liberty; but if they had been more deliberately considered and better digested, the morality and liberty would have been better secured, and of longer duration, if the senatorial limitation of them had been omitted.
In my next, we will see if we can discover any resemblance of aristocracy in our form of government.
You “are unable to discover in our form of government any resemblance of aristocracy.”
As every branch of executive authority committed or intrusted exclusively to one, resembles and is properly called a monarchical power, and a government, in proportion as its powers, legislative or executive, are lodged in one, resembles monarchy, so whatever authority or power of making or executing laws is exclusively vested in a few is properly called aristocratical; and a government, in proportion as it is constituted with such powers, resembles aristocracy.
Now, sir, let me ask you, whether you can discover no “resemblance of aristocracy in our form of government?” Are not great, very great, important, and essential powers intrusted to a few, a very few? Thirty-four senators, composed of two senators from each state, are an integral part of the legislature, which is the representative sovereignty of seven or eight millions of the people in the United States. These thirty-four men possess an absolute negative on all the laws of the nation. Nor is this all. These few, these very few, thirty-four citizens only in seven or eight millions, have an absolute negative upon the executive authority in the appointment of all officers in the diplomacy, in the navy, the army, the customs, excises, and revenues. They have, moreover, an absolute negative on all treaties with foreign powers, even with the aboriginal Indians. They are also an absolute judicature in all impeachments, even of the judges. Such are the powers in legislation, in execution, and in judicature, which in our form of government are committed to thirty-four men.
If in all these mighty powers and “exclusive privileges” you can “discover no resemblance of aristocracy,” when and where did any resemblance of aristocracy exist? The Trigintivirs of Athens and the Decemvirs of Rome, I acknowledge, “resembled aristocracy” still more. But the lords of parliament in England do not resemble it so much. Nor did the nobility in Prussia, Germany, Russia, France, or Spain, possess such powers. The Palatines in Poland indeed!
How are these thirty-four senators appointed? Are they appointed by the people? Is the constitution of them democratical? They are chosen by the legislatures of the several states. And who are the legislatures of these separate states? Are they the people? No. They are a selection of the best men among the people, made by the people themselves. That is, they are the very ἄϱιστοι of the Greeks. Yet there is something more. These legislatures are composed of two bodies, a senate and a house of representatives, each assembly differently constituted, the senate more nearly “resembling aristocracy” than the house. Senators of the United States are chosen, in some states, by a convention of both houses; in others, by separate, independent, but concurrent votes. The senates in the former have great influence, and often turn the vote; in the latter, they have an absolute negative in the choice.
Here are refinements upon refinements of “resemblances of aristocracy,” a complication of checks and balances, evidently extended beyond any constitution of government that I can at present recollect. Whether an exact balance has been hit, or whether an exact balance will ever be hit, are different questions. But in this I am clear, that the nearer we approach to an exact balance, the nearer we shall approach to “moral liberty,” if I understand the phrase.
We have agreed to be civil and free. In my number thirteen, I will very modestly hint to you my humble opinion of the point where your principal mistake lies.
In my last, I ventured to say, that I would hint in this at a principal misconception that had misled you or me. I shall submit the question to yourself and to the world, if you or I please, to be decided between us with candor.
You appear to me, in all your writings, to consider hereditary descent as essential to monarchy and aristocracy. When you mention monarchy, monarch, or king, you seem to understand an office and an officer, unlimited in authority, power, and duration. But is this correct in speculation or in language? Everybody knows that the word monarchy has its etymology in the Greek words μόνος and ἄϱχη, and signifies single rule or authority in one. This authority may be limited or unlimited, of temporary or perpetual duration. It may be hereditary, or it may be for life, or it may be for years or only for one year, or for months or for one month, or for days or only for one day. Nevertheless, as far as it extends, and as long as it lasts, it may be called a monarchical authority with great propriety, by any man who is not afraid of a popular clamor and a scurrilous abuse of words. Monarchy, in this view of it, resembles property. A landed estate may be for years, a year, a half a year; or it may be for life, or for two, or three, or any number of lives; or it may be an inheritance to him, his heirs and assigns forever and ever. An estate in an office may be given by law for years, for life, or forever, as well as an estate in land. You or I may possess our houses for years, for life, or in tail, or in fee simple. And where is our title, our security for the possession of our firesides, but in the laws of society? And these laws of society have secured, and will secure to monarchs, to aristocrats, and to democrats such as you and I are, their estates in their offices, as well as in their houses, their lands, or their horses, in the same manner as they protect us asleep in our beds, or when at supper with our families. Mr. Madison has as clear a title to his estate in his office of president for four years, as you have to Hazelwood, to yourself, your heirs, and assigns forever, and by the same laws. Marshall has as good a right as either to his estate for life in his office of chief justice of the United States.
The Romans often conferred on the consuls, in very delicate terms, unlimited power to take care that the republic should suffer no injury. They conferred on Cincinnatus, on Sylla, and on Cæsar, the office of dictator, and the same power on many others, some for limited periods, some without limitation, and on Cæsar I believe for perpetuity. Were not the senates in such cases aristocrats or rather oligarchs for their several periods? Were not the dictators monarchs, some for years, some for life? Were they not made by law, in the strictest sense, monarchs, or if you will, despots? What were the kings of Crete or of Sparta? Monarchs, indeed, but how limited, though hereditary! What were the kings of Poland? How limited, and yet for life!
From these hints, I think it is clear, that the idea of hereditary descent is not an essential ingredient in the definition of monarchy or aristocracy; and that to employ those words in all cases, or in any case, as implying hereditary descent, is an abuse of words, and an imposition on vulgar popularity.
I know not how, when, or where, you discovered that Mr. Adams “supposed that monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, or mixtures of them, constituted all the elements of government.” This language is not mine. There is but one element of government, and that is, the people. From this element spring all governments. “For a nation to be free, it is only necessary that she wills it.” For a nation to be slave, it is only necessary that she wills it. The governments of Hindostan and China, of Caffraria and Kamtschatka, the empires of Alexander the Macedonian, of Zingis Khan and Napoleon, of Tecumseh and Nimrod Hughes, all have grown out of this element,—the people. This fertile element, however, has never yet produced any other government than monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, and mixtures of them. And pray tell me how it can produce any other?
You say by “moral liberty.” Will you be so good as to give me a logical, mathematical, or moral, or any other definition of this phrase, “moral liberty;” and to tell me who is to exercise this “liberty;” and by what principle or system of morality it is to be exercised? Is not this liberty and morality to reside in the great and universal element, “the people?” Have they not always resided there? And will they not always reside there?
This moral liberty resides in Hindoos and Mahometans, as well as in Christians; in Cappadocian monarchists, as well as in Athenian democrats; in Shaking Quakers, as well as in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian clergy; in Tartars and Arabs, Negroes and Indians, as well as in the people of the United States of America.
In your fourth page, you give us your opinion, that the moral “efforts of mankind towards political improvement have been restrained and disappointed by the erroneous opinion, that monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, or mixtures of them, constitute all the elements of government.” And you proceed to state, that “it will be an effort of your essay to prove, that the United States have refuted the ancient maxim, that monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, are the only elements of government.”
This phraseology is by no means familiar to me. I know not any writer or speaker who has asserted such a doctrine, or advanced such a maxim. The words monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy are technical terms, invented by learned men, to express three different species of government. So they have invented many others,—oligarchy, ochlocracy, mobocracy, anarchy, jacobinism, sans culottism, federalism, republicanism, quiddism, or gunarkism. Any one of these hard words may be called an element of government, with as much propriety as any other.
The word “element,” as you employ it here, is a figure of rhetoric. Can you give—I acknowledge I have not ingenuity enough to invent—a logical or mathematical definition of it?
By “elements,” do you mean principles? If principles—physical or moral? If physical—I know of no physical principle of government but the bones and sinews, the timbers and ropes of the human body; that is, the mere strength, force, and power of constables, sheriffs, posse comitatus, armies and navies, soldiers and sailors. These elements or principles are applied in all the species of government that have been named, and must be the last resort of all that can be named or conceived. These elements or principles are not peculiar to the United States.
By “elements,” do you mean moral principles? If so, I know but one principle or element of government, and that is, “Constans et perpetua voluntas jus suum cuique tribuendi,” that is, a constant and perpetual disposition and determination to render to every one his right; or, in other words, a constant and perpetual disposition and determination to do to others as we would have others do to us. This is a perfect principle, applicable at all times, in all places, among all persons, in all circumstances. Justice, therefore, is the only moral principle or element of government. But how shall justice be done in human society? It can be done only by general laws. These can never comprehend or foresee all the circumstances attending every particular case; and, therefore, it has been found necessary to introduce another principle or element, mercy. In strictness, perfect justice includes mercy, and perfect mercy includes justice. Both together make but one principle or moral element of government. Have you read, heard, or discovered any other moral principle or element of the government of God, angels, or men, than justice and benevolence united?
This principle has been professed by all governments, and all governors, throughout all time and space, with which we are acquainted. By King Theodore and the Emperor Napoleon, by the Prince Regent and Tecumseh.
How then is the government of the United States “planted in moral principles” more than other governments?
That we have conformed our practice to our principles as well, or better, upon the whole, than the majority, or, if you will, than any other nation hitherto, I will not dispute; because the question, decide it as you will, makes no alteration in the argument.
In this fourth page you say, that “Mr. Adams’s system tells us that the art of government can never change.” I have said no such thing, Mr. Taylor! I know the art of government has changed, and probably will change, as often as the arts of architecture, painting, sculpture, music, poetry, agriculture, horticulture, medicine; and that is to say, almost as often as the weather or the fashion in dress.
But all these arts are founded in certain general principles of nature, which have never been known to change; and it is the duty of philosophers, legislators, and artists to study these principles; and the nearer they approach to them, the greater perfection will they attain in their arts. There may be principles in nature, not yet observed, that will improve all these arts; and nothing hinders any man from making experiments and pursuing researches, to investigate such principles and make such improvements. But America has made no discoveries of principles of government that have not been long known. Morality and liberty, and “moral liberty,” too, whatever it may mean, have been known from the creation. Cain knew it when he killed Abel, and knew that he violated it.
You say, sir, that I have gravely counted up several victims “of popular rage, as proofs that democracy is more pernicious than monarchy or aristocracy.” This is not my doctrine, Mr. Taylor. My opinion is, and always has been, that absolute power intoxicates alike despots, monarchs, aristocrats, and democrats, and jacobins, and sans culottes. I cannot say that democracy has been more pernicious, on the whole, than any of the others. Its atrocities have been more transient; those of the others have been more permanent. The history of all ages shows that the caprice, cruelties, and horrors of democracy have soon disgusted, alarmed, and terrified themselves. They soon cry, “this will not do; we have gone too far! We are all in the wrong! We are none of us safe! We must unite in some clever fellow, who can protect us all,—Cæsar, Bonaparte, who you will! Though we distrust, hate, and abhor them all; yet we must submit to one or another of them, stand by him, cry him up to the skies, and swear that he is the greatest, best, and finest man that ever lived!”
It has been my fortune, good or bad, to live in Europe ten years, from 1778 to 1788, in a public character. This destiny, singular in America, forced upon my attention the course of events in France, Holland, Geneva, and Switzerland, among many other nations; and this has irresistibly attracted my thoughts more than has been for my interest. The subject cannot have escaped you. What has been the conduct of the democratic parties in all those nations? How horribly bloody in some! Has it been steady, consistent, uniform, in any? Has it not leaped from democracy to aristocracy, to oligarchy, to military despotism, and back again to monarchy, as often, and as easily, as the birds fly to the lower, the middle, or the upper limbs of a tree, or leap from branch to branch, or hop from spray to spray?
Democracy, nevertheless, must not be disgraced; democracy must not be despised. Democracy must be respected; democracy must be honored; democracy must be cherished; democracy must be an essential, an integral part of the sovereignty, and have a control over the whole government, or moral liberty cannot exist, or any other liberty. I have been always grieved by the gross abuses of this respectable word. One party speak of it as the most amiable, venerable, indeed, as the sole object of its adoration; the other, as the sole object of its scorn, abhorrence, and execration. Neither party, in my opinion, know what they say. Some of them care not what they say, provided they can accomplish their own selfish purposes. These ought not to be forgiven.
You triumphantly demand: “What motives of preference between forms of government remain?” Is there no difference between a government of laws and a government of men? Between a government according to fixed laws, concerted by three branches of the legislature, composed of the most experienced men of a nation, established, recorded, promulgated to every individual, as the rule of his conduct, and a government according to the will of one man, or to a vote of a few men, or to a vote of a single assembly, whether of a nation or its representatives?
It is not Mr. Adams’s system which can “arrest our efforts or appall our hopes in pursuit of political good.” Other causes have obstructed and still embarrass the progress of the science of legislation.
In this number I have to hint at some causes which impede the course of investigation in civil and political knowledge. Religion, however, has been so universally associated with government, that it is impossible to separate them in this inquiry.
And where shall I begin, and where end? Shall I begin with the library at Alexandria, and finish with that at Washington, the latter Saracens more ferocious than the former, in proportion as they lived in a more civilized age? Where are the languages of antiquity? all the dialects of the Chaldean tongue? Where is Aristotle’s history of eighteen hundred republics, that had existed before his time? Where are Cicero’s writings upon government? What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels, condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are the forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because suspected of heresy? Remember the index expurgatorius, the inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter, and the guillotine; and, oh! horrible, the rack! This is as bad, if not worse, than a slow fire. Nor should the Lion’s Mouth be forgotten.
Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for fifteen hundred years; and which Chateaubriand appears at this day to believe as sincerely as St. Austin did? Upon this system depend the royalty, loyalty, and allegiance of Europe. The vial of holy oil, with which the Kings of France and England are anointed, is one of the most splendid and important events in all the legends. Do you think that Mr. Adams’s system “arrests our efforts and appalls our hopes in pursuit of political good?” His maxim is, study government as you do astronomy, by facts, observations, and experiments; not by the dogmas of lying priests or knavish politicians.
The causes that impede political knowledge would fill a hundred volumes. How can I crowd a few hints at them in a single volume, much less, in a single letter?
Give me leave to select one attempt to improve civil, political, and ecclesiastical knowledge; or, at least, to arrest and retard the progress of ignorance, hypocrisy, and knavery; and the reception it met in the world, tending to “arrest our efforts and appall our hopes.” Can you believe that Jesuits conceived this design? Yet true it is.
About the year 1643, Bollandus, a Jesuit, began the great work, the “Acta Sanctorum.” Even Jesuits were convinced that impositions upon mankind had gone too far. Henschenius, another Jesuit, assisted him and Papebrock in the labor. The design was to give the lives of the saints, and to distinguish the miracles into the true, the false, and the dubious. They produced forty-seven volumes, in folio, an immense work, which, I believe, has never appeared in America. It was not, I am confident, in the library consumed by Ross, the savage, damned to everlasting fame, and I fear it is not in the noble collection of Mr. Jefferson. I wish it was. This was a great effort in favor of truth, and to arrest imposture, though made by Jesuits. But what was their reward? Among the miracles, pronounced by these able men to be true, there are probably millions which you and I should believe no more than we do those related by Paulinus, Athanasius, Basil, Jerome, or Chrysostom, as of their own knowledge.
Now, let us see how this generous effort in favor of truth was received and rewarded. Libels in abundance were printed against it. The authors were cited before the Inquisition in Spain, and the Pope in Italy, as authors of gross errors. The Inquisition pronounced its anathema in 1695. All Europe was in anxious suspense. The Pope, himself, was embarrassed by the interminable controversies excited, and, without deciding any thing, had no way to escape but by prohibiting all writings on the subject.
And what were the errors? They were only doubts.
1. Is it certain that the face of Jesus Christ was painted on the handkerchief of Saint Veronica?
2. Had the Carmelites the prophet Elias for their founder?
These questions set Europe in a flame, and might have roasted Papebrock at an auto-da-fé, had he been in Spain.
Such dangers as these might “arrest efforts and appall hopes of political good;” but Mr. Adams’s system cannot. That gaping, timid animal, man, dares not read or think. The prejudices, passions, habits, associations, and interests of his fellow-creatures surround him on every side; and if his reading or his thoughts interfere with any of these, he dares not acknowledge it. If he is hardy enough to venture even a hint, persecution, in some form or other, is his certain portion. Party spirit,—l’esprit du corps,—sects, factions, which threaten our existence in America at this moment, both in church and state, have “arrested all efforts, and appalled all hopes of political good.” Have the Protestants accomplished a thorough reformation? Is there a nation in Europe whose government is purified from monkish knavery? Even in England, is not the vial of holy oil still shown to travellers? How long will it be before the head of the Prince Regent, or the head of his daughter, will be anointed with this oil, and the right of impressing seamen from American ships deduced from it?
Mr. Adams’s system is that of Pope, in his Essay on Criticism:—
- “First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
- By her just standard, which is still the same.”
This rule, surely, cannot “arrest our efforts or appall our hopes.” Study government as you build ships or construct steam-engines. The steam frigate will not defend New York, if Nature has not been studied, and her principles regarded. And how is the nature of man, and of society, and of government, to be studied or known, but in the history and by the experience of human nature in its terrestrial existence?
But to come nearer home, in search of causes which “arrest our efforts.” Here I am, like the woodcutter on Mount Ida, who could not see wood for trees. Mariana wrote a book, De Regno, in which he had the temerity to insinuate that kings were instituted for good, and might be deposed if they did nothing but evil. Of course, the book was prohibited, and the writer prosecuted. Harrington wrote his Oceana, and other learned and ingenious works, for which he was committed to prison, where he became delirious and died. Sidney wrote discourses on government, for which he was beheaded, though they were only in manuscript, and robbed from his desk. Montesquieu was obliged to fly his country, and wander about Europe for many years; was compelled by the Sorbonne, after his return, to sign a recantation, as humiliating and as sincere as that of Galileo. The chagrin produced by the criticisms and misrepresentations of his writings, and the persecutions he suffered, destroyed his health, and he died in 1755.
These instances, among others without number, are the discouragements which “arrest our efforts and appall our hopes.” Nor are these all. Mankind do not love to read any thing upon any theory of government. Very few read any thing but libels. Theoretical books upon government will not sell. Booksellers and printers, far from purchasing the manuscript, will not accept it as a gift. For example, no printer would publish these remarks at his own risk; and if I should print them at mine, they would fall dead from the press. I should never sell ten copies of them. I cannot learn that your Inquiry has had a rapid sale. I fear that you or your printer will be a loser, which I shall regret, because I really wish it could be read by every one who can read. To you, who are rich, this loss is of little moment; but to me, who am poor, such losses would be a dangerous “arrest of efforts,” and a melancholy “appall of hopes.” Writers, in general, are poor and hungry. Few write for fame. Even the great religionist, moralist, and literator, Johnson, could not compose a sermon for a priest from simple charity. He must have the pleasing hope, the animating contemplation of a guinea, before he could write. By all that I can learn, few rich men ever wrote any thing, from the beginning of the world to this day. You, sir, are a rara avis in terris, much to your honor.
But I have not yet enumerated all the discouragements which “arrest our efforts and appall our hopes.”
I already feel all the ridicule of hinting at my poor four volumes of “Defence and Discourses on Davila,” after quoting Mariana, Harrington, Sidney, and Montesquieu. But I must submit to the imputation of vanity, arrogance, presumption, dotage, or insanity, or what you will. How have my feeble “efforts been arrested, and faint hopes appalled?” Look back upon the pamphlets, the newspapers, the handbills, and above all, upon the circular letters of members of congress to their constituents for four-and-twenty years past, and consider in what manner my writings and myself have been treated. Has it not been enough to “arrest efforts and appall hopes?”
Is it not a damper to any ardor in search of truth, to read the absurd criticism, the stupid observations, the jesuitical subtleties, the studied lies that have been printed concerning my writings, in this my dear, native country, for five-and-twenty years? To read the ribaldry of Markoe and Brown, Paine and Callender, four vagabonds from Great Britain? and to see their most profligate effusions applauded and sanctioned by a nation?
In fine, is it not humiliating to see a volume of six or seven hundred pages written by a gentleman of your rank, fortune, learning, genius, and eloquence, in which my system, my sentiments, and my writings, from beginning to end, are totally misunderstood and misrepresented?
After all, I am not dead, like Harrington and Secondat. I have read in a Frenchman, “Je n’ai jamais trop bien compris ce que c’étoit que de mourir de chagrin.” And I can say as confidently as he did, “I have never yet very well understood what it was to die of chagrin.” Yet I am daily not out of danger of griefs that might put an end to me in a few hours! Nevertheless, I will wait, if I can, for distempers,—the messenger of nature, because I have still much curiosity to see what turn will be taken by public affairs in this country and others. Where can we rationally look for the theory or practice of government, but to nature and experiment, unless you appeal to revelation? If you do, I am ready and willing to follow you to that tribunal. I find nothing there inconsistent with my system.
In your fifth page, you say, “Mr. Adams calls our attention to hundreds of wise and virtuous patricians, mangled and bleeding victims of popular fury, and gravely counts up several victims of democratic rage, as proofs that democracy is more pernicious than monarchy or aristocracy.”
Is this fair, sir? Do you deny any one of my facts? I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. I beseech you, sir, to recollect the time when my three volumes of “Defence” were written and printed, in 1786, 1787, and 1788. The history of the universe had not then furnished me with a document I have since seen,—an Alphabetical Dictionary of the Names and Qualities of Persons, “Mangled and Bleeding Victims of Democratic Rage and Popular Fury” in France, during the Despotism of Democracy in that Country, which Napoleon ought to be immortalized for calling Ideology. This work is in two printed volumes, in octavo, as large as Johnson’s Dictionary, and is in the library of our late and excellent Vice-President, Elbridge Gerry, where I hope it will be preserved with anxious care. An edition of it ought to be printed in America; otherwise it will be forever suppressed. France will never dare look at it. The democrats themselves could not bear the sight of it; they prohibited and suppressed it as far as they could. It contains an immense number of as great and good men as France ever produced. We curse the Inquisition and the Jesuits, and yet the Inquisition and the Jesuits are restored. We curse religiously the memory of Mary, for burning good men in Smithfield, when, if England had then been democratical, she would have burned many more, and we murder many more by the guillotine in the latter years of the eighteenth century. We curse Guy Fawkes for thinking of blowing up Westminster Hall; yet Ross blows up the capitol, the palace, and the library at Washington, and would have done it with the same sang froid had congress and the president’s family been within the walls. O! my soul! I am weary of these dismal contemplations! When will mankind listen to reason, to nature, or to revelation?
You say, I “might have exhibited millions of plebeians sacrificed to the pride, folly, and ambition of monarcy and aristocracy.” This is very true. And I might have exhibited as many millions of plebeians sacrificed by the pride, folly, and ambition of their fellow-plebeians and their own, in proportion to the extent and duration of their power. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.
When Solon’s balance was destroyed by Aristides, and the preponderance given to the multitude, for which he was rewarded with the title of Just, when he ought to have been punished with the ostracism, the Athenians grew more and more democratic. I need not enumerate to you the foolish wars into which the people forced their wisest men and ablest generals against their own judgments, by which the state was finally ruined, and Philip and Alexander became their masters.
In proportion as the balance, imperfect and unskilful as it was originally, here as in Athens, inclined more and more to the dominatio plebis, the Carthaginians became more and more restless, impatient, enterprising, ambitious, avaricious, and rash, till Hannibal swore eternal hostility to the Romans, and the Romans were compelled to pronounce delenda est Carthago.
What can I say of the democracy of France? I dare not write what I think and what I know. Were Brissot, Condorcet, Danton, Robespierre, and Monseigneur Egalité less ambitious than Cæsar, Alexander, or Napoleon? Were Dumouriez, Pichegru, Moreau, less generals, less conquerors, or, in the end, less fortunate than the last was? What was the ambition of this democracy? Nothing less than to propagate itself, its principles, its system, through the world; to decapitate all the kings, destroy all the nobles and priests in Europe. And who were the instruments employed by the mountebanks behind the scene, to accomplish these sublime purposes? The firewomen, the badauds, the stage players, the atheists, the deists, the scribblers for any cause at three livres a day, the Jews, and oh! that I could erase from my memory the learned divines,—profound students in the prophecies,—real philosophers and sincere Christians, in amazing numbers, over all Europe and America, who were hurried away by the torrent of contagious enthusiasm. Democracy is chargeable with all the blood that has been spilled for five-and-twenty years.
Napoleon and all his generals were but creatures of democracy, as really as Rienzi, Theodore, Massaniello, Jack Cade, or Wat Tyler. This democratical hurricane, inundation, earthquake, pestilence, call it which you will, at last aroused and alarmed all the world, and produced a combination unexampled, to prevent its further progress.
I hope my last convinced you that democracy is as restless, as ambitious, as warlike and bloody, as aristocracy or monarchy.
You proceed to say, that I “ought to have placed right before us the effects of these three principles, namely,—democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy, commixed in the wars, rebellions, persecutions, and oppressions of the English form.”
Pray, sir, what was the object of my book? I was not writing a history of England, nor of the world. Inattention to this circumstance has been the cause of all the honest misapprehensions, misconstructions, and misrepresentations of the whole work. To see at one glance the design of the three volumes, you need only to look at the first page. M. Turgot “was not satisfied with the constitutions which had been formed for the different states of America. By most of them, the customs of England were 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 governor,—because there is in England a house of commons, a house of lords, and a king; they endeavor to balance these different powers.”
This solemn opinion of M. Turgot, is the object of the whole of the three volumes. M. Turgot had seen only the constitutions of New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland, and the first constitution of Pennsylvania. His principal intention was to censure the three former. From these three the constitution of the United States was afterwards almost entirely drawn.
The drift of my whole work was, to vindicate these three constitutions against the reproaches of that great statesman, philosopher, and really excellent man, whom I well knew, and to defend them against his attacks, and only upon those points on which he had assaulted them. If this fact had been considered, it would have prevented a thousand witticisms and criticisms about the “misnomer,” &c.
The points I had to illustrate and to prove, were,—
1. That the people of Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland were not to blame for instituting governors, councils, (or senates) and houses of representatives.
2. That they were not reprehensible for endeavoring to balance those different powers.
3. That they were to be applauded, not reproached, for not “collecting all authority into one centre, that of the nation,” in whatever sense those dark, obscure, and incomprehensible words could be understood.
4. Construing these phrases, as it is believed they were intended, to recommend a sovereignty in a single assembly of representatives, that is, a representative of democracy, it was my duty to show that democracy was as unsteady, equally envious, ambitious, avaricious, vain, proud, cruel, and bloody, as aristocracy or monarchy.
5. That an equilibrium of those “different powers” was indispensably necessary to guard and defend the rights, liberties, and happiness of the people against the deleterious, contagious, and pestilential effects of those passions of vanity, pride, ambition, envy, revenge, lust, and cruelty, which domineer more or less in every government that has no balance or an imperfect balance.
6. That it was not an affected imitation of the English government, so much as an attachment to their old colonial forms, in every one of which there had been three branches,—a governor, a council, and a house of representatives,—which, added to the eternal reason and unalterable nature of things, induced the legislators of those three states to adopt their new constitutions.
The design of the three volumes, pursued from the first page of the first to the last page of the last, was to illustrate, elucidate, and demonstrate those six important truths. To illustrate and prove these truths, or to show them to be falsehoods, where can we look but into the heart of man and the history of his heart? In the heart were found those appetites, passions, prejudices, and selfish interests, which ought always to be controlled by reason, conscience, and social affections; but which are never perfectly so controlled, even by any individual, still less by nations and large bodies of men, and less and less, as communities grow larger and larger, more populous, more commercial, more wealthy, and more luxurious. In the history of his heart, a transient glance of the eye was cast over the most conspicuous, remarkable, and celebrated of those nations who had preserved any share of authority to the people, or who had approached the nearest to preserving all authority to the people, or who had mixed the authority of the people with that of patricians, or senates, or councils, or where the executive power had been separated from, or united with the legislative, or where the judicial power had been complicated with either, or separate from both. And it was endeavored to be shown, that those nations had been the happiest who had separated the legislative from the executive power, the judicial from both, and divided the legislative power itself into three branches, thereby producing a balance between the legislative and executive authority, a balance between the branches of the legislature, and a salutary check upon all these powers in the judicial, as had been done in the constitutions of Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts. I had nothing to do with despotisms or simple monarchies, unless it were incidentally, and by way of illustration.
I know not that any one of my facts has ever been denied or disputed or doubted. Do you deny any of them? Are they not a sufficient apology for the people of Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland, against the accusations of M. Turgot, as well as against Sharp and his followers, who taught the same dogmas?
In my apology, if you like that word better than “defence,” I passed over England for more reasons than one. I very well knew that there had been no nation that had produced so many materials for the illustration of my system and confirmation of my principles, as that in which I wrote. There was anciently no people but serfs; no house of commons. The struggle between kings, barons, and priests, from Thomas à Kempis to Cardinal Wolsey, and from him to Archbishop Laud, and from him to King William, would have been instructive enough; and it would not have been difficult to show that “the wars, rebellions, persecutions, and oppressions of the English form” arose (the frenzy of superstition apart) from the want of that limitation of power in the king, the lords, the commons, and the judges, and of the balances between them, for which I contended. I had nothing to do with the ecclesiastical establishment in England. My observations related exclusively to the civil and political arrangement of powers. These powers were never accurately defined, and, consequently, balanced, till the revolution, nor the judges completely independent, till the present reign.
Nor had I any thing to do with the hereditary quality, superadded to the monarchical and aristocratical powers in England. The three great powers may be separated for some purposes, united for others, as clearly defined, limited, and balanced, for one, two, or three years, as in the constitutions of Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts, as they can be for an age, or as they are in England for endless ages.
A large proportion of “the wars, rebellions, persecutions, and oppressions,” in England have arisen from ecclesiastical artifices, and the intoxication of religious enthusiasm. Are you sure that any form of government can at all times secure the people from fanaticism? Although this country has done much, are you confident that our moral, civil, or political liberties are perfectly safe on this quarter? Is a democracy less liable to this evil than a mixed government? It is true that, in my apology, I expressed in strong terms my admiration of the English constitution; but I meant no more of it than was to the purpose of my argument; that is, the division and union of powers in our American constitutions, which were, indeed, so far, imitations of it. My argument had no more to do with hereditary descent than it had with the Church or the Bank of England.
My mind, I acknowledge, was deeply impressed with apprehensions from the accounts of the dangerous and irregular proceedings in several counties in Massachusetts, and the alarming extent of similar discontents in all the other states. And more than all this. The fountains of the great deep were broken up in France, and the proud wave of democracy was spreading and swelling and rolling, not only through that kingdom, but into England, Holland, Geneva, and Switzerland, and, indeed, threatened an inundation all over Europe. Innovation was making bold and large strides in every direction. I had great doubts of the success of the leaders in any useful degree; but of one thing I was fully convinced,—that if they aimed at any constitution of civil government more popular than the English, they would ruin themselves, after setting Europe on fire and shedding oceans of blood. The rise, progress, and termination to this time need only be hinted. Are you now convinced that France must have a more permanent executive than she had in the time of Barrère? The constitutions in France, Spain, and Holland, have at last approached nearer to such a division and balance of powers as are contended for, than ever was attempted before; but these constitutions of 1814 are all essentially defective, and cannot endure. As to rebellions in England, there was one in 1715, another in 1745. I recollect no more, unless you claim for one Lord George Gordon’s insanity, and that of his stupid, bigoted followers.
After all our “discoveries of new principles of moral liberty,” we have had Shays’s, Fries’s, and I know not whose rebellion in the western counties of Pennsylvania. How near did Virginia and Kentucky approach in the last years of the last century? And how near is New England approaching at this hour in Hartford?
Must you and I humble ourselves in dust and ashes to acknowledge that the United States have had more rebellions and quasi rebellions in thirty years than England has had in one hundred and twenty?
John Wilkes said to a confidential friend, who broke in unexpectedly to his closet when he was writing his North-Briton, number fifty-five, “I have been studying these four hours to see how near I could come to treason without committing it.” This study, Mr. Taylor, has become a fashionable study in the South, the Middle, and the North, of America.
You “admit that man is physically always the same, but deny that he is so morally.” I have not admitted that he is physically always the same, nor have I asserted that he is so morally. On the contrary, some are born strong, others weak, some tall, others short, some agile, others clumsy, some handsome, others ugly, some black, others white. These physical qualities, too, may be, and are both improved and depraved by education, practice, exercise, and nourishment. They are all born alike morally innocent, but do not all remain so. They soon become as different and unlike, and unequal in morals as virtue and vice, merit and guilt. In their intellects they are never equal nor the same. Perception is more quick, memory more retentive, judgment more mature, reason more correct, thoughts better arranged, in some than in others. And these inequalities are the sources of the natural aristocracy among mankind, according to my express words quoted by you.
The corporeal inequalities among mankind, from the cradle and from the womb to the age of Oglethorpe and Parr, the intellectual inequalities from Blackmore to Milton, from Crocker to Newton, and from Behmen to Locke, are so obvious and notorious, that I could not expect they would have been doubted. The moral equality, that is, the innocence, is only at the birth; as soon as they can walk or speak, you may discern a moral inequality. These inequalities, physical, intellectual, and moral, I have called sources of a natural aristocracy; and such they are, have been, and will be; and it would not be dangerous to say, they are sources of all the artificial aristocracies that have been, are, or will be.
Can you say that these physical, intellectual, and moral inequalities produce no inequalities of influence, consideration, and power in society?
You say, “upon the truth or error of this distinction, the truth or error of Mr. Adams’s mode of reasoning, and of this essay, will somewhat depend.” I know not whether I ought not to join issue with you upon this point. State the question or questions, then, fairly and candidly between us.
1. Are there, or are there not physical, corporeal, material inequalities among mankind, from the embryo to the tomb?
2. Are there, or are there not intellectual inequalities from the first opening of the senses, the sight, the hearing, the taste, the smell, and the touch, to the final loss of all sense?
3. Are there not moral inequalities, discernible almost, if not quite, from the original innocence to the last stage of guilt and depravity?
4. From these inequalities, physical, intellectual, and moral, does there or does there not arise a natural aristocracy among mankind? or, in other words, some men who have greater capacities and advantages to acquire the love, esteem, and respect of their fellow men, more wealth, fame, consideration, honor, influence, and power in society than other men?
When, where, have I said that men were always morally the same?
Never, in word or writing. I have said,—
1. There is an inequality of wealth.
2. There is an inequality of birth.
3. There are great inequalities of merit, talents, virtues, services, and reputations.
4. There are a few in whom all these advantages of birth, fortune, and fame, are united.
I then go on to say, “these sources of inequality, common to every people, founded in the constitution of nature a natural aristocracy, &c. &c.”
Now, sir, let me modestly and civilly request of you a direct and simple answer to the three foregoing questions. Ay or no; yea or nay. You and I have been so drilled to such answers that we can have as little difficulty in promising them as in understanding them; at least, unless we have become greater proficients in pyrrhonism, than we were when we lived together. When I shall be honored with your yea or nay to those three questions, I hope I shall know the real questions between us, and be enabled to confess my error, express my doubts, or state my replication.
But, sir, let me ask you why you direct your artillery at me alone? at me, a simple individual “in town obscure, of humble parents born?” I had fortified myself behind the intrenchments of Aristotle, Livy, Sidney, Harrington, Dr. Price, Machiavel, Montesquieu, Swift, &c. You should have battered down these strong outworks before you could demolish me.
The word “crown,” which you have quoted from me in your eighth page, was used merely to signify the executive authority. You, sir, who are a lawyer, know that this figure signifies nothing more nor less. “The prince” is used by J. J. Rousseau, and by other writers on the social compact, for the same thing. Had I been blessed with time to revise a work which is full of errors of the press, I should have noted this as an erratum, especially if I had thought of guarding against malevolent criticism in America. I now request a formal erratum; page 117, at the bottom, dele “crown,” and insert “executive authority.”
In your eighth page, you begin to consider my natural causes of aristocracy.
1. “Superior abilities.” Let us keep to nature and experience. Is there no such thing as genius? Had Raphael no more genius than the common sign-post painters? Had Newton no more genius than even his great master, that learned, profound, and most excellent man, Dr. Barrow? Had Alexander no more genius than Darius? Had Cæsar no more than Catiline, or even than Pompey? Had Napoleon no more than Santerre? Has the Honorable John Randolph no more than Nimrod Hughes and Christopher Macpherson? Has every clerk in a counting-house as great a genius for numbers as Zerah Colburne, who, at six years of age, demonstrated faculties which Sanderson and Newton never possessed in their ripest days? Is there in the world a father of a family who has not perceived diversities in the natural capacities of his children?
These questions deserve direct answers. If you allow that there are natural inequalities of abilities, consider the effects that the genius of Alexander produced! They are visible to this day. And what effect has the genius of Napoleon produced? They will be felt for three thousand years to come. What effect have the genius of Washington and Franklin produced? Had these men no more influence in society than the ordinary average of other men? Genius is sometimes long lived; and it has accumulated fame, wealth, and power, greater than can be commanded by millions of ordinary citizens. These advantages are sometimes applied to good purposes, and sometimes to bad.
When superior genius gives greater influence in society than is possessed by inferior genius, or a mediocrity of genius, that is, than by the ordinary level of men, this superior influence I call natural aristocracy. This cause, you say, is “fluctuating.” What then? it is aristocracy still, while it exists. And is not democracy “fluctuating” too? Are the waves of the sea, or the winds of the air, or the gossamer that idles in the wanton summer air, more fluctuating than democracy? While I admit the existence of democracy, notwithstanding its instability, you must acknowledge the existence of natural aristocracy, notwithstanding its fluctuations.
I find it difficult to understand you, when you say that “knowledge and ignorance are fluctuating.” Knowledge is unchangeable; and ignorance cannot change, because it is nothing. It is a nonentity. Truth is one, uniform and eternal; knowledge of it cannot fluctuate any more than itself. Ignorance of truth, being a nonentity, cannot, surely, become entity and fluctuate and change like Proteus, or wind, or water. You sport away so merrily upon this topic, that I will have the pleasure of transcribing you. You say, “the aristocracy of superior abilities will be regulated by the extent of the space between knowledge and ignorance; as the space contracts or widens, it will be diminished or increased; and if aristocracy may be thus diminished, it follows that it may be thus destroyed.”
What is the amount of this argument? Ignorance may be destroyed and knowledge increased ad infinitum. And do you expect that all men are to become omniscient, like the almighty and omniscient Hindoo, perfect Brahmins? Are your hopes founded upon an expectation that knowledge will one day be equally divided? Will women have as much knowledge as men? Will children have as much as their parents? If the time will never come when all men will have equal knowledge, it seems to follow, that some will know more than others; and that those who know most will have more influence than those who know least, or than those who know half way between the two extremes; and consequently will be aristocrats. “Superior abilities,” comprehend abilities acquired by education and study, as well as genius and natural parts; and what a source of inequality and aristocracy is here! Suffer me to dilate a little in this place. Massachusetts has probably educated as many sons to letters, in proportion to her numbers, as any State in the Union, perhaps as any nation, ancient or modern. What proportion do the scholars bear to the whole number of people? I wish I had a catalogue of our Harvard University, that I might state exact numbers. Say that, in almost two hundred years, there have been three or four thousand educated, from perhaps two or three millions of people. Are not these aristocrats? or, in other words, have they not had more influence than any equal number of uneducated men? In fact, these men governed the province from its first settlement; these men have governed, and still govern, the state. These men, in schools, academies, colleges, and universities; these men, in the shape of ministers, lawyers, and physicians; these men, in academies of arts and sciences, in agricultural societies, in historical societies, in medical societies and in antiquarian societies, in banking institutions and in Washington benevolent societies, govern the state, at this twenty-sixth of December, 1814. The more you educate, without a balance in the government, the more aristocratical will the people and the government be. There never can be, in any nation, more than one fifth—no, not one tenth of the men, regularly educated to science and letters. I hope, then, you will acknowledge, that “abilities” form a distinction and confer a privilege, in fact, though they give no peculiar rights in society.
2. You appear, sir, to have overlooked or forgotten one great source of natural aristocracy, mentioned by me in my Apology, and dilated on in subsequent pages, I mean birth. I should be obliged to you for your candid sentiments upon this important subject. Exceptions have been taken to the phrase well born; but I can see no more impropriety in it than in the epithets well bred, well educated, well brought up, well taught, well informed, well read, well to live, well dressed, well fed, well clothed, well armed, well accoutred, well furnished, well made, well fought, well aimed, well meant, well mounted, well fortified, well tempered, well fatted, well spoken, well argued, well reasoned, well decked, well ducked, well trimmed, well wrought, or any other well in common parlance.
And here, sir, permit me, by way of digression, to remark another discouragement to honest political literature, and the progress of real political science. If a well-meant publication appears, it is instantly searched for an unpopular word, or one that can be made so by misconstruction, misrepresentation, or by any credible and imposing deception. Some ambitious, popular demagogue gives the alarm,—“heresy?” Holy, democratical church has decreed that word to be “heresy!” Down with him! And, if there was no check to their passions, and no balance to their government, they would say, à la lanterne! à la guillotine! roast him! bake him! boil him! fry him! The Inquisition in Spain would not celebrate more joyfully an autoda-fé.
Some years ago, more than forty, a writer unfortunately made use of the term better sort. Instantly, a popular clamor was raised, and an odium excited, which remains to this day, to such a degree, that no man dares to employ that expression at the bar, in conversation, in a newspaper, or pamphlet, no, nor in the pulpit; though the “baser sort” are sufficiently marked and distinguished in the New Testament, to prove that there is no wrong in believing a “better sort.” And if there is any difference between virtue and vice, there is a “better sort” and a worse sort in every human society.
With sincere reverence, let me here quote one of the most profound philosophical, moral, and religious sentiments that ever was expressed:—“We know not what spirit we are of.”
I have not yet finished what the poets call an episode, and prose-men a digression. Can you account for a caprice in the public opinion? Burke’s “swinish multitude” has not been half so unpopular, nor excited half the irritation, odium, resentment, or indignation that “well born” and “better sort” have produced. Burke’s phrase, nevertheless, must be allowed to be infinitely more unphilosophical, immoral, irreligious, uncivil, impolitic, inhuman, and insolent than either, or both the other. Impudent libeller of your species! Whom do you mean by your “multitude?” The multitude, in your country, means the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and all the rest of your dominions. The multitude, in this country, means the people of the United States. The multitude means mankind. Make your exceptions, and then say, after an attention, whether they are not, upon an average, as swinish as the rest. All the delicacy of your classical criticism, all the subtilty of your metaphysical discrimination, cannot devise a justifiable limitation of your words.
But, to return from this digression, till I meet another. Our present subject is birth. It is acknowledged that we are all children of the same benevolent parent; all born under the same moral law of our nature; all equally free; and all entitled to the same equal rights. Thus far, I hope, we are agreed. But, not to repeat the physical inequalities and the intellectual inequalities of capacity, before enumerated, and perhaps more than once, is there not a distinction made in society between children of different parents? and is it not produced by natural causes? If you deny that such distinctions are made in fact and practice, how shall I prove it?
1. The general sense, and still more, the universal consent of mankind, is allowed to be a strong argument to prove the truth of any fact, or any opinion. Is there any practice, custom, or sentiment, in which mankind have more universally agreed, than in making distinctions of nativity, and manifesting more respect for the children of some parents than for those of others? Not only all civilized, cultivated, and polished societies, but all pastoral nations and savage hordes, the negroes of Africa and our Indian tribes, all concur in this usage. If, in all your reading, conversation, or experience, you have found an exception, I pray you to communicate it to me. I know none.
2. Look over our States, (which, I pray, may be sometime or other truly called United.) Is no distinction made here? It might be thought invidious to mention names, and indeed it would be endless. But are there not names almost as much revered as those of patriarchs, prophets, or apostles? Have names no influence in governing men? Had the word “Gueux” no influence in the Dutch Revolution? Had the word “sans culotte” none in the French? Have the words “Jacobin,” “democrat,” no influence? Have the words “federalist” and “republican” no effect? If these transient, momentary, cant words of faction, or at best of party, have such effects, what must be the more permanent influence of names that have been revered for ages, and never heard but like music?
3. In this argument, I have a right to state cases as strong as any that occur in human life. Suppose ten thousand people assembled to see the execution of a man for burglary, robbery, arson, fratricide, patricide, or the meanest, most treacherous, perfidious, and cruel crime that can be committed or imagined. Suppose, the next day, the same ten thousand people should attend the funeral obsequies of Washington, Hamilton, or Ames. Is it possible that these ten thousand people should have the same feelings for the children of the criminal that they have for the hero and the sages?
4. Is there not a presumption in favor of some children? At least a probable presumption, if not a violent presumption? Here, again, I have a right to put strong cases. Here are two families in the same neighborhood; the parents in one are ignorant, intemperate, idle, thievish, lying, and, consequently, destitute; in the other, they are sober, prudent, honest, decent, frugal, industrious, possessed of comfortable property, studious, inquisitive, well informed, and, if you will, literary and scientific. Is there not a violent presumption in favor of the children of the latter family, and against those of the former? Exceptions there are; but exceptions prove the general rule.
5. Is there not a prejudice in favor of some children, and against others? Prejudices, associations, habits, customs, usages, manners, must, in some cases and in some degree, be studied, respected, and indulged by legislators, even the most wise, virtuous, pious, learned, and profound. Here, sir, I will appeal to yourself. A young man appears. You ask of the bystanders who he is? The answer is, “I do not know.” “No matter; let him go.” Another appears,—“Who is he?” The answer is, “The son of A. B.” “I do not know A. B.” A third appears,—“Who is this?” “The son of C. D.” “C. D.! my friend! He has been dead these fifty years; but I love his memory, and should be glad to be acquainted with any of his posterity. Please to walk in, sir, and favor me with your company for a few weeks or months; you will be always welcome to my house, and will always oblige me with your company.”
6. Theognis, a Greek poet, twenty-four hundred years ago, complains that, although mankind were very anxious to purchase stallions, bulls, and rams of the best breed; yet, in some instances, men would marry wives of mean extraction for the sake of their fortunes, and ladies of high birth would marry men of low descent because they were rich. And I believe there has not been a poet, orator, historian, or philosopher, from his age to this, who has not in his writings expressed or implied some distinction of nativities; nor has there been one of either sex who, in choosing a companion for life, between two rivals of equal youth, beauty, fortune, talents, and accomplishments, would not prefer the one of respectable parentage to the other of meaner and lower original.
I am still upon birth, and my seventh argument is,—
7. It was a custom among the Greeks and Romans,—probably in all civilized nations,—to give names to the castles, palaces, and mansions of their consuls, dictators, and other magistrates, senators, &c. This practice is still followed in England, France, &c. Among the ancients, the distinctions of extraction were most constantly marked by the spots on which they were born. “Illustri loco natus,” “claro loco natus,” “clarissimo loco natus,” “illustrissimo loco natus,” were common expressions of conspicuous origin. On the contrary, “obscuro loco nati,” “vili loco nati,” designated low original, base extraction, sordid descent, and were expressions, however unjustly, of odium, or at least contempt. I perceive, sir, that you gentlemen of Virginia, who are good classical scholars, have not suffered this observation to escape you. You have taken the modest name of Hazlewood; my friend Richard Lee, the superb name, Chantilly; Mr. Madison, the beautiful name of Montpelier; and Mr. Jefferson, the lofty name of Monticello; and Mr. Washington, the very humble name of a British sea captain, Mount Vernon; the Hon. John Randolph, that of Roanoke. I would advise the present proprietor of Mount Vernon to change the name to Mount Talbot, Truxton, Decatur, Rodgers, Bainbridge, or Hull. And I would advise our Boston gentlemen, who have given this name of the British sea captain to the most beautiful hill on the globe, to change it to Mount Hancock, or Mount Perry, or Mount Macdonough.
8. I wish I could take a walk with you in all the churchyards and burying grounds in Virginia,—Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, or what you will. Are there not tombs, monuments, gravestones, and inscriptions, ancient and modern? Is there no distinction made among these memorials? Are they all seen with equal eyes, with equal indifference? Is there no peculiar attachment, no particular veneration for any of them? Are they all beheld by the whole people and by every individual with similar sensations and reflections? How many hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have lived and died in Virginia, to whom no monument has been erected, whose posterity know not, and cannot conjecture, where their ancestors were deposited? Do all these cemeteries, which are found all over the world, exhibit no distinctions of names and families and persons? Are not these distinctions natural? produced by natural and inevitable causes?
9. I should be highly honored and vastly delighted to visit with you every great planter in Virginia. I should be pleased to look into their parlors, banqueting rooms, bedchambers, and great halls, as Mr. Jefferson and I once did together the most celebrated of the gentlemen’s country seats in England. Should we there see no statues, no busts, no pictures, no portraits of their ancestors? no trinkets, no garments, no pieces of furniture carefully preserved, because they belonged to great grandfathers, and estimated at ten times the value of similar articles of superior quality, that might be bought at any shop or store? What are ancestors, or their little or great elegance or conveniences, to the present planter, more than those of the fifty-acre man, his neighbor, who perhaps never knew the name of his grandfather or father? Are there no natural feelings, and, consequently, no natural distinctions here?
I think I have been impartial, and have suspected no vanity or weakness in Virginians, which I have not recognized in Massachusettensians; and I could enumerate many more. I will go farther. It seems to be generally agreed and settled among men, that John Adams is a weak and vain man. I fall down under the public opinion, the general sense, and frankly and penitently acknowledge, that I have been all my lifetime, and still am, a weak and vain man. One instance of my vanity and weakness I will distinguish. Within two or three years, I have followed to the tomb the nearest, the dearest, the tenderest connections, relations, and friends of my life, from almost ninety years of age to eighteen months. This has made me contemplate much among the tombs,—a gloomy region to which I had been much a stranger. In this churchyard, I found the monumental stones of my father and mother, my grandfather and grandmother, my great grandfather and great grandmother, and my great great grandfather. My great great grandmother died in England. If you will do me the favor, sir, to come to Quincy and spend a few weeks with me, I will take a walk with you, and show you all these monuments and inscriptions, and will confess to you, I would not exchange this line of ancestors for that of Guelphs, or Bowdoins, or Carters, or Winthrops. Such is my vanity, imbecility, and dotage! And I suspect that you are not a whit wiser than I am in this respect. Open your soul, sir, and disclose your natural feelings, and frankly say, whether you would exchange ancestors with any man living. I believe you would not. Is there a human being who would? If these feelings for ancestors are universal, how shall any legislator prevent the rich, the great, the powerful, the learned, the ingenious, from distinguishing by durable, costly, and permanent memorials, their own ancestors, and, consequently, their children and remote posterity, from the descendants of the vast, the immense majority, who lie mingled with the dust, totally forgotten? And how shall he prevent these names and families from being more noted and respected by nations, as well as smaller communities, than names never before heard?
A word or two more upon birth.
10. Birth is naturally and necessarily and inevitably so connected and blended with property, fame, power, education, genius, strength, beauty, learning, science, taste, figure, air, attitudes, movements, &c. &c. &c., that it is often impossible, and always difficult to separate them. Two children are born on the same day, of equal genius,—one, the son of Mr. Jefferson; the other, of Nimrod Hughes. Which will meet with most favor in the world? Would a child of Anthony Benezet, good creature as he was, have an equal chance in life with a son of Robert Morris, when the wealth of nations was believed to be in his power? Would a son of the good Rutherford, the predecessor of General Morgan, have an equal favor in the world with a son of the great General and President Washington? Would a son of Sir Isaac Newton have no more favor in the sight of the whole human race than a son of Mr. Rittenhouse, the worthy President of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia? Beau Nash meet no more complaisance than one of the Hercules du Roi, whom I have seen leap at Sadlers Wells, and turn his heels over his head, at a height of ten or twelve feet, and come down on the other side of the stage erect? I leave, sir, to your fertile genius, ample reading, and long experience, to pursue the inquiries. I could continue to enumerate examples through sheets of paper.
11. Have you not observed in life, and have you not remarked in history, that the common people,—and by common people, I here mean all mankind, despots, emperors, kings, princes, nobles, presidents, senators, representatives, lawyers, divines, physicians, merchants, farmers, shopkeepers, mechanics, tradesmen, day laborers, tavern haunters, dram-shop frequenters, mob, rabble, and canaille, that is to say, all human kind,—have you not observed that all these feel more respect, more real respect for birth than even for wealth; may I not say than for genius, fame, talents, or power? Though they follow and hosanna for the loaves and fishes, you will often hear them say, “proud as he is, I knew his father, who was only a blacksmith; his grandfather, who was only a carpenter; or his great grandfather, who was only a shoemaker; he need not be so topping.”
12. Has not the experience of six thousand years shown that the common people submit more easily and quietly to birth than to wealth, genius, fame, or any other talents? Whence the prejudices against upstarts, parvenus, &c.? Whence the general respect, reverence, and submission in all ages and nations, of plebeians to patricians, of sieurs to monsieurs, of juffrouws to mevrouws? If a man of high birth is promoted, little or nothing is said by the plebeians. If one of their own level, the son of a tradesman or common farmer is advanced, all the envy and bile of his equals is excited. He is abused and belittled, if not reviled, by all his former equals, as they thought themselves, whatever may have been the superiority of his genius, education, services, experience, or other talents. There is nothing, Mr. Taylor, to which the vulgar, in general, so quietly and patiently and cordially submit as to birth.
13. What in all ages has been the source of the submission of nobility to royalty? Every nobleman envies his sovereign, and would pull him down, if he could get into his throne and wear his crown. But when nobles and ignobles have torn one another to pieces for years or ages in their eternal squabbles of jealousy, envy, rivalry, hatred, and revenge, and all are convinced that this anarchy will not do, that the world will be depopulated, that a head must be set up, and all the members must be guided by it, then, and not till then, will nobles submit to Kings as of superior birth. What subjects all the nobility of Europe to all the kings of Europe, but birth? though some of them cannot well make out their pretensions; particularly the proudest of them all,—the house of Austria.
14. What has excited a universal insurrection of all Europe against Bonaparte, (if we dive to the bottom of this awful gulf, and recollect the succession of coalitions against him and against republican France,) but because he was obscuro loco natus, the son of a simple gentillâtre of Corsica?
15. Such, and so universal are the manifest distinctions of birth in every village and every city, so tremendous are their effects on nations and governments, that one might almost pronounce them self-evident. I may justly be ridiculed for laboring to demonstrate in re non dubià, testibus non necessariis. Can you discern no good in this eternal ordinance of nature, the varieties of birth? If you cannot, as the facts are indisputable, you must assert that, so far as you can see, the world is ill made, and that the whole of mankind are miscreants. For there are no two of them born alike in any thing but divine right and moral liberty.
17. Please to remember that birth confers no right on one more than another! But birth naturally and unavoidably produces more influence in society, in some more than in others; and the superiority of influence in society, in some more than in others; and the superiority of influence is aristocracy.
18. When birth, genius, beauty, strength, wealth, education, fame, services, heroism, experience, unite in an individual, they produce inequality of influence, that is, aristocracy with a witness, so that one can chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight in any political conflict; and without any hereditary descent, or any artificial marks, titles, or decorations, whatever.
In page 10, you say, “Mr. Adams has omitted a cause of aristocracy in the quotation, which he forgets not to urge in other places, namely,—exclusive wealth.” This is your omission, sir, not mine. In page 109, vol. i. I expressly enumerated, “inequality of wealth” as one of the causes of aristocracy, and as having a natural and inevitable influence in society. I said nothing about “exclusive” wealth. The word “exclusive,” is an interpolation of your own. This you acknowledge to be, “by much the most formidable with which mankind have to contend;” that is, as I understand you, superior wealth is the most formidable cause of aristocracy, or of superior influence in society. There may be some difficulty in determining the question, whether distinctions of birth, or distinctions of property, have the greatest influence in the world? Both have very great influence, much too great, when not restrained by something besides the passions or the consciences of the possessors. Were I required to give an answer to the question, my answer would be, with some diffidence, that, in my opinion, taking into consideration history and experience, birth has had, and still has, most power and the greatest effects; because conspicuous birth is hereditary; it is derived from ancestors, descends to posterity, and is inalienable. Titles and ribbons, and stars and garters, and crosses and legal establishments, are by no means essential or necessary to the preservation of it. The evidences of it are in history and records, and in the memories and hearts they remain, and it never fails to descend to posterity as long as that posterity furnishes any one or more whose talents and virtues can support the reputation of the name. Birth and wealth are commonly so entangled together, from an emperor down to a constable or tithing-man, that it is difficult to separate them so distinctly as to place one in one scale, and the other in an opposite scale, to ascertain in grains and scruples the preponderance. The complaint of Theognis, that pelf is sometimes preferred to blood, was, and is true; and it is also true that beauty, wit, art, disposition, and “winning ways,” are more successful than descent; yet, in general, I believe this prevails oftener than any of the others. I may be mistaken in this opinion; but of this I am certain; that it always has the same weight, when it is at all considered. You must recur, Mr. Taylor, to Plato’s republic and the French republic, destroy all marriages, introduce a perfect community of women, render it impossible to know, or suspect, or conjecture one’s own father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, before you can annihilate all distinctions of birth. I conclude, therefore, that birth has naturally and necessarily and unavoidably some influence, more or less, in human society. Will you say it has none? I have a right, sir, to an answer to this question, yea or nay. You have summoned me before the world and posterity, in my last hours, by your voluminous criticisms and ratiocinations, which gives me a right to demand fair play. On my part, I promise to answer any question you can state, by an affirmative, negative, or doubt, without equivocation. Property, wealth, riches, although you allow them to be a cause of aristocracy in your tenth page, yet you will not permit this cause to be “ascribed to nature.” But why not? If, as I have heard, “the shortest road to men’s hearts is down their throats,” this is surely a natural route. Hunger and thirst are natural wants, and the supplies of them are natural. Nature has settled the point, that wood and stones shall not invigorate and enliven them like wine. Suppose one of your southern gentlemen to have only one hundred thousand acres of land. He settles one thousand tenants with families upon it. If he is a humane, easy, generous landlord, will not his tenants feel an attachment to him? will he not have influence among them? will they not naturally think and vote as he votes? If, on the contrary, he is an austere, griping, racking, rack-renting tyrant, will not his tenants be afraid to offend him? will not some, if not all of them, pretend to think with him, and vote as he would have them, upon the same principle as some nations have worshipped the devil, because they knew not into whose hands they might fall? Now, sir, my argument is this. If either the generous landlord or the selfish landlord can obtain by gratitude or fear only one vote more than his own from his tenants in general, he is an aristocrat, whether his vote and those of his dependents be beneficial or maleficial, salutary or pestilential, or fatal to the community.
I remember the time, Mr. Taylor, when one thousand families depended on Mr. Hancock for their daily bread; perhaps more. All men allowed him to be punctual, humane, generous. How many of the heads of these families would naturally be inclined to vote with and for Mr. Hancock? Could not Mr. Hancock command, or at least influence one vote, besides his own? If he could, he was an aristocrat, according to my definition and conscientious opinion. Let me appeal now to your own experience. Are there not in your own Caroline County, in Virginia, two or three, or four, five or six, eight or ten great planters, who, if united, can carry any point in your elections? These are every one of them aristocrats, and you, who are the first of them, are the most eminent aristocrat of them all.
Give me leave to add a few words on this topic. I remember the time when three gentlemen,—Thomas Hancock, Charles Apthorp, and Thomas Green, the three most opulent merchants in Boston, all honorable, virtuous, and humane men,—if united, could have carried any election almost unanimously in the town of Boston.
Harrington, whom I read forty or fifty years ago, and shall quote from memory, being too old to hunt for books and fumble over the leaves of folios, has been called the Newton in politics, and is supposed to have made a great discovery, namely,—that mankind are governed by the teeth, and that dominion is founded on property in land. Mr. Locke and the French economists countenance this opinion. Landed gentlemen are generally not only aristocrats, but tories. What but commerce, manufactures, navigation, and naval power, supported by a moneyed interest, restrains them from establishing aristocracies or oligarchies, as absolute, arbitrary, oppressive, and cruel, as any monarchy ever was? What has annihilated the astonishing commerce and naval power of Holland, but the influence of the landed gentlemen in the inland provinces, overbearing and outvoting the maritime provinces? What is it that prevents France from reducing and restraining, if not annihilating, the commerce, manufactures, and naval power of Great Britain, but the landed gentry,—the proprietors of lands in France? Who never would suffer commerce, manufactures, or naval power to grow in that kingdom? Who would never permit Colbert or Necker to hold power, or even enjoy popularity, but with the moneyed interest? Yet these gentlemen could never be satisfied with the number of soldiers and land armies. No expense, no exertion to increase the number of officers and soldiers in the army could be too much. What has prevented our beloved country, to the astonishment of all Europe, from having at this hour a naval force amply sufficient to burn, sink, or destroy, or bring captive into our harbors, all the men of war that Britain has sent, or can send to our coasts, but the landed gentlemen, the great and little planters, the yeomen and farmers of the United States? Such it was in the beginning, is now, and, I fear, ever will be, world without end.
All these considerations prove the mighty influence of property in human affairs; they prove the influence of birth too; for landed property is hereditary generally all over the world. Truth, Mr. Taylor, cannot be ridiculed into error. Aristophanes could laugh Socrates out of his life, but not out of his merit or his fame. You seem to admit that “aristocracy is created by wealth,” but you seem to think it is “artificially,” not “naturally,” so created. But if superior genius, birth, strength, and activity, naturally obtain superior wealth, and if superior wealth has naturally influence in society, where is the impropriety in calling the influence of wealth “natural?” I am not, however, bigoted to the epithet natural; and you may substitute the epithet “actual” in the place of it, if you think it worth while.
“Alienation,” you say, “is the remedy for an aristocracy founded on landed wealth.” But alienation only transfers the aristocracy from one hand to another. The aristocracy remains the same. If Brutus transfers to Cassius a villa or a principality purchased by the unrighteous profits of usury, Cassius becomes as influential an aristocrat as Brutus was before. If John Randolph should manumit one of his negroes and alienate to him his plantation, that negro would become as great an aristocrat as John Randolph. And the negro, John Randolph, Brutus, and Cassius, were, and are, and would be aristocrats of a scarlet color and a crimson dye, if they could. Alienation, therefore, is no remedy against an aristocracy founded on landed wealth.
You say, sir, that “inhibitions upon monopoly and incorporation are remedies for aristocracy founded on paper wealth.” Here, sir, once for all, let me say, that you can write nothing too severe for me against “paper wealth.” You may say, if you please, as Swift says of party, that it is the madness of the many for the profit of the few. You may call a swindler, a pickpocket, a pirate, a thief, or a robber, and I will not contradict you, nor dispute with you. But, sir, how will you obtain your “inhibitions upon monopoly and incorporation,” when the few are craving and the many mad for the same thing? When democrats and aristocrats all unite, with perhaps only two or three exceptions, in urging these monopolies and incorporations to the last extremity, and when every man who opposes them is sure to be ruined? Paper wealth has been a source of aristocracy in this country, as well as landed wealth, with a vengeance. Witness the immense fortunes made per saltum by aristocratical speculations, both in land and paper. In human affairs, sir, we must consider what is practicable, as well as what is theoretical.
But, sir, land and paper are not the only sources of aristocracy. There are master shipwrights, housewrights, masons, &c. &c., who have each of them from twenty to a hundred families in their employment, and can carry a posse to the polls when they will. These are not only aristocrats, but a species of feudal barons. What are demagogues and popular orators, but aristocrats? John Cade and Wat Tyler were aristocrats. Callender and Paine were aristocrats. Shays and Fries were aristocrats. Mobs never follow any but aristocrats.
Knowledge, you say, invented alienation, and became the natural enemy of aristocracy. This “invention” of knowledge was not very profound or ingenious. There are hundreds in the patent office more brilliant. The right, power, and authority of alienation are essential to property. If I own a snuffbox, I can burn it in the fire, cast it in a salt pond, crush it in atoms under a wagon wheel, or make a present of it to you,—which last alienation I should prefer to all the others,—or I could sell it to a peddler, or give it to a beggar. But, in either case, of gift or sale, would the aristocratical power of the snuffbox be lessened by alienation? Should a palatinate of Poland, or a prince of Russia, alienate his palatinate or his principality, with all the serfs attached to them, would not the buyer derive all the aristocratical influence from the purchase which the latter alienated by the sale? Should a planter in Virginia sell his clarissimum et illustrissimum et celeberrimum locum with his thousand negroes, to a merchant, would not the merchant gain the aristocratical influence which the planter lost by his transfer? Run down, sir, through all the ranks of society, or, if you are shocked at the word rank, say all the classes, degrees, the ladder, the theatrical benches of society, from the first planter and the first merchant to the hog driver, the whiskey dramseller, or the Scottish peddler, and consider, whether the alienation of lands, wharves, stores, houses, funded stock, bank stock, bridge stock, canal stock, turnpike stock, or even lottery tickets, does not transfer the aristocracy as well as the property. When the thirsty soul of a hundred acre man carries him to the whiskey shop till he has mortgaged all his acres, has he not transferred his aristocracy with them? I hope these hints, sir, have convinced you that alienation is not an adequate remedy against the aristocracy of property.
“Inhibitions upon monopoly and incorporation,” you say, “are remedies for an aristocracy founded on paper wealth.” And are such “inhibitions” your only hope against such an aristocracy? Have those principles of government which we have discovered, and those institutions which we have invented, which have established a “moral liberty” undiscovered and universal, uninvented by all nations before us, “inhibited monopolies and incorporations?” Is not every bank a monopoly? Are there not more banks in the United States than ever before existed in any nation under heaven? Are not these banks established by law upon a more aristocratical principle than any others under the sun? Are there not more legal corporations,—literary, scientifical, sacerdotal, medical, academical, scholastic, mercantile, manufactural, marine insurance, fire, bridge, canal, turnpike, &c. &c. &c.,—than are to be found in any known country of the whole world? Political conventions, caucuses, and Washington benevolent societies, biblical societies, and missionary societies, may be added,—and are not all these nurseries of aristocracy? If “alienations” and “inhibitions” fail us, where shall we look next for a remedy against aristocracy? Shall we have recourse, as you have done, page 9, to the art of printing? But this has not destroyed property or aristocracy or corporations or paper wealth in Europe or America, or diminished the influence of either; on the contrary, it has multiplied aristocracy and diminished democracy. I pray you, not to think this a paradox. You may hereafter be convinced, that it is a serious, a solemn, and melancholy truth. Admit that the press transferred the pontificate of Rome to Henry VIII. and to all the subsequent kings of England, even if you will, down to his present royal highness, the prince regent. Admit that the press demolished in some sort the feudal system, and set the serfs and villains free; admit that the press demolished the monasteries, nunneries, and religious houses; into whose hands did all these alienated baronies, monasteries, and religious houses and lands fall? Into the hands of the democracy? into the hands of serfs and villains? Serfs and villains were the only real democracy in those times. No. They fell into the hands of other aristocrats, and there remain to this day, notwithstanding all the innumerable “alienations” and transfers from aristocrat to aristocrat to this hour. Admit, sir, that the press produced the reformation as well as the dissolution of the feudal system and the tenures in mortmain, what was the consequence? Two hundred years, at least, of thefts, larcenies, burglaries, robberies, murders, assassinations, such as no period of human history had before exhibited. The civil wars in England, the massacres in Ireland, the civil wars in France, and the massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s day, all proceed from the same source, and so did the late French revolution; and the consequences are not ended, and cannot yet be foreseen. The real democracy of mankind has found very little alteration for the better or the worse through all these changes. The serfs of the barons or the church lands lived as well, and were as humanely treated, as the manufacturers or laborers are in England, France, Germany, or Spain, at this day. These are the real democracy of every nation and every age. These, who have either no vote at all, or at best but one vote, are the most numerous class in every society. Property in land, they have none; property in goods, besides their clothes, they have very little. When the national convention in France voted all the negroes in St. Domingo, Martinique, Guadaloupe, St. Lucia, &c., free, at a breath, did the poor democracy among the negroes gain any thing by the change? Did they not immediately fall into the power of aristocrats of their own color? Are they more free, from Toussaint to Petion and Christophe? Do they live better? Bananas and water they still enjoy, and a whole regiment would follow a leader who should hold a saltfish to their noses.
Suppose congress should, at one vote, or by one act, declare all the negroes in the United States free, in imitation of that great authority, the French sovereign legislature, what would follow? Would the democracy, nine in ten, among the negroes, be gainers? Would not the most shiftless among them be in danger of perishing for want? Would not nine in ten, perhaps ninety-nine in a hundred of the rest, petition their old aristocratical masters to receive them again, to protect them, to feed them, to clothe them, and to lodge and shelter them as usual? Would not some of the most thinking and philosophical among the aristocratical negroes ramble into distant states, seeking a poor and precarious subsistence by daily labor? Would not some of the most enterprising aristocrats allure a few followers into the wilderness, and become squatters? or, perhaps, incorporate with Indians? Would not others who have the courage of crimes,—“Le courage du crime,”—as well as of enterprise, collect little parties of followers, hide themselves in caves, behind rocks and mountains, in deep forests, or thick and boggy swamps, and commit inroads, depredations, and brigandages, as the villains did in Europe for ages, after the dissolution of fiefs and monasteries? Will the poor, simple, democratical part of the people gain any happiness by such a rash revolution?
I hope, sir, that all these considerations will convince you,—
1. That property has been, is, and everlastingly will be, a natural and unavoidable cause of aristocracy, and that God Almighty has made it such by the constitution of human nature and the globe, the land, the sea, the air, the water, and the fire, among which he has placed it.
2. That the advice which was given to me by a good deacon, in a quotation from an ancient divine, in the spring of 1774, after I was chosen to go to Congress,—“In all cases of difficulty and danger, when you know not what to do, be very careful that you do not do you know not what,”—was good advice. You and I have had to see the rise and progress, perfection, decline, and termination of hot, rash, blind, headlong, furious efforts to ameliorate the condition of society, to establish liberty, equality, fraternity, and the rights of man. And in what have they ended? Festina lente! sobrius esto. Property makes a permanent distinction between aristocrats and democrats. There are many more persons in the world who have no property, than there are who have any; and, therefore, the democracy is, and will be, more numerous than the aristocracy. But we must remember that the art of printing, to which you appeal to level aristocracy, is almost entirely in the hands of the aristocracy. You resort to the press for the protection of democracy and the suppression of aristocracy! This, sir, in my humble opinion, is “committere agnum lupo.” It is to commit the lamb to the kind guardianship and protection of the wolf! a hungry wolf! a starving wolf! Emperors and kings and princes know the power of the press, at least as well, perhaps better, than you and I do. It is known to nobles and aristocrats of all shades, colors and denominations, much better than to democrats. It is known to domestic ministers and to foreign ambassadors, quite as well as to Duane, Benjamin Austin or John Randolph. Oxenstiern bid his son go among the ambassadors and ministers of state, to see by “what sort of men this world is governed.” That sensible man might as sensibly have recommended to his son to go among the booksellers, the hireling scribblers, printers, and printers’ devils. He might have more easily found how this lower world is governed. Half the expense would have let him into the secret. The gazettes, the journals, the newspapers, and fugitive pamphlets govern mankind at this day, and have governed, at least since the art of printing has become universal or even general. And what governors are these?
Here, Mr. Taylor, give me leave to relate an anecdote, which, upon honor, and, if you doubt, I will attest upon oath. There were times, when I had the honor to be in high favor with the Count de Vergennes, and to enjoy his confidence. I had found means to convey into English newspapers paragraphs and little essays, which he knew could come only from me. At his office, one morning, upon some particular business with him, he received me alone, and walked with me backwards and forwards in the most familiar conversation. “Mr. Adams,” said the Count, “the gazettes, the journals govern the world. It is necessary that we should attend to them in all parts and in England; and I should be glad to communicate with you on this plan.” You cannot conceive the impression these few words made upon me. I was dumb, but I said in my heart, “Monsieur le Comte, your spies have informed you, that I daily read the foreign gazettes, and that I have communicated some trifles in England; and I doubt not you know my channels of conveyance.” The truth was, I daily read the foreign gazettes from Holland, Germany, England, and daily saw the hand of the Count de Vergennes and his office of interpreters of three hundred clerks, as I was told, skilled in the languages of all nations. I give you but a sketch, or rather a hint, of what would require volumes to explain at large. And I give you this hint merely, to convince you that ministers of state know the press as well as John Randolph or any other democrat, aristocrat, or mongrel.
You remember I have reserved a right of employing twenty years to answer your book, because you consumed that number in writing it. I have now written you thirty letters, and have not advanced beyond a dozen pages of your work; at this rate, I must ask your indulgence for forty or fifty years more. You know that your amusement and my own are the principal objects that I have in view. My last was upon the power of the press and the influence of the art of printing; and I endeavored to convince you, that the great cause of democracy would not be exclusively promoted by that noble invention. It is certain that property is aristocracy, and that property commands the press. Think of this, sir! The types, the machinery, the office, the apprentices, the journeymen require a capital, and that capital is aristocracy. It does not appear that democracy has ever distinguished itself more than aristocracy, in zeal or exertion for the promotion of science, literature, the fine arts, or mechanic arts, not even the art of printing.
In ancient days, when all learning was in manuscript, it required a fortune to procure a small library. Books were in the hands of the rich. The Roman knights, with their gold rings, might have some knowledge; but the plebeians had none but such as they acquired from the actors on their theatres, and their popular orators in town meetings, all of whom were as proudly and vainly aristocratic, and nearly as flashy and as superficial, as your Baron of Roanoke. Will you call Terence and Epictetus and other Greek slaves, or the wandering sophists, the Græci esurientes, rambling about the world, like strolling players, to beg or earn a pitiful subsistence, democrats? Will you quote the rambling French dancing-masters, drawing-masters, fencing-masters, and grammarians, as democrats?
Have democrats been the promoters of science, arts, and literature? The aristocrat, monarchist, or tyrant, Pisistratus, his sons, &c., who assembled all the learned men of Greece to form a system of religion and government by the compilation of Homer, were not democrats. Alexander and Pericles, Themistocles and the Ptolemies, were not democrats. Augustus, nor Scipio, nor Lælius, were democrats. The Medici, who raised popes, emperors, queens, and kings, by the machinery of banks, were not democrats. Elizabeth, Anne, Louis XIV., Charles I., George III., Catherine, were not democrats. You may call Napoleon a democrat, if you will. These have been the great encouragers of arts and sciences and literature. But, perhaps, sir, I have rambled a little from the point. The question then is, concerning the influence of the art of printing, in diminishing aristocracy, and protecting, encouraging, supporting, increasing, and multiplying democracy. This subject will require volumes. My great misfortune, through a pretty long life, has been, that I have never had time to make my poor productions shorter. And I am more embarrassed now than ever, for I have neither eyes, nor fingers, nor clerks, nor secretaries, nor aids-de-camp, nor amanuenses, any more than time, at my command, to abridge and condense, or arrange and methodize any thing. Correction, revision,—nonumque prematur in annum,—have all been forbidden fruit to me.
Has the art of printing increased democracy? It has humiliated kings; it has humiliated popes; it has demolished, in some degree, feudality and chivalry; it has promoted commerce and manufactures; agreed if you will, and sing Io, triumphe, if you will. But is democracy increased or bettered? Remember always, as we go along, that by democrats I mean exclusively those who are simple units, who have but one vote in society. How shall we decide this question? Have these simple units acquired property? Have they acquired knowledge? Do they live better? Are they become more temperate, more industrious, more frugal, more considerate? Run over all Europe, and see! In France, 24,500,000, who can neither read nor write; in England, Protestant as it is, not much less in proportion; nor in Holland, nor Germany, nor Russia, nor Italy, nor the peninsula of Spain and Portugal. Knowledge, in France, I may acknowledge, has been more spread and divided among the aristocracy of five hundred thousand aristocrats; but the democratical twenty-four million five hundred thousand have gained nothing. Bread and water, oatmeal and potatoes, are still their rations. The benevolence of Henry IV. and all his successors have never procured so much as a chicken in the pot once a week for the poor democrats. Depend upon it, unless you give a share in the sovereignty to the democrats, the more you increase knowledge in the nation, the more you will grind and gripe the democrats, till you reduce them to the calculations concerning West India negroes, Scottish and English coal-heavers, Dutch turf-lifters, and the street-walking girls of the night in Paris and London. For knowledge will forever be monopolized by the aristocracy. The moment you give knowledge to a democrat, you make him an aristocrat. If you give more than a share in the sovereignty to the democrats, that is, if you give them the command or preponderance in the sovereignty, that is, the legislature, they will vote all property out of the hands of you aristocrats, and if they let you escape with your lives, it will be more humanity, consideration, and generosity than any triumphant democracy ever displayed since the creation. And what will follow? The aristocracy among the democrats will take your places, and treat their fellows as severely and sternly as you have treated them. For every democracy and portion of democracy has an aristocracy in it as distinct as that of Rome, France, or England.
That the first want of man is his dinner, and the second his girl, were truths well known to every democrat and aristocrat, long before the great philosopher Malthus arose, to think he enlightened the world by the discovery.
It has been equally well known that the second want is frequently so impetuous as to make men and women forget the first, and rush into rash marriages, leaving both the first and second wants, their own as well as those of their children and grandchildren, to the chapter of accidents. The most religious very often leave the consideration of these wants to him who supplies the young ravens when they cry.
The natural, necessary, and unavoidable consequence of all this is, that the multiplication of the population so far transcends the multiplication of the means of subsistence, that the constant labor of nine tenths of our species will forever be necessary to prevent all of them from starving with hunger, cold, and pestilence. Make all men Newtons, or, if you will, Jeffersons, or Taylors, or Randolphs, and they would all perish in a heap!
Knowledge, therefore, sir, can never be equally divided among mankind, any more than property, real or personal, any more than wives or women.
- In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies,
- All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies;
- Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes,
- Men would be angels, angels would be gods,
- Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell,
- Aspiring to be angels, men rebel.
The modern improvers of society,—ameliorators of the condition of mankind, instructors of the human species,—have assumed too much. They have not only condemned all the philosophy and policy of all ages of men, but they have undertaken to build a new universe, to ameliorate the system of eternal wisdom and benevolence. I wish, sir, that you would agree with me and my, and, I hope, your friends, Pope and Horace.
- This vault of air, this congregated ball,
- Self-centred sun, and stars that rise and fall,
- There are, my friend, whose philosophic eyes
- Look through, and trust the Ruler with his skies.
- Hunc solem, et stellas, et decedentia certis
- Tempora momentis, sunt qui formidine nullâ
- Imbuti spectent.
Turn our thoughts, in the next place, to the characters of learned men. The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. Read over again all the accounts we have of Hindoos, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Teutons, we shall find that priests had all the knowledge, and really governed all mankind. Examine Mahometanism, trace Christianity from its first promulgation; knowledge has been almost exclusively confined to the clergy. And, even since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate a free inquiry? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes.
When we are weary of looking at religion, we will, if you please, turn our eyes to government. Is there toleration in politics? Where shall we find it, if not in Virginia? The Honorable John Randolph informs us that, in consequence of the independence of his soul, he is on bad terms with the world; that his nerves are of too weak a fibre to bear the questions ordinary and extraordinary from our political inquisitors; talks of the rancorous hatred of the numerous enemies he has made in his course; and says, that the avenue to the public ear is shut against him in Virginia, where the press is under a virtual imprimatur, and where it would be easier to force into circulation the treasurer’s notes, than opinions militating against the administration, through the press. If these things are so in Virginia, sir, where Callender was applauded, nourished, cherished, and paid; where the great historian, Wood, who wrote and printed the elegant and classical History of the Administration of John Adams, was kindly received and employed; and where the sedition act, the gag law, was so unpopular; where can we look with any prospect or hope of finding a candid freedom of the press? The truth is, party opinions, interests, passions, and prejudices may be as decisive an imprimatur as that of a monarch; and the public opinion, which is not always right, until it is too late, is sometimes as arbitrary a prohibition as an index expurgatorius. I hope it will be no offence to say, that public opinion is often formed upon imperfect, partial, and false information from the press. Public information cannot keep pace with facts. Knowledge cannot always accompany events. How many days intervene between a victory or a defeat, and the universal knowledge of it? How long do we wait for the result of a negotiation? How many erroneous public opinions are formed in the intervals? How long is a law enacted before the proclamation of it can reach the extremities of the nation?
A few words more concerning the characters of literary men. What sort of men have had the conduct of the presses in the United States for the last thirty years? In Germany, in England, in France, in Holland, the presses, even the newspapers, have been under the direction of learned men. How has it been in America? How many presses, how many newspapers have been directed by vagabonds, fugitives from a bailiff, a pillory, or a halter in Europe?
You know it is one of the sublimest and profoundest discoveries of the eighteenth century, that knowledge is corruption; that arts, sciences, and taste have deformed the beauty and destroyed the felicity of human nature, which appears only in perfection in the savage state,—the children of nature. One writer gravely tells us that the first man who fenced a tobacco yard, and said, “this is mine,” ought instantly to have been put to death; another as solemnly says, the first man who pronounced the word “dieu,” ought to have been despatched on the spot; yet these are advocates of toleration and enemies of the Inquisition.
I never had enough of the ethereal spirit to rise to these heights. My humble opinion is, that knowledge, upon the whole, promotes virtue and happiness. I therefore hope that you and all other gentlemen of property, education, and reputation will exert your utmost influence in establishing schools, colleges, academies, and universities, and employ every means and opportunity to spread information, even to the lowest dregs of the people, if any such there are, even among your own domestics and John Randolph’s serfs. I fear not the propagation and dissemination of knowledge. The conditions of humanity will be improved and ameliorated by its expansion and diffusion in every direction. May every human being,—man, woman, and child,—be as well informed as possible! But, after all, did you ever see a rose without a briar, a convenience without an inconvenience, a good without an evil, in this mingled world? Knowledge is applied to bad purposes as well as to good ones. Knaves and hypocrites can acquire it, as well as honest, candid, and sincere men. It is employed as an engine and a vehicle to propagate error and falsehood, treason and vice, as well as truth, honor, virtue, and patriotism. It composes and pronounces, both panegyrics and philippics, with exquisite art, to confound all distinctions in society between right and wrong. And if I admit, as I do, that truth generally prevails, and virtue is, or will be triumphant in the end, you must allow that honesty has a hard struggle, and must prevail by many a well-fought and fortunate battle, and, after all, must often look to another world for justice, if not for pardon.
There is no necessary connection between knowledge and virtue. Simple intelligence has no association with morality. What connection is there between the mechanism of a clock or watch and the feeling of moral good and evil, right or wrong? A faculty or a quality of distinguishing between moral good and evil, as well as physical happiness and misery, that is, pleasure and pain, or, in other words, a conscience,—an old word almost out of fashion,—is essential to morality.
Now, how far does simple, theoretical knowledge quicken or sharpen conscience? La Harpe, in some part of his great work, his Course of Literature, has given us an account of a tribe of learned men and elegant writers, who kept a kind of office in Paris for selling at all prices, down to three livres, essays or paragraphs upon any subject, good or evil, for or against any party, any cause, or any person. One of the most conspicuous and popular booksellers in England, both with the courtiers and the citizens, who employed many printers and supported many writers, has said to me, “the men of learning in this country are stark mad. There are in this city a hundred men, gentlemen of liberal education, men of science, classical scholars, fine writers, whom I can hire at any time at a guinea a day, to write for me for or against any man, any party, or any cause.” Can we wonder, then, at any thing we read in British journals, magazines, newspapers, or reviews?
Where are, and where have been, the greatest masses of science, of literature, or of taste? Shall we look for them in the church or the state, in the universities or the academies? among Greek or Roman philosophers, Hindoos, Brahmins, Chinese mandarins, Chaldean magi, British druids, Indian prophets, or Christian monks? Has it not been the invariable maxim of them all to deceive the people by any lies, however gross? “Bonus populus vult decipi; ergo decipiatur.”
And after all that can be done to disseminate knowledge, you never can equalize it. The number of laborers must, and will forever be so much more multitudinous than that of the students, that there will always be giants as well as pygmies, the former of which will have more influence than the latter; man for man, and head for head; and, therefore, the former will be aristocrats, and the latter democrats, if not Jacobins or sans culottes.
These morsels, and a million others analogous to them, which will easily occur to you, if you will be pleased to give them a careful mastication and rumination, must, I think, convince you, that no practicable or possible advancement of learning can ever equalize knowledge among men to such a degree, that some will not have more influence in society than others; and, consequently, that some will always be aristocrats, and others democrats. You may read the history of all the universities, academies, monasteries of the world, and see whether learning extinguishes human passions or corrects human vices. You will find in them as many parties and factions, as much jealousy and envy, hatred and malice, revenge and intrigue, as you will in any legislative assembly or executive council, the most ignorant city or village. Are not the men of letters,—philosophers, divines, physicians, lawyers, orators, and poets,—all over the world, at perpetual strife with one another? Knowledge, therefore, as well as genius, strength, activity, industry, beauty, and twenty other things, will forever be a natural cause of aristocracy.
REVIEW OF THE PROPOSITIONS FOR AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION SUBMITTED BY MR. HILLHOUSE TO THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, IN 1808.
Among the manuscripts of Mr. Adams was found the following review of a pamphlet published in 1808, entitled “Propositions for Amending the Constitution of the United States, submitted by Mr. Hillhouse to the Senate, on the twelfth day of April, 1808, with his Explanatory Remarks.” It seems to have been prepared for publication, though no trace of it has been found in print. For the better understanding of the strictures, it is necessary to give, in the first place, the amendments as they were proposed by Mr. Hillhouse.
ARTICLE THE FIRST.
After the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and thirteen, the house of representatives shall be composed of members chosen every year by the people of the several states; their electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature; and their term of service shall expire on the first Tuesday of April in each year.
ARTICLE THE SECOND.
After the third day of March, 1813, the senators of the United States shall be chosen for three years; and their term of service shall expire on the first Tuesday of April.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be, into three classes. The seats of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the first year; of the second class, at the expiration of the second year; and of the third class, at the expiration of the third year; so that one third may be chosen every year. Vacancies to be filled as already provided.
ARTICLE THE THIRD.
On the third day of March, 1813, the president of the United States shall be appointed, and shall hold his office until the expiration of the first Tuesday of April, 1814. And on the first Tuesday of April, 1814, and on the first Tuesday of April in each succeeding year, the president shall be appointed to hold his office during the term of one year. The mode of appointment shall be as follows:—
In presence of the senate and house of representatives, each senator belonging to the class whose term of service will first expire, and constitutionally eligible to the office of president, of which the house of representatives shall be the sole judges, and shall decide without debate, shall, beginning with the first on the alphabet, and in their alphabetical order, draw a ball out of a box containing the same number of uniform balls as there shall be senators present and eligible, one of which balls shall be colored, the others white. The senator who shall draw the colored ball shall be president. A committee of the house of representatives, to consist of a member from each state, to be appointed in such manner as the house shall direct, shall place the balls in the box, shall shake the same so as to intermix them, and shall superintend the drawing thereof.
In case of the removal of the president from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties thereof, if congress be then in session, or if not, as soon as they shall be in session, the president shall, in the manner beforementioned, be appointed for the residue of the term. And, until the disability be removed, or a president be appointed, the speaker of the senate shall act as president. And congress may, by law, provide for the case of removal by death, resignation, or inability of the president, and vacancy in the office, or inability of the speaker of the senate; and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability of the president be removed, or another be appointed.
The seat of a senator who shall be appointed as president, shall thereby be vacated.
ARTICLE THE FOURTH.
After the third day of March, 1813, the compensation of the president shall not exceed fifteen thousand dollars a year.
ARTICLE THE FIFTH.
After the third day of March, 1813, the office of vice-president shall cease. And the senate, on the same day in each year, when the president shall be annually appointed, shall choose a speaker; and, in the absence of the speaker, or when he shall exercise the office of president, the senate shall choose a speaker pro tempore.
ARTICLE THE SIXTH.
After the third day of March, 1813, the president shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate and of the house of representatives, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the supreme court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law. But congress may, by law, vest the appointment of such officers as they think proper, in the president, by and with the advice and consent of the senate; and of the inferior officers in the president alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments. But no law, vesting the power of appointment, shall be for a longer term than two years. All proceedings on nominations shall be with closed doors and without debate; but information of the character and qualifications of the person nominated, shall be received.
ARTICLE THE SEVENTH.
After the third day of March, 1813, the president shall have power to fill all vacancies that may happen during the recess of congress, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session. No removal from office shall take place without the consent of the senate and of the house of representatives. But congress may, by law, authorize the removal by the same power, as may by law be authorized to make the appointment. But in every case of misconduct in office, where the consent of the senate, or of the senate and house of representatives, shall be necessary to a removal, the president, during the recess of congress, may suspend the officer, and make a temporary appointment of a person to exercise the office, until the next meeting of congress, and until a decision can be had by the senate, or by the senate and house of representatives, as the case may be, on a question for the removal of the officer suspended. All proceedings respecting removal from office shall be had, without debate, upon the information and reasons which shall be communicated by the president, and with closed doors.
These radical propositions, coming as they did from a leading member of the party originally formed for the purpose of sustaining the federal constitution, and supported by him in an elaborate speech, were well calculated to fix the attention of Mr. Adams. It is not unlikely that he gave to the plan more importance, as a political movement, than it merited; for it does not appear to have been followed up, either by the originator or any one else. This may be the reason why the review was never published. The general argument is, however, of a permanent nature, and deserves to be placed among the memorials of the author.
When a speech or a pamphlet appears in public from the press, the most rational course would be to read it and judge of its merits, without prejudice. But republican jealousy is so much the spirit of the times, that the first question is, who is the author? of what party is he? what are his motives? and whose election is he aiming to promote? This inquisitive temper has been sufficiently alive concerning the publication of Mr. Hillhouse. Some have conjectured that his design was, to throw the nation into confusion, in hopes that a better order than prevails at present, might arise out of it. Others have suggested that this work is a burlesque on the crude projects of amendment which appear in such numbers. One set of men have suspected that this gentleman has been so long in public business, and has been so much disappointed, becoming yearly of less and less influence, and, at present, finding himself in a minority, consisting at most of three or four in the senate, that he is grown impatient, and determined, at any rate, to make himself a name, and increase his importance. I shall leave these uncandid insinuations to those who delight in them; and take it for granted, that Mr. Hillhouse is sincere, that he honestly believes what he says, and proposes his amendments for the public good. It shall be my endeavor to be as concise as possible, in a few observations which, I hope, may show in a clear light, the merit of his work.
In pages five and six, Mr. Hillhouse defines his terms,—monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, federalists and republicans. I shall make no objection to any thing here, but his idea of aristocracy. But before I come to that, I must take notice of what he says at the bottom of page six.
“Some of the important features of our constitution were borrowed from a model which did not very well suit our condition. I mean the constitution and government of England,—a mixed monarchy,—in which monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy are so combined, as to form a check on each other. One important and indispensable requisite of such a government is, that the first two branches should be hereditary.”
Would it not have been more conformable to the fact to have said, that those important features of our constitution were borrowed from our colonial constitutions? Every colony on the continent, except Pennsylvania, had a governor, a council or senate, and a house of representatives. The governors were not hereditary; the counsellors were not hereditary. Some of the governors were chosen by the people, and so were some of the councils. Some were appointed by the king, but commonly changed upon an average of less than seven years. There is little difference between our present governments and those under which our ancestors emigrated, lived, and, after having founded a respectable and flourishing nation, died; excepting that their governors were appointed from abroad, and our presidents and governors are chosen by ourselves. I am sorry to add, that we show the executives of our own choice and own blood infinitely less respect than our ancestors did those who were foreigners and appointed by a king. Governments, therefore, may be mixed and compounded of monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical ingredients, without one particle of hereditary power or privilege in them, except the common privileges of the people, such as their hereditary lands, goods, and liberties. Say, if you will, that in such an empire as the British, it is necessary that the executive and senate should be hereditary, because elections to these powers would totally corrupt the nation, produce a civil war, and raise a military despotism at the first trial. But, in an experiment of twenty years, we have not yet found such dangers among us.
Mr. Hillhouse further observes, that “to form an aristocracy, hereditary succession is indispensable.” But Mr. Hillhouse is mistaken. Holland was an aristocracy; but the burgomasters, pensionaries, counsellors, and schepens, in whom the sovereignty resided, were not hereditary. There is a small number of nobles in the legislature of each state, but this body has but one vote. Every city has an equal vote with the whole body of nobles, and, in critical times, they have no influence. Bern was an aristocracy; but the members of the grand council were not hereditary, but elective. There were six noble families; but they had no prerogatives, but mere precedency; and these were not counsellors, unless elected into a legislature of two hundred and ninety-nine members,—counsellors and assessors.
In short, hereditary powers and peculiar privileges enter in no degree into the definition of aristocracy. There may be an aristocracy for life, or for years, or for half a year, or a month, or a day. Infinite art and chicanery have been employed in this country to deceive the people in their understanding of this term aristocracy, as well as of that of well-born, as if aristocracy could not exist without hereditary power and exclusive privileges; and as if a man could not be well-born, without being a hereditary nobleman and a peer of the realm.
Chancellor Livingston inherited a name, numerous and wealthy family connections, and a fine manor. These are all hereditary privileges, and have given him more influence in this country than all the titles and immense landed estates of the Duke of Norfolk, with all the hereditary rank and seat in the house of lords, have given him in England. Mr. John Randolph inherited his name, family connections, his fine plantations and thousand negroes, which have given him more power in this country than the Duke of Bedford has in England, and more than he would have, if he possessed all the brilliant wit, fine imagination, and flowing eloquence of that celebrated Virginian. Were not, then, Mr. Livingston and Mr. Randolph well-born? The state of Connecticut has always been governed by an aristocracy, more decisively than the empire of Great Britain is. Half a dozen, or, at most, a dozen families, have controlled that country when a colony, as well as since it has been a state. An aristocracy can govern the elections of the people without hereditary legal dignities, privileges, and powers, better than with them. In the Massachusetts, many of our prime quality were banished in the Revolution. Most of our present rulers are new men. But these have been promoted by an aristocracy.
Mr. Hillhouse says, “the United States do not possess the materials for forming an aristocracy.” But we do possess one material which actually constitutes an aristocracy that governs the nation. That material is wealth. Talents, birth, virtues, services, sacrifices, are of little consideration with us. The greatest talents, the highest virtues, the most important services are thrown aside as useless, unless they are supported by riches or parties, and the object of both parties is chiefly wealth. When the rich observe a young man, and see he has talents to serve their party, they court and employ him; but if he deviates from their line, let him have a care. He will soon be discarded. In the Roman history we see a constant struggle between the rich and the poor, from Romulus to Cæsar. The great division was not so much between patricians and plebeians, as between debtor and creditor. Speculation and usury kept the state in perpetual broils. The patricians usurped the lands, and the plebeians demanded agrarian laws. The patricians lent money at exorbitant interest, and the plebeians were sometimes unable and always unwilling to pay it. These were the causes of dividing the people into two parties, as distinct and jealous, and almost as hostile to each other, as two nations. Let Mr. Hillhouse say, whether we have not two parties in this country springing from the same sources? Whether a spirit for speculation in land has not always existed in this country, from the days of William Penn, and even long before? Whether this spirit has not become a rage, from Georgia to New Hampshire, within the last thirty years? Whether foundations have not been laid for immense fortunes in a few families, for their posterity? Whether the variations of a fluctuating medium and an unsteady public faith have not raised vast fortunes in personal property, in banks, in commerce, in roads, bridges, &c.? Whether there are not distinctions arising from corporations and societies of all kinds, even those of religion, science, and literature, and whether the professions of law, physic, and divinity are not distinctions? Whether all these are not materials for forming an aristocracy? Whether they do not in fact constitute an aristocracy that governs the country?
On the other side, the common people, by which appellation I designate the farmers, tradesmen, and laborers, many of the smaller merchants and shopkeepers, and even the unfortunate and necessitous who are obliged to fly into the wilderness for a subsistence, and all the debtors, cannot see these inequalities without grief and jealousy and resentment. A farmer or a tradesman, who cannot, by his utmost industry and frugality, in a life of seventy years, do more than support a moderate family, and lay up four or five thousand dollars, must think it very hard when he sees these vast fortunes made per saltum, these mushrooms growing up in a night; and they throw themselves naturally into the arms of a party whose professed object is to oppose the other party.
Two such parties, therefore, always will exist, as they always have existed, in all nations, especially in such as have property, and, most of all, in commercial countries. Each of these parties must be represented in the legislature, and the two must be checks on each other. But, without a mediator between them, they will oppose each other in all things, and go to war till one subjugates the other. The executive authority is the only mediator that can maintain peace between them.
Mr. Hillhouse thinks, “we have not the means of making an aristocratical branch to our government.” I think we have the means, and that we have in fact, an aristocratical branch to our government, and that is, the senate; and a very useful, honorable, and necessary branch it is; but it would be more useful and more safe, if every particle of executive power was taken away from it. There are materials in great plenty, out of which to form this aristocratical branch. Mercuries ought not, indeed, to be sculptured out of every kind of wood; but there are gentlemen of fortune, talents, experience, and integrity, in every state, out of whom the legislatures may select the most eminent, and so they might, if the number of senators were doubled, as I wish it was, and hope it will be. These would compose an aristocratical branch, as respectable as any in the world. Our senate for twenty years has been very well chosen, and has abounded with able and excellent men. How Mr. Hillhouse can be at a loss for means of making an aristocratical branch, I know not. Our senators are not hereditary, nor have they any exclusive privileges, nor are these necessary, so long as we have not a hereditary executive; nor is a hereditary executive necessary, so long as we have not a hereditary senate. When one is so, the other must be, or it will be no check.
It is to no purpose to declaim against “demagogues.” There are as many and as dangerous aristocratical demagogues as there are democratical. Neither party will get any thing by such invectives. Sylla and Pompey were as arrant, aristocratical demagogues as Marius and Cæsar, or even Catiline, were democratical ones. Sylla was more cruel than Marius, and Pompey had less humanity than Cæsar. Even Cicero and Brutus, the honestest men in Rome, were but aristocratical demagogues; and Milo was as much an agitator for the patricians as Clodius for the plebeians; and Hamilton was as much a demagogue as Burr. An independent executive, to mediate between the two parties, was wanting, and this defect was the ruin of the Roman republic, and will be ours, if Mr. Hillhouse’s motion prevails. When Mr. Hillhouse declares that, “when a citizen claims to be an exclusive patriot, and is very officious in proclaiming his own merit, it is time for the people to be alarmed,” I agree with him. But, I must add, when a senator declaims against executive influence under our constitution, it is time for the people to be upon their guard against an aristocratical spirit and preponderance.
Further, Mr. Hillhouse says, “there is always such a spirit of jealousy existing between aristocracy and democracy, and between monarchy and democracy, they cannot long exist together without a third balancing power.” Mr. Hillhouse should have added, an equal jealousy between aristocracy and monarchy, and then I should have agreed with him. But this last jealousy it was not convenient for Mr. H. to acknowledge. He says, “as well might a man take up his abode in a tiger’s den, as aristocracy with democracy, unless protected by the strong arm of monarchy.” And I say, as well might a man take up his abode with Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, in the fiery furnace, as democracy with aristocracy, without the strong arm of monarchy to protect it. Witness the thirty tyrants of Athens and the decemvirs at Rome, and every other instance since the creation, in which democracy has been in the power of aristocracy. I say further, that as well might a man take up his abode with Daniel in the lion’s den as monarchy with aristocracy, without the million arms of democracy to defend it. All these jealousies exist in some degree; but the greatest jealousy of all, is that of aristocracy against monarchy. Aristocracy is the natural enemy of monarchy; and monarchy and democracy are the natural allies against it, and they have always felt the necessity of uniting against it, sooner or later. Hence the ultimate destruction of all republics. The aristocracy would not suffer the executive to have power to defend the constitution, to defend itself, or to defend the people. The aristocracy has oppressed the people and the executive, till the people, out of all patience, have given the aristocracy, and themselves, too, a master. As to “surrounding the throne by a powerful aristocracy,” they have always proved to be prætorian guards, and cut off the head of their general, when the discipline of the laws has, by any calamity, been weakened. It is true, when the people have been seditious and rebellious against them, their property, privileges, and distinctions, they have united with the executive to defend themselves. Like fire, they are good servants, but all-consuming masters.
Little need be said on shortening the period of the elections of the two houses. This, instead of diminishing the spirit of party, will only increase and inflame it. There will be no time for it to cool. The causes of the two parties I have already shown to be permanent and unchangeable. Both must be represented in the legislature, and there must be a mediator between them in the executive. This mediator must have power for the purpose. He must calm and restrain the ardor of both, and be more impartial between them than any president ever yet has been. And the senators themselves must not constrain him to be partial, as they so often have done. Their power to do so, instead of being increased, as Mr. Hillhouse proposes, ought to be wholly taken from them. They ought to have nothing to do with executive power. If Mr. Hillhouse, however, should carry this point, and the people, instead of being glutted and satiated with elections, should wish to double the number, I hope he will introduce that admirable aristocratical invention of Connecticut,—a nomination list,—that every thing may not depend upon the election fever,—the ictus febrilis of one election day.
The sixth article of Mr. Hillhouse’s amendments reduces the president’s office to that of a mere Doge of Venice, a mere head of wood, a mere tool of the aristocracy of the country. He is to be appointed by chance from the most aristocratic branch,—the senate. Although the senators in general have been respectable men, and some of them illustrious for virtues, talents, experience, and services, yet it must be confessed, that there have been very weak men in that body. These will have as good a chance as the best. A Blount, or a Burr, as good a chance as an Ellsworth, or a Strong, or a Richard Henry Lee. But this is of less importance than the proposal to submit all nominations and removals to the senate and house of representatives. There never was, and never can be, a project more perfectly aristocratical than this.
Mr. Hillhouse informs us, that “man is fond of power.” True. But is not man, in the shape of a senator or a representative, as fond of power as a president? Mr. H. also admonishes us, that “ambition and favoritism,” (and he should have added, avarice, jealousy, envy, hatred, love, and lust,) “are evils to be guarded against in a republican government.” True, again; but are not ambition and favoritism, and all other vicious passions and sinister interests, as strong and active in a senator or a representative as in a president? Cannot, indeed, the members of the legislature conceal their private views and improper motives more easily than a president? Every senator and every representative has in his own district friends and favorites, to whose esteem, affection, activity, and influence, he has been indebted for his election. Is it not natural, that his mutual esteem, affection, and gratitude to these friends, should excite him to exert himself in obtaining favors, offices, and employments for them? Mr. Hillhouse probably knows, that great pains have sometimes been taken by senators, and representatives, too, to obtain nominations to offices, sometimes for themselves, and sometimes for their favorites; sometimes with success, and sometimes without.
Again, has Mr. Hillhouse never known combinations and consultations between general officers, heads of department, leading members of the senate and house of representatives, I will not say to overawe, but to influence the president in favor of some appointments, and against others? Has he never known such combinations resisted, and nominations made in opposition to them all? I say, such instances have been; and such nominations have proved the most fortunate, important, and successful of any that were ever made under the constitution. Has Mr. Hillhouse never known combinations and committees of senators sent to the president, to remonstrate privately against nominations? and when they could not prevail, have they not obtained majorities in senate to negative such nominations? Mr. Hillhouse has known favoritisms and anti-favoritisms enough in both houses, I should think, to be convinced that favoritism would be increased by his project, at least one hundred and fiftyfold.
Let us now consider how Mr. Hillhouse’s project would operate. The president sends a nomination to the senate. Probably the person named has been selected by the president out of twenty candidates, who have been previously recommended to him by some senator and some representative. Nineteen senators are of course disappointed, because their favorites have been set aside. These nineteen will then combine together to negative the present nomination, in hopes that their favorites will have a better chance at the next time. There is to be no debate. How is this possible? Members are to give information, and information may be sent in from abroad, by petition or remonstrance. Vices, follies, crimes, incapacity, may be alleged and contradicted. How can these questions be determined but by witnesses, and how can false witnesses be counteracted but by confrontation? And, after all, the favorite member of the senate, by intrigue, artifice, or eloquence out of doors, will carry his candidate. After this, it must go down to the house of representatives; and what will happen there? The member who has previously recommended him to the president will rise and give him a character. Twenty other members, perhaps a hundred, who have recommended another man, or other men, will be disappointed. Sins and crimes and disqualifications may be alleged against the nomination. The subject will be postponed for days or weeks. In the mean time, caucuses will be held of evenings, combinations will be formed, and the favorite members of the house will carry their favorites.
But removals from office, too, must be laid before both houses. The mischiefs and inconveniences of this would be greater, if possible, than of the other. The officers of the army, navy, and revenue are necessarily numerous. Complaints and accusations often occur; these must be laid before congress. Witnesses must be summoned, examined, and cross-examined. Counsel would be humbly requested; it would be inhumanity to refuse it. Parties, cabals, and caucuses would be formed, and corruption introduced in a thousand shapes. Those who had favorites gaping for the place, would be tempted too slightly to vote for removal; and those who had no such favorites to gratify, would be too tender. The year would be too short for both houses to go through with all these appointments and removals. Again, how is military discipline to be maintained in your army and navy? How is the subordination of the military to the civil power to be supported? Give your general an estate for life in his office, defeasible only on the vote of the two houses, and he will soon be master of your president; he will soon have ten times as much influence in the nation.
To illustrate this subject still further, recollect the instances already recorded. In the case of Blount, a conspiracy was fully proved,—to dismember the empire, and carry off an immense portion of it to a foreign dominion; yet how much time was consumed, and how much debate excited, before that important subject could be decided! and the accused person, with all his guilt upon his head, was finally suffered to escape with impunity. In the case of Judge Pickering,—although his incapacity to discharge the functions of his office was indisputable, and although incapacity and non-user are a legal forfeiture of a judicial office; yet, it is well remembered how much time was necessarily employed in the investigation of the law and the evidence, and how much the house and the senate were divided in opinions on the final decision. In the case of Judge Chase,—the time, the expense, and the public anxiety of his impeachment and trial are well known, and how much exertion of the ablest and best men in the legislature, as well as of the counsel, were requisite to save a great and upright judge from unmerited ignominy, disgrace, and ruin. In the more recent case of Mr. John Smith, of Ohio,—what a vast expense of time and money and travel, what numbers of witnesses, what intricate questions of law, as well as collisions of testimony, occurred, and how critical was the final determination upon his innocence! In the case of General Wilkinson,—the complication of law and facts, the length of time through the whole of which his conduct is to be examined, the number of witnesses, the various parts of the Union from whence they must be collected, the conflicts of parties, the great legal and political questions which arise, and the vast importance to the public as well as the individual, are all to be taken into consideration. The time already passed in this inquiry is very great; and how much longer it will continue to irritate and inflame the public and divide the nation, no man can conjecture. The case of Colonel Burr is the most remarkable of all. If this was to be tried, first in the senate, and then in the house of representatives, when would it have an end? and who can pretend to divine what would be the decision?
Now every custom-house officer, every judge, and every marshal, every attorney-general and district-attorney, every secretary of state, treasury, war, or navy, and every officer of the army or navy, every postmaster, general or particular, would have as fair a right to a public and impartial trial, as a judge of the supreme court, upon an impeachment. In trials at law the jurors cannot be solicited; but the solicitations of members of congress, from culprits and their friends, would be infinite; and, where guilt or innocence is to be determined by a single vote in one hundred and fifty, as would often happen, if a corrupt member could be found, a bribe would not seldom be offered. Especially in cases where foreign interests and intrigues could intervene.
This is the system Mr. Hillhouse would introduce. It may without scruple be pronounced, though Mr. Hillhouse certainly did not see it in that light, the most corrupt project that ever was conceived by a man of sense and virtue. The endless confusion and distraction that would arise from it, would be as certain as its injustice, inhumanity, and corruption.
The appointment and removal of ambassadors and foreign ministers and consuls, as well as judges and general officers and admirals, would take the whole year, and convulse the continent. Take away from the president the nominations to those offices, and give it to every member of the senate and house, and how many nominations would there be to every vacancy? The disputes would be endless between the North and the South, the East and the West. One state would have more than its proportion, and others less. The question would be more concerning the abode of the candidate, and less concerning the talents, qualifications, and merits, than ever it has been yet; and it has already, and always been, more so than it ought to have been for the public good. The members of the house of representatives are so numerous, and often so young and inexperienced, that they must vote for men, nine times in ten, of whom they know nothing, not even by common fame; and as often will be incompetent to judge of the appropriate qualifications for the office.
The old congress was a small body of men, in comparison of the present two branches, and their deliberations were always in secret; yet, if there is anybody living who was present, and knew the contests on the appointments of general officers and foreign ministers, let him recollect the disputes about Dr. Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur and William Lee; Mr. Izard, Mr. Williams, Mr. Morris, Commodore Jones, Captain Landais, and Lieutenant Simpson; General Lincoln, General Arnold, General Wooster, Commodore Hopkins, and many others; nay, even concerning General Washington, General Ward, General Lee, General Schuyler, and General Gates, &c.; and he must remember that congress was torn to pieces by these disputes, and that days and months and years were wasted in such controversies, to the inexpressible injury of the service. To these causes are to be attributed the wants of the army, the distresses of General Washington, the loss of Canada, after we had conquered all but Quebec, the loss of the Penobscot enterprise, and almost all the disasters of the war. The complaints against general officers, the financier and his agents, and especially against foreign ministers, were as perpetual and endless as the debates in congress, not to say intrigues, to the delay and neglect of the most essential measures for the support and supply of the army and navy.
No! the real fault is, that the president has not influence enough, and is not independent enough. Parties will not allow him to act himself. For twelve years one party prevailed, and that party would not allow their presidents to be impartial. The other party has now prevailed eight years, and they have not permitted their president, in many instances, to act his own judgment. The power of removal was never abused in the first twelve years, except, perhaps, in two instances, and those removals were made at the earnest and repeated solicitations of all the members of the house, and one of the members of the senate, from New Hampshire, much against the inclination of the president. Representations of misconduct in office were made to the president, and probably credited by those members of congress; but there is now reason to suspect, that they were dictated by too much of a party spirit.
In short, presidents must break asunder their leading strings, and the people must support them in it. They must unite the two parties, instead of inflaming their divisions. They must look out for merit, wherever they can find it; and talent and integrity must be a recommendation to office, wherever they are seen, though differing in sentiments from the president, and in an opposite party to that whose little predominance brought him into power.
People of the United States!—you know not half the solicitude of your presidents for your happiness and welfare, nor a hundredth part of the obstructions and embarrassments they endure from intrigues of individuals of both parties. You must support them in their independence, and turn a deaf ear to all the false charges against them. But, if you suffer them to be overawed and shackled in the exercise of their constitutional powers, either by aristocratical or democratical manœuvres, you will soon repent of it in bitter anguish. Anarchy and civil war cannot be far off. Whereas, by a steady support of the independence of the president’s office, your liberties and happiness will be safe, in defiance of all foreign influence, French or English, and of all popular commotion and aristocratical intrigue.
The proposal of diminishing the president’s salary to fifteen thousand dollars, is so mean a thought that it scarcely deserves to be mentioned. If the present compensation is too high for seven or eight millions of industrious people, possessing a very fertile and productive agricultural country, and the second commerce in the universe, to support a president who represents their majesty, and must support their dignity in the eyes of all nations and people, let it be diminished by an amendment of the constitution, as it is, without making the president a mere painted head of a ship, made of wood, and incapable of being helmsman or pilot.
In several passages, Mr. Hillhouse is very anxious, and with great reason, about party spirit. He calls it a demon and a fiend, by a figure which is natural enough, for indeed it is
- A monster of so frightful mien
- As, to be hated, needs but to be seen.
But how shall this monster be chained? How shall this foul fiend be exorcised? Sermons, orations, speeches, pamphlets, odes, hymns, and heroic poems, have been long enough tried, to no purpose. Homer, Milton, and Spenser, whose immortal poems were all written expressly to show the dreadful effects of party spirit and discord among aristocratic chiefs, and the passions of envy, jealousy, ambition, and revenge, from whence they sprung, have been as little heeded as Mr. Hillhouse and his humble reviewer will be. It is a devil, I believe, that will not be cast out even by fasting and prayer. It was turned out of paradise with the first pair, immediately made a division in their family, and produced a duel or an assassination between their first two sons. From that family it has descended through all successive generations to the present most enlightened and virtuous age, and still produces assassinations and duels as frequently as ever. It inhabits all climes, and is found under all forms of government. It prevails in Turkey and Persia, Morocco and Tripoli, as well as in France and England; and in every tribe of savages in Africa and America, as well as among the most enlightened people on earth. There never existed three men together, two of whom did not love one another better than either of them loved the third, and better than the third loved either of the other two. If this fact be indubitable, as I believe it is, it will necessarily follow, that three men never lived together without a party spirit among them.
In despotisms and simple monarchies it is well known by what means the monster is quelled; but in limited monarchies and free republics the conquest is attended with more difficulty. If Mr. Hillhouse will run over in his thoughts all his researches into history and the science of government, he will oblige the public by pointing out one instance, in which party spirit has been confined within any bounds compatible with public good and national happiness, but by a counterpoise of interests, passions, and parties. Party spirit confounds the distinctions between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, and it corrupts the moral sense. There can be, therefore, no ultimate remedy in any moral principle or political maxim, against its final and fatal excesses. Nothing but power lodged somewhere in impartial hands can ever moderate, soften, or control it.
When Mr. Hillhouse says, that “state or local parties will have but a feeble influence on the general government,” I cannot comprehend him. Will not a state party avail itself of the influence of the general government, to increase its own influence at home, and to diminish that of its rival? Will not a local party request Mr. Pickering, Mr. Hillhouse, and Mr. Ely, to write public and private letters to stimulate their own friends and disgrace their antagonists? And will not the opposite party avail themselves of even a letter from a man of no party, whose conscience is not yet seared with the red hot iron of faction, to support itself if it can? Will not both parties cut off at a blow at present, and after some time, perhaps by a proscription or a guillotine, or a banishment to Cayenne or to Botany Bay, every man who dares to vote or speak or write from his conscience and his honor? “Curse ye Meroz, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty,” is the language of all parties; and when it is infallibly known to be the cause of the Lord, it is just; but when it is the cause of mere faction, the language should be changed to “cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel.” The time is well remembered when Mr. Madison, Mr. Giles, and several other members of congress, finding themselves unable to elevate their party in the great council of the nation, resigned their seats, and became members of their state legislatures, in order to revolutionize the primary assemblies, influence the elections to the general government, and overawe the national measures. Mr. Hillhouse, no doubt, remembered the great efforts, and, among many others, the representations and legislative pamphlets against the alien law and sedition law. He must clearly see, and readily acknowledge, that his amendments will be no remedy against such party spirit and party contrivances. Senators and representatives of the national government, and ministers of state, too, will continue to resign, in order to increase their fame, to be made governors at home, and promote the views of their party; and, on the other hand, governors, &c., of states will resign to be made senators, vice-presidents, secretaries of state, judges, and presidents. As long as the state governments retain their sovereignty, that is, their legislatures, or, in other words, as long as the national government is, in any sense, a federative republic, mutual sympathies or mutual antipathies will subsist between them and the national government; and there can never exist the smallest spirit of party in one, without producing a similar spirit of party in the other.
That there are “regular, organized parties, extending from the northern to the southern extremity, and from the Atlantic to the western limits of the United States,” is very true. And it is equally certain, that there ever have been such, and that there ever will be such, unless you lay an embargo on all printing presses, private letters, private clubs, and on all travelling from one state to another. A standing army of a hundred thousand infantry and another hundred thousand cavalry, and twenty thousand gun-boats, will not effect it. Caucuses of patricians and caucuses of plebeians always prevailed in Rome and in all other free countries. Our revolution was effected by caucuses. The federal constitution was formed by caucuses, and the federal administrations, for twenty years, have been supported or subverted by caucuses. There is little more of the kind now, than there was twenty years ago. Alexander Hamilton was the greatest organist that ever played upon this instrument. He made all the use he could of these bodies of Cincinnati and others, to prevent Mr. Adams from being chosen vice-president. The reason of his antipathy, I know not; for he had never seen him. He caused it to be propagated in the Northern States, that Virginia would not vote for Washington, and in the Southern States, that New England would not vote for Washington, or, at least, that their votes would not be unanimous; at the same time, that there was a great probability there would be a unanimous vote for Adams; that, therefore, the electors must throw away so many of their votes that Adams could not have a majority, and, consequently, could not be president. If he believed one word of the apprehensions he propagated, it is very unaccountable; for there was a very great certainty in the public opinion, that Washington would have a unanimous vote.
At the second election, he was pleased to permit Mr. Adams to have a considerable majority as vice-president.
At the third election, he intrigued with all his might to get Major Thomas Pinckney chosen president. He dared not attempt to exclude Mr. Adams, because he knew that such a project would defeat his plan; but his scheme was to get a vote or two more for Pinckney than for Adams, or, at least, an equal number for each, in hopes that his intrigues in the house might prevail to have Pinckney preferred to Adams.
At the fourth election, his caucuses were more bold, open, and decided. Not only a caucus of members of Congress was assembled at Philadelphia, to exclude Mr. Jefferson, and turn him out, but to bring in General Pinckney with an equal vote with Mr. Adams. This was given out as a point determined, and the whole continent pledged to it upon their sacred honor. In the mean time, Hamilton prepared his famous pamphlet, intending to keep it secret till the election was passed, and then put it into the hands of the members of the house, to decide the election there in favor of Pinckney. Besides all this, a caucus of the Cincinnati was called at New York, in which he was chosen president of that society; but it was determined to sacrifice Adams; and even the two clergymen, President Dwight and Dr. Hitchcock, were found explicit in the pious opinion of sacrificing Adams. Not satisfied with all this, he made a journey through New England to Boston and to Providence, in prosecution of this patriotic design. In Boston, I doubt not, he found some as patriotic as himself. In Rhode Island he was less successful. He labored with Governor Fenner to no purpose. Fenner would not sacrifice Adams.
The opposite party had their caucuses, too, and Burr made as many journeys, and reasoned to greater effect than Hamilton. The republican party had a caucus in Boston, in 1793, and wrote to Mr. Jefferson, upon his resignation of the office of secretary of state, that if he would place himself at their head, they would choose him at the next election; and they organized their party by their correspondences through the states.
This detail sufficiently shows, that caucuses have been from the beginning. There is, no doubt, some regard to public good, in the prosecution of these measures. They are considered as necessary. There is, also, ambition, avarice, envy, jealousy, and revenge. As these causes, good and bad, have hitherto produced such combinations, and as these causes will continue to the end of the world, we may presume the combinations will continue too. They have been, perhaps, too openly avowed, and published in too dictatorial a style; but they will continue with more or less reserve. You cannot prevent them any more than you can prevent gentlemen from conversing at their lodgings.
The question now is, whether Mr. Hillhouse’s amendments of the constitution will remedy or qualify the evil. I think not. On the contrary, they will aggravate the distemper, and make it mortal. As the government vibrates at present between parties about once in twelve years, if you make the elections annual, there will be a chance of its vibrating every year, and you will have no stability in government at all. If that “prince of the power of the air,” that “fiend, party spirit,” can now “invade every sphere;” if that demon can “pass the bounds of every state,” will he be
- Hurl’d headlong, flaming from the ethereal sky,
- To bottomless perdition; there to dwell
- In adamantine chains,
when elections become annual? Will Hamilton be prohibited from visiting Boston and Rhode Island, and Burr from travelling in New Jersey and Pennsylvania? The communication by letters in the post offices, and by private hands, will be as easy as ever, and mercenary emissaries from the British and French courts may write, speak, and hold caucuses, as well as federalists and republicans, when elections are annual, as well as at this time, when they are for two years, for six years, and for four years. The monster who now fremit ore cruento, but cannot gorge himself more than once in six years, will then have his appetite increased by being annually feasted. He will then be monthly and daily employed all the year round, in “sowing discord and divisions, destroying social harmony, overturning the most valuable institutions, and endangering the liberties of our country.”
It is true, that parties have commenced in this country; but that they are progressing with more gigantic strides than usual, I know not. At every election of representatives, senators, and presidents, they have appeared; and the nation was as much divided in 1787, 1788, and 1789, as it is now. It was united in nothing but in the choice of Washington. When Mr. Benson moved that the blank in the bill, directing what officer should hold the office of president, in case of the death of the president and vice-president, should be filled with the chief justice, meaning Mr. Jay, Mr. Madison instantly moved that it should be filled with the secretary of state, meaning Mr. Jefferson. So fierce a spirit of party between the friends of the two rivals appeared all at once, that neither side had the courage to engage in the debate; the blank was never filled, and the bill was dropped. And both parties have ever had a successor in view from that time to this. Notwithstanding all the ardor of popular affection for Washington, and the great, I will not say unlimited confidence in him, congress and the nation were more divided, during the eight years of his administration, than they ever have been since. The senate, in constitutional questions and subjects of foreign relations, were, in most instances, divided half and half. The federal majority in the house of representatives was very small. During the administration of his immediate successor, the federalists had a majority of two thirds in the senate, and a larger majority in the house than at any period of the first eight years. This appearance of strength made them, or, at least, their great leader, Hamilton, presumptuous, and proved their ruin.
During the whole administration of Mr. Jefferson, the nation has been more united, and the majorities in both houses have been uniformly much greater, than under either of his predecessors. How, then, can it be said, that parties are progressing with gigantic strides? It should rather seem that the nation is advancing towards greater unanimity. The next election, however, of president, will show whether party spirit or unanimity is increasing. The belligerent powers have, indeed, driven us, by their intemperate measures, into circumstances of danger and distress, which have increased the anxiety of all men of all parties; but it does not yet appear, that the parties are more dangerous or alarming than they have been. A little time may decide. But, however this may be, the question still remains, whether Mr. Hillhouse’s amendment will quell one monster, or propagate more and fiercer? Mr. H. is for “cutting off the head of the demon.” I think he will find it the head of a hydra, and that a hundred heads will sprout from the blood of the one exscinded. “Without a head, no dangerous party can be formed; no such party can exist,” says Mr. H. Indeed! Is it so? Perhaps it is. But parties will find heads enough; an oligarchy of heads, an aristocracy of heads, a democracy of heads; for the deepest democracies always have heads. One would think that the ancient experiment of cutting off the heads of the tallest poppies, had been tried often enough. Go into your field, and strike off the heads of all the tallest, and when you have gone over the whole, turn round and survey the whole ground. You will find as many taller than others as ever; and you must cut off every plant but one, before you can say there is no poppy taller than another. One would think that the recent example of France could not be so soon forgotten. Mirabeau, Marat, Brissot, Danton, Robespierre, were all heads cut off in succession, and all succeeding heads were saved only by having recourse to one head and one arm, in the Emperor Napoleon. The common sense and common feeling of mankind operated in France, after beholding the horrible massacres of aristocracy and democracy, as they have done in all other nations where these frantic parties have not been balanced. If you cut off one head, three other heads, at least, will spring up in its stead. The aristocratical party will have one head; the democratic party another; and the quids a third; but the last will always be a small, feeble, and insignificant party. They will be men of candor, impartiality, and equity, who will have no view but the public good; and this party has, unhappily, in all times, been very small and feeble, in comparison with the other two parties. That I may be more clearly understood,—the federal party will have their head, their leader, their aristocracy and democracy; the republican party will have their head and leader, their aristocracy and democracy; the quids will probably be too feeble and timid, finding themselves unsupported by either of the other great parties, and discountenanced by both, to fix upon any head. But if they should ever become a numerous party, as has seldom, if ever, happened, they must have a head, an aristocracy, and democracy, too; for no party ever can exist without these three divisions.
We will suppose, then, Mr. Hillhouse’s amendment adopted. The divisions of rich and poor, debtor and creditor, will still continue, and produce a federal and a republican party in every state. All appointments to office, and removals from it, will be in the senate and house of the United States. These two parties, then, in every state, will live in a constant struggle, which shall send the representatives to the senate and house of the United States; and each will strive to send its head, that he may have the greatest influence in determining national measures, and especially in appointing officers and bestowing favors to favorites. The senate and house of the United States will thus be divided into federal and republican parties as much as they are now; and, as all offices will be in their gift, their whole time will be consumed in eternal intrigues and furious conflicts for the loaves and fishes. Each party will have its head in each house; and even the quids, once in an age, may have their leader too. Mr. Hillhouse will find two or three heads in the senate, as many in the house, and thus have six heads to cut off after he has cut off one; and then, he will instantly find six more shoot up in their stead, in the persons next esteemed in their respective parties. The caucuses in each state, and correspondences between different states, will not be lessened. There will still be central committees and committees of correspondence, from the north to the south, and from the east to the west. So long as education, talents, property, or even beauty, stature, or color, shall make inequalities among mankind, there will be an aristocratical and a democratical party in every country, especially in opulent commercial countries. Mr. Hillhouse’s amendment, instead of diminishing, will increase them; instead of moderating, will inflame them; instead of reducing them to order, will throw them into greater confusion, exasperate their passions, and multiply their intrigues without end.
For example,—an eminent judge or a learned lawyer, in Connecticut or Massachusetts, or any other state, may wish to be a judge or a chief justice of the United States, or his friends and admirers may desire to promote him. If he is of the federal party, the leading members of the senate and house of the United States will be solicited by letters, throughout the Union, to exert their influence to obtain his election. If he is of the republican party, the heads of that party in congress will be instigated, in the same manner, to obtain his election; and there will be always a federal judge and a republican judge, and perhaps such a pair, in every state, contending, intriguing, and lying, perhaps, in the newspapers; and how shall congress judge? If federalism has a majority in the senate and house, a federalist will be chosen. If republicanism predominates, a republican will undoubtedly be elected. But what if republicanism should prevail in the house, and federalism in the senate? a case that may often happen. What is to be done then? Why, no appointment can be made.
Again,—a gentleman of talents, education, fortune, family, aspires to visit foreign countries, in the capacity of an ambassador. He will certainly have one name or another. He must be either federalist, republican, or quid. If the first, he will have all the federalists in his state for him; if the second, all the republicans; if the third, he must stay at home at his farm, merchandise, or books. Central committees and organized correspondences will be at work in recommending him to their respective parties through the Union. When the choice comes before congress, perhaps, a candidate or two of each party in each state will be nominated, and after weeks of debate in public, and intrigues and caucuses in private, an ambassador may be chosen; unless either house should be equally divided, as they were between Jefferson and Burr, and then no ambassador can be sent, though peace or war may depend upon the mission. But, in every case, the ambassador will be of the party that outnumbers the other in congress.
But, of all party contentions, the choice of a commander-in-chief of the army will be the sharpest; because a commander-in-chief of the army, in time of war, will be a more popular and powerful man than a president is now. What will become of your come-by-chance president, if he presumes to dispute any point with your general, who has ten thousand officers and twenty thousand soldiers under him, drawn from all parts, attached to his person, and trumpeting his fame through the Union, and all espousing his opinions and reputation against the president?
When such an office is to be filled, all the militia officers, all the old soldiers, all the societies of the Cincinnati will be set in motion; and, for what I know, all the religious sects,—the Catholics, the Protestant Episcopalians, the Anabaptists, the Presbyterian assemblies and conventions, and even the Quaker meetings,—may interest themselves in the choice; and, after all it must be a federalist or a republican who will carry the day. As one party will always rather lean to France, and the other to England, foreign emissaries will certainly not be idle; and if a hand can be found to receive a bribe, we certainly know that both courts are in the habit of employing money in other countries.
We might go through the list of all offices under the general government, and all elections would be made upon the same general principle.
Anarchy, confusion, and every evil work, besides a total depravation of moral and honest public principles, would be the undeniable effect.
end of volume vi.
- Κριοὺς μεν καὶ ὄνους διζήμεθα, Κύρνε, καὶ ἳππους
- Εὐγενέας· καί τις βούλεται ἐξ ἀγαθω̑ν
- Ετήσασθαι· γη̑μαι δὲ κακὴν κακου̑ οὐ μελεδαίνει
- Έσθλὸς ἀνὴρ, ἤν οἱ ϰρήματα πολλὰ διδῳ̑.
- Οὐδεμιά κακου̑ ἀνδρὸς ἀναίνεται εİναι ἄκοιτις
- Πλουσίου, αλλ’ ἀϕνεὸν βούλεται ἀντ’ ἀγαθου̑.
- Χρήματα μὲν τιμω̑σι, καὶ ἐκ κακου̑ ἐσθλος ἔγημε,
- Καὶ κακὸς ἐξ ἀγαθου̑ · πλου̑τος ἔμιξε γένος.