Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Grants.” Stark comes pellmell from New Hampshire, cuts Baum and his meddling Hessians to pieces at Bennington, and the same day, with the help of Warner's opportune reënforcement, extinguishes Breyman. Arnold's adroit finesse scatters St. Leger's Indians from before Fort Stanwix. Brown snips off three hundred men from a not too numerous army. Lincoln draws the cords tighter at Stillwater. At length the game is up, and the hunter is prostrate in the snare. With singular indecorum, Gates omits to send any intelligence of his victory to the commander-in-chief, and (as we were told by Colonel Pickering) it is first known at head-quarters through a private letter to Colonel Palfrey. Nor has he written to any one that, at the decisive second action of Behmus's Heights, Arnold's was the controlling spirit. Arnold was under arrest, but there was no keeping him quiet in his tent, when such deeds were doing. Armstrong, then aid to Gates, used to relate, that he was sent to order Arnold in, and chased him about the field for that purpose an hour; but that the quick-eyed soldier evidently guessed his errand, and would never wait for him to come within speaking distance. The troops cared little about his disgrace, and gladly obeyed his orders.

Sir Henry Clinton, as is well known, projected a push up the Hudson River, to effect a junction with Burgoyne from the North. When this scheme was frustrated by the capture of the latter, Putnam had an ill-considered plan of his own for an assault on New York, which disinclined him to send the reënforcements of which Washington was in sore need in Pennsylvania. These matters, with others incident and consequent to them, are elucidated in the third Appendix to the second volume, which ends with a highly characteristic letter from Washington after the withdrawal of the distressed army into winter-quarters at Valley Forge.

The volumes are prepared with the good judgment, good taste, and careful illustration, which the public looks for in whatever passes through the hands of Mr. Sparks.

ART. V. Considerations on some Recent Social Theories.

Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1853. 16mo. pp. 158.

A few extracts from this unassuming volume will be acceptable to the reader. They may induce him to a more complete perusal of pages which offer a good deal of interesting and trustworthy information, and of just and temperate thought.

Our author begins with the vague declamations, rather than positions, which have lately been current in Europe, “ Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” “God and the People," “ Direct Popular Government," “ The Universal Republic," and the like. Several of these he sums up in the old formula, Vox populi vox Dei, and devotes his first chapter to the question of its correctness. The high doctrine proclaimed by the fervid Italian leader, of the supreme “ authority of the People as the collective, perpetual interpreter of the will of God," finds but little favor with him. Who and what, he asks, is this "royal priesthood,” this “peculiar people.”

“ In all historical times, the great mass of men have been exposed to physical and moral evils, sometimes of one kind, sometimes of another, but always of such a sort as to hinder them from the attainment of more than a small measure of earthly good, and to prevent the full development of their spiritual powers. And this poor, oppressed, laboring, and suffering assembly of men, bound together in every age by the tie of a common misery, - this, in the language of the present times, is "the people.” It has been the people who have ministered to the ambition, and who have borne the cruelties, of kings; who have suffered from the misgovernment and the mistakes of rulers; who have ignorantly worked, under false direction, for their own sorrow; who have fought against their own good ; who have been captivated by fatal delusions; who have been scourged by pestilence and famine and war; who have obeyed false prophets, and have killed the prophets and the servants of God. And now, eighteen hundred years after the divine preaching of the religion whose substance and whose authority were the doctrines of immortality and of love, - and which, as a consequence from these doctrines, announced the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth ; declaring the eternal connection of man with man, and the responsibility of man to man ; intrusting those children of God who

were poor in earthly or in heavenly possessions, to those who were rich, - eren now, “the people” sit in the dark night of ignorance, and know little of the light of love and faith, catching only a feeble glimmer of the dawning of the day of human brotherhood upon earth.

“ It is not, then, to this people that we are to look for wisdom and intelligence. It is not to them that we are to trust the progress of improvement. They could not, if they would, rescue themselves from evil ; and they have no help for others. But their progress must be stimulated and guided by the few who have been blessed with the opportunities, and the rare genius, fitting them to lead. Nor is their advance to depend on the discovery of any new remedies. There are now at work in the world, principles of virtue and strength enough for all the trials and exigencies of progress. The improvement which is certain must come from the gradual spread of these old principles ; from their taking possession of the hearts and ruling the lives of men; and the way for them is to be cleared and made easy by the efforts of the wise and the good everywhere. These principles are not named Equality, nor Communism, nor the Solidarity of Peoples : they are Love, and Truth, and pure Liberty.” pp. 18 – 20.

We cannot, indeed, any more than our author, soar to the high modern Mazzinian acceptation of the ancient maxim. Those who use it should at any rate, we think, temper it in application by the rule,

“Nec deus intersit nisi dignus vindice nodus ;” and may, perhaps, find their advantage in collating it with another significant dictum which tells us that at times

“Sua cuique deus fit dira cupido ; " a people can be the slave of cupidity and resentment; a people can be pusillanimous, dastardly, and base; a people can be also fiendishly inhuman; the fears and passions of a people, when once excited, are more hopelessly irrational, more wildly uncontrollable, more extensively ruinous, more appallingly terrible, than those of councils and kings. Nevertheless, depravation and barbarism apart, in an average state of society, a state such as we hope and believe in for the future, it may be true that the common impulses and plain feelings of the people may be expected to be honest and good. Great questions, that must go back for their solution to natural instincts and unconscious first principles, may refer themselves

to the popular voice. In such cases, the love of routine, the narrow and rigid views, the personal interest, ambition, or indolence of officials and representatives are likely enough to impede and retard, to mislead, pervert, and corrupt the national action. In executive details, meantime, what choice have we but to trust to individuals ? A crowd of voters cannot easily study, cannot readily appreciate, the subtle and intricate circumstances which embarrass the application of principles. A complex question in arithmetic is better submitted to the computation of an accountant than to the suffrages of a town-meeting. Accountants and auditors may combine to deceive, but the chances of their telling the truth are greater than those of our carrying it by acclamation. A people also, we conceive, however generous and well-meaning, is apt to be a little too rough-handed to deal properly with nice points of fairness and honor, and delicate questions of feeling.

A second chapter, on Liberty, the supposed principle, is followed by a third, on the projected perfect practice of it in the Universal Republic. The writer urges, with reason, that the existence of government at all presupposes a certain surrender of some portion of their freedom to do whatever they please, upon the part of those who live under it. Upon any other theory, how strange and anomalous, for example, is that constraint which, in the freest of all polities, restricts the free-will of the citizen, by requiring his submission to the vote of a majority. This regulation, he argues, all political regulations, all institutions and constitutions whatever, are not in themselves principles; they are, at their very best, extremely imperfect human expedients for attaining, in a rough way, some amount, often a very small one, of practicable common benelit. Universal suffrage is one social method, monarchy is another; as the former is sometimes best, so also sometimes is the latter. Universal suffrage would hardly do on shipboard; the rule of one is unsuitable for a club. There are times when a state is very much like a club; there are occasions when it may fitly be compared to a ship.

"There can be no doubt that a republican form of government, such in we enjoy, in the most productive of happiness to our people; but

deponde alone on the fact of their general moral and intellectual

education. If we become as a nation corrupted and ignorant, no worse form of government can be imagined than ours must then become ; for it would be the irresistible despotism of a majority of corrupt and ignorant men. No greater evil could fall upon India than the establishment of a Hindu republic. It would bring no good, no liberty, but would burden the people with intolerable calamities and oppression. Even were the present absolute government of the country by the English as bad as its enemies assert, it would be vastly preferable to a native democracy. And yet, in these violent, unthinking times, a government in which all power is vested in the hands of the people is declared to possess an inherent and divine virtue.

“But, it is urged, every man can judge what is best for himself better than it can be judged for him, and in a republic every man has, or should have, a voice in the government. Let us, however, look into this last assertion. Every man, it is true, may have a vote under a republic; but there must be a majority and a minority, and every republic is founded on the principle of the rule of the majority. Universal suffrage is claimed by the doctrinaires of republicanism as being the means of giving the fullest expression to the will of the majority. Without entering into the question whether universal suffrage is the best means to this end, which is very doubtful, it is desirable to examine into the right of a majority to rule, and to see whether it has any natural virtue ; or whether it is, like all other human rule, a simple expedient, good under some circumstances, bad under others.

“Suppose, for instance, that a question were to arise in a state, where an absolute majority was the ruling power, of the highest consequence to the welfare of the community. Two parties exist, opposed to each other. The vote is taken, and the numbers are found to be exactly equal. A majority of numbers being required, neither of these parties can enforce their will upon the other. But suppose that, instead of being balanced, two thirds of the votes are given on one side, and one third on the other ; but the smaller party is composed of the wise and intelligent men of the state, while the larger is made up of the unreflecting and passionate mass of the people. Is there any inherent right, any real authority, save that of conventional prescription, which is to enforce the dictates of folly over the convictions of wisdom?

“ The case has been well stated by an able writer :- 'A mere preponderance of numbers by no means implies preponderance either of capacity, of good intention, or even of strength. Wisdom generally lies with the minority ; fairness often, power not unfrequently. There is, and can be, no law of nature, no axiom of eternal morals, in virtue VOL. LXXVII. —NO. 160.

10

« ZurückWeiter »