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which relieves it of the unnatural labor of governing itself. There are countries, at this moment, in Europe, so exhausted with the conflict of parties, so weary of political warfare, as to be equally incapable of forming a solid government, or of resisting the first faction that catches the reins of power. But whatever attention politics have attracted among us, we are far from such a state. Indeed, the real life of this people is as much apart from the affairs of the government as that of any people under heaven. In no other country is there such an exuberance of animation in all other departments of thought and activity, away from official encouragement or control. It is not the government which has made our roads, our mills, our cities - which has felled the forest and extended the area of civilization, whatever it may have done for that of freedom. These things are the results of the spirit and energy of the people, and they are what really occupy their hearts. No doubt, this unexampled activity has been stimulated by our political institutions; but it is because politics have been kept in their place. They have been, and are, for the great body of the nation, an instrument and not an object, and are used as means to an end. The separation is carried so far, that our great men of business, the characteristic production and personification of the American system of culture and society, are in the habit of looking down upon politics and its concerns as beneath their attention, and scornfully abandon them to an inferior order of men. We are sorry for it; for if, in consequence of this abandonment, the political direction should ever be brought into conflict with our industrial interests, we should be in a situation like that of France before the late events which brought on an imperial constitution.
If there is a class in the community whose interests, and whose alone, are promoted by the dissemination of the idea that the people and the government are the same thing, there can be no great risk in charging it upon them; particularly if they are powerful enough to put it in vogue, and if their influence is known to be excited in this general direction. There is such a class -- the class of candidates for office - a class both numerous and powerful. Forced to carry on an
incessant warfare against enemies above and below, the instinct of discipline has drilled them into order and prescribed for them a plan of operations. For the interests of the holders of office are not their interests, and as for those of the people, they enter not into their counsel. The offices are few, but candidates many. Some ability, some merit, or at least good luck, are necessary to obtain office; but candidatures are open to everybody. Great are the labors of canvassing, and greater the uncertainty of success. In such circumstances, it is according to the best mercantile principles and practice to contrive some way to equalize the gains for the sake of escaping the losses. Good business men insure; cunning gamblers hedge their bets ; few of us put trust enough in fortune to risk our all upon the hazard of a single die. Acting in the spirit of these sound calculations, the jointstock company of office-seekers has gone into operation, whose object is, by shortening the terms of office, by making those who have held office practically ineligible for a second term, and establishing a course of succession by turns, to multiply the chances of success and reduce those of failure for each member. It is true, the success is not so great when it comes; but it is sure to come in time. A small certainty is obtained in place of a great possibility; and those are the safest lotteries which offer the most prizes. Besides, the calculations do not extend to the highest places in politics ; to hold these requires different stuff from what office-seekers are made of. The situation is too airy, too hard for them to climb to or to keep. The storms and whirlwinds of passion which play about those elevated regions are not precisely to their taste or their capacity. Some quiet, sheltered nook, or fruitful spot, is the mark of their aim and the summit of their low ambition. And not even the fear of disturbing the security of their own places can prevent them from pursuing their object with all the means which cunning can lend to selfishness. Being naturally shortsighted, they never imagine that he who is strong enough to get, may find himself unable to keep; and for all the rest of the world, it is only
“Sport to have the engineer Hoist with his own petar."
It is not the fashion to be sparing of epithets when officeseekers are in question. On all hands, they are called a hungry, impudent, conscienceless set. We scorn them, we abuse them, we laugh at them, but we let them carry their point, and elect them. The only way we know of to have good government, is to resist and prevent bad; and if the people do not do it, there is nobody else who can. The natural tendency of power is to corruption, and the people are the only remedy. That is their business. According to the provisions of our constitutions, they have the entire revision and ultimate control of the government; and if they neglect their part, who is to supply the omission? We have no doubt that the office-seekers have as good a right to rule as any other privileged class, and that power is as respectable in their hands as in those of a more magnificent aristocracy. If the people of this country are so benumbed and powerless as to submit to their ascendency, - if these are really the steel-clad barons of this age, whom we cannot resist, and the character deve. loped among them is the one fitted to obtain authority over us, we may expect to fall into tutelage, and we ought to know it.
We do not wish to exaggerate the extent of this influence; we are well aware that there are depths of impulse and instinctive forms in the great parties in our country, which are not to be reached by the earth-born spirit of sordid interest. But it is matter of common consent that it has usurped a control over the machinery of party and the manufacture of public opinion. It is powerful enough to make its action everywhere felt, and its voice is the first, the loudest, and the last to be heard. There is a jugglery by which it is able to persuade the people, that, to turn one person out of office simply for the sake of putting in another -- a course of action of which they reap the whole advantage — is taking their rightful share in the government, and such an awful apparition of sovereign power as cannot fail to frighten their executive servants into propriety. And whatever produces an impression on the public mind is already an element in the government; for even the laws and constitution are nothing more than a public understanding. Written laws are a
record of the state of parties and opinion at the time when they were made; however faithful and just, they cast no spell over the encroachments of time and the laws of political gravitation. The real constitution of a free country is continually changing under the hand of parties formed upon the questions in which its life is concentrated, and whose solution determines its character and progress. Dead forms of government will not long resist the living spirit of the parties into whose power it falls to administer them; and to correct the spirit of parties, it is necessary to arouse these feelings in the bosom of the people against which its predominant influence is arrayed, and which it has already lulled to sleep. They are the original sources of that virtue, which, according to Montesquieu, is the condition of republican constitutions, and the parties are the conduits by which it is conducted to the gushing fountain of government. Office-seeking represents, in public affairs, a sphere into which ought not to be allowed to enter that pursuit of private interest which has been fostered among us by the circumstances of a new country, and which, among private citizens, is justifiable and conducive to the public good. But the best system for the management of our own concerns, where the object is our own advantage, is not applicable to affairs of honor and trust, when we are called to look after the interests of others. Although the evil is already great, we do not despair ; for if it were ten times greater, we know that there is a principle in the human heart which, once brought into exercise, is able to overthrow it.
Good government is not to be expected unless it is established on good principles. The principle on which this system relies, and the only one it admits, and which, we are sorry to say, is the only one not often appealed to in our current political philosophies, is that of fear, disguised under the name of responsibility. But responsibility is a virtue in governments which fails exactly when there is most need of it; it punishes the peccadilloes of weakness, but is only an empty sound when directed against the abuses of power. Besides, although extremely useful among the minor motives, it is incompetent to awaken profound emotions or ideas, or to excite those great resolutions or actions, on which the fate of nations
sometimes depends, and whose effect endures for ages. Ex
. cellent as a regulator, it is good for nothing as a motive power. It suffices for the routine of administration, and for dependent minds.
But what we require is a principle to be present with the greatest characters, in the moment of high resolve, to enkindle all their faculties, to animate them to lay out all their strength for the common good, and, descending from them, to propel the whole machinery of government. Such a principle is the principle of honor. It coöperates with all minor safeguards; and, continuing its influence beyond the point where they cease to operate on the will, it is equal to all the exigencies of good government. The essence of government is a distinction between men; some govern and some are governed. The attribute of government is by nature an honorable distinction. To the meanest of men is given a power over the most exalted, which may be quickened into the supreme motive, because, in giving or withholding bis approval or applause, be gives or withholds one of the keenest sensations of which we are capable. With a fair field of display, the love of honor is at the same time the strongest in the individual, and the most universal with the mass, of human motives. No de mand is too great for its resources, particularly when it appears on the public stage of government. It can make the extremest effort the rule, and the greatest sacrifices courted. Properly touched, it is the only chord that ever need be touched in order to build up the strongest of all governments — that in which the numbers are impelled to their duty by the strong. est incentive. The danger is not the lack, but the excess, of strength in its operation;, the point of honor is always unmanageable. Associated with any employment, men will always be found to spend or lose their lives, and every thing that is dear to them, in its pursuit. For its sake, armies are proud of slavery, and hunt after death in a thousand forms. The elevation it inspires, raising those who are possessed with the sentiment above the ordinary level of humanity, is the chief cause which gathers power into the hands of the few; and no government can exist if it has against it the full strength of a sentiment which has overturned, and can over