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turn, all opposition. We have only to enlist it in the service of a government whose object is not the supremacy of a class, but the good of the whole, and the problem of politics is solved. A government is formed which can be no further perfected.
It is useless to say that this is not the highest class of motives which can be applied to the conduct of public affairs, or which mankind can be brought to. The highest motives of our nature do not belong to politics, but to morals and religion. We now speak of the motives which have their particular place in government, and which make men active and self-denying in the things of this world. It is necessary that government should be powerful, and honor is a principal element of power. And when provision is made for the maintenance of honor, all the other blessings of government flow naturally forth from this reservoir. Wherever there are gradations of rank, if promotion is to be had by merit, merit will be sure to be forthcoming. But wherever the process is inverted, and men attempt to found government upon merit in the first place — upon what ought to be, instead of upon what is, upon motives inaccessible to those who are to be acted on by them — the phantom is soon displaced by reality.
It is unnecessary to show that the system we have been commenting on is at variance with the principles of honor. They are different in their origin, their operation, their objects and results. The rise of one is the destruction of the other. Now the love of honor, although capable of becoming the most imperious passion of the soul, is also the most sensitive and delicate, and requires the most tender treatment. The fairest opportunities are necessary for its healthy development, and its noble returns are obtained only at the price of continual encouragement. We are arrived at such a pass that there is no danger of exciting too keen a rivalry of honor, or of applying too powerful a stimulant to our dormant sensibilities. On the contrary, we need to avail ourselves of every resource within our reach to revive that antique spirit which once flourished among us, and shone in the front of our government. Since it is the studied purpose of the policy which we have to contend with, to abuse and degrade these
sentiments in regard to the distribution of public office, we ought to make office a point of honor. And the first thing to be done, to take the office-seeking interest out of the control of the great parties, is to restore universal eligibility to office, and to take efficient care that the liberty which we possess in theory is not lost to us in fact.
It makes no real difference whether the exclusion of a particular class is written in the laws, or impressed upon the ideas and habits of the people; it equally proscribes those against whom it is levelled, and is equally profitable to those who supplant them. Republican equality before the law is flagrantly violated in either case, when both a privileged and an incapable class are created in the name of the people. The offices of government might as well be distributed by lot; they are really so distributed when apportioned according to the favorite rotation of second-rate politicians, to one locality after another, to each person in turn, generally preferring the location to the man, and the fact of success at any time disqualifying the recipient for its continuance. All idea of merit or honor is banished from such an arrangement; and the rapid depreciation of our politics, under its influence, painfully shows that those who possess the one, or are influenced by the other, have been in haste to follow. But, whether in office or out of office, the people have a right to the advantage of the highest attainable capacity; and there cannot be a doubt that the greatest capacity is attracted into office when the most unlimited competition makes its attainment the highest honor. The course open to talent' was the motto under which Napoleon called forth his prodigies. The most astonishing results, in the moral elevation of the French armies, followed the opening of the higher grades for the admission of soldiers from the ranks. The standard of performance is instantly raised as soon as emulation is awakened, and as far as it extends. To hold office by prescription, after it has ceased to be maintained by desert, is evidently contrary to the public interests; but to place one in a worse position for holding office, on account of having once performed its duties, is not only contrary to republican principle, but a wound upon the idea of justice and the sense of honor. Notwithstanding the reproach of ingratitude, addressed to po
pular governments, the noblest spirits love to trust them and throw themselves into their service. There is no comparison between the honors which flow from royal favor and those which are the gift of a free people, in respect either to the avidity with which they are sought, or the value and extent of the services with which they are gladly purchased. Nothing is wanted to make office attractive, and even more honorable among us, but the liberty of untrammelled appeal to the popular heart, by which conscious greatness trusts to make itself felt, and by whose decision even patriotism is willing to abide. Even for those who obtain the prizes of public life, the flatteries and illusions of hope are as necessary as for their less fortunate competitors; for the disappointments of power are no match for the allurements of ambition.
But however confident and aspiring the pride of individual merit, it withers and retires, as things are now, before the power of organization, even though it is only organized mediocrity. There must be something peculiarly fatal in a system which is throwing the best talent of the country away from the service of the government at a moment when the nation is so rapidly expanding, and the most magnificent field of action in the world is opening before it. Nothing can be so dangerous to the integrity and security of our institutions as to separate the sentiments of the people that love, honor, and reverence which they cannot help feeling for great personal endowments — from the administration of the government; and this has been done in many respects besides the one we have been commenting on. It is impossible that so artificial and unnatural a system should endure — we certainly think it is not desirable that it should. Character and capacity are not mere illusions; they are a power created by nature herself, whose hold upon the human heart is not to be thrown off by arrangements purely conventional. If deprived of their natural place in government, they will find a sphere of action elsewhere. They have already found one in party. Although it has become almost certain, that those who direct the policy of the great parties of the country are to have no immediate part in carrying out their own designs, the posts of command in them are objects of a far more generous and intense ambi
tion than those inferior places in the service of government, whose occupants are paid for the sweat of their brow. For the power of the parties, and the relative situation of the members, are founded upon the imagination and the feelings; and the contest in their behalf admits a wider scope of agencies to be brought into play, and under no other limitations than those which each individual genius lays down for itself as being the fittest for its ends. Such a contest is attractive for the nobler class of minds; and they feel no disappointment when, after the summit of their hope is reached, they find it has to be defended by unflagging effort and attention ; for it thus becomes an indisputable proof of supremacy, and is the reality of that dominion over human thought, which is the last possible aim of ambition, and of which government itself is only the external emblem. It is true that interest is the natural, perhaps the sole, bond of party ; but upon the mass in its entirety, it operates blindly and unconsciously. Unless some higher motive of action can be substituted in the individual mind, out of which to draw at least an occasional support, it is never lifted into the region of heroism. Between government and party, when all the great motives are on one side, and all the little ones on the other, there can be no fair comparison or contest. Their functions are not precisely the same; but we hope and believe, that a government may be so constituted and so administered, as to be served with some part of the zeal and devotion which are now spent in the service of party.
Thus far we have been obliged to use our liberty of faultfinding. That our views may present a proper critical balance, we propose to subjoin a short confession of faith. We fully believe that the government of this country is the best government on the face of the earth, by which any large community is held together. We believe that it best provides for the best purposes which government can accomplish, and for which it ought to be instituted; that is to say, to give protection to the people according to the laws and their natural sense of justice, and an opportunity for their moral elevation. We believe that its freedom promotes manliness of character and expansion of intellect in all ranks of society, in the only way
in which these qualities can be encouraged and educated, by constant exercise and comparison. We believe that the manner in which the business of our government is carried on is such as to give a better chance for reason to prevail than under any other. If the discipline of party is sometimes an obstacle, the discipline of an army is worse; if it is sometimes hard to carry a just measure through legislatures, it is harder still to push it through courts. We believe that our government allows the greatest liberty of thought, expression, and action to the individual, together with the greatest facility of combination in the prosecution of matters of public and private concern; that it adapts itself most readily to the changes of time and the necessities of national existence; that it hangs with least weight upon the movements of society, and lends itself most perfectly to the expression of its natural disposition; so that, after having astonished mankind in the first stage of our national career by marvels of labor which it has enabled the people to perform, it is equally fitted, as in Athens and Florence, for the display, hereafter, of equally unexampled magnificence and refinement. At the same time, we believe it is so much the strongest government in the world, that only one, the English, is worthy to be named in comparison; and that is next to it, because it possesses most of the same popular elements of strength. Our government has a method of dealing with traitors and putting down rebellions, which might be the despair of absolute sovereigns, and is as much beyond their reach as their comprehension. It extinguishes them utterly, leaving not even the seed of discontent; while despotism, in spite of armies and police, is never out of danger from thousands of visible and invisible enemies. Compare the disposable forces of this government with that of countries in which one half of the population is employed in keeping down the other half, — which are rent with factions, benumbed with jealousies of rank and caste, and demoralized with hostile pretensions in government, morals, religion, social life, and every subject out of which suffering and injustice can breed madness and despair, - and we shall make out of the immensity of their preparation of fleets and armies, the true signs of weakness rather than of strength. That our institu