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it valueless by refusing to pay it. The only difference between the two would be, that in the one case I should lose the paper and ink of the obligation ; in the other case, I should not ;
a distinction which will hardly be deemed important. It is clear, therefore, that repudiation and confiscation are in principle the same ; and if we can feel a preference for one over the other, we should say without hesitation, let us have confiscation ; let us have seizures made and contributions levied openly, and with as much fairness as acts of such arbitrary power admit, rather than obtain possession of money under the confidence reposed in solemn promises, and then add treachery to injustice by repudiating them. The violent course is the more manly one.
Certainly it would be desirable, that perfect justice to all men should be at once the only foundation and the object of human governments. This never has been, and perhaps never will be. But mankind have continued to live, and have enjoyed many, and perhaps most, of the blessings which grow out of the social state, under governments in whose constitutions it is easy to detect bad elements. But if there is one principle of policy which can be considered as settled, and as essential to all tolerable government, it is that which demands the absolute security of property. Men will submit to a great deal, so long as a just regard is shown for the rights of property ; when these are attacked, they will submit no longer, unless they are content to be slaves. This is a truth made familiar and practical to the people of this country by the war of the Revolution, which grew out of it, and by the written constitution of the Union, and of every State in the confederacy, which embodies and repeats it, and draws around it all the safeguards which human wisdom and foresight can supply. That private property shall not be applied to public uses without a just compensation ; that no man shall be deprived of his inheritance, except by the judgment of his peers and the standing laws of the land ; and that no State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of any contract, are principles as familiar to us as our own names. The anxious care which our fathers took of the right of property has not been in vain. The principle was planted in a friendly soil, and has struck deep root. That branch of the great Anglo-Saxon family by VOL. LVIII. No. 122.
which this continent is peopled has a strong and honest attachment to property and its rights. It is not a blind and sordid love of wealth, debasing the mind and hardening the heart. As a people, we are not avaricious. We spend freely, and we give with the largest generosity. It is because we know the uses of property, that we value and love it. We want it for ourselves, that we may have a freer and larger scope for wise enjoyment and improvement. We want it for our children, that they may be secured, as far as we can secure them, from the evils of ignorance and dependence. We want it for the charities which are waging perpetual war upon vice, and alleviating the miseries of the human condition ; and for our churches, and colleges, and schools, which fit us to live in this world, and teach us humbly to hope for a better life hereafter. We want it for our country, in whose grand march of improvement we feel so much pleasure and pride. We have connected with it and we think it a natural connexion — all our ideas of justice, of social order, of personal security, and of the peaceful pursuit of happiness.
How great, then, must be the violence done to the sense of right of such a people, before they can bring themselves to injure these clear and well understood rights of property ! They must first be corrupted and degraded. In this country, all power emanates from them, and, at frequently recurring periods, returns to them to be delegated anew. And though it may sometimes happen, that they are not responsible for particular measures at the time they are taken, it cannot happen, that any unjust thing, of sufficient importance to attract their attention, should be done by their delegated government, and remain without a remedy, except by their will. This subject of repudiation is too large to escape notice, and too important to be passed over without a distinct and strong exertion of the popular will. If the doctrine it involves is ever carried into effect, it must be because a majority of the people have adopted it. Can that evil day come without first corrupting the people ? What will then have become of that loyalty, which attaches us to our country with the bonds of strong affection ; of that love of national glory, and that quick sense of national disgrace, without which no people ever were, or deserved to be, great ; of that regard for justice, upon
which alone rest our laws and all our social order and internal peace ; of that attachment to property, out of which
spring our habits of industry, our untiring energies, our progress in the arts, and comforts, and securities, and charities of life? What will have become of all these, when a majority of this people come to look upon a particular body of men, embracing citizens as well as foreigners, as their lawful prey, to be pursued across the barriers of the constitution, and over every safeguard which national honor and good faith can raise up, and to be seized and destroyed in the sight of the civilized world ?
Let us not think, if we do this wrong, that we are no worse than others, for we are bound by more and stronger obligations than ever rested on any other people. The reverence of the Pilgrims for duty and conscience; the losty love of justice of Penn and his associates ; the pure equity, and constant regard for the rights of all, of Lord Baltimore and his colony ; the high honor and chivalric spirit of Smith, and Oglethorpe, and the Southern colonists, - all calí out to us, not to bring disgrace upon the children of such fathers. The providence of God, which has led us through a feeble infancy, and supported our steps in times of great trial, and raised up mighty men to supply our needs, and stand as examples in time to come ; which has made us millions from a handful, and poured upon us a tide of prosperity such as never blessed any other people, persuades us not to repay this kindness by breaking His law of justice. The hopes of mankind, that the great experiment of selfgovernment may succeed, and its influences go forth all over the earth, till all men are raised to freedom and established in its secure enjoyment, beseech us not to violate that principle of justice, which is the corner-stone of every free government. They warn us, that we are extinguishing the light which had begun to enlighten the world ; that we are putting into the mouths of kings and nobles the bitter words of contempt against all republics ; that we are enabling them to say, not without an appearance of truth, that, because we have no hereditary nobility, we have no nobleness of soul ; that, because we have abolished the rights of primogeniture, we can no longer inherit the manly virtues of our fathers ; that in a republic nothing is fixed ; that it is not too much for such a government to attempt by its will to displace God's eternal laws, for the sake of a base pecuniary advantage ; and that, if a people so descended, so taught by experience,
so educated by schools and churches, so prosperous and proud, will descend so low, how little can justly be expected of any other people who should attempt self-government ! Such is the language to which the friends of free government abroad are forced to listen, and to the truth of which they begin to assent.
But it is not merely the regard which we owe to our fathers, our gratitude to God, and our duty to the principles of a free government, which urge upon us the rightful course. There is, besides, an enlightened and religious public opinion, which shines upon the world like the sun, and penetrates everywhere like the common air. No people can escape from its influence, or resist its power. It has already become the voice of the great family of civilized man. None can refuse to hear it. It comes from the heart of our common humanity, and so must reach the heart of all whom it addresses. As yet, it does not speak on many subjects; but who can doubt, that a deliberate and wilful violation of the plighted faith of great republics, by which distress and ruin are brought into numberless homes, is a subject on which it will speak? Who can doubt, that it will find in such cases those elements in which all mankind have a common interest ? Have men ceased to entertain a profound regard for good faith ? Has fidelity to engagements ceased to be a virtue of importance ? Has common honesty become useless to mankind ? “ Justice is the great standing policy of all civilized
All the world now knows it, and no nation can depart from this policy without dishonor and degradation.
Let us, then, look upon this matter as it really is, and as all men must at last view it ; nay, as it stands now before that great tribunal where no popular pretexts can avail. There it is of no advantage to say, that many of these debts are held by rich and selfish foreign capitalists, who care for nothing so much as to wring money from the hard earnings of our people. A wise man told us, long ago, that he did not listen with much credulity to any who spoke evil of those whom they were going to plunder ; and the world thinks little of the epithets we bestow on those who ask us only for justice. It demands of us, In what code of morals or laws do we find it written, that the circumstances or condition of a man furnish the least excuse for doing him a wilful wrong
? It asks us, if this is the spirit of our republican doctrine, that
all men are equal in the sight of the law. It asks how we can know the conditions and circumstances of our creditors ; whether we have the means of investigating them ; whether we have attempted to use those means ; how many widows and orphans, whose sole hope of earthly comfort rested upon our honor, we find recorded on our list ; how many aged men, past the season of active labor, have invested the savings of long lives in our good faith ; and what we have done to relieve them. These are questions which the public opinion of Christendom already asks, and which must be answered ; and, unless we speedily act upon this subject as justice and honesty require, the misery of our case will be, that we can make no answer, which will not involve us in deep disgrace. We may, it is true, attempt to plead, that, as to some of these debts, there are technical defences; and that, in respect to others, the agents who were charged with their negotiation committed gross frauds on the States. Be it so. But the States selected their own agents, and trusted them ; and therefore every just principle requires, that the States should bear the consequences of these frauds. And as to the technical objections, if any such exist, no civilized government is worthy of its name, which would take advantage of them.
A government straining after a technical objection to avoid payment of a just debt to a creditor who probably scarcely looked at the instrument when he parted with his money, except to see plainly expressed upon it, that “the faith and credit of the State was pledged ” for its payment ! Such a government, we repeat it, is not worthy of the name. It is a great pettifogger, and not a government. The more powerful it is, the greater is its disgrace. The more proud it is, the greater is its meanness.
The more enlightened it is, the greater is its sin.
We have said, that, in substance, repudiation is confiscation. And what would future times say to a series of acts of confiscation, by which the great republics of the New World, in the middle of the nineteenth century, should appropriate millions of property to their own use? The inquiry would be made, Was it enemy's property, seized in time of war ; or was it taken in the midst of a revolution, as a signal and severe punishment for great crimes against the state? If so, though opposed to the lenient and more humane spirit of the present age, and in itself of very doubtful