Зображення сторінки

northern and middle states, whose far superior capacities, both physical and moral, in population, wealth, industry, and intelligence, would eventually sink Virginia into the rank of a second rate sovereignty, if the seat of the national government were on the northern line, and the northern states were permitted to avail themselves of all their agricultural and commercial advantages. Whereas now, the Virginians having the seat of government within their own territory, make it the focus of their own political intrigues; and by managing the people without dvors, in the different states, they return nearly what members to Congress they please; and induce them to legislate in accordance with the scheme of Virginian policy, which never has been favourable to large and liberal views of commercial enterprise.

• Indeed, it is almost impossible that there ever can be a wise and efficient administration of the American government while its seat continues at Washington, because no practical information, upon any subjects of importance to the well-being of the community, can be obtained there. If advice be wanted on any great political or commercial, question no advice can be had; for no statesmen or merchant reside at Washington ; and neither public nor private libraries are to be found there : whatever wisdom is required, must be derived from the members of Congress themselves. Add to this, that there is no weight of population, talents, property, or character, to regulate and influence the discussion of Congress, so as to restrain that venerable body from too often enacting absurd and oppressive laws. If the seat of government were fixed in any one of the large and populous cities, which adorn aud strengthen the more civilized parts of the Union, the members of Congress would not dare to pass such acts, as they have too frequently passed, while sitting as legislators in the district of Columbia, for they would be assailed on all sides, out of doors, by the talents, information, character, and influence, of the more intelligent part of the community, and by the popular indignation of their own unthinking brethren of the multitude.

But now, the members of Congress go up from all quarters of the Union to Washington, and generally carrying with them only moderate natural capacities, and no very profonod acquaintance with the great political relations subsisting betveen the United States, and the other sovereignties of the world : they assemble together in the Senate and House of Representatives, and hurry through into statutes all sorts of bills, the meaning and import of which they do not always know, and concerning the probable results of which they cannot sometimes even guess“: but they obey the directions of their civil commanders, the leaders of the Virginian dynasty. And having performed these feats of legislation, the congress-men retire to their respective domiciles; and congratulate each other upon their deliberative sagacity and wisdom, without any dread of encountering the ridicule or reproach of an intelligent human being, amidst the gross population, so thinly scattered over the naked metropolis of America. The embargo of 1807, 1808, and 1809, that suicidal act, which at one death.stroke cut asunder all the sinews of national industry, wealth, and reputation, was absolutely

carried through the senate of the United States in the little compass of four hours ; the three readings of the bill being forced onward, one after another, with all the rapidity of guilt; and when the two or three really wise and practical statesmen who at that period happened to be in the senate, and who foresaw the ruinous consequences of that miserable measure, requested the government party to pause, until they could obtain some correct information as to its probable effects upon the mere Cantile and agricultural interests of the country, they were answered, that the American senate wanted no political information ; that its collective wisdom was fully adequate to provide laws for promoting the welfare of the Union; and accordingly, the American senate, in its collective wisdom, did, in the space of four hours, take up, consider, and pass into a law, an act laying a perpetual embargo on all the commerce of the United States.

. Above all, the seat of government being fixed at Washington, gives full play and opportunity for the exercise of Virginian influence to acquire complete ascendency over the other portions of the Union. Vir. ginia is the largest of all the United States : its laws, forbidding real property to be attached for debt; the custom of leaving the landed estates of the family to the eldest son, in hereditary succession; the power of voting in proportion to the number of negro slaves upon each plantation, (the slaves amounting to about half the population of the state ;) the proprietary qualification of a considerable freehold required in every white voter; together with some other circumstances in their state, constitution, laws, and customs, all confer upon the Virginians very great political advantages, and enable them to act in a compact body, for the purpose of perpetuating their dominion over the middle and northern States, throughout which they encourage the prevalence of democracy by every means in their power, while they do not suffer it even to exist within the precincts of their own State : for, by excluding all freemen who bave no freehold, from voting; by themselves possessing votes, according to the number of their slaves; by transmitting their landed property in hereditary succession; and by freeing themselves from the embarrassments attending the subjection of their lands to attachment for debt, the planters of Virginia have erected themselves into a feudal aristocracy of untitled and unblazoned peers, and manage their affairs so adroitly as to give laws to the rest of the Union.

• By the esprit du corps, which actuates every Virginian landholder, and by the constitutional policy which blends together the executive and legislative, and in some measure the judicial departments and functions of Virginia, that State is enabled to spread the web of influence over all the elections, as well state as federal, in the Union, so as to secure the appointment of proper personages, to be guided and directed by the master-band of its leading politicians; whence thecongress-men generally, and a majority of the state legislatures, have long been induced to rote and pass laws in conformity with the political views of their Virginian lords. Well might the Virginian landholders, therefore, so strenuously insist upon continuing the seat of government at Washington, lest their influence over Congress should be counteracted and defeated by the superior intelligence, activity, and virtue always to be found in large Vol. XIV, N. S.


and populous cities. Nay, it would not be so easy, after a while, to induce very unqualified men to sit in Congress, if the seat of government. were fixed in any civilized place, and the members were constantly liable to be assailed for their incapacity by the superior sense and spirit of the inhabitants of the metropolis; and consequently a wiser order of beings would be selected to take upon themselves the very important charge of legislating for millions of their fellow-men. pp. 145–8.

The Virginian aristocracy will, no doubt, make the best use they can, while it lasts, of this guardianship of the Republic which, it seems, they have assumed. And it may be difficult to guess the probable duration of the nonage of the ultramontane nations; but sooner or later, unquestionably, the westeru settlers will deem themselves to have attained to man's estate, and will make an effort to manage their own affairs; and perhaps, not their own affairs merely, but those also of their less robust and Jess numerous fellow citizens towards the east.

The actual results of those great experiments in government, which have been tried, and which are now in operation in America, deserve the particular attention of our political theorists. We make room for the following rather long quotation, on account of its pertinence to some popular opinions in this country.

The frequent recurrence to the people, by the frequency of elections, is a radical imperfection which pervades all the American constitutions, both state and federal. It has a direct tendency to make the representatives too local in their policy, and to induce them rather to aim at pleasing their own immediate constituents than to advance the general good of the nation at large; a measure which sometimes requires an apparent sacrifice of the local interest of the peculiar district which they represent. When once seated in Congress, the members should recollect that they represent the United States as one great empire, and not merely the little district of any particular state, whether of Virginia, or of Rhode Island, of New York, or of Delaware. A triennial election, is quite frequent enough for the general government of so extensive a country, and such a rapidly increasing population. This frequency of election, however, is praised as the consummation of political excellence, by many writers and speakers on the art of government; yet it seems to have an immediate tendency to throw great obstacles in the way of national improvement and prosperity. The elections, both of senators and repre, sentatives, as well in the general as in the state governments, recur too often, particularly of the lower branch of the legislature. South Carolina and Tennesse are the only two states in the Union whose representa. tives are elected for so long a term as two years; in Connecticut and Rhode-Island, the elections are semi-annual ; in all the other states, yearly.

• The almost necessary consequence of these frequent elections is, that the represer.tatives feel themselves tuo dependent upon the will of their constituents; whereas they ought to be left entirely free to exercise

the power delegated to them, at their own discretion, and to the best of their judgment, for the good of the country at large. The people also are incessantly exposed to corruption, amidst the perpetual intrigue and turmoil of frequently recurring elections; whence incapable members are too liable to be returned to the legislature. It is a notorious fact, that in many districts of the Union, unless a representative follows and obeys the current opinions, prejudices, and passions of the day, he will not be re-elected, owing to the running of the popular tide against him, whatever may be his other qualifications. Add to this, that in consequence of the short period of public service, it is not easy to investigate and annul spurious elections, before the session itself be at an end ; whence there is a danger; that if a return can be obtained, no matter by what improper means, the irregular member, wbo takes his seat of course, shall hold it quite long enough to answer all his purposes of legislation. What is this in effect, but offering a high bounty by law, for the employment of electioneering intrigue and fraud, in order to obtain a return? Such a system, having an unavoidable tendency to bewilder and corrupt the people, and to induce them to elect unworthy representatives, almost ensures the production of a legislature, not the best qualified by talents, learning, wealth, probity, and character, to discharge so solemn and important a duty, as that of framing laws for the well-being of an extensive, powerful, and fast-growing commonwealth.

' A great part of every year, in every place throughout the Union, is literally consumed in cabals and intrigues, carried on between the candidates of the several parties and the people, in order to prepare and accomplish all the various manæuvres of electioneering tactics, which are put in constant requisition, by the frequent recurrence of elections for representatives, both of the separate and of the United States. Whence, a large portion of the time which the people ought to employ in productive industry, is expended in prosecuting the unprofitable trade of politics. The experience of history shews, that the democratic forms of government are also in themselves liable to these inconveniences ; namely, that they are too tedious in coming to any public resolution, and seldom sufficiently alert and expeditious in carrying their resolutions into effect; that as various minds are successively employed, they are necessarily wavering and unsteady, and scarcely ever persevere to the accomplishment of the measures which they resolve to pursue ; that they are often involved in factions, which expose the nation to be made the instrument, if not the victim, of foreign powers. Now, frequent elections cannot fail of rendering a government too dilatory in its resolves ; because, under such circumstances, no prudent administration would ever venture upon any important national measure, until it had felt the pulse, not only of the legislature, but of the people also.

• The experience of history equally proves, that the great body of the people, in every country, are prone to be too much elated by temporary success, and too much dejected by occasional misfortune. This disposition alone renders them perpetually wavering in their opinions about affairs of state, and prevents the possibility of their ever long continuing steadily fixed to any one point. And as the House of Representatives is chosen

by the voice of the general people, a choice so often renewed, almost ensures the legislature to be as wavering and unsteady in their councils, as the people themselves are in their sentiments. And it being impossi. ble to carry on the public affairs of the executive government without the concurrence of the lower house, the administration is always obliged to comply with the notions of the leading members of that house; and, consequently, obliged to change its measures as often as the populace change their minds. Whence, it is impossible to lay down, and steadily prosecute, any plan for the gradual development of the national resources, and the gradual growth of the country, in prosperity, wealth, power, and influence.

• Besides, in all democratic governments, faction is continually 'springing up from the delusions perpetually played off upon the collec tive wisdom of the multitude. While the essential principles of human nature remain the same, as they ever have been, there always will be, in every country, and under every possible form of government, many unquiet, turbulent, and unprincipled spirits, who can never be at rest, whether in or out of power. When in possession of the government, they require every one to submit entirely to their direction and control: in words, they profess to be the exclusive champions of liberty; in action, they are the veriest tyrants imaginable. When out of power, they are always working and intriguing against the government, without any regard to truth, justice, or common honesty, or the welfare of their coun. try. In popular governments, where the election of representatives too frequently recurs, such pernicious men have too many opportunities of mischief, in working upon, deceiving, and corrupting the minds of the people, in order to inflame them against those who have the management of public affairs for the time being; and thus, eventually, are enabled to ripen the discontents of the deluded multitude into violent and sediti. ous movenients. Such are some of the evil consequences invariably resulting from the too frequent recurrence of elections, which also (it may be remarked) necessarily incapacitates the representative from acquiring an adequate acquaintance with the public business and real interests of his country, owing to the short duration of his term of service.

• There are likewise some other imperfections grafted into the system of election throughout the States, which deserve notice. The voting by ballot, instead of rirá roce, is accounted a wonderful improvement; ' whereas it excludes the open, wholesome influence of talent and pro"perty at the elections ; and encourages a perpetual course of intrigue and fraud, by cnabling the cunning demagogue to impose upon the cre. dulity of the weak and ignorant. Indeed, the frauds practised by the substitution of one set of ballots for another, in every electioneering campaign throughout the country, are in themselves innumerable and 'shameless; and the success of elections, generally, depends on the adroitness of intrigue exhibited by the more active political partia zans.


116-120. The American executive government is still compelled, like a galley-slave, to row in irons: it remains, with few amendments, under the disadvantagcous bondage of those practical absurdi.

« НазадПродовжити »