Page images
PDF
EPUB

ERRATA TO THE ARTICLE “MARIUS.”

Page 484, in the second line, seventh paragraph, for compassioned eloquence, read empassioned eloquence.

“ 486, in the first line, for gluttinous, read gluttonous.

“ 489, in the tenth line, for action; read actions ;--for in the vigourous read their vigourous.

495, in the ninth line of last paragraph, for Salernius. read Saturnius. " 501, in the eighth line, last paragraph, for Baetia, read Beotia. " 511, in the last line but one, for Philipdi, read Philippi.

“ 511, in the last line but one of the second paragraph, for Lapides, read Lepidus.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

In advance of its translation and appearance on this side of the Atlantic, a notice has already been taken, in the pages of this work, of the publication referred to below, sufficient perhaps to supersede any necessity of a recurrence to it—interesting as it must be to the American reader, not only the fact of its emanation from the pen of so distinguished a writer and statesman as Mr. Guizot, but also from the ability with which he has executed the task that he has undertaken. In the paper which appeared in the April Number of the Democratic Review, under the title of "France, its King, Court, and Government, by an American"-of which the authorship was too transparent, either to admit of an affectation of concealment, or render necessary the designation of a particular name—a just criticism was combined with an equally just tribute of praise of Mr. Guizot's performance. The necessary and proper American protest was there entered against the very exaggeration of the view commonly taken by European writers of the agency of Washington in the mighty work of our Revolution-an error which affords the only ground on which can be harmonized to any sort of logical consistency the astonishing facts of the character, events, and success of that Revolution, and of the political organization which was its result, with the anti-democratic theory from which the European has to look upon this great trans-Atlantic phenomenon. “The great error," says Governor Cass-(and for the sake of the connexion we may be pardoned a brief repetition)" and it is a common one in Europe, has been to assign to Washington too important a part, and to the body of the people too insignificant a one, in our great political drama. Our social constitution is an enigma to the old world, and it is obvious, in all their speculations upon our true condition and upon the probable duration of our institutions, that that element of our safety which depends upon general knowledge, and

Essay on the Character and Influence of Washington in the Revolution of the United States of America. By M. Guizot. Translated from the French. Boston: James Munroe and Company, 1840.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

upon the moral force of a well regulated public opinion, a public opinion in which all partake, in either wholly unknown or very imperfectly comprehended. Washington is the great figure upon our political canvass; and he who knows no revolutions which are not regulated and controlled by some master mind, and among a people who require a visible representative with whom to embody their opinions—and“ a bloody-shirtas a material emblem of their wrongsmay well suppose that the leaders alone possessed the moral force which carried our country through her struggle. But the issue depended upon no one man; and though the peculiar characteristics of Washington were admirably suited to his station and duties, still the great work would have gone on to its consummation if he had never existed."

This protest, in the name of the American people—in the name, too, of our great Hero himself, who, as Governor Cass truly says, "if he were yet on earth would be the first to disclaim such pretensions”-being first duly recorded and heeded, we are free to express the admiration which none can deny to the general ability which distinguishes Mr. Guizot's Essay; the justness of many of his reflections upon the spirit and character of the times; the acquaintance which it seems to evince with our history; and the fidelity and strength of the image evidently present to his mind of the moral portraiture of his great subject. In judging of the completeness of the picture which he has drawn, it is necessary, indeed, to bear in mind the fact already adverted to, that, notwithstanding an apparent effort at philosophical impartiality, the position from which he takes his point of view, and the eye with which he looks upon it, are those of a monarchist, and one of the strongest supporters of a government which has very few and feeble sympathies with the great ideas of popular freedom ; and that the aspect in which he prefers to contemplate the character of Washington, as also the history of the parties which developed themselves during his administration of the Presidency, is of course the one most in harmony with the theory of his own political school, and the interests of his own political position. He thus brings out in strong lights all those traits of his character which gave his mind the bias which we know it to have had toward a consolidated energy of central government; and neither fails to exhibit to full advantage the distrust which the whole general spirit of his administration evinced, of the so-called ultraisms of democracy professed by the school of which Jefferson was the head; nor, in the account given of the organization of the government under the Constitution, does he disguise his decided leaning toward Hamilton and the party of which he was the true founder and head. With this we do not find fault. It was of course to have been expected ; nor is it unaccompanied by a degree of historical liberality toward Jefferson which is entitled to praise.

Neither time nor repetition will ever make the subject of the cha

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

career.

racter of Washington a stale or wearisome one to an American. There is probably no other ground of national self-love on which he prides himself more. We know-all the world admits—that there has never existed but one Washington. In the whole range of ancient and modern history, no other page is found so gloriously while so serenely bright, as that which is illuminated by the record of his unparalleled

Few persons are to be found of moral sense so diseased, as to think of elevating to the level of comparison with his any of the baser glories of kings or conquerors. Yet is his greatness of an extremely simple character, and intelligible to all men. It is the greatness of moral purity, and seems to have been given to afford to the world the most signal example it has yet known, of its immeasurable superiority over the most powerful intellectual pre-eminence, when the latter is debased by the fatal taint of vice, or prostituted to the selfish ends of a common ambition.

But Washington was not a man of the new era. In no sense was he the representative of the Revolution of which he was the military chief. Jefferson was its master mind, far as he was from possessing those practical qualities which would have fitted him for the great task performed by Washington, of guiding it to success through all the difficulties that encompassed its struggle for existence. With the divine prophetic gift of genius, he understood the Revolution, and had a glimpse far down the vista of its future, of the yet unknown glory and greatness of humanity to which it was to lead. Jefferson was in advance of his day; Washington was just up to its line, wonderfully as he there towered over the men who encompassed him ; and therefore was the latter the man to do the work of the day—both to see the thing to be done, and to understand the exact practical how to do it. The times were not yet ripe for the realization of the democracy of Jefferson. He could only plant the seeds of its great ideas; and though they met with an apparent universal, as it was an enthusiastic, assent, as they were embodied in the Declaration of Independence, yet the assent was not a perfect and living conviction. The

age

did not understand that “all men are born free and equal”-or if it did, the idea was as yet but an abstract one, an unrealized speculation, a something destined hereafter to become the pervading animating principle of our social and political organization, but not yet really and practically inwrought into the general texture of the habits of opinion and feeling of the age. Nor is it indeed yet much more, though it has made some sensible progress in its developement—a progress of which we believe that the tendency is to a constantly though slowly increasing acceleration.

The Constitution which was the expression of the sum total of the real political ideas of the time is very far, therefore, from being a purely democratic one ; though there is in it a strong infusion of the democratic element, an element of which the divine energy, however temporarily clogged and opposed, must eventually conquer over all the rest to

itself. Jefferson's idea was Liberty—that of the opposite school was Law. Equality and freedom, these were the aspirations of the one —a wise subordination and salutary restraint, the objects toward which were chiefly directed the efforts of the other. As in the natural world, so may we call these antagonist principles the positive and negative poles of political opinion. And here Mr. Guizot may recognise the explanation of the apparent anomaly which he confesses that he does not understand, namely, that at the first formation of our parties they divided themselves off on the names · Federal’and Democrat'. “At the first glance," he remarks, “ the names of these parties excite surprise. Federal and democratic ; between these two qualities, these tendencies, there is no real and essential difference.” But Mr. Guizot's account of the origin of our parties, merits well that we should quote it entire :

“ It is a remark often made, and generally assented to, that in the England colonies, before their separation from the mother country, the state of society and seeling was essentially republican, and that everything was prepared for this form of government. But a republican form of government can govern and, in point of fact, has governed societies essentially different; and the same society may undergo great changes without ceasing to be a republic. All the English colonies showed themselves, nearly in the same degree, in favor of the republican constitution. At the north and at the south, in Virginia and the Carolinas, as well as in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the public will was the same, so far as the form of government was concerned.

“Still, (and the remark has been often made,) considered in their social organization, in the condition and relative position of their inhabitants, these were very different.

“ In the south, especially in Virginia and North Carolina, the soil belonged, in general, to large proprietors, who were surrounded by slaves or by cultivators on a small scale. Entails and the right of primogeniture secured the perpetuity of families. There was an established and endowed church. The civil legislation of England, bearing strongly the impress of its feudal origin, had been maintained almost without exception. The social state was aristocratic.

-" In the north, especially in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, &c., the fugitive Puritans had brought with them, and planted there, strict democracy with religious enthusiasm. Here, there was no slavery; there were no large proprietors in the midst of an inferior population, no entailment of landed property ; there was no church, with different degrees of rank, and founded in the name of the state ; no social superiority, lawfully established and maintained Man was here left to his own efforts and to divine favor. The spirit of independence and equality had passed from the church to the state.

“ Still, however, even in the northern colonies, and under the sway of Puritan principles, other causes, not sufficiently noticed, qualified this character of the social state, and modified its developement. There is a great, a very great difference between a purely religious and a purely political democratic spirit. However ardent, however impracticable the former may be, it receives in its origin, and maintains in its action, a powerful element of subordination and order, that is, reverence. In spite of their spiritual pride, the Puritans, every day, bent before a master and submitted to him their thoughts, their heart, their lise; and on the shores of America, when they had no longer to defend their liberties against human power, when they were governing themselves in the presence of God, the sincerity of their faith and the strictness of their manners counteracted the inclination of the spirit of democracy toward individual lawlessness and general disorder. Those magistrates,

« PreviousContinue »