« PreviousContinue »
· Men love freedom, and they pine for it; they feel that they were born free, and restraint is galling; hence they are ever endeavoring to throw off their yoke. Almost with the beginning of government began tyranny, and with tyranny began the struggle for freedom. One point was gained and then another tried for ; the endeavor was always to live with less restraint than they had ; but sometimes, after having apparently attained the freedom which they sought, they yielded it up to a tyrant, as if unable to keep it longer, and fell back into a worse than their former condition. Why was this? We have already endeavored to show that every species of government is not fitted for every state of society ; that some nations cannot bear the freedom which is necessary to the well-being of others; and when a nation attempts to adopt a system of government for which it is not yet prepared, though it may linger for a while, it will eventually fall back, and, as a natural consequence, reaction sends it beyond its former state.
The course which governments have taken has always been the same in direction, though varying much in progress: first, despotism, tyranny or absolute monarchy, where all power is vested in one, or, at most, a very few individuals, and which is known by the latter or the two former names, according as it is wisely or wickedly administered ; second, a limited or constitutional monarchy; third, a constitutional republic ; fourth, anarchy, or no government ; fifth, a return from this to despotism or absolute monarchy, generally in its worst form.
An overaction has always been followed by a reaction. Nation after nation has fallen back to despotism from a state far advanced toward freedom; and yet, others, guided by the same impulse, have pushed on. But why have any fallen back? Because they have endeavored to do with less government than their imperfect condition required; they were not yet a law unto themselves, and they needed to be bound by something more stringent than the form which they had assumed. If they advanced a single step beyond their legitimate position, they suffered evil consequences; but if, happily, they contained within themselves a conservative influence which kept them from advancing beyond what they were able to bear, every advance thus made was a benefit to that nation ; it stretched its hitherto paralized limbs, breathed a freer air, and felt a new vigor and energy throughout its whole frame.
The last step in this series, before returning to despotism, is anarchy, or no government. The word anarchy has a bad sense attached to it, from the fact that, in this state of things, confusion has always been found to take place, riot and disorder have prevailed, and ruin often ensued. But anarchy, of itself, simply means--and simply is, no government, and this bad sense connected with it does not properly belong to it, but has arisen out of these circumstances which generaily attend it.
Now in the consideration of all these facts, we think we have seen, that the less government a nation has, provided it answers the purposes of a government, the better. No human legislation can so well direct the current of affairs as their own natural flow, if lest to them
selves. Men will not support large armies if they have nothing to attack nor defend themselves from ; they will not pay taxes to support the machinery of government, always done at an enormous expense, when they have no need of that government for the protection of their public or private rights. In short, once do away with the necessity of government, and it needs no further argument to show that a government is folly ; and so much of the necessity as we succeed in getting rid of, be it more or less, so much government, with all its attendant evils and expenses, do we render unnecessary and worse than useless.
Again, we think it appears that, taking the world together, the necessity for government is, and long has been, constantly growing less, and that of late this progress has been more rapid and more distinctly marked. The extension of civilization, the general advancement of the arts and sciences, the binding together of nations in the relations of commerce, the spread of the principles of peace, and above all, of Christianity, whose direct tendency is to do away with the necessity for government; all these things have acted and reacted upon each other, so that the amount of law and force necessary for the welfare of man is now far less than it ever was before.
Again, we notice a strong natural tendency in men to enjoy freedom to the utmost extent of which they are capable. Ever since the world began, the tendency has constantly been in this direction, and constantly pushed to the utmost limit, and as we have seen, often beyond what was safe. We believe too, that this is an innate principle, natural to the mind of man, which will always continue with him, and will ever urge him on in this direction, until he either falls back from having gone too far, or arrives at a secure and permanent form of society, where human government is dispensed with, righteousness supplies its place, and every man is a law unto himself.
But in all this we would be distinctly understood not to mean that we confidently expect that such a state of things ever will occur ; we only wish to show the strong and positive tendency in that direction, and the influence which this tendency must have. What are the ultimate designs of Providence respecting this earth and its inhabitants, must remain a mystery to us. Whether he will permit the present order of things to continue, or not; whether he will allow man to advance as far as he is capable of advancing towards perfectibility, or not; what he will do and what he will not do, all alike are hidden from us.
With a class of people calling themselves “no government men,” who would, in the present imperfect state of society, throw off all the restraints and protections of law, we, of course, can have no sympathy. But we do look upon them as a strong evidence of the truth of the doctrine we would urge. We do look upon them as obeying an instinct of their natures, founded in truth, but anticipating by far, very far indeed, the time for its development. Still they are regarded by most, as a mere set of fanatics, governed by no law, guided by
no principle; no charity is shown them, no sympathy is felt for their weakness, for none appreciate their feelings ; none see the cause of their peculiar views. The very important fact that they are obeying an impulse of nature, strongly developed, is entirely lost sight of, and the lessons which might be learned from the consideration of this fact are unheeded. But this very movement seems to us the precursor of many similar and more powerful which are to follow. In this nineteenth century this point has just been reached; up to the present time republicanism is the limit to which this instinct for freedom has carried men. This has been firmly established, and now comes another step in advance. Many years will not elapse before the experiment of no government will be tried, but it will fail; the time has not yet come; it may never come, but it will certainly be nearer to us than it is at present.
Although, as we have said, this time may never come, still, if things go on uninterrupted in their present course, sooner or later it will come, and what ought to be our feelings in looking forward to its possibility! The first thought, doubtless, is an unpleasant one. It seems like sundering the cords which bind society together-like reducing all things to aimless, barren confusion ; but thiok again-it is not so; and when we apprehend the reality, we can but long for such a state of things. All the machinery of government would then be done away with ; all the snares and nets of law would be laid aside ; prisons would be unlocked, iron grates removed, the hideous paraphernalia of crime and punishment forever banished, and faces radiant with joy and love would peer out from behind light windows, where now appear the countenances of haggard misery and loathsome vice, shut off by the iron grates which society has placed between man and his fellow man. Truly that would be a blessed time; all would be peace, all love. And if in that great nation, one should so far forget his happiness as to do one wrong act, how quickly would the look of sorrowful, affectionate pity, meeting him on every side, rebuke his crime and bring him back penitent to the path whence he had strayed. Nor shall we need absolute perfection to accomplish this. Hope whispers that, even now, Christianity might furnish a noble colony for such a land. What a triumph this would be of man over his enemies—Passion and Sin!
But whether that time shall ever arrive or not, we have a duty to perform towards our country and our fellow men, growing out of these facts and these tendencies, which the mere question of their ultimate issue does not affect. Our duty in this matter is two-fold, and, in both respects, truly but not blindly conservative. It is, first, that we recognize these tendencies and these principles as operating powerfully on men, and operating too for their good, and that we do all in our power to prepare mankind for such a glorious issue ; that we do all we can to spread light and truth and Christianity ; that we do all we can to bind nations together by the ties of religion and of interest in the bonds of harmony and peace ; that we endeavor to feel ourselves, and to make others feel, the importance of this ; surpassing
in every point of view all questions of national honor, pride or emolument; and that we do all in our power to bind man to his fellow man in the bonds of Christian love, whose real, wonderful power, so little known, so little felt, is the heavenly care for all the earthly ills of man.
And, secondly, that knowing the strength of this tendency and man's present imperfect state, we take strong conservative ground to prevent running blindly into these measures before their appointed time. This is peculiarly the danger of our own country. We are a highly radical people ; we owe our very existence to strong radical principles ; born in a revolution, we have caught its spirit and are ever longing to upturn and overturn and form anew. Our great danger lies in too much freedom. We are the freest people on earth, and still we have a strong desire to throw off this semblance of a collar which we wear. Here is our danger; here we must watch, lest gaining freedom faster than we are prepared to bear it, we be plunged into unwise anarchy, and fall back again, through the long distance we have gained, at a single step, to despotism.
PLAIN THOUGHTS OF A PLAIN MAN, PLAINLY SPOKEN.
. For attaining present influence and posthumous fame, the orator and writer of our own day enjoys facilities such as the literary giants of the olden time could not have possessed, and such as future generations will hardly see surpassed. To prove this assertion were a waste of time, so evident is it to one acquainted with the structure of society in the times when Demosthenes addressed the “ Men of Athens," and Cicero the “Conscript Fathers.” The philippics of Demosthenes were only heard by a few. They were convinced by his reasoning in favor of carrying on the war, and animated by his eloquence, and their military arrangements did the work. So when Cicero appeared, " en representation,” before the Roman Senate, when the law he advocated was carried, it was put into execution throughout the land by the military tribune. In either case the oi fondoi, the mass who were the instrumenis, knew as little of the master-mind in which the movement originated, of the reasons which influenced that mind, and of the reasons with which it influenced its coöperators, as the machine knows of him who sets it in motion and directs its operations. But at the present day, and in our own country especially, to use an expressive, though flippant French phrase, “ we have changed all that.” When Webster rose in the Senate to reply to Hayne, the whole nation was, as it were, listening to him, and when he closed, the applause of that nation was echoed back. Public opinion, a phrase which would have fallen unmeaning on an Athenian or a Roman ear, passed on that speech, and its decree was irresistible. From that day Webster has been assigned
a place among the first of those who, by their eloquence, have won undying fame. But, assuming the truth of our proposition, we design throwing out a few suggestions as to the mode of improving these facilities.
It is no uncommon thing to hear those who are just commencing their education, and even those who have got out of their swaddlingclothes and are beginning to creep, say they intend to devote themselves to writing and speaking solely. The young student, himself inexperienced, and too self-conceited to listen to the experience of others, flings aside his text-books, neglects to plant in his mind the seed which would hereafter spring up and bear fruit a thousand fold, and impelled by a feverish passion for distinguishing himself, sits down to carve out a college reputation. We will grant that he is successful, for it is an easy task. A few pretty words, prettily strung together, and interspersed with a few French phrases, which may be obtained from any “ Guide to Conversation,” is å recipe often tried, and, as the newspapers say of bread pills, “never known to fail.” But what, after all, is it worth? The offspring of such a genius is a wasp-waisted, sickly sort of a stock, and himself, like Icarus, as soon as he plumes his wings and tries a flight, is sure to flutter and fall. With pride thus mortified, and ambition thus disappointed, he goes through the world, ever tasting the bitterness of a wounded spirit-a bitterness that never loses its gall. A dear “whistle” this College reputation in the end, for the world will not long persist in “ giving to dust that is a little gilt, more laud than gilt o'er-dusted.”
We find no fault with those who would devote themselves to speaking and writing, if they would only go to work in the right method; for, as we have already said, it is perhaps the surest way to win honor among men, and a name which posterity will not willingly let die, and who shall suffer blame for following the promptings of a noble spirit? But no man can work without materials, or without knowing how to use them. The writer's materials are ideas; and the only way for him to require these, and, at the same time, a knowledge of the use to which he can put them with the best effect, is to do as Milton did, "take labor and intense study for his portion." If he would grasp “the prize of his high calling," he must toil while the day lasts. Like Pyrrhus, when Rome is at his feet, he must take Sicily, then Africa, and not, as the courtier who questioned the monarch advised, “ sit down and enjoy himself now."
Even if we possessed the ability to do so, neither time nor the space to which we are limited, would admit of our going into an extended disquisition on the proper training of a scholar. We would sain throw out a few random suggestions, though, in relation to the subject, as the results of our own observation, and if they are received with a tithe of the deference with which we submit them, it will be all we ask. We come here to acquire a liberal education. A prescribed course of study is marked out, and certain text-books placed in our hands, but not with the idea on the part of our instructors that mere perusal of these is all we are to do. We are soon to be the sole masters of our own time,