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may not only disapprove, but earnestly oppose the law which claims a duty upon his imports—so may the farmer that which taxes his lands, his negroes or his produce. The thief or the gamester, no doubt, cordially denounces the yoke of law which forever galls him ; and the miserable vagrant, who knows civil society only by the terrors of its penal code, must heartily curse the ill luck which made his neighbour rich, but continually prevents him from appropriating any of the tempting treasures that surround him. Nevertheless, neither duties, taxes, nor excises; neither the penal code, the pillory, nor the gallows, evidence any other than a state of society in which civil liberty is either known, or at least dreamed of. Sidney's meaning was this:—The government can neither pass, nor execute a law, to which the mass of the people have not assented through the usual channels whereby their consent is always conveyed. It applies to communities, not individuals. A community enjoys liberty, which has its government sufficiently under its own control to prevent its adopting any measure hurtful or distasteful to it. The assent of the constitutional majority according to the constitutional mode, and through the constitutional organs, is all that is requisite; the direct individual assent of citizens is neither asked nor needed; it is presumed and taken for granted.
But not only do the necessities of society fix constant restrictions on individual liberty; they also make manifest the inequality which must ever subsist among men. They develope what Mr. Jefferson calls a "natural aristocracy." The word aristocracy will no doubt grate harshly upon the ear of our fiercer democratic readers, but we beg them to dispel their fears, and not to become prematurely terrified. It is not heresy which we teach; we but repeat the sentiment of the same mind which conceived the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Jefferson, in spite of his dogma—that all men are created equal—which served its purpose very well, in 1776 at the head of the declaration, said, in 1813 :*
"I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Formerly, bodily powers gave place among the aristoi. But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humour, politeness and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground of distinction. There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts and government of society. And, indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to hive formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say, that that form of government is best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?"
* Jefferson's Works. Charlottesville: 1829. Vol. iv., p. 287.
A similar explanation of the natural aristocracy which society must ever develope, has been given more recently and more fully by one of the most accomplished and most learned writers of our times. Brougham says :*
"The notion of equality, or any thing approaching to equality, among the different members of any community, is altogether wild and fantastic. All the attempts that have ever been made to secure it have been of necessity confined to merely prohibiting positive distinctions of rank and privilege, which can always be effected, and to preventing the unequal distribution of wealth, which never can be accomplished, though laws may be devised for rendering this more slow, to the great injury of the public interests and restraining of individual liberty. But the diversities in human character and genius, the natural propensities of the human mind, the different actions performed by men, or which have been performed by their ancestors, lay the foundations of a natural aristocracy far deeper, and far more wide, than any legislative provisions have ever even attempted to reach—because no such provisions can possibly obliterate the distinctions thus created by the essential nature of man. In examining these distinctions we shall also regard the distinctions of wealth, because laws never can wholly prevent its unequal distribution, although they may interpose obstacles to it.
"The actual possession of any superiority, whether in wealth or in personal qualities, imposes a certain respect, begets a certain deference in the community at large of inferior men. Independence, if not influence and command, are possessed by the favoured few. The mere circumstance of their small number is something; their having, without dispute, what all would wish to have, is more. A man of this class never pays court to you ; he may be civil, and you thank him for it; he never has any occasion to be your suitor. Now nothing more tends to lessen respect for any one than his courting you, by which he seems to acknowledge you his superior. Even talents are less powerful in this
* Brougham's Political Pbilowphy. London: 1849. Vol. ii., p. 33.
respeci than wealth, because they are less secure to their possessor, and their extent is less a matter of certain, undisputed estimate. All this, too, is wholly independent of the positive and certain influence which superiority, whether of riches or endowments, bestows—the power of commanding other men's services, assisting them in their necessities, contributing to their comfort or advancement. No, so great is the tendency to recognize this influence, that you shall constantly see a person of great influence exercise an extraordinary power over others, from the fact of feeling that they may one day bo indebted to him for favours, though in reality no such thing is in any degree probable.
"A reflex feeling greatly increases this habitual deference for personal or patrimonial superiority. He who is possessed of it is known to be looked up to by all, or almost all others. This we cannot deny and we cannot prevent. Be our own views ever so enlightened, our disposition ever so independent, our contempt of wealth ever so philosophical, we are aware that the party is an object of observance with the bulk of mankind, and this makes us view him as something different from what we really know him to be.
"The length of time during which any one has possessed the attributes that command respect, forms a very material ingredient in modifying or assessing the amount of that respect. This amount bear* always some definite proportion to the length of possession; and that not only because of the greater security which long possession implies, but because there is an invincible disposition in men to consider with less respect not only those who are now on the same level with themselves, but those who only recently were lifted above that level. It is only carrying the same feeling a step further, to respect the distinctions which are handed down from ancestors more than those which are acquired by their present possessor. Not only is the time of enjoyment, generally speaking, longer, but no one can ever recollect the party unendowed with the superiority—no one can remember him naked of the marks of distinction. Even virtue and genius, and mental acquirements, are in some sort affected by this law of our nature. A man is himself no better for his ancestor having been virtuous, more able, more learned than others, or for being sprung from a race which had rendered precious services to their country. A man is no worse for his forefathers having been of a grovelling nature, or infamous life. Yet where is the individual who can place himself above the pride of descending from Marlborough or Blake, Newton or Watt \ And where is the sage whose wisdom is so captious, or heart so callous, as to refuse the epithet of honett or natural to such pride as this?"
But we have to ask neither Mr. Jefferson nor Lord Brougham, to tell us of these inequalities in society. The experience of every man admonishes him of their existence, and his own good sense warns him that they never can be destroyed. That they never should be destroyed, will, perhaps, not be so readily admitted by that class who have every thing to gain and nothing to lose—a class which exists in every community. The good effect, however, which this has upon the operations and advancement of society will be readily seen, when we contrast our admirable republicanism with those systems in which artificial distinctions and orders are component parts, and with those in which pure democracy runs riot. For the present, it is enough to say that these natural inequalities are in no respect antagonistic to the liberty of the community, either as a mass or as individuals. We have witnessed in our own country, young as it is, and surely as free as need be, the excellent consequences of this provision of nature. We have seen, or heard of, and admired the adulation which a nation can bestow upon a Washington, a Jackson, a Franklin or a Calhoun. We have seen the universal respect, bordering upon awe, which must await an Astor or Girard, an Aspinwall or a Vanderbilt. And is the time ever coming when the traitor Arnold will be forgotten T We feel conscious of no extravagance, when we contend that there is more stability derived from this natural aristocracy, than from any act which government can perform. It is, in fact, the key-stone of the social arch. Nor is there a possibility of its ever partaking of the artificial form under our institutions.
The negative effect of the same feeling, works as actively as the positive. Do we not unfortunately see the descendants of some of our most illustrious revolutionary patriots cast from society, and spurned with contempt by honest men, because of the fraud, immorality and blackguardism they commit? And can we call to mind the children of no wealthy ancestors, now struggling in poverty, and lost in obscurity? But, reverse the picture, and we see the offspring of social chaos, now in the very blaze of notoriety. These are the "ups and downs" of the world; but they illustrate not the less for all this, the steady operation of the principle which invigorates the natural aristocracy.
If it is possible to add force to the conviction we all must feel on this score, the following language will surely do it :*
* Calhoun's Works, vol. i., page 56.
"There is another error, not less great and dangerous. I refer to the opinion, that liberty and equality are so intimately united, that liberty cannot be perfect without perfect equality. That they are united to a certain extent—and that equality of citizens, in the eyes of the law, is essential to liberty in a popular government, is conceded. But to go further, and make equality of condition essential to liberty, would be to destroy both liberty and progress. The reason is, that inequality of condition, while it is a necessary consequence of liberty, is, at the same time, indispensable to progress. In order to understand why this is so, it is necessary to bear in mind, that the main spring to progress is the desire of individuals to better their condition; and that the strongest impulse which can be given to it, is to leave individuals free to exert themselves in the manner they may deem best for that purpose, as far, at least, as it can be done consistently with the ends for which government is ordained, and to secure to all the fruits of their exertions. Now, as individuals differ greatly from each other, in intelligence, sagacity, energy, perseverance, skill, habits of industry and economy, physical power, position and opportunity—the necessary effect of leaving all free to exert themselves to better their condition, must bo a corresponding inequality between those who may possess these qualities and advantages in a high degree, and those who may be deficient in them. The only means by which this result can be prevented, are, either to impose such restrictions on the exertions of those who may possess them in a high degree, as will place them on a level with those who do not; or to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions. But to impose such restrictions on them, would be destructive of liberty; while, to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions, would be to destroy the desire of bettering their condition. It is, indeed, this inequality of condition between the front and rear ranks, in the march of progress, which gives so strong an impulse to the former to maintain their position, and to the latter to press forward into their files. This gives to progress its greatest impulse. To force the front rank back to the Tear, or attempt to push forward the rear into line with the front, by the interposition of the government, would put an end to the impulse, and effectually arrest the march of progress.
"These great and dangerous errors have their origin in the prevalent opinion that all men are born free and equal—than which, nothing can be more unfounded and false. It rests upon the assumption of a fact, which is contrary to universal observation, in whatever light it may be regarded. It is, indeed, difficult to explain how an opinion so destitute of all sound reason, ever could have been so extensively entertained."
Now, firmly convinced as we may be, not only that there is, but that there ought to be, some inequality, and hence, some natural aristocracy among men, it is but due to the subject, that inquiry should be made as to the grounds upon which the doctrine of equality is based. And although it is not within the scope of our design to make the investigation,