Imagens das páginas

agent to execute. Society can effectually frown down pugilists and bullies, but the hangman, sustained by the strong arm of government, is required to execute the murderer. Society can regulate the common interests and domestic relations of life, and the interposition of government is needed only to impart vigour to operations of a more formidable nature. And, to say this, does in no way tend to undervalue the importance of government. The secondary and primary principles are equally indispensable, but it is highly essential that they should be confined to their proper functions. A distinguished writer of the last century truly observes :*

"Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. Th« mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all the parts of a civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns and forms their laws; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greiter influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government.

"To understand th« nature and quantity of government proper for man, it is necessary to attend to his character. As nature created him for social life, she fitted him for the station she intended. In all cases she made his natural wants greater than his individual powers. No one man is capable, without theaid of society, of supplying his own wants; and those wants, acting upon every individual, impel the whole of them into society, as naturally as gravitation acts to a centre.

"But she has gone further. She has not only forced man into society by a diversity of wants, which the reciprocal aid of each other can supply, but she has implanted in him a system of social affections, which, though not necessary to his existence, arc essential to his happiness. There is no period in life when this love for society ceases to act. It begins and ends with our being.

"If we examine, with attention, into the composition and constitution of man, the diversity of his wants, and the diversity of talents in different men for reciprocally accommodating the wants of each other, his propensity to society, and 'consequently to preserve the advantages resulting from it, we shall easily discover that a great part of what is called government is mere imposition.

• Rights of Man; by Thomai Paine. Philadelphia: 1791. Part ii., p. IS.

"Oovernment is no further necessary than to supply the few cases to which society and civilization are not conveniently competent; and instances are not wanting to shew, that every thing which government can usefully add thereto, nas been performed by the common consent of society, without government. If we consider what the principles are that first condense men into society, and what the motives that regulate their mutual intercourse afterwards, we shall find, by the time we arrive at what is called government, that nearly the whole of the business is performed by the natural operation of the parte upon each other."

"Formal government makes but a small part of civilized life; and when even the best that human wisdom can devise is established, it is a thing more in name and idea than in fact. It is to the great and fundamental principles of society and civilization—to the common usage universally consented to, and mutually and reciprocally maintained—to the unceasing circulation of interest, which, passing through its million channels, invigorates the whole mass of civilized man—it is to these things, infinitely more than to any thing which even the best instituted government can perform, that the safety and prosperity of the individual and of the whole depend."

Instances of the self-sustaining power of society are to be found on every page of history. There, we read of nations sunk into the profoundest labyrinths of strife, anarchy and confusion; while, to the superficial eye, society, with all its blessings, seems utterly lost and strangled in the thorny maze. But, look beneath this troubled surface, and we discover order where we looked for disorder; we find industry where we expected nothing but rapine ; we see virtue struggling for her crown, and, in good time, obtaining it. Society emerges from the terrific maelstrom with all her features preserved and her head erect. And no thanks to government for this—it occurs where there is no government. It springs from that natural pliancy and singular aptness in mankind, which adapts society to the circumstances which surround it.

During successive generations the death struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster, "the war of the Roses," was the curse of England. Government was but another name for civil war. If one rose was red, it was but emblematic of the blood which flowed for its emolument; and, as the other was white, it but told of the bones that bleached on many a fatal field. Between the two, there was neither peace nor safety. Society was indeed harassed ; but had it not been for her good offices, who can say where the wretched progress of events would have found a termination? And whence did support and consolation flow in those tumultuous times, but from the conservative influences which society exerted over the frugal and patient people? And what finally brought all England to her senses, and cast such a charm around the marriage of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York— one man and woman—but the stern demand of society that there should be peace 1 The disgusting process of the several French revolutions and massacres, with the attendant horrors of the Reign of Terror and the Age of Reason, affords but a melancholy instance of the depth of vice, to which scarcely any but a French society, bewildered with chimeras always, could ever descend. If every ligament of the social body seemed for a time to be annihilated, it is certain that the morals of the Parisian canaille were no worse under the Robesperian sway, than they were, ages before, under the ruthless government of the fair daughter of the Medici. And who will deny that the demand of society for peace, order and tranquillity, is, at this moment, the only prop of the Empire? But our own country presents a better and more familiar instance. For years, during the early part of the Revolution, the pretension to government was but nominal throughout America. The colonial systems had died a natural death, and men were too busy with the vindication of their liberty to engage in the institution of permanent government. The Congress had, in fact, but mock authority. The utmost it could do was to recommend what a stable government would have ordered ; yet no power on earth was ever more faithfully obeyed than this same Congress. The cause of this was found not only in the necessities, but in the demands of society. It is truly questionable whether a community was ever in a similar predicament before; yet it is certain no people ever so happily delivered themselves from the grandest of dilemmas, and that, too, without a government worthy the name. And, if reference to this particular state is admissible here, we may be pardoned for saying, that, what with Whigs and Torys, English Cavaliers and French Huguenots, Irish towns and Dutch forks, Carolina has, in the course of her career, been more sorely pressed, for the need of government, than can be well conceived; yet the result of the exertions of her society has been, what we hope to prove it is, the most perfect system of the kind that the world has yet looked upon.


But, capable as society is to sustain itself in the ordinary routine of events, and notwithstanding the latitude she allows to individuals, there are occasions when private judgment and individual liberty must be superseded for the public good. There must ever exist a necessity of restraint over individuals, as is already stated, owing to the impossibility of seZ/'-government. Society can only impose a part of this restraint; it is for government to do the rest. Hence the remark of the author of "Common Sense :"*—" Society and government are different in themselves, and have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness. Society is in every state a blessing; government, even in its best state, but a necessary evil."

There is a consideration consequent upon this, which is of the highest importance in the science of government, viz :— Since government is the resultant of the social condition, and since it is produced by our wickedness, (taking for the present this view of the subject,) it follows that it should not be the same for every people. For, unless all mankind are equally advanced in social improvement, and equally wicked, the several systems which spring out of these causes must, of necessity, be different. And this is singularly verified by the world's history, which establishes that no two distinct governments ever existed which were the same in all their departments. We see, in one country, complete despotism; in another, mixed monarchy; in another, good republicanism; and in another, unbridled democracy; and who is competent to say that the one is not as well adapted to the condition of its subjects as the other? The serfdom of Russia is not more repugnant to the sober republican, than the wild democracy of the deluded Frenchman ;—while the substantial liberty of an Englishman, or an American, is utterly incomprehensible to either Russians or Frenchmen. And it would be obviously absurd to attempt, either by dint of logic to prove, or by dogmatism to assert, that one of these peoples enjoy less individual happiness than another. It is not in the power of man to determine truly which is actually the happiest, the. Russian Serf, the Queen of England, -the President of the United States, or an inhabitant of the Feegee Islands. It would be a slur, which we would be sorry to cast upon the wisdom and mercy of the God of all, to say that this or that nation, among all his people, alone is blessed with happiness. And as this would be a daring piece of presumption, to discriminate in the matter would be equally offensive to good taste and reason. Let man rest content with the reasonable effort to civilize and christianize his fellow"; by this means he may refine the rough jewel and polish the hard stone. Besides, time may be much more profitably spent, than in setting up a series of standards for the estimation of the happiness of people who neither know nor care about us.

* Thornai Paint.

The very gradual or cumulative nature of those events which bring governments into being, is sufficient to demonstrate not only the possibility, but actual necessity, of differences in the forms of government. And the history of our own little State is no mean illustration of this. What with her fundamental constitutions, her proprietary, royal, professional, revolutionary and republican governments and constitutions, to say nothing of subsequent amendments, statutes, resolutions and conventions, who can deny that she is what she is, whether in good or evil report, not by the design of man, but " by the blessing of God?"

"Forms of government," says Dr. Fergu.sun,* "are supposed to decide of the happiness or misery of mankind. But they must be varied, in order to suit the extent, the way of subsistence, the character and the manners of different nations. In some cases the multitude may be suffered to govern themselves; in others, they must be severely restrained. The inhabitants of a village, in some primitive Age, may have been safely entrusted to the conduct of reason, and to the suggestion of their innocent views; but the tenants of Newgate can scarcely be trusted,

• Pages 123 sad 304.

« AnteriorContinuar »