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BEFORE the discovery of America by the Europeans, tribes of savages, unsettled and feeble, occupied, in this great continent, the territory where now flourishes the Republic of the United States. They lived in the open air, or inhabited wigwams, that is, huts of the rudest structure. Their only raiment consisted of skins of wild beasts; their arms, of the bow and the tomahawk: they depended for nourishment, upon the uncertain supplies of fishing and hunting, and sometimes devoured the flesh of their prisoners of war. Barbarous usages and superstitious rites stood them in lieu of laws and religion.
These wretched hordes gradually disappeared from the country which they had so long possessed. Some were destroyed by the strangers whom they had welcomed with hospitality: others spontaneously migrated towards the west. The English colonies took their place, and were established by men distinguished for the perseverance and courage, which seem to spring out of religious persecution. Most of these adventurous exiles were skilful in some trade or profession. They found, on disembarking, the wealth the most desirable for those whom labour does not appal;-tracts of vast extent, requiring only the arm of industry to become fertile, and which soon assumed a different aspect under the new masters.
Cultivation disclosed at length, the hidden treasures of the soil: The youthful generation now reaped the fruits of the toils of their fathers, and the Golden Age, the fiction of the old world, was realized in the new. Population, arts, education, husbandry, all the stamina of civilization, made rapid progress in these regions hitherto wild and almost desert. Antecedently, every thing belonged alike to all, and this jealous communion preclud.
ed the enjoyment of any particular private right. Now, on the contrary, there is no country of the universe where private property is more respected, and this respect is not founded on the authority or power of the proprietor. It rests upon generally received notions of equity and utility which, in securing to a man and his family, the produce of his labour, bind up social order with private gratification. It may also, perhaps, be ascribed to the great facility with which the very lowest of the poor can themselves become proprietors. They have no reason to envy those who have already acquired this character; and they are sure of reaching, in their turn, a condition of ease and affluence, by lawful means, and without extraordinary efforts.
The ideas of good government were carried to America, in the sixteenth century, by men who had emigrated from Europe in the hope of a better lot. Numerous sects of Christians banished by intolerance, and who were themselves intolerant in the outset, soon changed their maxims of conduct. These sects or persuasions for it is thus they are styled in the language of the country-are not, perhaps, even yet, wholly exempt from superstitious fancies; but, abjuring fanaticism, they profess and practice beneficence, charity, philanthropy, the love of peace, not only as religious virtues, but as the principles the most favourable to human happiness. There, all creeds that acknowledge Christ, are equally revered. The government knows no preference for any, and none needs protection against the rest: The divine moral which they all profess is a sufficient shield; and those who administer affairs are deeply penetrated with this truth-that the state in which Religion ceases to be honoured, itself immediately verges towards ruin.
A cause superior to the authority of the magistrate, to the fear of punishment, to the vigilance of the domestic police, cause unrivalled in efficacy, averts crimes and maintains public tranquillity; I mean the happiness which is invariably found in all classes and professions. With a community so blessed, religion is no longer an engine of fear, necessary for the preservation of order and peace: It is an additional delight to existence; a new recompense for virtue.
Guided by these easy and simple means, all pursued, instinctively as it were, the track marked out by the legislator: They were never dragged into it by violence or prejudice. Sound principles, disseminated with a wholesome caution, prepared the Revolution which we have witnessed. It is the most remarkable within the reach of history, and circumstances peculiar to America stipulate perpetuity to the good effects which it has produced.
Among these circumstances, the most worthy of attention is --that the founders of the English Colonies, carried with them the seeds of genuine liberty, which time ripened by degrees,
and which were in a state of complete maturity when the Revolution began. This explains the facility with which social freedom was established in America--so quickly, and in such full perfection; while, elsewhere, the most arduous efforts were insufficient to naturalize it, because different principles had predominated through a long series of ages. Reformers, in whatever country, must beware of attempting to anticipate time; their business is to watch and foster the improvements which the lapse of years and the progress of knowledge induce-infallibly and inevitably. This amelioration is slow but sure; and, if there be risk in the attempt to accelerate it, to aim at frustrating the process is accompanied with at least equal danger. Popular government might, then, be established without difficulty, in a country where the most material change was the expulsion of the officers of the royal administration.
Society, in the United States, is not graduated into orders. There, no individuals are to be seen arrayed in sinecure titles; for, exalted orders without privilege or authority, titles without functions, would appear, in a republic, mere fictions unworthy of serious and sensible men. Every American title implies a magistracy and certain powers; and the title is honourable only in proportion to the merit with which the correlative office is discharged. With this nation--for these communities are already a nation--liberty hangs neither on the wisdom nor on the moderation of any individual. It is under the safeguard of the law, and is the most perfect of which the social compact is susceptible. The new constitutions in which it is digested were framed by sages whose dearest ambition the noblest of all-was to render men happy. This sublime purpose they have completely achieved. They undertook what the most renowned philosophers, ancient and modern, only ventured to suggest as a theory more easy to be imagined than executed. They overleaped the limits which Aristotle, Bodin, More, Harrington, durst not pass. They could even, before quitting the stage of life, be themselves witnesses of the perfect success of the transcendent enterprise, and the world has, perhaps for the first time, seen Republics. But--what had not, certainly, been before seen, these republics were reared by the people; for their delegates, strangers to intrigue and ambition, were truly the organs of the public will.
Famine, scarcity,_those scourges of the rest of the globe, appear not in the American states, and are not be to apprehended there as long as the labourer can find rich, virgin lands, through which to drive his plough.
Crimes must be infrequent where all wants are easily satisfied, and public inflictions almost unknown. Official authority may dispense with the aid of an armed force. The constitution
and the laws are all-powerful in the unanimity of consent and affection.
These states, yet in the vigour of youth, carry lightly the burden of a public debt, which weighs down such as are on the decline or even stationary. Doubtless, it would be more advantageous for the United States to have no debt; but they never borrow unless with a view to some real and permanent good; and a few years of accumulation furnish means sufficient for paying the interest and extinguishing the capital. Elsewhere, credit dwindles, as loans multiply; there, the productions of the soil experience an increase, which no circumstances can impede; not even war or the folly of government. Each day the means of payment augment by a natural and necessary fructification, and confidence grows in the same proportion. I believe that, of all the states which are encumbered with a public debt, the United States will be the last to seek relief in the ignominious expedient of bankruptcy.
The nations of Europe cannot have just cause for making war upon them, and those even who are still powerful on the continent of America, will, if they are prudent, beware of disturbing their repose.
Their territory, distant from the pole on one side, and near to the tropic on the other, comprises the most highly favoured climes, and has that length of day which is most suitable for the labours of man. It is true that, in consequence of the land being but recently or imperfectly cleared, their winters are more severe than those of the parallel latitudes in our quarter of the globe. Nevertheless, the inhabitants are not condemned to inaction, like so many other nations who merely vegetate, as it were, during five or six months of the year.
While their fields are covered with snow, their merchantvessels traverse the ocean in every direction: carpenters and other mechanics are busied in building, in repairing ships, or in raising new cities. A great part of the linen and cloth used in the interior is of domestic manufacture. Numbers employ themselves in fishing and hunting, and all are engaged throughout the year in some useful vocation. Bounded on the east by the Atlantic ocean, they will spread themselves in the west as far as the Pacific. Their population is now, perhaps, relatively too great in the maritime districts; but this inconvenience, if it exist, must become less from day to day, and before the end of the century, the proper proportion will obtain between the agricultural and the sea-faring population. This adjustment is not a matter of indifference. A great extent of coast with little depth of country is more unfavourable to general competence, to the development and maintenance of national prosperity, than a position altogether aloof from the sea, and encompassed by foreign territory.
The fisheries of the Grand Bank belong more particularly to the Americans than to other nations. All, indeed, might partake abundantly without exhausting the supply. It is a harvest more certain than that of the fields. The fisheries of the Bank, with that of the whale, are the best school for the formation of cxcellent seamen, and the Americans having the advantage of neighbourhood, cannot be behind any nation in the world in the competition for these natural treasures.
The United States must, of necessity, by reason of their situation, become the entrepôt of Europe and Asia, the two most industrious portions of the globe. Already do the Americans frequent the ports of China and the East Indies without cumbrous retinue, without the expense of privileged companies, armed factories, or garrisons. This saving enables them both to sell and buy at a cheaper rate. It could hardly be believed that their trade, in Asia, nearly equals a moiety of the British in the same quarter. They thus take a considerable share, and with no adventitious charges, in the navigation of the world, and have obtained this share, without usurping the rights of other nations, because their maritime commerce is nearly in due proportion to their territory, to its productions, to the extent of their coasts, and to their population. The revolution is begun; time will finish it; and, in spite of all obstacles, civilization will make new conquests on every side. There are nations who augur prodigious developments and collisions of power from this great change in human affairs. Their fears are awakened, and they believe that their own ruin will be the consequence. They will labour to obstruct, and may, perhaps, succeed in retarding, the natural course of things. These American states are, in fact, the only power which threatens to wrest, one day, the empire of the seas from England; but we may believe, at the same time, that the alarms of the English nation as to her trade, are groundless; for, the productions and constantly increasing riches of the United States are so considerable that they will be able, without exciting jealousy, to admit all nations to a participation in the benefits of their friendship.
If the influence of the mercantile spirit were excluded from the examination and decision of questions of this sort, it would soon be conceded that there is no nation which has not a direct interest in promoting the natural growth of the resources of all others. It is from the great colony established in America by Europeans, that Europe will learn this important lesson.
We will admit, however, that these new republics possessed of so many advantages, do not always enjoy them with perfect composure and decorum. As the agitations and disorders to which they are subject have a certain éclat, while the evidences of their domestic felicity are not so immediately perceptible, it often happens that the report of the former crosses the ocean,