« AnteriorContinuar »
" As this scene passes before us, we can hardly forbear asking whether this be a band of malefactors and felons flying from justice ? What are their crimes, that they hide themselves in darkness? To what punishment are they exposed, that to avoid it, men, and women, and children, thus encounter the surf of the North Sea, and the terrors of a night storm? What induces this armed pursuit, and this arrest of fugitives, of all ages and both sexes ?-Truth does not allow us to answer these inquiries, in a manner that does credit to the wisdom or the justice of the times. This was not the flight of guilt, but of virtue. It was an humble and peaceable religion, flying from causeless oppression. It was conscience, attempting to escape from the arbitrary rule of the Stuarts. It was Robinson and Brewster, leading off their little band from their native soil, at first to find shelter on the shores of the neighbouring continent, but ultimately to come hither; and having surmounted all difficulties, and braved a thousand dangers, to find here a place of refuge and of rest. Thanks be to God, that this spot was honoured as the asylum of religious liberty. May its standard, reared here, remain for ever!--May it rise up as high as heaven, till its banner shall fan the air of both continents, and wave as a glorious ensign of peace and security to the nations !"
* Different, indeed, most widely different, from all these instances of emigration and plantation, were the condition, the purposes, and the prospects of our Fathers, when they established their infant colony upon this spot. They came hither to a land from which they were never to return. Hither they had brought, and here they were to fix, their hopes, their attachments, and their objects. Some natural tears they shed, as they left the pleasant abodes of their fathers, and some emotions they suppressed, when the white cliffs of their native country, now seen for the last time, grew dim to their sight. They were acting however upon a resolution not to be changed. With whatever stifled regrets, with whatever occasional hesitation, with whatever appalling apprehensions, which might sometimes arise with force to shake the firmest purpose, they had yet committed themselves to Heaven and the elements; and a thousand leagues of water soon interposed to separate them for ever from the region which gave them birth. A new existence awaited them here ; and when they saw these shores, rough, cold, barbarous, and barren, as then they were, they beheld their country. That mixed and strong feeling, which we call love of country, and which is, in general, never extinguished in the heart of man, grasped and embraced its proper object here. Whatever consti
tutes country, except the earth and the sun, all the moral causes of affection and attachment, which operate upon the heart, they had brought with them to their new abode. Here were now their families, and friends; their homes, and their property. Before they reached the shore, they had established the elements of a social system, and at a much earlier period had settled their forms of religious worship. At the moment of their landing, therefore, they possessed institutions of government, and institutions of religion: and friends and families, and social and religious institutions, established by consent, founded on choice and preference, how nearly do these fill up our whole idea of country!—The morning that beamed on the first night of their repose, saw the Pilgrims already established in their country. There were political institutions, and civil liberty, and religious worship. Poetry has fancied nothing, in the wanderings of heroes, so distinct and characteristic. Here was man, indeed, unprotected, and unprovided for, on the shore of a rude and fearful wilderness; but it was politic, intelligent and educated man. Every thing was civilized but the physical world, Institutions, containing in substance all that ages had done forhuman government, were established in a forest. Cultivated mind was to act on uncultivated nature; and, more than all, a government and a country were to commence with the very first foundations laid under the divine light of the christian religion. Happy auspices of a happy futurity! Who would wish that his country's existence had otherwise begun ?-Who would desire the power of going back to the ages of fable? Who would wish for an origin, obscured in the darkness of antiquity ?—Who would wish for other emblazoning of his country's heraldry, or other ornaments of her genealogy, than to be able to say, that her first existence was with intelligence; her first breath the inspirations of liberty ; her first principle the truth of divine religion ?" :
· In a former Number of this work (vol. ii. p. 636), we published some remarkable statements as to the effect of primogeniture, as well on the cultivation of the land itself as on the political condition of countries adopting it. Duly weighed, the following passage will be found to corroborate so much of those statements as bear upon considerations of policy:
“Our ancestors began their system of government here, under a condition of comparative equality, in regard to wealth, and their early laws were of a nature to favour and continue this equality. A republican form of government rests, not more on political consti-.
tutions, than on those laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property.—Governments like ours could not have been maintained, where property was holden according to the principles of the feudal system; nor, on the other hand, could the feudal constitution possibly exist with us. Our New England ancestors brought hither no great capitals from Europe; and if they had, there was nothing productive in which they could have been invested. They left behind them the whole feudal policy of the other continent. They broke away, at once, from the system of military service, established in the dark ages, and which continues, down even to the present time, more or less to affect the condition of property all over Europe. They came to a new country. There were, as yet, no lands yielding rent, and no tenants rendering service. The whole soil was unreclaimed from barbarism. They were themselves, either from their original condition, or from the necessity of their common interest, nearly on a general level, in respect to property. Their situation demanded a parcelling out and division of the lands; and it may be fairly said, that this necessary act fired the future frame and form of their government. The character of their political institutions was determined by the fundamental laws respecting property. The laws rendered estates divisible among sons and daughters. The right of primogeniture, at first limited and curtailed, and afterwards abolished. The property was all freehold. entailment of estates, long trusts, and the other processes for fettering and tying up inheritances, were not applicable to the condition of society, and seldom made use of. On the contrary, alienation of the land was every way facilitated, even to the subjecting of it to every species of debt. The establishment of public registries, and the simplicity of our forms of conveyance, have greatly facilitated the change of real estate from one proprietor to another. The consequence of all these causes has been, a great subdivision of the soil, and a great equality of condition; the true basis most certainly of a popular government.— If the people,' says Harrington, 'hold three parts in four of the territory, it is plain there can neither be any single person nor nobility able to dispute the government with them; in this case, therefore, except force be interposed, they govern themselves.'"
Mr. Webster goes on to state his opinion that the excessive subdivision of property in France, and the excessive accumulation of it in England, are respectively tending to the overthrow of the constitution of each: in France, by a union of a multitude of small proprietors, with no large proprietors to
oppose them, against the crown; in England, by a union of all the poorer classes against the rich. We believe him to be right as regards France, but wrong as regards England; wrong, however, from not knowing what a foreigner can hardly be expected to know—the decidedly preponderating and (we do not now hesitate to add) decidedly conservative influence of the middle classes.
As many of our most valuable municipal institutions have been included in the late outcry against monopolies, we are happy to be able to adduce Mr. Webster's authority in favour of them :
“ Connected with this division of property, and the consequent participation of the great mass of people in its possession and enjoyments, is the system of representation, which is admirably accommodated to our condition, better understood among us, and more familiarly and extensively practised in the higher and in the lower departments of government, than it has been with any other people. Great facility has been given to this in New England by the early division of the country into townships or small districts, in which all concerns of local police are regulated, and in which representatives to the legislature are elected. Nothing can exceed the utility of those little bodies. They are so many councils, or parliaments, in which common interests are discussed, and useful knowledge acquired and communicated.”
Savigny has expressed the same opinion: “ It is an error to suppose that the common weal would gain new life by the destruction of all individual relations. Were it possible to generate a peculiar esprit de corps in every class, every town, nay, every village, the common weal would gain new strength from this heightened and multiplied individuality.” .
We regard the next subject to which he applies himself as the most important of any, and shall therefore give the whole of what he says upon it :
“ Having detained you so long with these observations, I must yet advert to another most interesting topic, the Free Schools. In this particular, New England may be allowed to claim, I think, a merit of a peculiar character. She early adopted and has constantly maintained the principle, that it is the undoubted right, and the bounden duty of government, to provide for the instruction of
1 of the Vocation of our Age for Legislation, &c.
all youth. That which is elsewhere left to chance, or to charity, we secure by law. For the purpose of public instruction, we hold every man subject to taxation in proportion to his property, and we look not to the question, whether he himself have, or have not, children to be benefited by the education for which he pays. We regard it as a wise and liberal system of police, by which property, and life, and the peace of society are secured. We seek to prevent, in some measure, the extension of the penal code, by inspiring a salutary and conservative principle of virtue and of knowledge in an early age. We hope to excite a feeling of respectability, and a sense of character, by enlarging the capacity, and increasing the sphere of intellectual enjoyment. By general instruction, we seek, as far as possible, to purify the whole moral atmosphere; to keep good sentiments uppermost, and to turn the strong current of feeling and opinion, as well as the censures of the law, and the denunciations of religion, against immorality and crime. We hope for a security beyond the law, and above the law, in the prevalence of enlightened and well-principled moral sentiment. We hope to continue and prolong the time, when, in the villages and farm-houses of New England, there may be undisturbed sleep within unbarred doors. And knowing that our government rests directly on the public will, that we may preserve it, we endeavour to give a safe and proper direction to that public will. We do not indeed, expect all men to be philosophers or statesmen ; but we confidently trust, and our expectation of the duration of our system of government rests on that trust, that by the diffusion of general knowledge and good and virtuous sentiments, the political fabric may be secure, as well against open violence and overthrow, as against the slow but sure undermining of licentiousness.
“We know, that at the present time, an attempt is making in the English Parliament to provide by law for the education of the poor, and that a gentleman of distinguished character (Mr. Brougham), has taken the lead, in presenting a plan to government for carrying that purpose into effect. And yet, although the representatives of the three kingdoms listened to him with astonishment as well as delight, we hear no principles with which we ourselves have not been familiar from youth; we see nothing in the plan but an approach towards that system which has been established in New England for more than a century and a half. It is said that in England not more than one child in fifteen possesses the means of being taught to read and write ; in Wales, one in twenty; in France, until lately, when some improvement was made, not more than one in thirty-five. Now, it is hardly too strong to say, that in New England every child