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own government. This is our country, and we love it. We love it not only because we were born in it, and have, therefore, received it as an inheritance from our fathers, but we love it more especially because we think we have one of the most happy, just, and equitable forms of government in the world, or that the world ever saw. This may be prejudice. If it be, it is a prejudice of a pardonable character. It is a natural one. Is it not, in fact, commendable? Is not that man to be commended who loves his country—the country which gave him birth-nurtured him--and which now protects him in all his rights and privileges-natural, civil, and religious ? We hope, at least, that this feeling of the heart, prompted as it is by those impulses which are coeval with our earliest recollections, will meet with a hearty response from every one who may read these pages.
Shall this government stand ? Shall our institutions, civil and religious, under which we have so greatly prospered thus far, be handed down to posterity unimpaired? Shall that constitution, the noblest monument of human wisdom, withstand the shocks of its assailants ? Shall it be preserved as the palladium of our liberties and as the great“ landmark” for future statesmen; the polar star to guide the national ship in the midst of the storms and tempests which may arise out of the conflicts of parties, and the rushing of human passions and prejudices? These are questions which every American patriot ought to put to himself. Nor let the Christian think that he ought to love his country less because he is required to love his God more.
It has frequently been observed that this government is an experiment. It is, indeed, an experiment upon a large scale. The fate of millions is involved in the issue. Not merely of those now living in this country, enjoying all the untold blessings guarantied to them under the constitution which binds, limits, and controls the action of the supreme legislature of the Union, but also of generations unborn in this and in other lands. And who can be indifferent in respect to the success of an experiment pregnant with good or evil of such an incalculable amount?
There are many reasons why it is called an experiment. It had no archetype ; no precedent in the history of the world. The world, indeed, had seen the patriarchal, the monarchical, aristocratical, and the democratical forms of government alternately rise and fall; but until the American Revolution had effected the emancipation of these colonies from the dominion of the mother country, the world never saw a representative government in which the power of legislation was delegated by the mass to the hands of a few, chosen for that purpose by the united voice of the people. Rome, to be sure, had its senate; but this was neither checked in its legislative action by a constitution, nor were its proceedings balanced by an upper and lower house. Hence the almost perpetual vacillation from a republic to a monarchy; from military despotism to the anarchy of popular uproar and confusion. And what were the governments of Greece ? Were they not so many petty, turbulent democracies, in the deliberations of which neither the voice of wisdom nor experience could be heard whenever the popular frenzy was wrought up by the harangues of artful demagogues? Those wild democracies, often more tyrannical, and always more whimsical than an absolute monarchy, formed no fit precedent for the frame-work of the American confederacy. Here is an aristocracy of power, created, for the time being, by the people themselves; during which time the latter have agreed to surrender up a portion of their liberties into the hands of a few; reserving, however, to themselves the right of reclaiming this delegated power whenever they shall think it has been abused, and of putting it into the hands of others. This is the experiment.
Here are wheels within the wheel. Here are the several state governments, moving each in its own sphere, while the outer wheel of the general government throws itself around them all, and protects them without interfering with any.
If these are so balanced and managed that each one can turn upon its own axis without interfering with its fellow, and at the same time keep within its destined sphere of action, so as not to clog the wheels of the general government, by the blessing of a munificent Providence the whole machinery may go on harmoniously, without interruption; and, if kept in proper order, may not wear out under the influence of its own friction. We say this is the experiment. The strength of the system is yet to be tested. Its durability must depend, not simply on the theory of the government, but upon the wisdom, the integrity, and devotedness to the interests of their fellow-citizens, of those who are appointed to manage the system.
For this we have some fears. And, though we do not wish to be set down as croakers, nor classed among the prophets of evil tidings, we cannot avoid the duty—so we feel it—of noticing some things which, we fear, forebode disastrous consequences. The mentioning of these is the chief object of this article ; and, in doing this, we shall keep in view the principle with which we commenced, namely, that our Christianity-for we desire to sustain the character of Christian patriots, and not to take the hue of any political party—is a remedial system; that it intermeddles not with the forms of civil governments, but aims simply to make good citizens and subjects under every form where its disciples may dwell.
1. The first thing we would notice, as an evil to be deprecated, is the fatal influence of what has been called Lynch law. Ever since the scene of the Vicksburgh massacre, in which the majesty of law was set at defiance, and the honor of the magistrate merged in the virulent spirit of a mob, we have felt for the honor of our country and the safety of its inhabitants. Had, indeed, the civil authorities of the state frowned upon those deeds of atrocity, and expressed its voice of reprobation against the disgraceful acts of that inhuman butchery, we might hope that a repetition of such deeds of violence need not be feared. This, however, so far as we have heard, has never been done.
Let it not be thought that we offer a palliative, much less a plea of justification, for the desperate conduct of those villains on whom the vengeance of an offended people fell. By no means. If truth has been told of their character and doings, they justly deserved chastisement. But was there no civil process by which their deeds could have been brought to light, and the punishment due to their enormities inflicted upon them? If not, then the legislature of the state have been strangely unmindful of their duty.
Nor have we selected this as a solitary instance of popular violence. Others have followed, of a character equally exceptionable, and they, therefore, show the necessity of lifting up the voice against them. The mobs of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other places, have all been but an exhibition of the same spirit of insubordination of the same disposition to usurp the powers of the magistrate, and set the laws at defiance. We know, indeed, that these violent movements are not peculiar to our country, nor to popu. lar governments. Neither a monarchy nor an aristocracy is exempt from these tumultuous assemblages, and those excitements which lead to similar deeds of desperation. But where have we a similar example, In which the government of the country did not look with indignant disapprobation at such deeds of violence? Where else have we an example, where the people were encouraged to a repetition of their outrageous conduct, by the silence of the supreme power? Such a dangerous precedent will be pleaded in future, unless it shall have been frowned upon by those to whom the administration of the laws is committed. And even in those places where the authority of the magistrate was brought to bear upon the mob, and the military power of the country was called into action to enforce law and restore order, the slowness of their proceedings in some instances, and the manifest reluctance with which they discharged their duties in others, seemed but to add fuel to that destructive fire which was raging to such a fearful extent. We do not mean to question the purity or patriotism of the magistrates. They, doubtless, acted from the best of motives. They hoped that mild measures and remonstrances would have the effect to calm those turbulent spirits, and to bring them to a sense of their duty. They found, however, that this experiment failed; and after the mischief was done, and the deeds of violence were perpe. trated, the mobs were dispersed by a show of authority. This we consider a mistaken policy. The law should be enforced with a promptness and energy which will teach the lawless that they cannot indulge in the violence of passion, in robbery, and murder, with im. punity.
We need hardly stop here to say, that no man in the community is safe while this lawless spirit is permitted to vent itself: this is known to every one. Any citizen, however innocent, becoming obnoxious to the populace, is liable to be outraged in his person or property, whenever they shall see fit to indulge their splenetic disposition against him. This, therefore, is one of the evils to be deprecated. The law. less despotism of the mob must be destroyed, or the iron despotism of a military government will take its place. We must destroy it, or it will destroy us.
2. Another fearful evil which prevails to an alarming extent is, the abuse of the press. The freedom of the press, under proper regula. tions and restrictions, is one of the greatest blessings with which a free government can be favored : its abuse is one of its greatest curses ; and unļess checked and controlled, will, sooner or later, contribute to the destruction of that very freedom which is its safeguard.
It is not, therefore, the freedom of the press against which we speak; but it is that abuse of this freedom, which is exemplified in personal detraction and slander, and more especially in that rancor
which is manifested by one party against the other. The highest authority has said, “ Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy peo. ple." And one of the most comprehensive set of moral rules for the conduct of a religious community, has forbidden its members to o speak evil of ministers and magistrates.”
But such rules are no more heeded by the generality of our citizens, than if they had been written in the sand. On the contrary, the character of our magis. trates is assailed uniformly by the adverse party with all the virulence of partisan madness; not chiefly because their conduct is morally or politically bad, but because they belong to the dominant party, and must therefore, if possible, be put down. And while the adverse party thus indiscriminately denounces its antagonist, the latter sets up its plea of justification, and manifests its sense of injury by retaliating upon its opponent in a similar strain of abuse and invective. Thus each party is immaculate in its own estimation, while its antagonist is every thing that is bad. Is this conduct likely to serve the interests of truth? to promote virtue? or to exalt the character of the nation ?
The suffrages of a free people in the choice of their rulers is con. sidered one of the safeguards of our liberties. But while partisan politicians are chiefly intent upon blackening the characters of each other, and as eagerly engaged in justifying their own party, what be. comes of the freedom of elections? Instead of selecting the best man in the community to serve the public interests, because he is the best, or the most competent, the chief, if not indeed the only inquiry is, Does he belong to the party, and will he, therefore, serve its interests ? Thus the interests of the party are sought to be promoted at the sacrifice of the interests of the country. Is this the wisest course to preserve our liberties, and to secure the peace, the prosperity, and permanency of our government? We do not say that bad motives always influence men in this partisan warfare. No doubt they often persuade them. selves that their party is right and the most patriotic; and that if their measures can be adopted, it will secure the best interests of the country. Nor do we deprecate the existence of all difference of opinion on the subject of politics. These differences, were they stated and conducted in a suitable manner, free from those violent expressions of wholesale slander and personal recriminations, might produce a healthy action in the body politic, and serve to purify the political atmosphere. A perfect calm is as much to be dreaded as a violent storm. But what we condemn is, that spirit of blind zeal which sees nothing good and true in an antagonist, nor yet any fault in those of its own party. Do not those unqualified censures, this impugning of motives, and this mutual recrimination, tend to destroy confidence in our rulers? Who, if he believe what is said in these ve. hicles of abuse, is willing to confide his interests to their keeping ?
We allow, that “great men are not always wise.” We allow, that magistrates may err; that bad men may get into office ; that when “ the wicked bear rule, the people mourn. This is admitted. But how is the evil to be remedied? Is it by wholesale abuse and slander ? Is it by a sweeping condemnation of the whole, merely because they dissent from us in political views ? Does not every body see, that this unwise course of conduct goes to destroy all confidence in the ac. cuser as well as the accused ? For our part, we have become so ac.
customed to this sort of abuse, that when we look into a strong par. tisan paper, and read the violent strictures upon public men and measures, we do not allow ourselves to be influenced by it. So little confidence is reposed in what is retailed under the influence of this bitter spirit, that we immediately suspect the whole as the tricks of the party, resorted to for the purpose of securing patronage, and of sustaining some particular interests. This is the natural, the una. voidable effect of those measures of violence. If, then, the press would inspire confidence in its integrity, let it give evidence that its sole object is to promulgate the truth, and to seek, not the interests of a party, but the good of the country. Let it, in its animadversions upon public men and measures, discriminate “ between the righteous and the wicked;" give due credit for every thing which is good, let it be found wherever it may; make suitable allowances for human weak. nesses; and then its censures upon those who are at fault will be believed, and its warnings be heeded. We are no more in favor of wholesale and indiscriminate praise and mere partisan eulogy, than we are for those broad and sweeping accusations which pass sentence of condemnation upon all, because they happen to belong to a party. Discriminate between truth and error, between the good and the bad, right and wrong, and evince an honest intention to deal out equal justice to all, and the press shall become a faithful sentinel to warn the people of their danger, and at the same time a powerful prop in support of our liberties and our civil institutions. A love of country requires this : much more does Christianity sanction and command it.
But were this abuse of the freedom of the press confined to the political newspapers, there would not be so much reason to apprehend danger. Within a few years, religious periodicals, of various sorts and sizes, have been multiplied in our country. At the commencement of these, they were hailed by the Christian community as har. bingers of peace and good will, and it was hoped that they would tend greatly to purify the moral atmosphere, and to present the rays of truth through a clearer medium to the
minds of the people. Nor have we been altogether disappointed. Through this medium religious intelligence has been widely diffused, the benevolent enterprises of the day have been greatly aided, and many truths but partially known, have been announced and promulgated far and wide ; and hence there can be no doubt, but that this sort of periodical literature and intel. ligence has been beneficially increased, carrying with it light and love to many hearts ; nor would we say a word to limit its circulation, or to circumscribe its influence. Let it fly as “ upon the wings of the morning," until it shall reach the utmost bounds of the habitable globe.
But we have, nevertheless, feared that even these papers have not al. ways been free from the defects we have already noticed. Instead of manifesting that strict regard to truth, justice, and love, which should characterize a religious journal, the spirit of party, of denominational jealousies, and of personal recrimination, has too much predominated. We, doubtless, must come in for our full share of censure on this subject. With whatever care and cautiousness an editor may have watched against the demon of party, it is to be feared that he has not always been frowned into silence. Nor has this partisan warfare been confined to a difference between one denomination and another,