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have accorded better with the facts ple, that the people as an organized of the case to say, that a large body, distinct from their organizanumber of the sovereigns united tion under government, have a legal themselves together to form a con- right to act at will, and thus to lay stitution, not only for themselves, every citizen under an obligation to but for a large number of other yield the same obedience to its de. sovereigns, and that these latter, in cisions expressed through a majorthe exercise of sovereignty, resisted ity, as to the laws themselves, then, them? We think Gov. Hubbard universal confusion must pervade has stated the doctrine truly, (though the land. The enactments of the we like not the phraseology,) in say. legislature to-day, may be overing that the people are sovereigns thrown by the votes of the conventhat is, no individual, so far as nat. tion to-morrow. The decision of ural right is concerned, has any le. the judge upon the bench, may be gal superior ; we only marvel he did reversed by the verdict of a jury not perceive how completely it over- at the ballot-box. The condemned throws himself.
criminal may be snatched from the We have now examined the main gallows, and the acquitted victim of arguments to prove that this consti- persecution put in his place. Some tution was legally formed and rati. will say these things are impossible. fied. “ A legal right,” existing inde. They may be so at present; but it pendent of law and government, is because there yet remains a genaccording to any correct use of lan- eral regard for law. Let it, how. guage, is an absurdity. For the doc. ever, be once established and made trine itself, there is no authority in familiar to our thoughts, that masses the declaration of independence, of men in organized bodies have nor in the declarations of rights in legal power to act against governthe constitutions of the several states, ment and law, and who, that knows nor any force in the arguments by any thing of human nature, can which it is attempted to be supported. doubt, but that the power would be
It may be thought we have been used, and frequently used ? And too minute in this examination. who, the best man among us, enWere it a mere tumult, we should trusted with such an authority over think the whole matter worthy of government, and that too kept in little attention. But it is civil war, reserve for occasions of excitement, and we may be sure, such an event would feel sure of himself that he has not been brought about by ap- should never abuse it? We know peals merely to passion and preju. the fierceness of party conflicts. dice. Large masses of the people What party, in the excitement of are at least not kept in commotion, political contests, but would appeal, except by some principle which has in case of a bare defeat in the taken strong
upon them. It is elections under government, to this false doctrines in the language of power above government ? And true ones, it is false principles, what parties, even the purest, could not readily distinguished from those carry on a series of such contests which are universally believed in, at the polls, without destroying the that are at the foundation of all per peace, if not the morals of the commanent violations of law and order. munity ? And when men act on principle, ar
This is a far-reaching principle. gument must be met by argument. It will not be confined to New Eng.
The general prevalence of this land. There are other parts of the doctrine would be fatal to the peace Union which are interested in it. If of the country. If it shall ever be the “ sovereigns” of South Carolina recognized as an American princi- should get together on their several Vol. I.
plantations and choose delegates, sity, not having a single advantage and then at Columbia frame a con- to counterbalance its evils. Gov. stitution, giving to each man his ernments in the lapse of time may inalienable rights, and ratify it by a become obsolete, and not fitted to majority of all the male inhabitants the present state of things. New of the state-all of which things constitutions are to be formed, or they have a legal right to do, and old ones remodeled. Men fall back it would be usurpation and tyranny upon their natural rights. And one to prevent it by force-we see not of the great political problems at how the minority of a different com
the establishment of our govern. plexion could «
help" themselves, ment, was, how to secure the cothat is, legally, and according to operation of the existing powers to genuine American principles. It is the necessary changes, and thus nothing to the purpose to say with prevent violence and bloodshed. It the Democratic Reviewer," slaves seemed to be solved by providing in cannot enter into any political rela. the constitution itself for the aid of tion. They cannot contract. To the government, in its own altera. say that they are slaves, is to say tions or even dissolution. We have that they are not thought of as been accustomed to regard the es. beings having a political existence.” tablishment of this principle, as one But that is not the question, how of the great achievements of mod. they “are thought of” by others, ern times in political affairs—a prinbut how have they a right to think ciple which produces changes in of themselves; and, suppose they government with all that ease and should prove by actual fact, that quietness, with which the laws of they can enter into a political re- nature revive what is perished, and lation,” that they can contract," supply what is decayed, in the mawould there not be a legal obliga. terial world. We would have no tion on the part of the present gov- doubt cast upon it, as if it were not ernment of South Carolina, to ac. adequate to every emergency. It knowledge their “political exist is not from the feelings of party ence,” and yield to them-accord politics, it is not from hostility to ing to the doctrine of distinguished changes in government, that we opstatesmen here at the north?
pose this new doctrine, but because We have thus far taken it for of our deep conviction that it is the granted, that this principle might be firebrand of war, and of the worst universally acknowledged and its of all wars, civil war, and sent forth exercise peacefully acquiesced in. to kindle flames, which we might But can we hope for this ? We boast till now, that we had put out. must shut our eyes upon the lessons Whatever view we may take of of history, we must unlearn all that them, the proceedings in Rhode we know of human nature, we must Island must be pronounced to have become totally ignorant of our own been revolutionary. But there is hearts, before we can believe that no necessary reproach in a revolu. such contests as this principle would tion. With all the unavoidable suf. give rise to, could be long carried fering which it produces, duty may on without a resort to arms. It is require us to attempt it. To resist a principle of war, and the more an oppressive and tyrannical gove dangerous, being disguised. It is rev.
ernment, is to be faithful to man. olution by force, pretending to be The pledge of life, fortune and peaceful. It is insurrection against honor, in such a cause, is an act law, claiming to be lawful. And of fealty to human nature itself. what is worse than all, it is a prin. Although unsuccessful, they, who ciple introduced without any neces- have ventured all in behalf of lib. erty, deserve to be well spoken of. plaints; but we cannot look upon a If the actors in a revolution are cheap government as of course a ever to be branded as the enemies good one. “ There is, that withof their country, it is either because holdeth more than is meet, but it they are in arms against a govern- tendeth to poverty." Where the ment, which is not oppressive, or elective franchise is limited to a because they resorted to war, before body of landholders, the majority they had sufficiently tried the meas- of whom own small estates, and ures of peace. And surely a war, increase their wealth slowly by hard which convulses the whole commu- labor, government will be cheap ; nity and severs it to its very foun- the only fear is, it will be too cheap. dations, disturbing every household, Personal property, the property acand raging in every bosom, and quired more rapidly in mechanic which, after stirring up the fiercest arts, commerce and manufactures, passions of human nature at the and therefore spent more readily, fireside, at the social board, and at should be represented at the ballotplaces of public concourse, arrays box for the very purpose of making father against son, brother against government more liberal in its exbrother, friend against friend, and penditures. Besides, we deny the citizen against citizen, on the field maxim of the poet in respect to of battle, can be justified by noth- government, that “whate'er is best ing but oppression, and then only administered, is best.” A good adwhen all hope of other relief has ministration of government is a expired.
great benefit, but the structure of Was there then oppression in the government may of itself have a Rhode Island, to justify a civil war? beneficial influence distinct from We say civil war, because, quiet its administration. And this is the as may have been the preliminary boast of a republic, that it elevates measure of forming and adopting a the citizen by making him not a constitution, that was the first step, subject, merely to be governed, but and, if it meant any thing, the ne- a constituent part of the govern. cessary step to the violence which ment itself. If government is to be followed it. That great grievances considered as a something done for existed, we most fully admit. The us, in which we are merely to take exclusion of all citizens, excepting a boon, then that which is the best owners of real estate, from voting, done, may be best ; but if gove was a wrong, which it was natural ernment can be so constituted, as many persons should deeply feel. that the people under it may share The extension of the right of suf. not only in receiving but also in frage was demanded, however, not imparting, then the very constitumerely from respect to the feelings tion of it is a great good in itself, of a large number of the inhabit to each individual ; and it is not ants, nor merely as a political expe. sufficient to say to those who are dient to quiet the complaints of the excluded from being, as it were, people, but not less out of regard living and organic parts of this body to the true interests of the state. -you are well taken care of and It is not enough to say that a state that is enough. With our views is well governed, which after all upon this subject, we do not wonder, only means in general, that taxes considering how large a portion of are light, salaries small, and public the inhabitants were excluded from improvements few and late. We the polls, that there should be a have seen the economy of the goy. deep sense of injury, and, as their ernment of Rhode Island alledged complaints were disregarded, a as a sufficient answer to all com- strong feeling of indignation at their
wrongs—and both strengthened by but of these, some are utterly unthe peculiar and marked distinction founded, others doubtful, and othexisting between the freemen and ers still, mere matters of declama. other citizens.
them by. The We admit, that from the fluctua- limitation upon the right of suftions of population and other causes, frage, and the inequality of reprea uniform ratio between the num- sentation, are the principal politber of voters and the number of ical evils which needed to be repersons to be elected to office, can- moved, and we cannot but regard not be attained ; or if attainable, them, notwithstanding the sincere that the advantage would not com- attachment of so many of the citi. pensate for the trouble in securing it. zens to these ancient establishments, But some limits may be put to the as sufficient to justify the use of inequality, and we cannot deny but any legal means to alter this state that in Rhode Island, this inequality of things. But this concession, had grown to be a great grievance. which is due to what appears to us We know it may be said, as before, to be the truth, leaves untouched that it wrought no practical evils; the question, whether it was an opbut we reply, it is an evil for gov. pression to call for the dreadful ernment to exhibit before the com- hazard of a civil war. We see not munity an obvious disregard of what how any one can have a doubt upon is just and fair. Rhode Island was this point. But if there could be in fact, situated somewhat like Eng. any, it must cease when we farther land before the reform in the con. consider the exact period of time, stitution of the House of Commons. at which legal and peaceful measBirmingham, and Leeds, and Man- were renounced for force. chester, had grown into large cities. There have been various attempts while many ancient boroughs, once at different times to remedy these distinguished places, had decayed ; defects, but without success. and it was no longer to be borne, that length, in the January session of the former should be unrepresent. 1841, the legislature passed resolued, and that the latter should still tions, calling a convention to meet send the same number of members in November, for the purpose of to parliament, though we have Lord forming in whole, or in part, a new Brougham's authority for saying, constitution for the state. This that even 6 this class of seats had
appears to have been certain practical uses.” It was a adopted from the conviction, that little like this in Rhode Island. the time had come for decisive acGreat changes had taken place since tion. The only serious objection the time when the charter fixed to it could be, that the delegates the number of representatives for were to be elected by the votes of Newport and Portsmouth and War- freemen only, and hence it might wick; and the inequality in the ratio be inferred, that under such circumof representation had become so stances, full and entire reform could great, as to demand a prompt ad- not be expected. We may admit justment, though practically, the this, and still we say, that here is improvement might not be in send- an opportunity by which in time, ing any better men to the legisla. every political wrong may be peaceture.
fully remedied. And surely, the We have now mentioned the only evil of deferring complete redress, real grounds of complaint. In the even for some years, is as nothing, excitement of the contest, many compared with the evil of civil war. other things have been brought for. We take our stand here ; we urge ward as wrongs and grievances; the present opportunity as decisive
upon the question of the necessity see what farther action the legislaof war, even admitting there was ture might take? Was it to overawe otherwise a sufficient cause ulti- the legislature? Or was it a demately to justify one. If every termination to resist, under any cirthing might not be gained at once, cumstances, the proposed conventhe beginning would be made, and tion? One or the other of these final success, either by means of it must be, for surely it was not a amendments to the constitution, or measure of peace or conciliation. by specific legislation, would be with these facts and dates before certain.
us, it cannot have much weight that But the friends of reform, who afterwards, at this session, a memhad been now for some months uni- ber of the house, who was one of ted together as a party by an organ- that party, made a motion to extend ization of “suffrage associations,” the right of voting for delegates to extending throughout the state, the convention, which at the next make an early demonstration of session in June was rejected. Its hostility to the proposed convention. rejection under other circumstances They do not wait to petition the might have been unwise, but even legislature to extend to the citizens this, as we have already remarked, generally the right of voting for would be but a poor apology for the the delegates to the convention, but necessity of a revolution. As things before using any efforts to make were, it could not be otherwise than the character of that body more to rejected without yielding to intimi. their liking, appoint a state com- dation. Thenceforth, the suffrage mittee in a mass meeting at New- party, directed by an able and deport, with directions
6 to call a termined if not a wise and sagacious convention of delegates to draft a leader, and marshaled in a solid constitution at as early a day as body, is seen moving just in advance possible.” We call attention to this of the government, and anticipating fact. The resolution of the gov- it in all its measures. The delegates ernment to redress the acknowl. to the convention summoned by the edged political evils, is resisted by government were to be elected on the suffrage party with counteract- the 31st of August, those to the ing measures. The appointment of other convention were elected on this committee itself was an ap- the 28th of that month: the former proach towards revolution, and at convention met on the 2d of Nothe very time when there was a vember, the latter on the 4th of Ocreasonable prospect of a peaceful tober, and by adjournment on the settlement of the difficulties. It is 16th of November, one week after necessary to look at the dates of the former was adjourned. The these transactions. The suffrage constitution framed by the latter was party held their first general mass voted upon in the latter part of Demeeting on the 17th of April, at cember. The legal convention met Providence, when several distin- in February, 1842, and completed guished politicians, for the first time, a constitution, which was voted for appeared in their ranks, and openly in March, but was rejected by a associated themselves with them. small majority. The suffrage party The next meeting was the one just up to this time had one plausible mentioned, at Newport ; this was excuse left to them for their oppoheld on the 5th of May, the very sition to the government—that there day, it is to be observed, on which
was no sincerity in the call for a the spring session of the legislature convention, that it was a mere macommenced. Why was it called at neuver to get rid of the matter. this precise time? Why not wait to This is now taken from them. Here