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riting of the whole estate by the eldest son, and the exclu. sion of the occupants of the land from proprietorship in it, were customs fraught with manifold evils. From these evils we have been, for the most part, exempt.* The consequence has been a greater diffusion of civil privileges, more independence of character, a deeper sense of the importance of personal effort, less of a servility and a cringing meanness on the one hand, and of idleness, dissipation, and an overbearing haughtiness on the other.
An additional fact in proof of our general position, is the gradual introduction of representative and constitutional features into the governments of some of the countries of central and of northern Europe. In 1834, a representative chamber was created in Denmark. In Norway, a repre. sentative assembly meets triennially, by its own right, reviews all pay and pension lists, all political and civil appointments, and whose decisions become law, without reference to the will of the executive, after 'having been adopted at three successive sessions. The despotic king of Prussia is wise enough to adopt, gradually, some salutary changes. Six of the German states have constitutional forms of government. Greece, and even Spain and Portugal, after ages of slavery and oppression, are going through the difficult ordeal of learning how to govern themselves. We need hardly allude, in this place, to the influence of the French revolu. tion, which, with its unutterable evils, greatly abridged the temporal power of the Pope, and did much to break down the feudal system.
The efforts for the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery, are tending to the same result. The abolition of West Indian bondage, by England, with its accompanying exertions for the moral improvement of the emancipated, was not a levelling and radical measure. It was equalizing the condition of men, by raising up, not by throwing down. It was a noble republication of God's truth, that He has made of
* What the mischief might have amounted to if these cus-, toms had been fully transplanted to this country, may be inferred from the late unhappy disturbance among the tenants of the Patroon of Albany.
+ See several passages in the Travels in England of Prof. Von Reaumer.
one blood all the nations of men on all the face of the earth. It was one of those great steps which are taken in the progress of centuries towards the final redemption of our race.
Equally to our purpose is the temperance reformation. Intemperance creates a worse than feudal system. It is the slavish subjection of the many to the few. It binds the great mass, body, soul, estate, time, talents, every thing, in bonds of steel, to the oligarchy of a few rum-sellers and wholesale dealers. It raises up its huge baronial distilleries, where all the neighboring vassals must repair, at certain intervals, to do homage, or else to do battle against all who would assault the strong-hold. Intemperance collects all the industry, purity, magnanimity, and rational equality of the neighborhood, and lays them down as a holocaust at the door of some titled dispenser of the poison. On the other hand, the temperance reform is scattering these ill-gotten piles. Its tendency is to distribute competence at every man's door. It is most beneficently equalizing the gains of lawful business.
We are not, however, to infer that this tendency is yet fully developed. The great task of the present age in Europe, it has been asserted, is to overthrow the feudal system; an arrangement, or disarrangement in society, which grew out of times of barbarism and confusion, and which is not only inconvenient and useless, but is directly at variance with the progress of society, and the well-being of man, We have, in our country, one scion from this accursed root—the practice of duelling. In accordance with this usage, honorable men set themselves above the laws, on the ground that laws were made, not for honorable men, but for the vulgar multitude, whose perceptions are not delicate enough to understand the nice distinctions by which honorable murderers are governed. Unhappily, there does not seem to be force enough in our laws to reach these high-minded transgressors. Inequality of position makes an inequality of punishment. The poor manslayer must perish on the scaffold, while the honorable murderer walks fearlessly at large, and with hands crimsoned with a brother's blood, continues to make laws for the people.
Nowhere is this miserable inequality more visible than in
Pagan and Mohammedan countries. All Western, Central and Eastern Asia, is a horrible tyranny of the few over the many. Desolation reigns in the finest countries of the globe, because of the iron-handed tyranny of a few despots, and of their subordinate minions. Half a dozen individuals grow rich on the hard-earned pittance of millions. No essential melioration can be expected while this state of things continues. The soul of the Pagan may be saved, but he can never come into the enjoyment of the blessings of civilization. Industry, trade, commerce, science, are out of the question. Every feeling of independence is crushed in the germ.*
The great doctrines of legal and of equitable freedom are, therefore, to be carried throughout the world, not simply till the children of Africa, or the degraded of any other clime, shall be raised up from their debasement, but till all men shall perfectly understand and enjoy, unmolested, their rights.
Yet, while this great tendency of the age towards an equalization of rights is to be encouraged, it still must have limits and qualifications. Checks and guards must be thrown around it, or it will degenerate into a rank democracy in church and state, or into a pestilent radicalism.
In the first place, this equalization of rights is to be accomplished by elevating the degraded, instructing the ignorant, and reclaiming the vicious, rather than by a system of levelling, or by a moral decapitation. It is true, undoubtedly, that in the progress of this great change, the men who have reached their distinctions by fraud and violence, will be shorn of their honors. But this will rather be the necessary result than the direct object. The grand intention should be to raise all men to the highest degree of virtue of which their nature is susceptible, and to impart all that intellectual knowledge which circumstances will permit.
In the second place, this equalization of rights is to be kept
* How the missionaries at the Sandwich Islands will overcome the difficulty arising from this source, it is not easy to see. Every foot of ground, every blade of grass is the property of the chiefs, and has been, from immemorial usage. Men must have a motive to work, or they cannot be civilized, or thoroughly Christianized.
entirely distinct from the pernicious doctrine of Rousseau, and his school. Men are not born in a state of nature, independent, isolated, with the option of entering or of not entering into a social state, as it may suit themselves, reserving certain rights, and resigning others for the general good. This state of nature never had existence except in Rousseau's brain. The social compact system has high sounding words, and nothing else. God has made man dependent and social. Man cannot but enter into society. The choice is not put into his power. The original, independent, abstract right of entering, or not entering, into a social state, is a mere fig. ment. It never did exist, and never can. Men have indefeasible and inalienable rights, such as those of conscience, but these they hold in a social state, and not merely in an ante-social state, if such a condition of things were practicable.
This equality does not imply, in the third place, a community of goods. No theory can be wilder than that which would abolish the rights of private property. The sects that maintain this doctrine remain small, because they do maintain it. There is no reason to believe that in the purest state of society yet to be on earth, any such distribution of property would be possible or desirable. It would eradicate one of the strongest principles which God has fixed in the nature of man.
Again, this equality does not suppose that monarchical governments inust be necessarily abolished. There is as much equality in regal Norway as in republican Switzerland. The people are better educated in despotic Prussia than in our own democratic Union. Our theory of government is, unquestionably, the most perfect, as a theory. It harmonizes better than any other with the personal agency, and indefinite, individual improvement of man. At all events, we should not wish to exchange it. Still, the exertions of the friends of human happiness ought not to be directed so much to the deinolition of any theory of government, as to elevate the people, and prepare them to govern themselves. A frame of polity which is best fitted to one people, in one country, may not be best fitted to another people, on another continent and in another hemisphere.' What could the Russian boor, in his smoky cabin, and in his sheepskin kaross, do with our elective franchise ?
The doctrine in question does not imply, once more, that society will ever be reduced to a dead, undistinguishing : level. Distinctions will always remain on earth, and in heaven too. One individual has an original tact for acquiring wealth, while his neighbor remains perfectly satisfied with small resources. Education, in the best possible state of society, can never be enjoyed by all equally. If practicable, it would not be expedient.
No perversion of the true doctrine of equality is more pernicious, and hardly any one is more common, than to flatter the people, as the original source of all power and right, or as uttering the voice of God. This common usage of politicians renders the people dissatisfied with their lot, and communicates the impression that masses of men have inherent virtue, and that they will provide well enough for themselves, if they but understand their rights. But the people are naturally frail, perverse, and wicked, like those who attempt to hoodwink them. Ignorance among the people is not the only cause of the wretchedness or the ruin of nations. The politicians, who thus beguile the multitude with fair speeches, are perfectly aware of the arts necessary for the accomplishment of their purposes.
2. The practical tendency of the age is very obvious. This is now as strikingly exhibited as its reverse was a few centuries since. Then speculation was widely predominant. A man was valued according to his ability to dispute on questions the most foreign to his daily business ; or rather, his daily business was revery, or interminable logomachy, not on strictly metaphysical subjects, not on the soul and its faculties, but on airy nothings, and impalpable inanities, That this predominant tendency is now reversed may be owing, in part, to the extreme to which it was then carried. It is a reaction which has drawn the whole world after it. Men are now realists in another than the technical sense of the word. They have broken away, not only from the absurdities and follies of the middle ages, but they are in danger of trainpling under foot what was truly excellent in former times.
The Reformation contributed largely to this practical tendency. Luther was engaged in a controversy not about words, but respecting things. In order to carry his points,