CONSTITUTION, TENDENCIES, AND DESTINY.
O. A. BROWNSON, LL. D.
P. O'SHEA, 104 BLEECKER STREET.
Entered according to Act of Congress, In the year 1865, By P. O'SHEA,
In the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
TO THE HON. GEORGE BANCROFT, THE ERUDITE, PHILOSOPHICAL, AND ELOQUENT Historian of the United States,
THIS FEEBLE ATTEMPT TO SET FORTH THE PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNMENT, AND TO EXPLAIN AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC, IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED, IN MEMORY OF OLD FRIENDSHIP, AND AS A SLIGHT HOMAGE TO GENIUS, ABILITY, PATRIOTISM, PRIVATE WORTH, AND PUBLIC SERVICE, BY THE AUTHOR.
ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT 26
ORIGIN OF GOVERMENT—Continued 43
ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT—Continued 71
ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT—Concluded 106
CONSTITUTION OF GOVERNMENT 136
CONSTITUTION OF GOVERNMENT—Concluded 166
THE UNITED STATES 192
CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES 218
THE CONSTITUTION—Continued 244
POLITICAL TENDENCIES 348
DESTINY—POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS 392
In the volume which, with much diffidence, is here offered to the public, I have given, as far as I have considered it worth giving, my whole thought in a connected form on the nature, necessity, extent, authority, origin, ground, and constitution of government, and the unity, nationality, constitution, tendencies, and destiny of the American Republic. Many of the points treated have been from time to time discussed or touched upon, and many of the views have been presented, in my previous writings; but this work is newly and independently written from beginning to end, and is as complete on the topics treated as I have been able to make it.
I have taken nothing bodily from my previous essays, but I have used their thoughts as far as I have judged them sound and they came within the scope of my present work. I have not felt myself bound to adhere to my own past thoughts or expressions any farther than they coincide with my present convictions, and I have written as freely and as independently as if I had never written or published any thing before. I have never been the slave of my own past, and truth has always been dearer to me than my own opinions. This work is not only my latest, but will be my last on politics or government, and must be taken as the authentic, and the only authentic statement of my political views and convictions, and whatever in any of my previous writings conflicts with the principles defended in its pages, must be regarded as retracted, and rejected.
The work now produced is based on scientific principles; but it is an essay rather than a scientific treatise, and even good-natured critics will, no doubt, pronounce it an article or a series of articles designed for a review, rather than a book. It is hard to overcome the habits of a lifetime. I have taken some pains to exchange the reviewer for the author, but am fully conscious that I have not succeeded. My work can lay claim to very little artistic merit. It is full of repetitions; the same thought is frequently recurring,—the result, to some extent, no doubt, of carelessness and the want of artistic skill; but to a greater extent, I fear, of "malice aforethought." In composing my work I have followed, rather than directed, the course of my thought, and, having very little confidence in the memory or industry of readers, I have preferred, when the completeness of the argument required it, to repeat myself to encumbering my pages with perpetual references to what has gone before.
That I attach some value to this work is evident from my consenting to its publication; but how much or how little of it is really mine, I am quite unable to say. I have, from my youth up, been reading, observing, thinking, reflecting, talking, I had almost said writing, at least by fits and starts, on political subjects, especially in their connection with philosophy, theology, history, and social progress, and have assimilated to my own mind what it would assimilate, without keeping any notes of the sources whence the materials assimilated were derived. I have written freely from my own mind as I find it now formed; but how it has been so formed, or whence I have borrowed, my readers know as well as I. All that is valuable in the thoughts set forth, it is safe to assume has been appropriated from others. Where I have been distinctly conscious of borrowing what has not become common property, I have given credit, or, at least, mentioned the author's name, with three important exceptions which I wish to note more formally.
I am principally indebted for the view of the American nationality and the Federal Constitution I present, to hints and suggestions furnished by the remarkable work of John C. Hurd, Esq., on The Law of Freedom and Bondage in the United States, a work of rare learning and profound philosophic views. I could not have written my work without the aid derived from its suggestions, any more than I could without Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Suarez, Pierre Leroux, and the Abbate Gioberti. To these two last-named authors, one a humanitarian sophist, the other a Catholic priest, and certainly one of the profoundest philosophical writers of this century, I am much indebted, though I have followed the political system of neither. I have taken from Leroux the germs of the doctrine I set forth on the solidarity of the race, and from Gioberti the doctrine I defend in relation to the creative act, which is, after all, simply that of the Credo and the first verse of Genesis.
In treating the several questions which the preparation of this volume has brought up, in their connection, and in the light of first principles, I have changed or modified, on more than one important point, the views I had expressed in my previous writings, especially on the distinction between civilized and barbaric nations, the real basis of civilization itself, and the value to the world of the Graeco-Roman civilization. I have ranked feudalism under the head of barbarism, rejected every species of political aristocracy, and represented the English constitution as essentially antagonistic to the American, not as its type. I have accepted universal suffrage in principle, and defended American democracy, which I define to be territorial democracy, and carefully distinguish from pure individualism on the one hand, and from pure socialism or humanitarianism on the other.
I reject the doctrine of State sovereignty, which I held and defended from 1828 to 1861, but still maintain that the sovereignty of the American Republic vests in the States, though in the States collectively, or united, not severally, and thus escape alike consolidation and disintegration. I find, with Mr. Madison, our most philosophic statesman, the originality of the American system in the division of powers between a General government having sole charge of the foreign and general, and particular or State governments having, within their respective territories, sole charge of the particular relations and interests of the American people; but I do not accept his concession that this division is of conventional origin, and maintain that it enters into the original Providential constitution of the American state, as I have done in my Review for October, 1863, and January and October, 1864.
I maintain, after Mr. Senator Sumner, one of the most philosophic and accomplished living American statesmen, that "State secession is State suicide," but modify the opinion I too hastily expressed that the political death of a State dissolves civil society within its territory and abrogates all rights held under it, and accept the doctrine that the laws in force at the time of secession remain in force till superseded or abrogated by competent authority, and also that, till the State is revived and restored as a State in the Union, the only authority, under the American system, competent to supersede or abrogate them is the United States, not Congress, far less the Executive. The error of the Government is not in recognizing the territorial laws as surviving secession but in counting a State that has seceded as still a State in the Union, with the right to be counted as one of the United States in amending the Constitution. Such State goes out of the Union, but comes under it.
I have endeavored throughout to refer my particular political views; to their general principles, and to show that the general principles asserted have their origin and ground in the great, universal, and unchanging principles of the universe itself. Hence, I have labored to show the scientific relations of political to theological principles, the real principles of all science, as of all reality. An atheist, I have said, may be a politician; but if there were no God, there could be no politics. This may offend the sciolists of the age, but I must follow science where it leads, and cannot be arrested by those who mistake their darkness for light.
I write throughout as a Christian, because I am a Christian; as a Catholic, because all Christian principles, nay, all real principles are catholic, and there is nothing sectarian either in nature or revelation. I am a Catholic by God's grace and great goodness, and must write as I am. I could not write otherwise if I would, and would not if I could. I have not obtruded my religion, and have referred to it only where my argument demanded it; but I have had neither the weakness nor the bad taste to seek to conceal or disguise it. I could never have written my book without the knowledge I have, as a Catholic, of Catholic theology, and my acquaintance, slight as it is, with the great fathers and doctors of the church, the great masters of all that is solid or permanent in modern thought, either with Catholics or non-Catholics.
Moreover, though I write for all Americans, without distinction of sect or party, I have had more especially in view the people of my own religious communion. It is no discredit to a man in the United States at the present day to be a firm, sincere, and devout Catholic. The old sectarian prejudice may remain with a few, "whose eyes," as Emerson says, "are in their hind-head, not in their fore-head;" but the American people are not at heart sectarian, and the nothingarianism so prevalent among them only marks their state of transition from sectarian opinions to positive Catholic faith. At any rate, it can no longer be denied that Catholics are an integral, living, and growing element in the American population, quite too numerous, too wealthy, and too influential to be ignored. They have played too conspicuous a part in the late troubles of the country, and poured out too freely and too much of their richest and noblest blood in defence of the unity of the nation and the integrity of its domain, for that. Catholics henceforth must be treated as standing, in all respects, on a footing of equality with any other class of American citizens, and their views of political science, or of any other science, be counted of equal importance, and listened to with equal attention.
I have no fears that my book will be neglected because avowedly by a Catholic author, and from a Catholic publishing house. They who are not Catholics will read it, and it will enter into the current of American literature, if it is one they must read in order to be up with the living and growing thought of the age. If it is not a book of that sort, it is not worth reading by any one.
Furthermore, I am ambitious, even in my old age, and I wish to exert an influence on the future of my country, for which I have made, or, rather, my family have made, some sacrifices, and which I tenderly love. Now, I believe that he who can exert the most influence on our Catholic population, especially in giving tone and direction to our Catholic youth, will exert the most influence in forming the character and shaping the future destiny of the American Republic. Ambition and patriotism alike, as well as my own Catholic faith and sympathies, induce me to address myself primarily to Catholics. I quarrel with none of the sects; I honor virtue wherever I see it, and accept truth wherever I find it; but, in my belief, no sect is destined to a long life, or a permanent possession. I engage in no controversy with any one not of my religion, for, if the positive, affirmative truth is brought out and placed in a clear light before the public, whatever is sectarian in any of the sects will disappear as the morning mists before the rising sun.
I expect the most intelligent and satisfactory appreciation of my book from the thinking and educated classes among Catholics; but I speak to my countrymen at large. I could not personally serve my country in the field: my habits as well as my infirmities prevented, to say nothing of my age; but I have endeavored in this humble work to add my contribution, small though it may be, to political science, and to discharge, as far as I am able, my debt of loyalty and patriotism. I would the book were more of a book, more worthy of my countrymen, and a more weighty proof of the love I beat them, and with which I have written it. All I can say is, that it is an honest book, a sincere book, and contains my best thoughts on the subjects treated. If well received, I shall be grateful; if neglected, I shall endeavor to practise resignation, as I have so often done.
O. A. BROWNSON.
ELIZABETH, N. J., September 16, 1865.
The ancients summed up the whole of human wisdom in the maxim, Know Thyself, and certainly there is for an individual no more important as there is no more difficult knowledge, than knowledge of himself, whence he comes, whither he goes, what he is, what he is for, what he can do, what he ought to do, and what are his means of doing it.
Nations are only individuals on a larger scale. They have a life, an individuality, a reason, a conscience, and instincts of their own, and have the same general laws of development and growth, and, perhaps, of decay, as the individual man. Equally important, and no less difficult than for the individual, is it for a nation to know itself, understand its own existence, its own powers and faculties, rights and duties, constitution, instincts, tendencies, and destiny. A nation has a spiritual as well as a material, a moral as well as a physical existence, and is subjected to internal as well as external conditions of health and virtue, greatness and grandeur, which it must in some measure understand and observe, or become weak and infirm, stunted in its growth, and end in premature decay and death.
Among nations, no one has more need of full knowledge of itself than the United States, and no one has hitherto had less. It has hardly had a distinct consciousness of its own national existence, and has lived the irreflective life of the child, with no severe trial, till the recent rebellion, to throw it back on itself and compel it to reflect on its own constitution, its own separate existence, individuality, tendencies, and end. The defection of the slaveholding States, and the fearful struggle that has followed for national unity and integrity, have brought it at once to a distinct recognition of itself, and forced it to pass from thoughtless, careless, heedless, reckless adolescence to grave and reflecting manhood. The nation has been suddenly compelled to study itself, and henceforth must act from reflection, understanding, science, statesmanship, not from instinct, impulse, passion, or caprice, knowing well what it does, and wherefore it does it. The change which four years of civil war have wrought in the nation is great, and is sure to give it the seriousness, the gravity, the dignity, the manliness it has heretofore lacked.
Though the nation has been brought to a consciousness of its own existence, it has not, even yet, attained to a full and clear understanding of its own national constitution. Its vision is still obscured by the floating mists of its earlier morning, and its judgment rendered indistinct and indecisive by the wild theories and fancies of its childhood. The national mind has been quickened, the national heart has been opened, the national disposition prepared, but there remains the important work of dissipating the mists that still linger, of brushing away these wild theories and fancies, and of enabling it to form a clear and intelligent judgment of itself, and a true and just appreciation of its own constitution tendencies,—and destiny; or, in other words, of enabling the nation to understand its own idea, and the means of its actualization in space and time.
Every living nation has an idea given it by Providence to realize, and whose realization is its special work, mission, or destiny. Every nation is, in some sense, a chosen people of God. The Jews were the chosen people of God, through whom the primitive traditions were to be preserved in their purity and integrity, and the Messiah was to come. The Greeks were the chosen people of God, for the development and realization of the beautiful or the divine splendor in art, and of the true in science and philosophy; and the Romans, for the development of the state, law, and jurisprudence. The great despotic nations of Asia were never properly nations; or if they were nations with a mission, they proved false to it—, and count for nothing in the progressive development of the human race. History has not recorded their mission, and as far as they are known they have contributed only to the abnormal development or corruption of religion and civilization. Despotism is barbaric and abnormal.
The United States, or the American Republic, has a mission, and is chosen of God for the realization of a great idea. It has been chosen not only to continue the work assigned to Greece and Rome, but to accomplish a greater work than was assigned to either. In art, it will prove false to its mission if it do not rival Greece; and in science and philosophy, if it do not surpass it. In the state, in law, in jurisprudence, it must continue and surpass Rome. Its idea is liberty, indeed, but liberty with law, and law with liberty. Yet its mission is not so much the realization of liberty as the realization of the true idea of the state, which secures at once the authority of the public and the freedom of the individual—the sovereignty of the people without social despotism, and individual freedom without anarchy. In other words, its mission is to bring out in its life the dialectic union of authority and liberty, of the natural rights of man and those of society. The Greek and Roman republics asserted the state to the detriment of individual freedom; modern republics either do the same, or assert individual freedom to the detriment of the state. The American republic has been instituted by Providence to realize the freedom of each with advantage to the other.
The real mission of the United States is to introduce and establish a political constitution, which, while it retains all the advantages of the constitutions of states thus far known, is unlike any of them, and secures advantages which none of them did or could possess. The American constitution has no prototype in any prior constitution. The American form of government can be classed throughout with none of the forms of government described by Aristotle, or even by later authorities. Aristotle knew only four forms of government: Monarchy, Aristocracy, Democracy, and Mixed Governments. The American form is none of these, nor any combination of them. It is original, a new contribution to political science, and seeks to attain the end of all wise and just government by means unknown or forbidden to the ancients, and which have been but imperfectly comprehended even by American political writers themselves. The originality of the American constitution has been overlooked by the great majority even of our own statesmen, who seek to explain it by analogies borrowed from the constitutions of other states rather than by a profound study of its own principles. They have taken too low a view of it, and have rarely, if ever, appreciated its distinctive and peculiar merits.
As the United States have vindicated their national unity and integrity, and are preparing to take a new start in history, nothing is more important than that they should take that new start with a clear and definite view of their national constitution, and with a distinct understanding of their political mission in the future of the world. The citizen who can help his countrymen to do this will render them an important service and deserve well of his country, though he may have been unable to serve in her armies and defend her on the battle-field. The work now to be done by American statesmen is even more difficult and more delicate than that which has been accomplished by our brave armies. As yet the people are hardly better prepared for the political work to be done than they were at the outbreak of the civil war for the military work they have so nobly achieved. But, with time, patience, and good-will, the difficulties may be overcome, the errors of the past corrected, and the Government placed on the right track for the future.
It will hardly be questioned that either the constitution of the United States is very defective or it has been very grossly misinterpreted by all parties. If the slave States had not held that the States are severally sovereign, and the Constitution of the United States a simple agreement or compact, they would never have seceded; and if the Free States had not confounded the Union with the General government, and shown a tendency to make it the entire national government, no occasion or pretext for secession would have been given. The great problem of our statesmen has been from the first, How to assert union without consolidation, and State rights without disintegration? Have they, as yet, solved that problem? The war has silenced the State sovereignty doctrine, indeed, but has it done so without lesion to State rights? Has it done it without asserting the General government as the supreme, central, or national government? Has it done it without striking a dangerous blow at the federal element of the constitution? In suppressing by armed force the doctrine that the States are severally sovereign, what barrier is left against consolidation? Has not one danger been removed only to give place to another?
But perhaps the constitution itself, if rightly understood, solves the problem; and perhaps the problem itself is raised precisely through misunderstanding of the constitution. Our statesmen have recognized no constitution of the American people themselves; they have confined their views to the written constitution, as if that constituted the American people a state or nation, instead of being, as it is, only a law ordained by the nation already existing and constituted. Perhaps, if they had recognized and studied the constitution which preceded that drawn up by the Convention of 1787, and which is intrinsic, inherent in the republic itself, they would have seen that it solves the problem, and asserts national unity without consolidation, and the rights of the several States without danger of disintegration. The whole controversy, possibly, has originated in a misunderstanding of the real constitution of the United States, and that misunderstanding itself in the misunderstanding of the origin and constitution of government in general. The constitution, as will appear in the course of this essay is not defective; and all that is necessary to guard against either danger is to discard all our theories of the constitution, and return and adhere to the constitution itself, as it really is and always has been.
There is no doubt that the question of Slavery had much to do with the rebellion, but it was not its sole cause. The real cause must be sought in the program that had been made, especially in the States themselves, in forming and administering their respective governments, as well as the General government, in accordance with political theories borrowed from European speculators on government, the so-called Liberals and Revolutionists, which have and can have no legitimate application in the United States. The tendency of American politics, for the last thirty or forty years, has been, within the several States themselves, in the direction of centralized democracy, as if the American people had for their mission only the reproduction of ancient Athens. The American system is not that of any of the simple forms of government, nor any combination of them. The attempt to bring it under any of the simple or mixed forms of government recognized by political writers, is an attempt to clothe the future in the cast-off garments of the past. The American system, wherever practicable, is better than monarchy, better than aristocracy, better than simple democracy, better than any possible combination of these several forms, because it accords more nearly with the principles of things, the real order of the universe.
But American statesmen have studied the constitutions of other states more than that of their own, and have succeeded in obscuring the American system in the minds of the people, and giving them in its place pure and simple democracy, which is its false development or corruption. Under the influence of this false development, the people were fast losing sight of the political truth that, though the people are sovereign, it is the organic, not the inorganic people, the territorial people, not the people as simple population, and were beginning to assert the absolute God-given right of the majority to govern. All the changes made in the bosom of the States themselves have consisted in removing all obstacles to the irresponsible will of the majority, leaving minorities and individuals at their mercy. This tendency to a centralized democracy had more to do with provoking secession and rebellion than the anti-slavery sentiments of the Northern, Central, and Western States.
The failure of secession and the triumph of the National cause, in spite of the short-sightedness and blundering of the Administration, have proved the vitality and strength of the national constitution, and the greatness of the American people. They say nothing for or against the democratic theory of our demagogues, but every thing in favor of the American system or constitution of government, which has found a firmer support in American instincts than in American statesmanship. In spite of all that had been done by theorists, radicals, and revolutionists, no-government men, non-resistants, humanitarians, and sickly sentimentalists to corrupt the American people in mind, heart, and body, the native vigor of their national constitution has enabled them to come forth triumphant from the trial. Every American patriot has reason to be proud of his country-men, and every American lover of freedom to be satisfied with the institutions of his country. But there is danger that the politicians and demagogues will ascribe the merit, not to the real and living national constitution, but to their miserable theories of that constitution, and labor to aggravate the several evils and corrupt tendencies which caused the rebellion it has cost so much to suppress. What is now wanted is, that the people, whose instincts are right, should understand the American constitution as it is, and so understand it as to render it impossible for political theorists, no matter of what school or party, to deceive them again as to its real import, or induce them to depart from it in their political action.
A work written with temper, without passion or sectional prejudice, in a philosophical spirit, explaining to the American people their own national constitution, and the mutual relations of the General government and the State governments, cannot, at this important crisis in our affairs, be inopportune, and, if properly executed, can hardly fail to be of real service. Such a work is now attempted—would it were by another and abler hand—which, imperfect as it is, may at least offer some useful suggestions, give a right direction to political thought, although it should fail to satisfy the mind of the reader.
This much the author may say, in favor of his own work, that it sets forth no theory of government in general, or of the United States in particular. The author is not a monarchist, an aristocrat, a democrat, a feudalist, nor an advocate of what are called mixed governments like the English, at least for his own country; but is simply an American, devoted to the real, living, and energizing constitution of the American republic as it is, not as some may fancy it might be, or are striving to make it. It is, in his judgment, what it ought to be, and he has no other ambition than to present it as it is to the understanding and love of his countrymen.
Perhaps simple artistic unity and propriety would require the author to commence his essay directly with the United States; but while the constitution of the United States is original and peculiar, the government of the United States has necessarily something in common with all legitimate governments, and he has thought it best to precede his discussion of the American republic, its constitution, tendencies, and destiny, by some considerations on government in general. He does this because he believes, whether rightly or not, that while the American people have received from Providence a most truly profound and admirable system of government, they are more or less infected with the false theories of government which have been broached during the last two centuries. In attempting to realize these theories, they have already provoked or rendered practicable a rebellion which has seriously threatened the national existence, and come very near putting an end to the American order of civilization itself. These theories have received already a shock in the minds of all serious and thinking men; but the men who think are in every nation a small minority, and it is necessary to give these theories a public refutation, and bring back those who do not think, as well as those who do, from the world of dreams to the world of reality. It is hoped, therefore, that any apparent want of artistic unity or symmetry in the essay will be pardoned for the sake of the end the author has had in view.
Man is a dependent being, and neither does nor can suffice for himself. He lives not in himself, but lives and moves and has his being in God. He exists, develops, and fulfils his existence only by communion with God, through which he participates of the divine being and life. He communes with God through the divine creative act and the Incarnation of the Word, through his kind, and through the material world. Communion with God through Creation and Incarnation is religion, distinctively taken, which binds man to God as his first cause, and carries him onward to God as his final cause; communion through the material world is expressed by the word property; and communion with God through humanity is society. Religion, society, property, are the three terms that embrace the whole of man's life, and express the essential means and conditions of his existence, his development, and his perfection, or the fulfilment of his existence, the attainment of the end for which he is created.
Though society, or the communion of man with his Maker through his kind, is not all that man needs in order to live, to grow, to actualize the possibilities of his nature, and to attain to his beatitude, since humanity is neither God nor the material universe, it is yet a necessary and essential condition of his life, his progress, and the completion of his existence. He is born and lives in society, and can be born and live nowhere else. It is one of the necessities of his nature. "God saw that it was not good for man to be alone." Hence, wherever man is found he is found in society, living in more or less strict intercourse with his kind.
But society never does and never can exist without government of some sort. As society is a necessity of man's nature, so is government a necessity of society. The simplest form of society is the family—Adam and Eve. But though Adam and Eve are in many respects equal, and have equally important though different parts assigned them, one or the other must be head and governor, or they cannot form the society called family. They would be simply two individuals of different sexes, and the family would fail for the want of unity.
Children cannot be reared, trained, or educated without some degree of family government, of some authority to direct, control, restrain, or prescribe. Hence the authority of the husband and father is recognized by the common consent of mankind. Still more apparent is the necessity of government the moment the family develops and grows into the tribe, and the tribe into the nation. Hence no nation exists without government; and we never find a savage tribe, however low or degraded, that does not assert somewhere in the father, in the elders, or in the tribe itself, the rude outlines or the faint reminiscences of some sort of government, with authority to demand obedience and to punish the refractory. Hence, as man is nowhere found out of society, so nowhere is society found without government.
Government is necessary: but let it be remarked by the way, that its necessity does not grow exclusively or chiefly out of the fact that the human race by sin has fallen from its primitive integrity, or original righteousness. The fall asserted by Christian theology, though often misinterpreted, and its effects underrated or exaggerated, is a fact too sadly confirmed by individual experience and universal history; but it is not the cause why government is necessary, though it may be an additional reason for demanding it. Government would have been necessary if man had not sinned, and it is needed for the good as well as for the bad. The law was promulgated in the Garden, while man retained his innocence and remained in the integrity of his nature. It exists in heaven as well as on earth, and in heaven in its perfection. Its office is not purely repressive, to restrain violence, to redress wrongs, and to punish the transgressor. It has something more to do than to restrict our natural liberty, curb our passions, and maintain justice between man and man. Its office is positive as well as negative. It is needed to render effective the solidarity of the individuals of a nation, and to render the nation an organism, not a mere organization—to combine men in one living body, and to strengthen all with the strength of each, and each with the strength of all—to develop, strengthen, and sustain individual liberty, and to utilize and direct it to the promotion of the common weal—to be a social providence, imitating in its order and degree the action of the divine providence itself, and, while it provides for the common good of all, to protect each, the lowest and meanest, with the whole force and majesty of society. It is the minister of wrath to wrong-doers, indeed, but its nature is beneficent, and its action defines and protects the right of property, creates and maintains a medium in which religion can exert her supernatural energy, promotes learning, fosters science and art, advances civilization, and contributes as a powerful means to the fulfilment by man of the Divine purpose in his existence. Next after religion, it is man's greatest good; and even religion without it can do only a small portion of her work. They wrong it who call it a necessary evil; it is a great good, and, instead of being distrusted, hated, or resisted, except in its abuses, it should be loved, respected, obeyed, and if need be, defended at the cost of all earthly goods, and even of life itself.
The nature or essence of government is to govern. A government that does not govern, is simply no government at all. If it has not the ability to govern and governs not, it may be an agency, an instrument in the bands of individuals for advancing their private interests, but it is not government. To be government it must govern both individuals and the community. If it is a mere machine for making prevail the will of one man, of a certain number of men, or even of the community, it may be very effective sometimes for good, sometimes for evil, oftenest for evil, but government in the proper sense of the word it is not. To govern is to direct, control, restrain, as the pilot controls and directs his ship. It necessarily implies two terms, governor and governed, and a real distinction between them. The denial of all real distinction between governor and governed is an error in politics analogous to that in philosophy or theology of denying all real distinction between creator and creature, God and the universe, which all the world knows is either pantheism or pure atheism—the supreme sophism. If we make governor and governed one and the same, we efface both terms; for there is no governor nor governed, if the will that governs is identically the will that is governed. To make the controller and the controlled the same is precisely to deny all control. There must, then, if there is government at all, be a power, force, or will that governs, distinct from that which is governed. In those governments in which it is held that the people govern, the people governing do and must act in a diverse relation from the people governed, or there is no real government.
Government is not only that which governs, but that which has the right or authority to govern. Power without right is not government. Governments have the right to use force at need, but might does not make right, and not every power wielding the physical force of a nation is to be regarded as its rightful government. Whatever resort to physical force it may be obliged to make, either in defence of its authority or of the rights of the nation, the government itself lies in the moral order, and politics is simply a branch of ethics—that branch which treats of the rights and duties of men in their public relations, as distinguished from their rights and duties in their private relations.
Government being not only that which governs, but that which has the right to govern, obedience to it becomes a moral duty, not a mere physical necessity. The right to govern and the duty to obey are correlatives, and the one cannot exist or be conceived without the other. Hence loyalty is not simply an amiable sentiment but a duty, a moral virtue. Treason is not merely a difference in political opinion with the governing authority, but a crime against the sovereign, and a moral wrong, therefore a sin against God, the Founder of the moral Law. Treason, if committed in other Countries, unhappily, has been more frequently termed by our countrymen Patriotism and loaded with honor than branded as a crime, the greatest of crimes, as it is, that human governments have authority to punish. The American people have been chary of the word loyalty, perhaps because they regard it as the correlative of royalty; but loyalty is rather the correlative of law, and is, in its essence, love and devotion to the sovereign authority, however constituted or wherever lodged. It is as necessary, as much a duty, as much a virtue in republics as in monarchies; and nobler examples of the most devoted loyalty are not found in the world's history than were exhibited in the ancient Greek and Roman republics, or than have been exhibited by both men and women in the young republic of the United States. Loyalty is the highest, noblest, and most generous of human virtues, and is the human element of that sublime love or charity which the inspired Apostle tells us is the fulfilment of the law. It has in it the principle of devotion, of self-sacrifice, and is, of all human virtues, that which renders man the most Godlike. There is nothing great, generous, good, or heroic of which a truly loyal people are not capable, and nothing mean, base, cruel, brutal, criminal, detestable, not to be expected of a really disloyal people. Such a people no generous sentiment can move, no love can bind. It mocks at duty, scorns virtue, tramples on all rights, and holds no person, no thing, human or divine, sacred or inviolable. The assertion of government as lying in the moral order, defines civil liberty, and reconciles it with authority. Civil liberty is freedom to do whatever one pleases that authority permits or does not forbid. Freedom to follow in all things one's own will or inclination, without any civil restraint, is license, not liberty. There is no lesion to liberty in repressing license, nor in requiring obedience to the commands of the authority that has the right to command. Tyranny or oppression is not in being subjected to authority, but in being subjected to usurped authority—to a power that has no right to command, or that commands what exceeds its right or its authority. To say that it is contrary to liberty to be forced to forego our own will or inclination in any case whatever, is simply denying the right of all government, and falling into no-governmentism. Liberty is violated only when we are required to forego our own will or inclination by a power that has no right to make the requisition; for we are bound to obedience as far as authority has right to govern, and we can never have the right to disobey a rightful command. The requisition, if made by rightful authority, then, violates no right that we have or can have, and where there is no violation of our rights there is no violation of our liberty. The moral right of authority, which involves the moral duty of obedience, presents, then, the ground on which liberty and authority may meet in peace and operate to the same end.
This has no resemblance to the slavish doctrine of passive obedience, and that the resistance to power can never be lawful. The tyrant may be lawfully resisted, for the tyrant, by force of the word itself, is a usurper, and without authority. Abuses of power may be resisted even by force when they become too great to be endured, when there is no legal or regular way of redressing them, and when there is a reasonable prospect that resistance will prove effectual and substitute something better in their place. But it is never lawful to resist the rightful sovereign, for it can never be right to resist right, and the rightful sovereign in the constitutional exercise of his power can never be said to abuse it. Abuse is the unconstitutional or wrongful exercise of a power rightfully held, and when it is not so exercised there is no abuse or abuses to redress. All turns, then, on the right of power, or its legitimacy. Whence does government derive its right to govern? What is the origin and ground of sovereignty? This question is fundamental and without a true answer to it politics cannot be a science, and there can be no scientific statesmanship. Whence, then, comes the sovereign right to govern?
ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT
Government is both a fact and a right. Its origin as a fact, is simply a question of history; its origin as a right or authority to govern, is a question of ethics. Whether a certain territory and its population are a sovereign state or nation, or not—whether the actual ruler of a country is its rightful ruler, or not—is to be determined by the historical facts in the case; but whence the government derives its right to govern, is a question that can be solved only by philosophy, or, philosophy failing, only by revelation.
Political writers, not carefully distinguishing between the fact and the right, have invented various theories as to the origin of government, among which may be named—
I. Government originates in the right of the father to govern his child.
II. It originates in convention, and is a social compact.
III. It originates in the people, who, collectively taken, are sovereign.
IV. Government springs from the spontaneous development of nature.
V. It derives its right from the immediate and express appointment of God;—
VI. From God through the Pope, or visible head of the spiritual society;—
VII. From God through the people;—
VIII. From God through the natural law.
I. The first theory is sound, if the question is confined to the origin of government as a fact. The patriarchal system is the earliest known system of government, and unmistakable traces of it are found in nearly all known governments—in the tribes of Arabia and Northern Africa, the Irish septs and the Scottish clans, the Tartar hordes, the Roman qentes, and the Russian and Hindoo villages. The right of the father was held to be his right to govern his family or household, which, with his children, included his wife and servants. From the family to the tribe the transition is natural and easy, as also from the tribe to the nation. The father is chief of the family; the chief of the eldest family is chief of the tribe; the chief of the eldest tribe becomes chief of the nation, and, as such, king or monarch. The heads of families collected in a senate form an aristocracy, and the families themselves, represented by their delegates, or publicly assembling for public affairs, constitute a democracy. These three forms, with their several combinations, to wit, monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, and mixed governments, are all the forms known to Aristotle, and have generally been held to be all that are possible.
Historically, all governments have, in some sense, been developed from the patriarchal, as all society has been developed from the family. Even those governments, like the ancient Roman and the modern feudal, which seem to be founded on landed property, may be traced back to a patriarchal origin. The patriarch is sole proprietor, and the possessions of the family are vested in him, and he governs as proprietor as well as father. In the tribe, the chief is the proprietor, and in the nation, the king is the landlord, and holds the domain. Hence, the feudal baron is invested with his fief by the suzerain, holds it from him, and to him it escheats when forfeited or vacant. All the great Asiatic kings of ancient or modern times hold the domain and govern as proprietors; they have the authority of the father and the owner; and their subjects, though theoretically their children, are really their slaves.
In Rome, however, the proprietary right undergoes an important transformation. The father retains all the power of the patriarch within his family, the patrician in his gens or house, but, outside of it, is met and controlled by the city or state. The heads of houses are united in the senate, and collectively constitute and govern the state. Yet, not all the heads of houses have seats in the senate, but only the tenants of the sacred territory of the city, which has been surveyed and marked by the god Terminus. Hence the great plebeian houses, often richer and nobler than the patrician, were excluded from all share in the government and the honors of the state, because they were not tenants of any portion of the sacred territory. There is here the introduction of an element which is not patriarchal, and which transforms the patriarch or chief of a tribe into the city or state, and founds the civil order, or what is now called civilization. The city or state takes the place of the private proprietor, and territorial rights take the place of purely personal rights.
In the theory of the Roman law, the land owns the man, not the man the land. When land was transferred to a new tenant, the practice in early times was to bury him in it, in order to indicate that it took possession of him, received, accepted, or adopted him; and it was only such persons as were taken possession of, accepted or adopted by the sacred territory or domain that, though denizens of Rome, were citizens with full political rights. This, in modern language, means that the state is territorial, not personal, and that the citizen appertains to the state, not the state to the citizen. Under the patriarchal, the tribal, and the Asiatic monarchical systems, there is, properly speaking, no state, no citizens, and the organization is economical rather than political. Authority—even the nation itself—is personal, not territorial. The patriarch, the chief of the tribe, or the king, is the only proprietor. Under the Graeco-Roman system all this is transformed. The nation is territorial as well as personal, and the real proprietor is the city or state. Under the Empire, no doubt, what lawyers call the eminent domain was vested in the emperor, but only as the representative and trustee of the city or state.
When or by what combination of events this transformation was effected, history does not inform us. The first-born of Adam, we are told, built a city, and called it after his son Enoch; but there is no evidence that it was constituted a municipality. The earliest traces of the civil order proper are found in the Greek and Italian republics, and its fullest and grandest developments are found in Rome, imperial as well as republican. It was no doubt preceded by the patriarchal system, and was historically developed from it, but by way of accretion rather than by simple explication. It has in it an element that, if it exists in the patriarchal constitution, exists there only in a different form, and the transformation marks the passage from the economical order to the political, from the barbaric to the civil constitution of society, or from barbarism to civilization.
The word civilization stands opposed to barbarism, and is derived from civitas—city or state. The Greeks and Romans call all tribes and nations in which authority is vested in the chief, as distinguished from the state, barbarians. The origin of the word barbarian, barbarus, or ........, is unknown, and its primary sense can be only conjectured. Webster regards its primary sense as foreign, wild, fierce; but this could not have been its original sense; for the Greeks and Romans never termed all foreigners barbarians, and they applied the term to nations that had no inconsiderable culture and refinement of manners, and that had made respectable progress in art and sciences—the Indians, Persians, Medians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians. They applied the term evidently in a political, not an ethical or an aesthetical sense, and as it would seem to designate a social order in which the state was not developed, and in which the nation was personal, not territorial, and authority was held as a private right, not as a public trust, or in which the domain vests in the chief or tribe, and not in the state; for they never term any others barbarians.
Republic is opposed not to monarchy, in the modern European sense, but to monarchy in the ancient or absolute sense. Lacedaemon had kings; yet it was no less republican than Athens; and Rome was called and was a republic under the emperors no less than under the consuls. Republic, respublica, by the very force of the term, means the public wealth, or, in good English, the commonwealth; that is, government founded not on personal or private wealth, but on the public wealth, public territory, or domain, or a Government that vests authority in the nation, and attaches the nation to a certain definite territory. France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, even Great Britain in substance though not in form, are all, in the strictest sense of the word, republican states; for the king or emperor does not govern in his own private right, but solely as representative of the power and majesty of the state. The distinctive mark of republicanism is the substitution of the state for the personal chief, and public authority for personal or private right. Republicanism is really civilization as opposed to barbarism, and all civility, in the old Sense of the word, or Civilian in Italian, is republican, and is applied in modern tiles to breeding or refinement of manners, simply because these are characteristics of a republican, or polished [from ....., city] people. Every people that has a real civil order, or a fully developed state or polity, is a republican people; and hence the church and her great doctors when they speak of the state as distinguished from the church, call it the republic, as may be seen by consulting even a late Encyclical of Pius IX., which some have interpreted wrongly in an anti-republican sense.
All tribes and nations in which the patriarchal system remains, or is developed without transformation, are barbaric, and really so regarded by all Christendom. In civilized nations the patriarchal authority is transformed into that of the city or state, that is, of the republic; but in all barbarous nations it retains its Private and personal character. The nation is only the family or tribe, and is called by the name of its ancestor, founder, or chief, not by a geographical denomination. Race has not been supplanted by country; they are a people, not a state. They are not fixed to the soil, and though we may find in them ardent love of family, the tribe, or the chief, we never find among them that pure love of country or patriotism which so distinguished the Greeks and Romans, and is no less marked among modern Christian nations. They have a family, a race, a chief or king, but no patria, or country. The barbarians who overthrew the Roman Empire, whether of the West or the East, were nations, or confederacies of nations, but not states. The nation with them was personal, not territorial. Their country was wherever they fed their flocks and herds, pitched their tents, and encamped for the night. There were Germans, but no German state, and even to-day the German finds his "father-land" wherever the German speech is spoken. The Polish, Sclavonian, Hungarian, Illyrian, Italian, and other provinces held by German states, in which the German language is not the mother-tongue, are excluded from the Germanic Confederation. The Turks, or Osmanlis, are a race, not a state, and are encamped, not settled, on the site of the Eastern Roman or Greek Empire.
Even when the barbaric nations have ceased to be nomadic, pastoral, or predatory nations, as the ancient Assyrians and Persians or modern Chinese, and have their geographical boundaries, they have still no state, no country. The nation defines the boundaries, not the boundaries the nation. The nation does not belong to the territory, but the territory to the nation or its chief. The Irish and Anglo-Saxons, in former times, held the land in gavelkind, and the territory belonged to the tribe or sept; but if the tribe held it as indivisible, they still held it as private property. The shah of Persia holds the whole Persian territory as private property, and the landholders among his subjects are held to be his tenants. They hold it from him, not from the Persian state.
The public domain of the Greek empire is in theory the private domain of the Ottoman emperor or Turkish sultan. There is in barbaric states no republic, no commonwealth; authority is parental, without being tempered by parental affection. The chief is a despot, and rules with the united authority of the father and the harshness of the proprietor. He owns the land and his subjects.
Feudalism, established in Western Europe after the downfall of the Roman Empire, however modified by the Church and by reminiscences of Graeco-Roman civilization retained by the conquered, was a barbaric constitution. The feudal monarch, as far as he governed at all, governed as proprietor or landholder, not as the representative of the commonwealth. Under feudalism there are estates, but no state. The king governs as an estate, the nobles hold their power as an estate, and the commons are represented as an estate. The whole theory of power is, that it is an estate; a private right, not a public trust. It is not without reason, then that the common sense of civilized nations terms the ages when it prevailed in Western Europe barbarous ages.
It may seem a paradox to class democracy with the barbaric constitutions, and yet as it is defended by many stanch democrats, especially European democrats and revolutionists, and by French and Germans settled in our own country, it is essentially barbaric and anti-republican. The characteristic principle of barbarism is, that power is a private or personal right, and when democrats assert that the elective franchise is a natural right of man, or that it is held by virtue of the fact that the elector is a man, they assert the fundamental principle of barbarism and despotism. This says nothing in favor of restricted suffrage, or against what is called universal suffrage. To restrict suffrage to property-holders helps nothing, theoretically or practically. Property has of itself advantages enough, without clothing its holders with exclusive political rights and privileges, and the laboring classes any day are as trustworthy as the business classes. The wise statesman will never restrict suffrage, or exclude the poorer and more numerous classes from all voice in the government of their country. General suffrage is wise, and if Louis Philippe had had the sense to adopt it, and thus rally the whole nation to the support of his government, he would never have had to encounter the revolution of 1848. The barbarism, the despotism, is not in universal suffrage, but in defending the elective franchise as a private or personal right. It is not a private, but a political right, and, like all political rights, a public trust. Extremes meet, and thus it is that men who imagine that they march at the head of the human race and lead the civilization of the age, are really in principle retrograding to the barbarism of the past, or taking their place with nations on whom the light of civilization has never yet dawned. All is not gold that glisters.
The characteristic of barbarism is, that it makes all authority a private or personal right; and the characteristic of civilization is, that it makes it a public trust. Barbarism knows only persons; civilization asserts and maintains the state. With barbarians the authority of the patriarch is developed simply by way of explication; in civilized states it is developed by way of transformation. Keeping in mind this distinction, it may be maintained that all systems of government, as a simple historical fact, have been developed from the patriarchal. The patriarchal has preceded them all, and it is with the patriarchal that the human race has begun its career. The family or household is not a state, a civil polity, but it is a government, and, historically considered, is the initial or inchoate state as well as the initial or inchoate nation. But its simple direct development gives us barbarism, or what is called Oriental despotism, and which nowhere exists, or can exist, in Christendom. It is found only in pagan and Mohammedan nations; Christianity in the secular order is republican, and continues and completes the work of Greece and Rome. It meets with little permanent success in any patriarchal or despotic nation, and must either find or create civilization, which has been developed from the patriarchal system by way of transformation.
But, though the patriarchal system is the earliest form of government, and all governments have been developed or modified from it, the right of government to govern cannot be deduced from the right of the father to govern his children, for the parental right itself is not ultimate or complete. All governments that assume it to be so, and rest on it as the foundation of their authority, are barbaric or despotic, and, therefore, without any legitimate authority. The right to govern rests on ownership or dominion. Where there is no proprietorship, there is no dominion; and where there is no dominion, there is no right to govern. Only he who is sovereign proprietor is sovereign lord.
Property, ownership, dominion rests on creation. The maker has the right to the thing made. He, so far as he is sole creator, is sole proprietor, and may do what he will with it. God is sovereign lord and proprietor of the universe because He is its sole creator. He hath the absolute dominion, because He is absolute maker. He has made it, He owns it; and one may do what he will with his own. His dominion is absolute, because He is absolute creator, and He rightly governs as absolute and universal lord; yet is He no despot, because He exercises only His sovereign right, and His own essential wisdom, goodness, justness, rectitude, and immutability, are the highest of all conceivable guaranties that His exercise of His power will always be right, wise, just, and good. The despot is a man attempting to be God upon earth, and to exercise a usurped power. Despotism is based on, the parental right, and the parental right is assumed to be absolute. Hence, your despotic rulers claim to reign, and to be loved and worshipped as gods. Even the Roman emperors, in the fourth and fifth centuries, were addressed as divinities; and Theodosius the Great, a Christian, was addressed as "Your Eternity," Eternitas vestras—so far did barbarism encroach on civilization, even under Christian emperors.
The right of the father over his child is an imperfect right, for he is the generator, not the creator of his child. Generation is in the order of second causes, and is simply the development or explication of the race. The early Roman law, founded on the confusion of generation with creation, gave the father absolute authority over the child—the right of life and death, as over his servants or slaves; but this was restricted under the Empire, and in all Christian nations the authority of the father is treated, like all power, as a trust. The child, like the father himself, belongs to the state, and to the state the father is answerable for the use he makes of his authority. The law fixes the age of majority, when the child is completely emancipated; and even during his nonage, takes him from the father and places him under guardians, in case the father is incompetent to fulfil or grossly abuses his trust. This is proper, because society contributes to the life of the child, and has a right as well as an interest in him. Society, again, must suffer if the child is allowed to grow up a worthless vagabond or a criminal; and has a right to intervene, both in behalf of itself and of the child, in case his parents neglect to train him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or are training him up to be a liar, a thief, a drunkard, a murderer, a pest to the community. How, then, base the right of society on the right of the father, since, in point of fact, the right of society is paramount to the right of the parent?
But even waiving this, and granting what is not the fact that the authority of the father is absolute, unlimited, it cannot be the ground of the right of society to govern. Assume the parental right to be perfect and inseparable from the parental relation, it is no right to govern where no such relation exists. Nothing true, real, solid in government can be founded on what Carlyle calls a "sham." The statesman, if worthy of the name, ascertains and conforms to the realities, the verities of things; and all jurisprudence that accepts legal fictions is imperfect, and even censurable. The presumptions or assumptions of law or politics must have a real and solid basis, or they are inadmissible. How, from the right of the father to govern his own child, born from his loins, conclude his right to govern one not his child? Or how, from my right to govern my child, conclude the right of society to found the state, institute government, and exercise political authority over its members?
ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT—CONTINUED.
II. Rejecting the patriarchal theory as untenable, and shrinking from asserting the divine origin of government, lest they should favor theocracy, and place secular society under the control of the clergy, and thus disfranchise the laity, modern political writers have sought to render government purely human, and maintain that its origin is conventional, and that it is founded in compact or agreement. Their theory originated in the seventeenth century, and was predominant in the last century and the first third of the present. It has been, and perhaps is yet, generally accepted by American politicians and statesmen, at least so far as they ever trouble their heads with the question at all, which it must be confessed is not far.
The moral theologians of the Church have generally spoken of government as a social pact or compact, and explained the reciprocal rights and obligations of subjects and rulers by the general law of contracts; but they have never held that government originates in a voluntary agreement between the people and their rulers, or between the several individuals composing the community. They have never held that government has only a conventional origin or authority. They have simply meant, by the social compact, the mutual relations and reciprocal rights and duties of princes and their subjects, as implied in the very existence and nature of civil society. Where there are rights and duties on each side, they treat the fact, not as an agreement voluntarily entered into, and which creates them, but as a compact which binds alike sovereign and subject; and in determining whether either side has sinned or not, they inquire whether either has broken the terms of the social compact. They were engaged, not with the question whence does government derive its authority, but with its nature, and the reciprocal rights and duties of governors and the governed. The compact itself they held was not voluntarily formed by the people themselves, either individually or collectively, but was imposed by God, either immediately, or mediately, through the law of nature. "Every man," says Cicero, "is born in society, and remains there." They held the same, and maintained that every one born into society contracts by that fact certain obligations to society, and society certain obligations to him; for under the natural law, every one has certain rights, as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and owes certain duties to society for the protection and assistance it affords him.
But modern political theorists have abused the phrase borrowed from the theologians, and made it cover a political doctrine which they would have been the last to accept. These theorists or political speculators have imagined a state of nature antecedently to civil society, in which men lived without government, law, or manners, out of which they finally came by entering into a voluntary agreement with some one of their number to be king and to govern them, or with one another to submit to the rule of the majority. Hobbes, the English materialist, is among the earliest and most distinguished of the advocates of this theory. He held that men lived, prior to the creation of civil society, in a state of nature, in which all were equal, and every one had an equal right to every thing, and to take any thing on which he could lay his hands and was strong enough to hold. There was no law but the will of the strongest. Hence, the state of nature was a state of continual war. At length, wearied and disgusted, men sighed for peace, and, with one accord, said to the tallest, bravest, or ablest among them: Come, be our king, our master, our sovereign lord, and govern us; we surrender our natural rights and our natural independence to you, with no other reserve or condition than that you maintain peace among us, keep us from robbing and plundering one another or cutting each other's throats.
Locke followed Hobbes, and asserted virtually the same theory, but asserted it in the interests of liberty, as Hobbes had asserted it in the interests of power. Rousseau, a citizen of Geneva, followed in the next century with his Contrat Social, the text-book of the French revolutionists—almost their Bible—and put the finishing stroke to the theory. Hitherto the compact or agreement had been assumed to be between the governor and the governed; Rousseau supposes it to be between the people themselves, or a compact to which the people are the only parties. He adopts the theory of a state of nature in which men lived, antecedently to their forming themselves into civil society, without government or law. All men in that state were equal, and each was independent and sovereign proprietor of himself. These equal, independent, sovereign individuals met, or are held to have met, in convention, and entered into a compact with themselves, each with all, and all with each, that they would constitute government, and would each submit to the determination and authority of the whole, practically of the fluctuating and irresponsible majority. Civil society, the state, the government, originates in this compact, and the government, as Mr. Jefferson asserts in the Declaration of American Independence, "derives its just powers from the consent of the governed."
This theory, as so set forth, or as modified by asserting that the individual delegates instead of surrendering his rights to civil society, was generally adopted by the American people in the last century, and is still the more prevalent theory with those among them who happen to have any theory or opinion on the subject. It is the political tradition of the country. The state, as defined by the elder Adams, is held to be a voluntary association of individuals. Individuals create civil society, and may uncreate it whenever they judge it advisable. Prior to the Southern Rebellion, nearly every American asserted with Lafayette, "the sacred right of insurrection" or revolution, and sympathized with insurrectionists, rebels, and revolutionists, wherever they made their appearance. Loyalty was held to be the correlative of royalty, treason was regarded as a virtue, and traitors were honored, feasted, and eulogized as patriots, ardent lovers of liberty, and champions of the people. The fearful struggle of the nation against a rebellion which threatened its very existence may have changed this.
That there is, or ever was, a state of nature such as the theory assumes, may be questioned. Certainly nothing proves that it is, or ever was, a real state. That there is a law of nature is undeniable. All authorities in philosophy, morals, politics, and jurisprudence assert it; the state assumes it as its own immediate basis, and the codes of all nations are founded on it; universal jurisprudence, the jus qentium of the Romans, embodies it, and the courts recognize and administer it. It is the reason and conscience of civil society, and every state acknowledges its authority. But the law of nature is as much in force in civil society as out of it. Civil law does not abrogate or supersede natural law, but presupposes it, and supports itself on it as its own ground and reason. As the natural law, which is only natural justice and equity dictated by the reason common to all men, persists in the civil law, municipal or international, as its informing soul, so does the state of nature persist in the civil state, natural society in civil society, which simply develops, applies, and protects it. Man in civil society is not out of nature, but is in it—is in his most natural state; for society is natural to him, and government is natural to society, and in some form inseparable from it. The state of nature under the natural law is not, as a separate state, an actual state, and never was; but an abstraction, in which is considered, apart from the concrete existence called society, what is derived immediately from the natural law. But as abstractions have no existence, out of the mind that forms them, the state of nature has no actual existence in the world of reality as a separate state.
But suppose with the theory the state of nature to have been a real and separate state, in which men at first lived, there is great difficulty in understanding how they ever got out of it. Can a man divest himself of his nature, or lift himself above it? Man is in his nature, and inseparable from it. If his primitive state was his natural state, and if the political state is supernatural, preternatural, or subnatural, how passed he alone, by his own unaided powers, from the former to the latter? The ancients, who had lost the primitive tradition of creation, asserted, indeed, the primitive man as springing from the earth, and leading a mere animal life, living in eaves or hollow trees, and feeding on roots and nuts, without speech, without science, art, law, or sense of right and wrong; but prior to the prevalence of the Epicurean philosophy, they never pretended, that man could come out of that state alone by his own unaided efforts. They ascribed the invention of language, art, and science, the institution of civil society, government, and laws, to the intervention of the gods. It remained for the Epicureans—who, though unable, like their modern successors, the Positivists or Developmentists, to believe in a first cause, believed in effects without causes, or that things make or take care of themselves—to assert that men could, by their own unassisted efforts, or by the simple exercise of reason, come out of the primitive state, and institute what in modern times is called civilta, civility, or civilization.
The partisans of this theory of the state of nature from which men have emerged by the voluntary and deliberate formation of civil society, forget that if government is not the sole condition, it is one of the essential conditions of progress. The only progressive nations are civilized or republican nations. Savage and barbarous tribes are unprogressive. Ages on ages roll over them without changing any thing in their state; and Niebuhr has well remarked with others, that history records no instance of a savage tribe or people having become civilized by its own spontaneous or indigenous efforts. If savage tribes have ever become civilized, it has been by influences from abroad, by the aid of men already civilized, through conquest, colonies, or missionaries; never by their own indigenous efforts, nor even by commerce, as is so confidently asserted in this mercantile age. Nothing in all history indicates the ability of a savage people to pass of itself from the savage state to the civilized. But the primitive man, as described by Horace in his Satires, and asserted by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and others, is far below the savage. The lowest, most degraded, and most debased savage tribe that has yet been discovered has at least some rude outlines or feeble reminiscences of a social state, of government, morals, law, and religion, for even in superstition the most gross there is a reminiscence of true religion; but the people in the alleged state of nature have none.
The advocates of the theory deceive themselves by transporting into their imaginary state of nature the views, habits, and capacities of the civilized man. It is, perhaps, not difficult for men who have been civilized, who have the intelligence, the arts, the affections, and the habits of civilization, if deprived by some great social convulsion of society, and thrown back on the so-called state of nature, or cast away on some uninhabited island in the ocean, and cut off from all intercourse with the rest of mankind, to reconstruct civil society, and re-establish and maintain civil government. They are civilized men, and bear civil society in their own life. But these are no representatives of the primitive man in the alleged state of nature. These primitive men have no experience, no knowledge, no conception even of civilized life, or of any state superior to that in which they have thus far lived. How then can they, since, on the theory, civil society has no root in nature, but is a purely artificial creation, even conceive of civilization, much less realize it?
These theorists, as theorists always do, fail to make a complete abstraction of the civilized state, and conclude from what they feel they could do in case civil society were broken up, what men may do and have done in a state of nature. Men cannot divest themselves of themselves, and, whatever their efforts to do it, they think, reason, and act as they are.
Every writer, whatever else he writes, writes himself. The advocates of the theory, to have made their abstraction complete, should have presented their primitive man as below the lowest known savage, unprogressive, and in himself incapable of developing any progressive energy. Unprogressive, and, without foreign assistance, incapable of progress, how is it possible for your primitive man to pass, by his own unassisted efforts, from the alleged state of nature to that of civilization, of which he has no conception, and towards which no innate desire, no instinct, no divine inspiration pushes him?
But even if, by some happy inspiration, hardly supposable without supernatural intervention repudiated by the theory—if by some happy inspiration, a rare individual should so far rise above the state of nature as to conceive of civil society and of civil government, how could he carry his conception into execution? Conception is always easier than its realization, and between the design and its execution there is always a weary distance. The poetry of all nations is a wail over unrealized ideals. It is little that even the wisest and most potent statesman can realize of what he conceives to be necessary for the state: political, legislative or judicial reforms, even when loudly demanded, and favored by authority, are hard to be effected, and not seldom generations come and go without effecting them. The republics of Plato, Sir Thomas More, Campanella, Harrington, as the communities of Robert Owen and M. Cabet, remain Utopias, not solely because intrinsically absurd, though so in fact, but chiefly because they are innovations, have no support in experience, and require for their realization the modes of thought, habits, manners, character, life, which only their introduction and realization can supply. So to be able to execute the design of passing from the supposed state of nature to civilization, the reformer would need the intelligence, the habits, and characters in the public which are not possible without civilization itself. Some philosophers suppose men have invented language, forgetting that it requires language to give the ability to invent language.
Men are little moved by mere reasoning, however clear and convincing it may be. They are moved by their affections, passions, instincts, and habits. Routine is more powerful with them than logic. A few are greedy of novelties, and are always for trying experiments; but the great body of the people of all nations have an invincible repugnance to abandon what they know for what they know not. They are, to a great extent, the slaves of their own vis inertiae, and will not make the necessary exertion to change their existing mode of life, even for a better. Interest itself is powerless before their indolence, prejudice, habits, and usages. Never were philosophers more ignorant of human nature than they, so numerous in the last century, who imagined that men can be always moved by a sense of interest, and that enlightened self-interest, L'interet bien entendu, suffices to found and sustain the state. No reform, no change in the constitution of government or of society, whatever the advantages it may promise, can be successful, if introduced, unless it has its root or germ in the past. Man is never a creator; he can only develop and continue, because he is himself a creature, and only a second cause. The children of Israel, when they encountered the privations of the wilderness that lay between them and the promised land flowing with milk and honey, fainted in spirit, and begged Moses to lead them back to Egypt, and permit them to return to slavery.
In the alleged state of nature, as the philosophers describe it, there is no germ of civilization, and the transition to civil society would not be a development, but a complete rupture with the past, and an entire new creation. When it is with the greatest difficulty that necessary reforms are introduced in old and highly civilized nations and when it can seldom be done at all without terrible political and social convulsions, how can we suppose men without society, and knowing nothing of it, can deliberately, and, as it were, with "malice aforethought," found society? Without government, and destitute alike of habits of obedience and habits of command, how can they initiate, establish, and sustain government? To suppose it, would be to suppose that men in a state of nature, without culture, without science, without any of the arts, even the most simple and necessary, are infinitely superior to the men formed under the most advanced civilization. Was Rousseau right in asserting civilization as a fall, as a deterioration of the race?
But suppose the state of nature, even suppose that men, by some miracle or other, can get out of it and found civil society, the origin of government as authority in compact is not yet established. According to the theory, the rights of civil society are derived from the rights of the individuals who form or enter into the compact. But individuals cannot give what they have not, and no individual has in himself the right to govern another. By the law of nature all men have equal rights, are equals, and equals have no authority one over another. Nor has an individual the sovereign right even to himself, or the right to dispose of himself as he pleases. Man is not God, independent, self-existing and self-sufficing. He is dependent, and dependent not only on his Maker, but on his fellow-men, on society, and even on nature, or the material world. That on which he depends in the measure in which be depends on it, contributes to his existence, to his life, and to his well-being, and has, by virtue of its contribution, a right in him and to him; and hence it is that nothing is more painful to the proud spirit than to receive a favor that lays him under an obligation to another. The right of that on which man depends, and by communion with which he lives, limits his own right over himself.
Man does not depend exclusively on society, for it is not his only medium of communion with God, and therefore its right to him is neither absolute nor unlimited; but still be depends on it, lives in it, and cannot live without it. It has, then, certain lights over him, and he cannot enter into any compact, league, or alliance that society does not authorize, or at least permit. These rights of society override his rights to himself, and he can neither surrender them nor delegate them. Other rights, as the rights of religion and property, which are held directly from God and nature, and which are independent of society, are included in what are called the natural rights of man; and these rights cannot be surrendered in forming civil society, for they are rights of man only before civil society, and therefore not his to cede, and because they are precisely the rights that government is bound to respect and protect. The compact, then, cannot be formed as pretended, for the only rights individuals could delegate or surrender to society to constitute the sum of the rights of government are hers already, and those which are not hers are those which cannot be delegated or surrendered, and in the free and full enjoyment of which, it is the duty, the chief end of government to protect each and every individual.
The convention not only is not a fact, but individuals have no authority without society, to meet in convention, and enter into the alleged compact, because they are not independent, sovereign individuals. But pass over this: suppose the convention, suppose the compact, it must still be conceded that it binds and can bind only those who voluntarily and deliberately enter into it. This is conceded by Mr. Jefferson and the American Congress of 1776, in the assertion that government derives its "just powers from the consent of the governed." This consent, as the matter is one of life and death, must be free, deliberate, formal, explicit, not simply an assumed, implied, or constructive consent. It must be given personally, and not by one for another without his express authority.