The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33
The Political Institutions of America and England
The Political Institutions of America and England.
I have, at the request of many of my former constituents, undertaken a task which it is difficult to accomplish.
Imperfect as the sketch of the political institutions of America and England must necessarily be, I venture to think that the time for directing public attention to the subject is opportune.
Many years since the late Mr. Cobden, in a public address to the people of Rochdale, commented on the ignorance existing among those whom he styled the "ruling classes" of England upon the geography, politics, and social relations of America. Eleven years of observation and study passed in that country have impressed me with the conviction that much of that ignorance is still unremoved. Few educated foreigners who have resided in America, and made her political and social condition the subject of examination and research, have given the result of their efforts to the public; and the mere superficial observer, who makes a hurried tour through the United States, and who views everything through a lens of prejudice, page 4 too readily dismisses with a sneer the practical working upon a people of a system of government which he has never sufficiently examined, and never perfectly comprehended.
The Americans are a sensitive people—they are proud, and justly proud, of the civil liberty they have achieved—they are proud of their material and industrial prosperity, and proud of the still grander destiny which awaits the future of their country.
The majority of Americans take a prejudiced view of England and her Government, and consider the Monarchical Governments of Europe as so many systems devised for the oppression of the peoples; and while the educated and thoughtful student of England's history feels that he is indebted to her—the sacred mother of freedom—for all the valued institutions he has adopted and now enjoys; for the love of freedom, which her example has bequeathed; those who think but little—and never deeply—upon such subjects, neither appreciate nor understand how the liberties of the English people have been matured under their system of constitutional government.
At this epoch in the history of both nations, when England in her mature age, and America in her giant youth, are interested in the success of a tribunal, the most noble structure the world has seen, for the arbitrament of national differences; it is of the highest importance to perpetuate a cordial and kindly international regard, to which nothing so much conduces as a mutual knowledge and appreciation of the practical operation of the political institutions of either country.
It is impossible to condense within the period allotted to this address, more than a hasty sketch of the great theme I am anxious to illustrate; and I must premise that in speaking of the political institutions of America, I comment only upon the Federal institutions of that country.page 5
Each individual State has its own political institutions—its Governor, its Legislature, its Judiciary. Each has its own written Constitution; and the great object of the National Government was to form these States into a perfect Union.
The Federal Constitution provides that new States may be admitted by Congress into the Union It was foreseen that in the vast territory which belongs to America, by cession and by purchase, new States would spring up, which could not be retained in a state of dependence upon the National Government; and since the date of the Constitution, the majority of the States now forming the Union have been from time to time admitted. Other territories, also, are now fast advancing to the same grade of political dignity.
The Federal Constitution contains some positive prohibitions upon the powers to be exercised by the State Governments. To the General Government are assigned all those powers which relate to the common interests of all the States, as comprising one Confederated nation, whilst to each State are reserved all those powers which may affect or promote its own domestic interests, its power, its prosperity, and its local institutions. Such limitations and restraints imposed upon each State Government prevent its interference with the authority of the National Government, and are considered indispensable to secure the harmonious operation of the Union.
On the 4th July, 1776, thirteen of the American Colonies met and declared themselves free and independent of the British Crown. They had asserted in their memorable Bill of Rights their grievances and their prerogatives, the violation of which by the English Government constituted the main grounds upon which the American Revolution was founded; and the grievances under which the colonies laboured being persisted in, a resort to arms was the result. These page 6 events belong to the department of history; and I would earnestly implore those of my hearers who have the time and opportunity to study those events, and to learn from the exalted patriotism and wisdom which animated the men who acted in that great drama, the lesson, that a patriot is not necessarily a demagogue nor revolution synonymous with anarchy.
At the earliest dawn of their great revolution, now nearly a century since, the noblest minds of the United States were employed in the important task of eliminating the leading principles which regulated the republics of ancient and modern times, and adapting them to the formation of a system of government, of the people, by the people, and for the people. Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, contributed to the "Federalist" a series of essays which may fairly be ranked among the ablest and most eloquent state papers that were ever conceived by the wisdom of antiquity, or the most enlightened of modern governments. In language unsurpassed in the palmiest days of English literature, they pointed out with singular tact and perspicuity, the good and bad points alike in the constitution of the Greek republics. The sober judgment of the Anglo-Saxon fathers of American Independence, undazzled by the eloquence of the philosophers, the orators, and the poets of Greece, pointed out what constituted the statesmanship, or the ruling ideas of the statesmanship, of the great historic republics, how they rose and how they fell. They warned the American people in the infancy of their freedom against the utopian idea that republics were necessarily all that was peaceful and tolerant and just to their own citizens and foreign nations. They instanced Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Carthage, and, in more recent times, Venice, and the United States of Holland, as showing that republics were as much engaged in wars, offensive and defensive, as monarchies; that they were subject to the same page 7 influences, interests, and passion, love of wealth and of national ambition, the powerful incentives and motives of aggression. Athens and Carthage were commercial republics; the former was engaged in contest with Sicily for that commanding entrepot of the Mediterranean; the latter played the same game of hostile ambition in the same arena, and exciting the jealousy of Rome by her conquests and colonisation of southern Spain, fought with that great people a succession of wars with no other motive than to crush the power of her rival, and maintain her own commercial, supremacy. Venice, by her aggressive commercial ambition, caused the League of Cambray to be arrayed against her, and Germany, France, and Italy to combine at last to crush her overgrowing power.
Above all the examples of ancient or modem republican institutions, the founders of the United States Republic seem to have had in serious contemplation that of the old Lycian Democracy. This was a Confederate Republic, the territory of which was situated on the southern coast of Asia Minor, and was bounded in that direction by the Mediterranean Sea. It was a union of twenty-three cities, under one chief magistrate, a certain number of judges, and inferior magistrates, and a general assembly of popular deputies, in which the cities were represented, according to their population respectively, the six larger sending three deputies, the six second class two, and the remaining cities one. From time immemorial the Lycians enjoyed a democratic character, and cherished the traditions of freedom. Under various foreign masters, the Persian, the Macedonian, and the Roman, they were permitted to enjoy their municipal independence to a great extent; but it was not until about the close of the great Roman Civil War that under the sanction and protection of Marc Antony, who pitied them for the extraordinary sufferings which they had undergone at the hands of Brutus and his soldiery, they constituted page 8 themselves into that perfect republic, which challenged the admiration of the great French authority on international law and political philosophy, Montesquieu, and was honoured by the adoption, in many respects, of the founders of the great American commonwealth. The Lycians had the pregnant history and fate of the earlier Grecian republics, within a day's sail of their coast, before them, which warned them against the fatal dangers of separate independencies within one state, independent only in name, and against the delusion of such vain compacts as the Achaian League, when the seeds of native degeneration had already produced the fruits of mutual jealousy and treachery, and the waves of foreign conquest were closing around the parent soil of Hellas.
Lycia was an inviolate land and an independent republic, framed for the most part as the great American commonwealth was afterwards constituted; and it worked well, without any interruption to its internal peace, its great commercial prosperity, and its complete political independence, during the reigns of the first three of the Roman emperors. In the reign of Claudian the corruption of wealth and the same growth of faction, which seems to have flourished most powerfully in all republican soils, brought down to the dust, within the space of a single century, those great and beneficent institutions, which, if not the noblest, must be ranked amongst the noblest that were ever conceived and developed for the government of mankind. Lycia, which, in aid of the Grecian cities, formerly bad sent fifty ships to the Battle of Salamis, and which, had it preserved its political independence, must have arrived at a point of commercial prosperity equal to that of the old Phœnicians, or rivalled the universal trade of Venice, was broken up by the selfish folly, internecine factiousness, and unmitigated corruption of its own sons, reduced to be a department of a Roman province, and governed by the prefect of a proconsul, as it is at this day by a second- page 9 class Turkish governor. Its fine sea-board, in front of which thousands of rich argosies sailed up and down in the old classic time, re-echoes to the dull plashing on its melancholy strand of the idle Mediterranean wave. Its picturesque and fertile valleys, and its classic rivers—the rivers of the Homeric poems—feed and water the flocks and herds of a few thousand nomadic Turks, who lead the life of the lotos-eaters, wishing only for the bare means of procuring the necessaries of life, and satisfied with less of these than even the most primitive of the surrounding populations.
The examples of history which I have here alluded to were aptly cited to prove that republics were not exempt from jealousies, political intrigues, selfishness, and exclusiveness; and the great statesmen and publicists who watched over the cradle of American liberty and fostered it into manhood, after many years of anxiety and incessant labour, and, after encountering much opposition, devised a modified system of republican government. This, while it secured to every state its individual, local, and domestic rights, and accorded to them their individual legislatures, established a national and central authority, created by the will of the people, to control and regulate all that pertained to the national interests and policy.
The problem was a complex and difficult one.
The attributes of the Federal Government were carefully defined, and all that was not included amongst them was declared to remain to the governments of the several States.
You are probably aware, as a matter of history, that Articles of Confederation had in the first instance been adopted.
In November, 1777, a frame of government contained in Articles of Confederation, was agreed upon in a continental congress, and sent to the then existing States for their approval and adoption.page 10
They were not to go into operation until the consent of all the States had been obtained, which occasioned a delay of nearly three years, the consent and approval of the State of Maryland not having been given until March, 1781, when the Confederation was finally adopted.
The deficiency in this Confederation of powers to regulate commerce, to impose national taxes, and to collect revenue for the public service, with other causes, brought about almost national bankruptcy; the national treasury was empty; the credit of the confederacy was ruined; the public faith was utterly prostrated; jealousies and rivalries in commerce, in agriculture and manufactures, between the various States sprung up; they adopted a system of retaliatory legislation; the danger of war between them became at one time imminent, and the peace and safety of the Union were made dependent upon measures of the several States, over which the general government had not the slightest control. Navigation and trade were paralysed, and national ruin was the result. Left without powers and without resources, the Confederation would have expired of its own debility; and the question which then presented itself to the attention of American statesmen was whether a more efficient system of government could be devised, or whether the great interests of the young republic should be buried in the ruins of the structure which had been raised to perpetuate its freedom.
On the 17th September, 1787, the present constitution of the United States was framed, and on the 6th April, 1788, the assent of the requisite number of States having been obtained, George Washington was unanimously elected the first President of the United States of America.
You will thus see that Republics are not so readily created. The formation of its present government occupied a period of eleven years of trials, opposition, and jealousies; it involved page 11 difficulties and sacrifices of opinion, endless concessions, and many compromises; it required all the wisdom, the patriotism, and the genius of America's greatest statesmen to achieve the triumph of Liberty—Liberty regulated by law, and subservient to authority.
Chief-Justice Story thus eloquently speaks of the completion of this grand work :—
"To those great men, who thus framed the Constitution, and secured the adoption of it, we owe a debt of gratitude, which can scarcely be repaid. It was not then, as it is now, looked upon from the blessings, which, under the guidance of Divine Providence, it has bestowed, with general favour and affection. On the contrary, many of those pure and disinterested patriots who stood forth, the firm advocates of its principles, did so at the expense of their existing popularity. They felt that they had a higher duty to perform than to flatter the prejudices of the people, or to subserve selfish, or sectional, or local interests. Many of them went to their graves without the soothing consolation that their services and their sacrifices were duly appreciated. They scorned every attempt to rise to power and influence by the common arts of demagogues; and they were content to trust their characters and their conduct to the deliberate judgment of posterity.
"Upon a close survey of their labours, as developed in the actual structure of the Constitution, we shall have reason to admire their wisdom and forecast, to observe their profound love of liberty, and to trace their deep sense of the value of political responsibility, and their anxiety, above all things, to give perpetuity as well as energy to the republican institutions of their country. Then, indeed, will our gratitude kindle into a holier reverence, and their memories will be cherished among those of the noblest benefactors of man-kind."page 12
In the formation of their Government the Americans had many advantages. Though young in the science of government, they were adults in freedom. Municipal government, trial by jury, freedom of the press, and all the valued popular institutions for which England had struggled for centuries, and achieved, had been long cherished amongst them, and stood ready for their re-adoption. They were not actuated by the turbulent passions of anarchy, but by a reflecting predilection for freedom. There existed no desire to attack the principles of social order, but the spirit of independence was subservient to, and regulated by, the popular will.
Upon a review of the Constitution of the United States, it will be at once observed that its structure contains a fundamental separation of the three great departments of government—the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial; and in the remarks I have to make in order, in such an imperfect and hasty sketch, to present the subject more prominently to your attention, I transpose these departments of governments, and allude, in the first instance, to the Executive, the President, his Election, and the Powers with which he is intrusted by, and exercises under, the Constitution.
What is the best constitution for the Executive department, and what power should be confided by the people to it, is one of the most difficult problems to solve in the theory of free governments. It is an indispensable element in a republican form of Government that the representative of the executive power should be subject to the will of the nation.
The President is elected for four years, and may be re-elected. He is not elected directly by the vote of the people, but a special electoral power is created by the constitution for such purpose. It was thought that the appointment of a special electoral body would secure more deliberation and be attended by less excitement in the choice of a President, than a popular election. Every State names a certain number page 13 of electors, as many as it sends members to Congress. The vote is by ballot. President and Vice-president are elected. The majority of the States and not the majority of the Electors decides the question; so that the smallest State has the same influence in the election as the largest. Distinct lists of the candidates voted for are transmitted to the seat of government, directed to the President of the Senate. The votes are then counted, and if a majority of votes, which is essential to the election, is found, the person so voted for is declared to be duly elected President. If such a majority does not exist, the House of Representatives elect by ballot a President from any three persons having the highest numbers. Since the formation of the Government, the House of Representatives has been required to act in the Presidential election upon two occasions only.
Since the election of Mr. Jefferson in 1801, it certainly has happened that the office of President has fallen to the lot of comparatively inferior men. The President is not, in any sense, the unbiassed choice of the People or of the States. He becomes by this mode of election, the representative of a clique far more than of the whole people. The electors go to the election, pledged to some favourite of their party; before their appointment they are frequently so pledged They elect a mere subservient instrument, one who has adopted their own views upon questions of national policy, one whom they can, or think they can, mould to subserve their own interests in his future administration, who will gratify their own political prejudices and resentment, and not unfrequently one from whom they expect material demonstrations of gratitude in the distribution of the vast patronage which they have helped their candidate to secure. Some of the ablest politicians and statesmen of America have expressed their opinion that this mode of election of the President is unsatisfactory; and that there exists danger that the office may be page 14 filled by those who will fail to fulfil the high destiny contemplated by the constitution, and be the impartial supporters, patrons and friends of the interests of the whole country.
The President is elected for the term of four years, a period now considered by many statesmen as too brief.
Upon the question of the frequency of these Presidential elections, many diverse opinions are entertained in America. The epoch of the next election is anticipated immediately upon the conclusion of its predecessor. Who is to be the next President is the subject of national discussion, almost before the newly-elected one has been sworn into office. For a long time before the election it becomes the all engrossing topic. The newspapers place their favourite aspirants in large type for months, and sometimes years, before the event. Political parties are formed, strongly interested in the success of their respective candidates; the activity of intrigue and the excitement of the people gradually increase as the event approaches; and the whole nation considers it a crisis in its very existence.
If a President seeks re-election, as is at this moment the case, he governs more to secure that object than for the interests of the people; he is absorbed by the cares of self-defence; his patronage is bestowed to obtain votes and political adherents; and he is tempted to sacrifice the best interests of the country to find favour with the majority.
It has been truly observed that few of the nations of Europe could escape the calamity of anarchy and civil war if they had to elect a new Sovereign every four years of their national existence.
"Concidunt venti; fugiuntque nubes;
Et minax, quod Dî voluere, ponto
In contrasting the power and the political functions of the Presidents with those of the monarchy of England, marked differences exist; but in some respects it will be seen that the influence of the popular will is more direct and immediate in its action and control upon the Crown than upon the American Executive.
It is an established axiom that a constitutional monarch cannot govern when opposed by the two branches of the Legislature. The experiment cost one monarch his head, and another his throne. The President, when his administration is opposed by the majority of Congress, does not lose his supreme power, but can continue to exercise it in defiance of the Legislature until the end of his term of office. He is irremovable, except by the process of impeachment; and several Presidents have so governed in spite of the opposition of the National Legislature. The responsible ministers of the President are excluded from Congress. No vote of censure or want of confidence necessarily removes them. The President can retain, and has retained, an administration adverse to the will of the people until the expiration of his term of office. The Legislative power can pass laws over his veto, which he is bound to execute; but he can execute them under the advice and with the assistance of an administration which, however unpopular, is irremovable by legal and constitutional means. In this respect his office is an autocracy; he can select an obnoxious minister and retain him; and, if the page 16 President be obstinate, no parliamentary censure can effect such minister's dismissal.
In England the expression of the popular will at a public meeting has annihilated the Queen's administration; in America no such result can happen.
The exclusion of the responsible advisers of the Executive from Congress, where they would be subject to immediate Parliamentary action and control, has been deemed by many statesmen a great defect in their constitution, and in that which was framed by the Southern States at the commencement of their secession, called the "Montgomery Constitution," from the place where the Convention assembled, the ministers, ex officio, were to have seats in the National Legislature. The powers of the President in administering the Government are limited, and subject to the control of, and ratification by, the Senate in many important particulars.
He can make no treaty with foreign nations but with the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senate, the Senate, as will be seen presently, representing all the States of the Union. The power of appointment to offices, one of the most important and delicate in a republican government, and one which has been watched in the Constitution with great vigilance, is not confided to the President alone : the action and consent of the Senate is required.
The patronage of the President is now enormous, and has become a dominant feature in the operation of the national Government. The subordinate officers in the Post Office and Customs departments alone, all derive their appointments directly or indirectly from the President, and continue in office only during his pleasure. Most of them, in fact, give place to new incumbents upon every change of administration; and consequently, the influence of the executive, through the number of places at its disposal, has become so excessive, as to imperil both the moral character and the stability of the republic.page 17
In the public press the President is charged almost daily with nepotism and the corrupt exercise of his vast irresponsible power.
In all important executive acts, I may say that he is directly or indirectly subject to the control of the Legislature. He cannot prevent any law being passed; nor can he evade the obligation of enforcing its execution.
No law can be passed in England without the express assent of the Crown; but a veto by the Crown of any law passed by the Legislature is almost without precedent in modern times. In America it frequently occurs, that a law is passed over the President's veto.
In the exercise of his political power, the President uses his own discretion, and is accountable only to his country and his conscience. His decision in relation to the powers intrusted to him when exercised is conclusive.
Such is a sketch, and a mere sketch, of the Executive power of the United States.
The Legislative department of the United States, consists of the Senate, and the House of Representatives.
The Federal Constitution as well as the State Constitutions divide the Legislative body into two branches. Both these houses originate from the choice of the people; but the conditions of eligibility and the mode of election are not identical.
The necessity of a Senate was indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and of their liability to be seduced by faction into intemperate legislation. It was thought that a Senate duly constituted would operate as a salutary check upon the Representatives; and history was appealed to for the precedent, that no republic lived long which had not an Upper House.
The experiment of establishing a single House of Assembly was attempted in Pennsylvania; and Franklin, the great page 18 advocate of the sovereignty of the people, concurred in the attempt. After a brief trial, however, the law was changed, and two Houses were created. Thus the principle of the division of the Legislative power was finally established, and its necessity may be regarded as an axiom in the science of Republican Government.
The Senate is chosen by the Legislature of each State. Each State being entitled to two Senators; so that every State of the Union, large or small, has the same electoral power in the Constitution of the Senate.
The term of service of the Senators is six years.
The qualifications for a Senator are—he must be 30 years of age, must have been nine years a Citizen of the United States, and must be an inhabitant of the State for which he is elected.
Although the period for which a Senator is elected is six, the Constitution provides for a change of one-third of the members every two years.
The Senate consists of 74 members, the majority of whom by profession are Lawyers; there is one Clergyman, and the rest are Merchants, and gentlemen engaged in Trade and Agriculture.
The names of Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Henry, Seward, have immortalized the Senate, and given it a character for Parliamentary eloquence of the highest order. From its constitution, its tendency is Conservative; and I doubt whether any assembly in the world surpasses it for the experience and deliberative wisdom, brought to bear upon the discussion of political questions.
The functions of the House of Representatives are purely legislative, while the Senate co-operates in the work of legislation. In addition, the latter acts jointly with the President, as the Great Executive Council of the Nation.
The Constitution prescribes "That the Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services page 19 to be ascertained by law and paid out of the Treasury of the United States!" If I remember rightly, the amount of compensation to each Senator and Representative, is now five thousand dollars, or one thousand pounds sterling for each Session.
In contrasting the political power of the Senate with that of the Upper Branch of the English Legislature, it may be remarked that in one important element, viz., that of national taxation, the Senate is invested with more authority than the House of Lords. By the Constitution, all bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments, as in other bills. This clause had its origin in the known rule of the English Parliament, that all money bills should originate in the House of Commons. So jealous are the Commons of this inestimable privilege, that they will not suffer the House of Lords to make any alteration or amendment in a money bill. Two great principles are involved in the rule—one, that all taxes and supplies raised from the people should originate with the representatives of the people; and the other, that the popular branch of the Legislature, acquiring a permanent importance in the Government, should be able to counterpoise the influence of an assembly having hereditary rights and dignity. It was thought by the framers of the American Constitution, that the same reasons did not apply with the same force to a republican form of Government, and as direct taxes are, and must, be apportioned amongst the States according to the ratio of their population, a power to amend such laws was reserved to the Senate, where all the States possess an equal voice. Thus the due influence of all the States is preserved over a matter of such vital importance.
England is governed by an hereditary Sovereign, ruling with limited powers, and bound to summon and consult a Parliament, comprising hereditary Peers and the Representatives of the people.page 20
The necessity for a second Chamber in a system of Parliamentary Government is universally admitted, and such Chamber must not be a mere duplicate of the more popular assembly.
If elective, like the American Senate, it would be chosen by a more limited class of voters than that which elects the House of Commons; and it is a question whether an Upper House so elected in England would not be more oligarchical and more obstructive to rational reforms than the present House of Lords can constitutionally be.
The House of Lords is subject to more constitutional checks by popular influences than the American Senate. Upon the advice of the responsible ministers of the Crown, the prerogative of creating new Peers, is one effective controlling power. Oxford and Bolingbroke created twelve in a single day; and, "if that will not do," said they, "we will give them another dozen."
During the last forty years, one hundred and seventy-six Peers have been created, the Upper House being thus recruited from the ranks of the Commons of England.
Although the Senate of the United States has seldom arrayed itself in opposition to the passing of measures demanded by the popular will, it has the constitutional power to do so for the term of its existence; and no influence or control emanating directly from the people can enforce concession.
On the contrary, the House of Lords in the conflicts which have arisen between their order and the people represented by the Lower House, have invariably upon great questions, when the will of the people has been unmistakably declared, given way.
The constitutional mode of dealing with a refractory House of Commons is by a Dissolution.
There are two modes in the English system of representative government of securing the co-operation of the upper page 21 branch of the Legislature with measures upon which the national will has been expressed, and which have been passed by the House of Commons. One is by the creation of new peers, to which I have before alluded; and the other by a Dissolution of the Parliament, and appealing to the country upon the question in conflict between the two Houses.
These conflicts, at different epochs in our history, are replete with dramatic situations and details; and to the threats of a final appeal to the people the boldest champions of the peerage have felt that they had no alternative but to concede. In the year 1700 a memorable struggle occurred, when a Bill was introduced in the Commons for annulling the royal grants of forfeited property, and was sent up to the Lords coupled with a money Bill. The Lords passed amendments; the Commons rejected them; the Lords passed them a second time; they were again rejected by the Commons; and the Bill was sent back with a threatening intimation that it must pass. The hero of Blenheim counselled concession. Better pass a bad bill than provoke a revolution or civil war.
This is substantially the same argument by which the victor of Waterloo persuaded the Lords to pass the Reform Bill; and when the Bill for the abolition of the Corn Laws was sent from the Commons, and was awaiting the decision of the Lords, he told a protectionist peer, "You cannot have so bad an opinion of the Bill as I have; but it was recommended from the Throne; it was passed in the Commons by a large majority; and we must all vote for it—the Queen's Government must be supported."
The Commons had been less ceremonious in dealing with Bills which the Lords had sent to them for their consideration. In 1772 Burke complained to the House that he had been kept waiting three hours at the door of the Lords with a Bill sent up from the Commons; their indignation was roused, and waiting their opportunity, the next Bill sent to them was rejected unanimously. Not content, moreover, with this legislative page 22 triumph, the Speaker threw the Bill from his chair upon the floor, and a large number of the members rushed forward and kicked it through the door of the House.
The influence of the popular will upon our Upper Hereditary Chamber has a tendency to increase, from the vast political power now placed, and justly placed, in the hands of the people. In a very recent debate, when a vote of censure upon the Administration was proposed in the House of Lords, the Lord Chancellor intimated that such a vote might be neutralized by the House of Commons—"But, my Lords, I tell you plainly I will hold my ground, I will not quail; at all events, until the House of Commons shall censure me for what I have done."
A vote by the House of Lords of censure or want of confidence in the Queen's Administration, could be neutralized by a vote of approval and confidence by the House of Commons. The people, by their representatives, can thus check, if not absolutely control by constitutional means, the political power of the Hereditary Chamber.
It may be that the authority of the Hereditary Assembly will decline before the increasing importance and power of the House of Commons; but there can exist no fear that the popular influence upon the House of Lords will be diminished.
The second branch of the American Legislature—the House of Representatives—is elected by the direct vote of the people.
The principle of the independence of the States triumphed in the formation of the Senate, and that of the sovereignty of the nation in the composition of the House of Representatives.
The qualifications of the electors in the first instance varied in the different States. The Constitution prescribes that the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature. The peculiar wishes of each State in the formation of its own popular branch were thus consulted.page 23
In some of the States only freeholders were entitled to vote; in others only freemen; in others a property qualification was required; in others the payment of taxes; and in some of the States the right of suffrage was almost universal.
These qualifications have from time to time been altered and modified by the different States, and the qualification for an elector of a Representative to Congress is now merely residential.
Most of the States have a law of registration, requiring that the Elector must register his name and place of residence, so many days or weeks before the Election.
No period of occupation is prescribed; no payment of rates or assessments is required; and no amount of rental is necessary to constitute the qualification.
In the State of Massachussetts, an educational test is applied.
The votes are taken by ballot.
The number of representatives of each State is proportioned to its population.
The Constitution declares that the number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand of the population of each State; and each State is to have, at the least, one representative in Congress.
In order to carry into effect this principle of apportionment, it was necessary that some provision should be made for ascertaining at stated times, the population of each State. Unless this was done, it is obvious that as the growth of the different States would be in very unequal proportions, the representation would soon be marked by corresponding inequality. For instance, the State of Delaware sent one member to the first Congress, and sends no more now, while the State of New York, which then sent six representatives, now sends thirty-two.
A new enumeration of the inhabitants of all the States is taken every ten years, which is called the decennial census.
The Constitution decided that there should not be more page 24 than one representative for every 30,000 persons; but no minimum was fixed upon. An Act passed by Congress in 1852, fixes the proportion of representatives for each State, at one for 93,423 of the population, and made the House then consist of two hundred and thirty-four members.
The recent Congressional apportionment, based upon the last census, fixes the present number of representatives at two hundred and eighty-three.
The voting population of the United States, tested by the votes for the Presidential Election of 1868, is about 5,716,788.
It may be stated as an historical fact, that in every apportionment hitherto made of representatives, whatever has been the number of inhabitants assumed as the ratio to govern the number of representatives—whether thirty thousand or any higher number—there has always been a fraction in each State less than that number, and therefore an unrepresented fraction. In some of the States this number has been small; in others very large; and in others intermediate numbers, varying from each other: so that, in fact, there never has been any representation of each State apportioned in exact proportion to its numbers as the Constitution requires. The rule adopted has been, to assume a particular number of inhabitants as the ratio to give a single representative, and to give to each State as many representatives as its population contained of that ratio or particular number, and to disregard all fractions below that ratio.
The term for which the representatives are elected is two years; and the only qualifications required are—to have attained the age of twenty-five years; to have been seven years a citizen of the United States; and to be an inhabitant of the State for which he is elected.
The period of election of members to the State Legislatures is one year; but the relative duties of a member of a State Legislature and those of a member of Congress differ essentially.page 25
In a single State the habits, manners, institutions, and laws are uniform, and all the citizens are more or less conversant with them. But in the legislation of a national Parliament, large and enlightened views, comprehensive information, and a great attention to the local interests, products, and employments of all the States of the Union, are absolutely indispensable qualifications for a member of Congress.
Continual fluctuations in the public councils, and perpetual changes of the members, would be most unfavourable to the acquirement of sufficient knowledge for the public welfare.
Upon a vacancy occurring in the representation of any State, the executive of that State has the right of issuing the writ of election to fill such vacancy. There existed a jealousy in confiding this power to the National Government, and it was thought that the State which thus became unrepresented, would have stronger motives to act promptly in such an emergency than the Government.
Adopting the practice of the English Parliament, the Speaker is elected by the House upon their assembling after a new election; but no approval of their choice is required by the President as is necessary by the Crown in England.
Following the same precedent, the power of impeachment is confided by the Constitution solely to the House of Representatives, and the right to try such impeachments is vested in the Senate.
I have observed that the influence of the popular will is not so immediate or direct in its action upon the American Senate, as it is upon the upper branch of our Legislature, and the same observation will to some extent apply to the House of Representatives. They represent, of course, the national will as signified by their election; but upon great questions arising during their period of office, and in the event of their opposition to popular measures, there is no power of dissolution of their assembly, nor any appeal to the people.page 26
The influence of the House of Representatives upon the Government and its policy has comparatively little effect. A vote of want of confidence in the President or his administration has been upon some occasions attempted, but has invariably failed to produce any result. They have the constitutional power of stopping the supplies, and thus paralysing the machinery of the Government, but this has never been yet resorted to. They can embarrass the Government, but they cannot enforce by constitutional means a change of policy.
Some statesmen have not hesitated to express an opinion that the object of those who framed the Constitution was to subject the popular will to limits and restraints, and that a feeling of distrust of popular power influenced those who assumed the formation of the National Government.
A Parliamentary majority in the House of Representatives is not essential to the administration in carrying on the Government, as in England; and hence it follows, that debates in the Legislature upon great questions of national policy, involving the fate of ministries, seldom or never take place.
In America, the absence of popular interest in the debates of Congress is observable; they are published in the newspapers in a condensed form, and comparatively but little read.
Every State having its own Legislature, and the people being more immediately interested in what concerns their individual and material interests, their local taxation, and their domestic institutions, their attention is more absorbed by such questions; and the proceedings of the national Legislature assume in their consideration secondary importance.
The constituences, divided into congressional districts, are large, and by the apportionment of representatives to the population, to which I have before alluded, are nearly equal in numbers.page 27
The legitimate expenses of the election, the machinery of the ballot, the scrutiny of the votes, the voting departments, the cost of the officers employed in taking the votes and publishing the returns, are borne by the electoral districts, and do not fall upon the candidates. Large sums are, however, spent by candidates in many instances; and an election for Congress in New York has cost an aspirant five thousand pounds.
Having alluded to the Executive and Legislative departments of the Government of the United States, I must not omit to mention the remaining co-ordinate department established by the Constitution, which is termed The Judiciary, and it is thus created: "The Judicial Tower of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."
The judicial organization of the United States is an institution which a stranger has the greatest difficulty in understanding.
The Constitution being a written Constitution, a law which violates any one of its provisions is void; and it was therefore necessary to create a judicial department to ascertain and decide all questions which might arise upon this important subject.
In England the Judges cannot be invested with the right of resisting the decisions of the legislature; because the Parliament which makes the Laws, also makes the constitution; and consequently a law emanating from the three estates of the realm cannot in any case be unconstitutional. But this is not so in America. The Constitution of the United States represents the will of the whole people—it is the organic law—a compact between the people and the Government; it controls the legislator as much as the private citizen; and the tribunals must obey the Constitution and its provisions in preference to any other law. Those who framed the Constitution, having these page 28 principles in view, unanimously adopted two fundamental propositions: first, the establishment of the National Judiciary; and secondly, that it should possess powers co-extensive with those of the legislative department.
The judicial department is deemed to be by far the most important of all the branches of the public service. With no legislative power or partisan influence, its sphere is confined to the execution of the weighty trusts devolved upon it by the government on the one side and the people on the other. It is an umpire with the power to enforce existing laws.
The Supreme Court of the United States is a tribunal with exclusive power to determine, not merely the rights of litigant parties in a suit, but the constitutionality of all federal laws which shall be brought before it for enforcement. In this respect the "Judicial Power," as it is denominated, is intrusted with the very highest political functions. It is as much its duty to interdict the enforcement of illegal acts, as to execute those which are legal.
The Government of the United States assigns to different departments their respective powers. Those of the legislature are defined and limited, and that those limits should not be transcended the Constitution is written. That compact forms the fundamental and paramount law of the nation; and consequently, the theory of every such government must be, that an act of the legislature repugnant to such Constitution is void.
Specific trusts are confided to the Judiciary, viz.: To decide upon all cases arising under the Constitution; on cases affecting ambassadors and other public ministers; on cases of admiralty jurisdiction; on all controversies to which the Government is party; on controversies between states; on controversies between a State and the citizen of another, and between citizens of different States; and between a State and citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, and subjects. The questions under these different sections, which have page 29 arisen and are constantly arising, can be readily surmised; and it is due to that great tribunal to say, that it is administered by men of profound learning and incorruptible integrity, and that its decisions have commanded universal confidence and respect.
The Judges of the Federal Courts are not, like many of the State Judges, elected by the people, but are appointed by the President, and hold their office during good behaviour. They are thus placed above popular influence. To secure the independence of the Judicial tribunal, permanency of office is essential; and the experience of England affords an illustrious comment on the excellence of the institution.
The Constitution of America was confessedly a new experiment in the history of nations. A government which has no prescribed mode of adaptation to suit the necessities and interests of the people will degenerate into a despotism, or become utterly effete and useless. In a republic especially, peaceable and constitutional means should be provided for altering and improving the structure, as time and experience may show to be necessary for the public safety and the happiness of the people. While the Constitution provided for such changes, it was important that they should not be too frequent nor too easily made. A government constantly changing and changeable is in a perpetual state of internal agitation, and incapable of steady and permanent operations. It has a constant tendency to confusion and anarchy.
The Constitution has provided for amendments being made; the mode is easy, and secures due deliberation and caution. Congress, or a convention of the States, may propose amendments. But, in any amendment proposed by Congress, two-thirds of both Houses must concur; and no convention to amend can be assembled, except upon the application of two-thirds of all the States. When amendments are proposed in either way, the assent of three-fourths of all the States is necessary to their ratification.page 30
Various amendments have from time to time been made, and pre-eminently those since the War of Secession, which, as a natural sequence of that great conflict, secure equal liberty, social and political, to the emancipated coloured population.
The attempted secession of the Southern States from the great compact, subjected the Constitution to a severe trial. Fanatical discussion, sectional jealousies, and local ambition culminated at length in the delirium of Secession. It was not, as was said by many of the statesmen and politicians of Europe, that representative democracy was involved in the contest, but the federal principle; and the real issue was whether the bond was strong enough to hold indissolubly together a confederacy so populous and extensive, of such diverse interests and pursuits, as to form in the aggregate, one of the largest and most powerful empires that the world has known.
The Rebellion—which checked the material prosperity of the nation, caused the expenditure of millions of treasure and an enormous and unprecedented sacrifice of life—has served to demonstrate and triumphantly assert the vast power and resources, and the resistless authority of the government of America. The Constitution has been vindicated and the States are again in union.
The Constitution of England, unlike that of America, is unwritten. It consists of the whole body of the public law, consuetudinary as well as statutory, which has grown up during the course of ages, and is continually being modified by the action of the general will as interpreted and expressed by the parliamentary representatives of the nation. It is not to be found upon a sheet of parchment, nor can it be produced in full written form, but is evolved from our history, our laws and institutions based upon certain fundamental political rules to be traced from the earliest periods of our nationality to the present hour; expanding and adapting themselves to the progress of society and civilization; advancing and page 31 varying in development, but still essentially the same in substance and in spirit. It has had a slow but sure and healthy growth. Unlike the government of America, which consists of a simple compact of so many independent states created by a body of representatives, the constitution of England has been the laborious and patient work of centuries, its progress evolving principles of freedom achieved by argument and by arms.
It is a feature in England's history that the people have never taken a step backwards. Often checked in their onward course, slow to secure obvious rights of person and property, obstructed for the time by power and ambition, they have through every trial vindicated their grand purpose of establishing a free system of laws and of making them supreme at all times and in every exigency. This is the distinguishing feature of all free government.
It must be admitted that the political institutions of America have secured to her citizens a perfect system of civil and religious liberty, and that she has achieved a material prosperity unparallelled in the history of nations. The Americans asserted, and with truth asserted, that their Government was cheaply administered, and that being free from a national debt of any considerable proportions, their taxation was comparatively light, and the national and state burdens upon the people small in comparison with European Governments. But this cannot now be maintained.
With the immense debt created for the suppression of the Rebellion, by the system of protective tariffs, and by the enormous corruption and frauds which taint the administration of the National, State, and Municipal Governments, I believe that the citizen of the United States is now subject to more taxation and pecuniary burdens than the inhabitant of any other nation.
In 1870, the revenue of the United States from the national taxation, amounted to £78,000,966 sterling; while, in the page 32 same year, the English revenue from the same source was £78,000,960, a striking financial coincidence.
The local taxation of England is estimated at about £25,000,000; the local taxation of the different States cannot be estimated with the same accuracy, but cannot be less than the same amount.
The Federal Government tax the income derived from real property; the State tax the real property which produces the income.
But the system of profligacy and corruption which now exists in America, and which becomes a charge upon, and an exaction from the people, cannot be estimated. I prefer to cite the opinions of statesmen and journalists upon a gangrene, which is corrupting the Great Republic to its very heart, than to rely upon my own personal observation.
There is no country in the world where such huge and irresponsible monopolies are tolerated. They control the State legislatures by a profligate distribution of money, and obtain grants of lands from the National legislature by the same, or other equally questionable inducements.
I quote from a leading New York journal:—"How the enormous land grants to Corporations are obtained from Congress is well known. A dozen capitalists combine; they establish their agents in the lobbies of the Capitol; they buy up members of Congress with promises of stock, or land, or money outright. The job is rushed through both Houses; inducements are brought to bear on the Executive, or its friends, and the Bill is signed. The conspirators become millionaires, and the people are plundered of millions."
To render this system intelligible it should be known that the United States possess a public domain of billions of acres, larger in its area than the whole of Europe, which should be reserved for future States, for emigrants, and other national purposes. The land is by corrupt means obtained by these Companies, not to use it them- page 33 selves in the construction of their works, but to make a profit out of it by sale.
One grant of fifty-eight millions of acres was made recently to a Company, not for building a railroad for the Government or the people, but which railroad they own absolutely, as they do the land itself, and for which the people must pay as much as though they had given nothing for its construction. The directors have estimated their grant to be worth ten dollars per acre, on the completion of the road; or, in the aggregate, five hundred and eighty millions of dollars—a sum more than a fourth of the National Debt.
In the Senate, in March last, Mr. Trumbull—one of the ablest statesmen in America—charged the Federal Government with the prostitution of its influence for money; that this money was notoriously paid for the "packing" of political conventions, and the carrying of elections by "ballot stuffing." He distinctly charged that the patronage of the country was used for partisan purposes; and he warned the Legislature that, unless purity in the administration could be secured, the Republic would go down in a despotism worse than that of Constantinople.
In the New York Herald, of February last, allusion is thus made to the prevailing political corruption:—
"At no time, perhaps, in the history of the American people has the plague of low politicians been more mischievous than at the present period. Every community, from Maine to California, suffers from it in a greater or lesser degree, but none of them to a greater extent than the City of New York.
"In our own country we have not been without other and more grievous sufferings. We have been tried by civil war, pestilence, and fire; but from these, as from all other scourges that afflict humanity, recovery is possible and recuperation easy. But this plague of politics poisons the whole body politic, and if no remedy can be found and page 34 applied, it will as certainly bring decay and death to our entire fabric of government as the most virulent poison will to the human system. This is no imaginary danger; it is a real one. Already we find every department of government polluted and rotten. We find our grand and beautiful city a byword and a reproach among men, a prey to all the thieves and rascals who, under the deadly banner of party politics, invade our public places, plunder our treasury, fill our seats of justice with their partisans, turn over our schools to the control of the low, the ignorant, and the vicious, and, in a word, destroy everything that is most dear and necessary to civilized society. And as in the city, so in the State, where the legislative body has fallen so low in public opinion, has become so tainted with vileness and corruption that no decent citizen ever thinks or need think of entering it. Ascending from State to nation we find the same evil existing; and if not to so marked an extent it is only because the poison is slower in its operation upon the larger and stronger than upon the smaller and weaker organism. But even Congress itself is becoming deeply tainted with the national vice."
In the same month, a newspaper supporting the President and his administration, writes:—
"The fact of very general corruption in our politics has been long alleged. That elections are carried by fraud, that the whole civil service is a vast system of virtual bribery, that politics has become a profitable trade, and that places in the Legislature and elsewhere are sought for the money to be made out of them, are assertions by men of both parties with which we have all been long familiar.
"The corruption now exposed in the city of New York is not, of course, confined to that city. It is known elsewhere, even if not upon so large a scale, nor so distinctly revealed. Its object is the security of party ascendency. Now it is a very grave question for the consideration of every American, page 35 citizen who can lift himself above the mere partisan view, how long our system is safe and our peace assured, when, every four years, this corruption is invited to struggle for the possession of a hundred thousand offices, and the raising and spending of three or four hundred millions of dollars."
Politics in America have become a trade, and not an aspiration. The highest earthly desire of the ripened mind—the desire of taking an active share in the great work of Government—is not, as a general rule, the motive which prompts the aspirant for office and positions of honour. Elections are costly; the tenure of the seat is short; men of inferior position are elected; and the temptation to make money by unfair means is irresistible.
Let me take, as an instance, the election for President, to take place in November next.
The amount expended in a Presidential contest, it is not an exaggeration to say, will be upon each side twenty-five millions of dollars at the least. Hired orators, public meetings on a large and expensive scale, committee rooms engaged for many months before the event, printing, and all the adjuncts of a great and exciting conflict over an enormous area, necessitate lavish expenditure. This sum is paid, not from the private resources of the candidate, but from a contribution levied upon all who hold office under the Government, in the custom houses, treasury department, and other public establishments of the nation.
What other result can be anticipated, than that the holders of offices thus taxed for political and partisan purposes, in many instances far beyond their means, should during the brief occupation of such offices enrich themselves from every opportunity that occurs, and reimburse their involuntary expenditure by frauds and exactions upon the people?
It is a growing scandal, seen, known, and deplored, by honest and upright statesmen and politicians in America; and they do not hesitate in public and in private to say, page 36 that public opinion is powerless to correct or arrest the evil.
Some of the State legislatures are notoriously venal; many of the municipal governments proverbially corruptible; and there the administration of justice is poisoned at its very source. In many of the tribunals confidence in the purity of justice is utterly lost; and judges are denounced in the journals of the day as holding their hands for pecuniary bribes, and rendering decisions, influenced by motives as degrading and corrupt.
It was with great difficulty that I could convince a United States Senator, who was sitting with me a few evenings since under the gallery of the House of Commons, that the process of "lobbying" was not carried on amongst the members of that House.
"Look," said he, "at the people who catch hold of a member they have called out, take him into a corner, and surround him and talk to him. We know what that means at Washington." "The lobbyists, whose profession it is to secure the interest and votes of Congress-men, know the price of every man, and whether they can approach him directly, or through the more circuitous route of indirect influence." I described, as circumstantially and as graphically as I could, that the congeries of gentlemen who had enclosed a metropolitan member, and adhered to him like flies round an empty barrel of molasses, were a deputation of licensed victuallers, who had an interest in a bill affecting their trade to be discussed that evening in the House; that, as their representative, he was hearing their wishes, and preparing himself to advocate them in the forthcoming debate; but I doubt whether at this moment the Senator is very clear in his mind that all this importunity and suasion was entirely free from more direct and questionable influence. "It may be so," said he.; "but if it is, it aint like Congress, that's all."
In as brief a space as it were possible, I have page 37 endeavoured to explain the great political scheme, with its chief component parts, which the fathers of the great American Republic took such patient and conscientious pains to found and consolidate. I have shewn that of all the philosophical students of history, those illustrious men were the least likely to be carried away by a literary enthusiasm which would see no imperfections in the Greek and Roman Commonwealths, renowned as these latter were in arms and arts, in poetry, in oratory, in philosophy; notwithstanding that they were the fountains of thought from which succeeding ages derived their chief notions of patriotism and honour. The greatest of American statesmen did not shut their eyes to the fact that, whether in carrying out their projects of territorial ambition, or advancing their commercial enterprises, the Greek and Roman republics were as reckless of the jus gentium and the rights of foreign powers, as cruel devastators of humanity, as prone to war, and on too many occasions, as guilty of domestic oppression, as the most despotic monarchies that ever preceded or came after them.
The venality and selfishness of those ancient republics were not lost sight of by the writers in the Federalist; and, indeed, under what form soever of government men live, they should never be forgotten.
The victories of Marathon and Salamis, with all their rich memories of patriotism and renown, had no power to arrest the corruption and degeneracy which rendered the various Grecian communities, too long weakened by mutual jealousies and internecine strife, an easy prey to the astute Macedonian conqueror, who said that he could take the strongest city of them all, by sending into it an ass laden with a couple of panniers of gold.
The corruption and degeneracy of the descendants of the great Romans, who fought Hannibal for upwards of fifteen years, and conquered him at last, became so notorious about page 38 a century afterwards, and so well tested by another great African chief, Jugurtha, that he designated Rome on leaving it "a venal city, ripe for destruction, whenever it could find a purchaser." "About this time," writes Sallust, in his account of the Jugurthine War, one of the most beautiful historical works that has been preserved to us from antiquity, "the Roman Republic was atrociously agitated by the contentions of the tribunician factions." The heads of these factions were the pre-eminent guardians of the popular liberties; they were the gentlemen called the "Tribunes of the People!"
I have pointed out how the wise founders of the American Democracy selected the little Lycian Republic, as a better model than either of its more powerful and vaunted predecessors whereon to form their new commonwealth. I have told you how that admirably conceived, and originally well ordered political community, by falling into the same habits of selfishness, jealousy', and corruption, was blotted out from the list of independent nations, and absorbed by imperial despotism.
And in detailing to you the history of the rise, progress, and institutions of the greatest of ancient or modern republics, the mighty Republic of the West, I have not omitted, for the cause of truth and liberty, to point out also its imperfections. I have not shrunk from exposing the wide-spread corruption which has begun to sap and undermine the foundations of the magnificent structure—a corruption which has progressed more rapidly than in the cases of Greece and Rome, that is to say, within the first century of the existence of the American Republic—and which, if allowed to go on for another generation, will and must be the cause of its destruction. In doing this, I have incidentally glanced at our own English political institutions, which, instead of being in their leading and more important features, detrimental, I consider more conducive to democratic rights and liberties than their congeners or those page 39 political institutions of America which were professedly modelled upon them.
May the recuperative power which most unquestionably exists in the American Republic, the roused indignation, the proud sense of injured right and honour which is beginning to show itself amongst the higher and more cultivated classes of its citizens, come before long to the rescue And may we not hopefully expect, when that class of minds begins to think seriously, and that class of men to speak out unmistakably on this subject of national disgrace and dishonour, that the day of regeneration is not far distant?
I have not made the political institutions of England the subject of unmitigated praise, nor, whilst contrasting them in some of their leading features with those of America, described them as perfect. On the contrary, many of them are capable of improvement, some of them of very great improvement. But the reform of their imperfections will come in due time, like many which have been the disgrace of our political system before them, and which have been, with the increasing intelligence of the English mind, the aid of the independent English press, and the calm determination of the English people, gradually swept away. The spirit of reform is still abroad, and will do its good work in its own good time.
Of our English Constitution, this time-tested and time-honoured Constitutional Monarchy, we may well be proud. We have every reason to stand by and maintain it against all who would seek to lower its character and destroy it in favour of a republican system with an elective president and a concomitant magistracy, forgetting that our own political system after all is a republic with an hereditary presidency, and a magistracy holding its offices and performing its functions during good behaviour, fearless of popular intimidation, regardless of party intrigue, and independent of the Crown.
I would address myself more particularly in the remarks page 40 which I have made to the section of our advanced liberal party in England which, however well-meaning its leaders may be, has recently raised a half-unfurled un-English looking banner, and commenced, what I cannot help calling a weak and unreasoning opposition to our English Constitutional Monarchy. They will be warned, I trust, by the widespread political demoralisation which has set in amongst the descendants of the wise and high-minded men who founded the great Transatlantic Republic. They will be warned also by the sad and frightful state of things which took place but recently in a neighbouring country, and amongst one of the most enlightened, accomplished, and, even amidst its most terrible misfortunes, one of the most powerful people in the world. These are your real enemies of democratic liberty whose hydra-headed intolerance and unmitigated selfishness lead to the anarchy which ends in military despotism; and equally guilty are they, whether they pollute the fountain sources of liberty with the impurities of a hideous political corruption, or stain those sacred waters with human blood.
Abuses and extravagance, the prurient excrescences of Monarchy, have doubtless clustered around the English Throne. I have seen the giant oak on the banks of the Missouri, its vast limbs paralyzed, its growth encumbered, and its vitality destroyed by the climbing parasites which the too fertile earth has encouraged to surround it; but this is no argument for destroying the majestic grandeur of the tree. Tear away with unsparing hand the growth that defaces and obscures it, and it will flourish with renewed vigour for centuries. The man is a demagogue and not a statesman who seeks to delude the people into the belief that the institutions of America, if transplanted, would flourish upon English soil; he deceives them if he tells them that they would enjoy a greater degree of political liberty and a cheaper system of government under such institutions than page 41 under his own; he is ignorant of the political power confided to the people, if he tells them that they have not the means in their own hands to correct the abuses, the extravagance, and the cost of which he complains.
Some public writers draw conclusions concerning matters of government from the operation of certain systems of administration which have been found to work admirably in specified countries, without taking any account of the traditional habits of the people, their intelligence, or the character of their religious opinions. It took many centuries, involving vast sacrifices of person and property, to perfect the present Constitution of England, while that of the United States was comparatively the work of a few days. The foundations of the English Government were laid in absolutism, upon which has been raised a superstructure of freedom.
The most humble and illiterate man, although he may not be able to recount the battles that have been fought and the blood that has been shed in asserting and achieving the civil liberty he now enjoys; though he may not have a defined notion of the vindication that liberty received at Runnymede, at Lewes, and at Naseby; though he may never have heard the names of Simon de Montfort, of Hampden, or of Sydney, yet knows and feels that the blessings of freedom, which are his own, have been the work of centuries of struggle on the part of those who have bequeathed the priceless legacy to him and to his children.
An American of culture and sagacity will tell you that he has more reason to fear the tyranny of the majority under his form of government, than we have to dread any encroachment upon our liberties from the undue exercise of the prerogative of the Crown; and if any change in their form of government were desired, I believe that there are more well informed and thoughtful American statesmen who would advocate the adoption of a Constitutional Monarchy, than there are men, of the same class and character, in England, who would vote page 42 for a republican form of government in lieu of those institutions which we have inherited and under which we live.
The Queen of England bears a charmed name. Her domestic virtues, her mild constitutional rule, her world-wide philanthropy have secured for her, not merely the cold respect, but the deep admiration of millions of citizens of the United States. At the rude gatherings in the Far West, amongst the settlers and emigrants of all nations, I have never heard that name received but with demonstrations of regard; and in the more numerous assemblages of the great cities, where demonstrations of agitation and political bitterness against the Government of England were loud and violent, I have proposed her name amid the angry elements, and a deepfelt and cordial response was ever the result.
"Paribus se legibus ambæ
"Invictæ, gentes æterna in fœdera mittant!"