« ZurückWeiter »
go-betweens. These go-betweens influence the per
sons with whom they carry on the intercourse, by who stating their own sense to each of them as the sense
of the other; and thus they reciprocally master both sides. It is first buzzed about the ears of leaders, " that their friends without doors are very eager for
some measure, or very warın about some opinion“ that you must not be too rigid with them. They are useful
and zealous in the cause. “ They may be a little wrong ; but the spirit of li“ berty must not be damped ; and by the influence
you obtain from some degree of concurrence with “ them at present, you may be enabled to set them “ right hereafter.'
Thus the leaders are at first drawn to a connivance with sentiments and proceedings, often totally different from their serious and deliberate notions. But their acquiescence answers every purpose.
With no better than such powers, the go-betweens assume a new representative character. What at best was but an acquiescence, is magnified into an authority, and thence into a desire on the part of the leaders; and it is carried down as such to the subordinate members of parties. By this artifice they in their turn are led into measures which at first, perhaps, few of them wished at all, or at least did not desire vehemently or systematically.
FEAR OF GOD.
It were endless to enumerate all the passages, both in the sacred and profane writers, which establish the general sentiment of mankind, concerning the inseparable union of a sacred and reverential awe, with our ideas of the divinity. Hence the common maxim, Primus in orbe deos fecit timor. This maxini may be, as I believe it is, false with regard to the origin of religion. The maker of the maxim saw how inseparable these ideas were, without considering that the notion of some great power must be always precedent to our dread of it. But this dread must necessarily followthe idea of such a power, when it is once excited in the mind. It is on this principle that true religion has, and must have, so large a mixture of salutary fear; and that false religions have generally nothing else but fear to support them. Before the christian religion had, as it were, humanized the idea of the Divinity, and brought it somewhat nearer to us, there was very little said of the love of God. The followers of Plato have something of it, and only something; the other writers of pagan antiquity, whether poets or philosophers, nothing at all. And they who consider with what infinite attention, by what a disregard of every perishable object, through what long habits of piety and contemplation it is, any man is able to attain an entire love and devotion to the Deity, will easily perceive, that it is not the first, the most natural, and the most striking effect which proceeds from that idea.
GOVERNORS. PLANS AND FORMS OF
GOVERNMENT, &c. It is one of the finest problems in legislation, and what has often engaged ny thoughts whilst I followed that profession, “ What the state ought to take upon “ itself to direct by the public wisdom, and what it “ ought to leave, with as little interference as possible, “ to individual discretion.” Nothing, certainly, can be laid down on the subject that will not admit of exceptions, many permanent, some occasional. But the clearest line of distinction which I could draw, whilst I had my chalk to draw any line, was this ; that the state ought to confine itself to what regards
the state, or the creatures of the state, namely, the exterior establishment of its religion; its magistracy; its revenue ; its military force by sea and land ; the corporations that owe their existence to its fiat ; in a word, to every thing that is truly and properly public, to the public peace, to the public safety, to the public order, to the public prosperity. In its preventive police it ought to be sparing of its efforts, and to employ means, rather few, unfrequent, and strong, than many, and frequent, and, of course, as they multiply their puny politic race, and dwindle, small and feeble. Statesmen who know themselves will, with the dignity which belongs to wisdom, proceed only in this the superior orb and first mover of their duty, steadily, vigilantly, severely, courageously : whatever remains will, in a manner, provide for itself.
But as they descend from the state to a province, from a province to a parish, and from a parish to a private house, they go on accelerated in their fall. They cannot do the lower duty; and, in proportion as they try it, they will certainly fail in the higher. They ought to know the different departments of things; what belongs to laws, and what manners alone can regulate. To these, great politicians may give a leaning, but they cannot give a law.
Our legislature has fallen into this fault as well as other governments; all have fallen into it more or less.
* * * *
My dear departed friend, whose loss is even greater to the public than to me, had often remarked, that the leading vice of the French monarchy (which he had well studied) was in good intention ill-directed, and a restless desire of governing too much. The hand of authority was seen in every thing, and in every place. All, therefore, that happened amiss in the course even of domestic affairs, was attributed to the government; and, as it always happens in this kind of officious universal interference, what began in odious power, ended always, I may say without an exception, in contemptible imbecility.
* * * *
It is in the power of government to prevent much evil ; it can do very little positive good in this, or perhaps in any thing else.
* * * *
As to government, if I might recommend a prudent caution to them,-it would be, to innovate as little as possible, upon speculation, in establishments, from which, as they stand, they experience no material inconvenience to the repose of the country,-quieta
The great use of government is as a restraint ; and there is no restraint which it ought to put upon others, and upon
itself too, rather than on the fury of speculating under circumstances of irritation. The number of idle tales spread about by the industry of faction, and by the zeal of foolish good-intention, and greedily devoured by the malignant credulity of mankind, tends infinitely to aggravate prejudices, which, in themselves, are more than sufficiently strong. In that state of affairs, and of the public with relation to them, the first thing that government owes to us, the people, is information; the next is timely coercion :-the one to guide our judgment; the other to regulate our tempers.
* * * *
I have ever abhorred, since the first dawn of my understanding to this its obscure twilight, all the operations of opinion, fancy, inclination, and will, in the affairs of government, where only a sovereign reason, paramount to all forms of legislation and administration, should dictate. Government is made for the very purpose of opposing that reason to will and to caprice, in the reformers or in the reformed, in the governors or in the governed, in kings, in senates, or in people.
* * * *
If there is any one eminent criterion, which, above all the rest, distinguishes a wise government from an administration weak and improvident, it is this ;“ well to know the best time and manner of yield“ ing what it is impossible to keep.”
* * * *
Government is deeply interested in every thing which, even through the medium of some temporary uneasiness, may tend finally to compose the minds of the subject, and to conciliate their affections. I have nothing to do here with the abstract value of the voice of the people. But as long as reputation, the most precious possession of every individual, and as long as opinion, the great support of the state, depend entirely upon that voice, it can never be considered as a thing of little consequence either to individuals or to government. Nations are not primarily ruled by laws ; less by violence. Whatever original energy may posed either in force or regulation, the operation of both is, in truth, merely instrumental. Nations are governed by the same methods, and on the same principles, by which an individual without authority is often able to govern those who are his equals or his superiors; by a knowledge of their temper, and by a judicious inanagement of it; I mean,—when public affairs are steadily and quietly conducted ; not when government is nothing but a continued scuffle between