The Rights of an American Citizen: With a Commentary on State Rights, and on the Constitution and Policy of the United States by Benjamin Lynde Oliver published 1832
Continued from RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The policy which ought to be pursued by the federal government in relation to manufactures
PART III; OF THE POLICY WHICH OUGHT TO BE PURSUED BY THE GENERAL GOVERNMENT IN RELATION TO AGRICULTURE, MANUFACTURES, AND COMMERCE.
CHAPTER III; Commerce.
On this exhaustless subject, a few passing remarks only will be hazarded. Not because, as some suppose, the principles of science in relation.to it, can be comprehended by merchants only; but because the minute details, which alone require prolonged discussion, are of little consequence to general readers, and yet can only be obtained by a practical acquaintance with trade.
It is somewhat singular, that merchants of long experience and supposed sagacity, who have acquired and amassed great fortunes in youth, sometimes lose their property and fail, at a time of life, when, if ever, the judgment ought to be in its highest perfection. On the other hand, it is not less singular, that some persons of small acquirements and very moderate capacity, sometimes acquire great wealth by commerce in a very few years. The bad result in the former case, and the good one in the latter, however, are sufficient to show, that, in commerce, sagacity and experience, are not absolutely necessary to obtain success, and, what is worse, are not sufficient to insure it. It follows, that no infallible principles are derivable from mercantile experience, which will guaranty invariable prosperity even to the merchant’s private affairs; and much less, to those of the public.
The reason is, that the knowledge acquired by experience, consists only of those facts and details, which are necessary to carry on the particular branch of trade in which the individual happens to be engaged, but which have no general application to the interests of the public. For, the interest of the merchant, and that of the public are two different things, having no necessary connexion, any further than that the wealth of a a merchant is a constituent part of the whole wealth of the community, of which he is a member.
In order to have distinct ideas on this subject, as well as to form a correct opinion how far commerce is advantageous to a country, it will very shortly be considered under the heads of domestic trade, importation, exportation, and the carrying trade. These will be considered as entirely distinct, though it may very well happen, that two or more of these operations, may be performed in any single extensive commercial transaction.
1. Domestic trade is obviously of the highest importance to a community. Without it society could not well continue at all, but men would exist merely as solitary savages, in a state of perfect independence. For, it is almost impossible, that intercourse should be kept up among mankind, without those mutual dealings and contracts, in all of which some principle of exchange and barter, is necessarily more or less involved. If a hatter should barter a hat to a shoemaker for a pair of shoes; if a carpenter should contract, with a farmer to build him a shed, for a certain number of bushels of wheat; or, if two farmers should agree to exchange work, it might be considered as constituting an operation of internal trade, as much as a direct purchase for money.
It is of the utmost consequence to society, that this home trade should be as free from restraint as possible; because it is more convenient, that the citizens should supply each other with the respective products of their labor, than that each individual should undertake to be his own carpenter, batter, blacksmith, &c, and thus vainly attempt to supply his wants by his own personal labor in those various trades. For, in this way, each individual would be able to do but little work, and that would be done badly. But the division and distribution of labor, enable each individual to have an abundance of every kind of work, and well executed. The policy of taxing sales by auction, or of licensing auctioneers, retailers, inn-holders, pedlars, &c., does not come within the scope of this work. On the subject of home trade, therefore, it seems superfluous to enlarge, because, with the above suggested exceptions, it is left in perfect freedom.
2. Foreign trade; exportation, &c. With regard to foreign trade, its value to the country depends entirely upon the comparative value in use, between the articles exported and those imported in return.
In commerce, exportation as well as importation may be either advantageous or disadvantageous to the country.; and consequently in a single exchange of exports for imports, either a double loss, or a double gain may arise to it.
The most disadvantageous trade to a state that can be carried on, is where the exported articles are the necessaries of life, and the imports are not only incapable of supporting life, but tend to destroy it. It is not to be expected, that any country will long continue to increase in population, where a trade of this kind is carried on. If, therefore there should be exported from a country beef, pork, fish and corn, though, at the highest price in money, and that money should immediately be re-invested in brandy, wine, rum, gin, and other things equally incapable of supporting life, and equally injurious to health which should be brought back for home consumption, though at the cheapest rates, such commerce would be the most destructive to the prosperity of a state, that can be conceived. It is true, the merchant might be accumulating immense sums from such a business, and might suppose, from his own prosperity, that he was doing the public a great service; but, it is equally true, that he could not, if he were disposed, do a greater mischief to the public, than to buy up the necessaries of life and ship them abroad, and bring back such articles as have been named and expose them for sale throughout the country. In such a case as this, the merchant, if he grew rich, would fatten on the ruin of his country. For, by buying up the necessaries of life, and paying for them, directly or indirectly, in such commodities, supposing them to be merely useless, though they are in fact pernicious, he renders the production of the necessary articles exported, wholly vain, the labor bestowed on them being thrown away. The delusion which the producer would labor under would be this, that he should get a high price for his produce; but he forgets that it is paid in an article which is worthless in use. If it should be replied, that be can sell it to his neighbor and get a high price for it; still it is obvious the injury to the state is the same, though the loss falls on the thoughtless, and not on the designing and guarded. Any rich and powerful state, that finds its population at a stand, or increasing in too slow a ratio on account of emigration, would do well to look to this. For, in no case whatever, is the prosperity of the merchants, a test of the advantage of trade to the country. But this test will always be found in the consequent prosperity of the producer of exported articles, whether manufacturer or husbandman, &c., and the prosperity of the consumers of the imported ones.
That the prosperity of a merchant, is no test of the advantage of the trade he carries on, to the state, may easily be shown; because, however profitable a trade might be to the state, all the merchants concerned in it may lose money by it and be compelled to abandon it. On the other hand, however ruinous any trade may be to the state, it is very possible that the merchants may grow rich by it. The direct foreign trade, therefore, ought never to be encouraged for the sake of the interest of the merchants, but, for the sake of the public interest, which are two very distinct things. Where they are compatible—where the trade is for the advantage of the public, it should be encouraged; but, where incompatible, and where the trade is pernicious to the public interest, the interests of the state ought not to be sacrificed to favor those of a comparatively small number of persons. The hackneyed expression, laissez nous faire, in this case, would be as absurd as unbecoming; the merchant here is a mere carrier, and not a party in interest, any further than his commissions or profits are concerned. The trade is carried on for the advantage of the community, and not for the sake of giving him an opportunity to make money.
2. Where the merchant exports the surplus manufactures of a country, beyond what is necessary for home consumption, and brings back the necessaries or conveniences of life, he carries on a trade which is highly advantageous to the country. In the first place, he increases the demand for the home manufactures; consequently he enables more persons to support themselves by manufacturing; in this way, he increases population. In the next place, by bringing back the necessaries of life, he increases the supply in the slate, which operates in the same manner as a blessing would do, which should increase the annual produce of the soil; this also would tend to increase the population; for, wherever the necessaries of life are cheap, population will increase. If it should be said, this would discourage agriculture; the answer is, it would not prevent any man from cultivating his farm. On the contrary, as he found produce cheap, he would endeavor to raise more, so as to compensate in quantity for the lowness of the price; its tendency, therefore, would rather be to increase the production of agriculture. But, if the products of agriculture, on account of their abundance, became very low in price, many persons, who otherwise would have engaged in it, will betake themselves to other occupations, as the various trades, or manufactures, or commerce,, which, in consequence of the cheapness of necessary articles, would afford them opportunities of getting a living with very moderate labor. Thus, there would be a permanent increase of population, distributed equally in all the various classes of society, which always soon finds its level in this respect.
For, the high price of manufactures is attributable in part, at least, to the high price of labor; the high price of labor is owing to the high price of the necessaries of life. The high price of the necessaries of life, must necessarily follow extensive purchases of them for exportation and returns made in luxuries, superfluities or foreign goods generally, not being necessaries. If then the necessaries of life are retained, labor will become cheap in comparison with every thing but those necessaries. Consequently manufactures will grow cheaper, and there will be less necessity for protection against the competition of foreigners. Manufacturing companies therefore ought not to despair, even if the tariff should be taken off, as a measure might be suggested, which it is thought would be a palliative far its removal, if not a substitute for its continuance.
But, though such a trade would be highly advantageous to the state, it obviously might or might not, be ruinous to the merchants engaged in it, according to the state of the markets at home and abroad, and their prudence or imprudence in the management of their business. This is another proof, that the prosperity of the merchant, is not the slightest test of the public benefit of the trade, in which he is concerned.
Whence does the merchant derive his wealth in this case? Certainly it consists in the profits, which he receives from the consumer of the goods which he imports. The consumer endeavors to obtain the foreign goods as cheap as possible, the merchant endeavors to obtain for them as high a price as possible. In this particular the interests of the two are incompatible, and either may grow rich at the expense of the other. But, it is the interest of the state, that the surplus over consumption should be exported, and a return made of other articles, of equal utility, and not easily obtained otherwise. In this respect the interests of the merchants, and those of the producers of exports, and the consumers of imports, and consequently, of the whole state, strongly coincide. Commerce is here of the highest importance. It creates a new value. It performs in effect the operation of production. There is no measure of encouragement or protection, that commerce of this kind can reasonably require, that should not immediately be bestowed; and, here there is no danger, that laissez nous fuire, would ever be heard.
But, a duty on the necessaries of life, imported from abroad, is a very great absurdity. For, what can be the object of it? Political partisans perhaps will say, that it is laid for the purpose of protecting national industry from the competition of foreigners. This is done by laying so heavy a duty on foreign production, that it will be wholly excluded from the market, and thus domestic produce will have the whole market secured to itself. But, the consequence will be, that the prices of the necessaries of life, will rise higher than before. The farmers will sell their produce at almost any price they please, unless the competition among them keeps it down. It will gradually, however, come to a level with other kinds of business; because so many will betake themselves to the cultivation of the soil, that they will fully supply the market, if the territory of the state, which can be come at, is sufficient for that purpose.
The farming business, in this case, will .have a great advantage secured to them in this monopoly; but, it will be at the expense of the manufacturers and the rest of society. This is clear; because, if foreign produce were admitted, the domestic produce would conform to it in price. But, if the foreign is excluded, then domestic produce rises to whatever the producers shall agree among themselves to demand. For, the necessaries of life must be had, if possible, from some source or other. And this necessity, if the producers can agree in demanding an exorbitant price, will put the rest of society at their mercy. For, the tendency of such a law is to reduce the rest of society under the control of the producers, in the same manner as the whole nation of the Egyptians were reduced by the policy of Joseph.
It is inexpedient, therefore, to impose any duty on foreign produce of the necessaries of life, because it so far checks an increase of population. Further, if home production is sufficiently abundant, then such an import would be superfluous; because, then the price of foreign produce would not pay for importing. On the other hand, if the price of foreign produce would pay for importing, then the domestic must be proportionally scarce. But true policy requires that the necessaries of life, should be as cheap and abundant as possible.
There is a strange error prevailing in the minds of some politicians, who assume that whatever increases consumption, increases production also, in the same proportion. For, they reason thus, whatever consumes an article in the market, raises the price of it. The increase of price, enables those who produce the article, to get more money for their labor than they can in other productions; they therefore bestow more labor in producing it, and others also .are induced to neglect other business, and to bestow their labor in the same way, and with the same expectations. But, notwithstanding this plausible theory, if the consumption is not for some valuable purpose, the labor of producing what is consumed, is entirely thrown away. The production consequently is of no use whatever. Suppose a state, capable of producing the necessaries of life, for 10,000,000 of people, were unhappily bound by a necessity to export 9-10ths of its whole produce, and receive a return in imports of jewelry, brandy, rum, wine, and other articles not capable of sustaining life, is it not clear that such commerce, though it might enrich the inhabitants with an abundance of expensive and perhaps ornamental articles, would yet so completely check its prosperity, that it could never reach more than one tenth of the population, which it could sustain. Such commerce would therefore be highly ruinous to the state, though the merchants, if they carried it on would grow rich by the profits they made by it. But though such state would thus check its growth and throw away the advantages which nature had given it, by selling its birthright in effect like the ignorant Indians for a string of beads, or a cask of brandy, the foreign producer or manufacturer of such worthless articles, would fatten on the folly or wretchedness of the inhabitants of such state. For,’the population which might be sustained here, would be supported abroad by supplies drawn from this country. And the seven lean kine would thus devour the seven well favored; and the most barren and unfruitful country, incapable of itself of sustaining a single inhabitant, might by such commerce, become as populous as China, and the country with which it traded, though as fertile as the garden of Eden, would never contain more inhabitants, than enough to till it for the sake of those foreign consumers.
To what extent these remarks are applicable to the commerce of any of the United States, let each reader judge for himself.
In 1822, there was exported from the United States, in fish, $930,000; in flour, $5,300,000; in rice, $1,000,000;’in pork, 1,400,000; in corn, meal, rye, he, $1,100,000; in butter and cheese, 220,000. Total $10,550,000.
In the same year there was imported into the United States, exclusive of what was re-exported, in wine, $1,700,000; in spirits, $2,300,000; in teas, $ 1,200,000; in cigars, $ 174,000. Total $5,374,000.
As these last articles were the balances remaining after re-exportation, they must he considered as designed for consumption. Now, to the United States, it is of no sort of consequence whether these imports were purchased with the proceeds of those exports or not, because, the result is the same. For, so far as the exportation of these necessaries of life, and the importation of these pernicious or useless articles, the produce of the United States is wasted; the productive labor has been employed for the mere benefit of those foreigners whose . wines, &c, have been purchased, and who have been supported abroad, instead of an equal number of people who would be supported in the United States, if the necessaries of life had not been exported. This species of commerce, it should be remembered, is to be considered as perpetual; consequently the United States are always to be taxed in this extraordinary manner for the support of foreigners, and the fertility of the soil is to be changed for sterility, and sterility upon which annual labor is thus thrown away.
3. There is another species of commerce, which consists of what is called the carrying trade. Though this is usually combined with the other operations of exporting and importing, yet, as it is so far subject to the remarks made in relation to them; and, as it may be carried on in a manner entirely independent of those operations, so far as the merchant’s own country is concerned, it will here be considered simply as the carrying trade.
Where a merchant in this country employs his capital in carrying merchandize backwards and forwards between two foreign countries, the public here derive the following advantages from it. 1. Though he makes his money abroad, yet he spends it here; as he increases in wealth, therefore, he adds proportionally to the wealth of the state where he resides, without any drawback whatever on the part of the state. 2. All those citizens, whom he employs in the management of his affairs at home or abroad, he supports out of the profits of his trade. He, therefore, so far increases the population of the society, by furnishing these citizens with the means of earning a living, without the least expense whatever to the state. This is evident, because if he saw fit, he might remove to some other country and employ others in their room; in which case, those citizens who are now employed. by him, would be obliged to derive it from some other source either at home or abroad. If at home, they would be obliged to come into competition with others. If abroad, the population would be diminished by their number. Merchants so circumstanced, it is obvious, deserve every countenance and encouragement to reside in the state. Because, their prosperity or adversity, to a certain degree, affects that of the state; and they bear part of its burdens, but add nothing to them.
CONCLUSION: On the Future Prospects of the United States.
Perhaps no country can, with more propriety, be said to have its destiny in its own power, than the United States. Having a local situation, remote from all nations, which are sufficiently powerful to endanger its independence; a population already sufficiently numerous for a great empire, yet rapidly increasing and spreading over its extensive territory; a climate, temperate and generally salubrious; a soil, fertile, and abundant in variety and production; a people, bold, enterprising and intent upon their interests; a frame of government, in which the choice of rulers depends on popular suffrages, and mild and indulgent; containing within itself a power to reform and amend, without any necessity of resorting to primary assemblies; which imposes few or no restraints, merely arbitrary, or which are grounded on policy alone; and consequently secures to its citizens the enjoyment of liberty to its utmost rational extent; under such circumstances, it would seem impossible that the United States should ever fall from their elevated rank among nations, into a state of weakness and contempt, unless they should occasion their own. decline, by the imprudence or rashness of their national policy, or should bring upon themselves ruin and destruction, as a judgment from heaven.
The advantage which a free elective government has over others, presupposes, in the majority of the electors, sufficient discernment to compare the characters and capacities of candidates for office, and requires, that in making a selection, they should be actuated by proper motives. If the former is wanting, there can be no certainty that they will elect the best candidate; if the people vote under unsuitable influence, it is almost certain that a bad choice will be the result.
Among the motives which frequently govern the popular choice, perhaps there is none worse than the influence of party. For, it is characteristic of this influence, as sometimes exhibited both in elections by the people, and appointments by rulers, that it does not seek either for a man of talents, and integrity, great acquirements, or industry, or well acquainted with the duties of the office. Such qualifications without more, though amply sufficient for the purposes of the public, are no qualifications at all in a party view. For, here the only necessary qualifications are, that the character of the candidate should not be so bad, nor his incapacity so flagrant, as to disgrace his party; but he must be the right kind of man to serve the turn of the party, and in case of appointments through party influence, he must either have rendered party services, or be recommended by some one who has, Sec.
The country of a partisan, to which he considers himself as owing the duty of patriotism, will be found, on examination, to mean nothing more than the party to which he belongs. It is this false god, that, in political affairs, governs his conscience, and constitutes his standard of right and wrong. The mental subjection of the followers of party, is therefore most miserable. For, until they know what their leaders think, they must not venture to form an opinion for themselves, for fear they may afterwards be obliged to recant it. Their ruling principle therefore is, neither truth, justice, or the interests of the country, but it is, To Be True To The Party.
And by what motives does party induce the citizens thus to follow her through right and wrong indiscriminately? The leaders are actuated by the hopes of personal distinction, or other advantage; the partisans are governed chiefly by the gregarious principle, though the personal influence of those leaders, exerted in numberless ways, must not be omitted. But, it may be asked, may not the citizens unite together for the purpose of attaining some object of general utility, without being obnoxious to the charge of forming a party or faction? Undoubtedly they may do so; for their acts are then for the good of the country; and not for the advancement of party purposes; and therefore in such a case there is no necessity for party names or distinctions.
In many instances, parties have originated with ambitious individuals, who, conscious of a want of desert for the distinctions at which they aim, have resorted to cabals and intrigues to induce persons who were not well informed, to join themselves to them as his followers. One of the earliest factions on record, is that of Abimelech. See Judges, Ch. ix. The direful effects of factions and parties in Rome, Carthage, Jerusalem, &tc. in ancient times, and in Italy, France, England and Ireland, &c. from the middle ages down to the present day, warrant the opinion, that as they are almost inseparable from governments under which any portion of liberty is enjoyed, and are violent in proportion to that liberty, so they are one of the greatest evils that can infest society.
As soon as any combination of persons become a permanent body, begin to act separately from “the rest of society, assume a peculiar designation, are organized with officers, and under the guidance of leaders, they are factious, and are dangerous to the public tranquility according to the proportion which their numbers bear to all the rest of society. It is true, so long as there is nothing more to excite them, than the usual contests at elections, they may do no great harm; but, experience shows, that whenever anything uncommon occurs, to rouse their passions, there is no act of violence or excess, to which they may not be incited. And whenever the country shall be so completely divided into factions, that every one shall find himself compelled to side with one or another, in order to escape incivility, the moral sentiments of society will, be proportionally degraded and debased. Should its violence ever rise to a great height, the only safety for the peaceful citizens will be to stand by the constitution and laws, and take care that they are not violated, under a pretense of reforming abuses.
What palliative can be found for this evil? Take away from the president the sole power of removing, appointing or even nominating public officers, any further than it is expressly bestowed in the constitution. Disqualify members of congress for all other public offices, during the term for which they are elected, not merely during their term of office. Suffer no removals from one public office to another.
These regulations would diminish in some measure the prize of ambition, would take away some of the subject matter of promises, intrigue and corruption, and consequently would cool the patriotism of the leaders of factions, and perhaps hush that eloquence, which so much attracts the less informed part of the people.
So long as the different parties are completely intermingled with each other throughout the country, there will be but little danger of public commotions from factions, however unfavorably the peace and tranquility of private intercourse may be affected by angry discord; but, as soon as the parties come to be defined by the limits of states and territories, there will be immediate danger of public disturbances. The minority, out of power, in any such case, will always be apt to consider the public measures of the majority, in power, as tyrannical and oppressive, and contrary to law and the constitution; and when things have come to this pass, there never will be wanting demagogues to excite sedition, insurrection, and civil war, and dupes and disorderly persons, to follow such leaders in their career of violence and wickedness, from a hope of obtaining that distinction, in times of public disturbance, which they are conscious will otherwise be unattainable.
It is the duty, therefore, of every conscientious citizen, and the interest of every peaceable one, to discountenance, as much as possible, all party distinctions and divisions generally; but especially, to prevent their becoming sectional. It is for this reason, the majority in congress, when not urged by some paramount obligation of justice, should be extremely cautious of exercising any power, of the constitutionality of which there exists a doubt, from mere considerations of general expediency, when the minority consists of one or more states, the citizens of which may consider themselves injured by it. For, if such a case should ever occur, there is hardly an argument, that was formerly urged against the oppression of the British government before the revolution, which state patriots will not revive, and apply, whether right or wrong, to excite the people of their states to resist the general government. The people also would do well, to thrust back into private life those office seekers, who personally, or by the agency of political partisans, under patriotic pretenses, obtrude themselves upon the citizens, and seek their suffrages at elections, but who care not what evils they bring upon their country, so that they obtain their own ends. But though, agreeably to the theory of the admirable constitution under which we live, every fault in legislation, and every deficiency in itself, may be easily corrected or amended, without disturbing the public tranquility; yet, in practice a degree of intelligence is required in the people, to perceive the necessity of such, amendments and corrections, and agree in the choice of legislators who will make them, that history and observation teach us, is too much to expect of a numerous population. This defect, therefore, where it exists, will probably be found incurable; because the want of intelligence and discernment is not obviated by the mere exercise of the will. For, it is not infrequent to find that individuals, of contracted minds and small information, take an envious satisfaction in opposing the measures of persons, whom they know to possess more discernment.
It is on persons of such a character, as well as the ignorant and imbecile generally, that designing men operate, by flattering their prejudices, tantalizing their envy, and exciting their suspicions; and by such arts become popular with them. If the time should ever come, therefore, when the majority of the people shall be of this class, and be under such guidance, how will it be possible, that any fault in its legislation, or defect in its frame of government should be remedied, when the very defect itself, will furnish food for the ambition of the leaders of the majority and the means of rewarding their followers? For, that no such defect will ever be corrected or amended, where those, who have the power, consider it inconsistent with their interests to do it, requires no proof. Let us turn our eyes abroad. The British empire has been for many years laboring under the pressure of a number of great political evils and embarrassments. Yet, instead of removing the true causes of those evils, they have been endeavoring to procure a reform of certain minor abuses and corruptions, which, if removed, will improve the condition of the country in a small degree only. Yet this inconsiderable reform has been most strenuously urged and opposed, and great eloquence and oratory has been exhibited on both sides.
But measures, the policy of which is obvious to every intelligent person, and which would remedy many of the evils under which that mighty empire languishes, are hardly mentioned. To pay the national debt of Great Britain; abolish tythes; enable the industrious to earn a living by moderate labor; to improve the pauper system, by employing the poor in such a manner as to support themselves; to reform the cruel criminal code, and at the same lime render it unnecessary; to convert the vicious population of the larger cities into honest and industrious citizens, by furnishing them with sufficient employment; measures which would naturally assist each other and contribute to the same end, one would suppose to be such that in comparison with either of them, a reform in parliament, would amount to nothing at all. Yet, if the parliament were willing that these measures should be adopted, it is believed these objects might all be effected within a moderate number of years. Tythes might be gradually and completely abolished in one generation, by passing a law to discontinue them at the death of the present clerk of each parish respectively. The evils arising from an unequal distribution of property, would be gradually diminished by enabling all children to inherit equally. The application of a just principle, but which perhaps is not thought of, would immediately put the British National Debt in a state of liquidation; to the great relief of the nation’s taxes, yet without defrauding the public creditor of one farthing of his due, &c. But, if measures like these, should be repugnant to the feelings, or considered inconsistent with the interests of men in power, it would be vain to expect they wotdd be adopted, though they would cause the British nation to be one of the happiest as well as most powerful on earth, and would render the reign of William IV, the most glorious since the conquest.
The case in this country is analogous. The people will never be able to get back power or influence from the hands of their rulers, if once intrusted with it. For, abuses, corruptions, &c. always tend to continue themselves until they destroy their subject, and then all perish together. For instance, suppose the people should think the president’s official patronage conferred on him by the laws of the United States, too great and of a pernicious tendency, how can they take it away? By law? The president may not consent, and the direct or indirect influence of that very patronage, may very possibly prevent the passage of the law by a majority of two thirds. This demonstrates the propriety of rendering all members of congress, incapable of any other office during the term for which they are elected, which would render them entirely free from the slightest bias. But will the people ever be able to induce the members of congress, to consent to make this alteration? On the contrary, though the expediency of it is evident to every person’ of ordinary information, the people will1 sooner be persuaded by their representatives, that such alteration would be bad policy. For similar reasons, h is hardly to be expected, that any president will ever consent that his power of removal from certain offices, should be taken away from him; of, that the people should ever be able to choose legislators, the majority of whom will be sufficient to effect that measure. For, office seekers, who, indirectly or directly, manage so as to control the voice of the people of their party, would lose all motive to elect or to remove any president, if the office of president should lose the power of removing officers; because1 a new president would have no offices to distribute among his’ supporters.
If, therefore, the people would wish to be liberated from indirect thraldom of this kind, by which they so often find themselves hampered and shackled, without knowing how it happens, or in what it consists, they must throw off the livery of party, and not suffer office seekers or office holders, to influence their conduct; and, if ever an opportunity presents to reclaim those powers, take care for the future to grant no more such.
An unfortunate circumstance, attending all popular governments where the people choose their own rulers, is, that the choice is frequently grounded on no other merit or qualification, than an acceptable manner of haranguing the populace. It is very singular that volubility, fluency, and loquacity, which, with men of observation, are considered a proof of any thing but wisdom or ability, should be the only criterion of those qualifications, which the people have. In consequence of this wrong estimate, these accomplishments are made too much the objects of ambition, and any further knowledge and acquirements than may be used in flights of oratory, are considered superfluous. Those persons, however, who expend so much time in learning to speak well, must evidently do it at the expense of more valuable acquisitions. And what would be the consequence if all members of the general legislature, were great orators? 1. The sessions of congress would be very much prolonged, because every member must have an opportunity of making one or more, vainglorious speeches. 2. Business would consequently be delayed; yet finally be hurried through, or else left half done and postponed to the next session. 3. Emulation, degrading strife, and angry and indecent contention would unnecessarily consume a great part of the time, which should be devoted to the public service. 4. Though many long speeches would be made, about a subject, yet there would be very little discussion, because declamation is altogether unfavorable to rational investigation. No one, therefore,would ever be convinced by, or be the wiser for tiresome harangues; on the contrary, as the speeches were longer, the impressions would grow fainter and less distinct. For, it is found that the excitement occasioned by the most impassioned eloquence, lasts but a short time, and, when it has once begun to subside into languor and apathy, cannot be renewed by a mere fountain of lofty words, even though inexhaustible and though animated by the most spirited action, and uttered in a loud voice and with energetic gestures. The characteristics of eloquence itself seem to be very much changed from what they formerly were. It no longer consists of just arguments forcibly expressed, but of pointless descant, dealt out without any other limits than such as nature has set to the continuance of all bodily exertion; for, though the time of congress ought not to be valued at less than $200 or $300 per hour, yet those, who wish to be considered as eminent speakers, seldom declaim less than three or four hours; though probably there never was a speech more than half an hour long, that would not be improved by reducing it within that compass. What an ungrateful advantage then does a declaimer at irregular assemblies of the people, take of the patient admiration of his followers, when he keeps them in a state of petrifaction for a whole evening, with polished periods and rhetorical flourishes, pronounced with dignified self-complacency!
There is another mistake, that is sometimes made by the people. They are afraid to elect to office a man of superior abilities for fear he should not be honest; and prefer to him some person of correct character as far as the public knows, but of very moderate capacity, on the supposition that he will be more likely to be honest than the other, and, at any rate, will not be able to do much mischief. Experience shows, that such suppositions are frequently very incorrect. The ruling passion of men of great abilities, is ambition; that of men of small abilities who are conscious of it, is either envy or avarice. The sense of character of the former, will therefore preserve them honest, unless this quality should be in the way of their advancement. But honesty is necessarily at continual war with avarice. There is, therefore, great odds, that men of moderate abilities will sooner be dishonest, than those of great talents. For one Lord Bacon, there have been thousands of persons of moderate abilities, who have been corrupted, or, would have been, if they had been thought of sufficient consequence. It is true, that men of small abilities can do no great harm directly, and can do no great good, at all, unless, by accident; but, they may by their vote, prevent a great deal of good, and thus indirectly do much mischief. But, such persons are always a dead weight upon the public councils. If ignorant, every thing must be explained to them; if conceited, slow of apprehension, uncomplying and obstinate; nothing must be done without their seeing, knowing, attempting to understand, and expressing an insipid opinion upon it, whether they understand it or not. When envious of superior abilities in another, as is frequently the case, their sole aim is to create difficulties, in order to make themselves of consequence. In order to obtain a character for discernment, and because conscious of their ignorance and imbecility, they are full of suspicion and mistrust; and, from want of knowledge, often halt most miserably, between the extremes of credulity and incredulity; sometimes believing falsehood and ridiculous absurdities, and frequently disbelieving probability, truth, and even demonstration itself, because they cannot understand it. Their whole ability may be reduced to one single measure. They find out what others are desirous to effect, and oppose it for that reason. When they practice deceit, they use direct falsehood, and, in this way, they often succeed with persons, whom they never could have overreached by subtilty. Such is the man of moderate abilities and noiseless character, that sometimes creeps into office instead of a man of talents and experience; and, if he has an occasion, will sacrifice not his country only, but even his party, to gain his own ends.
It was remarked, that the United States seem to have their destiny in their own hands. If they would become a great nation, they must continue united. If they should separate, their importance would immediately vanish; and their jealousies and dissensions with each other, if they did not break out into border wars and predatory incursions, would render each of them comparatively weak, and little regarded with other nations; and would cause them to be less willing to assist each, and at the same time less able to stand alone. The necessity and advantage of union, will however never be able to preserve it, if injustice is practiced by the United States upon one or more of the individual states, or, what will, in the result, amount to the same thing, if the influential men in any state, with whatever views, can persuade the people of their state, that such is the case; and, it is apprehended also, that if the leading men of any state should feel satisfied, that, by seceding from the Union, they will be able to gain distinction and power among their own citizens, in consequence of supposed advantages resulting to their state from such measures, a patriotic pretext will never be wanting for that purpose.
The states are advancing so rapidly in population, wealth and power, that there is great danger that the common bond of union, the constitution of the United States, though sufficient, when the country was less flourishing, and there was more danger from foreign powers, than at present, will be found too weak to hold the states together much longer. The wise citizens, therefore, and those who have a regard for the true interests of the country, at the same time that they support the constitution, and endeavor to give it additional strength by amendments, will be very cautious of giving cause of disaffection, by attempting to increase its power by doubtful constructions. But, there is good reason to believe, that there is a faction already formed within the United States, whose aim is to separate themselves from the Union; and, if they can bring the people of the state to which they belong, to believe that the constitution is violated} and that they have a right to resist, their object so far will be obtained. To strain the powers of the constitution by a doubtful construction, is to do half of their work for them. It is true, if such is their object, they will unquestionably persist in it, though every possible cause of jealousy should be removed, and every thing that they ask, should be conceded; because any pretext, however groundless In reality, if sufficient to persuade the people of their state, will answer their purpose. Still, if, by avoiding every act that can furnish occasion for complaint, the wiser citizens among them can be induced to see, that there is no just cause for it whatever, it is hoped, they will have sufficient influence over the rest, to counterbalance that of unprincipled and designing demagogues. In this way the evil day will be postponed, and such persons will be left without any excuse or extenuation for their conduct.
Before taking leave of his readers, the author will submit one further consideration, which, though it would come with far better grace from a teacher of religion, he hopes will not be considered improper in one who is a firm believer in Christianity; since it is addressed to those only, who make the same profession.
It is remarked in substance by Bishop Atterbury, that one of the reasons of God’s interposing so remarkably in the sudden depression or advancing of kingdoms and states, is because this conduces to the manifestation of his political justice, towards public bodies and communities of men; and which is very different from that, by which he punishes the sins or rewards the virtues of private persons. The justice of his dealing with particular men may be manifested here or hereafter, as he thinks fit; for their duration is eternal, and should their successful crimes or unmerited afflictions be winked at in this world, it suffices if such irregularities are set right in another. But, as to the societies, and combinations of men, the justice of his administration towards them, must be manifested either in this world, or not at all.
If, therefore, borrowing the hint from this excellent divine, we contemplate the fall of the ancient empires, which once flourished in the highest state of splendor and magnificence, but are now almost forgotten, in connexion with the reasons assigned by the inspired writers for their destruction, and keep in mind the immutability of the divine nature, it will furnish no irrational or unphilosophical ground, to conjecture the fate of any nation, which shall transgress in a similar manner.
It is the opinion of many very worthy and conscientious persons, that, from the first settlement of this country, the Indians have had great cause of complaint against the white inhabitants; and, if there does not appear in the history of early times any particular instances of ill treatment, fraud, injustice, or imposition upon them, it is ascribed to the partiality of the historian, or his ignorance of the real causes of Indian aggressions, which, on account of the omission of their causes, sometimes appear to be wholly unprovoked and most barbarous. But, in later times, we cannot so easily shut our eyes to the light. For there is an internal evidence in certain transactions, which he must be a very inattentive observer, who cannot perceive. The United States have purchased or extinguished the Indian title to 200 millions of acres of land, for less than four millions of dollars. The lowest price which the United States demand for these lands, at the rate of $ 1,25 per acre, is 250 millions of dollars. The Indian nations are in a state of pupillage, or under guardianship to the United States, a relation which is regarded with so much suspicion by a Court of Equity, that it sets aside all purchases made by a guardian of his ward, because of the temptation the former is under, to take an unfair advantage of the latter. These treaties, however, though so advantageous to the United States, the Indians complain have not always been so scrupulously observed, on the part of the white inhabitants, as they ought to have been. Previous to the independence of the United States, the intrusions upon the Indian lands by new settlers of the most lawless character, was a frequent subject of complaint by the Indians from the year 1768 at least, when the six nations remonstrated to the commissioners of Pennsylvania, that, it would be time enough to settle their lands, when they had purchased them, &c: and, afterwards, when the Delawares and other tribes thus pathetically, but fruitlessly remonstrated with the Governor of Pennsylvania, ‘ We want to live in friendship with you: you have always told us you have laws to govern your people by; but we do not see that you have: we find your people very fond of our rich land; we do not know how soon they may come over the river Ohio and drive us from our villages; nor do we see you, brothers, take any care to stop them.’ What the conduct of the settlers was, is clearly shown by the report of the commissioners for trade and plantations, in which they remark, ‘ if the settlers are suffered to continue in the lawless state of anarchy and confusion, they will commit such abuses as cannot fail of involving us in quarrels and disputes with the Indians,’ he. There is reason to suspect, that in all the Indian wars which have taken place, from the confederacy under King Philip to the war with Black Hawk, which is just concluded, the first provocation consisted in some act of injustice, fraud, imposition or violence, perpetrated by some of the white inhabitants. But the truth will never be come at, by hearing one side only.
About the year 1771, the white settlers infringed the Indian boundary and killed several Indians, and encroached on the lands on the opposite side of the Ohio. The intruders could never be effectually removed. Governor Gage twice sent parties of soldiers to remove them from Redstone Creek, but in vain. That Indian wars should arise in this way, is not to be wondered at. But, when they do arise, it would be much more humane to send commissioners to the Indians, to demand their grievances, make them reparation and punish all who molested them, rather than to march troops against them to destroy them, right or wrong. It would also be more magnanimous in a nation containing twelve millions of people, against a few thousands, the remnant left by the evils brought on them by the whites, ardent spirits, and the small pox; to say nothing of the slaughter of them, which is frequently made a subject of boast, without much reason.
Some of the Indian tribes make grievous complaints, that their treaties are violated. Are not the bargains made with them advantageous enough, without resorting to such measures as these? They have appealed to the government of the United States,—they have appealed to the people of the United States, for redress. Shall it be in vain? Let no presumptuous confidence in the consciousness of superior power, and their comparative weakness, dictate the answer. The Amalekites, who were the first of nations, were sentenced to be utterly put out under heaven, because they attacked the Israelites when on their march, faint and weary, and slew those who were in the rear, and’ feared not God.’ Exo. ch. xvii. v. 14. Deut. ch. xxv. v. 18. If any one should answer, that the Israelites were under the immediate protection of the Deity; the reply is, that Babylon, the wonder of the world for its magnificence, was brought to utter ruin for the pride and arrogance of the people and rulers, and the oppressions which they practiced on other nations.
What was the cause of the judgments denounced against Damascus? It was, among other things, because they had threshed Gilead with threshing instruments; which is supposed by interpreters to mean, that they had greatly oppressed the Hebrews on the east of Jordan.
What was the cause of the judgment against Tyre? Was it not for cruel treatment of the Hebrews, and ‘ because they remembered not the brotherly covenant?’
What was the cause of the judgment against Edom? Was it not pitiless cruelty and unceasing revenge and hatred of the Jews?
When Saul slaughtered the Gibeonites in violation of the treaty, made with them in the time of Joshua, he committed an act highly offensive to the Supreme Being, which was followed many years afterwards, in the time of David, by the infliction of a famine for three successive years, until atonement was made. When David sinned in numbering the Israelites, there was a pestilence sent on the people from Dan to Beersheba, and seventy thousand of them died. These instances are deserving attention, because in them, it appears, the people were afflicted for the wickedness of their rulers, though they had no control over them whatever. As respects the people, therefore, in these instances, the infliction must be considered as merely natural evil, though brought on by the crimes of their rulers. But, if the people choose their own rulers, and thus sanction their measures with their approbation or tacit acquiescence, if those measures are unjust, wicked and oppressive, with how much less reason can they hope to escape, under the pretense that those measures are the acts of the government, and not the acts of the people. For, that those, who adopt the unjust act of another and screen him from punishment, are made answerable for his sins, is apparent from the narration of the Levite’s wrong mentioned in Judges, ch. xx., where it appears, that when the Israelites demanded, that the perpetrators should be delivered up, but the Benjaminites would not suffer them to he punished and took up arms to oppose the Israelites, the whole tribe was exterminated with the exception of six hundred only.
In these general visitations it must be an unwarrantable presumption to hope to escape, from a mere supposition that innocence will be a protection; since this would be to expect a miracle to take place. It is therefore made the temporal interest of every one, to endeavor to prevent injustice from being committed by his rulers; since he may suffer the infliction of natural evil, if he is entirely free from participating in the unjust act, for which the nation is punished.
If the United States therefore should commit acts of injustice and oppression upon the Indians, upon what ground can they hope to escape a visitation for it? If the rulers oppress them, or suffer any of their agents or any of the people under their government, to do so, it is national sin, and, if visited by some national calamity, what individual has a right to expect that a miracle shall be wrought to save him from it? He may be innocent or he may not be so; but when the pestilence comes, or the earthquake, or tempests, or floods, or famine, or foreign war, or civil commotions, sent as judgments upon the whole people for national transgressions, he must bear his lot, whatever it may be. For, there is no pretense, that those upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, were worse than others.* *
It is a sufficient refutation of the fatal error of those persons, who suppose they may commit wickedness with impunity in this world, by using proper precautions, and so avoiding those direct, probable, and natural consequences, which they foolishly believe are the only punishments to be expected for their flagitiousness, that those immediate consequences are rather to be considered as warnings to desist from offending, than the punishments of offenses. If these consequences are avoided, and the warning is not taken, and the offender hardens himself in the confidence of impunity, the result will infallibly show, in the language of revelation, that ‘ God is not mocked;’ and the offender will find in the result, that though for a time, he goes on in a course of unrivaled prosperity, and, from all appearances, might seem to be favored above others, yet in reality he is but adding wrath to wrath, until his iniquity is filled to the full; when he will find destruction come suddenly upon him from a quarter, whence it was least expected. Such was the fall of Hainan, and the Amalekites with him.* * *
Is it not then worth while for the people of the United States to examine, whether they have always acted justly, mercifully and humanely towards the Indian tribes; or, whether they have not directly or indirectly, by their agents, or, by not restraining lawless intruders, or, by not observing the Indian treaties, grievously oppressed them? Are the honest and worthy citizens of the United States, willing to run the risk of suffering some infliction of the divine displeasure. rather than that such violators of the public peace, should be controlled or punished?
It is true, that, while the Indians remain not wholly driven out or exterminated, it is possible, that no severe requital may be made; because, a season for a change of conduct, may perhaps be mercifully allowed. But, after the Indians are dispersed or annihilated, and there is no longer any opportunity remaining to do them justice or to make reparation for their wrongs, it is then, in the false security of worldly prosperity, that there will be most reason to dread a day of evil visitation.* *
Are there not sources enough, from whence such an evil may come, notwithstanding the present apparent prosperity of the United States, without the necessity of going out of he ordinary course of nature? This nation introduced ardent spirits and perhaps the small pox too, among the Indians. Have they not suffered by intemperance and pestilence, themselves? Is it not possible, that the same disposition, that can countenance a violation of Indian treaties, may lead to a violation of the constitution, and that the consequences of the latter may be a most awful infliction and retaliation for the former?
What then does prudence, as well as, religion, justice and humanity dictate with regard to the treatment of the Indians. Fence off the Indian territories with a wall of iron against lawless intruders. Send missionaries among them, men, who, as experience shows, may be depended on, in whatever they undertake, to instruct, and with power to protect them. If hostilities arise, instead of marching an armed force to massacre them, send commissioners with power to hear their complaints, redress their wrongs and relieve their necessities. This is all that is asked, and it will cost the United States nothing in comparison with the profit, derived from the purchases already made of the Indian territories. But, until this is done, it does not look well to speak of Russia and Poland; nor, it is believed, will a national fast be of any avail to avert any infliction, if it should be a punishment for injustice, so long as the injustice is continued.
Let not then the appeal of the Indians to the citizens of the United States be made in vain, lest they be compelled to appeal to a tribunal, from which it is believed they will not be sent away unredressed; but whatever shape it may appear in, whether war, pestilence, famine, civil commotions, or insurrection, the injured sooner or later will be avenged, and the justice of heaven vindicated.
FINIS.See the other parts of this series: RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; Division One RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; Division Two RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: General Rights; The Social Compact RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Powers delegated to the General Government in the Federal Constitution RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: Powers delegated to the State Governments RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Independence of the States RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The rights reserved to the people of the United States RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: Of the right of suffrage and of elections RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Liberty of Speech and of the Press RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Power of Courts to punish for Contempts RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Law of Libel in relation to Public Officers RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Rights of Juries RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The Rights of Witnesses RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: Of the mode of obtaining redress for any infringement of civil or political rights, committed either by the officers of the General Government, or of any of the State Governments. RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The policy which ought to be pursued by the federal government in relation to agriculture RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The policy which ought to be pursued by the federal government in relation to manufactures RIGHTS OF AMERICAN CITIZENS: The policy which ought to be pursued by the federal government in relation to commerce