Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

How was it under Mr. Van Buren ? The policy of divorcing the government from all banks, both State and National, necessarily united them all against the government. The Banks represented the great mass of the active capital of the country. On one side we had the government, on the other the money power; and what was the result? The government nominally carried out its policy, but only to be itself instantly overthrown. Mr. Van Buren at the head of the government, the moment the business men of the country united against him, was as the leaf torn from its stem in the autumnal blast. The overwhelming defeat of the government party, in 1840, proves, incontestably, that men, before property, are as the chaff of the summer threshing-floor before the wind.

Nothing in our legislation has done more to favor the march of modern Feudalism, than the restrictive policy of Mr. Clay and his friends. The reviewer agrees with us in utterly condemning it, and in contending that the best interests of the country, especially of the laboring classes, demand freedom of commercial intercourse, that our people be free to buy where they can cheapest, and to sell where they can dearest. Yet has his party ever been able to defeat, or even to restrain, this policy? Did not his favorite candidate for the Presidency vote for the tariff of 1828 ? Have not his intimate friends, by their votes, even while making speeches against it, fastened the present tariff on the country? Dare the friends of this same candidate make up, before the country, a direct issue on this question? Does not he himself, when questioned as to his views of the policy, answer, after much circumlocution, yes, and no, and finally, neither yes nor no? And why does he so answer? Simply, because he knows that population is not the element that decides the question, who shall or shall not be President. He knows that there are certain money or property interests to be consulted and combined. He knows that no one of these interests can now make a President against the union of the oth

He must, then, be for free trade, just so far as to

[ocr errors]

make the planting interest of the South regard him as a lesser evil than Henry Clay, and just enough of a restrictionist to divide the manufacturing interest with Mr. Clay in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Why all this, if population, irrespective of property, is the controlling influence in the State ?

Now, the point we maintain is, that, in a country where there is inequality of property, and where the minority of the population, as with us even, holds or controls, through corporations, banks, and the various contrivances invented for creating artificial credit, the majority of the property of the country, the government is, effectively, in the hands of that minority. We go further, and say, that our whole experience as a nation proves it.

We demand of the reviewer what it is that he and his party have always complained of. Has not his party, from the very first, complained that this minority controlled the legislation, and, by so doing, secured privileges to itself, unjust and oppressive to the great mass of the people ? Was not this the gravamen of its charge against the financial policy of Hamilton, and their more recent charges against Mr. Clay and his friends ? And what from the first has his party been avowedly struggling for, and which forms the grounds of his and our attachment to it? Has it not been to restrain the undue influence of the moneyed minority ? Has not Mr. Benton himself declared the struggle to be, “Man against Money”? Well; has the party ever succeeded ? Is it any nearer success than it was fifty years ago? We challenge the reviewer to produce a single instance, in which it has ever gained even the slightest advantage. It has had its triumphs, we own; it has succeeded in electing its men, and securing its full share of the spoils of office; but we fearlessly assert, that he cannot point to a single legislative act that has, in the least imaginable degree, weakened the power of its opponent, or strengthened its own. Will he point to the election of Jefferson ? That election changed nothing in the financial policy of the government, or the industrial system of the country. Will

he point to the war with Great Britain ? The money power of the country forced the Republican party to make peace at the expense of every object for which it professedly took up arms. Will he refer to the Compromise Act? That, we own, was a temporary victory; but it was gained, not by the votes of the people, but by the interposition of the State veto, and is due to constitutionalism, and not to democracy; for it was gained right in the face and eyes of both General Jackson and his party.

Will he refer to the prostration of the United States Bank? That, indeed, was prostrated, or its recharter defeated; but only at the expense of building up a vastly more dangerous and mischievous power in the State Banks. Will he adduce the defeat of the wild scheme of Internal Improvements to be carried on through the Federal Government, by General Jackson's veto on the Maysville Road Bill? In revenge, we refer him to the wilder schemes attempted by the States, to the incalculable evils of gambling in State stocks, the two hundred millions of dollars or more of State indebtedness, resulting from transferring the work of Internal Improvement from the Federal government to the State governments, and the disastrous effects of which, in aiding the growth of modern Feudalism, will be felt as long as this Republic holds a place in the list of nations. We repeat it, nothing has been gained ; for we do not count the few organic changes which have been effected, enlarging the basis of popular representation, and making our institutions conform more nearly to the democratic standard ; for we cannot count as gain, that which does not actually enlarge or consolidate the power of the many to resist unjust and oppressive legislation on the part of the wealthy and influential few; and the effective power of the masses is enlarged or diminished, not by organic changes, but by laws affecting, as Mr. Webster has well remarked, “ the distribution and transmission of property." The reviewer knows perfectly well that property is more unequal with us than it was fifty years ago, and that it is altogether more difficult for a young man without capital to place himself in an independent position. He knows perfectly well that the money power has been strengthened and consolidated, and that his party, even if it come into place, can come into power only by yielding to its demands. Thus has it been with us for fifty years, and what better can we hope from the continuance of the old struggle, on the same battle-ground, for fifty years to come? We are tired of these contests in which nothing is gained, -nothing gained for my poor sister who works sixteen hours a day, for her fifteen cents; for these poor children of my brother, growing up in ignorance, in vice, to breed a moral pestilence through the land. Give us the substance ; mock us not with the shadow.

Now, if there be any truth in what we have said, there is in the community a minority of the population controlling the balance of the property, and this minority is always, directly or indirectly, the governing power. The need is of a somewhat in the State to act as a counterpoise to this governing influence. Without something of this kind, the many are at the mercy of the few, and the Haves may carry it at will over the Have-nots. It was supposed universal suffrage, by admitting the many into the State, would secure a sufficient counterpoise to the wealthy and influential few; but we now see that it does not. We must, then, seek it elsewhere.

This granted, it follows irresistibly, the practical ends of government being what we have defined them to be, that democracy, which founds the government on population alone, will not, does not, and cannot, answer the practical ends of wise and just government. We must, if we will have wise and equitable government, a government competent to protect the weak against the strong, and the Have-nots against the invasions of the Haves, so constitute the State that it shall rest on some element in addition to population. Man does not suffice always for the defence of man, and can never suffice for the defence of man against man and property combined. This fact demonstrates

[ocr errors]

the utter insufficiency of democracy, even to maintain the lowest form of freedom, - freedom not to be gov

, erned, or the protection of man against man.

If there is another element than population necessary to the well ordering of the Commonwealth, then have we established our third proposition, and done all that we promised. But the reviewer may think that we have the restraining power in the Constitution, which he admits, for he, too, is a constitutionalist, after a sort; but we have not, if we adopt his theory of the Constitution. He sees the great fact, as well as we, which we have set forth ; and he, no more than we, is willing to trust the ruling majority for the time, to legislate without restraint. This fact alone ought to show him the absurdity of his democracy; for, the moment you demand a Constitution to strengthen or restrain population, you declare the insufficiency of population alone, and therefore of democracy. If the State be founded on population alone, a constitution is a nullity, even an absurdity. Population is always equal to itself, and is the same with or without a constitution. Hence, the constitution is a nullity. If population be the government, and the sufficient government, a constitution to restrain its power, resting itself for its own support on that power, is an absurdity.

The reviewer seeks to save his democracy, even while admitting the necessity of constitutional checks and balances, by founding the Constitution itself on population, and declaring population, through a bonâ fide majority, to be competent at any time to alter it, without even the necessity of the formality of being legally convened. But this saves democracy at the expense of the Constitution, and declares the Constitution, a constitution only in name. Does the reviewer mean by the Constitution, a mere voluntary restraint, — if he will

, pardon the Hibernianism of a voluntary restraint, which population imposes upon itself, and which can be only a declaration, that, during its pleasure, it will make laws only according to certain rules? Is this his constitutionalism? If it is his, we must tell him,

« AnteriorContinuar »