Chapter 3

The Captain walking by himself, could not avoid reflecting on the nature of government; a union of souls, and corporal force. It makes all the difference that we see between the savage, and civilized life. The plough, the pully, the anchor, and the potters wheel, are the offspring of government; the loom, the anvil, and the press. But how difficult to link man with man; how difficult to preserve a free government; The easiest thing in the world, says the clown, if the sage will only let it alone. It is the philosopher that ruins all.


There is some foundation for this. A mere philosopher is but a fool, in matters of business. Even in speculation, he sometimes imagines nonsense. Sir Thomas More's Utopia has become a model for a free government. Locke's Project was tried in South Carolina. It was found wanting. Imagination and experiment are distinct things. There is such a thing as practical sense. Do we not see instances of this every day? --Men who can talk freely, but do nothing. They fail in every thing they attempt. There is too much vision mixed with the fact. Want of information of what has been; the not examining the fitness and congruity of things, leads to this. You see a tradesman framing a machine. A chip less or more spoils the joint.


Where is the best account to be found of the Roman commonwealth? In Polybius. In what did its excellence consist? In its balances. What invented these? The exigencies of the case. Some were adopted in the first instance; others as remedies to the mischiefs that occurred. Were the sages of any use here? A little. Salust says; "considering the history of the Roman people, that the Gauls were before them in bravery, and the Greeks in eloquence; yet Rome, has become the mistress of the world; I have found that it has been owing to a few great men that happened to rise in it." Were these men demagogues? Not in a bad sense of the word. They did not deceive the people for their own ends. How do demagogues deceive people? How do you catch a nag? You hold a bridle in your left hand, behind your back; and a hat in your right, as if there were something in it, and cry cope. What do demagogues want by deceiving the people? To ride them. What do they pretend they have in the hat? oats, salt; any thing they find a horse likes.


How do you distinguish the demagogue from the patriot? --The demagogue flatters the clown, and finds fault with the sage.-- The patriot, and the sage, unless you mean the vain philosopher, mean the same thing. The Jewish prophets were all of them sages. They were seers, or men that saw far into things. You will find they were no slouches at blaming the people. "My people, Israel, is destroyed for lack of knowledge." "I am wounded in the house of my friends."-- This may be said of liberty, when republicans give it a stab. The lamentations of Jeremiah are but the weepings of a patriot over the errors of the people. Yet the people are always right, say the demagogues. I doubt that. Tom fool may laugh at the expression, "save the people from themselves." Nevertheless, there is something in it. It is a Scripture phrase, "go not with a multitude to do evil;" which would seem to imply that the multitude will sometimes do wrong.


Do the multitude invent arts; Or some individuals among them? It is sometimes a matter of accident. Sometimes a matter of genius. But it is but one out of a thousand that happens to hit upon it; or that has the invention to contrive. But government is an easy matter; and has no wheels like a watch. What is it that enables one man to see farther into things than another in matters of government? What is it that makes him a seer? Thinking, looking, examining. Does it come by inspiration? More by experience. What are the wheels in our government that are like to go first? The judiciary, the senate, the governor. Is this the order in which they will go? Precisely. Does any man mean it? Not at all. How can it happen? In the natural progress of things. Will one house become a tyrant? It will come to be the few; and the few are always tyrants. Will it be but a few in the house, that will govern? It will come to one at last. It will take fifty years to bring it to this. I do not say that it will be a hop, step, and jump; or a running leap, all at once.


But we have the press here. Suppose a leading print in the hands of a patriot. He will keep all right. Yes, provided he is a sage at the same time. That is, that his information on the nature of government, is equal to his patriotism; or that his passion does not betray him into error; the journal of L'Ami du peuple by Marat, was patriotic; but it ruined the republic. An uninformed inflammatory print, is a corruptress of public opinion. It is the torch that sets Troy on fire. There is no Marat, amongst us, at the head of a Journal; but there may come to be. It is a difficult thing to trim the state vessel. The altering the stowage will put out of trim. The Hancock was taken, by altering the stowage. It destroyed the trim. Yet trimmers are unfavourably spoken of. That is, I presume halting between two opinions. "Why halt ye between two opinions?" But preservers of the balance are not trimmers in this sense of the word.


But how is it that the people can do wrong, when they mean well? An uninformed spirit of reform may prevail. How can passion prevail? The axletree is heated, by the nave, and the hob is set on fire. The nave heats itself by its own motion; and fire is communicated to the whole carriage.