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.