I never had a doubt
with the Captain, but that the bulk of the jacobins in France meant well;
even Marat and Robespierre considered themselves as denouncing, and trucidating
only the enemies of the republic. What a delightful trait of virtue discovers
itself in the behaviour of Peregrine, the brother of Robespierre, and
proves that he thought his brother innocent. "I am innocent; and
my brother is as innocent as I am." Doubtless they were both innocent.
Innocent of what? Why; of meaning ill. "The time shall come, when
they that kill you, shall think they are doing God service." Peregrine
led the column with his drawn sword in his hand, that entered and re-took
Toulon. He threw himself into the denounciation. This ought to be a lesson
to all republicans to have charity, for those that differ in opinion.
Tiberius, and Caius Gracchus at Rome meant well; Agis, and Cleomenes at
Sparta the same; but they attempted a reform, well, in vision, and imagination,
but beyond what was practicable or expedient. They fell victims to the
not distinguishing the times; the advanced state of society, which did
not comport with the original simplicity of institutions.
Marat the journalist and Robespierre were pushed gradually to blood; by
the principle, which governed them, of taking it for granted that all
who thought differently upon a subject were traitors; and that a majority
of votes was the criterion of being right. The mountain the
bulk of the national assembly could not but be in their opinion, infallible.
The eternal mountain at whose foot every one was disposed to place
himself; the mountain on whose top were "thunders and lightnings,
and a thick cloud;" but not a natural mountain of the earth, collecting
refreshing showers, and from which descended streams. It was a mountain
pregnant with subterranean fire. It burst and exists a volcano to this
day. So much for the majority of the public body, being always right;
and so much for a journalist meaning well, and yet destroying the republic.
It is a truth in nature, and a maxim in philosophy "that from whence
our greatest good springs, our greatest evils arise." A journalist
of spirit is a desideratum in a revolution, but when the new island or
continent is thrown up from the bottom of the ocean; and the subterranean
gas dissipated, why seek for a convulsion? but rather leave nature to
renew herself with forests, and rivers, and perennial springs. But that
activity which was useful in the first effort, is unwilling to be checked
in the further employment; and under the idea of a progressing reform,
turns upon the establishment which it has produced, and intending good,
does harm. The men are denounced that mean as well as the journalist,
and perhaps understand the game better than himself though they differ
in judgment on the move. In a revolution every man thinks he has done
all. He knows only, or chiefly, what he has done himself. Hence he is
intolerant of the opinions of others, because he is ignorant of the services
which are a proof of patriotism; and of the interest which is a pledge
of fidelity. Fresh hands especially, are apt to over-do the matter, as
I have seen at the building of a cabin in the western country. A strong
man takes hold of the end of a log, and he lifts faster than the other.
From the unskilfulness, and inequality of his exertions, accidents happen.
Prudent people do not like rash hands. States have been best built up,
by the wise as well as the honest.
There are men that we dislike in office. All men approved Marius, says
the historian Sallust, when he began to proscribe, now and then, a bad
man; but they did not foresee what soon happened, that he did not stop
short, but went on to proscribe the good. It is better to bear an individual
mischief, than a public inconvenience. This is a maxim of the common law.
--That is, it is better to endure an evil in a particular case, than to
violate a general principle. There ought to be constitutional ground,
and a just cause to remove the obnoxious. It will not do even in Ireland,
to hang a man for stealing cloth, because he is a bad weaver.
Where parties exist in a republic, that party will predominate, eventually
which pursues justice. A democratic party, will find its only security
in this. "If these things are done in the green tree, what shall
be done in the dry." If democracy is not just, what shall we expect
from aristocracy, where the pride of purse, and pride of family, raises
the head; swells the port; produces the strut, and all the undervaluing
which the few have for the many? Aristocracy, which claims by hereditary
right, the honours and emoluments of the commonwealth. --Who does not
dislike the presumption of the purse proud, and the pride of connections?
And it is for that reason that I wish my fellow democrats, "my brethren
according to the flesh," to do right; to shew their majesty, the
nobility of their nature, by their discrimination, and their sense of
justice. For I am a democrat, if having no cousin, and no funds; and only
to rely on my personal services, can make me one. And I believe this is
a pretty good pledge for democracy in any man. Unless indeed he should
become a tool to those that have cousins and funds; and this he will not
do it he has pride. He might be make a despot, but this can only
be by the peoples destroying the essence of liberty, by pushing it to
licentiousness. A despot is a spectre which rises chiefly from the marsh
of licentiousness. --It was the jacobins made Bonaparte what
he now is.