Chapter 5

As we are on the eve of a republican government in this new settlement; or rather we have a chaotic government, that may in due time be reduced to a republic, it behooves us to consider a little what are its evils, and the causes of its overthrow. Laying aside those which are common to all governments, and amongst these the incapacity of those that govern, it would seem, in a greater degree than perhaps any other, that in a republican government, fault is found with those that govern; and weakness, or wickedness is imputed even to the wisest measures. And this on the plain principle of self-love; because every man covets distinction, and is ambitious of power; and where the government is by representation, all cannot have office at the same time.--Hence it is, that those out cannot be those in; for that would be a contradiction in terms, and in the nature of things. For it is a quality of matter that two bodies cannot be in the same place, at the same time. How otherwise can the body that is out, be in, but by removing the opposing body that is in possession of the place? But where we have to do with mind, it is not by the effect of material force that this can be accomplished. Laying the shoulders to, will not answer the purpose; nor will a baton or stick compel the giving way. It must be by the force of opinion. Hence obloquy and defamation in the election; and when that is gained, no qualification for the trust, or virtue in office is to be allowed to the successful candidate. The great moral of this book is the evil of men seeking office for which they are not qualified. The preposterous ambition of the bog-trotter, all points to this. But there is another evil, as I have said, the detraction from even the good qualities of those in power, and the denying credit even to the prudent acts of an administration. The divines tell us; at least the divines of some denominations, that even the good acts of bad men have in them a motive which turns them to sin. As two parties, therefore, must unavoidably exist, in every government of the people, the ci-devant or exrepresentatives, with those who have not yet been representatives, on one side, and the present incumbents on the other, a continual war must be carried on; the true motive and object kept out of view. I have thought sometimes of putting, in plain language, what those on the outside the house, looking in, would say, were they to speak out, to those congregated within the building. I mean, were they to speak without dissimulation of the motive, and the object. Let us suppose the opposition convened, and if they could be kept from sticks and stones, and use their tongues only, without prevarication, would not their oration be somewhat in the following vein and tenor.

“You seem to be pretty well lodged, good folks, and have got a pretty decent house over your heads; while some here are obliged to stand without, that are perhaps not less deserving than yourselves; and amongst these not a few who know what it is to sleep in doors, and to partake of the hospitality of the government. You take it hard at our hands, that we do not approve of a single act that you do, or of a single measure that you take. It does not suit us to approve; because our object is to get you out. If the man at the helm steers N. by W. we say it should be N. by E. And so through all the 32 points of the compass, should he vary his course accordingly. If he should be steering a course directly S. we would arraign him for a fool, to attempt to steer in the wind’s eye; and if he should alter his course a point or two, we would exclaim that he was steering in the wind’s eye still; for the wind has changed. Bear away, luff up, it is still wrong. Do you not see breakers ahead? we will say. And when he puts about the ship, the breakers will be on the other side; and this, though in the middle of the ocean, where no lee-shore can be found. The secret of opposition is to find fault with whatever may be done. If there is really fault to be found, the matter is easy. Every dunce may enlarge upon this. But where the measure is a dictate of prudence, and the result of consummate wisdom, hic labor, hoc opus est. It will require more talents, or at least more industry, to make it appear bad policy, and defeat it. Even if it should succeed, no credit is to be given. For though it happened to hit, yet upon the whole it was a mischief from the bad consequence that will follow. You talk of candour.-Where was your candour when we were in? Was it not by exciting clamour against even the wisest measures that you got the people on your side, and put us out? You have the good sense to pursue the very measures, in some instances, which you exclaimed against. But you say that the evil cannot be corrected all at once; or it would cost more to undo what was done, than to let it stand as it was. Is this candour? The fact is, all idea of candour is out of the question. It is your places that we want; we care nothing about your measures. The better they are, the worse for us; and we are, on that very account, the more disposed to find fault.

“You will say, we are not good citizens. But, we are good partizans. There is a wheel within a wheel in all governments; and it is the inner wheel that those out of power have to work; and not the outer wheel. You that are in power have to turn that; and it is our part to stop it if we can. “Stop the wheel of government,” means the outer wheel; for the inner wheel never stops. It always goes a contrary way to the outer wheel; or, to speak mathematically, moves in a contrary direction; but not that the movers mean to stop the outer, altogether; but so to impede the movement, that the machine in the hands of those that seem to have the direction of it, may appear useless, or defective in its operations.

“You talk of our invective scurrility, &c.&c.&c. Are there not such things as stink-pots on board vessels? It is not against the laws of war to use these. At least it is not against the practice of nations; and it is the practice, that makes the law; the usage of nations. The practice of our editors of papers, and of yours, is what sanctions what might otherwise be called abuse; for the very nature of personal abuse, is changed into the contrary by use. A dictionary of hard terms, might be composed out of the gazettes, to suit a particular party; but without sensible variation might serve all. It is a desideratum in political literature, that we have not such a book, for the use of schools. It might be made out of the newspapers; not that this would hinder the adding to the language, new terms; for speech is not made from dictionaries; but dictionaries from speech.

----sic valet usus
Quem penes arbitrium est, et norma loquendi.

New terms of reproach will at all times spring up, and old die. This, the poet, speaking of all languages, correctly states.

Nedum sermonum stet honos, et Gratia vivax,
Multa renasscenter quae jam cecidere cadentque
Quae nunc sunt in honore vocabula.

“Nothing offends a Frenchman so much as to be called foutre; or an Englishman to be called a John Bull. The nation is called John Bull; but that is a generic term; but when applied to the individual, is not so well taken.

“The art of blackguardism, notwithstanding its cultivation in these states, may be said, like many other arts and sciences, to be yet but in its infancy. Invention is rather a gift, than an acquired faculty; nevertheless it is improvable; and much might be done by skilful tutors, taking youth from their early years, especially such as may have had the advantage of a good family education, in this way. It is observable, that editors from foreign countries have distinguished themselves in this species of logomachy; not owing, as some allege, to a superiority of genius, or greater aptitude in acquiring languages; but to the progress they had already made, before they left their mother countries. It is altogether a prejudice of Buffon and others, to lay it down that the human species, as well as other productions of the new world, are inferior in kind, to those of the old. It is neither so in size or intellect. Give us time, and opportunities, and we need not despair of producing party writers of a mammoth size in all the defamation by word, or thing of which we have had imported specimens, from the other side the water. If you wish to avoid the artillery of such, take our advice, and resign. We have no ill will to you, more than we have to a turkey-buzzard, but because you are in our way. At least, let us take turns, in doing public service; not at the pump; for though it is our business, under the present circumstances, to pronounce the ship leaky and ready to sink, yet we do not think that she is precisely in that condition, notwithstanding your bad management; and we are willing to take her under our direction, even in her present state. The honour and the profit are both in favour of those who are officers, and have the command. But as for you, out, you shall go; we do not mean out of the ship, but out of your offices and emoluments. Our party must be in; and that is the short and the long of the whole matter. If you do not go below deck, we will blow up the ship; not one of you shall go aloft till we have command.”

This would be the language, doubtless of the open hearted, and plain spoken. But as men row one way, and look another, it is not so well calculated to effect the purpose, as indirect attack. It is not those themselves that are in possession that are to be addressed, but those that put them there; or at least assisted for the time being. It is in vain, to try to persuade a man himself that he is in an error, because he enjoys a benefit; but there are those who may be brought to believe this, who are not so much, or at least so immediately interested in the matter.

I feel myself disposed to bring this volume to a conclusion; not that I have said a thousandth part of what I have to say, but because I wish to ly by a while until I see what effect what I have said, may have upon the community. I do not mean as to any approbation of the work, for that is of little moment; but what reform it may work in morals, and manners of the people. It is for them that I labour, though perhaps they may little thank me for it.