Chapter 11

I have often thought, that if a President of the United States in our time, had a Jewish prophet to denounce to the people their political transgressions; that is the swerving from the true faith, in other words, his own party; how much more secure his standing would be! How much less vexed by the calumny of editors, and paragraphs in gazettes! Among the Britons, the aborigines or early inhabitants, the druids, did not denounce much; but what they lacked in speaking, they paid away in acting; and a disturber of the government being pointed out by these, it was not long before he was in an ozier creel; the Simulacra contexta viminibus, and his breath extinguished by the flame.

Would it not have been possible for president Madison, for the $50,000 paid to Henry, to have secured as many of the New England clergy in his favour, as would have made them act as druidical priests in support of his administration? I cannot say I would wish to see the wicker basket introduced; but I was thinking of the effect of the practicability of establishing something that would be in lieu of it: that is, the influence of the priesthood, but not in the same way. Pulpit denunciations have a prodigious effect to the eastward. It is no wonder that the religious functionaries of that part of the union have made a noise both before and since the war. If they really believed, and it is possible they did, that Bonaparte had transmitted several tons of French crowns to the United States: finding that none of them came their way, what wonder if they became dissentients to the war? Madison should have made a point of securing at least a majority of these Congregationalists. It was upon this rock the witches split, in not having secured Cotton Mather, when they made their descent upon New England. --The consequence was that an uproar was raised against them; and they were hanged and drowned, till the people began to be satisfied that there was not a witch left; and for a plain reason, because there never had been one. If the people were not satisfied at this, yet certain it is, they ought to have been--so saith the writer of this book. But I will not take a Bible oath upon it, that there are not John Bulls in that quarter, as true as ever crost the ocean, and were imported to this country.

Take the individual man, and how difficult it is to form him. Between the boy, and the man it is the most difficult to govern him: from the time that the voice begins to break the treble of the puerile age, to the counter of that of manhood. Here we have to do with the confidence of feeling some power of mind, and the insolence of inexperience. It is the same with men in a state of society. A constitution has been framed; it is impossible to convince them that they cannot make a better. The young, as they grow up, despise what has gone before them. They are sanguine of temperament, and take it for granted that the world has never seen such creatures as they are before. That, whatever errors others have committed, in the like situation, they will have the judgment to avoid. It is not till by disappointment, and the vexation attendant upon it, that they can be brought to know themselves and to rate their natural talents, and their discretion at a lower estimate. A man must be forty years of age, said lord treasurer Burleigh before he begins to suspect that he is a fool, and fifty before he knows it. It is on the same principle that an individual must have lived a long time in a republic before he can be a republican. Some have gone so far as to say, he must have been born and brought up under a republican government, to have the habits and way of thinking of a republican. Rollin, I think it is who says, he must at least have lived fifty years before he is fit to be trusted with affairs.

There is more in age as a qualification, for the right of suffrage; or the right of delegation, than in that of property REAL or PERSONAL. The longevity of our republic will depend upon there being an amendment of this nature. Young cocks should never be heard to crow in the senate house, or young whelps to bark. It is true the Scripture says, "Bray a fool in a mortar and he will not be wise." All length of time, and all experience of consequences from his own errors, will not correct. But he must be a fool indeed, an idiot, that will not derive some advantage from what he has seen and suffered. When a member has made a speech in a deliberative body, of some hours continuance, and finds that he grows no taller in reputation, and which he will in due time discover, he will not be unwilling to abridge his ventriloquy on other occasions: for I call it ventriloquy, it deserves no better name. There were two Raneys here, some years ago, ventriloquists. If we had them in congress to imitate jay-birds, and amuse the members, till a decent time had passed to let the question be put, it might be an improvement; I say a decent time, because appearances would be saved, and as we on the bench have an advisari vult sometimes out of courtesy to the counsel, as if the argument on the wrong side had nevertheless puzzled us, so civility to adversaries is not altogether lost, by affecting to think the matter not just as plain as a pikestaff: you may conciliate, and gain attention when you are wrong yourselves, that is, when they think you wrong.

There is no moral truth, the weight of which can be felt without experience. What do I mean by moral truth? I mean that which depends upon the nature of man, and is the foundation of his actions. Who would comprehend without feeling it, that it is of all things the most difficult to govern men? The most simple way, and doubtless the most effectual, is the same by which you would govern a beast; the bridle and the whip. An individual at the head of an organization, may command millions, and keep them in subjection; but in this case, no one can be allowed a will of his own, to the smallest extent. If the two legged thing, that calls himself a man under such a government, should attempt to speak or act for himself, off his head goes, scalp and all, and there is an end of the disturbance. There is one way, which is to let the multitude alone altogether, and then there is anarchy, or no government. If you let them alone, it does not suit very well, for in that case, they rob; and there being no security, there is no industry, and, consequently no improvement in the arts, or amelioration in the condition of man. If you undertake to restrain their passions, how will you go about it, but by force or persuasion? Persuasion will go but a little way with a man that is hungry to hinder him from putting his paw upon whatever eatable there is before him. It must be, therefore force. All government must be therefore founded in fear. It is but a conceit in Montesquieu, to found a republic upon the principle of virtue; a monarchy upon that of honour; and a despotism upon that of fear. Fear, is the foundation of government, of man, as much as of a horse, or an ass. The great secret is to govern him, not just as you would a beast; but by the fear of suffering a distant evil. The reason and reflection of a man can comprehend this; that of a beast not so much. What we have seen in this new settlement, is a picture of the credulity, and restlessness of man, and his constant struggle to break through that organization of power by which he is restrained from that to which his passions prompt. He will endeavour to break through, by talking of changing the modes of government. But it is not the mode, but the being governed at all that displeases him. A constitution is that organization by which a man is governed by rules that apply to every individual of the community; and from which no one is exempt, but all bound to obey. This is what is called a republican government. The changing a constitution begets the desire of change; and like a dislocated bone, must produce a weak joint. It ought to be some great defect that would justify a change. The one half the effect of laws or general rules, is the being acted under. It injures a saddle horse to put him in harness; because he must change his gaits.

The governor had acquired considerable authority over this mob, by the intimidation of scalping, and I take it he will speak in a more decisive tone, and act with proportioned firmness in the future exigencies of the commonwealth. Fraud is sometimes called, pia frau, because it is a deception of the people for their own good. But fraud is not admissible, but on the ground that they are in a temporary phrensy, and not in a condition to hear reason.

A book entitled, Incidents of the insurrection in the western parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania, in the year 1794, gives a picture of a people broke loose from the restraints of government, and going further than they had intended to go. If that book was republished at this time, and circulated in the Eastern states, it could contribute to show the danger of even talking of a severance of the union, or an opposition to the laws.-- The bulk will take one another to be in earnest in these matters, when individually, they never thought of carrying the project farther than talk. It is not a want of understanding that prompts dissatisfaction in this part of the republic, but, a want of self-denial, and humility. Doubtless it may be said that Virginia, though she has ore of a good quality, has wrought her mine too much, in producing presidents; and there is no intelligent man, but will approve of an amendment to the constitution of the United States, to remedy such engrossing in time to come; but they will support the administration, since it is the will of the majority for the time being. An error in the expedient, and this could be considered only an error in what was expedient, is a small matter compared with a violation of principle. Opposition to an administration, is an error in principle, and may lead, though not intended by the actors, to the destruction of the machine.

If, in giving a picture of the Hartford convention, in the narrative of the proceedings of a new settlement, I should, in due time, have a convention here too, I will have no chaplains, because it looks like a burlesque; and it would be ten to one, if the governor could keep Teague O'Regan from being one of them. If the people would insist upon it, how could he help it? The Reverend Teague O'Regan, I presume, he must then be called, to give the greater solemnity to his function; but this very designation would but increase the farce.

I wonder what business our legislative bodies, of the individual states; or governors, or congress, or presidents have with proclaiming days of festivity, or humiliation, which ought to be left to the societies of religious denominations? It savours of hypocrisy or the temporal power to interfere.