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be again filled with such men as formerly occupied its seats, this and other crudities of the present majority of little men will be swept away like chaff before the wind. In the mean time, we hope that the States of New-York and Massachusetts will continue to collect their taxes, notwithstanding the adverse decision of the supreme court. There are some States in the confederacy, which, if we are not mistaken, would exercise their sovereign rights in spite of Mr. Justice Wayne and his associates.
ART. WII.-The Constitutions of France, Monarchical and Republican ; together with brief historical remarks relating to their origin, and the late Orleans Dynasty;
by BERNARD Roelker, of the Boston Bar. Boston: 1848.
THE edition here put forth by Mr. Roelker, of the different constitutions which, within the last half century, have literally “had their day” in France, “each fair as the first, and lowlier than the last,” but which have each successively disappeared “as a scroll,” forms a valuable contribution to the history of revolutions, the most instructive of all other histories. Mr. Roelker gives a brief, yet satisfactory account of the origin, progress and termination of these interesting constitutional experiments—of the rapid running up, and as rapid downfall of this series of imposing, yet fragile legislative monuments, which, in their inutile and specious character, bear a not remote resemblance to the structures of Moscow, which travellers describe as always presenting a fine front to the street, or the eye; but as otherwise little adapted to human use or convenience, and wholly destitute of any real strength or solidity. The editor offers some passing remarks, both on the causes of their instability and successive overthrow, and on the present political prospects of that unhappy country, the annual wanderings of whose “Budge Doctors,” in search of the veritable apisor of a government which shall bear the authentic marks of destiny, and unite the divine attributes of liberty and authority—ever end, as did those of the priests of lsis, however successful the result may for a time appear to be—in only remistifying and deluding the unfortunate people, who still remain exposed, and “bare to weather,”
“Who look up, but are not fed,”
yet continue vainly to expect the advent of that civil and social millennium, dreamed of and promised them by their false prophets—their Cabét and Considerants, their Lé Blancs, and Prudhommes—and of which the fascinating mirage beguiles their eyes from afar, but ever flies before them. Mr. Roelker, in attempting to explain or indicate the causes of this most singular of all modern phenomena—that of the continued failure of one of the most enlightened and genius-gifted people of modern times, to establish and perpetuate free institutions—makes the following remarks, which, though not without truth and force, are far from affording a satisfactory solution of this great and puzzling problem:
“It is not within the plan of the present pages, to discuss the merits and demerits of these constitutions, but we merely wish to furnish every one with the means to judge for himself. We would, however, call attention to one fatal characteristic in them, which deserves so much the more to be noticed, because there are at present indications in France, which may lead us to fear that the same feature may be introduced into the new government and fundamental law now in progress of being established, to a much greater and more alarming extent. This characteristic and fault, as we deem it to be, is the centralization of power in the general government. In comparing France with our own country, the United States, we perceive at once a striking contrast in this particular. In the United States, the administration is so distributed, that the power of the general government of a State is hardly felt. * * To effect a similar harmonious distribution of power, without weakening the general government, would be, in our opinion, the great problem for France to solve at the present day. From present appearances, however, the tendency to centralization, seems to be fearfully progressive.”
Our talented barrister, however, does not seem to perceive that this centralization of power in the general government, though undoubtedly one of the leading faults of all the patent and made-to-order constitutions of which he has given us, a fasciculus in the publications we are reviewing, has been rendered doubly pernicious, or far more widely injurious in its operation and effects, than it would otherwise have been, from the circumstance of the administrative authority being always located in the city of Paris, which, as the time honored capital of the country, the centre of European attraction, and the seat of sciences, fashion and pleasure, is associated with all the vanity and vain-glory of the nation, and exercises, therefore, a despotic and baneful influence over the whole popular mind. At a point like this, where all the elements of anarchy, of revolution and discord, are magnetically drawn together, yet kept apart, by a species of divellent attraction, and over which
—“Chaos umpire sits,
where the voice of the departments, or the people at large, is scarcely heard, or if heard, is unheeded, it is obvious that no durable form of government can be established, and no other system than a stringent military despotism, can long endure. For, like the progress of crystallization, it is only in tranquil media, or by calm deliberation and quiet councils, that the delicate work of reform and political organization, can be conducted or successfully carried on. Wainly endeavoring to imitate this country, both in the general form of their institutions, and in their efforts to infuse into them a general democratic spirit and energy, they neglect to note the contrast afforded to this Parisian cockneyism and fascination, in the conduct, the views, and even the prejudices of the people of the United States, who ever entertain and nourish a wise jealousy towards, rather than predilection in favor of large cities; and hence have, in general, been careful to locate their seats of government in small towns, and have sometimes established them even in recently opened wildernesses, or at points as remote as possible from those great centres of luxury, vice and corruption. Not even the largest of our cities exercise any influence on the affairs of the country, and but little even in the local legislatures in which they are represented; their delegations often possessing far less weight and consideration than those of the smallest rural districts of the State. As far, also, as a view is had in this remarkable part of our political arrangements, to the object of having the sessions of the legislature held, and the public offices
situated at points convenient to the whole population; our imitators are afforded, in the regard thus paid to the interests and accommodation of the “greatest number,” another lesson, from which they may derive a wholesome hint, and useful instruction. How differently are all these things ordered in France, where Paris, after so many revolutions in favor of liberty, still reigns as despotically over the whole country, and guides, gulls, and controls the nation, as effectually as in the times of the grand Momarque, when “ladies interposed and slaves debated" on the affairs of State, and when departments and provincial towns received their governors, as they did the latest fashions, from the same source of power, and head-quarters of frivolity and vice, of extravagance and dissipation. Thus we have recently seen a body of deputies, representing a nation of thirty millions of people, passing with the accustomed infatuation, and with little more dignity than a flock of sheep, into the fatal gates of Paris, to be there, within a few days, summarily ejected from their chamber by one of the mobs improviste, of the political pandemonium, where the fruits of the tree of liberty ever turn to dust and bitter ashes on the lips of her tantalized and unfortunate votaries, and where the lessons of experience seem to make as little impression on the minds of the maddened multitudes, as on those of the inhabitants of the lava, swept sides of Vesuvius, who, however often their cities and their homesteads may be overwhelmed by its burning floods, still return to build again on the former sites and yet glowing foundations of their late destroyed abodes. While, then, our mercurial friends and former allies have readily learnt, and been prompt in adopting, not only all the juster principles of liberty which we taught them, but also all the abstractions, plausible generalities, and stereotyped maxims which the democracy on this side of the Atlantic, as well as the red republicans of Europe, so confidently and largely deal in, and have hastened to ingraft them, without reflection or discrimination, into the declarations of right, provisional governments, and fire-new constitutions, which they manufacture and work off from the revolutionary press with such facility and astonishing despatch, they have paid but little heed to the more practical arrangements and actual workings of our political system, which are much more worthy of their attention vol. xvi. —No. 32.
than those specious truths and popular doctrines by which they are always so easily captivated, and are always so sure to push to extremes. For the vague and barren generalities, and even those profounder political principles, with which the theorists and innovators of the day are all now so familiar, and are ever so ready to reduce to practice, without any regard to time, fitness, or circumstances, are always pernicious, in proportion to their plausibility and mere abstract truth resembling in their glancing brilliancy, and dazzling indistinctness, the brightness and perilous play of lightning, of which the course and final effect can only be traced by the blight it has made or the ruins it has left.” Those profounder political doctrines, and enlightened maxims of government which most readily command the assent of the understanding are not, in a word, always the most available to the statesman or best suited to the purposes of the legislator, as, from their detached truth and purely elemental character, they can seldom be engrafted into existing institutions without extreme difficulty and danger, or without seriously imperilling their security and disturbing the settled relations, and often the very foundations of society. These are considerations, however, which never occur to, or disturb the modern French reformer or political theorist—who having once got hold of some favorite doctrine, or broached some new and plausible system for the improvement of government and society, never thinks of pausing in the enthusiastic prosecution of his views, on account of the mere vulgar obstacles which existing institutions, the deep-rooted prejudices and opposing interests of communities or nations, may raise up in his way, and which prudence, and a proper respect for the true good of mankind, would forbid
* Thus, for instance, in our own country, the appeals of the Southern States, whose institutions and domestic quiet are daily endangered by the unprincipled machinations of their Northern neighbors, (or of the fanatics and incendiaries whom they shelter within their limits,) to the solemn compact of the constitution, and the express provisions which it contains for the protection of their rights and interests, are generally answered by some stereotyped phrase, or such vague generalities, as that the “spirit of the age, is opposed to the continuance of slavery”—or that “man cannot be the property of man;” and finally, that the precepts of christianity are of more authority than human laws or constitutional causes, and that whatever is manifestly contrary to its holy teachings, and calculated to frustrate the purpose for which it was promulged, is virtually unlawful, and should no longer be allowed to exist, or to offend the eyes of the good, and shock the feelings and sensibilities of the saints.