« ElőzőTovább »
corner-stone of what is now called constitutions. Thus, step by step, the several governments were formed; neither by the design nor with the hearty approbation of those who formed them. The history of England, after the Norman conquest, is a familiar epitome of the progress of all Europe toward the thorough establishment of government on intelligible principles, and the gradual settling down of society into its present advanced state. But the most remarkable instance of the involuntary formation of government is to be found in our own history. Eighty years ago and no man dreamed of an American Union of independent States; yet, in ten years after, the thing was accomplished. If the theorist had set himself down to reason out a case, and to describe an assemblage of discordant elements, wherewith to experiment upon the possibility of perpetuating anarchy, he could never have come nearer his mark than by adverting to the people of America. In the thirteen colonies were assembled English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans and Swedes-to say nothing of Africans and Indians. In these were collected, and at a bigoted period too, Roman Catholics and Protestants, Cavaliers and Puritans, Huguenots, Quakers, Jews, Heathens and Idolaters-speaking a variety of languages, and with little similarity, either in manners, habits or ideas of government. With nothing in common but interest, who would have ventured to foretell the result? Yet, by reducing the principles of government as nearly as possible to those of society, and acting up to the teachings of common sense-regarding present exigencies, and not fanciful traditions—a system was established which no gacity could ever have devised, and mere logic could never have thrust upon the people. The system was the result of events and circumstances which human power could neither have averted nor controlled.
That individual men have some voluntary agency in the formation of certain systems, is admitted; but this is limited to but a contracted area. The imperceptible march of events guided by the public sentiment of society, effects much more for man than his vanity is willing to believe. The most that can be accomplished by arbitrary convention is of a decla
rátory nature. Men naturally wish to pursue their usual avocations, and enjoy the fruits of their industry and the profits of their estates in security and with economy. How they can best accomplish this, is seldom a matter of choice. The best mode always exists; it remains for the good sense of men to discover, not create it. The discovery of this mode is, for the most part, the work of society, aided by time; and all the acts of government-we mean good government-are merely declaratory of this. Hence it is impossible to fix upon any form of government as the best, since that alone can be the best which declares this mode; and this again must vary with varying circumstances, different peoples and progressive ages.
Writers, during the last hundred years, have been particularly fond of denouncing every government which is not essentially popular. But, just as this denunciation may be, with respect to some communities, it is certainly out of place with regard to others. It does well enough for Americans to denounce monarchy, for that system would be intolerable to them ; but, may we not doubt whether republicanism would not be a fatal experiment with certain European states when we have the modern history of France before our eyes? We beg not to be considered an apologist for monarchy; we are simply the advocate of moderation and caution, and have more than once been struck by Mr. Jefferson's scathing paragraph in his letter to Governor Langdon,* in which he says:
“When I observed, however, that the King of England was a cypher, I did not mean to confine the observation to the mere individual now on that throne. The practice of Kings marrying only into the families of Kings, has been that of Europe, for some centuries. Now, take
any race of animals, confine them in idleness and inaction, whether in a stye, a stable, or a state room, pamper them with high diet, gratify all their sexual appetites, immerse them in sensualities, nourish their passions, let every thing bend before them, and banish whatever might lead them to think, and in a few generations, they become all body and no mind : and this, too, by a law of nature, by that very law by which we are in the constant practice of changing the characters and propensities of the animals we raise for our own purposes. Such is the regimen in raising
* Jefferson's Works, vol. 4, p. 147.
kings, and in this way they have gone on for centuries. While in Europe, I often amused myself with contemplating the characters of the then reigning sovereigns of Europe. Louis the XVI. was a fool, of my own knowledge, and in despite of the answers made for him at his trial. The King of Spain was a fool; and of Naples, the same. They passed their lives in hunting, and despatched two couriers a week, one thousand miles, to let each other know what game they had killed the preceding days. The King of Sardinia was a fool. All these were Bourbons. The Queen of Portugal, a Braganza, was an idiot by nature. And so was the King of Denmark. Their sons, as regents, exercised the powers of government. The King of Prussia, successor to the great Frederick, was a mere hog in body, as well as in mind. Gustavus of Sweden, and Joseph of Austria, were really crazy ; and George of England, you know, was in a strait jacket
. There remained, then, none but old Catherine, who had been too lately picked up to have lost her
In this state, Bonaparte found Europe ; and it was this state of its rulers which lost it with scarce a struggle. These animals had become without mind, and powerless; and so will every hereditary monarch be after a few generations. Alexander, the grandson of Catherine, is as yet an exception. He is able to hold his own. But he is only of the third generation. His race is not yet run out. And so end. eth the book of Kings, from all of whom the Lord deliver us, and bave you, my friend, and all such good men and true, in his holy keeping."
We shall resume this subject in other pages.
E. B. B.
Art. III.-AFRICANS AT HOME.
The condition of the African race, for some years past has occupied such a degree of popular attention as to have been the source of great misunderstandings, many misrepresentations, violent hostilities, unwise and immature legislation, and a vast quantity of insane philanthropy, all of which, we fear, will result in very little profit to that peculiar people. To contribute to the better understanding of the subject, we have undertaken, in this article, to give a rapid but faithful sketch of the present wretched condition of the Af
rican, and to show that this condition has continued substantially, if not literally, the same, for the last three hundred years, and as far back as we have any accounts of this peculiar people.
We know nothing of Africa, in the times of the Greeks and Romans, save of Egypt, Nubia, and the parts bordering upon the Mediterranean. The interior was then too barbarous and insignificant to invite curiosity, cupidity or conquest. From the Periplus of Hanno, the celebrated Carthagenian navigator, we have only a coasting voyage, as the word implies, from Gibraltar to Cape Bojador, beyond the Senegal, on the coast of Guinea; and the impression then entertained, of the savage and degraded character of the inhabitants, is to be inferred from the fact that they are supposed to have caught Ourang Outangs, or a species of monkey, whom they took for the women of the country, and having flayed them, brought their skins back to Carthage, where they were deposited with the other curiosities, and an account of the voyage, in the Temple of Juno, which was their Museum. This account being read by Aristotle, it is supposed that he influenced his scholar, Alexander, to contemplate the circumnavigation of Africa; which, however, was not effected. At a subsequent period, the Arabian geographers seem to have entertained but vague and conjectural ideas of that region. No one, in those days, ever seems to have contemplated an examination of the interior. Even the Portuguese did not attempt it after they had made their settlements. It was left for the enterprise of a Park and his subsequent followers, in modern times.
But, long before the time of Park, the enterprise of Portugal had made the first lodgement on the coast of Africa, and set the example of that coasting trade with that continent, which has been, more or less, ever since in the hands of the Dutch, the English, the Spanish and the American Nations. Yet, with all their factories, their posts, their forts and their castles, they have been able to penetrate but a small distance from that sickly and densely wooded coast, and we have advanced but very little way in the extent of our knowledge of Africa since the cry of Gama, in 1498,
“ Bonnes nouvelles, bonnes nouvelles, des rubies, des emeraudes, des épices, des pierreries, toutes les richesses de l'univers”. instigated that enterprise and passion for gold, new countries, new lands and new homes, which has scarcely yet lost any of its vigour and activity. Wondrous changes this passion has produced and is still producing! Where will it stop ? He only that can look into futurity may answer, and without asking aid from “ celestial telegraphs.”
But has this great move—this world's progress-redounded nothing to the profit of poor doomed, dark, night-covered Africa ? Was she merely intended by Divine Providence to afford the means of working out the civilization and the exaltation of all other countries, and of all other races but her own? We think not. But God has his own ways of working out his will; and man in vain may think to amend his decrees, or set them at defiance. Do those who believe in the Bible, dare to disown that Providence which acknowledges some favoured races, and places curses and trials upon others? Why is it so? When we are as wise as Deity itself, then may we say why there shall be rich and poor, sick and healthy, strong and weak, the beautiful and the ugly, the Apollo and Caliban, a Washington and a Jonathan Wild, a Napoleon and an idiot, the robber and the honest labourer-in short, happiness and misery! Why the wealth and superabundance of the one, and the toilsome, loathsome labour of the other, in the service of the rich-a labour which yields no stores, but affords merely the wretched means of staving off starvation from the destitute and his numerous family of suffering children ?
There is a Law on the subject, and that law has been given man by his Maker from above. The violation of that law, though we may not see why it should be so, or believe it the origin of these inequalities, is the true source of all the misery and of all inequality on earth. Not that virtue is always rewarded among men; for we are not told of recompense, but duty. Reward is not for us to challenge and demandonly obedience is ours. Enough that the violator of God's laws takes heed; for it is visited upon the heads of generations untold. And let no man point his finger to heaven and