« ElőzőTovább »
ment can ever be expected to occur. The last hopes of mankind, therefore, rest with us; and if it should be proclaimed, that our example had become an argument against the experiment, the knell of popular liberty would be sounded throughout the earth.
These are excitements to duty; but they are not suggestions of doubt. Our history and our condition, all that is gone before us, and all that surrounds us, authorize the belief, that popular governments, though subject to occasional variations, in form perhaps not always for the 10 better, may yet, in their general character, be as durable and permanent as other systems. We know, indeed, that in our country any other is impossible. The principle of free governments adheres to the American soil. It is bedded in it, immovable as its mountains.
15. And let the sacred obligations which have devolved on this generation, and on us, sink deep into our hearts. Those who established our liberty and our government are daily dropping from among us. The great trust now descends to new hands. Let us apply ourselves to 20 that which is presented to us, as our appropriate object. We can win no laurels in a war for independence. Earlier and worthier hands have gathered them all. Nor are there places for us by the side of Solon, and Alfred, and other founders of states. Our fathers have filled them. 25 But there remains to us a great duty of defence and preservation; and there is opened to us, also, a noble pursuit, to which the spirit of the times strongly invites
Our proper business is improvement. Let our age be the age of improvement. In a day of peace, let us 30 advance the arts of peace and the works of peace. Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered. Let 35 us cultivate a true spirit of union and harmony. In pur
suing the great objects which our condition points out to us, let us act under a settled conviction, and an habitual feeling, that these twenty-four States are one country. Let our conceptions be enlarged to the circle of our duties. Let us extend our ideas over the whole of the vast field in which we are called to act. Let our object be, OUR COUNTRY, OUR WHOLE COUNTRY, AND NOTHING BUT OUR COUNTRY. And, by the blessing of God, may that
country itself become a vast and splendid monument, 10 not of oppression and terror, but of Wisdom, of Peace,
and of Liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration for ever.
THE AMERICAN UNION •
BY DANIEL WEBSTER. (JANUARY 26, 1830) I PROFESS, sir, in my career hitherto to have kept steadily in view the prosperity and honor of the whole 15 country, and the preservation of our Federal Union. It
is to that Union we owe our safety at home, and our consideration and dignity abroad. It is to that Union that we are chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most,
proud of our country. The Union we reached only by 20 the discipline of our virtues in the severe school of ad
versity. It has its origin in the necessities of disordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined credit. Under its benign influences these great interests immediately
awoke, as from the dead, and sprang forth with newness 25 of life. Every year of its duration has teemed with fresh
proofs of its utility and its blessings; and although our territory has stretched out wider and wider, and our population spread farther and farther, they have not out
run its protection or its benefits. It has been to us all a 30 copious fountain of national, social, and personal hap
I have not allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself s to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor in the affairs of this Government, whose thoughts should mainly be bent on considering, not how the Union may be pre- 10 served, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant 15 that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious 20 Union - on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the Republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high 25 advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, not a single star obscured, bearing for its motto no such miserable interrogatory as “What is all this worth ?” nor those other words of delusion and folly, “Liberty first and Union afterward”; 30 but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart — Liberty and Union, now and forever, one 35 and inseparable !
DEMOCRACY • BY JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL. (1884) Few people take the trouble of trying to find out what democracy really is. Yet this would be a great help, for it is our lawless and uncertain thoughts, it is the indefiniteness of our impressions, that fill darkness, whether mental 5 or physical, with specters and hobgoblins. Democracy is nothing more than an experiment in government, more likely to succeed in a new soil, but likely to be tried in all soils, which must stand or fall on its own merits as others
have done before it. For there is no trick of perpetual 10 motion in politics any more than in mechanics.
There is more rough and tumble in the American democracy than is altogether agreeable to people of sensitive nerves and refined habits, and the people take their
political duties lightly and laughingly, as is, perhaps, 15 neither unnatural nor unbecoming in young giant.
Democracies can no more jump away from their own shadows than the rest of us can. They no doubt sometimes make mistakes and pay honor to men who do not
deserve it. But they do this because they believe them 20 worthy of it, and though it be true that the idol is the
measure of the worshipper, yet the worship has in. it the germ of a nobler religion.
I take it that the real essence of democracy was fairly enough defined by the First Napoleon when he said that the French Revolution meant “la carrière ouverte aux talents” a clear pathway for merit of whatever kind. I should be inclined to paraphrase this by calling democracy that form of society, no matter what its political
classification, in which every man had a chance and knew 30 that he had it. If a man can climb, and feels himself
encouraged to climb, from a coalpit to the highest position for which he is fitted, he can well afford to be indifferent
what name is given to the government under which he lives.
All free governments, whatever their name, are in reality governments by public opinion, and it is on the quality of this public opinion that their prosperity depends. It 5 is, therefore, their first duty to purify the element from which they draw the breath of life. With the growth of democracy grows also the fear, if not the danger, that this atmosphere may be corrupted with poisonous exhalations from lower and more malarious levels, and the question 10 of sanitation becomes more instant and pressing. Democracy in its best sense is merely the letting in of light and air.
We have been compelled to see what was weak in democracy as well as what was strong. We have begun 15 obscurely to recognize that things do not go of themselves, and that popular government is not in itself a panacea, is no better than any other form except as the virtue and wisdom of the people make it so, and that when men undertake to do their own kingship, they enter upon the 20 dangers and responsibilities as well as the privileges of the function. Above all, it looks as if we were on the way to be persuaded that no government can be carried on by declamation.
WORKING OF THE AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
BY CHARLES W. Eliot. (JUNE 28, 1888) An argument against democracy, which evidently had 25 great weight with Sir Henry Maine, because he supposed it to rest upon the experience of mankind, is stated as follows: Progress and reformation have always been the work of the few, and have been opposed by the many; therefore democracies will be obstructive. This argument 30 is completely refuted by the first century of the American