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Brownson's Quarterly Review, January, 1844
Art. IV. -Demagoguism.     Party  Machinery.    Mr. Van Buren and the Presidency.    Civic Virtue.
It is universally conceded, that republics, especially democracies, can subsist only by means of the virtue and intelligence of the people ; but it does not appear to have been very generally considered, that democra­cies, or popular forms of government, which, through suffrage and eligibility, admit the great mass of the population to a share in the administration, have a strong tendency to counteract the very virtues on which their permanence and utility depend.
Our political history, we think, demonstrates this latter position, beyond the reach of cavil or doubt, to all who have accustomed themselves to look a little below the surface of things. Here, in this matter, the boasted maxim of political economy, that demand creates a supply, does not hold good. Looking at what we were in the beginning, and at what we now are, it may well be doubted, whether another country in Chris­tendom has so rapidly declined as we have, in the stern and rigid virtues, in the high-toned and manly principles of conduct, essential to the stability and wise adminis­tration of popular government.
We commenced our national existence with many peculiar advantages, and advantages wholly independent of our peculiar political institutions. We began our labors on a virgin soil, in a new country, of vast extent, great internal resources, and remote from the vicious and cor­rupting examples of the Old World.    We were, for the most part, an agricultural people, sparse, not crowded into towns and cities, with plenty of new and fertile lands, easy to be obtained, and yielding a rich and immediate reward to the cultivator. Our wants were few, our manners and tastes were simple, and life with us was uniform and little exposed to vicious temptations. Gov­ernment had little to do, for all moved on harmoniously, as it were, of itself. It must have been a bad govern­ment, indeed, that could, at once, have corrupted us, and hindered our growth and prosperity. So were we in the outset; but so are we no longer. Our popula­tion has become comparatively dense ; our new lands are exhausted, or have receded so far in the distance as to be no longer of easy access, or attainable at all by the inhabitants of the older States, who have not some little capital in advance. We have become a populous and a wealthy country, a great manufacturing and trad­ing people, as well as a great agricultural people ; we are separating, more and more, capital and labor, and have the beginnings of a constantly increasing operative class, unknown to our fathers, doomed always to be depend­ent on employment by the class who represent the capital of the country, for the means of subsistence, and therefore to die of hunger and nakedness, when employ­ment fails them; we are brought, by improvements in steam navigation, alongside of the Old World, into im­mediate contact with its vicious and corrupt civiliza­tion ; we are no longer isolated, no longer a simple, primitive people ; our old manners have passed, or are rapidly passing, away ; our increasing wealth brings in with it luxury, poverty, and distress, as well as re­finement, and a more general culture.
Here is what we have become. It is now, under these altered circumstances both of the country and the people, that the virtues of our institutions-are put to the test. These institutions have as yet had no severe trial. The peculiar advantages of our position are sufficient to account for all the superiority, under a moral and social point of view, we have hitherto exhibited. But, if, with these advantages, our institutions have suffered us so to deteriorate, will they suffice to restore us to our former elevation ? Nay, if, with these advantages, we have, under these institutions, fallen nearly to a level with the Old World, and shown a rapid decline in the stern and rigid virtues, the high-toned and manly qualities we are accustomed to boast in our ancestors, unparalleled in other Christian nations, not excepting even England, to what can we attribute so lamentable a fact, but to our peculiar institutions themselves ? The result, to which we have come, is attributable to no slight or accidental cause, but to a deep-seated and constantly operating cause, and this cause can be found nowhere, but in our peculiar form of government.
In speaking of the decline we have experienced in the stern, rigid, high-toned virtues of our population, we are far from implying, or wishing to imply, that we have fallen below even the more advanced nations of the Old World ; and, in assuming, that our political in­stitutions, taken independently of the accidental advan­tages of our position, have not produced such unmixed good as our noisy politicians pretend, we are equally far from implying, or wishing to imply, that we are not even yet in a moral and social condition much superior to that of any other people. What we mean to assert is, that, under a moral and social point of view, we have not maintained our former relative superiority. We are still in advance of the Old World ; but by no means so far in advance as we were in the outset; and, considering the many obstacles the several nations of the Old World have had to encounter, and the much we have had in our peculiar position in our favor, we have, relatively speaking, fallen behind them, and show a de­terioration, of which they set us no example. Prance, Germany, England, even Spain, have, during the period of our national existence, made no inconsiderable efforts at national regeneration, and each and all of them have, we believe, commenced the upward movement, while we alone have actually deteriorated.
Assuming this to be a fact, there must be, in the na­ture of our peculiar institutions, some  inherent  and permanent cause of this deterioration. And this we solemnly believe to be the case. In this world, good arid evil grow together, and often spring from the same root. The matter of vice and virtue, as Milton has re­marked, is not unfrequently the same. As you recede from one evil, you strike upon another ; and as you secure a new advantage, you expose yourself to a new danger. This has been our experience as a people. We have escaped many, perhaps the heaviest, of the political evils of the Old World; but, in return, have exposed ourselves to evils, from which the Old World is comparatively free. These evils, to which we have exposed ourselves, are by no means so great, or so diffi­cult to guard against, or to counteract, as to induce us, for a moment, to balance our institutions with those of any other people ; or to ask ourselves, if we have done wisely in adopting, or shall do wisely in sustaining them. With all the evils to which they expose us, they are the best, at least, for us, that the world has ever seen, or that we can even conceive of. All we insist on is, that they do expose us to evils, which demand our sleepless vigilance, and all our wisdom and energy, to counteract. They will not, as it were, go of them­selves, of themselves create all the virtue essential to their wise and just administration.
A delusion had seized the world about the time of our national birth, that all the evils, the human race suffers, are OAving to bad government; and that a wise­ly constituted government will, as it were, of itself cure them. Hence, we fell into the mistake of feeling, that our institutions would take care of themselves, and work out for us, without any special agency of our own, that higher social good towards which our minds and hearts were turned. But bad government itself must have a cause, and can have no cause but the ignorance, the vice, the selfishness, and the indolence, of the people ; and the best of institutions will produce only mischievous results, if not wisely and virtuously admin­istered ; and wisdom and virtue, in our case, to se­cure the right sort of administration, must not only be generally diffused among the people, but be brought to bear directly on the administration itself.
Another delusion, at the same epoch, seized the more advanced nations of Christendom ; namely, that the peo­ple could make the constitution, and that nothing was wanting to secure its successful practical working, but to intrust it  to the care of the people.     The desid­eratum of the time was to get rid of bad governments, of tyrannical and oppressive rulers.   It was felt, that the people, if admitted into the government, would have so deep an interest in good government, that they would never submit to bad government, or suffer the govern­ment to become bad ; and that their own interest would lead them to resist all tyrannical and oppressive magis­trates, and to invest none with power who would not exercise it for the common good.    All this was plausi­ble, and taking ; but it obviously placed the dependence for good government, not on the virtue of the people, on their sense of duty, and power of sacrifice ;   but on their sense of interest.    Their own sense of their own interest would lead them to institute good government, and  to insist on wise  and  equitable  administration. But, in throwing a people back upon their sense of their own interest, leaving them, nay, teaching them, to be governed by their own views of their own interest, do we not, necessarily, destroy the very virtues essential to the maintenance of wise and good government ? do we not set up interest as the ruling motive ?  And, when interest becomes the ruling motive of a people, will not each individual struggle, not to administer the govern­ment for the good of all, but to make it a machine for promoting his own private ends?
The principle of the political order sought to be in­troduced, and on which the statesmen and politicians relied for securing the practical benefits to be expected from government, was to pit the selfishness of one ' against the equal selfishness of another; or, as we may express it, universal competition. The principle of competition is selfishness. Leave, then, free scope to the selfishness of all, and the selfishness of each will neutralize the selfishness of each, and we shall have for result, -Eternal Justice, wise and equitable government, shedding its blessings, like the dews of heaven, upon all, without distinction of rank or condition! Truly, this were putting vice to a noble use, and proposing a trans­mutation of the base metals into the precious, far sur­passing that dreamed of by the old alchimists, in their insane pursuit of the philosopher's stone. But the suc­cess of the theory would not have given the result anticipated. From absolute negation how obtain an affirmative ? Assuming the absolute equality of all, and that, in all cases, the selfishness of one will exactly balance the selfishness of another, the result will be zero, that is to say, absolutely nothing. But assuming the inequality of the social elements, and that the self­ishness of one is not, in all cases, the exact measure of the selfishness of another, then they in whom selfishness is the strongest will gain the preponderance, and, hav­ing the power, must, being governed only by selfish­ness, wield the government for their own private ends. And this is precisely what has happened, and which a little reflection might have enabled any one to have foretold. The attempt to obtain wise and equitable government by means of universal competition, then, must always fail. But this is not the worst. It, being a direct appeal to selfishness, promotes the growth of selfishness, and, therefore, increases the very evil from which government is primarily needed to protect us.
Nor is this all. Alongside of this principle of uni­versal competition, lay that of responsibility to the people. Responsibility of the civil magistrate to the people was, no doubt, asserted with a good motive, for the purpose of establishing the right of the people to divest the agents of authority of all power, in case they abused it; and also as a restraint on these agents themselves, who, knowing that if they abused their trusts the people could dismiss them, would be induced, by all their love of power and place, to use their power for the common good. Here, again, the same attempt to convert the base metals into the precious, to make selfishness produce  the effects of the  loftiest virtue. But the old alchimists did not discover the philosopher's stone.    We have not yet discovered any method by which   lead   can   be  converted   into  silver  or  gold. Selfishness is selfishness, and will be selfish, say and do  what we  will.    And, therefore, instead of taking care not to abuse its trusts, so as not to lose place or power, it only set its wits at work to secure the confi­dence of the people, by professing the greatest respect for their virtue and intelligence, and a willingness at all times to bow to their will, and to do all their bidding. Selfishness became a courtier, and sought to gain its ends by flattering the sovereign people, and by seem­ing to have no interest but theirs.   It would not tyran­nize and oppress with the strong hand, by bidding de­fiance  to popular power; but it would do  it by sly cunning, by subtle arts, and plunder the people, and enrich itself, by their own consent, at least with their own hands.    If it pleased the people, and gained their confidence, it was enough ; no matter by what means. The result, therefore, of making all officers of gov­ernment, and all aspirants to office, feel their respon­sibility to the  people, has been simply to encourage demagoguism, and to cover the land with swarms of greedy and unprincipled demagogues.    To gain place, or power, I must please the people ;   and the readiest way of pleasing the people, the only way practicable to selfishness, is to flatter them, to defer to them, to adopt their opinions, to take the law from them, and never to resist them, or  seek to change their course, let it lead where   it   may.      Selfishness, then,  becomes   a   time-server; seeks not for truth and justice, but for what is popular;  asks not, What is right ? but simply. What will the people say ?   It has no opinions of its own.    It runs athwart no popular prejudice ; treads on none of the people's corns ;   is non-committal on all points on which the public mind has not declared itself;   and is tolerant to all incipient errors, for they may become popular to-morrow.    It is prudent, sleek, decorous.    It has no rough edges, no angular points, and thrusts its elbow into no man's ribs. Its face has a settled smile ; and its voice is soft, gentle, insinuating. It is calm, dispassionate, mild, deliberate. It is free from rage, from hurry, and " bides its time." If it fails to-day, it will succeed to-morrow. " The sober second thought of the people " will set all right, and place it at the top of the ladder. Hence, all manly devotion to the truth, all earnestness in the defence of the right, all firm re­sistance to popular error and delusion, all bold and vigorous efforts to advance the people, and carry on in­dividual and social progress, are out of place, and must be quietly left by the way ; for they might endanger our popularity, offend, perhaps, the majority, and pre­vent us from securing the objects of our ambition.
We draw here no fancy sketch ; we are, unhappily, painting from the life. One sees the original every­where. The evil has become great and menacing. We have lost our manliness; we have sacrificed our independence ; we have become tame and servile, afraid to say that our souls are our own, till we have obtained permission of the public to say so, or at least till we have pretty well ascertained that it will not be unpopu­lar to say so. The tameness and servility of American literature are almost universally admitted. It has no manliness, no reach, no depth, no aspiration. It seeks to win popular favor, not to correct public sentiment; to echo public opinion, not to form it.
Now this, we contend, is a natural result of the prin­ciple of responsibility to the people, contended for by our politicians. If you repeat always to your states­men, " Remember your accountability to the people," you must expect them to ask always, not, What is right? but, What is popular ? And when you have led your statesmen to do so, made popular opinion their guide, you have made it so for all who aspire to place or power; and then you have made it so for the great body of your whole community, and not in relation to politics only, but in relation to every department of life. Popularity will become the leading object of ambition, and popular opinion the standard of morality. The public will intervene everywhere.     The minister of religion will court the public, and the pulpit will soften or suppress the unpopular truth. All will be done with a view to immediate popular effect; and what will not tend to secure immediate popularity will be looked upon as a blunder, or, at best, as a crime. In such a state as this, how can there be the virtue necessary to sustain wise, equitable, and efficient government? In such a state as this we indisputably are ; and to such a state as this, if not our institutions themselves, at least the doctrines in regard to them, with which we commenced our political career, have a direct, if not an inevitable, tendency to reduce us. Here is the weak side of our political order, and here is what must al­ways be the result of a political order, which rests for its support on Selfishness, on Interest, on universal Com­petition, and Responsibility to the popular will. Plere is the danger to which we arc peculiarly exposed, and against which, if we love our country, and desire the prevalence of justice, we must be always on our guard. It is useless to undertake to deny what we have here stated, and useless to undertake to prove, that popular governments have not a direct tendency to create a mul­titude of demagogues, and to. make what is popular the standard of what is right, or proper to be undertaken. Pop­ular governments are favorable, by the freedom of compe­tition they maintain, to commerce, to industry, to great material prosperity, for a time, so long as there remains a large body of the people as yet uncorrupted, - so long as the selfish principle they foster has not yet become uni­versal. But, as soon as this principle, on which they are founded, reaches the heart of the community, and the scramble for wealth, for place, and for power, affects all classes, and becomes universal, all sorts of prosperity come to a stand still, and the state falls to pieces by its own internal vice and rottenness. What are called free states are always marked by a sudden and surprising activity, by a sudden and surprising prosperity, and by almost as sudden and surprising a decline and fall. And this lies in the nature of things, unless, independ­ent of the government proper, there be in the commu­nity a counteracting and conservative  principle.    On this point, if we will neglect the lessons of antiquity, (for our experiment is not so new as we sometimes boast,) we do not well to neglect the lessons of our own experience. No man can attentively study our political history, and analyze with some care our popular insti­tutions, but must perceive, and admit, that our state contains the seeds of its own dissolution, and seeds, which have already begun to germinate. Unless the tendency, we have thus far obeyed, can be arrested, and a stronger and more effectual conservative principle be brought in to our relief, all hopes of a successful issue must be abandoned.
We feel how very unpalatable all this must be to our countrymen, and how ill it must be received. It will be easy to ascribe it to our own diseased imagination, or disappointed ambition ; it will be easy to ascribe it to a growing distrust of our institutions, to a hankering after other forms of government, or to a love of singu­larity, or of notoriety. All this it is easy to say, and all this unquestionably will be said, and be believed by not a few. There are a thousand voices interested in silencing the still small voice of truth ; and may do so. But, alas ! the truth remains the same, and the evil exists not the less, conceal we it never so effectually from the eyes of the spectator. The evil is there. The cancer eats into the very vitals, and death must, sooner or later, ensue. We may say what we will of the phy­sician who warns us of our danger, who bids us seize time by the forelock, and apply the remedy before it has become irremediable ; we may dismiss him, and call in another, who will tell us smooth things, that there is no danger, that we may eat, drink, dance, sing, and be merry, as usual; but this will avail us nothing. The cancer is there, and eats, eats, never the less.
But we have not closed the catalogue of our dangers. The root of all is in the attempt, with a mere nega­tive quantity, to obtain a positive, out of selfishness to bring forth virtue. This attempt, as we have seen, makes selfishness the ruling principle of the whole community.    The great object of action, then, so far as government is concerned, is to make it the means of promoting, not the public good, but private interest. But to suppose, that it can promote equally the private interest of all, is absurd ; or even of a majority. It can, in the nature of things, promote the private interest of only the few. Then there must be some contrivance by which the few can control its operations, and secure to themselves its advantages, in the language of the day, "the spoils." This contrivance, we may express by the word party. There may still be in the country some remains of virtue, some reminiscences of the doc­trine, that we ought to seek the public good. They who share these reminiscences might, if free to act ac­cording to their own convictions and sense of duty, trouble us, and thwart our schemes. We must control them by means of party organization and party usages, and substitute devotion to party, for devotion to the public, and thus make even the virtues of the people subservient to our selfish purposes. Hence springs up a system of party tactics, from which this country has more to fear, than from any other one cause whatever.
This system, if we have rightly learned it, -and we have learned it from the intimate personal associates of the distinguished man who is at present its most bril­liant representative, - is in substance this : In a repub­lican government, every thing must be done by means of party. Our first effort, therefore, must be to get, and to keep, our party in the majority. We must never propose any measure likely to throw it, or to keep it, in the minority. If we keep our party in the majority, we can, from time to time, through it, propose and carry such measures as we may judge to be proper, or expedient. Mark this. The first object is, not, to find out and support what is for the public good, but, by organization and discipline, to get, and to keep, our party in the ascendency. After this, if we can serve the public without falling into the minority, well and good; if not, why just as well and good, provided we only hold on - to the offices. Nothing can be worse than this.    Regular organized parties, in a republican government, organized with a view to permanence, so as to make it the primary duty of the citizen to support them, are fraught with the greatest danger to liberty. They are contrivances to override the constitution, and to enable a minority to rule the majority. They are machines constructed for the express purpose of cen­tralizing power, for the express benefit of the intriguing politicians, who, by getting hold of the crank, may work then as they please. The only parties really de­fensible in a free government, are such as naturally and spontaneously spring up, and group themselves around different views of governmental policy. These come when they should, last as long as the difference of poli­cy lasts, and then dissolve of themselves. They come, accomplish their object, and disappear.
But having determined that all is to be done by and through party, and that our primary duty is to labor for the organization and ascendency of our party, the next thing to be insisted on is, Fidelity to the party, and strict adherence to its usages, - the surrender of all individual opinions, convictions, and preferences, to the decision of the party, which decision, be it understood, is always to be effected by the aforesaid politicians who have hold of the crank. This throws the whole business into the hands of central committees, and deprives the great mass of the citizens of all free voice in the determination of measures, or in the selection of candidates. These committees, often self-constituted, or, if not, chosen by a feeble minority, arrange every thing, and leave to the citizens at large, or to the great mass of the party, nothing to do, but to accept their arrangements, and support their nomi­nations, or to assume the responsibility of throwing the government into the hands of the opposing party.
To keep the ranks of the party full, to prevent mem­bers from breaking away and asserting their indepen­dence, appeals are now made to the lowest and most corrupting passions of the human heart. The indi­vidual, who shows himself a little uneasy, or disposed to kick at the party traces, must be denounced, thrown over, and declared to be an enemy, and no longer entitied to the confidence of the party. Thus men must be kept in the party, and faithful to its usages, decis­ions, and nominations, not by attachment to its prin­ciples and measures, but through fear, that, if they assert their independence, they will lose their share of " the spoils."
Now, fasten this doctrine on the country, and let it become our settled mode of disposing of all political matters, and our liberties, and the whole action of the government, will be at the mercy of the sly, cunning, adroit, intriguing, selfish demagogues, whom our coun­try, as we have seen, has a direct and strong tendency to multiply.
And here, we must be permitted to say, is a strong reason why the American people should pause and de­liberate long, before restoring Mr. Van Buren to the high office from which, in 1840, they so indignantly ejected him. It cannot be denied, that Mr. Van Buren is the most conspicuous representative of this system of party management, in the country. The system itself has been perfected, and to no inconsiderable extent was founded, by him and his more immediate political asso­ciates. He is intimately connected with it; owes to it all the political elevation he has ever received, and re­lies on it alone for his restoration to the presidency. He has no hope but in its influence ; his restoration would, therefore, be a direct sanction of the system by the American people, and go far towards fastening it upon the country beyond the reach of future redress. In this view of the case, the reelection of Mr. Van Buren, whatever his personal worth, would be a dan­gerous precedent, and a most serious public calamity.
In 1840, such was the state of certain great public questions, and such Mr. Van Buren's position, that all those of us, who felt deeply the importance of com­pleting the financial policy commenced under his ad­ministration, were obliged either to vote for him, or to vote against our principles. But there is no necessity of driving us again to this severe alternative.    Moreover, his defeat was not an unmixed evil, for it was not wholly owing to the opposition of the American people to the leading measures, or rather measure, - for it had but one, - of his administration ; but, to no inconsid­erable extent, to the obnoxious system of party man­agement he   represented.     We are  not sure but the determination to get rid of that system - the caucus system - had as much to do in effecting  his defeat,,, as opposition to the Independent Treasury.    Men had grown weary of party tyranny, and disgusted with its machinery.   That this gave to the Opposition no little of their strength is pretty clearly evinced by the fact, that no sooner were Mr. Van Buren and his caucus system believed to be out of the way, than the Republican party was stronger than ever.   State after State returned, and gave their votes for the principles and measures of government, they had persisted, under him and his tac­tics, in voting down.    The whole party, throughout the Union, gave a sudden spring, as if freed from some superincumbent weight,  which  had  hitherto  pressed it to the earth, and prevented all free movement.    It was a general jubilee ; and men seemed to say, " Now republican principles can have a free development, and a certain triumph."
Considerate men, who had stood by Mr. Van Buren, and made no inconsiderable sacrifices to sustain him, felt, after all, that his defeat had its good side, in that it might tend to break up the old party organization, demolish its machinery, and leave men a measure of freedom to labor for the public good. They felt that all was not lost; nay, that the gain might possibly, in the long run, overbalance the loss. Mr. Van Buren, they felt, was out of the way; and this, in itself, was no trifling gain. Hope sprang up afresh, and, in the buoy­ancy of their hearts, they were disposed to treat him with all tenderness, to tread lightly on his faults, to forget the injuries he had inflicted on the Republican cause, and to magnify, as much as possible, his virtues and public services. His defeat softened prejudice and disarmed hostility, and all were disposed to follow him to private life with marked respect, if not with grati­tude.    They felt, that, since he was no longer in the field, the disasters of the campaign could he easily re­paired ;   and  that the  Republican  forces,  marshalled again, under new leaders, with fresh hopes, and the natural stimulus of recently recovered freedom, would be in no danger of a future defeat.    There was reason and justice in all this.    But the reappearance of Mr. Van Buren upon the stage changes the whole aspect of affairs.   He comes not alone, but as the chief of a band, which the country had devoutly hoped was dispersed, never to be collected again.    He comes as the repre­sentative of the same old corrupt and corrupting system of party tactics, followed by the same swarm of greedy spoilsmen, with their appetite for plunder sharpened by the  few years' abstinence they have  been forced, through the remains of the original virtue and patriot­ism  of the  country, to  practise.    Gratify his wishes, restore him to the place he is personally soliciting, and we lose all that was good in the defeat of the Republi­can party in 1840, and retain only the evil.    We re­store, what, with an almost unheard-of effort, the coun­try had thrown off, and place the Republican party in the condition in which it must be defeated again, or the country be inevitably ruined.
These are, no doubt, hard things to be said of a man who has once filled the high office of president of these United States; but, if Mr. Van Buren had been at all worthy of that high office, they never would have been said ; for he would, on his defeat, have retired, and remained thenceforth in private life. The fact, that he is now before the public, soliciting to be restored to that office from which the country ejected him with indignation and disgust, is a proof of his moral unfitness for the place to which he aspires, and of the justice and wisdom of the people in ejecting him. He loses all the sympathy his defeat excited, forfeits all the respect with which generous hearts always follow the fallen, and all the sacredness that ordinarily belongs to those who have filled high office.   He stands before us, simply as an aspirant for the highest honor in the gift of the American people, and not an aspirant relying on his own personal merits and eminent public services, but on a system of party tactics and caucus machinery, which cannot be countenanced for a moment, without the most serious detriment to liberty, and the grossest indignity to civic virtue.    Under these circumstances, he must expect to have hard things said of him, at., least hard things to be thought of him, by every man capable of distinguishing between the virtues of the citizen and the virtues of the partisan.     He voluntarily provokes the severest censure from every enlightened friend of his country, and of her republican institutions. It is too much to ask us to restore the old caucus sys­tem, the old party machinery, and reinstate all the old drill sergeants, by whose means our liberties have been jeoparded, and our Republic brought to the very edge of the precipice.    It is too much to expect us quietly, now after so much has been done, to clear the onward path of republicanism ; now after Providence has so sig­nally intervened in our favor against those who had for so long a time provoked its indignation, to replace the old impediments swept away by the whirlwind of 1840, by rallying again around the very man, who, of all others in the Union, relies most on these very impedi­ments for success, and who cannot be ignorant, that, if it were not for the party contrivances which stifle the free voice of the people, he would never be solicited to leave, even for a moment, the classic shades of Linden-wold.
We have spoken of the peculiar dangers to which institutions like ours are exposed. These dangers are great and threatening ; they have already acquired an alarming force, and seem almost ready to break upon us with overwhelming fury ; but we do not look upon them as inevitable, or irremediable. We may guard against them, and shelter ourselves almost, if not wholly, against all ill consequences. But our protec­tion against them is in the virtue of the people, in their firmness to resist the tendency to selfishness, which our institutions themselves naturally generate ; and we must add, in their virtue, not merely as subjects of the gov­ernment, but as citizens.
Here, where'suffrage is so nearly universal, the great body of the adult male population sustain to the gov­ernment a two-fold relation, - the relation of subject, and the relation of citizen. As subjects, they are held to allegiance ; their virtue is loyalty, and their duty obe­dience ; as citizens, they are constituent elements of the government itself, and share in the administration.
A faithful discharge of all their duties as subjects will not secure the ends of good government. Good government demands, not only strict obedience to the laws, but just laws, and wise administration. The justice of the laws, and the wisdom of the adminis­tration, depend on the virtue and intelligence of the people, not in their capacity of subjects, but in their capacity of citizens. The republican form of govern­ment will prove a total failure, unless the citizens, acting as constituent elements of the government, carry into its administration loyalty to Eternal Justice ; that stern integrity, and disinterested devotion to the public, which will force the government, in all its practical workings, to seek, always and everywhere, the greatest good of each individual subject, whether high or low, rich or poor.
The chief danger, to which our republican insti­tutions are exposed, does not lie in the disloyalty of the people when acting as subjects, but in their venality and corruption when acting as citizens, - in their increasing want of devotion to the public good, and increasing efforts to convert the government into a machine for promoting their own purely private and selfish ends, - each regardless of the evils he may cause it to inflict on others.
This distinction has not, we apprehend, been always made, nor sufficiently insisted upon. The teachers of morality, whether from the pulpit or the press, when insisting on the necessity of popular virtue to sustain popular government, have confined themselves mainly, to the virtue of the subject, that is, obedience to the laws, and the faithful discharge of the several duties involved in the various private relations of man with man; and it is still this obedience, and these private virtues, that our clergy have chiefly in view, when they speak of the necessity of religion as the support of popular government. Here is one great reason why we have so many tolerable subjects, who are grossly corrupt citizens ; and why, with no mean share of pri­vate morality, we have scarcely the semblance of civic virtue. There has been, with us, in a deeper sense than is commonly implied, a total separation of Church and State. Religion and morality, in a political point of view, afford us little or no protection, because they are seldom brought to bear upon the people in their capacity of citizens. They will be sufficient for our wants, only when we are made to feel by our moral and religious teachers, that we must carry with us, in our capacity of citizens, all the singleness of purpose, all the firmness to resist temptation, and all the self-denial, and disinterested devotion to the Supreme Law, that we are required to have in our capacity of subjects, or private individuals.
Doubtless, the cultivation and growth of our virtues as subjects will tend to strengthen and confirm our vir­tues as citizens ; but, on the other hand, the neglect of our virtues as citizens will tend to corrupt and destroy our virtues as subjects. I carry my selfishness with me into the discharge of my duties as a citizen, and I seek to make laws, or to administer the government, for my own private benefit. But I make the laws. If they are against my interest, why should I obey them ? If I obey selfishness in making the laws, I shall be very apt to obey it in keeping them ; and if I am corrupt in what concerns the public, I shall not long remain pure in what concerns individuals. We would not underrate the virtues of the subject, but, in their effects, the vir­tues of the citizen, in a country like ours, are of far more vital importance.   The former affect few, and those only for a short period; the latter affect millions, and it may be through a thousand generations.    Our religious and moral teachers should, then, bring the whole force of religion and morality to bear upon our conduct as citizens.    The citizen, as distinguished from the sub­ject, is a public officer ; in voting, he acts in a public capacity; exercises, not a private right, but a public trust; and, therefore, is bound to vote, not according to his private interests or feelings, but according to his most solemn convictions of the public good.    No citi­zen has a right to say, " My vote is my own, and I may give it for whom I please."    The consequences of his vote do not concern himself alone.     In voting, he acts for others, no less than for himself.   It is not, then, what he is willing to submit to for himself, that should govern him, but what he has the right to fasten upon those with whom he is associated.    The citizen, who deposits his vote, should, then, do it under a deep and solemn feeling of his accountability, both to his fellow-citizens, or subjects, and to the Great Moral Governor of the Universe.    He, who trifles with his vote, trifles with a sacred trust; he who trifles with his vote, or suffers it to be tampered with by others, is as guilty as would be the Christian who should trifle with the most solemn act of his religion.    He who gives his vote for the party, or the man, he cannot in conscience approve, and thus aids in fastening, what he cannot but believe an injury, on his country, is worse than a thief and a robber.    He is a traitor to his God, his country, and his race.    Here, no more than elsewhere, can there be the least compromise with duty, without guilt.    To the citizen, as to the man, God says, " My son, give   me thy heart."    We must be made, as citizens, to feel this, and to act accordingly, or all is lost.    Wise and just government cannot long coexist with the utter profli­gacy of  the great  mass of our  citizens,  as  citizens. The citizens will impress upon the government their own  want of  public spirit and integrity.    Our great danger lies here, - in our want of high-toned, stern, uncompromising civic virtue.
It is not our design, in this Journal, which is devoted mainly to the discussion of first principles, to mingle in the party strife about special measures  or particular men ; but there are times, when men and principles are so interlinked, that it is impossible to disjoin them, and treat  them  separately.     Such  is,   in   our  view,   the present.    We have reached such a crisis in our political affairs, that almost every thing depends, not on the party which now succeeds, bat on the man we elect president.    The great labor should now be to elect a president of the country, not the mere chief of a party, - a man who will go into office, and reform the ad­ministration, and wield the whole force of the govern­ment against the spoilsmen, and do all that he can, constitutionally, to arrest the tendency to suffer the pol­itics of the country to  lie  under the control of the demagogues, as  they have  been  for the last fifteen years.    We want a man of high moral integrity, of a high order of intellect, of great firmness, decision, and energy of character, who shall look more than four years ahead; a man who is above all party trickery, and who disdains all appeal to party machinery as the means of his elevation ; a man, in one word, the very opposite, in all his moral qualities and party relations, of Mr. Van Buren.    We want a man at the head of the government who is a man, feeling his accountability to his Maker, and his duty to sacrifice himself, if need be, for the good of his country, and the moral and social elevation of his countrymen.
Now, it strikes us, that it is time for the sound por­tion of the people, disregarding all old party lines, and laying aside, for the moment, even favorite party meas­ures, to rally around some such man, whether he has heretofore been called a Democrat or a Whig. Greater questions are at stake, than Bank or No-bank, Tariff or Free Trade. The very existence of our Republic, the very existence of our government, as it existed in the minds and the hearts of our fathers, and as capable of being a guaranty of individual liberty and public pros­perity, is at stake.    If the right man, if a statesman, instead of a partisan, be placed now in the presidential chair, the circumstances of the country are such, that he can give to the political action of the country a healthy direction, and aid in our restoration to civic virtue. He can dash the hopes of the spoilsmen, and rescue the gov­ernment from those who would make it an instrument of plundering the many for the benefit of the few. We have carried our ultraism, on both sides, far enough, and, go we with the extreme right, or the extreme left, ruin alike awaits us.
We trust this appeal does not come too late. Sensi­ble men, in all parts of the country, are beginning to feel, that the success of the partisans of Mr. Van Buren, or those of Mr. Clay, representing as they do the opposite extremes, would be fraught with the most serious in­jury. Corruption has spread far and wide ; the two armies of demagogues are marshalled, their drill ser­geants are at work day and night; but it is to be hoped, that there is yet a sufficient number not enrolled in either of these divisions, to save the Republic. Let these men, who want justice and free government, make themselves heard before it is too late ; let them select their man ; let them rally to his support; and they will succeed. If not, if they fail, they will have the imperishable glory of having failed in a noble effort for a righteous cause. But they will not fail. There is a moral majesty in the movements of honest men and firm patriots, before which the unprincipled and corrupt cannot stand a moment. They will succeed. The moral forces of the universe are all with those who contend for the right, and let it not be said, that already the chains of party are so firmly riveted on our limbs, and our lips so closely fastened with its padlocks, that we cannot move nor speak.