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The Republic of the United States

Brownson's Quarterly Review, April, 1849
Art. III.- The Republic of the United States of America: its Duties to itself and its Responsible Relations to other Coun­tries. Embracing also a Review of the Late War between the United States and Mexico ; its Causes and its Results ; and of those Measures of Government which have characterized the Democracy of the Union. New York. 1848. 12mo. pp. 322.
As an electioneering document, this flimsy production with a pompous title might be suffered to pass without animadversion ; but regarded as a grave work, intended to instruct the American people in their political rights and duties, or to defend the late war with Mexico and the general policy of the Democratic par­ty, the only merit we can award it, if indeed so much, is that which the author says is the only merit he claims, - namely, the purity of its motives. The author is neither a scholar nor a statesman. His philosophizing on history and the formation and growth of nations is borrowed from a bad school ; his state­ments are entitled to no credit; his principles are unsound and pernicious ; and his reasoning is seldom logical or conclusive. The sum and substance of his work is : This is a great coun­try ; we are a great people ; and the greatness of the country and of the people is all due to the expansive democracy.
We yield to no man in the interest we take in the real prog­ress and welfare of the American people ; but we are thorough­ly disgusted with the ignorance and inflated vanity of our pre­tended patriots. We have no sympathy with those who are continually saying, Isn't this a great country? Are not we a great people ? Territorially considered, we are a great country; and in our ceaseless activity and industrial enterprise, we are a great people ; but that we are great in any other sense does not yet appear. We have shown ourselves great neither in art nor science, neither in religion nor morals, neither in statesmanship nor general or special intelligence. We have, in fact, nothing whereof to boast; and a rigid self-examination would convince us that we have made, instead of the most, the least of the advanT tages with which Providence has favored us.
Indeed, we are usually disposed to distrust the head or the heart of the American who makes loud pretensions to love of country. A man must have a country before he can love it, and it must have been for a long series of ages the home of his fathers before he can feel his bosom glow with genuine patriotism. Our population is too recent, too floating, too little fixed to any particular locality, to feelthat it has a country, - to be capable of that strong attachment to its native land, to the scenes and associations of home, without which patriotism does not and cannot exist. The grandfathers of comparatively few of us were born on the soil we inhabit. There are few home­steads in the country that have been held from father to son through three generations. We have no ancestral halls ; we have no ancestors ; but are, in some sense, ourselves our own sires. There are few spots in the country around which many memories can cluster, few shrines the pilgrim heart can visit, few materials for national poetry. Our poets cannot find a song without going abroad. We are only a huge trading town, in which business men from all parts of the world are temporarily congregated for purposes of gain or livelihood, each with his own local associations and attachments, and speaking his mother tongue, unknown to all but himself. The people of the United States, as a whole, have very little in common. They have not a common origin ; they have not even a common national name, or any common national associations. How, then, can they have genuine patriotism, - that deep, loyal, ineradicable attach­ment to one's natal soil which we are accustomed to express by that word ? We may have national vanity, national pride, and be ready to uphold the rights or the interests of our coun­try against all others ; yet true love of country we have not, and it is rarely that without an effort we bring ourselves to say, my country.
We say not this by way of reproach. The thing was inevi­table. It is no fault of the race or races which have taken pos­session of the country. The great bulk of our people are of English, German, and Irish descent, and no people are more remarkable for love of country than those from whom we have sprung. In their own respective countries they are patriots ; but, torn from their natal soil, and transplanted to a strange land, they cannot at once feel themselves at home ; they cannot trans­fer at once to this strange land those affections which fastened them to England, Germany, or Ireland, hallowed by the joys and sorrows, the fears and hopes, the loves and hates, the toils and struggles of their forefathers from time immemo­rial. How can we sing the songs of our fatherland in a strange country ? Time, no doubt, will correct the evil, and cure the defect. In time, we shall grow into a nation, be melted into one people, and find ourselves at home in this western world. Then we shall have genuine patriotism, - that patriotism which springs from the heart. But now the less we say of patriotism, the more will it be to our credit. The less we boast, the less we affect the language, in speaking of the United States, which the people of other countries adopt in speaking of their native land, the more good sense and the better taste shall we exhibit. We must have a household before we can without affectation use household words. We wish our young authors who affect so much Americanism would bear this in mind, and talk of things which are, and not of things which are not.
We can sympathize with those who are struck with the great­ness and magnificence, under a material point of view, of the United States, and even with those who indulge high hopes for the American people. That the American people have a des­tiny we do not doubt ; that they have a great and glorious desti­ny we would fain hope ; that they are on the road to such a des­tiny we have yet to be convinced. At any rate, writers like the one before us, whose highest ambition appears to be to court them, to strengthen their dangerous tendencies, and flatter their corrupt passions, are not likely to aid them in attaining it. There may be courtiers in a republic as well as in a monarchy, and their influence is no more to be deprecated in the latter than in the former. The principle on which the courtier acts is that the pleasure of the sovereign is the rule of right and wrong. His study is to find out and anticipate his sovereign's pleasure. It is the same in a democracy. Under a democracy, the peo­ple are held to be the sovereign, and the democratic courtiers make it their study to ascertain the popular instincts, wishes, or passions, and to provide as far as possible for their gratification. They hold, as a principle, that popular instincts and passions are infallible, and not only maintain that it is lawful for the people in all cases to follow them, but denounce all who assert the con­trary as enemies to the people, as the friends of tyrants and tyranny, as deserving the reprobation of both God and men. They get the ear of the sovereign, and will let him hear no voice but theirs. They keep at a distance all those counsellors who would appeal, not to his passions, but to his good sense, and ren­der unavailable whatever of practical wisdom and moral honesty the great body of the people may possess. They drive the people on to their ruin, and prevent all effectual interposition for their salvation.
We speak not lightly of the people ; we have no disposition to depreciate their intelligence or the general correctness of their motives ; but they are almost always the dupes of unprincipled demagogues.    If the good sense, if the practical wisdom, if the moral honesty of the people could always be rendered available, - if the appeal could always be made to their reason instead of their passions, to their judgments instead of their caprices,- our estimate of their capacity for self-government would be as fa­vorable as that professed by our democratic friends.     But we must always bear in mind that man has fallen, that his nature has been corrupted, and that, collectively as well as individually, the people are prone to evil, and that continually.    When they resist their inclinations, silence the clamor of their appetites and passions, and listen only to the voice of reason, which, though obscured by the fall, yet survives in every man, they in general take correct views and come to safe conclusions ; but they listen far more readily to appetite and passion, and follow with far greater facility the suggestions of corrupt desires than the sober lessons of reason.    To do evil demands no violence to natural inclination; to practise virtue always demands an effort.    This is true of every one of the people individually, and therefore must be true of the whole collectively.    Hence it follows that the demagogues, though but small men themselves, have always more power with the people than have wise and virtuous states­men, and all popular governments have a tendency to become the exponents of popular corruption instead of popular reason and virtue.
If, then, we hope for our country, it is always with fear and trembling. The chances are against its attaining that destiny which seems to have been promised it. It is certain that we started with many advantages. We had a new and virgin soil, of vast extent and boundless fertility ; we were far removed from the example and corruptions of the Old World ; we had, as much as a people can have, the shaping of our destiny in our own hands ; and yet we have already at least the germs of every vice and every evil to be deplored in old and worn-out nations. There is no denying this. We have adopted the European system of industry, and, with half a continent of unoc­cupied land, we experience the extreme of poverty. Poverty more than keeps pace with the increase of wealth ; public and private morals are daily deteriorating; crime is on a rapid and startling increase ; law has lost its sanctity, and loyalty is ex­tinct. Population, indeed, augments, new territory is acquired, and our external prosperity receives no check. But, internally, we do not prosper.    The heart is rotten, and the people will accept no remedy. Their minds and hearts are turned away from all that makes the true glory of a state, and they have nei­ther the patience nor the cultivation requisite to their conver­sion. They who see this can do little towards correcting it, for their lessons can avail nothing unless they are considered ; and who in these times will pause to consider ? Fail to flatter the people, fail to encourage their tendencies, or to sympathize with them in their delusions, and, however much you may be commended by individuals, you will be pronounced unpopular, admission at court will be denied you, and your influence, though you speak with the eloquence of an angel, the love of a saint, and the wisdom of a sage, will be null. Your words will bring no echo but the derisive laugh of the brainless and heartless demagogues who are urging the people on in a career of individ­ual and national ruin.
The evil here is greater than most people, even intelligent and well-disposed people, suspect. Every people, consciously or unconsciously, struggles with all its power to realize the last consequences of the principles it adopts. If those principles are unsound, the whole tendency, the whole labor, of the nation is to its own destruction. But in a pqpular government, it is next to impossible to correct unsound principles before the ruin comes. It is only in two ways that the destructive consequences can be seen before they are practically developed,-that is, either by the teachings of religion, or by philosophy. In a democracy, little reliance can be placed on the former. When the people are taught that they are sovereign, they will submit to no re­ligious teaching that attempts to control them. Religion must be their subject, not their master,-serve, not govern them. Moreover, the people never do and can never be made to un­derstand that religion ever does or ever can condemn any thing not directly opposed to her formal and express teachings. As long as they profess the creed and observe the prescribed form of worship, they will never believe that any principles they adopt and follow in the temporal order are irreligious, or matters concerning which religion has any thing to say.
The other method is not more effectual. The people are not philosophers. There are very few persons in any nation who can take up the national policy, reduce it to its principles, and show what, according to the ordinary course of history, are the logical consequences they necessarily involve. The great body of the people, even of the educated classes, cannot do it, - cannot even understand it when it is done.   The few may do it, may publish the result, and utter the solemn warning ; but to what end ? The people are blind to the one and deaf to the other ; they go on their way, heedless of both. If they could be made to pause, if they could be made to listen, and to com­prehend what is said, the evil could be averted •, but in a democ­racy this is extremely difficult, if not absolutely impossible. All is lost upon them, for no man has or can have influence over them, but in his sympathy with them. Hence it is, that, when they have once adopted mischievous principles, it is in vain to attempt to induce them to abandon them. You can never make them see the unsoundness of those principles, or believe them dangerous, and all you will gain by the attempt will be your own unpopularity.
Here is a point which our modern democrats appear to us to overlook, or at least one to which they attach far less import­ance than it deserves.    They all, as far as we have seen, with­out a single exception, proceed on the assumption, that man re­tains his primitive innocency, and human nature its primitive integrity.    If this assumption were allowable, the purely dem­ocratic form of government would be a safe, and, perhaps, the best, form of government.    But, unhappily, this is not the fact.    The philosopher no more than the Christian can deny that man has fallen.    The evidences of the fall stare us in the face, let us go where or turn which way we will.    We do not distrust the popular reason, even fallen as man is ', and if the people would follow their reason, we should find no fault with the democratic theory.    But the people, collectively as well as individually, follow inclination, appetite, passion, which have been corrupted by the fall, and not reason, which has remained comparatively uncorrupted.    Here is the fact, and here is the difficulty.    Carried away by their appetites and passions, they will not pause long enough to hear the voice of reason, or to profit by the instructions of those who see their error, and the proper policy to be adopted. What they want is authority,which, itself enlightened and controlled by reason, shall hold them in check, and compel them, at times, to do violence to their own inclinations, and to act contrary to their own wills. This author­ity democracy cannot supply.    Democracy can restrain individ­uals, whenever they violate the public sentiment; but it has no power to punish even individuals for crimes which the public sentiment does not condemn, - far less has it power to restrain the people collectively; for then the restrainer and the restrained, the governor and the governed, become in every respect identical. In fact, the democratic government is expressly devised, not to restrain the people in their collective action or public conduct, but to relieve them of all restraint, and to give them free scope to do whatever they please, to follow without let or hindrance whatever is the dominant passion or sentiment for the time being.
Unhappily, it is hardly safe in this country for a man who regards his reputation to utter these plain and commonplace truths, - which is an additional proof that they are truths, and important truths too. Within the last twenty-five years, it has become the fashion with a large portion of our community to regard our American institutions as purely democratic, and to denounce what is not democratic as anti-American. We say within the last twenty-five years; for, prior to that time, unless for a brief period under the old Confederation, there was not and never had been in the country a party that even acknowledged itself to be purely democratic. The Republicans, as distin­guished from the Federalists, though they may have had demo­cratic tendencies, scorned the name of Democrat. To the charge brought against them by the Federalists of being Demo­crats, they were accustomed, even within ourown memory,- and we are not very old, - to reply with great indignation, " No, I am not a Democrat, I 'm a Republican." In many parts of the country, they do not even now take the name of Democrat, but adhere to the name of Republican, which they bore in the time of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. The name began to be used during the administration of John Quincy Adams, but be­came general only after the second election of Andrew Jackson. We owe the present popularity of democracy, in great measure, to the influx of English and Scotch radicals, at the head of whom were Frances Wright, Robert Dale Owen, and Robert L. Jennings, - to the writings of Amos Kendall, William Leg-gett, and George Bancroft, - to the administrations of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, - and to the declamations, cant, and sentimentality of our abolitionists and philanthropists.
Prior to General Jackson's administration, the institutions of this country had never received, except from a kw individuals, a democratic interpretation. General Jackson was a great man ; the American people idolize his memory, and we have no wish to detract from his merits ; but he was, in the higher sense of the word, no statesman. He was a man of heroic impulses, of a strong mind, and an iron will ; but a man who had made no profound study of political science.    No one doubts his integrity, or his devotion to what he believed for the best good of the republic ; but like all strong-minded men, men of great natural parts and little science, he had a tendency to cut rather than untie the Gordian knot of statesmanship. He appears never to have understood that our government is a government sui generis, - not any one of the simple forms of government, but a peculiar combination of them all. Instead of seeking to preserve them all as nicely adjusted by the Convention of 1787, he sought to simplify the machine, and he gave an undue prominence to the monarchical element on the one hand, and to the democratic ele­ment on the other. He did more, perhaps, than any other Pres­ident we have had for the external splendor of the republic ; but we are obliged to add, more also for the destruction of the Constitution and the corruption of public morals.
We speak not here for or against the measures supported or opposed by General Jackson's administration. In most of the measures of his administration, especially in regard to the Unit­ed States Bank, we agreed with him, and have seen no reason to change our views. We are aware of no measure which he proposed that in itself tended to disturb the nicely adjusted bal­ance of the Constitution. The evil was done, not by the meas­ures he proposed, but by the principles on which he acted, and defended himself and his measures from the attacks of his enemies. He was, if we are not mistaken, the first of our Presidents who confounded the will of the people, expressed through caucuses and newspapers, with the will of the people expressed through legal and constitutional forms, - that is, who confounded the people as population with the people as the state ; thus preparing the way for the Rhode Island rebellion, generally justified by his party. In this one thing he inflicted, we fear, an irreparable injury upon his country ; for in this he unchained that very spirit of wild and lawless democracy which the Constitution was avowedly intended to repress. That he foresaw what he was doing, we do not pretend. He had a vio­lent and powerful opposition to contend against, and he availed himself of such supports as were at hand, or as his sagacity as­sured him would be available. He cared little for forms. The people who rule through the Constitution are the same people who speak outside of it", and what does it matter whether we follow the will expressed in the one form or the other ? The people are sovereign, and their will is the law. If we only get that will, what difference can it make how we get it ? None in the world, if the will, whatever the form in which it is collected, is always sure to be the same will. But the presump­tion always is, that it will not be the same, otherwise constitu­tions would be insignificant. The presumption is, that the popular will expressed through legal and constitutional forms will be the popular will regulated by reason, while that expressed irrespective of such forms will be the popular will subjected to popular passion. The Constitution is intended to be a con­trivance for collecting the popular reason separated from popu­lar passion, and enabling that which is not corrupt in the people to govern without subjection to that which is corrupt. The voice of the people, speaking through legal and constitutional forms, is ordinarily the voice of reason,-perhaps as pure an expression of reason as with human infirmity we can obtain ; but the voice of the people outside is the voice of corrupt nature, of faction, of demagogues, disorderly passion, and selfish inter­ests, to which it is always fatal to listen. This distinction ap­pears to have escaped the observation of General Jackson and his friends, and the consequence has been the fashion of inter­preting our institutions according to the principle of pure de­mocracy, instead of so interpreting them as to restrict the sphere of the democratic element.
It having been made by General Jackson and his friends popular to regard our institutions as democratic, there is an al­most universal tendency now to place our sole reliance for good government on the democratic element, which they unquestion­ably contain, and to bring out that element in greater prominence, and to provide, as far as "possible, for its exclusive dominion. The demagogues, the party in power, and the party out of power, alike make their appeals to it alone. Philanthropists, radi­cals, advocates of equality, political or social, business men, friends of monopoly wishing to make the government a mere in­strument in their hands for promoting their own private inter­ests, - all appeal exclusively to democracy, and seek to sweep away every barrier erected by the wisdom of our fathers against popular caprice or popular passion. The Whig party, some­times claiming to be conservative, is no less democratic than its opponent. Since 1838, when the Boston Atlas, with a questionable policy, denounced the aristocratic Whigs, and as­serted the necessity of descending into the forum to take the people by the hand, the Whig party have had no distinctive principles, and both the great parties of the country have sim­ply been striving to see which should, if the word may be allow­ed us, out-Democrat the other.    Exception made of individual Whigs, it is hard to say which of the two parties, the Whig or the Democratic, is the more conservative, and retains the most respect for the Constitution. Henry Clay, the embodiment of the worst democratic tendencies of the country, obtained more votes as a candidate for the Presidency in the Whig convention, held at Philadelphia last summer, than Daniel Webster, who is distinguished for his constitutionalism. It is the Whig party that would abolish the presidential veto, and by so doing throw the whole power into the hands of the majority for the time, and establish legislative despotism.
Nevertheless, since both parties claim to be democratic, neither can offer any effectual check upon the tendency of the country to pure democracy. Both parties are necessarily compelled to make democratic appeals, and to give, as far as possible, a democratic interpretation to the Federal and State Constitutions. Both, wherever there is opportunity, favor ex­clusive democracy. Take the alterations effected in several of the State Constitutions, whether by one party or the other, and they all tend to remove restraints on the popular will, to expose the government more immediately to every fluctuation of popu­lar opinion. Their aim is, in all cases, to bring the govern­ment nearer to the people, and to give them a more direct voice in its administration. Such among others is the provision recently adopted in several of the States for electing the judges of the several courts immediately by the people ; such also is the tendency favored in many of the States to alter, abridge, or abolish the common law. In New York, and a few other States, the democratic tendency has proved strong enough to invade even the sacred precincts of the family, and, under the pretence of protecting the wife against her husband, to prepare the virtual abolition of the marriage relations. If the tendency continues, it will not be many years before the notion that the husband is the head of the wife will be entirely exploded, and universal suffrage and eligibility be extended to women as well as to men. We already have Woman's Rights Associations ; and we believe the women in the State of New York - a State as notorious for its practical transcendentalism as our city is for its theoretical - have already put forth a declaration of their independence of the tyrant, man. Whether they mean to support it by force of arms or by force of charms does not yet appear. But these are all signs, and pregnant signs, which deserve the serious attention of all who retain their senses or the least regard for social order and public virtue.    On the principles on which it has become fashionable to defend democ­racy, it is impossible to defend " the ascendency of the male sex," to maintain that the husband is the head of the wife, or to vindicate the authority of the father over his children. Do­mestic government must soon go, and with it, of course, all government.
But, strong as the democratic tendency has become, severe as is the blow which our institutions have already received, we hope it is not too late to retrace our steps, and to return to the Constitution. Unquestionably, the democratic element en­ters largely into our political system, and the American states­man is never at liberty to neglect it, or to labor to suppress it; but it is not the only element, nor the generative principle of our institutions. The American system is complex in its ori­gin, and to interpret it by any one principle is to mistake it. It contains other elements as sacred, as fundamental, as essen­tial, as the democratic element itself; and the statesman is as much bound to consult and preserve them as he is to consult and preserve it,- perhaps, if there be any difference, even more so, because they were expressly intended as a counterpoise to democracy.
The Constitution is sacred and inviolable. It is the supreme law of the land, and binds the people both individually and col­lectively. Whence it derives its legitimacy and supremacy, we do not now inquire ; for its legitimacy and supremacy must be conceded, or else we must maintain that we have no legal order, and are subject to mere arbitrary will, which, whether the will of one, of the few, or of the many, is the essence of despotism. But if the Constitution is legitimate and supreme, the people collectively and individually are under it, bound to obey it, and have and can have no power, directly or indirectly, to alter its fundamental or essential character,- consequently, are bound to (he best of their ability to preserve it substantially as it is. The Constitution, or the instrument we call the Constitution, contains, indeed, a clause providing for its own amendment; but the Constitution can authorize amendments only in its own interest, such as tend to preserve its original type or idea, and to secure or facilitate its realization.
On this power to amend there is much loose and even wrong thinking among our politicians. When the civil society is once constituted, it is supreme, the political sovereignty vests in it, and there is and can be, in that society, no power over it. The powers of the convention called to amend the constitution, whatever their limit or extent, are derived from the civil society, and can be only such as it can delegate. It can delegate all the powers it possesses, saving its own existence and supremacy as civil society. It cannot part with its inherent sovereignty, nor dissolve itself. But civil society exists in its constitution. The constitution is the fundamental law of the state, that which constitutes civil society, or gives to society its entity as a polit­ical or civil individual. Suppose the constitution, you suppose civil society ; take away the constitution, you destroy civil so­ciety. As the general has no existence without the particular, the constitution does not create civil society in general, but a particular civil society, and therefore must be itself a particular civil constitution. Hence the existence of any given political society depends always on its particular constitution. Any essential change of that constitution will, then, be the dissolu­tion of that particular civil society. But, as no civil society can authorize its own dissolution, it follows that the convention can have no power, under the authority to amend the constitu­tion, to touch, in any degree whatever, any of its essential prin­ciples, and is limited to such amendments as are perfectly com­patible with the preservation of its fundamental and substantial character.
We are treating here of conventions held under civil society in pursuance of a constitutional provision. If we suppose the people in the state of nature, and a convention for constituting civil society, a different principle, no doubt, holds. If it be a fact,- which, however, we do not admit,- that the French Rev­olution of February, 1848, dissolved political France, annihilated the entire civil society, and reduced the French people to the state of nature, the National Assembly which was convened, or which came together, had, no doubt, plenary powers, and was free to give to the French nation any civil constitution, within the law of nature, it deemed advisable. But the constitution decided upon, if legitimate, the moment it was established, be­came the supreme law of the land, sacred and inviolable. Civil society, civil France, was then reconstituted, and henceforth French sovereignty vests in this civil France, and all bodies henceforth convoked, ordinary or extraordinary, depend on it for their powers. Hence there is always a radical difference between a convention to constitute civil society and a con­vention under civil society to amend the constitution. The former holds under the law of nature, and has all powers which that law does not forbid •, the latter holds under the constitu­tion, and has no powers but those which it confers.
The modern doctrine of democratic politicians on this head, that sovereignty vests, not in the people as civil society, but in the people back of it, or prior to it, is unsound. Back of civil society, or anterior to it, in what is called the state of nature, the people have no normal existence ; for civil society itself is coeval and coextensive with the human race. To ascend to its origin, you must ascend to the origin of man himself; for he is essentially social, and society is impossible, inconceivable even, without government of some sort. In point of fact, civility is as essential to the conception of the normal man as is sociality itself. The so-called state of nature, save as a metaphysical abstraction, if ever found, is abnormal, exceptional, not prior, as an actual fact, to civil society, but subsequent thereto. It is never prudent to follow the speculations of the political the­orists of the last century, who in nearly all cases, to use a home­ly expression, placed the cart before the horse. That a people may lose civil society and lapse into what is called the state of na­ture- that is, be reduced to the natural law alone - is conceiv­able, may sometimes happen ; and when so, they may, no doubt, come together in convention, and, if able, reconstitute civil so­ciety, reorganize the stale, under any form they please, not repugnant to the law of nature ; not, however, in consequence of any inherent sovereignty vesting in them, not because they are the normal origin of all civil power, but from the necessity of the case, - the necessity of having civil government, and there being for them no other way of getting it. But rights founded in necessity cease with the necessity itself. The ne­cessity ceases the moment the civil society or the state is re­constituted ; consequently, from that moment ceases the right or sovereignty of the unconstituted people, or people back of civil society, under the simple law of nature.
We cannot, therefore, accept the theory which places the con­vention assembled in pursuance of a constitutional provision on the same footing with the convention of the people prior to civil society, under the law of nature, - a theory which supposes the people antecedently to civil society inherently sovereign and the source of all the legitimate powers of the state. This the­ory of popular sovereignty we eschew, because it is repugnant to the fundamental idea of government. Civility and sovereign­ty are identical, or, at worst, inseparable, and one cannot be with­out the other. Suppose sovereignty, you suppose the state ; suppose the state, you suppose sovereignty. Suppose the peo­ple sovereign anterior to civil society, you suppose civil society anterior to civil society ; that is, that the same thing can both be and not be at the same time ! The people are sovereign, we grant; but as civil society, that is, as constituted, made a political person or individuality, - not the people as mere pop­ulation, back of civil society and out of it, in which sense they never have a normal existence, and, where there is civil society, no existence at all.
The notion, therefore, that the clause authorizing a conven­tion to amend the constitution is simply designed to establish an orderly or regular method of appealing to a power back of the constitution which originally made it, and therefore compe­tent to unmake it, must be regarded as unsound ; for no such power  exists, ov can be  conceived.     We cannot suppose such power to survive the constitution of civil society without denying civil society itself, by converting it into a mere volun­tary association, and making law a mere voluntary agreement. No statesman, if at all worthy of the name, will for a moment confound the state with a voluntary association.    The state - what we mean by civil society - is something established (sta­tus), fixed, immovable ; but nothing is established, fixed, im­movable, that depends on volition.  A voluntary association has no coercive power, and voluntary agreements in the absence of law may or may not be observed, at the option of the parties. Government cannot be founded in compact.    If the people back of the constitution, that is, back of the civil society, are the source of power, they have the power to change the con­stitution at will, - to alter, enlarge, contract, or revoke the powers they delegate to civil society, as seems to them good. Grant that they have agreed that they will do it only according to certain formalities, these formalities they impose upon them­selves, and nothing hinders them from throwing them oft' at will.    They are responsible for their observance only to them­selves, and  if  they choose to  dispense  themselves, who   is wronged, who has a right to complain ?    If the people back of civil society are the origin of the state, the real, persisting sovereign, and if the state derives from them, Dorrism is true, and the late decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, condemning it, is indefensible.    But Dorrism is subversive of all political order, for it asserts the constant presence in the community of a power competent to disregard the existing au­thorities, to annul the constitution, and substitute another in its place at will.
The error lies in supposing that the powers of civil society are derived. The powers of civil society are inherent in it as civil society, and civil society itself is derived from no human source whatever ; for its office is not to obey men, but to rule them, both individually and collectively. Nothing can be more absurd than to suppose it derives from the very multitude it is to govern. Government dependent on the governed is no gov­ernment at all. Civil society derives from God, the source of all power, (now est enini potestas nisi a Deo,) who immedi­ately, as in the case of the Jews, - mediately, by the operations of his Providence, in other cases, -constitutes it, commissions it, delines its powers, and commands us to obey it for his sake. They are as miserable statesmen as Christians who preach po­litical atheism, and suppose the state is conceivable with only a human basis. The nations, as well as the individuals, who forget God, shall be turned into hell. Neither the state nor the individual can withdraw from dependence on God, and live, u for in him we live, and move, and have our being," - in ipso vivimus, et movemur, el sumus.
The true doctrine is, that, though the people are indeed sove­reign, they are so only as civil society, in which the sovereign­ty, under God, inheres ; that is, the sovereignty vests in the civility, not in the popularity, and popularity must be civility, before the people are sovereign. Consequently, the conven­tion assembled in pursuance of a constitutional provision is not an appeal to a power or sovereignly back of the state, or civil society, but a body under the state, and subject to it. Then it has no power over the state. Then, since the state is in the constitution, begins and ends with it, it cannot alter or touch the essential character of the constitution, and the power to amend is necessarily restricted to amendments in the proper and legal sense of the term, as we have defined in the beginning. VVhat we mean is, that a constitution once established is fixed in right forever ; and there is, under God, no power in the state or outside of it, that can alter it fundamentally, or change its essential principles. Our Constitution is essentially repub­lican, and federal republican, and can never be legally changed into a monarchy or into a consolidated republic. If in the written constitution there is a clause which appears to authorize such a change, it is nugatory, because repugnant to the organic constitution of the state.
We must always distinguish between the written constitution and the constitution of civil society, - what we call the organic constitution.      This precedes the convention, and is its law. The written constitution presupposes it, but does not create it, or even modify it. All it does is to provide for the wise and just administration of government under it and in accordance with it. Our politicians err not in assuming a power back of the written instrument, but in assuming that power to be the people back of civil society, and therefore concluding that the convention is competent to alter the fundamental constitution of the state. So far as the written instrument marks or declares the civil constitution, it is unalterable ; but so far as it merely provides for the administration of government in accordance with it, it is alterable, in the way and manner authorized by law.
Now it is clear to every man who has studied the subject sit all, that the fundamental constitution of the American state, whether we speak of the Union, or of the several States, is not pure, simple democracy ; and therefore any direct or indirect attempts to render it purely democratic are unconstitutional, and forhidden by the supreme law of the land, in like manner as would be any direct or indirect attempts to render it a pure aristocracy, oligarchy, or monarchy. The original and fun­damental idea of our institutions is sacred, inviolable, obliga­tory, for our whole people, both collectively and individually, whether in convention or out of it. This idea is not simple, but complex, and is, no doubt, far from being at all acceptable to political theorists of one school or of another ; but this, per­haps, is a merit. We cannot understand to what good use po­litical theorists can be put, or under what obligation any states­man is to consult their pleasure. Speculators on government, next to speculators on religion, are the greatest public nuisance we are acquainted with. Thank God ! the early settlers of this country were, for the most part, plain, practical men, of strong good sense, and no political speculators. They were ardent lovers of liberty, no doubt, as are all true men, but with­out any conception of what in these days of infidel raving and flimsy sentimentalism passes under that sacred name. They were Englishmen, and they brought with them the institutions of their mother country, as far as these could be adapted to the circumstances in which they were to be placed in this new world. Their political system was fundamentally the English system. When the colonies attained to majority and setup for themselves, they retained the system, simply modified, again, to meet their new circumstances. It is in this system we are to seek the type of our Constitution, not  in modern democratic theories. Our Constitution is fundamentally the British Constitution, with­out the hereditary House of Lords and the hereditary monarchy. These are excluded, for the king and lords were not here ; and the essential difference of our Constitution from the British lies precisely in excluding these, and in the contrivances adopted to supply their absence.
The democratic doctrine of the sovereignty of the people back of civil society finds no place in the British system. The Commons are powerful ; but they are an estate, not the entire civil body ; and they derive their power in the administration from the civil constitution, not from the law of nature, and hold it as a franchise, not as a natural right. The state knows nothing of the " rights of man," in the sense of the notorious infidel and charlatan, Thomas Paine, the great political teacher, mediately or immediately, of a large proportion of the Amer­ican youth ; it knows only the rights of Englishmen. Liberty with it is British liberty, and authority British authority. The same principle holds with us. The American people, politi­cally considered, are the English Commons transported here ; and their rights derive, not from the law of nature, as dream our political theorists, but from civil society, which grants and guaranties them. Let no American believe in Thomas Paine, the Thetford weaver. Let no man believe any more in Mr. Bancroft's History of the Colonization of the United States, a brilliant work, nay, an able work, but whose author, like Gib­bon, possesses the art of falsifying history without misstating facts, and who has written, not for the sake of giving the his­tory of his country, but of promulgating his humanitarian theo­ries of government and religion. Our liberty is not natural lib­erty, but American liberty ; we possess our rights, not because we are men, but because we are American citizens. The right of suffrage is not a natural, but a civil right, and in its na­ture is a civil trust ; the right of the majority in ordinary cases to rule, so important a feature in our system, derives from civil society, not from nature ; for under the natural law all men are equal, and each man is independent of all others.
The Declaration of Independence left a gap in our system, a serious defect, because the people representing the Commons were not the entire civil body. This defect the conventions and congresses of the time undertook to supply, and to supply out of such elements as American society afforded. But they, at first, did it only imperfectly ; they left too large a margin to the Commons, - ample space to develop into a pure democracy, which would have been fatal to the American state.    To pre­vent this result, and to provide more effectual checks against the democratic tendency, which soon became excessive, the Con­vention of 1787 was assembled to amend the Constitution.   In this sense they could amend it, for amendments which supply defects and tend to preserve the essential idea of the Constitu­tion, secure the more perfect realization of its original type, are lawful, as we have conceded.    That the Convention was assem­bled for the purpose of more effectually supplying this defect which our separation from Great Britain left in our Constitu­tion, and to provide stronger checks against the democratic tendency, is undeniable.    Mr. Madison's reports of the debates in the Convention fully establish it.    " The evils we experi­ence," said Mr. Gerry, " flow from excessive democracy." *(footnote:  * The Madison Papers, p. 753.) Mr. Randolph observed that u the general object was to pro­vide a cure for the evils under which the United States labor­ed ; that, in tracing these evils to their origin, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy ; that some check, therefore, was to be sought for against this tendency of our  government." (footnote:   JM- P- 758.)   Other  distinguished  members  said  as much.; no one contradicted them, and the Convention evidently took it for granted that their chief mission was to guard against excessive democracy, and without introducing the hereditary elements which the Constitution excluded.   It is also clear, from the same authority, as well as from other sources, that the Con­vention did not provide as strong checks against democracy as they wished, or believed to be necessary, for fear, if they did, they would be unable to get their amendments adopted by the people.
It is well known that General Washington, the Father of his country, and at least one of the soundest heads and purest patri­ots the country has ever produced, apprehended from the first that too much liberty was allowed to democracy ; and so did Adams, Hamilton, and all the distinguished men of the old Fed­eral party, - men who, though decried by Mr. Jefferson and the French Jacobins, were the great men of their times, and whose practical political views contrast favorably with the brilliant and fanciful theories of their opponents. The Federalists have passed away ", their party is among the things that were ; they may have had their faults, and have erred in particulars ; but the stability of the government and its constitutional purity depend on a speedy return to their general principles. We may well say this, for we were reared in the doctrine that they were traitors to their country and the bitter enemies of liberty. But we have lived long enough to find that Liberty's best friends are seldom those who make the loudest professions of friendship and drink the deepest toasts in her honor. Mr. Jefferson was regarded as a great friend of liberty, but he, when President, knowingly, deliberately, as he himself confesses, violated the Constitution of his country, which he had sworn " to preserve, protect, and defend."
As the weak point in our Constitution is the too great strength of democracy, or the feebleness of the checks provided by the Convention of 1787 against it, the American statesman, in order to be faithful to the Constitution, must study to strengthen these checks as far as he can constitutionally, and to repress the ten­dency of democracy to become exclusive. This was, as is well known, the policy pursued by General Washington, in his administration, and also by his immediate successor, the elder Adams. Let politicians say what they will, it is due to the consti­tutional administrations of Washington and Adams, to the high-toned conservative principles on which they were conducted, and to the little deference that under them was paid to dema­gogues and radicals, that our government has not now to be numbered among the things that were. Washington and Adams identified the people with civil society, not civil society with the people ; recognized the popularity in the civility, not the civility in the popularity ; and placed the government on a legal and conservative basis, from which it required the iron will and im­mense energy of General Jackson to remove it, and from which even he could not entirely remove it. The effects of the wise and profoundly conservative policy of the administrations of Washington and Adams are still felt, and have given to the administrations which have succeeded them all that they have had worthy of commendation. It is only by a sincere and hearty return to that policy that we can hope to save the country from the curse of lawless and shameless democracy, -a democracy which can, if left to itself, develop only in anarchy, which must be the precursor of military despotism.
A favorable, opportunity offers itself now for this return. General Cass - an able, in many respects a worthy, man, but the representative of the expansive or progressive democ­racy, of " the manifest destiny " principle - has been defeated, and the American people have elected to the chief magistracy, in opposition to him, a man of great force of character, of firm will, a practical cast of mind, free from the rage of theorizing, brought up in the camp, and therefore accustomed both to obey and to be obeyed, unpledged to systems or parties, and of im­mense popularity. If he comprehends his position, and is equal to it, he has a glorious opportunity of proving himself a second Father of his country, and of rivalling Washington in his civic wisdom and virtue, as he has already approached him in his brilliant military achievements. Never since Washington had a President of these United States so fine a chance to distinguish himself by rendering important services to his country and to the world. Now is the time ; we hope General Taylor is the man. If the present time is not improved, it is all but in vain to hope for another. With the false doctrines of our popular politicians, with the strong democratic tendency of our people, with the fearful progress radicalism has already made, with these democratic and socialistic revolutions hourly occurring abroad, shaking the Old World to its centre, and reacting on us with a tremendous force, it is to be feared, that, if we do not now take measures to strengthen the barriers against the popular move­ment, and to secure the supremacy of the Constitution and the majesty of the state, it will henceforth be for ever too late. We hope in a good Providence that the new American admin­istration will duly consider this matter, place the government once more, after so many years, on the conservative basis, and study to consolidate order and liberty within the state, rather than to extend our territories, and captivate us with the false glow of a delusive external splendor.