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Democratic Principle

From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for April, 1873

During our late civil war it was almost proverbial to call our government the best government under heaven; and whoever in the loyal states expressed an opinion to the contrary ran some risk of being sent to Fort Lafayette, Fort Warren, or to some other federal place of imprisonment.  I defended the government during those fearful times, and stood by it when many a stout heart failed, because it was the government of my country, and I owed it the allegiance due from the citizen; but never since the “Hard Cider” campaign have I believed it practically “the best government under heaven,” or superior to almost any other civilized government.  “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” upset my democracy, by showing how easily the people can be humbugged and carried away by a song.  Till then I had believed in democracy, though I believed in little else.

My friend, George Bancroft, defined democracy, in a lecture which I published in my Boston Quarterly Review, to be “eternal justice ruling through the people:” I defined it in a series of resolutions adopted by a Democratic state convention, to be the “supremacy of man over his accidents”- meaning thereby that democracy regards the man as more than his possessions, social position, or any thing separable from his manhood- and got most unmercifully ridiculed for it; but the ridicule did not move me, and I held fast to the doctrine, that the will of the people is the most direct and authentic expression of the divine will that can be had or desired.  The people held with me then, in some respects, the place the church now holds with me.  I labored under the comfortable illusion that, in order to secure wise and just government, all I had to do was to remove all restrictions on the free and full expression of the popular will, and to leave the people free to follow in all things their own divine instincts.  The defects of bad legislation to which I could not shut my eyes, I attributed not to democracy, but to the fact that the democratic principle was obstructed, and the will of the people could not have its free and full expression.  There were still many restraints on their will, retained from old monarchial and aristocratic institutions; such as an independent judiciary, and the English common law with its subtitles and technicalities.  These should all be swept away, and the unrestrained will of the people be supreme, and make itself felt alike in the administration of justice, and the election of representatives in the legislature and in all the offices of the government, state or national.  To secure the rule of justice and the recognition of the man over his accidents, every thing should be swept away that imposed the least check on the direct and immediate action of the popular will.  People though adopting the democratic principle, told me I went too far, but I knew I was logical; and I have never in my life been able to persuade myself that a principle, really sound and true, will not bear pushing to its last logical consequences.  If the democratic principle will not bear being so pushed, it is simply a proof that it is untrue, and cannot be safely adopted.  This was my reasoning then, and it is my reasoning now.  The country, public opinion, gave me the principle, furnished me the democratic premises, and I took it for granted that the principle was sound and the premises indisputable, as do the majority of my countrymen.

The “Hard-Cider” campaign of 1840 came.  In it I took an active part on the democratic side, in behalf of Martin Van Buren, the last first-class man that sat, or probably that ever will sit, in the presidential chair of the United States; and my party was, as all the world knows, woefully defeated.  It was the first presidential campaign in which I had ever taken an active part, and almost my first experience in practical politics.  It was enough.  What I saw served to dispel my democratic illusions, to break the idol I had worshipped, and shook to its foundation my belief in the divinity of the people, or in their will as the expression of eternal justice.  I saw that they could be easily duped, easily made victims of the designing, and carried away by an irresistible passion in the wrong as easily as in the right.  I was forced by the shock my convictions received, to review first my logic, and then to examine the premises which I had taken on trust from my democratic countrymen which I had not hitherto thought of questioning.  I found them untenable and absurd.  I ceased henceforth to believe in democracy, but I did not cease to be a loyal citizen, nor did I deem it necessary to abandon the Democratic party so called, which after all, was less unsound, less radical, and more conservative than the Wig party, which carried the elections; but I labored day and night with voice and pen, in the Boston Quarterly Review and in the Democratic Review, to make it still more conservative, and to convince its leaders that the people as the state need governing no less than the people as individuals.  So I labored till my happy conversion to the church, when, having no associations with the Catholic population of the country, except our common Catholic faith, I ceased to have any political influence; and if I resume the discussion of political topics, it is solely with the hope of being of some service to my ingenious, pure-minded, and educated young Catholic friends, destined to exert a powerful influence for good or for evil on the political future of the republic.

The great democratic principle was arrested by the congress of 1776, in the declaration that “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  They thus declared that governments originate in convention, and that law derives its force as law from the will of those it is to bind.  This asserts the purely human origin of government, and rejects all law enjoined by any authority above the people.  It denies the right or authority of any government to command, for no such right or authority can be created by any convention or agreement; it denies, also, all law that restrains the will of the governed.  That the law binds only by virtue of the assent of those on whom it is to operate, Gallicans asserted in principle, in asserting that papal constitutions do not bind the conscience unless assented to, at least tacitly, by the church.  This principle, which reverses all one’s natural ideas of government and law, the recent council of the Vatican has condemned, when applied in the spiritual or ecclesiastical order; and we see no reason why a Catholic should not condemn it, when applied in the political and civil order.  No government that has real authority to govern, can originate in convention alone; for the convention itself needs to be authorized by a law or an authority superior to itself, since St. Paul teaches, Non est potestas nisi a Deo.  Where there is no law of nations, which the nation itself is bound to obey, there may be national force, but no national right or authority to govern.  Laws that emanate from the people, or that are binding only by virtue of the assent of the governed, or that emanate from any human source alone, have none of the essential characteristics of law, for they bind no conscience, and restrain, except by force, no will.

We do not allege that human governments have no legislative authority or power to enact laws and bind the conscience; but that authority, that power is not derived from a human source, and is held only by the divine law under which they are constituted.  Governments that have only a conventional origin, and only such powers as are held from the assent of the governed, have no such authority, no such power.  The grand objection to democracy, then, is, that it rejects the law of nations, the jus gentium, denies the rule of eternal and immutable right, and resolves eternal justice into mere conventionalism, and, if a government at all, it is simply a government of force, under which might makes right.  I am not arguing against a republic, or a government largely popular in its constitution and administration, such as ours was intended to be; but against the democratic principle, that founds government in convention, and derives its powers from the consent of the governed, or which applies to the civil order the Gallican principle, condemned by the Council of the Vatican, when applied in the spiritual or ecclesiastical order.  It makes the people who are to be governed superior to the government, and leaves their will supreme, subject to no authority, bound by no law.  It is, therefore, simply the principle of political atheism.  So far as the national authority is concerned, the principle is not confined to a properly constituted government, but is accepted and acted on by most modern governments, especially by the Sardinian, the Prussian, the Russian, and we fear also the Austrian, in none of which is the law of nations, binding the conscience of the nation itself, recognized.

The American constitution is not founded on political atheism, but recognizes the rights of man, and, therefore, the rights of God.  There remain as yet among us some traces of the law of nations, in distinction from the international law of Benthamites and diplomates, which consists solely in conventional pacts and precedents, without any recognition of the rule of right, or of eternal and immutable justice.  Something of Christian tradition lives among us and is kept alive by the common law and the judicial department of the government, though, latterly, too often overruled by the legislative department which is continually encroaching on the province of the judiciary, as we see in much recent congressional legislation.  What we complain of is the tendency of American public opinion, formed and directed to a great extent by popular journalism, to apply the naked, unmitigated democratic principle to the interpretation of the constitution and what we call our American constitutions; though what is really meant by this phrase which is in every one’s mouth, it would be hard to say.  Public opinion with us asserts and applies the democratic principle, which, as we have seen, liberates the people as a state from all government, and their will from all restraint; and leaves them perfectly untrammeled, free to do whatever they have the physical force to do.  Their right founds and measures their right.

Is it not so? If not, why are the public so sensitive to the assertion of any authority above the people, or of a law which does not emanate from the people and which they are bound in conscience, collectively as well as individually, to obey?  Why does our American public opinion applaud Prince Bismarck and Victor Emanuel for their efforts to subject all authorities or powers in the nation to the national government.  In this country our Protestant fellow-citizens, being the majority, take great credit to themselves for “tolerating,” as Dr. Bellows puts it, the Catholic faith and worship.  Why, if not because they hold themselves free to prohibit them, if they should choose?  Are they not, in fact, using the power numbers give them, to invade the Catholic conscience and deprive Catholics of their equal rights as parents and citizens, by compelling them to pay for the support of schools to which they are forbidden by conscience to send their children? Evidently they recognize no law of right or justice to which their will is subject, and which we may plead as our protection.  The plea of justice in regard to public measures is rarely heard.  Utility or expediency, not right or justice, is the standard adopted in politics, as external decorum or propriety is the rule in ethics.  Even the late William H. Seward, when he appealed from the constitution of the United States, which as senator he had sworn to observe, to the “higher law,” only appealed from one human law to another, or from the particular to the general; for he appealed only to general humanity, whose rights he never dreamed of identifying with the rights of God.  If the abolition party he represented appealed to the law of God as the law of nations, it was to that law without any court or tribunal to declare and apply it, and as interpreted and applied by the party itself.  The Abolitionist, with all his fine talk, fierce declamation in favor of a law above the state, would have recoiled from the assertion of a divinely instituted court or tribunal to interpret it and give it practical efficacy in the government of men and nations.  He asserted it, but only on the condition that he should be free to interpret and apply it for himself; and hence his individualism nullified the law, and his humanitarianism was resolved, sometimes even avowedly, into no-governmentism.

I repeat, I am not warring against the political constitution of my country, nor am I seeking in any respect to change it; for I am no revolutionist, no monarchist, no aristocrat.  It is the spirit and opinions of the American people, or of the majority of them, that I want changed, and so changed as to interpret the constitution of American political society by the principles of law and justice, not by the democratic principle, which asserts the sovereignty of the arbitrary will of the people, or, practically, the unrestricted rule of the majority for the time: which is tyranny, and repugnant to the very essence of liberty, which is will ruled by right, or power controlled by justice.

The philosophers and statesmen of the last century supposed that the evil could be prevented, and the necessary restraints on the popular will or ruling majority could be imposed, by means of written constitutions, which, in the words of the Thetford stay-maker, author of the Age of Reason,  could be “folded up and filed away in a pigeon-hole.”  They supposed the people emancipated from superstition, as they called religion, and from priests and priestcraft, and left to the promptings of their simple nature, would always be guided by reason, and therefore needed only to be governed in their action by a wise and just written constitution.  They held the people could be safely entrusted with the guardianship of the constitution, which was very much like locking up a man in prison, and giving him the key.  But experience has proved that written constitutions, unless they are written in the sentiments, convictions, consciences, manners, customs, habits, and organization of the people, are no better than so much waste paper, and can no more restrain them than the green withes with which the Philistines bound his limbs, could restrain the mighty Samson.

John C. Calhoun, the most sagacious and accomplished statesman our republic had ever produced, and who appreciated the tyranny of majorities better than any other man amongst us, placed no confidence in written constitutions; but he hoped to restrain the popular will by dividing and organizing the people according to their different sectional pursuits and interests, or by organizing a system of “concurrent majorities.”  This would be, no doubt, an advance on simply written constitutions; but it is only in communities where the pursuits and interests of different sections of the population are very distinct, that it is practicable, or could be efficacious.  Since the abolition of slavery, the population, pursuits, and interests of the whole country are too homogeneous to allow the organization he demanded, or to admit the system of concurrent majorities.  If introduced, it would be rendered ineffective by the great homogeneous interests and pursuits of the majority of the population, which would overpower and trample on all minorities opposed to them.

We hold that whatever constitutional or organic provisions may be adopted, the stronger interest of a country, in the absence of all recognition of the law of nations, limiting and defining the rights and powers of the nation, will govern the country, whether the interests and pursuits of the numerical majority or not; or at least dictate the policy of its government.  For a time the southern states could protect their interests, and, to some extent, shape the policy of the government, because they represented the strongest of any one interest in the country, the interest of the capital invested in labor; but when short crops and wars in Europe had created a demand for our breadstuffs and provisions, the products of the non-slaveholding states, and the produce of the California mines had strengthened the commercial and manufacturing interests, which already controlled the free states, and enabled the representatives of these interests to meet their foreign exchanges,- they were stronger than any interests the South could oppose to them.  The South then had no alternative, but either to submit to be controlled by them, as the people of the non-slaveholding states were, or to secede from the Union, and endeavor to establish an independent republic for themselves.  The struggle was a struggle of interests.  The abolition fanatics were only a fly on the wheel, and the question they raised amounted to nothing in itself, and was of importance only as it was seized upon as a pretext, and had only this significance, that the business interests of the North could subject the interests of the South to their control only by destroying the southern capital invested in labor.  Mr. Calhoun’s policy, if carried out, might have staved off the crisis for a few years, but could not have prevented it or its final results.

I have said, in the absence of the law of nations, which, it cannot be too often repeated, is law for the nation, as well as for the individual, therefore law emanating from an authority above the nation, above and over the people.  The attempt of modern statesmen, Mr. Calhoun among the rest, to constitute the state without any power or authority above the people, so that by its own spontaneous working it should maintain order with liberty, and liberty with order, and promote the highest utility and the greatest happiness of the nation, is a vain attempt.  The thing is impossible.  No simply human wisdom, no adjustment of positive and negative forces, no organization of interests, or system of checks and balances, will do it.  The English in their constitution have carried to perfection their system of checks and balances, or of the organization of separate interests, classes, or estates, each with a negative on the others; yet, in spite of the national boasts, it works with difficulty, and one of the separately organized estates is swallowing up the others.  It, in its present form, is hardly a century and a half old, and it undergoes a greater or less change every few years.  The prosperity of England under it is commercial and industrial, and is due less to it, than to the fact that she has invented the art of converting debt into capital; and by means of the revolutions, and the wars growing out of them, of the continental states, she has contrived to bring the nations of the Old World and the New into debt to her, and to compel them to pour their surplus earnings into her lap.  The nations live and labor to enrich her; and yet her overgrown wealth consists chiefly in paper evidences of credit, and might vanish in a day.  Then her wealth is unequally distributed: a few are very rich in paper values, but in no country on earth is there greater poverty or more squalid wretchedness.  Then we must take into her account her government of Ireland and India, worse than any of the proconsular governments of ancient Rome.  She, also, owes more to her mines of tin, lead, iron, and coal, soon to be exhausted, then to the excellence of her political constitution, or the wisdom of her statesmen.

I cannot conceive a more profoundly philosophic, or more admirably devised constitution, than that of our own government, as I have endeavored truthfully to present it in my American Republic. Yet, for the lack of the moral element in the American people, for the lack of a recognition of the law of nations emanating from an authority above the people, and binding the consciences of the nation, it is practically disregarded, and its wisest and most vital provisions are treated by the ruling people as non avenues.  The people have forgotten its providential origin, treat it as their own creature, as a thing they have made, and may alter or unmake at their pleasure.  It is not a law enjoined on them, and has no hold on their conscience.  They give it a purely democratic interpretation.  Men talk of loyalty, but men cannot be loyal to what is below them and dependent on their breath; and, therefore, they violate it without compunction, as often as prompted to do so by their interests or their passions.  Nothing was more striking during the late civil war than the very general absence of loyalty or feeling of duty, on the part of the adherents of the Union, to support the government because it was the legal government of the country, and every citizen owed it the sacrifice of his life, if needed.  The administration never dared confide in the loyalty of the federal people.  The appeals made were to interest, to the democracy of the North against the aristocracy of the South; to anti-slavery fanaticism, or to the value and utility of the Union, rarely to the obligation in conscience to support the legitimate or legal authority; prominent civilians were bribed by high military commissions; others, by advantageous contracts for themselves or their friends for supplies to the army; and the rank and file, by large bounties and high wages.  There were exceptions, but such was the rule.

“I will have a draft,” said the secretary of war, Mr. Stanton, to me one day in his office: “I will have a draft, if I get but one man by it, for I wish to assert the majesty of this government, its right to command the support of citizens in the ranks of the army, or elsewhere, in its hour of need.  This reliance on large bounties and high wages, that is running up an enormous bill of expenses which the people must ultimately pay, is derogatory to the majesty of the government, obscures and weakens its authority, and appeals only to the lowest and most sordid motives of the human heart.”- Well, the draft was ordered, and, as we all know, proved a failure.  The government, indeed asserted its majesty, but the people did not recognize it; they effectively resisted it, or came to a compromise.  How could they see a majesty in a government they themselves had made and could unmake?  The universal conviction of the conventional origin of the government despoiled it of its majesty.  It had no majesty, no authority, but what it held from the people, and could command no obedience but such as they chose to give it.  If it went further, it was by force, not by right: and fully did the administration feel it.

The conventional origin of the constitution excludes its moral or divine right, and therefore denies all obligation in conscience of the people, either collectively or individually, to obey it.  It has nothing in it that one is morally bound to treat as sacred and inviolable.  Its violation is no moral offense, for it is the violation of no moral law, of no eternal and immutable right.  Nothing hinders the people, when they find the constitution in the way of some favorite project on which they are bent, from trampling it under their feet, and passing on as if it never had any existence.  The constitution, to be respected, must be clothed with a moral authority, an authority for conscience, which it cannot be, if of conventional origin; and the government constituted has no just powers not derived from the assent of the governed.

This is wherefore no constitutional contrivances or combinations, however artistic or skillful, can be successful that have no support in the divine order.  The government which has no authority for conscience- and none that holds not from God, and under his law, has or can have any authority for conscience- having no moral support, is impotent to govern, except by sheer force, as we have already shown over and over again.  Now, as the modern statesmen exclude the moral order, and make no account of the divine element in society, and rely on the human element alone, they are unable to clothe power with right, or to give it any stability.  The revolutionary spirit is everywhere at work, and is kept down and a semblance of order maintained in Europe only by five million armed soldiers.  In our own country, we owe such order as we have, first, to the fact that the government acts less as a government, than as a factor or agent of the controlling, that is, the business interests of the country; and second, to the fact that the American people are not yet completely democratized, but retain, in spite of their theory of the conventional origin of power, no little of their traditionary respect for authority, and their obligation in conscience to obey the law.  Yet, under the influence of their democratic training, they are fast losing what they have thus far retained from an epoch prior to the rejection of the divine order by statesmen and the constitutions of states.

Democracy which asserts the conventional origin of government, and thus excludes the divine order from the state, necessarily denies with Jeremy Bentham all rule of right, eternal and immutable, and can at best assert only the rule of utility, or, as commonly expressed, “the greatest happiness of the greatest number;”  though Bentham himself changed in his later days the formula, and, for the greatest happiness of the greatest number, substituted as his political, juridical, and ethical formula, simply “the greatest happiness.”  This is the only formula of the sort that the purely democratic principle can adopt or accept.  Democrats tell us this end is to be gained by getting rid of the burden of kings and aristocrats, and introducing not only equality before the law, but equality of rights and privileges, and carrying out the great principle, “All men are created equal.”  Equality of privileges is an absurdity, and there can be no rights where there is no right.  But pass over this.  “Democracy asserts and maintains equality!”  Yes, asserts it, we grant, but it tends to promote the contrary.  It operates practically, almost exclusively, in favor of those who command and employ capital or credit in business, and against the poorer and more numerous classes.

The political equality, expressed by universal suffrage and eligibility, is of no practical value; for, however elections may go, or whoever may be elected, the legislation will invariably follow the stronger interest, therefore the business interests of the country; it may be now the commercial interests, now the industrial or manufacturing interests, or, in fine, the railroad, and other business corporation interests.  There is no help for it in universal suffrage.  By excluding the moral element and founding the state on utility, democracy tends to materialize the mind, and to create a passion for sensible goods, or material wealth and well-being.  Take any ten thousand electors at random, and ask them what they want of government, and the honest answer will be:  “Such legislative action as will facilitate the acquisition of wealth.”  Suppose such action taken- and most of our legislation is of that sort- how many of the ten thousand are in a position to profit by it?  Perhaps, ten; perhaps, not more than one.  Democracy excludes aristocracy in the European sense, an aristocracy founded on large landed estates, noble birth, education, and manners; and substitutes for it an aristocracy founded on business capacity and capital or credit, a thousand times worse and more offensive, because more exacting, more insolent and haughty, always afraid of compromising its dignity by mingling with the poor or unfashionable, feeling that it is a sort of usurper, without any hereditary or legitimate claims to respect,- an aristocracy of rotaries, the most contemptible as well as, socially and politically, the most galling of all possible aristocracies.  We do not object to a man, or refuse to honor him, because he has risen from the gutter; but we do refuse to honor a man who was born in a gutter and remained there, but claims respect simply because he has succeeded in gathering a mass of gold around him.

Democracy, following the lead of the business classes, builds up, and with us has covered the land over with huge business and moneyed corporations, which the government itself cannot control.  We complain of the great feudal barons, that they were often more powerful than suzerain; but our railroad “kings” can match the most powerful vassals, either of the king of France, or of the king of Eanland, in feudal times.  Louis XI was not weaker against Charles the Bold, than is congress against the Pennsylvania Central Railroad and its connections, or the Union Pacific, built at the expense of the government itself.  The great feudal lords had souls, railroad corporations have none.  Congress cannot resume specie payments, for the national-bank interest opposes it; and so our commercial interests must bear the loss of a depreciated currency, and the laboring classes must continue to pay the higher prices for the necessaries of life it creates.  In a word, the business classes, according to the old Whig party, the “urban party” of the time Swift and Addison, or of Queen Annes’s reign, have permanent possession of the government, and use it to further their own interests, which is a damage; for this country is fitted to be, and really is, a great agricultural country.

In the Review for January[“The Political State of the Country”], I showed the disastrous influence which the equality, asserted by democracy, and supposed to be favored by universal suffrage and eligibility, has on the laboring classes.  It is to the honor of the church that she has always had a special regard and tenderness for the poor; and it is no less to her honor that she has never attempted to remove poverty.  She always relieves distress when able, and solaces suffering whatever its cause; but she honors the poor, and treats poverty as a blessing, not as a misfortune.  In her view, the poor are really the more favored class, and she never attempts, and has never enjoined it upon her children to attempt, to place them, as to the goods of this world, on an equality with the rich.  She holds the thing neither practicable nor desirable.  Democracy regards the poor as unfortunate, and undertakes to remove poverty by opening to them all the avenues of wealth, and to elevate them by establishing their political and civil equality; and thus leads them, as we see in the recently enfranchised negroes, to aspire to social equality.  This causes them to be discontented with their lot, and makes them feel their poverty a real misery.  It greatly enhances the expenses of their living.  As a rule, men live for their families, especially for their wives and daughters, whom they would see live as well, be as well educated, and as well dressed as the wives and daughters of the better-to-do, whom democracy teaches them to regard as equals.  The evil this causes is immeasurable.  It induces not a few to live beyond their means, or to make a show of wealth which they have not; it creates a universal struggle to escape poverty, and to acquire riches as a means of equality and respectability.  The passion for wealth, so strong in most Americans, and which is called by foreigners “the worship of the almighty dollar,” is at bottom only the desire to escape poverty and the disgrace attached to it by democracy.  Political economists regard this struggle with favor, for it stimulates production and increases the wealth of the nation, which would be true enough, if consumption did not fully keep pace with production; though, if true, we could hardly see, in the increased wealth of the nation, a compensation for the private and domestic misery it causes, and the untold amount of crime of which it is the chief instigator.  We regard it as an unmixed evil which could and would be avoided, if poverty were honored, and the honest and virtuous poor were respected according to their real worth, as they are by the church, and were in all old Catholic countries till the modern democratic spirit invaded them.  “A contented mind is a continual feast,” says the proverb.

Democracy, by its delusive universal suffrage and eligibility, stimulates a universal passion, as we have seen, for social equality, which can be gratified only by the possession of wealth or material goods; for democracy, excluding the moral order, can content no one with moral equality.  “I am as good as you, and why should you be rich and I poor? Why should you live in a palace, and I in a mud-hovel? Why should you ride in your coach and live in luxury, while I must trudge on foot, be thinly clad, and live on the coarsest and most meager fare, which I can procure only with difficulty, sometimes not at all?”- Just consider that there are in the city of New York, as least, forty thousand children, orphans or worse than orphans, absolutely homeless, who live by begging and thieving, and lodge on doorsteps, under the wharves, and in miserable dens; initiated, almost as soon as able to speak, into every vice and crime that finds opportunity or shelter in a great city: contrast these with the children brought up in elegant and luxurious homes, bearing in mind the democracy asserts equality, and say, if there is any thing singular in the logic that concludes communism from democratic premises, or if a Wendell Phillips is not a true and consistent democrat in defending the Paris commune and the internationale?  Or if, when you denounce either as infamous, you do not forget your democracy, and borrow from an order of ideas that, though approved by Christian tradition, democracy excludes, or at least makes no account of?

But communism, which demands equality in material goods, is not only an impossibility, but an absurdity.  Equality of wealth is equivalent to equality of poverty.  Wealth consists in its power to purchase labor, and no matter how great it is, it can purchase no labor, if there is none in the market; and, if all were equally rich, there would be none in the market, for no one would sell his labor to another.  Then each man would be reduced to what he can produce with his own hands, wealth would lose all the advantages it has where there are rich and poor, and society would lapse after a generation or two into the lowest barbarism.  Communism, if it could be carried out, would not, then, as the communists dream, secure to all the advantages of wealth, but would result in the reduction of all to the most abject poverty,- the very thing which they are ready to commit any crime or sacrilege in order to escape.  All projects of reform of any sort, undertaken without divine authority and guidance, inevitably defeat themselves, and aggravate the evils they would redress.

Reject the communistic conclusion.  The democratic equality asserted, then, can be, practically, only free competition, making all equally free to compete for wealth, and the good things of this world, and leaving each free to possess what he acquires.  This is the interpretation democracy receives with us.  But in this competition there is only a delusive equality.  In it the honest man stands no chance with the dishonest.  The baker who feels bound to furnish thirty-two ounces in his two-pound loaf, cannot compete with him who has no scruple in charging the full price of a two-pound loaf for eighteen ounces.  So throughout the whole business world.  It would be undemocratic for the law to interfere to protect those who are unable, no matter from what cause, to protect themselves.  The law must leave all things of the sort to free competition, and to regulate themselves.  We thus, under our democratic system, pay a premium for dishonesty, cheatery, and knavery, and then are astonished at the daily increase of fraud and crime in the business world.  We tempt men to get rich- honestly if they may, but at any rate to get rich- by the contempt in which we hold poverty, and the honor which we pay to wealth, as I have already intimated.  Universal suffrage and eligibility can at best secure only this so-called free competition, and enact laws favorable to the acquisition of wealth.  But men’s natural capacities are unequal; and these laws, which on their face seem perfectly fair and equal, create monopolies which enrich a few individuals at the expense of the many.  There is far less equality, as well as less honesty and integrity, in American society, than there was fifty or sixty years ago.  The honor paid to wealth, or what is called success in the world, is greater; people are less contented with moderate means, a moderate style of living, as well as with moderate gains, and have a much greater horror of honest labor.  I remember when it was, in the country at least, regarded as an act of prudence for a young couple with little or nothing but health, industrious habits, and a willingness to earn their living by hard work, to marry and set up housekeeping for themselves.  Now, except to a very limited extent, it would be regarded as the greatest imprudence.  No little of that remarkable purity and morality for which the Catholic peasantry of Ireland are noted the world over, is due to early marriages, which the habits of the people encourage.  Yet English and American economists denounce them, and represent them as due to the craft of the clergy who encourage them for the sake of the wedding-fee, and of the baptismal fees most likely in due time to follow.  The purity and morality of our New England people- I speak of them, for I was brought up among them- have diminished in very nearly the same ratio in which early marriages have been discontinued as imprudent, except with the very rich.  The class of small farmers who cultivated their own farms, and by their labor, economy, and frugality obtained a comfortable living, and were able to establish one son in business, and to educate another to be a lawyer, a doctor, or a minister, to provide moderate portions for the daughters, and to leave the homestead to the eldest son,- has disappeared, and they have been obliged to emigrate, to exile themselves from their early homes and all the endearing associations of childhood and youth, though they go not beyond the limits of their own country.  I myself am even more an exile in my present residence, than my Irish or German neighbor; for he has near him those whom he was brought up with, who knew him in his youth, while I have not one,- not one with whom I can talk over old times, or who knew me before I had reached middle age: and my case has in it nothing peculiar.  But the fact, that no small portion of the American people have been separated from the old homestead and scattered among strangers, has a fatal influence in checking the development of their finer qualities, and in throwing them for relief upon the coarser passions and grosser pleasures of sense.

There is less equality than there was in my boyhood, and the extremes are greater.  The rich are richer, and the poor are poorer.  The rich are also more extravagant and more fond of displaying their wealth, for, to the great majority of them wealth is a novelty.  Shoddy and petroleum, as well as successful speculation, have made millionaires and thrice millionaires of men of low and vulgar minds, destitute of social refinement and gentle breeding, whose wives and daughters know no way of commanding consideration or of attracting admiration, but by their furs and diamonds and their extravagant expenditures.  The effect of this on the community at large, in producing a competition in extravagance, and enhancing the average expense and difficulty of living, is not easily estimated.  There is no country in the world where the general extravagance is so great as in our own, or where the cost of living is greater for all classes.  Some provision is made for paupers as for prisoners and criminals, but there is a larger class who are too honest to steal, too proud to beg, and too high-spirited to allow themselves to be sent to the almhouse; mostly women, many of them widows with one, two, or more small children, whose sufferings from want of sufficient food, decent clothing, and comfortable shelter, are not to be told.  I attribute the sufferings of these to the delusive doctrine of equality, and the worship of wealth which democracy encourages, and the disgrace it attaches to poverty, and to humble labor for a living; for otherwise most of them could find relief and ample provision for their wants in domestic service.  A really hereditary aristocracy produces no such evil, for between them and such aristocracy there is no competition.  It is the burgher aristocracy and burgher wealth that treat poverty as a crime or nuisance, and make our women and girls of American parentage shrink from domestic service as hardly less disgraceful than a life of shame.

The corruption generated by the struggle for wealth which democracy stimulates, is not confined to private and domestic life.  Senor Calderon de la Barca, the Spanish minister for several years to our government at Washington, told me in April, 1852, that when he was first sent by his government to ours at Washington, in 1822, he was charmed with every thing he saw or heard.  “The government struck me,” he said, “as strictly honest, and your statesmen as remarkable for their public spirit, integrity, and incorruptibility.  I was subsequently sent to Mexico; and when recalled from that mission, I was offered my choice between Rome and Washington, such was my high opinion of the American republic, and the honesty and integrity of its government, that I chose Washington in preference to Rome, though the latter was more generally coveted.  I have been here now for several years a close observer, and I have seen every thing change under my eyes.  All my admiration for the republic and the republican government has vanished.  I cannot conceive a government more corrupt than this government of yours.  I see men come here worth only their salary as members of congress, and in two or four years return home worth from a hundred thousand to two hundred thousand dollars.” - This was said in 1852, when corruption was very little in comparison with what it has become.  In 1822, the great body of the people were far from being democratized, and no party in the country bore or would consent to bear the democratic name.  There was no democratic party in the country known as such, till after the inauguration of General Jackson as president, March 4, 1829; and none became predominantly democratic, till the success of the democratic Whigs in 1840, who far outdid the Jackson-VanBuren party in their democracy.  The late Horace Greeley always called that party the “sham democracy,” and treated at first the Whig party, and, after 1856, the Republican party, as the genuine Simon-Pure democracy.  He was right in one sense; for the Whig-Republican party was always further gone in democracy, that is, in asserting the supremacy of the popular will and the exclusion of the moral order from politics, than was the party that bore the democratic name.

Up to the election of General Jackson, the American people, if adopting the democratic theory, were not governed by it; they still were influenced by ante-revolutionary traditions, recognized the moral order, the rule of right to which the people of  the state as well as individuals were bound to conform; and I believed then and believe now that no purer government, indeed, no better government, existed under heaven.  But since then the democratic principle has passed from theory into the practical life of the people, and become the ruling principle of their political judgments and conduct, at least, to an alarming extent.  The result we saw during the war, and still more plainly see in the corruption developed by the recent very imperfect investigations in congress.  We were told the main facts with regard to the credit mobilier over two years ago; and the real facts are far more damaging than any that appear from the investigation in congress.  But this, though perhaps on a larger scale, is yet in reality no grosser then the corruption that has for years obtained in congress, the state legislatures, the municipal governments, and the elections all over the country.  It is in vain to look to legislation for a remedy.  The laws are good enough as they are, and stringent enough; but laws are impotent where the people have become venal, and are easily evaded or openly violated with impunity, when they are not consecrated and rendered inviolable by the national conscience: and it is of the essence of democracy to dispense with conscience, and to attempt to maintain wise and beneficent government, without drawing on the moral order, by the considerations of public and private utility alone.

The actual burden imposed by our democratic administrations, whether called Democratic or Republican, and including both the general government and the several state governments, due to the democratic principle itself, cannot be even approximately ascertained.  The extravagance of the American people, and the expensiveness of their style of living in proportion to their means, we attribute to democracy, which measures a man’s respectability by his wealth, and his wealth by his expenditures; for the American people are naturally both frugal and economical.  The American people are directly and indirectly more heavily taxed by government, counting the general government and that state and municipal governments, than any other people known.  The population of the United States, and that of France before her dismemberment, are about equal; and yet the taxes imposed by our government are more than double the taxes imposed by the French government; and if we have to provide for the expenses of a disastrous civil war, France has to provide for the expenses and losses of an equally disastrous foreign war, carried on in her own territory.  The cost of living in this country should be much less than in any European country, owing to the average mildness of our climate, the extent, fertility, and cheapness of land, and the variety of its productions; and yet the cost of living with us, I am told, is greater even than in England, the dearest country in Europe, and which is obliged to import annually from a hundred million to a hundred and fifty million dollars’ worth of breadstuffs and provisions to feed her population.  We attribute this to democracy, as we do the dearness of living in England; for England is almost as democratic as the United States.  The election of a president once every four years costs the American people, besides the derangement of business, more than the civil list of Great Britain costs the British people.  The aristocracy is hardly a check on the commons; and as not engaged in business, and living on its own revenues derived principally from land and mines, hardly affects the course of the business operations of the nation, or the general cost and style of living.  In Italy and Germany the democratic principle, combined with the     form, prevails; and in both taxation is rapidly approaching the British and the American standard, notwithstanding the confiscation of the goods of the church by the former, and the heavy French indemnity to the latter.

But we have singularly failed to make ourselves understood, if the reader infers that we are defending monarchy or aristocracy, or that we have had any other purpose in our remarks than to show that the assertion of the people as the source of all legitimate authority, and that governments derive all their just powers from the assent of the governed, which makes all authority, all law of purely human origin, excludes the divine order which alone has authority for conscience, divorces politics from ethics, substitutes utility for right, and makes it the measure of justice, fails of the end of all just government, the promotion of the public good, and is either no government at all, but a mere agency of the controlling private interests of the people, or a government of mere force.  This with me is no new doctrine: I defended it in the Democratic Review thirty years ago,  while I was yet a Protestant, and it has been steadily maintained in this Review from its first number in January, 1844.  To assert and defend it, was a main purpose for which I originally commenced it.

Now, it is easy to see that what we object to is not popular government, but the doctrine that the people as the state or nation are the origin and source of all authority and all law, that they are absolutely supreme, and bound by no law or authority that does not emanate from themselves.  We call this the democratic principle; but as the people are here taken in the sense of state or nation, it may be applied equally to any political order which asserts the national will as supreme and free from all authority or law which does not emanate from the nation itself.  The principle is applied in Russia, where the czar, as representing the nation, claims absolute autocratic power; it is applied in Germany in a more absolute sense than in the United States, and is the principle upon which Prince von Bismarck suppresses the Jesuits and kindred religious orders, and expels them from the empire, and on which he persecutes the church, denies her independence, and demands the enactment of statutes that subject her to the imperial will, that is, the national authority.  It is the principle on which the London Times asserted the other day that no Catholic can be a loyal Englishman, and on which the sectarian press of this country maintain that we cannot be Catholics and loyal American citizens.  It is the principle which inspires and underlies the whole revolutionary party in Europe.  It is the liberty of the people, not from aristocracies, kings, kaisers, or arbitrary power, but from all authority or law, that does not emanate from the people, or from the nation, and therefore from a purely human source, that the party is struggling for.  That is, the revolutionary party, the democratic party of Europe, are struggling to eliminate from modern society the jus gentium of Roman jurisprudence under the protection of religion, or what Lord Arundel of Wardour calls the “law of nations,” that is, a law emanating from God himself, and founding and binding the national conscience; and, in this struggle, the mass of the American people sympathize with them, and loudly applaud them.

This is what our age calls liberty, what it means by liberty of conscience, that is, getting rid of all laws that bind the national conscience, and thus severing politics from the moral order, and subjecting the moral order itself to the secular authority, however constituted.  The moral order, that is, justice, eternal and immutable right, or the law of nations, is by the divine will and appointment, according to Christian tradition, placed in charge of the pope, or the vicar of Christ on earth.  To effect this object and emancipate politics from the law of nations, or the people, the state, or the nation, from the law of eternal and immutable right, that is, the law of God, it is necessary to get rid of the papacy, and to effect the utter destruction of the Catholic Church, its divinely appointed defender; and we see that the democratic, the liberal party, are willing to sustain so unmitigated a despot as the chancellor of the new German empire, if he will only join them in their war against the papacy, and aid them in their efforts to effect the complete destruction of the church.  It is to conciliate and gain the support of this liberal party that the several governments of Europe, even of Catholic nations, have abandoned the papacy, even when they have not, like Germany, Italy, and Spain, turned against the pope.  No head could wear a crown, no government could stand a day, at least, according to all human calculations, were it to take up the defense of the papacy, or adhere to it, as did the Frank emperor Charlemagne.

We have called the attention of our readers to the principle that, as we have said, inspires and underlies this so-called liberal party, because it is precisely the principle that in our country is called the democratic principle.  As thousands, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of Catholics in the Old World, have been led to adopt and defend this principle, without understanding its real character; so some Catholics in our own country, fired by political ambition, and engrossed in political affairs, may have also been led to adopt it in equal ignorance of its real anticatholic character, supposing they might adopt it and act on it, without injury to the church, or detriment to their Catholic faith and influence.  We do not write with any expectation of undeceiving these, if any such there are.  If they read us at all, they will not understand us, and will feel towards us only anger or contempt.  But there is a large class of Catholic young men, graduates from our colleges, whose minds are fresh and malleable, whose hearts are open and ingenuous, who love truth and justice, and who take a deep interest in the future of their country.  We write for them to warn them against the dangers which threaten us, and against which there were none to warn us when we were young like them.

There is also even a larger number of Catholic young women annually coming forth from our conventual schools and academies, with fresh hearts, and cultivated minds, and noble aspirations, who are no less interested in the welfare of the country, and no less capable of exerting an influence on its destiny.  They have no more sympathy than we have, with so-called “strong-minded women,” who give from the rostrum or platform public lectures on politics or ethics; but we have much mistaken the training they have received from the good sisters who have educated them, if they have not along with the accomplishments that fit them to grace the drawing-room, received that high mental culture which prepares them to be wives and mothers of men; or, if such should be their vocation, to be accomplished and efficient teachers in their turn.  Men are but half men, unless inspired and sustained in whatever is good and noble by woman’s sympathy and cooperation.  We want no bas bleus, no female pedants, nor male pedants either, as to that matter; but we do want cultivated, intelligent women, women who not only love their country, but understand its interests and see its dangers, and can, in their proper sphere, exert a domestic and social influence to elevate society and protect it from the principles and corruption which lead to barbarism.  This is no time and no country in which to waste one’s life in frivolities or trifles: Ernst ist das Leben. And seriously should those of either sex whom the world has not yet corrupted, soured, or discouraged, take it, and labor to perform its high and solemn duties.

What we want, what the church wants, what the country wants, is a high-toned Catholic public opinion, independent of the public opinion of the country at large, and in strict accordance with Catholic tradition and Catholic inspirations, so strong, so decided that every Catholic shall feel out, and yield intelligently and lovingly to its sway.  It is to you, my dear Catholic young men and Catholic young women, with warm hearts, and cultivated minds, and noble aims, that I appeal to form and sustain such a true Catholic opinion.  You, with the blessing of God and directed by your venerable pastors, can do it.  It is already forming, and you can complete it.  Every good deed done, every pure thought breathed, every true word spoken, shall quicken some intelligence, touch some heart, inspire some noble soul.  Nothing true or good is ever lost, no brilliant example ever shines in vain.  It will kindle some fire, illumine some darkness, and gladden some eyes.  Be active, be true, be heroic, and you will be successful beyond what you can hope.