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omnipotence of majorities. No wish is so lish ; or who, if not destitute of considmighty as to transform the eager boy into erable capacity and intelligence, yet know a full-grown man. If our agricultural no higher principle than man-pleasing societies should vote that henceforth the and party-success; men who are as innoearth would need no more culture, but cent of any effort or thought to promote would yield spontaneously all desirable the general cause of civilization and hufruits—though by ever so strong a ma- manity, in any high and noble sense, as jority--they would not make it so. And the new-born infant—such men, from if they acted on the faith of their vote the editorial chairs of thousands of city they might starve the next season. In a and village newspapers, assume to an. perfect state of society penal laws and nounce the decisions and decrees of this strong governmental restraints would not great invisible, omnipotent, sovereign be necessary; but they are excellent public opinion. Of course we do not schoolmasters to lead us to it. That mean that there are no exceptions to this state of society is best which demands character among the corps editorial. the least government, but hence it by no There certainly are exceptions-honorameans follows, that that government is ble and splendid exceptions; the more best wbich governs least.
honorable because they are few. A But our radical tendencies assume no newspaper editor occupies a noble and more fearful form than that of the over- responsible station, if he but fill it worshadowing, paralyzing despotism of“Pub. thily. We boast of the unshackled freelic Opinion,” which threatens to banish all dom of our press; and well we may. It free and manly thought from among us. is a priceless boon won for us by the In a perfect state of society, public opin. blood and treasure of our fathers. Shame ion would be a safe guide ; but at certain on us, their degenerate sons, that we can
progress it may be most fatal. make no better use of it. We wish no In the midst of general ignorance and harm to any newspaper editor or propricorruption this is too manifest to need an etor, but believe it would be an occasion argument. And by what magic does it for hearty rejoicing, if seven-tenths of happen that, in a mixed state, the opin- all the newspaper presses in the country ions of the enlightened and virtuous were broken up forthwith, those emshould be rendered more just and author- ployed about them provided with more itative by being averaged with vulgar lucrative occupation, and those who now prejudice and vicious predilections ? exercise the boasted faculty of knowing Now those who are most busy in the how to read in scarcely anything else but apotheosis of public opinion are precisely eagerly conning all their scurrilities and those who most decry and contemn au- gossipings, were sent back to study their thority. Public opinion is the average neglected Bible, and read the standard opinion of the mass. Authority is the works of wise, virtuous and cultivated opinion of the more enlightened few. With men. the terms thus defined we hesitate not to If now you ask, how we shall distinprefer authority to public opinion. When guish good authority from bad-how we public opinion urges upon us its domi- shall determine who are the intelligent neering claims, threatening odium and and gifted few that have a right to infludisgrace, social ostracism or political dis ence our opinions ? again we have no franchisement if we refuse obedience, we particular answer to give. What we inhurl back its demands on the submission sist upon is, that a man in forming his of our free spirit with defiance and con- opinions should recognize not the claims tempt, while we yield a profound reve- of a domineering public sentiment, but rence to the unarmed, persuasive dictates the authority of the wise and honest. He of authority. Look at the accredited or
must first recognize that a distinction exgans and exponents of this infallible pub- ists, and then endeavor to find it for himlic opinion. Who and what are they? self as well as he can. Of course there A host of paltry newspapers which, like is no compulsion about the matter, nor the army of locusts seen in prophetic vi- any infallible tribunal to decide for all, sion, darken the land, and threaten to de. Each man decides for himself; and, with stroy and devour every bud, shoot and these conditions, as a free and rational germ of civilization amongst us. Men being, he must deciile for himself. In who have an abundant command of this sense we would strenuously mainslang, but could hardly write a respecta- tain the right of private judgment-prible paragraph of good, manly, sober Eng. vate judgment formed with a due regard
to authority-not a blind but an enlight- what we mean. We will say, therefore ened deference to authority. While the there are certain applications of the lawless exercise of private judgment, sev- phrase, “ Vox populi, vox Dei,” where ered from and defying all authority, al we admit and maintain its truth and promost infallibly ends in the despotism of priety; but the trivial and flippant senses the opinions of the mass-a despotism in which it is often applied we think little which, being raised above all responsi- less than blasphemous. They imply eibility, may generally be assumed to be ther a deification of the people or a popuimmeasurably worse, more dangerous, larization of God—and probably both. more false and more degrading, than any We are making these explanations, not tyranny of authority. Some people seem because we feel that we should have any to forget that the case may sometimes be dispute with reasonable men of any party, not “authority versus reason,” but au who reflect upon the subject, and hold inthority versus ignorant presumption. dependent opinions based upon their own
Let the choice of civil rules, and all convictions—but precisely because we matters which chiefly or solely regard feel we should have no such dispute mere external well-being and present ex when our own views are distinctly unpediency-banks, tariffs, and the like- derstood. when they come up for practical deci. We heartily sympathize with those sion, be left to the judgment and decision statesmen and patriots who, fresh from of the mass. In respect to these things some great struggle for liberty, and still their own contentment and happiness is quivering with its excitement, have burst the highest end. If they err, they them- forth in the hyperbolical exlamationselves suffer the immediate consequences. Vox populi, vox Dei.” But it is no new But higher ideas of morality, justice, the- or extraordinary thing in the history of ology, theories of government, should by the world, that the rhetorical flourishes of no means be considered proper subjects one age become the doctrinal formulas of to be decided by the popular vote. In others. these things the common mind should be We believe in the literal truth of this accustomed to recognize an authority formula, as far as it implies the validity above it. And in the other matters, a little of arguments drawn from the universal or modesty on the part of the less informed quasi-universal and uncontradicted conwould do no harm, though they are of sent of mankind—as indicating the laws course the last to be expected to have it. of man's spiritual and moral nature, and
Many seem to think that questions— sometimes even the facts of his history. not only of practice but of theory-not We believe in the sentiment, so far as it only of public preference but of private implies the general correctness of the in. character—not only what shall actually stinct of a people in regard to their own be done but what ought to be done—may interests and rights-if it be really an inbe decided by a vote of the majority. stinct, general and spontaneous. We be. They know no worse stigma, no deeper lieve in the sentiment, so far as it implies disgrace, no greater sin, than to be in the that in governments which are so constiminority. They look upon the minority tuted that the people are sovereign, the as so many condemned criminals. But people are sovereign-to the extent to who got the majority of votes when the which the constitution makes them so; question was propounded to the multi- and more than this, we helieve, in genetude, “ Will ye have this man or Barab- ral, that looking at the question theoretibas?” Who shouted against the Son cally and à priori, the people have, under of God, “ Crucify him! crucify him!” God, a better right to the sovereignty And can men still without shuddering than any other party, person or power echo back “ Vox populi, vox Dei ? whatsoever. Sovereign power must be Yet multitudes do it, if not in those very lodged somewhere, and wherever that words, yet in plain English or still plain. sovereign power is lodged its voice is er actions.
practically the voice of God—it is the But while we would thus rebuke the voice of destiny. But supremacy and ininsolence of majorities, we are desirous fallibility are two ideas so utterly distinct of not being misunderstood. Wilful mis- that they ought not to be, as they too interpretation it is impossible to guard often are, confounded. The people may against if we would; but we are bound be supreme, yet not infallible. Their to endeavor to make ourselves intelligi. voice may be the fiat of destiny, yet not ble to those who honestly would know the sentence of truth or right. In the
same sense, the decision of a judge, the mine what is a major part, it is necessary ukase of the Russian Autocrat and the to determine the bounds of the whole-a firman of the Grand Seignior, are alike point which, it seems to us, is almost al. the voice of God. They are so, in a very ways forgotten or purposely avoided by important sense, to the parties affected by radical theorists. At the time of our such utterances. It is no more true that Revolution we were in the minority. The the sovereign people can do no wrong majority of the British Empire-of the than that the sovereign king can do no great political society of which we acwrong. Yet we believe, finally, that as knowledged ourselves a part — was a matter of fact, the voice of the people against us. Were our fathers therefore uttering itself, not upon a sudden call in the wrong? Perhaps some may think through the ballot-box, but spontaneous- that a majority of the people of the British ly, yet quietly and gradually, through the Empire, if the question had been left to thousand intelligent organs which nature them, would have voted in favor of and society have furnished, will, in the American claims. We think decidedly long run, and on the whole, be fair, just otherwise. It was rather the people of and right. Further than this reason and the mother country who were pressing facts forbid us to go.
the government to impose a part of their When, therefore, the sentiment in ques. burdens on the colonies. But be that as it tion is appealed to—and it sometimes is may, we are sure that the patriots of -as implying that the decision of a bare America would have had too much good majority of votes given at the polls, on sense to have staked the decision of their any question however sudden, however rights and liberties on the result of such exciting, is the voice of God-in any a vote. higher sense than as a practical determi In another particular the Fathers of nation of the question submitted to them American Freedom gave the lie to the -we demur: for that majority may be sentiment that the voice of the majority determined by the vote of a single city, is the voice of God; and we believe all and the vote of that city may be deter- the conventions who have subsequently mined by processes of combination and framed constitutions for our different pocorruption, such as were described in an litical communities have followed ihe early number of this Review. Men precedent thus set them, by inserting in should pause before they lay such things all their constitutions of government ibat to the charge of their Maker. Besides, something more than a bare majority when the decision is made by a bare ma. should be required to change the fundajority, the voice of the people very nearly mental law; that two-fifths of the peocontradicts itself, and may vary, in its ple, for example, if against change, judgment upon the same point, from should prevail over three-fifths demandyear to year: do truth and right varying it. But, certainly, they would not with it? The annexation of Texas, for have had the arrogance and impiety to example, may be unconstitutional in set up their imperfect constitutions Massachusetts and constitutional in South against the express voice of God. Carolina; constitutional to a majority of Did Aaron, the high-priest, obey the the union this year, unconstitutional the voice of God when he made the golden next. When and where is the voice of calf? Did the people of Israel utter the God uttered in such a case? We sup- voice of God when they demanded a pose the voice of God is binding on the king ? The whole history of this people conscience. Is the minority, then, bound is a most striking commentary on the to give up its intimate convictions and doctrine in question ; and yet this is the cherished doctrines to the majority of one, only people in connection with whose and acknowledge on its knees, with Ga- history the voice of God has been indelileo, that opinions of whose truth it has pendently and distinctly revealed. Was ocular demonstration, are damnable here. it the voice of God which banished Aris. sies? If the majority may be sometimes tides from Athens, the people being right and sometimes wrong, who shall weary of hearing him continually called determine the cases ? Shall each one say the Just? Was it the voice of God which the majority is right when he is with it, clamored for the condemnation of Socrates? and wrong when he is against it? This Perhaps it will be said, it was not the must be the practical result. But what people who were in fault in these cases, becomes, then, of this boasted « Vox but the demagogues that perverted them Dei ?” And then, before we can deter. —that the people, if left to themselves,
VOL. IV.NO. I.
would have decided aright. " Aye, mestic differences, they will learn that the there's the rub!"--if left to themselves! old adage about quarreling man and wife But how are they to be left to them- is applicable to other social relations. On selves? Who does not know that the the other hand, let no professed friend of very essence—the fundamental principle popular rights accuse us of having as-of demagoguism is, first to pervert ihe sailed them. We repel the charge with popular mind, and then to appeal to it as our soul's intensest energy.
We hold authority? It was, indeed, at the insti- the rights and liberties of the people sagation of the chief priests and rulers that cred—we enshrine them in our heart of the Jewish people preferred a murderer hearts ; but are the people therefore gods to the innocent man whom, but a few to be adored and worshiped ?
For ourdays before, they had been very attentive selves we would neither adore the Roman to hear. But this view of the case, so people nor the Roman Emperor. Let far from relieving the deifiers of the those flatter who seek for favor. Those voice of the people, only adds the last who seek to benefit others must, now as insupportable weight to their burden. of old, be even ready to sacrifice them
We are not wanting in faith in the selves. And as we would not abase ourpeople. If questions could be fairly got selves to flatter a sovereign king or a before the minds of a community gene sovereign aristocracy, so will we not rally so intelligent and virtuous as ours, abase ourselves to flatter the sovereign we should have almost unlimited confi- people. It is precisely because the dence in the correctness of their practical American people are sovereign, and bedecisions. But, unfortunately, the good cause we rejoice in that sovereignty, that people are not only fallible, but gullible; we would have them think on their duand there are sharp-witted men enough ties and their dangers. It is because we who know how to make their account earnestly desire to have that sovereignty of it. The mischief is, that while the not only continued but practically enpeople too often reject and hate those larged and completed that we would have who warn them of their ignorance, and the people reminded of their exposures tell them wholesome but unwelcome and defects; that thus they may be led truths, they are prone to love and follow to avoid and remedy them, and self-govthose who flatter only to betray; who ernment may be established among us so persuade them to despise all authority firmly, so beautifully and gloriously that only that themselves may profit by their the mouths of gainsayers may be forever consequent self-conceit;, who promise stopped, and we may become the envy them liberty only as a cloak to their and the exemplar of the world. own ambition, while they themselves The other class of dangers and defiare the servants of corruption. The first ciencies connected with our civilization step towards true wisdom and perfect free. may be rather loosely grouped under the dom on the part of the people, must be, designation of extravagant utilitarian tennot to cast off all guidance, but to be more dencies. The useful Arts, and especially circumspect in selecting their leaders. the higher forms of the Mechanic ArtsUntil they have learned to do this, they to which American genius is too excluhave not learned to lead themselves. sively devoted-do indeed contribute to
Let no enemies of popular liberty-let wards the progress of civilization; both no foreign abettors (domestic, we trust, directly, by exercising the intellects of there are none) of the despotism of one, men and giving them a sense of elevation or of the insolence of the few, pervert and control over matter and the powers what we have said to the purpose of of nature, and indirectly, as a means of showing that the people are unable and obtaining wealth and leisure. Yet utiliunfit to govern themselves. By a similar tarianism and practicalness may get such course of argument it might, with far exclusive possession of the general mind greater facility, be proved that a monarch as to prove the most serious obstacle in or an aristocracy are unable and unfit to the way of a higher and nobler culture. govern human society. How then is it The more of the ideal there is thrown to be governed? But we utterly deny around life and all its affairs, the more of that any such inference against the capa. true refinement and genuine culture will city of the people for self-government prevail. Refined taste looks, perhaps, can reasonably be drawn from the posi- with the bighest pleasure on those things tions we have taken. And when for which have no use for us but to be beaueigners officiously intermeddle in our do. tiful.
There is among the mass of our pop- which for him is embodied in that same ulation more of a glorying in rudeness- dingy marble. And say, which of the a rudeness often put on and cherished of two minds is the more cultivated and reset purpose-than, perhaps, among any fined ? which is the more truly civilized ? other people in the world. On the other Both are men. Both have the same na. hand, the hauteur and contemptuousness, ture, and in that nature the same sensi. which too often accompany what refine- bilities and principles of taste. But in ment there is, betray an upstart character, the American these are completely overa narrow-mindedness, a “Little-Pedling; laid and smothered by the accumulation tonism,” which render such superficial of exclusively practical habits. This village-squire refinement litile, if at all, second nature has so annihilated the first, preferable to a proud and sturdy rude- that he looks upon the Italian's enthusiness. Perhaps in this we are not more asm with mingled incredulity and conguilty than all others--at least we may tempt. But again, we may prefer our claim our English cousins as participes thrist to the Italian's taste as much as we criminis.
please; yet let us not therefore claim to If we compare the social character and be more civilized. condition of our common people with Grecian civilization may be characterthat of the same class in France, we shall ized as æsihetic-the civilization of taste find much more comfort, mental activity and genius; the Roman as politico-ethiand useful knowledge among us, but cal—the civilization of jurisprudence and vastly less refinement of feeling and man. the state; the Jewish as theocratic-pop
Good manners are restricted to no ular-the civilization of religion and the particular class in France; but every tribe; that of the mediæval Italian cities Frenchman seems to be endowed with as commercial-luxurious ;--that of modan easy politeness of address and a name. ern Europe is a combination of all, with less delicacy of sensibility and social the addition of the economic or utilitaria tact by virtue of his birth. How these element. In its forming period the relilittle matters throw a charm around so- gious or theocratic element predominated; cial life and give it an air of refinement subsequently the classical element; in and elevation, of which, with all our later times the economic-practical. more solid requirements and enjoyments, A barbarian element is sometimes we are quite unaware. We may despise reckoned among the constituent princithese things if we will, because we see ples of modern civilization. But ibis, if no use in them; but, so far as we are not a barbarism, is at least a solecism. destitute of them, we are wanting in one All that can really be meant, is, that our of the elements-though an external forefathers, the barbarians of the North rather than an essential element-of civ. of Europe, furnished Christianity and ilization.
the genius of classic culture with mate. Compare one of our farmers or me rials of a certain character to be civil. chanics with an Italian in a similar posi- jzed ; and the character of the materials tion. The snug and thrifty life of the has naturally modified the character of American finds no counterpart with the the result-for man, when civilized, has Italian. But the refinement of the tastes other characters besides that of being and sensibilities of the latter is equally civilized. Respect for woman, and the wanting in the former. Introduce the sense of personal independence, which American into the presence of the Apollo have been assigned to a barbarian origin, di Belvedere; and he sees nothing but are, in their normal state, the natural offthe figure of a naked man cut in dingy spring of Christianity. It is true, in marble, fractured, scarred and defaced in their extravagance, they show an unmis. sundry places, which, if he thought he takeable affinity with barbarism. That could make a good speculation out of it, this is the case with the latter is plain ; he would consider worth buying-other- and if the modern theory of the rights of wise he can see no use in it. Place the women is connected with the former, Italian before the same statue; and, that tends equally to barbarism ; for, though he may be poor and ignorant and whether the story of the Amazons be perhaps never read a newspaper in his true or fabulous, it is certain they were fife, his bosom swells with irrepressible always and justly considered as the emotions, his eyes brighten and his soul most anomalous of savages. seems going forth to commune 'with the Historically speaking, the Grecian eleglorious ideal of beauty and majesty ment was engrafted on the Roman, and