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revolution, in 1688, a vast change had been wrought. It is probable, perhaps, that for the last half century, the process of subdivision, in England, has been retarded, if not reversed; that the great weight of taxation has compelled many of the lesser freeholders to dispose of their estates, and to seek employment in the army and navy, in the professions of civil life, in commerce, or in the colonies. The effect of this on the British constitution cannot but be most unfavorable. A few large estates grow larger; but the number of those who have no estates also increases; and there may be danger, lest the inequality of property become so great, that those who possess it may be dispossessed by force. In other words, that the government may be overturned.
A most interesting experiment of the effect of a subdivision of property, on government, is now making in France. It is understood, that the law regulating the transmission of property, in that country, now divides it, real and personal, among all the children, equally, both sons and daughters; and that there is, also, a very great restraint on the power of making dispositions of property by will. It has been supposed, that the effect of this might probably be, in time, to break up the soil into such small subdivisions, that the proprietors would be too poor to resist the encroachments of executive power. I think far otherwise. What is lost in individual wealth, will be more than gained in numbers, in intelligence, and in a sympathy of sentiment. If, indeed, only one or a few landholders were to resist the crown, like the barons of England, they must of course be great and powerful landholders, with multitudes of retainers, to promise success. But if the proprietors of a given extent of territory are summoned to resistance, there is no reason to believe that such resistance would be less forcible, or less successful, because the number of such proprietors should be great. Each would perceive his own importance, and his own interest, and would feel that natural elevation of character which the consciousness of property inspires. A common sentiment would unite all, and numbers would not only add strength, but excite enthusiasm. It is true, that France possesses a vast military force, under the direction of an hereditary executive government; and military power, it is possible, may overthrow any government. It is in vain, however, in this period of the world, to look for security against military power, to the arm of the great landholders. That notion is derived from a state of things long since past; a state in which a feudal baron, with his retainers, might stand against the sovereign, who was himself but the greatest baron, and his retainers. But at present, what could the richest landholder do, against one regiment of disciplined troops? Other securities, therefore, against the prevalence of military power must be provided. Happily for us, we are not so situated as that any purpose of national defence requires, ordinarily and constantly, such a military force as might seriously endanger our liberties.
In respect, however, sir, to the recent law of succession in France, to which I have alluded, I would, presumptuously perhaps, hazard a conjecture, that if the government do not change the law, the law, in half a century, will change the government; and that this change will be, not in favor of the power of the crown, as some European
writers have supposed, but against it. Those writers only reason upon what they think correct general principles, in relation to this subject. They acknowledge a want of experience. Here, we have had that experience; and we know, that a multitude of small proprietors, acting with intelligence, and that enthusiasm which a common cause inspires, constitute not only a formidable, but an invincible power.
The true principle of a free and popular government would seem to be, so to construct it as to give to all, or at least to a very great majority, an interest in its preservation. To found it, as other things are founded, on men's interest. The stability of government requires, that those who desire its continuance should be more powerful than those who desire its dissolution. This power, of course, is not always to be measured by mere numbers.-Education, wealth, talents, are all parts and elements of the general aggregate of power; but numbers nevertheless constitute, ordinarily, the most important consideration, unless indeed there be a military force in the hands of the few, by which they can control the many. In this country we have actual existing systems of government, in the protection of which it would seem a great majority, both in numbers and in other means of power and influence, must see their interest. But this state of things is not brought about merely by written political constitutions, or the mere manner of organizing the government; but also by the laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property. The freest government, if it could exist, would not be long acceptable, if the tendency of the laws were to create a rapid accumulation of property in few hands, and to render the great mass of the population dependent and pennyless. In such a case, the popular power must break in upon the rights of property, or else the influence of property must limit and control the exercise of popular power.-Universal suffrage, for example, could not long exist in a community, where there was great inequality of property. The holders of estates would be obliged, in such case, either in some way to restrain the right of suffrage, or else such right of suffrage would, ere long, divide the property. In the nature of things, those who have not property, and see their neighbours possess much more than they think them to need, cannot be favorable to laws made for the protection of property. When this class becomes numerous, it grows clamorous. It looks on property as its prey and plunder, and is naturally ready, at all times, for violence and revolution.
It would seem then to be the part of political wisdom to found government on property; and to establish such distribution of property, by the laws which regulate its transmission and alienation, as to interest the great majority of society in the protection of the government. This is, I imagine, the true theory and the actual practice of our republican institutions. With property divided, as we have it, no other government than that of a republic could be maintained, even were we foolish enough to desire it. There is reason, therefore, to expect a long continuance of our systems. Party and passion, doubtless, may prevail at times, and much temporary mischief be done. Even modes and forms may be changed, and perhaps for the worse. But a great revolution, in regard to prop
erty, must take place, before our governments can be moved from their republican basis, unless they be violently struck off by military power. The people possess the property, more emphatically than it could ever be said of the people of any other country, and they can have no interest to overturn a government which protects that property by equal laws.
If the nature of our institutions be to found government on property, and that it should look to those who hold property for its protection, it is entirely just that property should have its due weight and consideration, in political arrangements. Life, and personal liberty, are, no doubt, to be protected by law; but property is also to be protected by law, and is the fund out of which the means for protecting life and liberty are usually furnished. We have no experience that teaches us that any other rights are safe, where property is not safe. Confiscation and plunder, are generally in revolutionary commotions not far before banishment, imprisonment, and death. It would be monstrous to give even the name of government, to any association in which the rights of property should not be competently secured. The disastrous revolutions which the world has witnessed, those political thunderstorms and earthquakes which have overthrown the pillars of society, from their very deepest foundations, have been revolutions against property.-Since the honorable member from Quincy (President Adams) has alluded, on this occasion, to the history of the ancient states, it would be presumption in me to dwell upon it. It may be truly said, however, I think, that Rome herself is an example of the mischievous influence of the popular power, when disconnected with property, and in a corrupt age. It is true, the arm of Cæsar prostrated her liberty; but Cæsar found his support within her very walls. Those who were profligate and necessitous, and factious and desperate, and capable therefore of being influenced by bribes and largesses, which were distributed with the utmost prodigality, outnumbered, and out voted, in the tribes and centuries, the substantial, sober, prudent and faithful citizens. Property was in the hands of one description of men, and power in those of another; and the balance of the constitution was destroyed. Let it never be forgotten, that it was the popular magistrates, elevated to office where the bad outnumbered the good,where those who had no stake in the commonwealth, by clamor, and noise, and numbers, drowned the voice of those who had,-that laid the neck of Rome at the feet of her conqueror. When Cæsar, manifesting a disposition to march his army into Italy, approached that little stream, which has become so memorable, from its association with his character and conduct, a decree was proposed in the senate, declaring him a public enemy, if he did not disband his troops. To this decree the popular tribunes, the sworn protectors of the people, interposed their negative; and thus opened the high road of Italy, and the gates of Rome herself, to the approach of her conqueror.
The English revolution of 1688 was a revolution in favor of properly, as well as of other rights. It was brought about by the men of property, for their security; and our own immortal revolution was undertaken, not to shake or plunder property, but to protect it. The acts of which the country complained, were such as violated rights of property. An immense majority of all those who had an interest
in the soil, were in favor of the revolution; and they carried it through, looking to its results for the security of their possessions. It was the property of the frugal yeomanry of New England, hard earned, but freely given, that enabled her to act her proper part, and perform her full duty, in achieving the independence of the country.
I would not be thought, Mr. Chairman, to be among those who underrate the value of military service. My heart beats, I trust, as responsive as any one's, to a soldier's claim for honor and renown. It has ever been my opinion, however, that while celebrating the military achievements of our countrymen, in the revolutionary contest, we have not always done equal justice to the merits, and the sufferings, of those, who sustained, on their property, and on their means of subsistence, the great burden of the war. Any one, who has had occasion to be acquainted with the records of the New England towns, knows well how to estimate those merits, and those sufferings. Nobler records of patriotism exist nowhere. Nowhere can there be found higher proofs of a spirit, that was ready to hazard all, to pledge all, to sacrifice all, in the cause of the country. Instances were not unfrequent, in which small freeholders parted with their last hoof, and the last measure of corn from their granaries, to supply provision for the troops, and hire service for the ranks. The voice of Oris and of ADAMS in Faneuil Hall, found its full and true echo, in the little councils of the interior towns; and if within the Continental Congress patriotism shone more conspicuously, it did not there exist more truly, nor burn more fervently; it did not render the day more anxious, or the night more sleepless; it sent up no more ardent prayer to God, for succour; and it put forth in no greater degree, the fullness of its effort and the energy of its whole soul, and spirit, in the common cause, than it did in the small assemblies of the towns. I cannot, therefore, sir, agree that it is in favor of society, or in favor of the people, to constitute government, with an entire disregard to those who bear the public burdens in times of great exigency.-This question has been argued, as if it were proposed only to give an advantage to a few rich men. I do not so understand it. I consider it as giving property, generally, a representation in the Senate, both because it is just that it should have such representation, and because it is a convenient mode of providing that check, which the constitution of the legislature requires. I do not say that such check might not be found in some other provision; but this is the provision already established, and it is, in my opinion, a just and proper one.
I will beg leave to ask, sir, whether property may not be said to deserve this portion of respect and power in the government? It pays, at this moment, I think, five sixths of all the public taxes;one sixth only being raised on persons. Not only, sir, do these taxes support those burdens which all governments require, but we have, in New England, from early times holden property to be subject to another great public use;-I mean the support of SCHOOLS.
In this particular we may be allowed to claim a merit of a very high and peculiar character. This commonwealth, with other of the New England states, early adopted, and has constantly maintained the principle, that it is the undoubted right, and the bounden duty
of government, to provide for the instruction of all youth. That which is elsewhere left to chance, or to charity, we secure by law. For the purpose of public instruction, we hold every man subject to taxation, in proportion to his property, and we look not to the question, whether he, himself, have or have not children to be benefited by the education for which he pays. We regard it as a wise and liberal system of police, by which property, and life, and the peace of society are secured. We seek to prevent, in some measure, the extension of the penal code, by inspiring a salutary and conservative principle of virtue, and of knowledge, in an early age. We hope to excite a feeling of respectability, and a sense of character, by enlarging the capacity, and increasing the sphere of intellectual enjoyment. By general instruction, we seek, as far as possible, to purify the whole moral atmosphere; to keep good sentiments uppermost, and to turn the strong current of feeling and opinion, as well as the censures of the law, and the denunciations of religion, against immorality and crime. We hope for a security, beyond the law, and above the law, in the prevalence of enlightened and well principled moral sentiment. We hope to continue and to prolong the time, when, in the villages and farm houses of New England, there may be undisturbed sleep, within unbarred doors. And knowing that our government rests directly on the public will, that we may preserve it, we endeavour to give a safe and proper direction to that public will. We do not, indeed, expect all men to be philosophers, or statesmen; but we confidently trust, and our expectation of the duration of our system of government rests on that trust, that by the diffusion of general knowledge, and good and virtuous sentiments, the political fabric may be secure, as well against open violence and overthrow, as against the slow but sure undermining of licentiousness.
We know, sir, that at the present time an attempt is making in the English Parliament to provide by law for the education of the poor, and that a gentleman of distinguished character, (Mr. Brougham) has taken the lead, in presenting a plan to government for carrying that purpose into effect. And yet, although the representatives of the three kingdoms listened to him with astonishment as well as delight, we hear no principles with which we ourselves have not been familiar from youth; we see nothing in the plan, but an approach towards that system which has been established, in this state, for more than a century and a half. It is said, that in England, not more than one child in fifteen, possesses the means of being taught to read and write; in Wales, one in twenty; in France, until lately, when some improvement was made, not more than one in thirty-five. Now, sir, it is hardly too strong to say, that in this state, every child possesses such means. It would be difficult to find an instance to the contrary, unless where it was owing to the negligence of the parentand in truth the means are actually used and enjoyed by nearly every one. A youth of fifteen, of either sex, who cannot both read and write, is very unfrequently to be found. How many such can any member of this convention remember to have met with in ten years? Sir, who can make this comparison, or contemplate this spectacle, without delight, and a feeling of just pride? And yet, sir, what is it but the property of the rich, devoted, by law, to the education of