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Democracy, we repeat it, does not declaim against men for having accepted privileges when it was admitted that governments had them to bestow; but it tells governments, and the people in this country, as the only government we acknowledge, that they have no privileges to grant, no favors to confer. They have nothing to deal out to individuals. If they have favors to bestow, will they be good enough to tell us where they got them. Did they take them from individuals ? Then have they no right to them. What belongs to the individual can never become the rightful property of the government. If it was ever the property of individuals, it is now, and individuals may possess it without asking permission of the government. If the powers in question be not individual rights, the property of individuals, then has government no right to confer them, and the individual no right to receive them. Governments can confer on individuals no powers which God has not given them; and, if individuals claim, by authority, that which is not theirs by Divine right, or do, under cover of manmade law, what is not authorized by God's law, they are guilty, and must be condemned, if not in the civil court, at least in the court of conscience. Governments have, therefore, no privileges to confer, and individuals have no right to ask or to receive them. The government can confer on one individual only what it has robbed from him or from another. Has it a right to rob one individual for the sake of enriching another ? or is it desirable that it should first rob a man of his rights, and then give them back to him in the form of a present, or a privilege ? Whenever governments forbid this man to do what he has a natural right to do, or authorize that man to do what he has not a natural right to do, it assumes the power to readjust the regulations of Infinite Wisdom, and to recast the handy work of God.
We know of no governments that have the right to assume so much. We have a profound respect for the wisdom and governmental skill, manifested by those who are charged
with the management of our state and national governments; but we very much distrust their capacity to enter the courts of heaven as cabinet ministers to the All-Wise. It is enough for even our enlightened governments, in this most enlightened country, to sit down at the feet of Great Nature, as humble disciples, content to learn and obey what God ordains.
The great error of government, in all ages of the world, has been, that of counting itself the real owner and sovereign disposer of the individual, - that of disfranchising all individuals, and then pretending to redistribute individual rights, according to its own caprice, interests, or necessities. To pu
To put an end to this system of privilege is now the great aim of Democracy Its object is to restrict governments, whether royal, aristocratical, or popular, to their legitimate province, and individuals to their natural rights, and to teach both to perform those duties, and those duties only, which everlasting and immutable Justice imposes. To this it steadily makes its way; for this it struggles; and this it will ultimately achieve.
The reduction to practice of the theory we have now imperfectly, but we hope distinctly set forth, will demand great changes, and more changes, perhaps, than any one can foresee; and changes, too, which can be introduced at once, in no country, without violence, and probably not without bloodshed and great suffering. He who pleads for justice will not be anxious to promote violence, bloodshed, or suffering. There may be times when the kingdom of heaven must be taken by violence, and when a people should rise up and demand its rights, at whatever sacrifice it may be. But there is and there can be, in this country, no occasion for any but orderly and peaceful measures, for the acquisition of all we have supposed. We must not dream of introducing it all at once.
We must proceed leisurely. Let the men of thought speculate freely, and speak boldly what comes to them as truth; but let the men of action, men who have more enthusiasm than reflection, great
er hearts than minds, and stronger hands than heads, guard against impatience. Practical men, men of action, are, after all, the men who play the most mischief with improvements. Our principle is, no revolution, no destruction, but progress. Progress is always slow, and slow let it be; the slower it is the more speed it makes.
So long as
we find the thinkers busy canvassing all great matters, discussing all topics of reform, and publishing freely to the world the result of their investigations, we have no fears for the individual, none for society. Truth is omnipotent. Let it be uttered; let it spread from mind to mind, from heart to heart, and in due season be assured that it will make to itself hands, erect itself a temple, and institute its worship. Set just ideas afloat in the community, and feel no uneasiness about institutions. Bad institutions, before you are aware of it, will crumble away, and new ones and good ones supply their places.
We hold ourselves among the foremost of those who demand reform, and who would live and die for progress; but we wish no haste, no violence in pulling down old institutions or in building up new ones. We would innovate boldly in our speculations ; but in action we would cling to old usages and keep by old lines of policy, till we were fairly forced by the onward pressure of opinion to abandon them. We would think with the Radical, but often act with the Conservative. When the time comes to abandon an old practice, when new circumstances have arisen to demand a new line of policy, then, we say, let no attachments to the past make us blind to our duty or impotent to perform it. All we say is, let nothing be done in a hurry, and let no rage for experiments be encouraged.
We are far from being satisfied with things as they are. We have had, perhaps, our turn with many others, of mourning over the wide discrepancy there is between the American theory and the American pracVOL. I. NO. I.
tice, and days and nights have given to the question, How shall the evil be remedied? The only answer, we can give, is one, perhaps, that will show little more than how ineffectually we have inquired. All we can answer is simply, Let each man keep at work freely and earnestly in his own way; let all labor together, to raise the standard of thought, to give a higher, freer, and fresher tone to American literature; more purity and rationality to our theology; more depth and soundness to our philosophical speculations; to embody less of expediency and more of Christ in our systems of morality; and withal, let there be fervent prayer for more faith in God, in Truth, in Justice, in Humanity, and then, - let things take pretty much their own course. The whole that can be done may be summed up in the words, Let reformers do all in their power to EDUCATE THE PEOPLE, AND THROUGH THE PEOPLE THE GENERATION TO COME.
Art. V. - Poems by WILLIAM THOMPSON Bacon. Bos
ton: Weeks, Jordan, & Co. 1837. 12mo. pp. 134.
This little volume is the first offering of a young graduate of Yale College. He has just come out from the academic grove, and he brings with him his best. The songs he has dearly loved to warble by himself, or with his friends, he now flings out before the wide world, to see what echoes they will fetch. We have been won by his frankness, and somewhat inspired by his spirit; and therefore welcome the new-comer, though others may deem him forth-putting. He is a stranger to us until now, and his theory of poetry not altogether a favorite one of ours; so that whatever good word we say of him is more than the cheap praise with which we put men off that importune us. There is something in the boldness of his position, coming forward as he does, and in a seeming egotism
of manner, especially in his notes, where “ I think,” and “my opinion” occur quite too often, which would dispose us to greet him with a stare of irrecognition, did we not find on further acquaintance, that he is honest in this, and that he really feels something within him, and a child's confidence in the world to whom he utters it. These poems are mostly confessions; they are too uniformly personal; while he aspires to the highest, he never quite loses himself in it. This is a fault, which he vindicates in his note, but which we trust he will not always have to vindicate. If the true spirit be in him, a little acquaintance with the world will soon rid him of such morbid self-consciousness. He seems to speak what he has first felt, and then thought of and approved, and to speak it simply, though not always strongly. In this there is much hope. A genial reception should await all who write from a genuine impulse, and with a clear understanding. If the beauty, with which he seeks to charm, be that wherewith his own heart has glowed ; if the noble truths, which he proclaims, be truths in which he himself has faith, to whose workings he bears the testimony of his own experience here in song, then let him write, in God's name. We will not quarrel with any little weaknesses, or crudities, or affectations, if there is only something genuine in the midst of them. The critics, who censure “er cathedra,” have made more of these faults in young authors, than they have cured. They have always warred with what is simple, and therefore of marked individuality; they have frightened the whole world into affectation of the world ; they have let nothing grow freely into its natural fair proportions. One must be somewhat forth-putting and egotistical to resist the influence.
Mr. Bacon has studied a good model. He owns himself much beholden to Wordsworth for his inspiration, and, in a long note upon the poetical prospect of our country, prophesies that our only hope for poetry is in the spirit which responds to him. In this