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But calmer reflection taught us to inquire, after a tine, whether our patriotisın, taking the bit in its mouth, was not running away with our reason. Is it true that there is no despotism in America? Have we no authorities, which take the control of opinion, and assume to be infallible? Are there no institutions, no tribunals, no self-constituted judges, which impose injurious restraints upon the freedom of thought? Have we extinguished the spirit and habit of persecution along with its outward symbols, the rack, the stake, the dungeon, and the prison-house? We answered ourselves in this wise: We do not, it must be confessed, resort to the same compulsory methods against the human understandings, as obtained in former ages, and still obtains in some countries. We do not stretch the limbs of men on instruments of torture, because they refuse to conform to this or that standard in respect to the most incomprehensible dogmas,—we do not pillory our poor De Foes, for the political crime of writing candidly on public affairs, nor imprison our humble Bunyans for proclaiming the gospel in the streets; we do not bury our statesmen under the sea as they do in Naples,--we do not banish our most illustrious artists and poets, because they are liberals, to the wild swamps of Cayenne, as they do in France,—all this must be confessed, and it must be confessed, too, that these are noble advantages to have achieved over the spirit of intolerance. We cannot too highly estimate their worth and glory. They are priceless victories won from the old empire of darkness and intolerance. They lift us into a security and elevation which baffles for ever the malice of a whole infernal brood of serpents, who may now hiss about the rock of our retreat, but cannot sting us to death. Their fangs are extracted, and the poison-bags, with which their malignant heads are still sometimes swollen, serve only to inflict themselves when they distend with a disarmed and impotent rage.

Yet, if the advanced civilization of our age and country rejects the grosser applications of force by which opinion was wont to be controlled, there are others, it seems to us, which are not entirely discontinued. A less barbarous, a more refined tyranny is still compatible with the general sense of propriety and justice. There are chains which men forge for their fellows, which fret and cut their

souls, if they do not canker their bodies. There are inquisitions of obloquy and hatred which succeed to the inquisitions of the faggot and flame. There is a moral coventry almost as humiliating and oppressive as the stern solitude of the dungeon. The spirit of bigotry may survive the destruction of its carnal weapons; despotism may retain its instincts, and give vigorous signs of vitality, long after the sword shall have been wrenched from its grasp; and the fires will burn in the eyes of bigotry when they have already ceased to burn upon its altars. For what is the essential and distinctive characteristic of despotism? Not its outward instruments, -its Bastiles, its gibbets, its bayonets, its knouts, and its thumb-screws,but its animating purpose. It is the disposition to suppress the free formation and publication of opinion, by other means than those by which the mind is logically moved, by other influences than motives addressed to the understanding, the reason, and the better feelings of the heart. Wherever a man's bread is taken away because he votes with this party or that, wherever he is denounced to public odium because of the heterodoxy of his honest sentiments, wherever moral turpitude is imputed to him on account of his speculative errors, wherever he is in terror of the mob on any account-wherever the inveteracy of public prejudice compels him to remain silent altogether, or to live a life of perpetual hypocrisy, wherever his sincere conviction can not be disclosed and promulged for fear of personal discomfiture and annoyance, wherever even a limit is fixed to the progress of research, there despotisın flourishes, with more or less strength, and only needs the concurrence of circumstances to be nursed into muscular violence and fury.

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Now, as we have said, it seems to us that, tried by this test, we have despotisms in the United States, just as they have elsewhere, and, that with all our advances in liberality of which we justly boast, we come short in practice of the brilliant id, of our institutions. We have not attained to a genuine and universal liberty,-(we will not say tolerance, because that word is borrowed from an age when freedom was supposed to be a boon and not a right.)—and we fail not in one or two, but in many respects. In the Church, in the State, in the popular auditorium, and in the more private relations of society, we surround

ourselves with needless barriers, we build walls of separation between ourselves and the great realms of intelligence yet unexplored, and we paralyze those intellectual energies which are our only instruments for exploring them, the only tools for working the golden mines of truth.

"This is the book where each his dogma seeks, And this the book where each his dogma finds,”* -we must still suppose, that a revelation from the Infinite will contain infinite resources of truth. Neither its alleged origin, which is from the perfect God, nor its alleged destiny, which is the final redemption of mankind from error, will allow us for a moment to treat it as an ordinary message, soon told and as speedily comprehended. It must conceal inexhaustible riches, or not be what it purports; while to suppose it to be what it purports, and yet to attempt to inclose its treasures in the frail and rickety caskets of words which men devise, is an enterprise for pouring the ocean into a quart-pot, or for bottling the air of the whole heavens in one's private cellar. Nor is the attempt less pernicious than it is absurd: for it erects each little consistory into a separate popedom, issuing its infallible decrees and denouncing its interdicts with all the arrogance of its Roman prototype. As an inevitable consequence, two things result justly, that the supreme control of the religious sentiment of nations falls into the hands of the priesthood, who are conservative by position and training, and, secondly, that the energies of the churches are absorbed in controversy or sectarian propagation, at the expense of a free and earnest inquiry after new truth, and the culture of genial hopeful feelings. The history of our American sects, for instance, is an almost unbroken record of fierce and bigoted disputes. New England has been a kind of theological Golgotha, and the fields are covered with battered skulls. The clergy have been the ruling powers, too, not only there but everywhere; and the people have dared to laugh only with the consent of the deacons. We are aware that this aspect of things has materially changed of late years; we know, also, what inappreciable services the churches have otherwise rendered to society; but we must not forget, in the midst of our ready gratitude for these, how many of them by means of their creeds, and the terrors of their excommunications, as well as the power of their social influences,-still hang as an incubus upon the minds and consciences of their adherents. Nor upon them alone, but many others--even those who do not professedly wear their colors. They too often terrify the ardent refor

In the first place, we cannot but consider a large number of our ecclesiastical organizations as so many restraints upon the freedom of the mind. Founded upon creeds which admit of no possibility of truth beyond their own formulas, they discourage inquiry in the largest and most important domains of thought. We agree with Kant, the great German philosopher, who, in one of his valuable minor writings, discussing the question whether any association is justified in binding itself to certain immutable articles of faith, in order to exercise a perpetual and supreme guardianship over its members, and indirectly through them over the people, contends that a compact of this kind, entered into, not as a simple bond of union for the interchange of common sentiments, but with a view to conclude the human race from further enlightenment, is a crime against humanity, whose highest destination consists emphatically in intellectual progress. "A combination," says he, "to maintain an unalterable religious system, which no man is permitted to call in doubt, would, even for the term of one man's life, be wholly intolerable. It would be, as it were, to blot out one generation in the progress of the human species towards a better condition; to render it barren and hence noxious to posterity." This conduct, in the religious world, proceeds upon the assumption that our knowledge of divine things cannot advance like our knowledge of natural things: that the first investigators of the Scriptures exhausted their contents, and that nothing is left for those that come after them, but, as Johnson says of the followers of Shakespeare, to new-name their characters and repeat their phrases. But does this view do justice to the sacred word? Granting that its leading principles may be easily discerned,-a thing difficult to grant in the face of two hundred conflicting sects, each of which finds its support and nutriment in the same pages; for, as Sir William Hamilton is fond of quoting,

"Hic liber est in quo quærit sua dogmata quisque Invenit, et pariter dogmata quisque sua.


mer, whose bright hopes they change by the magic of fear into dread spectres; they too often arrest the uplifted arm of science when it would strike from the rock or open out from the bowels of the earth some precious fountain of use;— and they too often array themselves on the side of effete traditions and mouldy abuses, when they should be pressing forward under the ever-living inspirations of hope and freedom. It is said that Justinian, when he had completed the compilation of his Institutes, issued a decree that no comment should be written upon them, which aimed at more than a sketch of their contents or a transcription of their titles;—well, the sects are apt to copy this imperial and arbitrary example, they impose on others, as exclusively right and authoritative, their own slender selections out of the vast complexity of truths, the few pearls they have fished out of the measureless sea, fancying that they have banished error, when they have only extinguished the independence of thought. Indeed, it is scarcely too much to say, appropriating the figure of Mirabeau, where he compares truth to the statue of Isis covered by many veils, that they teach their followers to lift a single one, whilst they fling their clubs and battleaxes at the heads of all who would remove the others. "Procul, oh! procul, esti Profani!" rings the chorus, and the poor audacious "infidel"-as every dissentient is sure to be called,—is handed over to an everlasting contempt. Now, what chance truth has in such a hubbub it is needless to say.

into power. There are tribes in Africa, which sacrifice a hundred or two of men every time a new prince ascends the throne; but then they confine the immolation to the leaders only of their enemies; our whigs and democrats, less discriminating than the Africans, on the occasion of their advent to power, butcher all the opposing chiefs, and all the subordinate functionaries, down to Like the drill-sergeant or the sutler. William the Norman, when he conquered England, they distribute all the lands, and messuages of the vanquished, to their own set. A regular Domesday-book is opened, and the fiefs and holdings are parcelled out with a coolness of effrontery, which almost persuades us that the perpetrators of the outrage are unconscious It is an inof its monstrous meanness. justice which, however, works the usual effects of despotism. It degrades the character of all who are concerned in it; reducing political life into the sheerest scramble for spoils, and bringing the suspicion of mercenariness upon every man who takes office. In either aspect, the practice is signally disastrous. By debasing the standard of official eligibility, it places in high position men of corrupting and pernicious example, and by relaxing the tone of public controversy, it saps and undermines the private integrity of the people. No service which government renders to society is more important than its influence in preserving a sense of the general good as superior to individual interests. Indeed, this may be regarded as one of its finest functions-the education of the masses, into a perception of the supremacy of the general over particular ends. Our natural impulses, our family ties, our necessities of business, tend perpetually towards the development of a selfish egotism, which our participation in public affairs tends as perpetually to counteract. But, if that participation, instead of being animated by a sense of devotion to the public good, is converted into an intense struggle for the accomplishment of individual purposes, we lose one of the most salutary restraints, one of the noblest inWe respirations of the civilized state. solve society into what Hobbs contended was its original condition—a state of war. We confirm the multitude in their narrow and low ambitions; and we restrict their actions to the petty circle. of their own private and individual concerns. Again; the examples of really great statesmen are among the inost pre

We recognize, secondly, an oppressive exercise of despotic power, in the conduct of political parties, both in respect to the violence, and bitterness of their hatreds, and the relentless proscriptions which crown their victories. The former is, perhaps, not to be avoided in the present imperfect state of enlightenment, and Christianity; but the second is wholly indefensible anywhere, and especially in a republican society. The primary, essential, distinctive right of man, in a free state, which rests upon popular choice, is the right of election, and to assail that right, by direct or indirect means, by force of arms, or the abstraction of one's subsistence, is treason against the fundamental principles of democracy-lèse majesté done to the people. Yet, every one of our political parties justify themselves in a wholesale political slaughter of their opponents, whenever they come

cious and indestructible inheritances of a nation. No matter how great their services in averting dangers from the commonwealth, or in achieving advantages for it, by the direct exercise of their faculties, these cannot be compared with their indirect utility, in presenting to the people a high, manly, dignified, and heroic ideal of devotion to the public weal. Their life-long abnegation of self; their cautious wisdom; their moderation of temper; the spectacle of their constant preference of a broad and ultimate good to local expedients and temporal triumphs, habituate the general mind to the contemplation of lofty ends, and models of excellence in conduct. Thus, the characters of Washington, of Franklin, of Marshall, of Madison, etc., are infinitely more valuable to us Americans than the immediate effects of any battles they may have won in the field, or the forum, because they have filled our histories with pictures of a disinterested virtue. But are such characters possible in public life, when that life is no longer a contest of great minds for great ends, but a pot-house squabble-when the despotism of party machinery excludes from public service every man who is not sufficiently base to stoop to its arts, and to roll in its ordure? Do we not, by our party intolerance, by the proscriptions which tread upon the heels of every success, rob the community of a twofold guaranty of its progress, of the services of its best men, and of a high moral tone of public sentiment?

But this leads us to the third species of despotism which we think it important to note, and which, instigated by the bad examples of both church and state, may be described as that of popular opinion. We do not agree with those foreign writers who represent the tyranny of the majority in this country as absolutely terrific: they have exaggerated its effects; but their criticisms are not without a tincture of truth. Compared with the older nations, there is a larger freedom of opinion, on most subjects, in this country, than anywhere else on the globe,-but, compared with our own standards, or the ideals of our institutions, we are on manifold subjects lamentably deficient. It is natural in a society whose stability depends as much upon opinion as upon law, and more upon opinion than force, that opinion, like other powers, should occasionally play the despot; but what we complain of is not the habitual watch

fulness of the public mind over public interest, and the chronic tendency to rectify abuses or to avert evil by the instant insurrection of opinion, but the excessive resentment of that opinion when provoked. It is that unwillingness to be corrected which makes it rather a prejudice than an opinion,that tenacity with which it clings to its customary formulas,--and the severity with which it often resists even the slightest departures from them. We complain of it because it erects the majority into an idol, a monarch, a tyrant, and begets a deference to it which is almost as bad as any savage superstition or loyal sycophaney. It weakens the very springs of character in men, and then lords it over their weakness with an

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irresponsible violence and outrage. Take, for instance, the pro-slavery sentiment of this country as it prevailed a few years ago, how arbitrary, ferocious, and overwhelming it was! Not merely in the South, where the vast interests involved and the peace and security of society itself justify an extraordinary sensitiveness towards all impertinent interference, but throughout the nation, where no such exigencies of danger can be alleged. In the most secluded districts of New England even, where a black slave was never seen, and thousands of miles away from where they are, the expression of anti-slavery views has been almost a courting of martyrdom. The feeling dominated the church, the senate, the popular assembly, and the private saloon. Let a preacher plead the cause of the negroes, and his salary was stopped; let a newspaper attempt the discussion of the subject, and it lost its subscribers; let a representative broach it in Congress, and he was gagged and excluded from the Committees, or politely invited to fight a duel. Public meetings called to consider it were dispersed by the mob; petitions to the Federal Legislature against it were indignantly trampled under foot; the United States mails were feloniously invaded in its behalf,-while the agents of anti-slavery societies were coated with tar and featliers, or mutilated, or hung upon a tree. It is true that all this has been since changed, but by means of what sufferings, what struggles, what strenuous and long-continued combats! Even at this time, the pro-slavery sentiment is so largely in the ascendant, that no man of the most moderate antislavery convictions can hold office under

the Federal Government,-though that government represents, or ought to represent, not a faction or a locality, but the whole people.


De Tocqueville makes it an accusation against democratic societies, that they substitute a many-headed tyranny for that of a single man or of a single class, and the history of the anti-slavery controversy in this country, to our shame be it said, forces us to confess that, in this respect at least, his remarks are well grounded. "Fetters and headsmen," he exclaims, were the coarse instruments which tyranny formerly employed; but the civilization of our age has refined the arts of despotism, which seemed, however, to be sufficiently protected before; the excesses of monarchical power have devised a variety of physical means of oppression; the democratic republics of the present day have rendered it as entirely an affair of the mind, as that will which it is intended to coerce. Under the absolute sway of an individual despot, the body was attacked in order to subdue the soul; and the soul escaped the blows which were directed against it, and rose superior to the attempt; but such is not the course adopted by the tyranny in democratic republics; there the body is left free and the soul is enslaved. The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death," but he says, "You are free to think differently from me and retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien amongst your people: you may retain your civil rights, but they will be useless to you, for you will never be chosen by your fellow-citizens, if you solicit their suffrages; and they will affect to scorn you if you solicit their esteem. You will remain among men, but you will be deprived of the rights of mankind. Your fellow-citizens will shun you like an impure being; and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in their turn. Go in peace! I have given you your life, but it is an existence incomparably worse than death." There are, however, two fallacies in this,first, in supposing that the social proscription alluded to could subsist without passing over into muscular violence, and, second, in the implication that the soul is less likely to rise superior to moral than to physical persecutions. The experience of this country has

proved the contrary of both. It has shown how the virulence of prejudice soon runs into lynchings and mob-law, whence its peculiar dangers; and it has shown, at the same time, by the reactions of the last few years, how effectively the most overbearing majorities may be resisted. Yet, as we have already acknowledged, there is a basis of truth in De Tocqueville's animated charges, as might be amply demonstrated from the long, arrogant, insulting, and rancorous preponderance of the proslavery sentiment.

But, this sentiment has grown out of the existence of slavery itself, the last kind of despotism to which we shall. allude. It is needless to remark upon its character as such, beyond the statement of the simple fact that four millions of human beings are held as property, a fact settling that point with an emphasis. From its very nature, it is a despotism of force, of law, and of opinion combined, partially mitigated in practice by humane personal considerations, but in theory absolute. It is administered, for the most part, by the whip; it is sanctioned by legislation; and it admits of no scrutiny or discussion. The master and the slave, therefore, are alike dominated by the system. All that can be said of it, in the regions where it prevails, even by those most deeply interested in its results, must be said in its favor, on pain of peremptory banishment or assassination. Indeed the illusions as to its benefits and the sensitiveness as to its dangers, are both so extreme, that many a slaveholder allows himself to read no book nor to hear any conversation in which his positive, unqualified, eternal right is disputed. What a pitiable and insane extravagance! And, if he were consistent, to what a total intellectual solitude would he be reduced, in the present state of the civilized world. He would cut himself off from all the literature, and science, and politics of mankind. He could read no magazine, foreign or domestic: the best works of genius would be closed to him; the investigations of science seem infectious; and the debates of Congress intolerable. In fact there would be no recourse for the class who institute this moral quarantine, but to imitate the habits of the chigo, as it is described by Sydney Smith, where he says that each one sets up its separate ulcer, and has his own private portion of pus. One would suppose that under the tremendous responsibilities of its condi

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