previous next

[118] Government impossible. See, it would have been said, the meanness, the cowardice, the insensibility to a great name and lofty destinies which Democracy produces. These people were yesterday one of the greatest nations on the globe, and at the first check they abdicated their greatness rather than draw the sword. Democracy begets and nourishes poltroons. We must look elsewhere for those manly virtues by which States contend successfully with perils that threaten their existence, and, at length, emerge from their trials stronger, purer, and more glorious than ever.

Alas for Democracy! its enemies will give it no quarter. In their desperate hurry to mangle its limbs, to cut its throat, to demonstrate that it has forfeited all right to live, they do not even care to be just. Whether it fights or abstains from fighting, it is all the same; whether it obeys the fiery impulses which have made Europe for eighteen centuries one continuous battle-field, or meekly drops its arms in mute submission to fortune, its reputation is fore-doomed. What else could we have expected when its enemies assume to sit as judges, and the critic who professes impartially to try its conduct never lays aside his vulgar, unphilosophic, unsparing, and indiscriminating hate? If, however, we must try democratic institutions by this new test, we challenge its application with pleasure. Only let it be applied fairly. There are a great many nations under heaven, some of which have lasted long enough to furnish ample materials for comparison. Our own country is one of the most highly favored. Society here is strong, having its roots far back in an immemorial past, long before the date of Bunker's Hill or even the discoveries of Columbus. Yet we have had our civil wars. Not to go back to the time of the Plantaganets, when the claims of rival dynasties swept the land with fire and slaughter for a century together, we have had one great rebellion which sent a monarch to the block, another rebellion which drove another monarch from his throne, and two more rebellions, the last of which saw an army of Highlanders in the heart of the kingdom. Within the memory of men still living we had a great rebellion in Ireland, where battles were fought and scaffolds well furnished with victims. Even within the last thirty years the Duke of Wellington regarded that country as one that required to be held with a large garrison, and ruled over by a mitigated form of martial law. Do the recurring disasters of half a dozen centuries prove that monarchy “conveys not the slightest security against the worst of wars” ? We will not send our readers abroad, to Paris, to Vienna, or to Warsaw, where civil war exists in its worst form, the helpless struggle of a brave people against omnipotent battalions. If the civil war in America proves any thing to the disparagement of democracy, what do the convulsions of Europe prove for monarchical institutions? But ours, it may be said, is neither the one nor the other. Be it so. We are not republicans. Let it, however, be admitted that whatever special security our own constitution supplies, it has obtained the means of giving that security by departing from the ideal of pure monarchy and approximating to that form of self-government which has been established in the United States. We have far more in common with Washington than with Vienna; and in calumniating the free institutions of any country, we merely disparage and denounce the indisputable source of our own greatness.--Manchester Examiner.

The Impressment of British subjects in New Orleans.

There are no people so thoroughly on their good behavior before all the world as the two unfortunate parties in the fratricidal contest now raging in America. They have to prove not only their sense of justice and their regard for truth, and also that they are not needlessly sensitive or too ready to fall into a quarrel. There is a general persuasion in this part of the world — indeed, all over the world, except between Niagara and the Gulf of Mexico, that the present state of affairs there is the natural result of a defiant, offensive, and intolerable tone of talking and acting on all matters whatever. The American is rather too apt to consider himself absolutely right, and is pleased to think he is so occasionally to the confusion of others. A high civilization holds it in the greatest of social misfortunes that there should be a difference at all. An American does not regard this as so great a misfortune, compared with having to own himself a little mistaken, or misinformed as to a trifle. With such people, when a quarrel has once arisen, there can be only one appeal — that appeal to arms, which has now assumed such terrible proportions, and the issue of which no man can venture to foretell. But if there is any hope of a compromise — if, even in our own time, we are ever to see the Northerner and the Southerner discussing their differences amicably in Congress, it can only be by the introduction of a less positive, less domineering, less provoking tone than that on which the Americans have hitherto prided themselves.

Mr. Russell has been for some time in the United States discharging for the British public, not to say for the whole world, the same services that he did so well before in the Crimea and in India. He has everywhere had to perform his laborious duties under difficulties inconceivable to most of his readers, and little shared by writers compiling narratives at a library table, or taking down the words of some customary informant. He has had to write in haste, in exhaustion, in noise, in danger, in the very turmoil of war, with disputation and even menace still in his ears. He has been occasionally contradicted, generally confessed to be right, and sometimes has frankly and courageously avowed himself to be mistaken or misinformed. His letters are now before the world

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Wellington (1)
Charles W. Russell (1)
Manchester Examiner (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: