Imágenes de páginas

office more permanent, and a leader more stable ? Surely you will make him single. For if experience has ever taught a truth, it is that a plurality in the supreme executive will forever split into discordant factions, distract the nation, annihilate its energies, and force the nation to rally under a single head, generally an usurper. We have, I think, fallen on the happiest of all modes of constituting the executive, that of easing and aiding our President, by permitting him to choose Secretaries of State, of finance, of war, and of the navy, with whom he may advise, either separately or all together, and remedy their divisions by adopting or controling their opinions at his discretion ; this saves the nation from the evils of a divided will, and secures to it a steady march in the systematic course which the president may have adopted for that of his administration.

Our legislatures are composed of two houses, the senate and representatives, elected in different modes, and for different periods, and in some States, with a qualified veto in the executive chief. But to avoid all temptation to superior pretensions of the one over the other house, and the possibility of either erecting itself into a privileged order, might it not be better to choose at the same time and in the same mode, a body sufficiently numerous to be divided by lot into two separate houses, acting as independently as the two houses in England, or in our governments, and to shuffle their names together and re-distribute them by lot, once a week for a fortnight? This would equally give the benefit of time and separate deliberation, guard against an absolute passage by acclamation, derange cabals, intrigues, and the count of noses, disarm the ascendency which a popular demagogue might at anytime obtain over either house, and render impossible all disputes between the two houses, which often form such obstacles to business.

Our different States have differently modified their several judiciaries as to the tenure of office. Some appoint their judges for a given term of time; some continue them during good behavior, and that to be determined on by the concurring vote of two-thirds of each legislative house. In England they are re




movable by a majority only of each house. The last is a practicable remedy ; the second is not. The combination of the friends and associates of the accused, the action of personal and party passions, and the sympathies of the human heart, will forever find means of influencing one-third of either the one or the other house, will thus secure their impunity, and establish them in fact for life. The first remedy is the best, that of appointing for a term of years only, with a capacity of re-appointment if their conduct has been approved. At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account.

The constitutions of some of our States have made it a duty of their government to provide with due care for the public education. This we divide into three grades. 1. Primary schools, in which are taught reading, writing, and common arithmetic, to every infant of the State, male and female. 2. Intermediate schools, in which an education is given proper for artificers and the middle vocations of life; in grammar, for example, general history, logarithms, arithmetic, plain trigonometry, mensuration, the use of the globes, navigation, the mechanical principles, the elements of natural philosophy, and, as a preparation for the University, the Greek and Latin languages. 3. An University, in which these and all other useful sciences shall be taught in their highest degree; the expenses of these institutions are defrayed partly by the public, and partly by the individuals profiting of them. But, whatever be the constitution, great care must be taken to provide a mode of amendment, when experience or change of circumstances shall have manifested that any part of it is unaadapted to the good of the nation. In some of our States it requires a new authority from the whole people, acting by their representatives, chosen for this express purpose, and assembled in convention. This is found too difficult for remedying the imperfections which experience develops from time to time in an organization of the first impression. A greater facility of amendment is certainly requisite to maintain it in a course of action accommodated to the times and changes through which we are ever passing. In England the constitution may be altered by a single act of the legislature, which amounts to the having no constitution at all. In some of our States, an act passed by two different legislatures, chosen by the people, at different and successive elections, is sufficient to make a change in the constitution. As this mode may be rendered more or less easy, by requiring the approbation of fewer or more successive legislatures, according to the degree of difficulty thought sufficient, and yet safe, it is evidently the best principle which can be adopted for constitutional amendments.

I have stated that the constitutions of our several States vary more or less in some particulars. But there are certain principles in which all agree, and which all cherish as vitally essential to the protection of the life, liberty, property, and safety of the citizen.

1. Freedom of religion, restricted only from acts of trespass on that of others.

2. Freedom of person, securing every one from imprisonment, or other bodily restraint, but by the laws of the land. This is effected by the well-known law of habeas corpus.

3. Trial by jury, the best of all safe-guards for the person, the property, and the fame of every individual.

4. The exclusive right of legislation and taxation in the representatives of the people.

5. Freedom of the press, subject only to liability for personal injuries. This formidable censor of the public functionaries, by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution. It is also the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being.

I have thus, dear Sir, according to your request, given you some thoughts on the subject of national government. They are the result of the observations and reflections of an octogenary, who has passed fifty years of trial and trouble in the various grades of his country's service. They are yet but outlines which you will better fill up, and accommodate to the habits and circumstances of your countrymen. Should they furnish a single idea which may be useful to them, I shall fancy it a tribute rendered to the manes of your Homer, your Demosthenes, and the splendid constellation of sages and heroes, whose blood is still flowing in your viens, and whose merits are still resting, as a heavy debt, on the shoulders of the living, and the future races

While we offer to heaven the warmest supplications for the restoration of your countrymen to the freedom and science of their ancestors, permit me to assure yourself of the cordial esteem and high respect which I bear and cherish towards yourself personally.

of men.


MONTICELLO, November 4, 1823. MY DEAR FRIEND,—Two dislocated wrists and crippled fingers have rendered writing so slow and laborious, as to oblige me to withdraw from nearly all correspondence; not however, from yours, while I can make a stroke with a pen. We have gone through too many trying scenes together, to forget the sympathies and affections they nourished.

Your trials have indeed been long and severe. When they will end, is yet unknown, but where they will end, cannot be doubted. Alliances, Holy or Hellish, may be formed, and retard

the epoch of deliverance, may swell the rivers of blood which are yet to flow, but their own will close the scene, and leave to mankind the right of self-government. I trust that Spain will prove, that a nation cannot be conquered which determines not to be so, and that her success will be the turning of the tide of liberty, no more to be arrested by human efforts. Whether the state of society in Europe can bear a republican government, I doubted, you know, when with you, and I do now. A hereditary chief, strictly limited, the right of war vested in the legislative body, a rigid economy of the public contributions, and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses, will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive. But the only security of all, is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.

We are all, for example, in agitation even in our peaceful country. For in peace as well as in war, the mind must be kept in motion. Who is to be the next President, is the topic here of every conversation. My opinion on that subject is what I expressed to you in my last letter. The question will be ultimately reduced to the northernmost and southernmost candidate. The former will get every federal vote in the Union, and many republicans; the latter, all of those denominated of the old school; for you are not to believe that these two parties are amalgamated, that the lion and the lamb are lying down together. The Hartford Convention, the victory of Orleans, the peace of Ghent, prostrated the name of federalism. Its votaries abandoned it through shame and mortification; and now call themselves rerepublicans. But the name alone is changed, the principles are the same. For in truth, the parties of Whig and Tory, are those of nature. They exist in all countries, whether called by these names, or by those of Aristocrats and Democrats, Coté Droite and Coté Gauche, Ultras and Radicals, Serviles, and Liberals. The sickly, weakly, timid man, fears the people, and is a tory by nature. The healthy, strong and bold, cherishes them, and is

« AnteriorContinuar »