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that their institutions do not concern the people of Great Britain, and that, in commenting on them, we go out of our way gratuitously, in order to indulge passions of the lowest order and of the most contemptible kind,
A bad compliment would indeed be paid to the Constitution of the United States, by any one in this country who would presume to say, that the institutions under which upwards of twenty millions of the Anglo-Saxon race had elected to live, did not concern him ; that their prospects of well-being, of intellectual, moral, and religious progress, of rational liberty and social happiness, were to him matters of no interest, and that they could have no effect upon the mind of this country. In point of fact, we have the very deepest interest in them. There are but two great systems of free government in existence, theirs and ours, and constitutional governments are now on their trial before the civilised world. They have to prove that moderate and rational liberty, besides contributing most to mere material well-being, is not inconsistent with firm govern
ment, with truth and justice, with faith and reverence, with honour and honesty, with learning and taste, with gentleness and obedience, with imagination, with art, and with science, and with all these in their highest state of development, and therefore of their capacity to raise the civilised man above the level of low desires, and up to the highest point of intellectual and moral perfection attainable by his finite nature. We believe, in this country, that our system of government is the best yet devised, or rather yet unfolded in the mysterious order of Providence, for leading to all those great objects. To defend and strengthen it, therefore, to remove its imperfections and widen its basis is, to the Englishman who thinks aright, among the first of duties ; for in so doing he is aiding to perpetuate a great inheritance, and perhaps to extend to other nations the means of arriving at those blessings which it is calculated to draw forth and foster. But if he is to scan the defects and probe the imperfections of his own system of government, with a view to amend, reanimate, and invigorate it, why should he not also look abroad for examples that he may profit by, or warnings of what he should avoid ? The Constitution of the United States challenges him to such inquiry; for it was, during those cloudy days of political blindness on one side, and just resentment on the other, established in direct antagonism to our own, in many of its fundamental principles ; under the guidance of those new theories of government which rose into a hasty and immature prominence and popularity on the continent of Europe, in the midst of the heated passions and the material sufferings, the tyranny, the resistance, the moral anarchy, the scepticism, and the presumption, of the end of the 17th century, and the greater part of the 18th. We have a right to inquire how those theories work, and whether they encourage us to borrow from, or warn us to avoid them. Into the petty details of what might be called by the various names of corruption, misgovernment, weakness, neglect, incapacity, wilful wrong, or omission of right, on either side, there is no necessity, with a view to the present purpose, to enter. But if I have shown that a Constitution which claimed to be an improvement upon all other Constitutions that were ever designed by man, and especially upon our own, has in the first sixty-five years of its existence given proof of defects which experience has not shown to exist in our own, and has declined from the high ideal which its framers claimed for it, I have done that for which I owe no apology to any one, and which, in a spirit of reverence for the wisdom of our own timehonoured institutions, in all their great fundamental principles, and with a deep sense of the benefits which, under Providence, they have conferred upon this country, I rejoice to have be enable to do.
Note I. (TO CHAPTER VIII.) *
The authors of the “Federalist” (Mr. Madison, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Jay), speaking the opinion of the most enlightened men of their time, asked themselves, when entering upon the great enterprise of framing a constitution, “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government by reflection and choice?" whether it is within the power of human wisdom at once to strike out a political system which shall combine the elements of freedom and authority in the measure required to satisfy the highest purposes of civil society? They believed themselves capable of that effort. They at the same time believed themselves to be the only people, not then free, who were capable of it. President John Adams, writing to the late Mr. Richard Sharp, in the year 1811, thus expresses himself on that subject:
“ The people of America, from their singular situation, education, occupations, and character, have gone through
* I have placed these Notes in the order in wnich they may be read continuously, instead of in the order of the Chapters to which they refer.
* In municipal self-government, as well as political ; the former being the essential school for the latter.