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uttered; it was received by all, disputed by none; and now constitutes a maxim in government, as well as philosophy, which every people pant to reduce to practice, as the only road to liberty, reason, affluence, and felicity.
Nothing more was required than such a basis of government to develope the full power, and cultivate to the utmost perfection, the human intellect. There was a grandeur, a noble exaltation in the very idea, that
gave to every man his full altitude and dimensions. The mind expanded to unlimited conceptions, under the consciousness of a truth, which removed all barriers to the progress of genius, talent, industry, and science. In theory, at least, all distinction was annihilated, except that which arose from merit; and the public mind assumed a corresponding tone, and took a congenial spring in the path of bold investigation and untried research. The action of self-government infused activity, energy, and decision into our character; while the theory of civil equality inspired a daring of ambition mixed with virtue, that aspired to reach every perfection both of knowledge and of arms, and pluck from the faded escutcheon of feudal Europe, the brightest gems that glittered in her wreath of martial glory, or adorned her temples of science with the spoils of fame.
With such a Declaration of Independence-with such constitutions, formed on principles purely identical, and theoretically imparting to the heart the fondest dreams of perfect liberty—blessed with a fertile soil, a frugal government, and a disposition to cultivate happiness, or bow down into content-it is not surprising that a long period should elapse, ere the inconsistencies and discrepancies between our theoretical constitutions and feudal laws and customs,
should be discovered, exposed, and resisted. The mere acquisition of independence-the novelty of an untried condition—the glow of fervid patriotism, and the heats of party conflicts, would long engross attention, and keep it from too close a scrutiny into the actual condition of the great mass of the community. It was natural that joy and satisfaction should be inspired, upon having escaped some of the intense oppressions of European systems, without feeling a restless curiosity to ascertain, whether the abstract doctrines of government had actually been reduced to practice, so as to secure the happiness of the many, instead of ministering to the benefit of the few! All advantages and situations are comparative; all advances to knowledge are progressivemand all changes leave the mind in tranquillity and repose long after their occurrence. But acquisitions soon grow familiar, and when enjoyed, speedily satiate. We desire to go forward in the race of human destiny; and realize the full conception of happiness that we deem attainable to our nature; but this desire can only arise after the flush of conquest and liberty has passed over the heart, leaving it cooled, composed, and refreshed by the breezes of reflection and philosophy.
Compared with the wretched population of feudal and despotic Europe, the people of this country, even under the existing unjust relations of man to man, enjoy an enviable happiness: and most deplorable, indeed, would be the destiny of man, were it not so. But comparative superiority may still be a condition fraught with much misery to the human family; and not less repugnant to benevolence, than revolting to justice.Even in Europe, nay, even in Asia, this superiority forms the boast of one nation over another, throughout
the long continued chain of comparative wretchedness, among the great mass of the population. The French possess more of enjoyment and comfort than the English-the English, more than the Germans—the Germans, more than the Spaniards—the Spaniards, more than the Russians—and the Russians more than the Tartars. We may run without end through such a scale of comparative physical misery or enjoyment, and corresponding moral dignity or degradation, and never attain a principle of justice, or encounter a sound axiom of philosophy, to reconcile ourselves to a wrong and oppressive system from such examples. The question is not, what people endure the least misery, but which enjoy, among the many, the greatest amount of happiness and comfort; and having ascertained that point, we are irresistibly urged to another, based upon the susceptibility of the social compact to yield the full amount of human happiness to the mass of the population; and to inquire into the reason, why this object is not accomplished by human institutions, when it has been so bountifully provided for by the gracious munificence of a paternal God.
The slightest observation will satisfy the most prejudiced and sceptical mind, that nature has superabundantly supplied the industry of man with the means of universal comfort. We behold a demonstration of the fact in every form of luxury-every object of magnificence-every refinement of pleasure-every waste of riot and sensuality—every monument of pride—every display of vanity-every gorgeous decoration of wealth, power, and ambition. We behold the proof in the lord of ten thousand acres, tortured on his sick couch by the agonies of repletion, whilst the labourer famishes at his gate: we behold it in the luxurious capi
talist, swelling with the overweening pride of overpampered opulence, whilst the hearts that laboured to produce his wealth, shiver and faint with misery and want, or drag out a protracted life of endless toil, blasting existence by the despair even of a bare competence.-But unfortunately for the human family, this abundance of nature, and this industry of man, are alike unavailing to his happiness. What God has spread before us as the reward and the property of him whose labour shall bring it into use, government, unjust, despotic, proud, all-grasping government, has ordained shall belong to those who never labour; and for whose exclusive benefit, the labourer shall toil for ever. Thus do human institutions, founded on tyranny, or perverted from their original principles of justice, destroy and circumvent the beneficence of heaven: or, where those institutions are congenial to equity, customs and usages devolved from a prior age and a different government, wrest the fruit of industry from the mouth of labour, and heap it in the overflowing storehouse of the patron, or land proprietary of the monarch whose royal charter superseded the decrees of justice and the laws of nature.
The liberty of the people of England forms a theme for their orators, a boast for their patriots, and a refuge for their statesmen ; and of nominal liberty, I grant they possess enough.—But let the glance of philosophy view their starving population on one hand, and the millions of acres enclosed for the parks and pleasure-grounds of their nobility, on the other, and then say, whether the laws of God, or the depravity of government, are the cause of that misery that seeks refuge in rebellion and death from the pangs of famine? Behold her tithesher hierarchy-her entails—her pension list to de
cayed nobles-her national debt-the fruit, and the only fruit of all her crimes, save those taxes which complete her misery, and that grind her people in the dust, transform her workshops into dungeons-her workmen into slaves. The liberty to famish is, indeed, hers, in its most ample and comprehensive sepse -the liberty to labour without profiting by that labour, is, indeed, that of her people; but of true, legitimate, and rational freedom, she knows and enjoys nothingthat freedom which secures to every man the just fruits of his labour, on a fair principle of recompense, above mere subsistence, and undiminished, save by a frugal contribution to support a simple and frugal government.
The condition of Great Britain is, indeed, peculiar to herself—but many of her principles, customs, and usages, are common to both countries--both having the same origin, the same common and statute laws, constitutions, and charters. From one extremity to the other of this vast Union, the origin, or the conquest, emanated from England. The royal charters of the British monarchs form the first title to most of the soil of the United States—from Elizabeth, in the settlement of Virginia, to those of Mary, Anne, William, and the Georges', in New York, Georgia, and the Carolinas -not forgetting the letters patent of royalty which bestowed this commonwealth to Wm. Penn, and Maryland to the Lord Baltimore. Here we discover at one view, the entire origin of those unequal landed estates, which even in this country, has reduced the industrious agriculturalist to the degradation of a mere vassal to some super-affluent and idle patroon; and which, in the best effects they produce, are so pernicious to the population of the country, by retarding its settle