With regard to the frequency of elections, I will only insert the following sentence from Mr. Justice Story, as, I believe, public opinion in this country is all but universal in its condemnation: "Men, to act with vigour and effect, ... must not be hurried on to their conclusions by the passions of elections has a tendency to create agitation and dissensions in the public mind, to nourish factions and encourage restlessness, to favour rash innovations in domestic legislation and public policy, and to produce violent and sudden changes in the administration of public affairs, founded upon temporary excitements and prejudices: ... it operates also as a great discouragement upon suitable candidates offering themselves for the public service ... the period of service ought, therefore, to bear some proportion to the variety of knowledge and practical skill which the duties of the station demand."—If any annual-parliament maniac still exist, let him profit by these words of wisdom from the pen of a republican, dipped in the ink of Prudence and Patriotism; and in the marked difference between the House of Representatives and the Senate Chamber—the former of whom are elected for two, the latter for six years—let him behold the most incontrovertible living proof's of their truth. John Jay, one of the most able men of America, writing to Washington, expresses his wish that the Upper House, or Senate, should be elected for life.
I will now turn to a topic which probably interests the British public more than any other—except the franchise—I mean the Ballot. So much has been said about the coercion of voters by those on whom they are dependent, and so much disgraceful jobbery at elections in this country has been laid bare, that if the Ballot were really a panacea for the evil, every patriot should exert his utmost energies to forward the introduction of so essential a measure. In reading any American document where the word "ballot" is used, it must be remembered that, unless the word "secret" precede it, the meaning is merely voting by an open piece of paper on which the name of the candidate is printed, and which he may enclose in an envelope or not, as he chooses. It is, therefore, only with the secret ballot we have to deal at present; for although the power to vote secretly exists, it is obvious, that unless secret voting is made compulsory, it affords no protection to those who are in a position to be bribed or coerced, inasmuch as those who did bribe or coerce would insist upon the vote so obtained being given openly.
It will perhaps astonish an Englishman to be told that "secret" ballot is all but unknown in the United States. Nevertheless, such is the case. An act was passed some four years ago in Massachusetts requiring secrecy; and what was the effect of this act? A large body of the electors met together to denounce with indignation any attempt at enforcing that which they repudiated as unworthy of freemen. So strong was this feeling that in 1853, the act which enforced it was repealed, and in the convention called to discuss the revision of their Constitution—according to Mr. Tremenheere—although the democratic party were in a great majority, the effort to impose secrecy was thrown out by a majority of 5000[CB].
A friend of mine, who took considerable interest in this question, was present at the elections for the State of Massachusetts, and when, at the same time, a popular vote was to be taken on the proposed revision of the Constitution; this latter was by special enactment made compulsorily secret. How far this object was attained, the following statement will show. As the voters came up to the polling-place, tickets were offered them by the agents of the opposite parties, in a large room full of people. The voters selected whichever ticket they preferred, in the presence of the whole room, and then, in compliance with the terms of the enactment, they sealed it up in an envelope before depositing it in the voting-box. So much for compulsory secrecy. Of course on this occasion, as on all electioneering occasions, the voters might have concealed their votes, had they chosen so to do.
The only States, that I am aware of, where secrecy is enjoined by law are New York and Indiana; and in the former of these I can most certainly testify, from personal observation, that in many instances, if not in most, it is a dead letter. I never met a soul who, in talking about politics, ever thought of concealing his sentiments. I am therefore forced to the conclusion that secrecy only exists among the very lowest; and here it may be as well to introduce the opinions of the Governor of this important State. Mr. Washington Hunt, in his Message of January 7, 1851, says, "The alarming increase of bribery in our popular elections demands your serious attention. The preservation of our liberties depends on the purity of the elective franchise, and its independent exercise by the citizen, and I trust you will adopt such measures as shall effectually protect the ballot-box from all corrupting influences."
If any efforts were made to stay the tide of corruption, the message of the same Governor the following year will enable you to judge of their success. In his address on the 6th of January, 1852, this paragraph occurs: "The increase of corrupt practices in our elections has become a subject of general and just complaint: it is represented that in some localities the suffrages of considerable numbers of voters have been openly purchased with money. We owe it to ourselves and to posterity, and to the free institutions which we have inherited, to crush this hateful evil in its infancy, before it attains sufficient growth to endanger our political system. The honest and independent exercise of the right of suffrage is a vital principle in the theory of representative government. It is the only enduring foundation for a republic. Not only should the law punish every violation of this principle as a crime against the integrity of the State, but any person concerned in giving or receiving any pecuniary consideration for a vote should, upon challenge, be deprived of the privilege of voting. I submit the subject to your consideration, in the hope that additional remedies may be prescribed and enforced."—The two foregoing extracts do equal credit to the head and heart of Governor Hunt; but what a picture do they portray of the effects of secret voting!
Let us now turn from Governor Hunt, and see what the Press says on the subject. The New York Herald, which if not highly esteemed is at least widely circulated, thus writes in the month of May, 1852:—"Look at the proceedings on Thursday last in the 19th Ward. Voters carried to the ballot-boxes in scores of waggons from, various localities; and, in other wards, hundreds of democrats voting for Scott and for Fillmore, men ignorant and steeped in crime, picked up in all the purlieus of the city and purchased at a dollar a head; and some, it is said, so low as half a dollar, to deposit in the ballot-box a vote they had never seen."—The article then goes on to explain the methods employed at elections—viz., a lazy fellow who wont work, brawls, and drinks, and spouts, and defames every honest man in the ward, till he becomes a semi-deity among the riff-raff, then "his position is found out by those who want to use him. He is for sale to the highest bidder, either to defeat his own party by treachery, or to procure a nomination for any scoundrel who will pay for it. He has no politics of any kind. He has rascality to sell, and there are those who are willing to purchase it, in order that they may traffic in it, and sell it to themselves again at a very high profit.... We have heard of a case in one of the Lower Wards of the city, in which one man got, at the time of the late democratic conventions, the enormous sum of two thousand dollars, out of which it is said he bribed the majority of the electors and kept the balance for himself."
A few paragraphs further on he suggests remedies for the evil;—and what do you suppose they are? First, that honest people should not leave politics to the riff-raff. Secondly, "there ought to be a registration established, by which no man could sail under false colours, or deposit a vote at a primary election, unless he belonged to the ward, and belonged to the party to which he professed to belong." Conceive the state to which secret voting has reduced the wealthy and intelligent city of New York; absolutely, a return to open voting is considered insufficient to reach the vitals of the evil which secrecy has brought about. Here we have proposed as a remedy the compulsory register of political sentiments; and to prove that things are not mending, in the "Retrospect of the year 1852," which forms a leading article in the same journal at the commencement of 1853, after a lengthy panegyric upon the state of America, &c., during 1852, he winds up with these most serious drawbacks to the previous eulogy: "if we are bound to admit with crimson blush that crime is sadly on the increase, and that our municipal institutions have reached the lowest depths of inefficiency and infamy, these but remind us that the work which 1852 has bravely carried on is not yet achieved."—I would wish carefully to guard against being understood to endorse the violent language employed by the New York Herald. I am aware how unsafe a guide the Press ever is in times of political excitement; but after making every reasonable allowance, enough remains to prove the tendency of the secret ballot, corroborated as it is by the authoritative message of the Governor of the State.
Let us now turn for a moment to that most witty and amusing writer, Sydney Smith. In speaking of Mr. Grote's proposal for the ballot, the author says, "He tells us that the bold cannot be free, and bids us seek for liberty by clothing ourselves in the mask of falsehood, and trampling on the cross of truth;"—and further on, towards the end of the pamphlet, he quotes an authority that Americans must respect—"Old John Randolph, the American orator, was asked one day, at a dinner-party in London, whether the ballot prevailed in his State of Virginia? 'I scarcely believe,' he said, 'we have such a fool in all Virginia as to mention even the vote by ballot; and I do not hesitate to say that the adoption of the ballot would make any nation a set of scoundrels if it did not find them so.'"—John Randolph was right; he felt that it was not necessary that a people should be false in order to be free. Universal hypocrisy would be the consequence of ballot. We should soon say, on deliberation, what David only asserted in his haste, that "all men are liars."[CC]—How strangely prophetic the opinion of John Randolph appears, when read by the light of the New York Herald of 1852.
It has always appeared to me that the argument in favour of ballot which is drawn from its use in clubs, if it prove anything at all, is rather against than for it; its value there arises from the fact of the independence of the members, which enables any member if asked by the rejected candidate how he had voted, to decline giving any answer without fear of consequences. Were he dependent, he must either deny the black-ball he gave, had he so voted, or, confessing the fact, he must suffer for it, and silence would be sure to be construed into a black-ball: therefore, before ballot could be of any value to a constituency, they must be independent; and if independent, there would be no need of the ballot. Of course secrecy could be obtained by falsehood. Moreover, the object of it in a club is to keep out of a select society not only those who are considered absolutely offensive, but many with whom, though you might like to meet them in general society, you do not think it desirable to be on more intimate terms; and even in a club, who will deny that it is often used to gratify private malice, and frequently, when candidates are numerous, are black-balls put in to hasten forward the election of friends? While freely confessing and deeply regretting the disgraceful jobbery and bribery which an inquiry into our own elections too often reveals, we ought to be thankful for the light of experience which a contemplation of the elective system of the United States affords, warning us as it does that an imprudent lowering of the franchise and a recourse to the secret ballot do but aggravate the evils they were intended to cure. Before we proceed to lower our franchise, should we not do wisely to try and devise some means for obtaining the votes of those already entitled to vote? Many an honest and industrious artisan at present entitled to a vote will not come to the poll on account of the violence which—if not of the mobular party—he may be subject to; his family depend on his exertions for their daily bread—a broken limb, or any such accident happening to him, may bring the whole family to deep distress, if not to the workhouse. It appears by the Edinburgh Review of October, 1852, that at a previous general election, 40 per cent, of those possessing the privilege did not poll their votes. A hasty lowering of the franchise would certainly increase that number, and thus while losing more votes of the peaceful and industrious citizens, we should be increasing those of the more turbulent, and of those who are excited by designing demagogues.
But to return to the United States. In the former edition I omitted to explain that "a Congress" meant a Parliament for two years—the term for which the representatives are elected. One of the sessions is from the first Monday in December to about the end of August, and is called the long session; the other commences the same day, and sits till the 4th March, and is called the short session; but, besides these regular sittings, there may be extra sessions as often as the President thinks fit to assemble Congress. At the time I was in the States, by a fiction very agreeable to the members, if Congress closed the session on Monday, and the President ordered its reassembling on Tuesday, the members were supposed to be at their respective homes, and received mileage payment accordingly. This snug little bonus was called "constructive mileage."
In the year 1856 an act was passed fixing the payment of members at 1260l. each for their services in each Congress of two years, and abolishing the constructive mileage job. The only deduction from the above is that made for non-attendance of members. The payment is thus arranged:—Each member receives 1l. 13s. 6d. for every day he attends in Congress; the whole number of days a session lasts are calculated at the above rate, and the difference between that amount and 630l. (the half of 1260l.) is a bonus given, at the end of the first year's session, and is in lieu of all further payments for any extra sessions which the President may think it advisable to call during the year. It will thus be seen that each member receives the same sum, minus 1l. 13s. 6d. for every day's non-attendance.
Mileage is allowed at the rate of 1l. 13s. 6d.. for every twenty miles distance to and fro, but only for one session each; year. The advantage Texas and Californian members obtain from this liberal allowance is obvious, and its injustice is felt by those who live in the neighbouring States to Washington.
Now, as travelling, in most parts of the Union, is at the rate of less than 2d. a mile, and living at the rate of two and a half dollars (10s. 6d.) a day, it is obvious that the situation of a representative is advantageous in a pecuniary point of view to those who wish to make a trade of politics. A member coming from a distance, say of 200 miles, and attending 120 days, would have a clear balance of about 150l. left for the rest of the year; and a member from Texas would clear about 500l. How far such a measure is wise, and brings the most desirable men into the public service, let their own countrymen tell. Mr. Venables, of North Carolina, in a speech at Richmond, Virginia (quoted by Mr. Tremenheere) says, "With money enough, any bill can be carried through Congress." No nation—and, least of all, so very sensitive a nation as the United States—would pass an act which could possibly throw a cloud of doubt over the integrity of its representatives were there not some imperative necessity; the act referred to below will be found in page 363 of Appendix to Tremenheere's Constitution of the United States, one clause of which runs thus:—"That any senator or representative in Congress who, after the passage of this act ... shall receive any gratuity, or any share of, or interest in, any claim from any claimant against the United States, &c., on conviction shall pay a fine not exceeding 5000 dollars (1000l.), suffer imprisonment in the Penitentiary, not exceeding one year, or both, as the court in its discretion shall adjudge." Another clause follows, against the knowing and wilful destruction of public documents; another, against any individual who shall tempt any member of the Senate or House of Representatives with bribe of any kind to influence his vote, and against members accepting the same. This act bears date Feb. 26, 1853, and certainly proves that Mr. Venables' assertion had some solid foundation in truth.
It will be remembered by some that Collins, finding the Cunard line of steamers, when supported by Government, too strong for him to contend against, applied to Congress for a Government grant. In obtaining that grant, I do not pretend to say that he, or any one on his behalf, used bribery or corruption, when he took round one of his magnificent vessels to Washington, and feasted Congress on board in a most champagnely style; but this I know, that many Americans were most indignant at the proceeding, for, coupled with the act above referred to, it could not but excite suspicion; and I feel sure, if Cunard had brought round one of his splendid steamers to the Thames, and there feasted the Legislature while his obtaining a Government grant was under discussion, he could not have taken a more effectual method to mar his object. La femme de Cesar ne doit pas etre suspecte. Thus, then, as far as we can judge of any advantage to be derived from payment of members, we can see nothing to induce us to adopt such a system; and, if I mistake not, the American himself feels disposed to give it up, believing that the standard of the representative will be raised thereby.
We will now make a few remarks upon a body peculiar to America, and known as "the Lobby." But, first, I would observe that, by a rule in both Houses, changeable at pleasure, ex-members of Congress, ministers, secretaries of legation, &c., are allowed the privilege of coming within the bar to hear debates; and of the people so privileged the Lobby is chiefly composed. They have no counterpart in this country, but may perhaps be said to have a faint and distant resemblance to our Parliamentary agents, and they are in no way recognised by Congress. Their work consists in endeavouring to force all members who purpose presenting public or private bills to employ them, which, of course, involves a "consideration;" and, as their name is "Legion," and their motto on this point "unanimity," they are enabled, owing to their influence with the members, to throw the greatest possible obstruction in the way of most bills which are not passed through their "greased palms." The result need not be described. The correspondent of the Times, who, if report he correct, has held the highest situations a citizen of the United States can hold, states, in a letter to be found in that journal, on the 27th January 1857, that the Minnesota Land Bill had been said, in the House of Representatives, to be supported by bribery, and that one member openly avowed in his seat that he had been offered 1500 dollars for his vote in favour of the bill. The consequence was an inquiry into the alleged charge, and doubtless it will affect the weight of the Lobby. He adds—"The Lobby has, no doubt, great influence on the Legislature, but it is not yet all-powerful." In estimating the effect of a vote, it must be remembered that there are only 234 members in the House of Representatives, and 62 in the Senate; and, to give some idea of the interests concerned, the correspondent states—"It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the Federal Congress at Washington has a disposing power over twice the amount of national property subject to the votes of the Parliament at Westminster." Those who feel an interest in this subject I would strongly urge to read the whole of the very able letter alluded to.
I have before spoken of the very great readiness with which any stranger gains admittance to Congress to listen to the debates. As a broad feature, I believe their discussions are carried on in a sober, practical, business-like manner; nevertheless, most outrageous scenes have occurred. I subjoin the following extract, not from any one sentence it contains, but from its continuity, as a proof that the tone of the House is not worthy of the dignity of so great a country. A member of any community may get up and use the most gross and offensive language; but if the offender be immediately called to order, and made to retract the offensive expressions, the community thus vindicates its character. Should, however, the most gross and offensive language be used by two members for any length of time without any interference, reprobation, retraction, or punishment, the community as a body must fairly be considered, by their silence, as endorsing such conduct.
The extract is taken from that widely circulating journal, "the Illustrated London News:—
"In the House of Representatives at Washington, on the 11th ult., the following amusing but disgraceful scene occurred between two of the members—Messrs. Stanly and Giddings. The former having charged the latter with uttering a falsehood, the following conversation ensued:—
"Mr. Stanly: 'It is usual for one who has no regard for the decencies of life to relieve himself from responsibility by pronouncing statements false, and it is characteristic of the man who sneaked away from this House, and took his pay for work which he did not do.
"Mr. Giddings: 'When the gentleman descends to low vulgarity, I cannot follow him, I protest against Dough-faces prompting the gentleman from South Carolina.
"Mr. Stanly: 'It is the business of a scavenger to have anything to do with him, and I will have to wash my hands after handling him; but the thing has to be done, as he has thrust himself on us as a kind of censor. It is a small business for me, and I don't know how I can descend any lower than to take hold of the hon. member for Ohio. (Cry of 'Good.')
"Mr. Giddings: 'Will you hear me?
"Mr. Stanly: 'Nobody wants to hear you, but I will indulge you.
"Mr. Giddings: 'The gentleman is barking up the wrong tree.
"Mr. Stanly: 'The galled jade winces again.
"Mr. Giddings: 'The gentleman sha'n't crack the overseer's lash to put me down.
"Mr. Stanly: 'I hope that the gentleman will not gnash his teeth so hard; he might hurt himself. Who is here playing the overseer over white men—who but he, who is throwing his filthy gall and assailing everybody as Northern Whig Dough-faces, and what he calls the vile slave-holders? He is the only man who acts in that way. We don't raise the overseer's lash over our slaves in North Carolina. If that member was in the southern country, nobody would own him as a black man with a white skin—(laughter)—but he would be suffered to run wild as a free negro, and in the course of three weeks he would be brought up to the whipping-post and lashed, for stealing or slandering his neighbours. (Laughter.) If I say that he is a gentleman, I tell a falsehood.
"The Speaker (to Mr. Stanly)—'Will the gentleman suspend for a moment?
"Mr. Stanly: 'We ought to suspend that fellow (pointing to Mr. Giddings) by the neck. (Laughter.)
"Mr. Giddings: 'The gentleman from North Carolina reminds me of the boy who turned round so fast that the hind part of his breeches was on both sides. (Laughter.) The gentleman says that I was at Norristown, too; but where was he and the members of the House? Why, drinking their grog. (Laughter.)
"Mr. Stanly: 'I charge the official reporters not to let his (Mr. Giddings') felonious hand touch one word of what I say, for we know how he on a former occasion misrepresented my colleague from the Orange district, and his own colleague from the Chillicothe district, having altered his own speech after he got to his room with his coloured friends. (Laughter.) He talks about my associates: but has anybody ever seen him in private decent company? Free negroes may call to see him. He does not let his right hand know what his left doeth. He alludes to my absence; but I have not set myself up as a standard. I don't say I'm always in the house as I ought to be. He says we were here drinking our grog during Christmas times. Where was he? In Philadelphia, drinking beer and eating oysters with free negroes. (Laughter.) Which was the best off? Judge ye. (Laughter.) He thinks he was better off than we were. [Mr. Stanly paused, and, looking towards Mr. Preston King, who was standing near Sir. Giddings, remarked, raising his voice to a higher pitch, "Help him out; he needs a little more poison." (Voices, "Ha, ha! Good! Ha, ha!")] I quit this subject in disgust. I find that I have been in a dissecting-room, cutting up a dead dog. I will treat him as an insane man, who was never taught the decencies of life, proprieties of conduct—whose associations show that he never mingled with gentlemen. Let him rave on till doomsday.'
"The conversation then ceased."
Any one who has seen much of American gentlemen, must know that such language as the above contains would be reprobated by them fully as strongly as by any gentleman in this country. To doubt that would be to do them a gross injustice. Does not, therefore, the recurrence of such scenes go far to prove, that the advance of ultra-democratic principles has the effect of lowering the tone of the Representative Chamber, and that men of liberal education and gentlemanly bearing do not constitute the majority in that House? In the days of Washington, would any member have dared to use, or would any other member have for a moment tolerated, such language? It is but justice to say, that the tone of the Senate Chamber is far more dignified; and many who have been members of that body have established a world-wide reputation both as orators and statesmen.
Let us now turn for a few minutes to that important subject, the Judiciary of the States, one peculiar feature of which is, its being a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature. The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest tribunal in the country; it consists of a Chief Justice and eight associate Justices, the Attorney-General, a reporter, and a clerk. All questions affecting foreign ambassadors, consuls, &c., are tried before this court; and it is a final court of appeal in cases involving constitutional questions, and various others, too long to enumerate here. It has even the power of annulling the acts of the Federal Congress at Washington, if such acts are contrary to the Constitution.
The following article in the Constitution regulates the terms upon which alone any change may be made, and which is of so peculiar and conservative a character that I insert it in full:—
"ARTICLE V.—Power of Amendment.
"The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article, and that no State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate."
The foregoing article is a remarkable instance of prudence and forethought, and acts as the strongest safeguard against hasty measures, which in times of great excitement may sometimes obtain a majority that would afterwards be regretted by all parties. If the principle involved in any question is really felt to be of vital importance, the majority can dissolve the Union if they consider the object in view worth the sacrifice.
The salary of the Chief Justice is about 1050l. a-year. This court is, I believe, invariably composed of men of the highest talent and integrity; their appointment is from the President, and endorsed by the Senate, and their tenure of office is "during good behaviour."[CD] There has, fortunately, been no change in the manner or term of these appointments; but, in the different States, the democratic mania has removed the old landmarks of prudence bequeathed to them by their fathers. Mr. Tremenheere tells, that in 1833 only 5 States out of the 24 had adopted the principle of electing Judges, and appointing them for a term of years; in 1844, 12 States out of the 29 had adopted the principle; and in 1853, 22 out of the 31 States had come to the same resolution. We surely have in these facts a most important warning of the danger of introducing too much of the democratic element into the constitution of any country. Reflect, if but for a moment, on the danger to the community, where the selection of the Judges of the land may be guided by political rancour or public clamour; the bare knowledge that such may be the case, even if the purity of the masses be so great as not to admit of such sinister influence, the bare possibility, I say, is calculated to lower the respect in which it is most desirable the judiciary should ever be held,[CE] and to deter the most pure and high-minded citizens from offering their services. The salaries of the Judges range from 250l. to 400l. a-year.
The next point to which I would call attention, is to be found in Art. I., sect. 6, of the Constitution of the United States, the last clause of which runs thus:—"No person holding any office under the United States shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office." This was probably one of the most extraordinary blunders such an able body of men as the framers of the Constitution ever made; and if their object was to guard against corruption, and the undue influence of the leading men of the country, it has most signally failed, as the Act before referred to, of February, 1853, fully testifies. Only conceive the effect of excluding all the Cabinet and high functionaries from seats in the Lords and Commons; conceive the great statesmen of this country being obliged to hand over the introduction of most important measures, and the defence and explanation of them, to other hands. On this point, Mr. Justice Story remarks: "Thus, that open and public responsibility for measures, which properly belongs to the executive in all governments, especially in a republican government, as its greatest security and strength, is completely done away. The executive is compelled to resort to secret and unseen influence,—to private interviews and private arrangements,—to accomplish its own appropriate purposes, instead of proposing and sustaining its own duties and measures by a bold and manly appeal to the nation in the face of its representatives. One consequence of this state of things is, that there never can be traced home to the executive any responsibility for the measures which are planned and carried at its suggestion. Another consequence will be—if it has not yet been—that measures will be adopted or defeated by private intrigues, political combinations, irresponsible recommendations, by all the blandishments of office, and all the deadening weight of silent patronage; ... ministers may conceal or evade any expression of their opinions."
In charity it should be presumed that in all nations which possess anything worthy of the name of free institutions, the ablest men of the political majority constitute the Cabinet; and, by the enactment we are considering, all this talent is excluded from the councils of the nation, whereas all the talent of the Opposition may be there arrayed against their measures. I confess it is beyond my penetration, to see how this can be reconciled to justice or common sense; in no one principle of their Government did they more completely ignore the wisdom and experience of the mother country, and in the object they had in view they appear to have most completely failed. It is but fair to the democrats to say it is no act of theirs; they inherited the misfortune, and are likely to keep it, as it is one of the fundamental principles of their Constitution, and they have a salutary dread—much to their praise—of tinkering up any flaw they find in that document, lest in mending one hole they make two. They have, as a nation, so greatly prospered under its combined enactments, and possess such an unlimited independence in their individual States, that although the exclusion of the Cabinet is now very generally admitted to be an error, I saw no inclination to moot the question; probably, lest other questions affecting the slave and non-slave-holding States might be brought on the boards, and again disturb the bonds of union.
Another very remarkable—and in a Republic anomalous—feature in the government, is the power of the President, who, by the Constitution, is enabled during his four years' tenure of office to rule in total opposition to the majority, obstructing all the measures they may bring forward, unless the majority amounts to two-thirds in both Houses of Congress.
Article I., section 7, clause 2, runs thus:—"Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approves, he shall sign it, but if not, he shall return it with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to re-consider it. If after such re-consideration two-thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be re-considered, and if approved by two-thirds of that House, it shall become a law," &c.
This power of the President has been used by Washington, Jackson, Tyler, and Polk; particularly by Tyler, who opposed the wishes of the majority even when those wishes were backed by his own ministry. During the discussions on the Constitution, many of the wisest heads at that eventful period desired to establish the Presidency for life, but eventually the term of four years was agreed upon; and if such powers of obstructing the wishes of a majority were to accompany the office, it certainly was a prudent conclusion they arrived at. In a densely populated community like Great Britain, such powers, whether in the hands of the sovereign or the ministers, would produce a revolution in much less time than four years. It may, however, be questioned, whether these powers are not productive of evil, by rendering necessary such frequent elections for the Presidency. On this point, Mr. Justice Story states: "The inconvenience of such frequently recurring elections of the chief magistrate, by generating factions, combining intrigues, and agitating the public mind, seems not hitherto to have attracted as much attention, as it deserves." And Chancellor Kent remarks, that "the election of a supreme executive magistrate for a whole nation affects so many interests, addresses itself so strongly to popular passions, and holds out such powerful temptations to ambition, that it necessarily becomes a strong trial to public virtue, and even hazardous to public tranquillity."
There is another evil which attends these frequent elections of the chief magistrate—namely, the enormous patronage at his disposal, and the mass of jobbery and corruption to which the exercise of it almost invariably leads. Besides the appointment of nearly ever military, naval, civil, judicial, and revenue-collecting official—some of these subject, it is true to the approval of the Senate—Mr. Justice Story remarks, that with regard to inferior offices "his patronage probably includes ninety-nine out of every hundred of the lucrative offices of the government." His great rival in patronage is the Postmaster-General, who has power to appoint and remove all deputy-postmasters, which, as the number of post-offices is 22,688, amounts to something considerable.
This power was doubtless intended for the public good, and in order that incompetent or inefficient persons should be removed. To the honour of Washington, it is recorded that during his eight years' Presidency only nine removals took place. To President Jackson they are indebted, as I have before remarked, for the introduction of the present corrupt system. According to Justice Story, on his entering office he removed 233 employes; since then, the snowball has been steadily increasing till the present moment; it has now reached an amount which it would require Mr. Babbage's machine to calculate. Who can doubt that such vast patronage, has far more influence in the selection of a President, than any personal qualification for the high and important post? Nothing could prove more clearly that such influences are paramount to all others than the last election. There were eight candidates on the democratic side, of whom General Pierce was not one; all the eight had their special friends, and each party was loth to lose the chance of patronage which their friend's election might reasonably lead them to hope for. Thus they fought so vigorously that there was no chance of any one having the requisite number of votes, i.e., a majority of the whole number polled.
The Convention being deputed by the different States to select from the candidates already in the field, how do they get out of the difficulty at the eleventh hour? They take upon themselves to nominate a candidate for the Presidential chair, who was not fettered by any particular followers, and from whom all parties hoped they would receive some share of the loaves and fishes as a reward for their support. The electors endorsed the new selection of the Convention, and General Pierce, lately commanding a brigade in the Mexican war, was elected by a most astounding majority. Scarcely any President was ever elected with such all-but unanimity, and the Press was equally undivided in its praises. Every paper I read, in every place I passed through, was full of the most unbounded eulogy. But mark the change a few months made. Before the end of the year, one-half of that Press, which had bespattered him with such fulsome adulation during the honeymoon of which his inauguration was the centre, were filling their columns with long and loud complaints, if not abuse. And what was the chief burden of their invective? It was the manner in which he distributed his patronage. In short, they were discontented with the share they received of the loaves and fishes, and thus the target of their adulation during the summer of hope, became the butt for their abuse in the winter of disappointment.
There is another subject connected with these elections, which speaks with warning voice against the presumable advantage of democracy. I would not be misunderstood as casting the slightest reflection upon the amiable qualities, intellectual powers, or administrative talents of any American citizen who has been raised to the Presidency during later years. Let any candid reader, however, whether English or American, look at the following lists of Presidents since the Constitution, and he cannot fail to observe that while the franchise was restricted in nearly every State, those called to that high post were the marked men of the highest talent in the country—men whose reputation and abilities were patent to the whole community; while, with the increase of democracy, those selected during later years are men who, whatever their virtues and capabilities, were comparatively unknown. In the case of General Franklin Pierce, he was never even named by the community; but, as we have shown, was selected by the Convention at the eleventh hour, as a compromise of political partisanship. Let us not forget, that while some of the later Presidents were elected, Calhoun, Clay, and Webster—whose names are the just pride of the Republic, and household words in every family—were passed over.[CF] Surely these simple facts may afford us subject for profitable reflection.
We will now pass on from the Governor of the Republic to the Governors of individual States. Their salaries vary in different States, and range from 300l. to 2000l. a-year. Their election is in some States by the people, in others by the legislature: their term of office varies; in some States the election is annual, and in all for a very limited period; and under them each separate State has its own House of Representatives and its Senate. The chief power, which resides in the Governor alone, is that of pardon; and here we may observe, that it is only reasonable to suppose that so enlightened a community as the United States would not for any considerable number of years have tolerated the most flagrant abuse of such a power as that of pardon; and consequently that if it be found that such abuse do now exist, it must have grown with the ever-growing democratic element.
Mr. Tremenheere quotes largely from a work by Dr. Lieber, Professor of Political Philosophy in the State College of South Carolina. Among others of a similar character, the following passage occurs:—"I consider the indiscriminate pardoning so frequent in many parts of the United States, one of the most hostile things, now at work in our country, to a perfect government of law." He elsewhere states "that the New York Committee had ascertained that there are men who make a regular trade of procuring pardons for convicts by which they support themselves." Further on he says, "To this statement we have now to add the still more appalling fact, which we would pass over in silence if our duty permitted it, that but a short time ago the Governor of a large State—a State among the foremost in prison discipline—was openly and widely accused of taking money for his pardons. We have it not in our power to state whether this be true or not, but it is obvious that a state of things which allows suspicions and charges so degrading and so ruinous to a healthy condition, ought not to be borne with." He then subjoins this note:—"While these sheets are going through the press, the papers report that the Governor of a large State has pardoned thirty criminals, among whom were some of the worst characters, at one stroke, on leaving the gubernatorial chair."—Among the conclusions Dr. Lieber draws on this point, is the following astounding one—"That the executive in our country is so situated that, in the ordinary course of things, it cannot be expected of him that he will resist the abuse; at least, that he will not resist it in many cases."
The foregoing extracts are certainly entitled to no small weight when it is remembered they come from the pen of a republican professor, writing upon "Civil Liberty and Self-government." I do not pretend to say that such gross cases as those referred to by him came within my cognizance during my travels, but I most certainly did hear charges made against governors, in more than one instance, of granting pardons through corrupt influence.
I have now given a cursory review of the leading features in the executive of the United States; and I have endeavoured, while doing so, to point out the effects which the gradual inroads of the democratic element have produced. The subject is one of the deepest interest to us as Englishmen, inasmuch as it is the duty of every government to enlarge, as far as is consistent with the welfare of the nation, the liberty of the subject. The foregoing remarks on the constitution of the United States appear to me conclusive as to one fact—viz., that the democratic element may be introduced so largely as that, despite a high standard of national education and worldly prosperity, its influence will produce the most pernicious effect upon the government of the country.
This truth cannot be too strongly brought forward, for undoubtedly change is the mania of the day; and as, in a free country, all constitutional changes must have a liberal tendency, it behoves our legislators to study deeply and patiently the effect produced upon any country whose constitution is more democratic than our own, so as to enable them, while steadily advancing with the age, to know when the well-being of their country requires them, as true patriots, to resist those measures which threaten injury to the social fabric committed to their guidance. No field can afford them more profitable subjects for reflection than the United States. Independent of the fact that her institutions are more democratic than our own, she possesses natural advantages that enable her to carry them out, such as we do not; and, therefore, the British statesman may always study her career with profit when any great liberal movement is being agitated in his own country.
Lest any one should be disposed to imagine that the statements I have made, or the deductions I have drawn, are merely the prejudices of a traveller brought up under a constitutional monarchy, I will add a passage showing the conclusions at which one of the ablest men in America has arrived.
Bishop Hopkins, in an address delivered before the House of Convocation of Trinity College, Hartford, after eulogizing the wisdom and patriotism, of the founders of his country, as being "the wise master builders of the noblest republic in the world," asks what is its present state after seventy years' brief experience? Behold the reply:—"First, then, we hear on every side the charge of political corruption. Bribery is practised in all our elections. The spoils of office are expected as a matter of course by the victorious party. The President of the United States dares not be impartial; for, if he were, he would lose the confidence of his friends without gaining the confidence of his enemies. The oldest statesmen, and the most prominent, cannot follow the dictates of their own judgment and conscience without being reproached as though they were laying a trap for the presidential chair. The very laws of Congress are set down as the results of personal venality or ambition. The House of Representatives, or even the Senate Chamber, are disgraced every year by fierce passion and violent denunciation. The barbarous and unchristian duel is anticipated as quite inevitable unless it be averted by explanations which may satisfy worldly honour, in utter contempt of all religious principle. And no member of either House can go to the performance of his public duties with any security that he may not be insulted by coarse invective before the day is closed. Yet our rulers are never weary of lauding the character of Washington, as if they were quite convinced that the time had passed by when they might be expected to verify the language of praise by the act of imitation. When we look into the other classes of the community, the same charge of venality and corruption meets us again. Our merchants are accused of all sorts of dishonest management; our brokers, of stock-jobbing; our city aldermen, of bribery; our lawyers, of knavery; our justices, of complicity with the guilty. The same worship of Mammon seems to govern the whole, and the current phrase, 'the almighty dollar,' is a sad but powerful exponent of the universal sin which involves the mass of our population."
Being perfectly aware what a "glass house" of corruption we ourselves are living in, I do not quote the foregoing by way of "throwing a stone," but insert it merely as a warning of the direction in which we should not seek for an advance in purification.
[Footnote CB: Why is it that, in our yearly debate in Parliament, and in all the journals of the day, from the Times down even to the Morning Advertiser, the United States are always quoted as a republic where the ballot succeeds, when there is no excuse for the most commonly educated man being ignorant of the fact, that the ballot, as understood in this country, does not exist among them? To their honour be it said, they hold secret voting in sovereign contempt.]
[Footnote CC: The Ballot, by the Rev. SYDNEY SMITH. 1839.]
[Footnote CD: This expression, both in America and England, is tantamount to—for life.]
[Footnote CE: Vide ante, opinion of New York Press upon the trial of Matthew F. Ward.]
G. Washington 1789 J. Adams 1797 T. Jefferson 1801 J. Madison 1809 J. Munroe 1817 J.Q. Adams 1825 A. Jackson 1829 M. Van Buren 1837 W.H. Harrison 1841 J. Tyler 1841 J.K. Polk 1845 Z. Taylor 1849 M. Fillmore 1850 F. Pierce 1853]
The Church, the School, and the Law.
Although the Church has no connexion with the State, it must ever be a most important element in any Christian community. I therefore furnish a table of the various denominations, so as to enable the reader, at a glance, to get the particular information he may desire. Some of the denominations given in this table are, of course, again divided into other sects, such as "Reformed Methodists," "Episcopal Methodists," "Wesleyan Methodists," "Six Principle Baptists," "Seventh-Day Baptists," "Anti-mission Baptists," &c.
Denominations. Number of Aggregate Total Value Churches. Accommodation. of Church Property. L Baptists 8791 3,130,878 2,295,590 Christian 812 296,050 177,621 Congregational 1674 795,177 1,674,532 Dutch Reformed 324 181,986 860,313 Episcopal 1422 625,213 2,365,013 Free 361 108,605 52,973 Friends 714 282,823 359,071 German Reformed 327 156,932 29,024 Jewish 31 16,575 78,036 Lutheran 1203 531,100 602,205 Mennonite 110 29,900 19,791 Methodist 12,467 4,209,333 3,073,700 Moravian 331 112,185 93,002 Presbyterian 4584 2,040,316 3,017,675 Roman Catholic 1112 620,950 1,884,505 Swedenborgian 15 5,070 22,701 Tunker 52 35,075 9,665 Union 619 213,552 144,913 Unitarian 243 137,367 686,305 Universalist 494 205,462 371,073 Minor Sects 325 115,347 155,815
Total 36,011 13,849,896 L17,973,523
If the foregoing table may be taken as indicative of the whole population, it will be seen that one person out of every three is a Methodist, and only one in every twenty-two is a Romanist; but what is more worthy of remark is, the provision which, under the voluntary system, has been made for public worship.
We here see accommodation provided for 14,000,000 in a population of 23,000,000—of which 3,000,000 are slaves. At the same time, it must also be observed, that all these churches are not necessarily supplied with ministers. Their support being dependent upon their congregation, it will occasionally happen that a minister gets starved out, and some time may elapse before a successor is appointed; the inconvenience of which contingency occurring is obvious. More than one such case came under my own observation when travelling through the country.
With regard to the distribution of the churches, the only peculiarity I observe is, that the Unitarian community appear to be nearly all gathered into one spot, and that spot the Land of the Pilgrim Fathers, and the State that is considered foremost in education. Out of 243 churches, 163 are situated in Massachusetts. I have never heard any reason given for this curious fact; doubtless the great talents of Channing tended to swell their numbers, but could hardly account for the extraordinary proportion established in this State.
In proportion to its numbers, it will be seen that the Episcopal is the wealthiest of all Churches; and yet we find complaint made of the insufficiency of the support for their ministers. Bishop Eastburn, of Massachusetts, in a pastoral letter, states that in his diocese "respectable parents will not bring up their children to the clerical profession, because the salaries hardly keep people from starving." How far this is true generally, or whether confined to his own neighbourhood, I cannot say. The Episcopal Church in America is free from the violent factions that have distracted and thrown obloquy upon the sister church in this country. The puerile struggle about surplices, and candles, and steps up to altars, and Brussels lace offerings, appear to have attracted little attention among those in America, whose theological views assimilate with the extreme high party in England: and I never heard, during my residence in the States, any of that violent and uncharitable language with which discussions on religious topics too frequently abound in this country; nor is the Episcopal community by any means so divided as it is here. The Bishop of New Zealand is far nearer their type than the controversial prelate of Exeter.
The Book of Common Prayer, as arranged by Convention in 1790, is well worthy of notice, and, in many points, of imitation. These pages are not the proper place for a theological discussion, and my only reason for touching upon the subject at all is, that the public voice is constantly calling for some modification of the great length of our present Sunday services, and I therefore conclude that the following observations may be interesting to some of my readers.
The leading points of retrenchment are—removing all repetitions, such as the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Collect for the day; a portion of the close of the Litany is omitted at the discretion of the minister. The Communion Service is not read every Sunday. I suppose the Church authorizes this omission at the discretion of the minister, as I have attended service on more than one occasion when the Communion was not read; when read, Our Lord's commandment, Matthew xxii. 37-40, follows the Commandments of the Old Testament, and a short Collect, followed by the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel for the day, finish that portion of the service. Independent of the regular Psalms, for the day, there are ten separate short collections, any one of which the minister may substitute for the proper Psalms, and the Gloria Patri is only said after the last Psalm.
The leading features of difference from our own "Common Prayer" are as follow:—They appoint proper Second Lessons for the Sunday, instead of leaving them, to the chance of the Calendar—they place the Nicene and Apostles' Creed side by side, and leave the minister to select which he prefers, and to use, if he think proper, the word "Hades" instead of Hell. They remove the Athanasian Creed entirely from the Prayer Book, leaving to the minister to explain the mysteries which that creed so summarily disposes of. When it is considered how many Episcopalians are opposed to its damnatory clauses, and how much more nearly the other creeds resemble that model of simplicity, the Lord's Prayer, they appear to have exercised a sound discretion in this excision. Few deep-thinking people, I imagine, can have heard the children of the parish school reading the responses of that creed after the minister, without pain.
Lest the passing opinion of a traveller upon the subject be deemed hasty or irreverent, I beg to quote Bishop Tomline's opinion. He says—"Great objections have been made to the clauses which denounce eternal damnation against those who do not believe the faith as here stated; and it certainly is to be lamented that assertions of so peremptory a nature, unexplained and unqualified, should have been used in any human composition.... Though I firmly believe that the doctrines of this creed are all founded on Scripture, I cannot but conceive it to be both unnecessary and presumptuous to say that, "except every one do keep them whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly." Mr. Wheatley also, when writing on the Creed, says, that the third and fourth verses constitute the creed, and that what follows "requires our assent no more than a sermon does, which is made to prove or illustrate a text."—To resume.
They have proper prayers and thanksgivings for individuals who desire their use, instead of, as with us, introducing a few words into the ordinary service. They have provided a liberal collection of psalms and hymns for singing in church, and no others are allowed to be used. Each psalm and hymn has the Gloria Patri suited to it marked at the beginning. The inconvenience of the total want of such a provision in our Church is most palpable. Not long before I went to America, I was attending a parish church in the country, where a great proportion of the psalms and hymns used were the minister's own composition, and if I recollect right, the book cost half-a-crown. I came up to town, and I found my parish church there had a selection under the sanction of the Bishop of London. Since my return from America, I have gone to the same London church, under the same Bishop, and I have found a totally different book in use.—The foregoing are the principal alterations in the Sunday services.
The alterations in the other services are chiefly the following:—In the full Communion Service, the word "condemnation" is substituted for "damnation," in the notice of intimation. The whole of the damnatory clause in the exhortation, from the word "unworthily" to "sundry kinds of death," is expunged. The first prayer in our Church after the reception, is modified by them into an oblation and invocation, and precedes the reception. The remainder of the service is nearly the same as our own.
They have removed the objectionable opening of the Marriage Service; but, not content with that, they have also removed the whole of the service which follows the minister's blessing after the marriage is pronounced, and thus reduced it to a five minutes' ceremony. While on this subject, I may as well observe that, from inquiries I made, I believe but few of those marriages take place by which husband and wife are prevented from kneeling at the same altar, by which their highest interests can never be a subject of mutual discussion, and by which children are either brought up without any fixed religious ideas at all, or else a compromise is entered into, and the girls are educated in one church and the boys in another. In short, I believe the Romanists in America marry but rarely out of the pale of their own church. I cannot say what the law of divorce is, but it appears to offer far greater facilities than would be approved of in England. A gentleman mentioned two cases to me, in one of which the divorce was obtained by the wife without the husband being aware of it, although living in the same State; in the other, the wife returned to the State from which her husband had taken her, and there obtained a divorce without his knowledge.—To return from this digression. In the Visitation of the Sick they have removed that individual absolution of the minister, the wording of which is so objectionable that, if I am rightly informed, it is rarely used by ministers in England. In the Burial of the Dead, they have changed the two concluding prayers in those sentences which refer to the deceased. The Commination they have entirely expunged. They have added a full service for Visitation of Prisoners, and a Harvest Thanksgiving; and they have provided a form of morning and evening prayer for families.
The foregoing constitute the leading points of difference. Of course there are many minor ones which are merely verbal, such, for instance, as their expunging the scriptural quotation of "King of kings, Lord of lords," from the prayer for the President, probably out of deference to the prejudices of the Republicans, for which omission they have partially atoned by the substitution of the grander expression of "only Ruler of the Universe," in lieu of the more limited term "only Ruler of Princes." To enter into all these verbal changes would be alike tedious and useless. Enough, I trust, has been written to convey a general idea of the most striking and interesting points of difference.
Other churches transplanted to this hemisphere seem to differ from the parent stock most essentially. Thus I find in the almanack for 1853, "Methodist Episcopal Church (North) 3984 ministers, and 662,315 communicants," and below them "Methodist Episcopal Church (South)" without any return of statistics. I regret not being able to give the reader any history of this occidental hierarchy. I do not even know the Episcopacizing process they go through, whether it is entirely lay or entirely clerical, or whether it is a fusion of the two. At first I imagined it was a Wesleyan offshoot, but I can find no indication of that fact; and, moreover, the Wesleyan is a very small body, numbering 600 ministers and 20,000 communicants. I only allude to it because it appears to me a totally novel feature in Dissenting bodies—as understood in England. Another curious change produced by this Western climate is, that it turns all my Presbyterian friends instrumentally musical. I do not remember entering any of their churches without finding an organ, and in many instances a very good choir. Although I approve highly of the euphonious improvement, I feel sure that many of my countrymen in the extreme north would rather see a picture representing Satan in Abraham's bosom inside their kirk than any musical instrument. Such is the force of habit and prejudice.
The extent to which the churches in America have increased is doubtless most creditable to the community, when it is remembered that all the various denominations are supported voluntarily. Nor is their number the only point worthy of notice: the buildings themselves have all, some ecclesiastical appearance, and many of them are fine specimens of architecture. Besides which, they are always kept clean and in good order; you will never find those unsightly barns, and still less the dilapidation which is often met with in the mother land. I have myself been in a church at home where the flooring was all worn away, and gravel from the outside substituted, and where the seats were so rickety that a fall might be anticipated at any moment. The parishioners were poor Highlanders, it is true, but the owner of the soil was a man of considerable wealth.
I have, since my return to England, been into a beautiful old parish church in one of the midland counties; the building was in a most deplorable state of dilapidation, and the communion-rail formed a music-stand, while inside were placed an orchestra of two fiddles and a bass-viol. The minister received, for the first three years he officiated, the exorbitant remuneration of thirty pounds a year; since which time he has taken the duties of parish schoolmaster, the salary of which, increased by a small sum from Queen Anne's Bounty, enables him to keep body and soul together. But of course the school engrossed all his time, except what was necessary to prepare his discourses, and his parishioners were unavoidably and totally neglected, till dissenting ministers came to the rescue. As a natural consequence, they soon followed the ministers who made them the objects of their care, and when I attended this beautiful old parish church, the congregation, independent of the orchestra and the parish school, consisted of eleven souls, three of whom came from the minister's own house. You might seek in vain to parallel such a case throughout the whole Republic.
I now propose to make a few observations about disbelief in the United States. On this point I have no statistics to refer to, nor do I believe such exist. I therefore can form no idea of its extent; but the open way in which some parties not only express their doubts of the authenticity of Scripture, but dispute every doctrine which it contains, and openly proclaim it the enemy of man, is worthy of some notice. An Ismite Convention was held for many days at Hartford, in one of the New England States (Connecticut) where, I suppose, education may be considered as universal as in any other State in the Union.
The meeting was considered of sufficient importance to occupy daily several columns of one of the New York leading journals, and to employ a special reporter. It is thus headed—"MEETING OF PHILOSOPHERS, THEOLOGIANS, THINKERS, STRONG-MINDED WOMEN, SPIRITUAL RAPPERS, ATHEISTS, AND NEGROES." Details of this Convention would be too tedious; I propose only giving a few of their resolutions. Resolved—"That the Bible, in some parts of the Old and New Testament, sanctions injustice, concubinage, prostitution, oppression, war, plunder, and wholesale murder, and, therefore, that the Bible as a whole, originated,[CG] is false, and injurious to the social and spiritual growth of man." After which the chairman goes on to prove (?) it is purely human, &c. Another resolution reiterates the former, and adds that "the time has come to declare its untruthfulness, and to unmask those who are guilty of its imposture." Then follows a resolution for the especial consideration of slave-owners:—"Resolved—That it is the climax of audacity and impiety for this nation to receive the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and then to make it a penal offence to give it to any of the millions who are held as chattel slaves on its soil, thus conspiring to make them miserable here and hereafter." Then follows a charitable resolution, declaring their belief that all the clergy "would readily burn the Bible to-morrow if public sentiment demanded it." One of the orators brings the Bible to the bar of geology, and there condemns it, and recommends "that the Hindoos should establish a mission to enlighten Christians of this and other countries. He believed that the priesthood and the Bible were opposed to all liberty and progress, and the deadliest enemies of mankind."
Another member of this blasphemous band becomes highly indignant because the orthodox clergymen—who probably remembered that "evil communications corrupt good manners"—would not meet them on their infidel platform, and he presents a resolution declaring that "by their absence, they had openly declared their infidelity to their professions of theological faith, and had thus confessed the weakness and folly of their arrogant assumptions, and proved that they loved popular favour more than common good; and they are therefore moral cowards, pharisees of this nineteenth century, seeking to enslave more and more the mind of man," &c. Another orator then proposes a resolution, to the effect that the spirit and genius of Bible religion is not a system of salvation from sin and its effects, but a system of damnation into sin and its effects; that it is the friend of moral and spiritual slavery, and therefore "the foe of human mental and spiritual liberty." Subsequently a strong-minded woman, called Mrs. Rose, appeared on the platform amid considerable uproar, followed by extinguishing the gas and singing songs. After a severe struggle, the lady managed to express her sentiments in these mild and Christian terms:—"The Church is upon your neck. Do you want to be free? Then trample the Church, the priest, and the Bible under your feet."—The last day's proceeding closed by a row in the gallery, owing to a fight, in which a dirk had been drawn; and then the Convention adjourned till the following year.
The reader must not imagine that I state this as an indication of the tone of religious feeling in the New England States,—far from it; but it appears to me a fact worth noticing, that a Convention of such a nature and magnitude, and considered of sufficient importance to employ the special reporter of a leading journal of New York, should by any possibility assemble for days and days together, and give vent to such blasphemous sentiments among a people so liberally educated and so amply supplied with means of religious instruction. I only hope that the infidelity of the whole Republic was gathered into that one assembly, and that having met in so uncongenial an atmosphere, they all returned to their homes impregnated with some of the purer atmosphere of the great majority of the people.
The subject of Education naturally follows the Church; but, on this point, any attempt at accuracy is hopeless. Whether it be from the variety of school systems in the different States, or from some innate defect in the measures taken to obtain information, I cannot pretend to say; but the discrepancies between the statements made are so great, that I can only pretend to give a moderate approximation to the truth, which is the more to be regretted, as the means provided for education throughout the length and breadth of the Republic constitute one of its noblest features. In rough numbers, they may be thus stated:—
Schools. Number. Instructors. Pupils.
Public 81,000 92,000 4,000,000 Colleges 220 1500 20,000 Academies, & others 6,000 12,000 261,000
Of the above colleges, theology claims 44, medicine 37, law 16.
Among the expenses of the various colleges, which I can refer to, I find University College, Virginia—the terms of which occupy 44 weeks—is the most expensive. The annual charges for a student are the following:—College expenses, 40l.; board, 22l.; washing, fuel, and lights, 4l.—in all, 70l. It is obvious that no provision is here made for champagne suppers, hunters, tandems, and other "necessaries," of our University students, including a few "auxiliaries," in the shape of I O U's, for red coats, top-boots, Hudson's regalias, and mysterious jewellery bills for articles that men don't wear. Doubtless some papas would prefer the Virginian bill of fare; but then, they must remember that the republican lads go to college to learn something, whereas many papas send their first-born hopes to Oxford and Cambridge to save themselves trouble, and to keep the youths out of mischief during the awkward period of life yclept "hobbledehoyhood." How they succeed is pretty well known to themselves, and probably their bankers have some idea also; yet, with all these drawbacks, who will deny that those seats of learning turn out annually some of the most manly and high-minded, and some of the best educated and most industrious, young men in the country?
Having entered into some of the details of education at various places during my travels, I shall not trespass on the reader's patience by dwelling further on the subject, except to call attention to the following important regulation with regard to children in factories; and I most sincerely hope it may reach the eye of Lord Shaftesbury, or some other of his coadjutors in the noble work of the protection and education of helpless youth. The regulation exists in some shape or other in many States. I subjoin the wording of it from that of Massachusetts:—
"No child under the age of fifteen years shall be employed in any manufacturing establishment, unless such child shall have attended some public or private day-school, where instruction is given by a teacher qualified according to law to teach orthography, reading, writing, English grammar, geography, arithmetic, and good behaviour, at least one term of eleven weeks of the twelve months next preceding the time of such employment, and for the same period during any and every twelve months in which such child shall be so employed."
Although my salt-fish friends are probably very familiar with sea-lawyers, the general reader may be astonished to see any allusion to law made by a sea-captain. I therefore beg to inform him, that the following observations on a most interesting point are furnished me by a friend who is legitimately at home in that complicated business, and who devoted much attention to the study of the method by which land is conveyed in the United States with so much ease and so little expense:—
"In America all conveyances of land, whether absolute or by way of mortgage only, are, with the exception of some chattel interests, required to be registered within a fixed or a reasonable time after their execution. Registration is constructive notice to all the world; if not registered, a deed is only valid against the parties to it and the heirs and devisees of the grantor. Generally, however, notice obtained by a purchaser previous to his purchase, will, if clearly proved, prevent his taking the advantage, though he may have been beforehand in registering his own title.
"By the old laws of Massachusetts, all deeds of conveyance were required to be recorded, 'that neither creditors might be defrauded, nor courts troubled with vexatious suits and endless contentions.' In consequence of the number of registers established in each county—and the excellence of their arrangements, no inconvenience results from the accumulation of deeds, notwithstanding the early period to which they go back. In register for Suffolk county, Massachusetts, are to be seen copies of deeds from 1640 down to the present time. They are bound up in 640 volumes, and do not as yet take up much space. They have lately multiplied in an increasing ratio, the volumes having risen from 250 to their present number in the last 25 years.
"The register for Philadelphia county, Pennsylvania, contains within a moderate compass deeds from 1683 downwards. They are referred to by indices on the following plan: All deeds made within a certain time, and in which the name of the grantor commences with the same letter of the alphabet, are bound up in one volume; thus, a volume marked "H 1820-1847," contains all deeds executed between those years by grantors whose names begin with H. One index volume contains the names of all grantors between those years in alphabetical order, another that of all grantees, and both refer to volume and page of the books of deeds. A third index gives the names of grantors and grantees, arranged chronologically, according to the year in which the deed they were parties to was executed.
"The original deed remain in the possession of the proprietors, but are of secondary importance. They are written in a plain, legible hand on paper, parchment being seldom used. The signatures of the parties are of course requisite; but the seal, which is essential to a deed in England, is in many States dispensed with. The custom of registering obviates the necessity for those long recitals that so swell out an English conveyance, and the shortest possible forms of covenants are preferred. The American conveyance only witnesses that the grantor conveys the property therein described, which, or part of which, was conveyed to him by such a one by a deed of such a date, and a marginal note states the volume and page where the deed thus mentioned is to be seen.
"The advantages of registration are,—greater security of title, and brevity and economy in conveyances. The example of the United States shows that there is nothing in the Anglo-Saxon laws of real property to render such a system impracticable. Several of the most eminent lawyers in Boston declared, that their registration was found to work easily and safely; the only change desired was by a few, who expressed a wish that more registers should be established, as, one for every district, instead of for every county. They all expressed their astonishment that a similar plan had not long ago been adopted in England. They admitted that dealings with property were more simple in America, where strict settlements are either not allowed, or not generally in use, but maintained that the real obstacles to a registration in this country lie not so much in the difficulty of carrying it out, as in the prejudices of landowners, the self-interest of lawyers, and the superstitious dread entertained by John Bull generally of anything to which he is unaccustomed."[CH]
I am no lawyer, as I observed before, and therefore I do not pretend to pass an opinion on the details of the foregoing remarks; but of the results produced by their system, I certainly can speak, for I have seen property transferred without the slightest trouble, and for a few shillings, which, owing to the amount involved, and the complications connected with it, would, if transferred in this country, have kept the firm of Screw, Skinflint, and Stickem hard at work for mouths, and when finished, would have required a week to make up the bill of costs, &c.
[Footnote CG: I suppose originated from the Deity is intended.—H.A.M.]
[Footnote CH: Communicated to me by Mr. J.G. Dodson, son of the Right Honourable Sir J. Dodson, Dean of the Arches, &c.]
Inventions and Inveighings.—Palquam qui meruit ferat.
Writing about law makes one litigious; so I seize this opportunity for making a few observations on American claims. I am not going to open the question of the Bay of Fundy, &c., fisheries; because British liberality has resigned a right, the retention of which was a source of continual irritation to our republican neighbours. I must, however, quote a few lines from the work of their able Chancellor, Kent, to show how fully justified we were in claiming the sovereignty of the Bay of Fundy. If the Chancellor's work on the Law of Nations is consulted, it will be found that he points out to his countrymen their right to the sovereignty of lines stretching "from Cape Anne to Cape Cod, Nantucket to Montauck Point, thence to the Capes of the Delaware, and from the South Cape of Florida to the Mississippi." With such wholesale claims asserted on their part, it would require something more than modest assurance to dispute England's right to the Bay of Fundy. But my litigation with the Republic is respecting some of their claims to inventions, which they put forward in so barefaced a manner, that the unwary or the uninquiring—which two sections of the human family constitute the great majority—are constantly misled into a belief of their truth; and the citizens of the Republic would do well to remember, that by putting forward unwarrantable pretensions to some discoveries, they afford just grounds for questioning their lawful claims to others.
The first I shall mention is with reference to Fulton and steam. Mr. Charles King, the President of Columbia College, in a lecture delivered before the Mechanics' Institute, Broadway, New York, in December, 1851, claims for Fulton "the application of a known force in a new manner, and to new and before unthought-of purposes." Now what are the real facts? James Watt, in 1769, patented the double-acting engine, which was the first step by which the steam-engine was made capable of being used to propel a vessel. In 1780, James Pickard patented what is no other than the present connecting rod and crank, and a fly-wheel, the second and last great improvement in the steam-engine, which enabled it to be of service in propelling vessels.[CI] In 1785, William Symington took out a patent, by which he obtained, with economy of fuel, a more perfect method of condensation of steam and a more perfect vacuum.
In 1787, Mr. Miller, of Dalswinton, a gentleman who had spent a fortune of nearly 30,000l. in ship-building experiments, was urged by Mr. Taylor to try and apply the power of steam to vessels. William Symington was applied to, with the view of knowing if he could apply his engine to one of Mr. Miller's boats, which he accordingly did, and propelled a little pleasure vessel on the lake at Dalswinton, at the rate of five miles an hour, on the 14th November, 1788. In the following year, Mr. Symington made a double engine for a boat to be tried upon the Forth and Clyde Canal; and in the month of December, 1789, this trial-vessel was propelled at the rate of six and a half miles an hour. Lord Dundas, who was a large proprietor in the Forth and Clyde Canal, employed Symington to make experiments in 1801. The result of these trials was the construction of the "Charlotte Dundas," the first practical steam-boat ever built. The engines of this vessel combined the patents before mentioned of Watt, Pickard, and Symington, which combinations—made by the latter patentee—constitute the present system of steam navigation. The "Charlotte Dundas" made her trial trip in March, 1802, and so satisfactory was the trial, that the Duke of Bridgewater ordered eight boats of Symington, for the purpose of running on his canal. The Duke of Bridgewater died immediately after; and the Forth and Clyde proprietors, owing to the injury caused to the banks, discontinued the use of the boat. The foregoing observations prove that if any one individual can claim the merit of inventing the steam-engine, that man is William Symington, who, combining previous inventions with his own patent, constructed the engine as at present in use. At the same time, every credit is due to Mr. Miller, who first afforded Symington the opportunity of putting his ingenuity to the test.
Let us now look at Mr. Fulton's part in the transaction. In 1801 he visited Scotland, and was present at one of the experiments making by Symington on the canal, and from him he obtained permission to make full sketches and notes of both boat and apparatus. The fact is sworn to on oath of the presence of an American gentleman, who called himself Mr. Fulton, during the experiments; and further evidence is found in the fact that the engines he ordered of Messrs. Boulton and Watt for the "Clermont" were precisely of the same dimensions as those in the "Charlotte Dundas," with the exception of two inches more diameter in the piston; and the patent of Fulton dates from 1809—twenty years after Symington had propelled a boat by steam on Lake Dalswinton, and eight years after he had himself taken sketches of Symington's engines in the Forth and Clyde canal-boat.
Beyond the foregoing evidence, there is the testimony of Mr. Bell that, at Fulton's request, he sent him information, plans, &c., of Mr. Miller's first experiments. The long and the short of the story is clearly this:—Mr. Fulton was a shrewd and clever engineer. He came to England, copied the steam-engine which Symington had combined—one can hardly say invented—and then returned to his own country, and applied it successfully, for which the Republic ought to be thankful to him, and to honour his name; but, for a president of a college lecturing before a mechanics' society, to call Fulton the inventor "of applying a known force in a new manner and to new and before unthought-of purposes," exhibits an ignorance or an assurance, for neither of which the slightest excuse can be made.[CJ]
With equal accuracy Mr. King informs the mechanics that "Colonel John Stevens had clearly worked out in his own mind, long before any locomotive was constructed in Europe, the theory of such an application of steam, and the actual form in which it could be advantageously made, as well as the cost of constructing and working a railway for the use of locomotives." If this were true, how does it happen that the son of the Colonel, an able and ingenious mechanician, came over to George Stephenson, at Liverpool, to learn what he was doing, and to order engines from him; but Mr. King out-herods Herod, for he claims on behalf of the Colonel, the working of Steam expansively in 1815, for which Watt had taken out a patent thirty-five years before. If presidents of colleges in America cannot in their lectures deal more closely with facts, the instruction given within the walls of the college will come under very unfavourable suspicions.