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acquired the strength it had or the sympathy it won, had the distinction between Natural and Political Rights been clear in the consciousness of the people. The confusion of mind of the Rhode Island insurgents, in reference to the point in question, is shown in their exclusion of minors from the privilege of casting a vote upon their revolutionary measure. Professing to act upon no authority but the rights of Nature, they set up an arbitrary provision of positive law, permitting none but males who had reached a given age to have a voice in the establishment of their new government. . Recent discussions upon the subject of Woman's Rights are embarrassed, and the agitators even brought into contempt, by their failure to recognize this distinction. Whether a fair share of the benefits of society is enjoyed by women, in respect, for example, to the opportunity given them to engage in the pursuits of industry, and to the privilege of inheriting and managing property, is one question, and a question that deserves consideration. Whether women should be eligible to civil office and be empowered to vote in elections, is another question, and one to be quickly answered in the negative by almost all considerate people. By putting both these questions indiscriminately under the head of “ Woman's Rights,” the cause of reasonable reform is hindered. Still more dangerous is an alleged right of self-government, which is loosely defined to be sure, but which is held to warrant revolution whenever the people, or a majority of them, choose to make one. A prominent Journal, not to mention other leaders of public opinion, when the Gulf States undertook to break away from the Union, laid down the doctrine that by the American principle of self-government, they had a right to carry out their purpose. No authority, however, can be quoted to establish this monstrous doctrine. As if revolution had ever been legalized in this country! The Declaration of Independence affords no support to this dogma. We read there that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends," (the preservation of Natural Rights), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it”—not a legal right of course, but a moral right, resting upon necessity; and, again, we read that “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” If this necessity is falsely asserted to exist, the attempt to overthrow the existing government is a causeless and unjustifiable insurrection, to be put down, if possible, by the established authority. There is no legal right of revolution ; the plırase involves a contradiction in terms; and no moral right of revolution is claimed in the Declaration of Independence, save in the case of real (not pretended, or imaginary) grievances which had become intolerable. An exaggerated idea of the rights of a majority, is closely connected with the fallacy we are considering. The verdict of the majority is final in those cases where the constitution, or fundamental law, has made it so; and hence the outcry of the Secession leaders on this subject is groundless. But it is not a self-evident truth that the majority have a right to frame the government of a country to suit themselves; nor, under any system of government, save the wildest democracy, has a bare majority the right to alter the Constitution. In this country, a mere majority has no more right to strike out a provision of the Constitution than a minority has. The frame-work of society is not, and onght not to be, subject to the control of a majority “reckoned by the head.” The majority may (or may not) have the power, but they have not, either by written law or the law of nature, the right. For so deep a change, a broader concurrence is necessary. When it is affirmed that the people may change their government, the question immediately arises, who are the people? And the answer to this question must be sought for in the Constitution itself, in the provision authorizing a change. There we learn that the people, so far as this power is concerned, are not a bare majority. " We are so little affected,” says Burke, “ by things which are habitual that we consider this idea of the decision of a majority as if it were a law of our original nature; but such constructive whole, residing in a part only, is one of the most violent fictions of positive law, that ever has been or can be made on the principles of artificial incorporation. Out of civil society, nature knows nothing of it; nor are men, even when arranged according to civil order, otherwise than by very long training, brought at all to submit to it.” In the following passage, he explodes the notion that revolution is optional with the majority :
“ The Constitution of a country, being once settled upon some compact, tacit or expressed, there is no power existing of force to alter it, without the breach of the covenant, or the consent of all the parties. Such is the nature of a contract. And the votes of a majority of the people, whatever their infamous flatterers may teach in order to corrupt their minds, cannot alter the moral any more than they can alter the physical essence of things. The people are not to be taught to think lightly of their engagements to their governors; else they teach governors to think lightly of their engagements towards them. In that kind of game, in the end the people are sure to be losers. To flatter them into a contempt of faith, truth, and justice, is to ruin them; for in these virtues consists their whole safety. To flatter any man, or any part of mankind, in any description, by asserting, that in engagements he or they are free, whilst any other human creature is bound, is ultimately to vest the rule of morality in the pleasure of those who ought to be rigidly submitted to it; to subject the sovereign reason of the world to the caprices of weak and giddy men."*
* The two chapters, in De Tocqueville's Democracy in America, upon the subject of the majority principle in our political system, like every part of that masterly work, deserve to be studied.
Upon the justice and the means of giving representation to minorities, there are valuable and ingenious suggestions in Mr. John Stuart Mill's work upon Repre. sentative Government. This able writer would have done better, as we humbly conceive, had he more explicitly recognized the distinction we are considering. An advocate of extended suffrage—so extended as to include women among the voters—he appears to put the claim to vote on the ground of natural justice. Every individual, who is not absolutely under tutelage, he says, has the right to have a voice in the deterinination of affairs which concern himself. He qualifies the proposition, however, very essentially, in the first place, by excepting the cases where the evil resulting is greater than the good gained a very broad exception ; secondly, by applying his proposition only to the ideal state, and not to all states actually existing, where he allows other systems of government may be necessary; thirdly, by still further requiring that the voter shall understand reading, writing, and arithmetic, while he admits that the principle which justifies this requirement would warrant the demand of a higher degree of education, were it possible to apply practically a criterion to test its presence or absence; fourthly, by holding that none should be permitted to vote for the assembly which appropriates taxes, save those who pay taxes; and fifthly, by the theory that suffrage should be graduated to the varying intelligence of individuals or classes, in such a way that a plurality of votes, greater or less, should be allowed to those most qualified to judge upon public measures. These qualifications
The frequent ignoring of the distinction between Natural. and Political Rights, in the conduct of the Anti-Slavery Reform, has, in our judgment, been productive of evil. The Necroes, as men, made in the image of God, are endowed with every Natural Right that belongs to the Whites. It is a wrong to deprive them of liberty. They have a right” (to use again the language of Burke) “to justice.” “They have a right to the fruits of their industry, and to the means of making that industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death. Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon otliers, he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair portion of all which society, with all its combinations of skill and force, can do in his favor.” In this partnership, as Burke further adds, all men have equal rights. In respect to these natural rights, according to the principle of our Declaration of Independence, all men, whatever their color or physical conformation, are created equal. Society is guilty of injustice, when it infringes upon these natural rights. But all men are not equally entitled to political rights. The Negroes in our Southern States have no just claim to a share in the government of the state, until they are qualified to rule with wisdom. To vote is to rule. Slavery can be abolished, and yet the right of suffrage be withheld, or granted, at the discretion of the community, as a free reward of industry and intelligence. We believe that the want of discrimination upon this point, both among Abolitionists at the North and Slaveholders at the South, has occasioned a wide-spread misunderstanding. The former have sometimes contended, or been supposed to contend, for more than can be reasonably demanded of, or wisely granted by, the masters; while these, in turn, hearing of Negro equality, have
effectually remove the suffrage from the category of natural, unalienable rights which it is a prime function of government to conserve. There may be injustice in withholding the suffrage; but this can be determined only by a consideration of circumstances,--the character of the country, the capacity of the individual, ete. Natural Rights are raised above these contingencies.
understood the phrase to include an equal participation, on the part of the blacks, in political power.
In offering these remarks, we have no design to enter at large into the question of the expediency of universal suffrage. We are fully aware of the arguments in favor of it, which are founded on the supposed tendency of the system to educate the mass of the people, to inspire them with self-respect, and to make them content with the laws which they have a hand in making. These arguments are not without their force. Whether or not they be conclusive, as regards this country, (for they are plainly inapplicable to many countries in the world), it is a fact that the party which espoused the more Democratic theory, has carried the day. The experiment, however, has not been tried out. The use that is made of the suffrage by the hordes of Irish emigrants, is not adapted to excite a faith in the wisdom of the act which put this mighty power into the hands of a multitude of ignorant foreigners just landed on our shores. It is yet to be proved whether great cities can be governed, order, and the security of property being maintained, under the present system which opens so inviting a field to unprincipled demagogues. The primary end to be secured is the stability of government and the administering of equal justice, together with the impartial distribution of whatever other benefits the State, in God's great economy, was appointed to procure. For ourselves, we look with increasing apprehension upon the Democratic tendency in American politics. The founders of our national government well understood the distinction which we have just been considering. They were no disciples of the French philosophy, but lovers of the old, Anglican freedom. They established not a Democracy, but a Representative system upon a Constitutional basis, in which the different functions of government are carefully separated, each department kept in place, and the people also restrained, by an arrangement of checks and balances. In the working of the system, their expectations have been, in some respects, disappointed. Thus, the electoral system for the choice of President, has turned out to be a mere form, although the intention was that the