A Foreign Spectator XV

No study questions

I have now shewn, how federal sentiments must be acquired by education, manners, laws, morals, and religion; and proceed to consider how they may be promoted by civil institutions&#151my reader will please to remember, that the political arrangement of a federal system is my object only in this view. There can be no republican liberty, but where the great body of the people does by representatives exercise the sovereign power. A great number should therefore be qualified to rule in their turn&#151the far greater majority should have the knowledge and virtue of electors&#151the whole nation ought to have a warm zeal for liberty, integrity and courage to intimidate the boldest ambition; yet be generous enough to love and respect a good government, and to support it with their lives and fortuned. We may heartily despise those politicians, who pretend to establish a noble republican system only by a nice balance of civil powers. Can a Palladio erect a palace, that shall be the wonder of ages, with untempered mortar, soft bricks, and rotten timbers! Can a Vauban with such materials form national bulwarks, that shall mock the fury of batteries, and the disperate attack of the forlorn hope. Suppose the Turkish Sultan has a mind to transform his vast despotic empire into a federal republic, and had for this purpose all the best politicians in Europe and America, and the honorable Federal Convention; do you think, he could do it? No, a dreadful civil war would kindle form the Black Sea to Lybia, and the blood of a million would only cement the vast prison of slavery. In the republican edifice, the people are not inanimate materials, but living stones. They must not only be sound and proper, but also willing to lie, to stand, to join as the architect wishes, nay, to go into their proper places; because in a free country there is no machinery strong enough to hoist massy stones and heavy timbers against their will&#151no iron capable of trussing a roof, when the rafters will not join&#151no force to fix a kingpost against his inclination&#151to make the stately columns, that bear up the dome, stand in their places&#151The very stones of the foundation can, if they please, begin to fight, and like a fatal earthquake shake the whole fabric into a heap of rubbish. Reflect on this ye federal people! Spurn the crooked stick; let the unwieldy mass stick in the mire; despise every showy but hollow hearted tree; be like the best freestone; firm, sound, invariable, as your live oaks and evergreen cedars&#151consider also, that the stones, however solid, must be smoothed and joined by the yielding well tempered mortar; that discord is a bursting mine. Ye political architects! exert all your skill; poise your centers of gravity; calculate the weights and bearings; Consult the plans of Montesquieu, Harrington, Stuart, Hume, Smith, and others&#151but consider that never did so much depend on the quality of the materials; ameliorate and innoble them therefore by all means; improve their solidity, firmness, cohesion; animate them with the generous spirit of true freedom: make them say&#151here we are, place us where we suit best: that is the post of honor, whether in the lowest part of the foundation, or in the towering arch. Then shall your masterly hands rear a grand temple of federal liberty, perennial as this western continent, and the sun that gildes it with his mild evening rays.

Teacher Programs

Conversation-based seminars for collegial PD, one-day and multi-day seminars, graduate credit seminars (MA degree), online and in-person.

Our Core Document Collection allows students to read history in the words of those who made it. Available in hard copy and for download.