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LAW AS SUITED TO MAN.
For government, though high, and low, and lower,
It seems to be a principle of our nature, that one whom we love or dislike for any particular quality should be loved or disliked by us, not only in regard to that quality, but in respect also to whatever is essentially, or even accidentally, related to him. That love for a fellow-creature, which probably sprang from a single attribute in him, spreads itself over the whole character; his cast of thought, of expression, nay, his person, features, gestures, and even the commonest things which belong to him and are for his daily use, become objects of our attachment. Reverse this, and put dislike; and because of some hastily spoken word, perhaps, we come to dislike a man and all that is his; his face displeases us, however well in itself; his grace
is awkwardness or affectation to us: we hate him; we hate his very dog. This springs from the quickly associating processes of the mind. Nature, it is said, abhors a vacuum; and it may equally well be said, the mind abhors a unit; and, for the very reason
that it does so, it delights in unity. Check the activity of the associating principle, and cut off its result, unity, and the mere unit left becomes a dead thing; its generating powers cease; and the mind that fastens itself upon it gradually loses the power of thought.
I have alluded to this principle of unity and association, because I would say something of the different effects, upon the individual and the social man, of two forms of Constitution or Law,- of the form which bears more or less of resemblance to that of the country from which we sprang; and of that form which more nearly or remotely approaches our own Constitution. A further reason for alluding in the outset to this principle is, its being recognized throughout what is here said. If the associating principle spoken of acts upon us in relation to persons, so does it in relation to things, to modes and ceremonies, to forms of private connections, and to those enlarged and public forms of communities called Governments.
A new people, for instance, without simply considering what form of government would be best for them, would be likely to adopt that of the country from which they sprang, or the directly contrary to it, as love or hatred of the mother country might sway them. Had the Constitution of England, at the time of our Revolution, been a democracy,– had her mandates come from the multitudinous assemblies of the people, and not from the single-voiced throne, - had her troops been the people's, and not the king's, — might not the feeling of resentment at a rabble's insult and wrong have gathered us round a newly founded throne? Might not the hard, coarse oppression of the throng have refined us into a feeling of revolt against such an exhibition of power? And might we not have seen a glory around
a single head, and decorum and grace and fair proportions in rank above rank? Might not a popular form have been offensive to our taste, and the thought of a ruling crowd have stirred in us pride and fastidious scorn ?
One is aware that the first answer to a question such as this is likely to be only an incredulous, perhaps a contemptuous smile. But after we have thought upon it a little, we may begin to hesitate, and next, to acknowledge that there may be some meaning in what is asked. And, doubtless, the more we look into our natures, the more strength we shall allow to the principle upon which this question rests.
If this be so, it becomes important to us, that, in graduating the relative merits of different forms of government, we recollect what was the form of that government in our war with which we grew into an independent nation; and that we make full allowance, in forming our judgement, for our feelings of hostility at the time, and for that associating principle, which leads us to involve in one common feeling of dislike, or of love, all that in any way bears a relation to the objects of that feeling, whichsoever it be. If, then, the government to which we were opposed was of the monarchical form, we must be upon our guard as to our prejudices against that form, and cautious as to our partialities for its opposite, heightened as these will naturally be by those very prejudices. We must consider, too, the influence which mere names may
upon our minds, and how, in time, they move us to anger, or to love, while we know very little of the deeper meaning of the things to which the names belong. We must recollect, also, that our war of the Revolution was not a conflict about a difference of constitution, but a war
growing out of what we held to be a violation of a certain Constitution.
In treating upon Government, or Law, (Law is here used in its most comprehensive sense,) the peculiar character of our times demands of us, as wise and good men, to lay aside such prepossessions, and to look the subject through and through, and to put the question to ourselves as thoughtful men, whether our dangers are transient and accidental, or whether they lie deep in the system itself, checked only by present and unusual circumstances, - our widely-extended, unsettled, yet fast-settling territory, and the many and various outlets for our activity, energy, and strong self-will; or whether, when this peculiar condition of things shall have passed by, from the very nature of man, our present form of government must not follow it, and another and opposite form take its place. As some things which will be here said may cross many associations and preconceived notions, I must ask to be listened to patiently, not for my own sake only, but for the reader's too, and above all for truth's sake, while a short time is given to the question, - What Form of Government, or Law, is best suited to the individual and social nature of man?
“ Of Law," says Hooker, " there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world; all things in heaven and earth do her homage; the very least as feeling her
care, and the greatest as not exempt from her power; both angels and men and creatures, of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.” And Coleridge speaks of
“the awful power of Law, acting on natures preconfigured to its influences.”
The answer to the question will depend, in no small measure, upon
in which we are in the habit of considering Man, whether we look at him as a higher sort of animal, or whether we are wont to think of him in his inner and more spiritual nature, - whether we are accustomed to regard him in his mere earthly, outward wants, comforts, connections, his clothing, his food, his making and spending of money, in his providing for the bodily wants and worldly condition of his family, - or whether, allowing their due place to these, we think of him as a being, who, having begun to live, must live for ever, as a soul to which this body, with its many organs, is but an instrument for the use of a day, - as a being with capacities which shall for ever go on enlarging, and for which infinitude alone can make room, as one with longings which earth cannot satisfy, and yet one who, in the proportion that these longings possess him, finds more and more, even here, for the soul's joy, - a being compounded of ethereal faith and hope, of imagination and sentiment, of sentiment which refines joy, and touches sorrow with a softening hue, -a being who looks upon the earth as indeed dust, and its toils as only the wasting of strength, further than as they minister to these inward sensations and powers, - and above all, and with all these expansive attributes, as a created, and therein a limited and ever dependent being, and truly realizing his nature only through an ever-abiding sense of limitation and dependence.
If we allow Law to have any influence over the character of man, it is evident that as we are habituated to look at him in the one or the other of these lights, so