Page images


And sovereign law, that state's collected will,

O'er thrones and globes elate,
Sits empress, crowning good, repressing ill.

We may be told that this is a vision ofa perfect commonwealth; and so it is:—still the hopes of patriots and sages, amid discouragement and defeat, gather about and rest upon it, with something of that gladness of heart, which the tired traveller feels, when he first descries the sun light upon the distant towers of the happy valley.

Although the dangers of American liberty may arise and press upon us from every side, to chastise our hopes and our confidence, the duty of its friends is not doubtful. They must labour to augment that moral force, to which its very existence is committed. N. Am. Review.


Intelligence of the People a means of safety to the Government.

In a government like ours, where the supreme control depends on the opinion of the people, it is important certainly that this opinion should be enlightened. "There is no power on earth which sets up its throne in the spirit and souls of men, and in their hearts and imaginations, their assent also and belief, equal to learning and knowledge; and there is scarce one instance brought of a disastrous government, where learned men have been seated at the helm." Now the most certain mode of making learned rulers, is to extend as far as possible the influence of learning to the people from whom the rulers are taken. But intelligence not only makes good rulers, it makes peaceable citizens. It causes men to have just views of the nature, value, and relations of things, the purposes of life, the tendency of actions, to be guided by purer motives, to form nobler resolutions, and press forward to more desirable attainments. Laws will be obeyed, because they are understood and rightly estimated. Men will submit cheerfully to good government, and consult the peace of society, in proportion as they learn tt


Respect themselves, and value their own character. These things are the fruit of knowledge. But ignorance is a soil which gives exuberant growth to discords, delusions, and the dark treacheries of faction. While the people are ignorant, they are perpetually subject to false alarms, and violent prejudices, ready to give a loose rein to the wild storms of their passions, and prepared to yield themselves willing victims to the seductions of every ambitious, turbulent, treacherous, and faithless spirit, who may choose to enlist them in his cause. Knowledge will work upon this charm with a potent efficacy, lay the hideous spectres which it calls up, and preserve the soundness and growing strength of the social and political fabric.

It should be considered the glory, and the duty of the government, to aid in establishing morals and religion. The first step in accomplishing this purpose is to fix the principles of virtue, and impress the importance of religious practice, by enlarging the sphere of mental light, touching the springs of curiosity, opening the channels of inquiry, and pouring into the mind new materials of thought and reflection. All branches of intellectual improvement will lead to moral goodness. The mind, which is taught to expatiate throughout the works of God, to ascend to the heavenly worlds and find him there, to go into the deep secrets of nature and find him there, to examine the wonders of its own structure, and look abroad into the moral constitution of things, and perceive the hand of an invisible, Almighty Being, giving laws to the whole, will be impressed with a sense of its own dependence, and feel something of the kindling flame of devotion. It is not in human nature to resist it. And so the man who begins to study the organization of society, the mutual relations and dependencies of its parts, its objects, and the duties it imposes on those who enjoy its be- 'nefits, will soon be made to respect its institutions, value its privileges, and practise the moral virtues, in which its very existence consists. The more extensively these inquiries are encouraged, and these principles inculcated, in the elements of education, the greater will be the certainty of moral elevation of character, and the brighter the prospects of a virtuous community. In regard to religion, ignorance is its deadliest bane. It gathers the clouds of prejudice from all the dark corners of the mind, and causes them to brood


over the understanding, and too often the heart, with a dismal, chilling influence. It gives perpetuity to error, defies the weapons of argument and reason, and is impassive even to the keen sword of eternal truth. To bring into salutary action these two great instruments of human happiness, morals and religion, nothing is of so much importance, as to multiply the facilities of education, and quicken the spirit of enlightened inquiry.

Through the medium of education the government may give a stronger impulse to the arts, and help to build up the empire of the sciences. Before men can invent, or make profound discoveries, they must be taught to think. Savages never advance a step farther in inventions and discoveries, than they are compelled by their wants. The external comforts of civilized life depend on the useful arts, which an improved state of the intellect has brought to light. In the sciences, and in literature, we have a vast uncultivated field before us. In the arts of traffic, and the mysteries of gain, we may perhaps be contented with the skill we possess. But to be contented with our progress in the sciences and literature, and all those attainments, which chiefly dignify and adorn human nature, would argue an obtuseness and apathy altogether unworthy of a people, who are blessed with so many political, civil, and local advantages of various kinds, as the inhabitants of the United States.

North American Review.

Questions.—1. What are some of the advantages of knowledge with regard to rulers and the people? 2. What are some of the effects of ignorance? 3. How may government aid in establishing morals and religion? 4. How does intellectual improvement promote devotional feelings? 5. What will be the effect of studying the organization of society? 6. What is the effect of ignorance in regard to religion?


The Government of England.

The government of England, which has sometimes beers called a mixed government, sometimes a limited. monarchy, is formed by a combination of the three regular species of


government; the monarchy, residing in the king; the aristocracy in the house of lords; and the republic being represented by the house of commons. The crown of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is hereditary, and its rightful inheritor is bound, by the conditions of his inheritance, to the discharge of certain duties, as well as vested with certain powers and privileges. By the oath administered to the sovereign at his coronation, he solemnly engages to govern according to law, to execute judgment in mercy, and to maintain the established religion. To the king belongs the sole power of sending and receiving ambassadors; and it is his prerogative also to enter into treaties, and to form alliances with foreign princes and states, to make war or peace, to raise and regulate fleets and armies, to erect fortifications, to coin money, to regulate commerce, and to establish courts of judicature. He is the fountain of honour, office, and privilege, and he can grant letters of nobility and erect corporations. The king has an absolute negative upon the acts of parliament, his person is sacred, and he is not accountable for misconduct. It is a principle of the constitutional law that " the king can do no wrong;" but it is provided, that for all his public acts, his ministers and advisers are responsible to the nation at large by the medium of the parliament, and other legally constituted assemblies.'"

The house of peers is composed of the lords spiritual and the lords temporal. The former consist of two archbishops, and twenty-four bishops, who are a kind of representatives of the clergy of England and Wales; and of four bishops, who are taken by rotation from the eighteen bishops of Ireland. With regard to England the number of temporal peers is unlimited. The Scotch peers are sixteen in number, and are elected by their own body for one parliament only. The lords temporal are divided into dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, and barons, who hold their respective ranks in the foregoing order, by hereditary descent or by creation. In its aggregate capacity, the house of peers has a right to a negative upon all legislative proposals.

The representatives, who constitute the house of commons, or the lower house of parliament, are divided into two classes, knights of the shire, or representatives of counties; and citizens and burgesses, or representatives of cities and boroughs. The qualification for voting for county memb"


is the possession of a freehold of the value of forty shillings per annum or upwards. The right of election in boroughs is various, depending upon the charters or immemorial usage of each place, or upon decisions made by committees appointed by the house of commons. "There is nothing in the British constitution so remarkable," says Paley, " as the irregularity of the popular representation. If my estate be situated in one county of the kingdom, I possess the ten thousandth part of a single representative; if in another, the thousandth; if in a particular district, I may be one in twenty who choose two representatives; if in a still more favoured spot, I may enjoy the right of appointing two myself. To describe the state of national representation as it exists, in reality, it may be affirmed, I believe with truth, that about one half of the house of commons obtain their seats by the election of the people, the other half by purchase, or by the nomination of single proprietors of great estates." He acknowledges this to be a flagrant incongruity in the constitution; but he doubts whether any new scheme of representation would collect together more wisdom, or produce firmer integrity. The house of commons enjoys the privilege of a negative upon all the laws which may be proposed for its consideration, and exercises the right *,• originating all bills, which levy money upon the subject by way of taxes or assessments. The English regard this as the principal safeguard of their liberties, and the main barrier against the inordinate increase of the power of the crown, for the commons can at any time check measures of folly or guilt, by withholding the supplies, and without money the strength of the executive is paralyzed. The king, however, is invested with a power to dissolve the parliament, and thus, by submitting their conduct to the revision of their constituents, to appeal against them to the nation at larg i

QUESTIOHB.—1. How is the government of England formed? 2. What is the import of the oath which the king takes at his coronation? 3. What are some of the prerogatives of the king? 4. Describe the house of peers. 5. House of commons? 6. What are the remarks of Paley respecting the house of commons? 7. What do the English regard as the principal safeguard of their liberties?

« PreviousContinue »