George Sidney Camp.

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' A. new science of politics is indispensable to a new world '
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329 & 331 PEARL STREET,


Entered, according to Act of Congress, in tlie year 1841, by

Uaeper & Brothers,
In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New York


The publishers of the Family Library offer the
following work to the public as a treatise on " De-
mocracy" in the broadest sense of the word — gov-
ernment by the People. Such a treatise may, they
think, not improperly lay claim to novelty ; no
work, to their knowledge, having ever yet been
published, the express design of which is to eluci-
date the democratic theory. That some such work
ought to be in the hands of every American citi-
zen it is needless to urge. To claim the right of
political self-government, without being able to tell
why — to declaim about liberty, without being able
to define what that liberty is — are what, in this
country, no one should be guilty of; and yet how
few among us really understand the fundamental
principles of institutions which all are ready to eu-
logize, in the rights and benefits of which all equal-
ly participate, and the practical operation of which
all unite to direct.


A work on the theory of democratic government
has long been a desideratum in our literature.
How far the present volume will supply the de-
ficiency must be left to the American public to

The Democracy treated of in the following
pages, it will be seen, is not the democracy of one
party, but of all parties. Had anything like a par-
tizan character appeared in it, the volume would
never have found a place in the Family Library ;
but it is believed that the author has studiously, as
he has to our view successfully, avoided a tenden-
cy which, without serving the cause of any party,
would have seriously impaired the general useful-
ness of his work. Still, the publishers do not take
it upon themselves to assert tliat all his doctrines
will alike command the assent of all. It is impos-
sible to think without being independent ; or to
be at all original without occasional pecuharity.
They have thus thought themselves bound fairly to
allow for liberty of opinion. So often, however, as
the reader shall discover himself to be at variance
with the author, he will find such differences to be


differences between individual and individual, and
not comprised in any of those political disputes in
which party has been arrayed against party. No-
where has allusion been made to such disputes, as,
it is believed, the subject itself steers above them.
The object which the author has proposed to
himself is an elevated one — no less than to por-
tray the true nature, and demonstrate the intrinsic
and universal propriety, of republican government.
It will accordingly be found that, in pursuit of it,
the minor differences of domestic parties have been
lost sight of, while his aim has been to vindicate
that grand national party, composed of all repub-
lican America, against the aspersions of foreign
commentators, and the enmity of European mon-

H. &B.

New-York, September, 1841.


Introduction Page 9


The Nature of Political Science ..... 22


Self-Govemment by the People the only legitimate Form of
Government. — The universal Right of Mankind to Democratic
Government, and their Competency to administer it . 39


The same Subjects continued 88


The Origin and Supports of Monarchical Government . 107


Common Objections to Democracy considered.— The Character
and Spirit of Monarchical Government still farther illus-
trated 129


The Permanency of Democratic Government, and the eventual
Prevalence of Democratic Principles .... 159




The alleged "Tyranny of the Majority" in America Page 183


The so-called " Right of Instruction" .... 206


Aristocratic Society in America 220


Immigration . . 239




There is this remarkable difference between
monarchical and aristocratical systems of gov-
ernment on the one hand, and the democratic
system on the other, that, while the former are
based upon prescription, the latter is based upon
the right of the people to govern themselves.
The former are founded on custom, and the ac-
tual, prevalent order of things ; the latter on the
moral relations of men.

Of course, there ought to be found correspond-
ing differences in the political theories by which
these two descriptions of government are sus-
tained. On the one hand, we ought to receive
from monarchical and aristocratical writers an
extended consideration of those various views
of expediency on which their systems are pro-
fessedly maintained, and an attempted vindication
of them, as imbodying great practical skill and


wisdom, however little of speculative accuracy ;
and, on the other, we may well look to demo-
cratic writers for a full development of the right
of man to self-government, and from them re-
quire, at least, a portraiture of the abstract per-
fection of the democratic system.

In a democratic country, where self-govern-
ment has been successfully exercised by the peo-
ple for nearly three quarters of a century, it might
naturally have been expected that such demo-
cratic writers would not have been rare, and that
a democratic nation would not have been so long
without a democratic literature. Yet to what
book or to what author shall we look for a
demonstration of the right of the people to man-
age their own government? To what source
shall we refer the young democratic disciple for
proof of what he has always understood to be
the fundamental principles of our government?
for a theory of politics, I will not say, that does
not violate every popular conviction, but that
does not indirectly assail popular institutions ?
Eloquent vindications of popular rights, eloquent
assaults upon hereditary prerogative, may oc-
casionally be found scattered, at very rare points
and very distant intervals, in the world of litera-
ture j but no work digesting such views in a


philosophical system, and giving us a clear, con-
sistent, and harmonious theory.

Hence the following brief essay. It will doubt-
less appear presumptuous, in an inexperienced
writer, thus to have attempted a subject the dis-
cussion of which might well challenge the exer-
cise of the greatest abilities. My apology must
be, that a field where nothing seems as yet to
have been even attempted, may well be entered
upon by the most enterprising without waiting
for the most able ; and, however much I may
fall short of my theme, it will be my consola-
tion, that to agitate just principles is to advance
them, and that first, feeble, and failing essays to
grasp the truth are always the earnest of its final
and triumpliant establishment.

It is our common belief that our government
is distinguished in principle from other govern-
ments, is radically different. If a man were se-
riously to propose for our adoption monarchical
or aristocratical institutions, he would be over-
whelmed with public obloquy. We should feel,
not as if he were indulging a mere harmless
error of the understanding, not as if he had
erred simply on a question of expediency, but
as if he had been guilty of a moral delinquen-
cy on a moral question ; and, should he actual-


ly attempt to carry his plans into execution, he
would be execrated as a public traitor having
designs upon our liberties ; no party, and no in-
dividual, but would shun the contamination of
his alliance. Now, if this public sentiment be
correct, the books we at present have that treat
of politics must be radically wrong, for they dis-
tinctly recognise three systems of government as
equally legitimate, reducing the difference be-
tween them to a mere question of convenience
and expediency, and, if the truth must be allow-
ed, making republican government the most un-
wise and inexpedient of the three. They admit
that, perhaps, as to its mere theory, none offers
so fair; but insist that this abstract perfection
is its practical defect ; that it is found to be
weak, if not impracticable, upon experiment,
and stationed the next door to anarchy; in
other words, that it is like a very good-natured,
well-intentioned, but harmful imbecile, whose
chief tendency is towards self-destruction ! Yet
it is a fact that Paley and Blackstone, Burke,
Burlamaqui, and Montesquieu, firmly maintain-
ing such doctrines, and esteemed, with, perhaps,
the exception of the last, the greatest favourers
of arbitrary power, are the most constantly read,
the most universally adopted in colleges, and the


most frequently quoted of all political authorities
in republican America; while it may be confi-
dently asserted that a connected and 'philosophical
exposition of the peculiar theory of democratic
government has never yet been written. Thus we
journey on, living in the rich experience and
practical enjoyment of democratic freedom, but
in entire and reckless indifference to its abstract

Even foreigners hardly seem so indifferent to
our political system as we ourselves. Many in-
telligent men among them have professed to re-
gard its operation, on so grand a scale, as a great
and wonderful political phenomenon, and have
thought it worth their while to come here to
examine more narrowly into its practical nature,
and speculate upon its probable results. Its suc-
cesses have often furnished an embarrassing ar-
gument in the hands of the popular partisan of
the Old World, and, doubtless, not unfrequently
appeared awfully portentous to crowned heads.
We alone appear to be indifferent to its real
nature and fundamental principles. Nay, our
men of education are dwelling in rapture over
the flowery pages of Burke, or carefully treasu-
ring up the artificial systems of a Paley or a
Blackstonej while our men of wealth and lei-


sure are learning abroad to admire the external
splendour that surrounds the favoured classes of
aristocratic Europe, and acquiring a distaste for
the plainness and simplicity of our social and
political systems.

If we search, therefore, for just political sen-
timent, there seems more of it to be found with
the humbler classes, whence it was originally
ushered among nations, than in our favoured
ranks, where there are too many who have been
foreign tributaries for knowledge, or formed
tastes for the excesses of European refinement.
Popular prejudices on this subject seem to be
just ; and the American labourer, who looks upon
his own as the only free country, seems to me to
be much nearer the truth than the man of educr
tion, who too often regards freedom as pretty
nearly synonymous with well-regulated govern-
ment. It is singular, yet it is, I think, true, that
among educated men, a majority would willingly
establish a property qualification as requisite for
every voter — a demand vitally at war with de-
mocracy ; and a very large proportion would be
found not to understand, or absolutely to assail,
the maxim of the natural equality of mankind,
the fundamental principle of our government.

Our political opinions seem to have retro-


graded since the Revolution. The national ani-
mosities of that period anticipated some of the
truths of philosophy. Those laid aside, we were
immediately immersed in the active concerns of
life ; and from that time to the present, contented
with the practical results of our system, we have
paid but little attention to the patient study of
its abstract nature. We have been, from cir-
circumstances, a nation of practical rather than
speculative habits. We have had the forest to
subdue, a new continent to occupy, a new gov-
ernment to establish ; and, hitherto, our republic
has been engaged in the acquisition of its inde-
pendence, in the settlement of its constitution, in
the vindication of its rank and honour, and in
the hurried, enterprising, and laborious industry
incident to the difficulties of a new country, and
the embarrassments of a recent nation. We have
been all action. A bustling and enterprising ac-
tivity has been our national characteristic. As
individuals, we have had everything to do.
Early thrown upon our own resources, a vast
practical career has continually been spread out
before us. There has been no room for the
thinker ; he has been jostled one side. The chief
speculators we have had have been those in
merchandise and real estate. Instead of de-


veloping our theories from our practice, we
have taken up with systems which we have
found already digested to our hand. Deriving
our origin and our language from Great Britain,
having one common literature, one common re-
ligion, and, to a great extent, common habits and
common laws ; deriving a great many of our po-
litical principles, more of our political institutions,
and all our love of liberty, from the old country,
we have been slow to discover where our pupil-
age should have ended, and what bounds the
stern dictates of principle should have placed to
our filial reverence. We have thus adopted, to
a great extent, British politics, with British laws
and literature. Thus it has come to pass that,
in our politics, we are yet tributary to the Old
World ; that, while we have been so original in
action, we have been so strangely servile in the-
ory. Hence, the strange inconsistency of a na-
tion of republicans suffering themselves to be
instructed in the elements of political knowledge
by monarchists. Look to monarchists for cor-
rect theories of politics on which to base cur in-
stitutions — the world might as well have expect-
ed a reformation from the pope, or Christianity
itself from the Scribes and Pharisees.
We have altogether failed to appreciate our


position. We have been guilty of a great prac-
tical error in supposing that our Revolution is to
be regarded simply as an historical event, of no
consequence in its results to anybody but our-
selves. On the contrary, it was of a twofold
character. It not only made us independent as a
nation, it made us free as men ; and this freedom,
still subsisting, is a standing, permanent fact, in-
dicative of the political capabihties of mankind,
that renders the period from which it takes date
an era in the moral history of the species. Yet
while, as a national event, it has found its im-
perishable record in our national annals, though
it has furnished an example to all nations, and is
opening the eyes of mankind to errors which
have for centuries caused the past to tyrannize
over the present, it has made no alteration, and
found no place, in the systems of political sci-
ence : as if Philosophy were blind to practical
achievements, and cared not to celebrate the tri-
umph of her most exalted principles.

Our government was not the result of an ac-
cident. Neither blind casualty, nor force, nor
fraud, had anything whatever to do with its in-
stitution. It was the product of the voluntary
mind of man. It was not less the choice than
the irabodied wisdom of the people. In its in-


stitution was presented the sublime spectacle of
a whole nation deliberating and acting upon the
highest and most comprehensive of terrestrial
interests. They provided for their common wants
out of their common experience. The united
aim of the people was to provide, in the choice
of a government, for the good of the governed.
" The eye" of the body social was " single," and
" the whole body was full of light." No exist-
ing government controlled the choice or subsi-
dized the votes of the American people. They
were not awed by the fear or seduced by the
favour of a feudal and vicious aristocracy. No
military power mocked at their deliberations.
No hierarchy subdued their souls with supersti-
tious terrors. Corrupt and unnatural prejudices
and factious interests, never found concurrent ex-
cept among the few, were necessarily unheeded,
when the appeal was made alike to all. No
class could have had an undue influence, or se-
cured to itself singular privileges and immuni-
ties, when none was distinguishable from the
multitude, or when those who owed to temporary
circumstances a transient distinction were to re-
lapse immediately into the common mass. All
stood in those equal relations, as respected their
choice of the principles of a government, which


mankind at large, were they once unshackled,
would universally and reciprocally sustain to
each other. Our present system, thus commend-
ed to a vast and unorganized people, comprising
almost every description of character, habits, po-
sition, and interest, that, independently of politi-
cal institutions, diversifies the condition of our
race, it would seem that the only ground of its
acceptation must have been those original senti-
ments common to all men, that constitute the
very laws of nature.

The abstract character of this system, and its
fundamental principles, ought to have attracted
the earliest attentions of the American scholar.
Its speculative perfection alone ought to have
won for it numerous disciples.

But, independently of its abstract beauty, an
understanding of its nature has for us a great
practical value. What is our Constitution but
the mere creature of the public will, and how
can we be sure of its integrity and preservation
if the public mind be misinformed or perverted ?
We are all sovereigns : ought we not all to be
statesmen ? Should not an American be always
ready to show by what title he claims to be a
free citizen ? to vindicate the system by virtue
of which he exercises such peculiar and such ex-
alted prerogatives ?


Faith is as necessary to the repubhcan as to
the Christian, and the fundamental characteristic
of both. We must beUeve in the capacity of
man for self-government, or the framework of
our Constitution will be altered. On what basis
does that conviction now rest 1 We may guard
ourselves from foreign enemies by physical force;
soldiers, arras, artillery, and fortifications may
render us safe from foreign aggression ; but the
sacred ark of our liberties is kept in the temple
of the human mind, and can only be preserved
inviolate by gathering around it the forces of
.Truth, and intrenching it behind the deep and
enlightened convictions of the moral sense. Men
will not risk much for what they believe to be
but a transient blessing. The permanency and
the excellence of self-government are our only
motives to be loyal to our sovereign, the people,
our only motives to patriotic and self-sacrificing
devotion ; it behooves us, therefore, to be fully
assured, not only of its immediate and practical
value, but of its high moral rectitude and intrin-
sic propriety, its ennobling qualities, and its ab-
solute capability of duration.

Any citizen who merely professes to love his
country and to honour her institutions, may well
be justified in attempting to assert some better


argument in their favour than mere national prej-
udice. They are inquiries worthy to be agitated,
whether all nations are capable of self-govern-
ment ? whether the invariable laws of justice im-
peratively demand its universal institution, inde-
pendently of the particular circumstances of each
separate nation 1 and what are the prospects of
its permanency and universal prevalence 1 Ques-
tions to which, strange to tell, American litera-
ture yet furnishes no answer.

1 cannot believe that our government is to be
a perpetual "experiment;" that its practica-
bility can never be demonstrated. Nor am 1
among those who hold that it is simply the best
government for us, and that we are, by means
of any fancied intellectual or moral superiority,
or by the particular favour of Providence, alone,
of all the human family, blessed with a monopoly
of good government.

When the question of republic or no republic
is agitating the elements of society in the most
enlightened nations of Europe, it is believed that
it cannot be uninteresting to a people who, in the
solution of this question, are looked upon as an
example, and should be able, from their uncon-
strained position, to anticipate the future judg-
ment of the world



The Nature of Political Science.

I AM well aware how unsafe and unprofitable
abstract political speculations are usually held to
be ; that they are peremptorily set down as nev-
er justified by experience, liable to a thousand
qualifications from actual circumstances, and ut-
terly incapable, to a great extent, of any prac-
tical application.

Hence the man who relies much upon gener-
al principles in politics is looked upon as little
better than a visionary. He is continually told
that his notions are well enough upon paper;
that they may do very well for the closet, but
that he is guilty of a great absurdity in attempt-
ing to apply them to the actual management of
affairs. That he theorizes too much, is not
enough of a practical man, that he regards men
too much as they ought to be, and too little as
they are.

Thus political speculations are usually turned
over to men of leisure, as a sufficiently appro-
priate entertainment for fine, subtle intellects,


not engaged in the active duties of life, and de-
nounced as an idle occupation for, and to be es-
chewed by, practical and politic statesme

Let us understand the difference between prac-
tical and abstract notions, and see how far the
reproach of being too theoretical and refined is
just in general ; how far it is just in its applica-
tion to this particular subject of politics.

A man, viewing a multitude of facts, deduces
general conclusions from them. Every man of
business does this. The most practical man has
his theories, and a great multitude of theories,
on which he conducts his business. Every busi-
ness rule is a theory. Experience furnishes no
lesson but what amounts to a theory. When
one not immediately engaged in business deduces
general principles from a multitude of facts, he
differs from the business man, not in framing
theories, nor in his mode of framing them, but
in taking more prominent and more numerous
facts as his basis, and forming rules of a more
extensive application. No theory is bad as a
theory, but only bad when not sustained by the
facts from which it professes to be a deduction.
The question is thus, in all cases, whether a the-
ory is sustained by its facts ? If it be, it will not
be enough to overthrow it to say that it is ah-


sfrad, as every theory is an abstract theory, and
the process of mind by which individual facts
are separated from their particular circumstan-
ces and reduced to a general proposition is al-
ways an abstraction. Thus the practical rules
of the business man are, in reality, abstract the-

But there is a particular class of general rules
and principles which are abstract in a different,
and, perhaps, more appropriate sense. These are
the laws of morals. They are derived from con-
science alone, and are thus formed, not by ab-
stracting an aggregation of facts from their ac-
cidental circumstances, but by withdrawing the
mind entirely from the contemplation of exter-
nal facts as facts, to the contemplation of moral
relations, of which it informs itself. In this
sense all moral rules are abstract principles.
They are moral rules for the very reason that
they treat of the world not as it is, but as it
ought to be. Facts and circumstances may vary
their application to particular cases, but can in
no manner alter or modify the rules themselves,
or their intrinsic obligation. To be correct, we
have only to attend to the inspirations of con-
science.* The imperfections of man cannot im-
* In saying this, I do not, of course, mean to deny the inesti


pair the perfection of morals. His accidental cir-
cumstances and condition cannot affect a system
founded on his essential relations. No rule ever

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Online LibraryGeorge Sidney CampDemocracy → online text (page 1 of 13)