Alexander Hill Everett.

America: or, A general survey of the political situation of the several powers of the western continent, with conjectures on their future prospects online

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[ 1827 ]


N E W YORK 1970

First Edition 1827

( Philadelphia: H. C. Carey & I. Lee, Chestnut
Street, 1827 )

Reprinted 1970 by


New York Neiv York 10001

ISBN 078 00651 2
L C N 70 117505










Matre pulcfyra filia pulchrior.






Eastern District of Pennsylvania, to tvit :

.**** BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the twenty-sixth day of
3JSEAL. * March, in the fifty-first year of the independence of the United
:,......: States of America, A. D. 1827, II. C. Carey & I. Lea, of the

said district, have deposited in this office the title of a book, the right
whereof they claim as Proprietors, in the words following', to wit :

" America : or a General Survey of the Political Situation of the Several
Powers of the Western Continent, with Conjectures on their Future Pros-
pects. Matre pulchra filia pulchrior. By a Citizen of the United States,
Author of " Europe," &c."

In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, intituled,
" An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of
maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, dur-
ing the times therein mentioned." And also to the act, entitled, " An act
supplementary to an act, entitled, ' An act for the encouragement of learn-
ing, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and
proprietors of such copies during the times therein mentioned,' and ex-
tending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etch-
ing historical and other prints."

Clerk of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.




Position of America and of the United States in the

general Political System. 9


Brief Review of the Principal Events of the last Five

Years. 30


United States of America. Form and Spirit of their

Political Institutions. 65


The United States of America. Internal Situation and

Policy. 122


Spanish America. Political Condition of the New

States. 167


European Colonies in America. 20S


Foreign Policy of the two Americas. 226


International Relations of the two Americas. Congress

of Panama. 26S


Fiftieth Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Death of Messrs. Adams and Jefferson. 298


Conclusion. Prospects of the Future Situation of Ame-
rica, and its Influence on the Fortunes of the
World. - 334



Position of America and of the United States in the
general Political System.

IT has sometimes been suggested, that the United
States ought to be considered as forming of themselves
a political system, entirely distinct and separate from
every other. The opinion expressed by Washington,
in his farewell address, upon the subject of our foreign
relations, has been thought to favour this idea ; and it
has also been apparently countenanced by other autho-
rities of great and just consideration. But the general
remarks of this kind, that have been occasionally thrown
out, must be taken in connexion with the circumstances
of the time when they were made, and with the cha-
racter of the particular measures to which they had
immediate reference. They must be understood to
intimate, that we should avoid unnecessary interference
in the public affairs of other countries; and that on ac-
count of our distance from Europe, the necessity of
such interference would occur less frequently to us
than to almost any other people. A complete separa-


dim of our political interests from those of all other
countries could only be effected, by a complete absti-
nence from all intercourse with them; a plan which it
would be extremely difficult to realise, which would be
highly impolitic if practicable, and which has never
been avowed nor defended by any one. All individual
and personal intercourse between the members of dif-
ferent bodies politic carries with it political relations, to
a certain extent; and no two nations which have any
communication at all with each other, can be looked
upon as completely independent and unconnected.
Where community of origin, language, religion, laws
and habits, produces continual and very intimate per-
sonal relations between the members of two or more
communities, their national connexion becomes of ne-
cessity proportionably close, and they are said to con-
stitute a political system. Each of the individual pow-
ers composing such a system, being independent of the
rest in form, exercises a sovereign will in regulating
its relations with them; but it is not in the power of
any one to dissolve its connexion with the system, ex-
cept as I have intimated above, by entirely prohibiting
all individual intercourse with the other members; and
even this would be only the establishment of one rela-
tion instead of another, and would leave the system as
it stood before. The question, which of these relations
would be more expedient, must be determined, in eve-
ry case, by a just application of the principles of policy
and duty to the particular circumstances of the time
being, and not by any fixed ideas of a general kind : for
prudence requires on the one hand that a nation should


avoid entangling itself without necessity in the quarrels
and concerns of its neighbours, and other considera-
tions of interest and humanity make it proper to culti-
vate and encourage a good understanding and a friendly
intercourse with all. A wise statesman will therefore
regulate his conduct by a proper reference to both these
rules, and by a careful notice of the signs of the times,
in which he is called to act. As respects the United
States in particular, their history sufficiently proves,
if theory were wanting, that it is not in their power
to separate themselves entirely from the great political
system of Christendom, with which they are naturally
connected by community of origin. It becomes there-
fore of high importance to ascertain precisely the na-
ture of this connexion, and to form a clear idea of the
position of this country and of America in general, in
reference to the other Christian powers. This is the
point which I propose to examine in the present chap-

This immense political system, which now occupies
so large a part of the earth's surface, which extends
from Kamschatka on the one hand to Cape Horn on the
other, comprehending the whole of Europe and Ame-
rica and a considerable portion of the two other conti-
nents and their neighbouring islands, dates from about
fifteen hundred years ago, having grown out of the
establishments formed upon the ruins of the Roman
empire by its barbarous invaders. The several tribes,
into which these rude sons of the north were divided,
assumed in the first instance a complete sovereignty
over the provinces which they respectively conquered.

The territory of the empire was thus parcelled out into
a thousand petty states, engaged in perpetual wars with
each other, often unsettled in their turn by the inroads
of new swarms from the old mother hive, and forming
on the whole a real chaos rather than a system. In the
course of two or three centuries, however, these origi-
nally independent settlements were gradually consoli-
dated, for the most part in conformity with certain
great geographical lines of demarcation, into a smaller
number of considerable nations, separate in form, but
closely connected by every other possible bond of union,
and constituting what has often been called the Euro-
pean commonwealth. Of the larger states, that enter-
ed into the composition of this system, no one was suffi-
ciently powerful to stand its ground permanently against
a combination of the rest, or to acquire a decided supe-
riority over the whole. The mutual jealousy of the
great states afforded security to the smaller, and the
balance of power ', thus established, furnished a sort of
rude substitute for a common government, and enforced
upon all, to a certain extent, the observance of the rules
of equity and justice. This state of things continued,
without any very material or permanent alteration in
the relative power of the several nations, until the mid-
dle of the last century. All, as they advanced in civi-
lization, gradually increased in wealth and power, but
preserved nearly the same comparative importance.
France was on the whole the leading state, and threat-
ened at times the independence of the others ; but the
predominance she acquired was never permanent, and
generally succeeded by a period of proportional


weakness and exhaustion. Charlemagne united a great
part of Europe under his government, but his empire
fell to pieces upon his death, and France remained for
two or three centuries after in a very feeble and dis-
tracted state. From that time, until the reformation,
the power which really exercised the greatest influence
was the see of Rome ; and Europe may be said to have
been, during this interval of four or five centuries, a
sort of irregular theocracy. The reformation, which
commenced by the preaching of a monk against the
sale of indulgences, gradually assumed the form of a
revolt of the military chiefs or kings, against the su-
preme ecclesiastical head, and finished by subverting
the supremacy of the church in form over half of these
chiefs, and in fact over all. Their relative power still
remained in substance as before, and so continued, until
the extension of the system beyond the limits of Europe
effected a complete change in its character, or rather
may be said to have substituted an entirely new one in
place of the former. This revolution, as may well be
supposed from the immense magnitude of the interests
affected by it, was long in preparation, and very slow
in its development. It is only, indeed, within a very
few years, that its final results have become completely

The discovery and colonization of America and the
East Indies, and the conquest of the whole north of Asia
by Russia, which took place about the same time, pre-
pared the way for the introduction into the European
system of new elements, capable of becoming after a
while much superior in weight and importance to the


original mass. While the system was thus extended as
it were over the whole face of the globe, and acquired as
such a prodigious accession of positive power, it is evi-
dent that the relative influence of the several states
must have been of necessity, as it was, completely
altered. Had the new elements been distributed
among these states, in exact proportion to their former
weight, the old balance of power might indeed have
been preserved; but this was hardly possible in the
nature of things, and at any rate did not happen.
France and Austria, on the whole the two leading
powers in the former system, failed in securing any
share of the distribution of this vast treasure trove of
new continents; and consequently, although rapidly ad-
vancing in wealth and greatness, were doomed to suffer
a gradual and constantly progressive decline of their
comparative weight and general political influence.
This decline was interrupted for a short time, as re-
spects France, by the episode of the revolution, but
has now resumed its course and will continue to proceed
with accelerated rapidity. On the other hand, England,
Holland, Spain, and Portugal, by dividing among them-
selves these princely spoils, rose at once, the three
first at least, from the rank of secondary to that of first
rate powers. Spain for a time took the place of France
and Austria as the leading European state ; and being
in other respects aided by circumstances, conquered
Portugal, invaded France, threatened England, and
made in short a very near approach to universal empire.
With a better domestic system this preponderance might
long have been maintained, but in consequence of gross


misgovernment it soon passed away. After this, Hol-
land, before a subject province, figured for a while as a
leading power. England under the same circumstances
assumed the same position, and of all the European
powers is the one which has turned this revolution in
the system to the best account. But in her case, as in
that of the others, the accession of power acquired in
this way was naturally transitory ; because the colonies,
separated as they were by immense distances and inter-
vening oceans from the ruling state, had a natural ten-
dency to fall off after a certain time and become inde-
pendent. This consummation, o.f which our own revo-
lution was the first great act, which is now proceeding
in Spanish America, and will ultimately be completed
by the emancipation of the remaining British colonies,
exhibits the final development, in one of its great
branches, of the revolution in the old European politi-
cal system, or rather of the formation of a new one, to
which I alluded above. In this way the European
states, which had risen into temporary importance by
the acquisition of colonies, were destined to return
again to their former station. Spain, Portugal, and
Holland, have already resumed their rank as inferior
powers ; and England, when she shall have lost entirely
her colonial empire, must consent, howeve? unwillingly,
to do the same. Meanwhile the emancipation of Ame-
rica has added to the old family a cluster of new mem-
bers, not inferior in number, nor (considering their im-
mediate prospects) in importance, to the former ones ;
and this creation is the first remarkable point in the new
political system.


Another important feature in this system was the
result of the conquest of the north of Asia by Russia,
and of circumstances occurring within the interior of
that empire, which favoured in a very extraordinary
manner, its progress in power and civilization. While
the western and maritime states were appropriating to
themselves the boundless regions of the new world, the
Czars of Russia were stretching their jurisdiction over
equally extensive territories, which being contiguous
to their former possessions, were not liable to fall off,
like the new acquisitions of the others, after a lapse of
two or three centuries. Having succeeded about the
same time, by favour of an almost miraculous concur-
rence of events, in forming a consolidated and vigorous
body politic, out of the heterogeneous and before discord-
ant materials of which this empire is composed ; having
finally, by a singular effort of genius, raised their sub-
jects, in point of civilization, to a level with the rest of
Europe, these princes, hitherto unknown and unheard
of in the general system, now took their places, not so
much in it as over it. Russia became at once not merely
a leading, but in substance and effect the ruling state. I
have dwelt, on a former occasion, upon the position and
influence of this immense power, and need not there-
fore now enlarge upon the subject. A glance at the
map of the world is sufficient to show, independently of
any other argument, how completely the west of Europe
is crushed, beneath the giant mass of this political Co-
lossus. The whole course of history for a century past,
beginning with the reign of Peter the Great, and end-
ing with the recent invasion of Spain, demonstrates the


same important truth. The continental states that
figured as leading powers in the former system, such as
France, Austria, and latterly Prussia, have lost, by the
introduction of this new and overwhelming rival, not
only their rank but virtually their independence. This
feature of the new system has not yet assumed its perfect
form ; but the natural termination of the progress of
events, which is now going on, will be the union of the
whole continent into one military monarchy. Great Bri-
tain, while she preserves her colonial empire, will main-
tain her independence at home, and her rank as a first
rate power ; but when she loses her foreign possessions,
and the sceptre of the ocean which will go with them,
she must also lose her importance, and sink into a de-
pendency of the neighbouring continent. Meanwhile
the great political system, to which our country and con-
tinent belong, exhibits at present the three following
principal elements :

1. The Continent of Europe with its dependencies in
other parts of the world.

2. The British Empire.

3. America.

Each of these great divisions of the general system,
comprehends one predominant power, and a number of
others connected with it in a secondary order ; and in
every case on different principles. As respects the Bri-
tish empire, the multifarious and innumerable sections
that compose it, scattered over every quarter of the
globe, comprehending immense and unexplored regions
in America, a hundred kingdoms in Asia and Africa, a
whole continent in the south sea. and nearly all the


islands in that and every other, (for Great Britain seems
to claim a monopoly of islands,) are subject in form to the
little ruling cluster on the northwest coast of Europe. In
this division of the system, the subordination of the other
members to the leading power, is therefore for the time
complete ; but as the connexion is not founded on any
common principles of either right or policy, or even
permanent and lasting power, it must be considered as
in its nature accidental and transitory. On the other
hand, the nations that occupy the continent of Europe,
though in form independent, are subject to the influence
of Russia, which, as I have just stated, exercises over
them a decided predominance. This predominance
being founded in a superiority of physical force likely
to be durable, must also be expected to continue, and
indeed to display itself more and more from year to
year, until it brings about the consummation alluded to
above. Finally, our own country enjoys the proud dis-
tinction of taking the lead in the great division composed
of the various new nations that cover this continent a
lead not assumed in arrogance and maintained by force,
but resulting in the course of nature from priority of
national existence, and secured by continual good offices
done, and to be done, to our sister republics. This con-
nexion too being founded on the just and liberal prin-
ciples of policy common to all the different parties, and
which we may justly expect will long continue to be so,
may be regarded as permanent, and, we may hope at
least, perpetual. Russia, Great Britain, and the United
States, are therefore now the three prominent and first
rate powers of the civilized and Christian world. All


the rest stand at present, in an order secondary to one or
the other of these. Some of the secondary powers of
the two great European divisions, such as France, Aus-
tria, and even Turkey, are at present superior in popu-
lation, and in disposable military and naval force, to the
United States, and would doubtless consider it a signal
piece of presumption in us, to claim in any respect a
higher political importance. These celebrated empires,
I mean the two first of the three just mentioned, in the
pride of their antiquity, and of the brilliant part which
they have constantly acted on the theatre of Europe,
can hardly realize at once the effect of the new circum-
stances, which, without diminishing their actual power,
have deprived them of a great part of their comparative
weight among the nations ; and they are rather disposed
to underrate the pretensions of a new country, which
emerged as it were only fifty years ago, from a continent
that has been known to Europe but little more than
three centuries. However natural such feelings may be
with them, it is nevertheless certain, that it is not mere-
ly extent of population, and of organized military force,
still less the date of its establishment, that determines
the political importance of a country in the world. A
favourable geographical position, and a good govern-
ment, with the industry, wealth, and knowledge, the ci-
vilization, in a word, which naturally attend them, are
matters of much more consequence. These are the
causes which have given to the United States, at this
early period of their national existence, the lofty posi-
tion of a leading power among the nations ; and, how-
ever the fact may now be doubted or disputed by some.


it will become in a very short time as evident to all, as
it is at present to those who examine with unprejudiced
minds, the situation of the world.

Such then is the position of America and of the
United States, in the general political system, and
such is now the aspect presented by that system, upon
a large and comprehensive survey. It also happens,
by a somewhat singular coincidence, that the great di-
visions which I have pointed out, exhibit at the same
time a grand exemplification of each of the three prin-
cipal forms of political institutions. No specimens of
either of these forms have been held up to the world
before, on any thing like so large a scale, in an equal
degree of perfection. The United States are admitted
by all to furnish the most finished model of a popular
government that has yet been seen ; and they afford
indeed the first instance, in which purely popular in-
stitutions have ever existed tranquilly for any length of
time in a great community. The British constitution,
on the other hand, is undoubtedly the most favourable
specimen that has ever been exhibited of the mixed or
intermediate system of government; while the Russian
empire, although the aspect of its administration varies
very much, like that of all despotic states, with the
changes in the person of the despot, has displayed on
the whole, since the time of Peter the Great, one of
the best examples, as it certainly has the most imposing
and remarkable one ever known, of the w r orst descrip-
tion of political institutions. Here then we have a
vast and splendid panorama, in which those persons
whose attention is directed by curiosity or habitual


pursuits to the science of politics, may study the prac-
tical operation of the three great systems, developing
themselves under every possible advantage and on the
most extensive scale. Such a spectacle is surely well
fitted to attract the observation of all those, who feel an
interest in the fortunes of the human race, and have
duly considered the permanent influence of political
institutions upon their condition and happiness.

If the object were merely to settle, in the minds of
the impartial inquirers, the question of the compara-
tive advantages of liberal and arbitrary governments,
it would perhaps be quite sufficient to survey, however
superficially, the present situation of these different
sections of the Christian world, especially of the con-
tinents of Europe and America, in which the two forms
present themselves respectively in a pure and simple
shape. Under the operation of the liberal system, we
see throughout America an exhibition of prosperity,
national and individual, such as probably the world
never witnessed before upon the same scale; a substan-
tial equality of property and of personal and political
rights, a high degree of intellectual and moral activity
pervading and animating the whole mass of society, a
general diffusion of the material comforts of life, of
knowledge and virtue, and, as a necessary consequence,
of happiness; an increase of population and a progress
of improvement, unheard of, unthought of, in any for-
mer age or region; gigantic enterprises in the way of
internal development and foreign commerce, of which
monarchs never dreamed, conceived and executed by

Online LibraryAlexander Hill EverettAmerica: or, A general survey of the political situation of the several powers of the western continent, with conjectures on their future prospects → online text (page 1 of 25)