how does fisher ames describe republicanism in america?
We justly consider the condition of civil liberty as the most exalted to which any nation can aspire; but high as its rank is, and precious as are its prerogatives, it has not pleased God, in the order of his providence, to confer this preeminent blessing, except upon a very few, and those very small, spots of the universe. The rest sit in darkness, and as little desire the light of liberty, as they are fit to endure it.
We are ready to wonder, that the best gifts are the most sparingly bestowed, and rashly to conclude, that despotism is the decree of heaven, because by far the largest part of the world lies bound in its fetters. But either on tracing the course of events in history, or on examining the character and passions of man, we shall find that the work of slavery is his own, and that he is not condemned to wear chains till he has been his own artificer to forge them. We shall find that society cannot subsist, and that the streets of Boston would be worse than the lion's den, unless the appetites and passions of the violent are made subject to an adequate control. How much control will be adequate to that end, is a problem of no easy solution beforehand, and of no sort of difficulty after some experience. For all who have any thing to defend, and all indeed who have nothing to ask protection for but their lives, will desire that protection; and not only acquiesce, but rejoice in the progress of those slave-making intrigues and tumults, which at length assure to society its repose, though it sleeps in bondage. Thus it will happen, and as it is the course of nature, it cannot be resisted, that there will soon or late be control and government enough.
It is also obvious, that there may be, and probably will be, the least control and the most liberty there, where the turbulent passions are the least excited, and where the old habits and sober reasons of the people are left free to govern them.
Hence it is undeniably plain, that the mock patriots, the opposers of Washington and the Constitution, from 1788 to this day, who, under pretext of being the people's friends, have kept them in a state of continual jealousy, irritation, and discontent, have deceived the people, and perhaps themselves, in regard to the tendency of their principles and conduct; for instead of lessening the pressure of government, and contracting the sphere of its powers, they have removed the field-marks that bounded its exercise, and left it arbitrary and without limits. The passions of the people have been kept in agitation, till the influence of truth, reason, and the excellent habits we derive from our ancestors is lost or greatly impaired; till it is plain, that those, whom manners and morals can no longer govern, must be governed by force; and that force a dominant faction derives from the passions of its adherents; on that alone they rely.
Take one example, which will illustrate the case as well as a hundred; the British treaty [Jay's Treaty 1793] was opposed by a faction, headed by six or eight mob leaders in our cities, and a rabble, whom the arts of these leaders had trained for their purpose. Could a feeble government, could mere truth and calm reason, pointing out the best public interest, have carried that treaty through, and effected its execution in good faith, had not the virtue and firmness of Washington supplied an almost superhuman energy to its powers at the moment? No treaty made by the government has ever proved more signally beneficial. The nature of the treaty, however, is not to the point of the present argument. Suppose a mob opposition had defeated it, and confusion, if not war, had ensued, the confusion that very society is fated to suffer, when, on a trial of strength, a faction in its bosom is found stronger than its government; on this supposition, and that the conquering faction had seized the reins of power, is it to be believed that they would not instantly provide against a like opposition to their own treaties? Did they not so provide, and annex Louisiana, and squander millions in a week? Have we not seen in France, how early and how effectually the conqueror takes care to prevent another rival from playing the same game, by which he himself prevailed against his predecessor?
Let any man, who has any understanding, exercise it to see that the American jacobin party, by rousing the popular passions, inevitably augments the powers of government, and contracts within narrower bounds, and on a less sound foundation, the privileges of the people.
Facts, yes facts, that speak in terror to the soul, confirm this speculative reasoning. What limits are there to the prerogatives of the present administration? and whose business is it, and in whose power does it lie, to keep them within those limits? Surely not in the senate: the small States are now in vassalage, and they obey the nod of Virginia. Not in the judiciary: that fortress, which the Constitution had made too strong for an assault, can now be reduced by famine. The Constitution, alas! that sleeps with Washington, having no mourners but the virtuous, and no monument but history. Louisiana, in open and avowed defiance of the Constitution, is by treaty to be added to the union; the bread of the children of the union is to be taken and given to the dogs.
Judge then, good men and true, judge by the effects, whether the tendency of the intrigues of the party was to extend or contract the measure of popular liberty. Judge whether the little finger of Jefferson is not thicker than the loins of Washington's administration; and, after you have judged, and felt the terror that will be inspired by the result, then reflect how little your efforts can avail to prevent the continuance, nay, the perpetuity of his power. Reflect, and be calm. Patience is the virtue of slaves, and almost the only one that will pass for merit with their masters.
how does fisher ames describe republicanism in america?
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How does XXXXX XXXXX Janson describe republicanism in america?
Arrived at your inn, let me suppose, like myself, you had fallen in with a landlord, who at the moment would condescend to take the trouble to procure you refreshment after the family hour, and that no pig, or other trifling circumstance called off his attention, he will sit by your side, and enter in the most familiar manner into conversation; which is prefaced, of course, with a demand of your business, and so forth. He will then start a political question (for here every individual is a politican), force your answer, contradict, deny, and, finally, be ripe for a quarrel, should you not acquiesce in all his opinions. When the homely meal is served up, he will often place himself opposite to you at the table, at the same time declaring, that "though he thought he had eaten a hearty dinner, yet he will pick a bit with you." Thus will he sit, drinking out of your glass, and of the liquor you are to pay for, belching in your face, and committing other excesses still more indelicate and disgusting. Perfectly inattentive to your accommodation, and regardless of your appetite, he will dart his fork into the best of the dish, and leave you to take the next cut. If you arrive at the dinner-hour, you are seated with "mine hostess" and her dirty children, with whom you have often to scramble for a plate, and even the servants of the inn; for liberty and equality level all ranks upon the road, from the host to the hostler. The children, imitative of their free and polite papa, will also seize your drink, slobber in it, and often snatch a dainty bit from your plate. This is esteemed wit, and consequently provokes a laugh, at the expence of those who are paying for the board. No check must be given to these demonstrations of unsophisticated nature; for the smallest rebuke will bring down a severe animadversion from the parent. Many are the instances that could be pointed out, where the writer has undergone these mortifications, and if Mr. Winterbottom has ever travelled in the country parts of the United States, he can, if he pleases, attest the truth of these observations.
"The American farmer, (says this gentleman) has more simplicity and honesty--we more art and chicanery; they have more of nature, and we more of the world. Nature, indeed, formed our features and intellects very much alike; but while we have metamorphosed the one, and contaminated the other, they have retained and preserved the natural symbols of both."
If we credit these assertions, we must admit that the inhabitants of the new world, far excel us, also, in mental acquirements; but I take the very contrary to be the fact. A republican spirit makes them forward and impertinent--a spirit of trade renders them full of chicanery--and under a shew of liberty, they are commonly tyrants to each other. This is observable at their public meetings, when the fumes of whisky or apple-brandy begin to operate--the more opulent will lord it over his poor neighbor; while the robust will attack the weak, till the whole exhibits a scene of riot, blasphemy, and intoxication. . . .
Among the females, a stranger may soon discover the pertness of republican principles. Divested, from that cause, of the blushing modesty of the country girls of Europe, they will answer a familiar question from the other sex with the confidence of a French Mademoiselle. I would not, however, be understood to question their chastity, of which they have as large a portion as Europeans; my object is merely to shew the force of habit, and the result of education.
The arrogance of domestics in this land of republican liberty and equality, is particularly calculated to excite the astonishment of strangers. To call persons of this description servants, or to speak of their master or mistress, is a grievous affront. Having called one day at the house of a gentleman of my acquaintance, on knocking at the door, it was opened by a servant-maid, whom I had never before seen, as she had not been long in his family. The following is the dialogue, word for word, which took place on this occasion:--"Is your master at home?"--"I have no master."--"Don't you live here?"--"I stay here."--"And who are you then?"--"Why, I am Mr. ----'s help. I'd have you to know, man, that I am no sarvant; none but negers are sarvants." . . .
To return to the city of Washington--I have remarked, that on my return to London, the first general enquiry of my friends is respecting this far-famed place. The description given of it by interested scribblers, may well serve to raise an Englishman's curiosity, and lead him to fancy the capital of Columbia a terrestrial paradise.
The entrance, or avenues, as they are pompously called, which lead to the American seat of government, are the worst roads I passed in the country; and I appeal to every citizen who has been unlucky enough to travel the stages north and south leading to the city, for the truth of the assertion. I particularly allude to the mail stage road from Bladensburg to Washington, and from thence to Alexandria. In the winter season, during the sitting of Congress, every turn of your waggon wheel (for I must again observe, that there is no such thing in the country as what we call a stage coach, or a postchaise,) is for many miles attended with danger. The roads are never repaired; deep ruts, rocks, and stumps of trees, every minute impede your progress, and often threaten your limbs with dislocation.
Arrived at the city, you are struck with its grotesque appearance. In one view from the capitol hill, the eye fixes upon a row of uniform houses, ten or twelve in number, while it faintly discovers the adjacent tenements to be miserable wooden structures, consisting, when you approach them, of two or three rooms one above another. Again, you see the hotel, which was vauntingly promised, on laying the foundation, to rival the large inns in England. This, like every other private adventure, failed: the walls and the roof remain, but not a window! and, instead of accommodating the members of Contress, and travellers of distinction, as proposed, a number of the lowest order of Irish have long held the title of naked possession, from which, were it ever to become an object, it would be difficult to eject them. Turning the eye, a well finished edifice presents itself, surrounded by lofty trees, which never felt the stroke of the axe. The president's house, the offices of state, and a little theatre, where an itinerant company repeated, during a part of the last year, the lines of Shakespeare, Otway, and Dryden, to empty benches, terminate the view of the Pennsylvania, or Grand Avenue.
Speculation, the life of the American, embraced the design of the new city. Several companies of speculators purchased lots, and began to build handsome streets, with an ardor that soon promised a large and populous city. Before they arrived at the attic story, the failure was manifest; and in that state at this moment are the walls of many scores of houses begun on a plan of elegance. In some parts, purchasers have cleared the wood from their grounds, and erected temporary wooden buildings; others have fenced in their lots, and attempted to cultivate them; but the sterility of the land laid out for the city is such, that this plan has also failed. The country adjoining consists of woods in a state of nature, and in some places of mere swamps, which give the scene a curious patch-work appearance. The view of the noble river Potomack, which the eye can trace till it terminates at Alexandria, is very fine. The navigation of the river is good from the bay of Chesapeak, till the near approach to the city, where bars of sand are formed, which every year encroach considerably on the channel. The frigate which brought the Tunisian embassy, grounded on one of these shoals, and the barbarians were obliged to be landed in boats. This is another great disadvantage tothe growth of the city. It never can become a place of commerce, while Baltimore lies on one side, and Alexandria on the other; even admitting the navigation to be equally good--nor can the wild and uneven spot laid out into streets be cleared and levelled for building upon, for many years, even with the most indefatigable exertions.
The capitol, of which two wings are now finished, is of hewn stone, and will be a superb edifice, worthy of its name. The architect who built the first wing, left the country soon after its completion; the corresponding part was carried on under the direction of Mr. Latrobe, an Englishman; from whose taste and judgment much may be expected in finishing the centre of the building: the design of which, as shewn to me by Doctor Thornton, is truly elegant.
The president's house, of which a correct view is given in the frontispiece to this volume, is situated one mile from the Capitol, at the extremity of Pennsylvania Avenue. The contemplated streets of this embryo city are called avenues, and every state gives name to one. That of Pennsylvania is the largest; in fact I never heard of more than that and the New Jersey Avenue, except some houses uniformly built, in one of which lives Mr. Jefferson's printer, XXXXX XXXXXon Smith, a few more of inferior note, with some public-houses, and here and there a little grog-shop, this boasted avenue is as much a wilderness as Kentucky, with this disadvantage, that the soil is good for nothing. Some half-starved cattle browzing among the bushes, present a melancholy spectacle to a stranger, whose expectation has been wound up by the illusive description of speculative writers. So very thinly is the city peopled, and so little is it frequented, that quails and other birds are constantly shot within a hundred yards of the Capitol, and even during the sitting of the houses of congress. . . .
Neither park, nor mall, neither churches, theatres, nor colleges, could I discover so lately as the summer of 1806. A small place has indeed been erected since in the Pennsylvania Avenue, called a theatre, in which Mr. Green and the Virginia company of comedians were nearly starved the only season it was occupied, and were obliged to go off to Richmond during the very height of the sitting of congress. Public offices on each side of the president's house, uniformly built of brick, may also, perhaps, have been built subsequent to that period. That great man who planned the city, and after whom it is named, certainly entertained the hopes that it would at some future period equal ancient Rome in splendor and magnificence. Among the regulations for building were these--that the houses should be of brick or stone--the walls to be at least thirty feet high, and to be built parallel to the line of the street.
The president's house is certainly a neat but plain piece of architecture, built of hewn stone, said to be of a better quality than Portland stone, as it will cut like marble, and resist the change of the seasons in a superior degree. Only part of it is furnished; the whole salary of the president would be inadequate to the expence of completing it in a style of suitable elegance. Rooms are fitted up for himself, an audience chamber, and apartments for Mr. Thomas Man Randolph, and Mr. Epps, and their respective families, who married two of his daughters, and are members of the house of representatives.
The ground around it, instead of being laid out in a suitable style, remains in its ancient rude state, so that, in a dark night, instead of finding your way to the house, you may, perchance, fall into a pit, or stumble over a heap of rubbish. The fence round the house is of the meanest sort; a common post and rail enclosure. This parsimony destroys every sentiment of pleasure that arises in the mind, in viewing the residence of the president of a nation, and is a disgrace to the country.
Though the permanent seat of government has been fixed at Washington, its progress has been proved to be less rapid than any other new settlement supported only by trade. The stimulus held out by the presence of congress has proved artificial and unnatural. After enumerating the public buildings, the private dwelling-houses of the officers of government, the accommodations set apart for the members of the legislature, and the temporary tenements of those dependent on them, the remainder of this boasted city is a mere wilderness of wood and stunted shrubs, the occupants of barren land. Strangers after viewing the offices of state, are apt to enquire for the city, while they are in its very centre.
One of the greatest evils of a republican form of government is a loss of that subordination in society which is essentially necessary to render a country agreeable to foreigners. To the well-informed, this defect is irksome, and no remedy for it can be applied. The meaning of liberty and equality, in the opinion of the vulgar, consists in impudent freedom, and uncontrolled licentiousness; while boys assume the airs of full-grown coxcombs. This is not to be wondered at, where most parents make it a principle never to check those ungovernable passions which are born with us, or to correct the growing vices of their children. Often have I, with horror, seen boys, whose dress indicated wealthy parents, intoxicated, shouting and swearing in the public streets. In the use of that stupefying weed, tobacco, apeing their fathers, they smoke segars to so immoderate a degree, that sickness, and even death, has been the consequence. . . .
Literature is yet at a low ebb in the United States. During my stay in Philadelphia, where the small portion of genius is chiefly to be found, I heard of very few literary characters, superior to the political scribblers of the day. Joseph Dennie, and Mr. Brown, of that city, with Mr. Fessenden, of Boston, are men of genius. The former is editor of a literary periodical paper, called "The Port-Folio," a publication which would do credit to the most polished nation in Europe. Its contemporary prints make politics their principal object; the Port-Folio embraces the belles lettres, and cultivates the arts and sciences. The editor, when he touches upon the state of his country, speaks in the cause of federalism; and, from his great abilities, he is consequently obnoxious to the ruling party. The government had long endeavored to control the federal prints, and had already ineffectually prosecuted some of the editors. At length, they denounced Mr. Dennie, who was indicted and tried at Philadelphia, for publishing the following political strictures:--
"A democracy is scarcely tolerable at any period of national history. Its omens are always sinister, and its powers are unpropitious. With all the lights of experience blazing before our eyes, it is impossible not to discern the futility of this form of government. It was weak and wicked in Athens. It was bad in Sparta, and worse in Rome. It has been tried in France, and has terminated in despotism. It was tried in England, and rejected with the utmost loathing and abhorrence. It is on its trial here, and the issue will be civil war, desolation, and anarchy. No wise man but discerns its imperfections; no good man but shudders at its miseries; no honest man but proclaims its fraud; and no brave man but draws his sword against its force. The institution of a scheme of polity, so radically contemptible and vicious, is a memorable example of what the villainy of some men can devise, the folly of others receive, and both establish, in despite of reason, reflection, and sensation."
This paragraph was copied into the federal papers throughout the union, and it became extremely obnoxious to the democratic party. The trial greatly interested all ranks; but, after much time being consumed, and much party spirit evinced by the contending advocates, Mr. Dennie was acquitted. He gives a sketch of the trial in the Port-Folio, and thus concludes:-- "The causes of this prosecution, the spirit of the times, and the genius of the commonwealth, must be obvious to every observer. The editor inscribes vici on the white shield of his innocence, but is wholly incapable of vaunting at the victory!" . . .
Printing and bookselling have of late years been extended to the most remote parts of the country. Several newspapers are printed in Kentucky; and almost every town of more than a few score houses, in every state, has a printing-office, from which the news is disseminated. There is no tax whatever on the press, and consequently every owner of one can print a newspaper with little risk, among a people who are all politicians. These sheets are the utmost limits of literature in most country towns, and they furnish ample food for disputation. Several hundred different newspapers are daily distributed by the public mail, in all parts, to subscribers, at the small charge of one or two cents, at most, for postage; but printers exchange their papers with each other, by that mode, free of any charge. I have often seen a printer receive as many newspapers by one mail, as would fill the room of several hundred letters.