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- NEW YORK - 6/6 -


even sensibly to diminish the habits and opinions now in existence among the people; and it must ever be remembered that society pursues its regular course more or less successfully, according to circumstances, even in the midst of revolution, war, and rapine. A battle is fought to-day, and a month hence it becomes difficult to discover its traces, over which the p{l}ough has already passed, and among which the husbandman is resuming his toil, as he replaces his fences, and clears away his fallen trees after the passage of the whirlwind. It follows from these views, and this course of reasoning, which might be greatly extended and much more satisfactorily developed, that political changes have less direct influence on the ordinary march of society than is commonly supposed. The spirit of the age is and must be respected by rulers of every shade of character; and the fourth estate, as opinion is commonly termed, enters largely into the ordinary action of every form of government or combination of social organization that the accidents of history have produced, or the sagacity and wants of men have more ambitiously paraded before the eyes of their fellow creatures. When we couple with these facts the certainty that there are undercurrents which enable ordinary society, trade, and all the other active and daily recurring interests of life, to manage their own affairs more or less in their own way, it is not easy to foresee any material consequences to the progress of a place like this at the mouth of the Hudson, that can trace their rise to the future course of political events in the country. We do not anticipate any apparent dissolution of the ordinary ties of society, for we know that nations will bear burdens of this nature for a long period of time, without struggling or making the effort necessary to remove them; and that it is only when they are felt to be intolerable to the great body of the people that one may confidently hope for redress and reformation. Petty wrongs are never repaired by the masses; they sometimes vindicate their rights by means of the strong arm, when seriously required to do so, but in general the wrong is endured, and the victim immolated without awakening attention or leaving any regrets among those who escape its immediate consequences.

It has long been a subject of investigation among moralists, whether the existence of towns like those of London, Paris, New York, &c., is or is not favorable to the development of the better qualities of the human character. As for ourselves, we do not believe any more in the superior innocence and virtue of a rural population than in that of the largest capitals, perfectly conscious of the appalling accumulation of vice, and sin, and crime that is to be found in such places as London and Paris, and even in New York. We cannot shut our eyes to the numberless evils of the same general character of disobedience to the law of God, that are to be found even in the forest and the most secluded dales of the country. If there be incentives to wrong-doing in the crowded population of a capital town, there are many incentives to refinement, public virtue, and even piety, that are not to be met with elsewhere. In this respect we apprehend that good and evil are more nearly balanced among us than is commonly supposed; and we doubt if it were possible to render the laws a dead letter in the streets of New York, as has been done around the bell of the Capitol at Albany, and strictly among its rural population, directly beneath the eyes of the highest authority of the State. The danger to valuable and movable property would be too imminent, and those who felt an interest in its preservation would not fail to rally in its defence. It is precisely on this principle that in the end property will protect itself as against the popular inroads which are inevitable, should the present tendencies receive no check. Calm, disinterested, and judicious legislation is a thing not to be hoped for. It never occurs in any state of society except under the pressure of great events; and this for the very simple reason that men, acting in factions, are never calm, judicious, or disinterested.

{around the bell of the Capitol = Cooper is alluding to the public ferment in upstate New York, during the "anti-rent wars" of the 1840s, resulting in laws infringing, in Cooper's view, on the legal contractual and property rights of landowners}

Nevertheless, the community will live on, suffer, and be deluded: it may even fancy itself almost within reach of perfection, but it will live on to be disappointed. There is no such thing on earth, and the only real question for the American statesman is to measure the results of different defective systems for the government of the human race. We are far from saying that our own, with all its flagrant and obvious defects, will be the worst, more especially when considered solely in connection with whole numbers; though we cannot deny, nor do we wish to conceal, the bitterness of the wrongs that are so frequently inflicted by the many on the few. This is, perhaps, the worst species of tyranny. He who suffers under the arbitrary power of a single despot, or by the selfish exactions of a privileged few, is certain to be sustained by the sympathies of the masses. But he who is crushed by the masses themselves, must look beyond the limits of his earthly being for consolation and support. The wrongs committed by democracies are of the most cruel character; and though wanting in that apparent violence and sternness that marks the course of law in the hands of narrower governments, for it has no need of this severity, they carry with them in their course all the feelings that render injustice and oppression intolerable.

We think that the towns of America, generally, will suffer less from these popular abuses than the rural districts. As has been already said, associated wealth will take care of itself. It may make, and probably will make, in the earlier stages of these political changes, some capital mistakes; and there cannot be a question that in the rapacity of private efforts to accumulate, some of the most obvious and natural expedients of protection will be overlooked, until the neglect compels recourse possibly even to the use of the strong hand. Still property will eventually protect itself. For, in an age like this, when even the bayonet must be carried ordinarily in its sheath, and when men get to be accustomed from infancy to the inbred recognition of many of the most important principles of government, society starts, as it might be, far in advance of the point which it reached in the ages of pure military and arbitrary sway. The celebrated saying of Napoleon, "L'Europe sera, dans cinquante ans, ou republicaine ou cossaque," has a profound signification; yet it must be greatly qualified to be received with safety. The "cossaque" of the close of the nineteenth century will be a very different thing from the "cossaque" of the days of Paul. It now means little more than conservatism, and this, too, a conservatism that is not absolutely without that principle of concession to the spirits and wants of the passing moment. These quarrels and bitter conflicts of which we hear so much in the Old World, like some of our own, have their rise in abstractions quite as much as in actual oppression; and the alternative offered by change half the time amounts to but little more than the substitution of King Stork for King Log. It may not be agreeable to the pride, recollections, and national traditions of the Hungarian, or the Italian, to submit to the sway of a German; but it may well be questioned if the substitutes they would offer for the present form of government would greatly tend to the amelioration of the respective people.

{L'Europe sera.... = Europe will, in fifty years, be either republican or cossack [French]; Paul = Paul I, Tsar of Russia from 1796 to 1801; King Stork for King Log = from Aesop's Fables}

What is true in the Old World will, in the end, be found to be true here. To us, it would seem that the portion of the people of this country, whom we should term the disinterested, or those who have no direct connection with slavery, on the one hand, or with fanaticism, and its handmaid demagogism, on the other, should turn their attention solely to the achievement of a single object. They have the strength to do it, if they only had the will. By compelling the disturbers of the public peace to submit to the control of the government, and to cease their meddling and wanton invasion of the security and property of their brothers and neighbors, the question of slavery would soon take care of itself. A single generation would, probably, see it confined in a great measure to the extreme Southern and Southwestern States; for, under the present emigration from Europe, it cannot be long before the upper counties of even the Carolinas and Georgia will make the discovery that the introduction of a single white man will be really of more importance to them than that of a dozen negroes. Could Virginia be made to see her true interests in this behalf, the glory of the Old Dominion would speedily revive, and her fine population of gentlemen would shortly take its place again where it so properly belongs, in the foremost ranks of the nation. We require an exchange with that quarter of the country, for we could give that which she greatly needs, and receive in exchange that which would probably not a little benefit ourselves. Puritanism, most especially when it breaks out of bonds by the process of emigration, does not always produce the most acceptable fruits; while, on the other hand, the descendants of the Cavaliers might obtain homely lessons, of great practical benefit, from the utilitarian spirit of the whole North.


NEW YORK - 6/6

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