Item of the Day: Miscellany Politicks. For the Farmer’s Weekly Museum. (1798)
Full Title: “Miscellany Politicks. For the Farmer’s Weekly Museum.” The Farmer’s Weekly Museum: Newhampshire and Vermont Journal. Vol. V. No. 251. [Walpole, New Hampshire] 23 January 1798.
[The Farmer’s Weekly Museum was printed by David Carlisle, Jr. and edited by Joseph Dennie. This serial was continued under the title “The Farmers’ Museum, or. Lay Preacher’s Gazette." The following excerpt is signed “PLAIN TRUTH.”]
For the FARMER’S WEEKLY MUSEUM.
In proportion as publick opinion is right or wrong, the sound principles of our constitution will be cherished, and the wise measures of our government supported by the citizens; or, on the contrary, false and erroneous principles will bring in bad men, and bad measures are sure to follow.
It is the undoubted and uniform tendency of every revolution to propagate, at least during the heat of contest, a violent democratick spirit, which is seldom friendly to rational liberty, while it lasts, and is almost always fatal to it., when it expires. For nothing is more likely first to discredit, and then ruin a good cause, than carrying its principles to extremes. The forlorn and almost desperate condition of French liberty is an example still reeking in blood, still smoking in ruins before the eyes of mankind. No statesmen ever talked fairer, no men ever acted worse. No theories were ever wrought with a smoother polish, or glittered more with the mock diamonds and tinsel of philosophy; and never did the servile maxims of despotism, and the rage of tyrants inflict a more diffusive and pestiferous curse upon a nation.
We are more astonished at the contrast between theories and measures, between prophecies and events, between the same men demagogues and tyrants, than we ought to be. We overlook, or want patience to apply the known laws of the human character and passions, and the unvaried testimony of history.
It has been hinted, and the writer has not the smallest hesitation in asserting, that the tendency of publick opinion has been often MUCH TOO DEMOCRATICK in the United States. The unexpended heat of our revolution and the scorching and blasting reflection from that of France have not permitted the American republick to enjoy that uninterrupted health, which many, were led to anticipate, from the soundness of its temperament, and the prudent exactness of its regimen. The publick pulse has been many times feverish, and the nervous system irritable to a degree, that indicates a morbid leaven of democracy in the blood. The Shays and whisky insurgents, successfully assumed democratick principles, as equally true and popular, and endeavoured, thank heaven in vain, to excite an enthusiastick zeal to sustain them. The decline of this fiery spirit will be lamented by those, who cannot conceive that the love of liberty exists, if it be not exalted to fury. With them it is not a right, a dictate of reason, but a passion, equally sanguinary and stupid; sanguinary, because it neither discerns, nor approves any, but violent means, and , stupid, because, if left to itself, is sure to destroy its object. Accordingly, we hear the Democrats affecting to lament the supposed extinction of the spirit of 1776, as if there were no reason for repose, when the struggle is over. When resistance ceases, the passions must subside, nor is it in nature for them to keep up. It would be well for us if the revolutionary fervour had actually passed off. However necessary it may be for the security of liberty, when it is endangered, it disturbs the tranquil possession when it is not. Every popular ferment bewilders the judgment of those, whom it affects, and is the fruitful sources of the most obstinate errours. A man in a passion is not the best reasoner; and why should the Democrats imagine that the nation cannot reason, unless it raves, or that we are all in a lethargy, because we are not in a frenzy; yet who cares less for 1776 than they, for they would yield independence, now it is won, to France, and Washington, John Adams, Jay, Hamilton, Knox, Pickering, the Pinckneys, and the chief patriots of that day, are their abhorrence.
Times of publick convulsion certainly give an energy to the national character. –They call forth heroes and martyrs; at present we have not occasion for either. All the passions, which it is the business of laws in quiet times to refrain, then taking the ascendant, become the virtues of the day, and clamorous for indulgence. When men are taught to hold their own lives cheap, and its pleasures are spurned, as bringing dishonour in their allurements; when they are in the habit of spilling blood, as if they spilt water; when they taste the sweetness of revenge, and enjoy the luxury of inflicting on their foes the pain, and want, and wounds, that they themselves suffer, are they then and then only, qualified to be Republicans? As well as a raging fever may be called health, or fanaticism be confounded with true devotion. . . .