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CoahEspoxDENCE between John Quincy ADAMs, Esq. President of the UNITED
We have placed at the head of this article the title of a pamphlet, which has drawn much attention and excited much feeling. But in so doing, we have not thought of reviewing the controversy to which it relates. Our work is devoted to the inculcation and defence of great principles, and we are anxious to keep it free from irritating personalities. We are resolved to contend earnestly for what we deem truth, but we wish no contest with individuals. We are aware that cases may exist, in which justice to persecuted virtue, or to a good but suffering cause, may bind us to take part in temporary controversies. We feel, however, no such obligation in the present instance. In the Correspondence, those whom we deem injured have vindicated themselves too effectually to need other defenders. The charge of a Northern plot for dismembering the country has been fairly met and triumphantly refuted. We violate therefore no duty in following our inclinations, and in leaving this controversy to those whom it immediately concerns.—To prevent misapprehension, we will add, that in speaking of the charge which gave rise to the correspondence, as fully refuted, we mean not to accuse of wilful misrepresentation the individual by whom it was brought forward. We are not ignorant of the facility with which men deceive themselves, especially when their passions are inflamed. We mean not to deny, that Mr. Adams may imagine himself in possession of proofs which sustain his allegation; nor is it hard to explain the delusion. It is very possible, that twentyfive years ago, in a most agitated and convulsed state of the country, some among us questioned, whether the national government was likely to accomplish the good which it had promised. It is very possible, that, in that season of exasperation, some rash spirits among the Federalists gave utterance to passionate invectives, and inconsiderate menaces; and we can very easily understand, how a mind, disposed to misconstrue the words and actions of ardent partisans, might, in the midst of such excitement, become haunted with suspicions and visionary conspiracies. We think it very creditable to our country, that, in passing through the stormy season of which we have spoken, it teemed with no more panics and inventions of secret treasons; that so few
plots were feigned or feared. We exceedingly regret that Mr. Adams has made it necessary to his reputation, to fasten a reproach of this nature on a portion of his fellow-citizens. We regret, not only for public reasons, but for his own sake, that on retiring from office, he cannot promise himself the happiness of his predecessors, the happiness of a calm and dignified retirement from public strife. Our aim in the present article is to call the attention of our readers to a subject of great moment, which is directly brought before us by the Correspondence; we mean, the Importance of our National Union. This topic is one of transcendent and universal interest, and therefore deserves a place in a work devoted to the inculcation of those great principles, which involve the virtue and happiness of the community. In the discussion of such a topic, we shall of necessity recur to the events and struggles of the last thirty or forty years. But we shall do so, not for the purpose of reviving half-extinguished animosities, but in the hope of pointing out our danger as a nation, and of awakening a more enlightened attachment to our common country. We trust, that we claim for ourselves no singular virtue in saying, that we look back on the conflicts and revolutions of this period as on matters of history, and that we identify ourselves with them scarcely more than with events preceding our birth. It seems to us, that a good degree of impartiality in relation to this period, instead of requiring a high moral effort, is almost forced upon us by the circumstances of our times. Our age has been marked above all others by the suddenness, variety, and stupendousness of its revolutions. The events of centuries have been crowded into a single life. The history of the civilised world, since the bursting forth of the French Revolution, reminds us of one of the irregular dramas of Shakspeare, in which the incidents of a reign are compressed into an hour. Overwhelming changes have rushed upon one another too rapidly to give us time to comprehend them, and have been so multiplied as to exhaust our capacity of admiration. In consequence of this thronging and whirl of events, the revolutions which we have witnessed seem to be thrown back, and to belong to a previous age. Our interest in them as cotemporaries is diminished to a degree which excites our own wonder, and we think that we recall them with as little selfish partiality, as we experience in looking back on the transactions of past centuries. Perhaps we are deceived; but we can assure our readers, that we should not trust ourselves to speak as frankly as we may of the past, did we not believe, that our personal interest in it differs little from what we feel in other important periods of human history. We have said that our present topic is the importance of the Union, and we have selected it because it cannot, we apprehend, be too deeply impressed. No lesson should be written more indelibly on the hearts of our citizens. To secure to it the strong conviction with which it ought to be received, we have thought that we might usefully insist on the chief good which the union confers; and we are the more disposed to do this, because we are not sure that this subject is sufficiently understood, because we sometimes apprehend that the people are not aware of the most essential benefit which they derive from the confederation, but are looking to it for advantages which it cannot bestow, and are in danger of exposing it to hazard by expecting from it more than it can accomplish. Of all governments we may say, that the good which they promote is chiefly negative, and this is especially true of the federal institutions which bind these states together. Their highest function is to avert evil. Nor let their efficiency on this account be disparaged. The highest political good, liberty, is negative. It is the removal of obstructions. It is security from wrong. It confers no positive happiness, but opens a field in which the individual may achieve his happiness by his own unfettered powers. The great good of the Union we may express almost in a word. It preserves us from wasting and destroying one another. It preserves relations of peace among communities, which, if broken into separate nations, would be arrayed against one another in perpetual, merciless, and ruinous war. It indeed contributes to our defence against foreign states, but still more it defends us from one another. This we apprehend to be the chief boon of the Union, and its importance we apprehend is not sufficiently felt. So highly do we estimate it, that we ask nothing of the General Government, but to hold us together, to establish among the different States relations of friendship and peace; and we are sure, that our State Governments and individual energies will work out for us a happiness, such as no other people have yet secured. The importance of this benefit is easy to be understood, by considering the sure and tremendous miseries which would follow disunion. For ourselves, we fear, that bloody and mournful as human history now is, a sadder page than has yet been written, might record the sufferings of this country, should we divide ourselves into separate communities. Our impressions on this subject are so strong, that we cannot resist the desire of communicating them to others. We fear that our country, in case of disunion, would be broken into communities, which would cherish towards one another singularly fierce and implacable enmities. We do not refer to the angry and vindictive feelings which would grow out of the struggles implied in a separation. There are other and more permanent causes of hatred and hostility. One cause, we think, would be found in the singularly active, bold, enterprising spirit, which actuates this whole country. Perhaps, as a people, we have no stronger distinction, than a thirst for adventure and new acquisitions. A quiet, cold, phlegmatic race might be divided with comparatively little peril. But a neighbourhood of restless, daring, all-grasping communities, would contain within itself the seeds of perpetual hostility. Our feverish activity would break out in endless competitions and jealousies. In every foreign market we should meet as rivals. The same great objects would be grasped at by all. Add to this, that the necessity of preserving some balance of power, would lead each republic to watch the others with a suspicious eye; and this balance could not be maintained, in these young and growing communities, as easily as in the old and stationary ones of Europe. Among nations, such as we should form, which would only have begun to develope their resources, and in which the spirit of liberty would favour an indefinite expansion, the political equilibrium would be perpetually disturbed. Under such influences an irritable, and almost justifiable sensitiveness to one another's progress would fester into unrelenting hatred. Our neighbour's good would become to us a curse. Among such communities there could be no love, and would be no real peace. To obstruct one another's growth would be deemed the perfection of policy. Slight collisions of interest, which inust perpetually recur, would be exaggerated by jealousy and hatred into unpardonable wrongs; and unprincipled statesmen would find little difficulty in swelling imaginary grievances into causes of war. When we look at the characteristic spirit of this country, stimulated as it is by our youth and capacities of improvement, we cannot conceive of more active springs of contention and hatred, than would be created at once by our disunion into separate nations. We proceed to the second and a very important consideration. Our possession of a common language, which is now an unspeakable good, would, in case of disunion, prove as great a calamity; for it would serve, above all things, to multiply jealousies and exasperate bad passions. In Europe, different nations, having each its own language, and comparatively small communication, can act but little on each other. Each expresses its own self-esteem and its scorn for other communities in writings, which seldom pass its own bounds, and which minister to its own vanity and prejudices without inflaming other states. But suppose this country broken up into contiguous nations, all speaking the same language, all enjoying unrestrained freedom of the press, and all giving utterance to their antipathies and recriminations in newspapers, which would fly through all on the wings of the winds. Who can set bounds to the madness which such agents of mischief would engender? It is a fact, too well known, that feelings of animosity among us towards Great Britain, have been kept alive chiefly by a few publications from the latter country, which have been read by a very small part of our population. What then are we to expect in case of our disunion, when the daily press of each nation would pour forth on the neighbouring communities unceasing torrents of calumny, satire, ridicule, and invective : An exasperating article from the pen of a distinguished man in one republic, would in less than a week have found its way to every house and cottage in the adjoining States. The passions of a whole people would be kindled at one moment; and who of us can conceive the intensity of hatred which would grow from this continued, maddening interchange of intemperate and unmeasured abuse? Another source of discord, in case of our separation, is almost too obvious to be mentioned. Once divided, we should form stronger bonds of union with foreign nations than with one another. That Europe would avail itself of our broken condition to establish an influence among us; that belligerents in the Old World would strive to enlist us in their quarrels; that our eagerness for commercial favours and monopolies would lay us open to their intrigues; that at every quarrel among ourselves we should be willing to receive aid from abroad, and that distant nations would labour to increase our dependence upon themselves by inflaming and dividing us against each other; these are considerations too obvious to need exposition, and as solemn aud
monitory as they are clear. From disunion, we should reap, in plentiful harvests, destructive enmities at home, and degrading subserviency to the powers of Europe. We pass to another topic, particularly worthy of notice. In case of separation, party spirit, the worst foe of free states, would rage more furiously in each of the new and narrower communities than now it does in our extensive Union, and this spirit would not only spread deadly hatred through each republic, but would perpetually embroil it with its neighbours. We complain of party rage even now; but it is mild and innocent compared with what we should experience, were our union dissolved. Party spirit, when spread over a large country, is far less envenomed and ruinous than when shut up in small states. The histories of Greece and Rome are striking illustrations of this truth. In an extensive community, a party, depressed on one spot, finds sympathy and powerful protectors in another; and if not, it finds more generous enemies at a distance, who mitigate the violence of its nearer foes. The fury attending elections is exceedingly allayed, by the knowledge that the issue does not depend on one or another city or district, and that failure in one place is not the loss of the cause. It may be added, that in a large country, party spirit is necessarily modified and softened by the diversity of interests, views, and characters, which must prevail among a widely scattered people. It is also no small advantage, that the leaders of parties will generally be separated from one another by considerable distances, will move in remote spheres, instead of facing each other, and engaging perpetually in personal debate and conflict. Suppose these circumstances reversed; suppose the country broken into republics so small, as to admit a perfect unity and . sympathy among the members of the same party, as to keep the leaders of opposite parties perpetually in one another's sight and hearing, as to make the fate of elections dependent on definite efforts and votes in particular places; and who can calculate the increase of personal animosity, of private rancour, of public rage 7 Nor would the spirit of party convulse only the separate communities. It would establish between them the most injurious relations. No passion seems to overpower patriotism and o sentiment more effectually than this spirit. Those whom it binds seem to throw off all other bonds. Inflamed parties are most unscrupulous as to means. Under great excitements, they of course look round them on other communities to find means of ensuring triumph over their opponents. Of consequence, the political relations, which would subsist between the different republics that would spring up from our disunion, would be determined chiefly by party spirit; by a passion, which is most reckless of consequences, most prolific of discord, most prodigal of blood. Each republic would be broken into two factions, one in possession, and the other in pursuit of power, and both prepared to link themselves with the factions of their neighbours, and to sacrifice the peace and essential interests of the state to the gratification of ambition and revenge. Through such causes, operating in the Grecian republics, civil war added its horrors to foreign contests. We see nothing to avert from ourselves, if ever divided, the anomous calamity.