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ART. I.-The Resources of the United States of America; or, a View of the Agricultural, Commercial, Financial, Political, Literary, Moral, and Religious Character of the American People. By John Bristed, Counsellor at Law, Author of 'The Resources of the British Empire.' New York, March, 1818. 8vo. pp. 505.
MORE than half a century has elapsed since the commencement of those disputes between England and her North American colonies which finally terminated in their disunion. The events which followed the separation have contradicted the expectations of the enlightened statesmen of England and the shrewd and calculating politicians of America; who alike supposed that the prosperity of Great Britain was dependent upon the increase and the continued submission of her transatlantic dominions.
It now appears to those who are not so intimately acquainted with the views and feelings commonly entertained in England from the passing of the Stamp Act in 1765 to the beginning of the revolutionary war in 1775 as to make allowance for them, that a kind of infatuation must have possessed their countrymen and their governors; they would not otherwise have expected, that a country like North America, at such a distance from the seat of powerwith habits and prejudices averse from any but corporation governments-without an ecclesiastical establishment, or an order of nobility-could, when its population and wealth should be considerably increased, continue in subjection to the country that peopled it. Thinking men had, indeed, looked forward to a time when a separation would of necessity take place, but that riod was considered so distant, and the means by which it might be brought about so doubtful, that scarcely any one had viewed it as an event likely to happen within his own time, and had therefore never turned his attention to its practical effects. It is useless now to speculate on what might have been the consequence, if the English government had voluntarily renounced its controul over North America, and left the people to construct the edifice of a civil constitution for themselves. Fortunately, perhaps, for the United States, the bustle of military employment, which allowed no leisure for political speculation, induced them to continue their civil institutions as they found them; hence few deviations were made from their
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their established political and judicial forms and principles but such as were dictated by necessity; and from the declaration of their Independence in 1776 to its final establishment in 1783, the new government became so blended with their former institutions, that they could scarcely have been separated except by some great internal convulsion.
In tracing the causes which have forwarded the prosperity of North America, we shall find the foundation of them all to be laid in the English constitution and the English laws. In a country the far greater portion of whose population is planted in hamlets and villages, and whose employment is chiefly the cultivation of the soil, the security of persons and property is the most essential ingredient in public prosperity. The laws of England are the best foundation for this security, and these, throughout the United States, have regulated the decisions of their courts of justice. The trial by jury, the gratuitous administration of inferior and local law by justices of the peace, the unbought police by sheriffs, coroners, and constables, are all derived from similar institutions of the parent state, and are adhered to with a strictness, which their practical effect on both countries fully justifies.
The Legislature is composed of a few (principally from Virginia and Maryland) whose hereditary property and family connections create an influence; of some who are elected into it on account of supposed talents, or merits; and of too many others, because they have flattered the lowest passions of the populace, or intrigued with their voluble leaders. The landed proprietors are the most considerable, the lawyers the most prominent, but there is a sufficient number of other descriptions to make the whole a pretty fair representation of the mind and knowledge of the community.
The Senate, or upper house, is the concentration of the aristocracy of the state-governments which it represents. These governments are checks on the superabundant influence of the executive power, and the Senate has, occasionally, been found highly useful in calming and suspending the will of the people when clamorous to their own injury.*
The two Houses, thus constituted, though they may sometimes suffer themselves to be led away by the abstract reasonings of
A late American senator, Governeur Morris, in a debate on the judiciary law, when one of his opponents had been urging as an argument the popularity of the repeal, thus expressed himself, Examine the annals of history-look into the records of timesee what has been the ruin of every republic-the vile love of popularity-why are we here?-to save the people from their most dangerous enemy, to save them from themselves. What caused the ruin of the republics of Greece and Rome?-Demagogues, who by flattery gained the aid of the people to establish despotism.' From these obvious truths the Americans revolted, and Mr. Morris was never after elected to any public station.