Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

Agents de Change be not increased, the place will be considered worth from 200,000 to 250,000f. No two institutions in France have so much induced a spirit of gambling among all classes as the Crédit Mobilier and Crédit Foncier, both of which date from 1852. The operations of the first-named society extend through a great part of Europe, and the operations of the second are also very multifarious. M. de Morny, at present French Ambassador in Russia, has been much mixed up with the operations of the Crédit Mobilier, and his proceedings have not tended to raise our estimate of French politicians. Should any financial crisis come on France within the next year, woe to the reckless shareholders and purchasers in the Crédit Mobilier.

The society of the Crédit Foncier de France was authorized by the decrees of the 28th of March and the 10th of December, 1852. Its operations extend over the whole of France, with the exception of six departments. The capital consists of 60,000,000f., and the society cannot lend to any one individual more than 1,000,000f. nor less than 300f.

The Société Générale de Crédit Mobilier, established by a decree of 18th November, 1852, is a species of bank, the partners in which have not given their names. Its principal operations consist in purchasing or acquiring shares in public companies, provided they be en sociétés anonymes. Secondly, in circulating its own securities for a sum equivalent to the shares or stock purchased. Thirdly, in selling and exchanging all actions and obligations so acquired. Fourthly, in lending on public securities, on the deposits of actions and obligations, &c. The capital of the society is fixed at 60,000,000f., and it is represented by 120,000 shares of 500f. each. The society can circulate its own 'obligations' for a sum six times as large as its capital. It will be seen how dangerous a power this confers on the many speculators and projectors connected with the company. A day of reckoning is sure at length to come, and then the final settlement may be as disastrous as the affairs of the Tipperary and Royal British Banks.

190

ART. VIII. (1.) Five Years' Progress of the Slave Power. Boston.

1852.

(2.) A Few Months in America. By JAMES ROBERTSON. London. 1853.

(3.) The Constitution of the United States compared with our own. By H. S. TREMENHEERE. London. 1854.

(4.) An Address illustrative of the Nature and Power of the Slave States, and the Duties of the Free States. By JoSIAH QUINCY. Boston. 1856.

(5.) A History of the Struggle for Slavery Extension or Restriction in the United States, from the Declaration of Independence to the Present Day. By HORACE GREELEY. New York. (6.) A History of the American Compromises. By HARRIET MARTINEAU. London. 1856.

1856.

(7.) America Free—or America Slave; an Address on the State of the Country, delivered by JOHN JAY, at Bedford, Westchester, New York, October 8th, 1856. New York. 1856.

SOON after the appearance of M. de Tocqueville's Démocratie en Amérique, a young student fresh from the University, and strongly imbued with ultra-radical principles, was so much delighted with the Frenchman's glowing account of the republican institutions of the United States, that he resolved to translate the work into English for the benefit of his benighted fellow-countrymen. Having completed his task, he offered the manuscript to a publisher holding opinions similar to his own, on the condition that the work should be brought out at a low price, so as to place it within the reach of the million. The publisher, after looking over the translation, declined the task, on the ground that the book was much more likely to injure than to promote the cause of democracy in this country. In that opinion of the radical publisher we fully concur. Were we desirous of converting an ardent republican theorist to more wholesome political thought, we could not place in his hands a more useful book than the one we have named. If a course of De Tocqueville, coupled with a careful study of the actual working of the model republic during the last twenty years, is not sufficient to make the most grumbling Radical thankful that he lives under what Dr. Arnold called 'the kingly commonwealth of England,' we should deem his condition utterly hopeless.

One of the most interesting chapters in De Tocqueville's work is that relating to the mode in which the President is elected. Up to the time he wrote (soon after the revolution which drove

The Election of President.

191

Charles the Tenth into exile), the political circumstances under which the elections had been carried on were not of a very critical nature, and therefore his remarks on the dangers to be apprehended from the working of the elective system relate more to what was likely to happen than to what had actually taken place. But political corruption in the United States partakes of the same rapid growth as the wealth and numbers of its population. Who can read the following passage from De Tocqueville, for example, and reflect upon the conduct of President Pierce, in his home and foreign policy, without perceiving how accurately it represents the motives by which he has been swayed throughout the greater part of his career?

"It is impossible to consider the ordinary course of affairs in the United States without perceiving that the desire of being re-elected is the chief aim of the President; that his whole administration, and even his most indifferent measures, tend to this object; and that, as the crisis approaches, his personal interest takes the place of his interest for the public good. The principle of re-eligibility renders the corrupt influence of elective governments still more extensive and pernicious. It tends to degrade the political morality of the people, and to substitute adroitness for patriotism.

In America it exercises a still more fatal influence on the sources

of national existence. Every government seems to be inflicted by some evil inherent in its nature, and the genius of the legislator is shown in eluding its attacks. A state may survive the influence of a host of bad laws, and the mischief they cause is frequently exagge rated; but a law which encourages the growth of the canker within must prove fatal in the end, although its bad consequences may not be immediately perceived.'

One great mistake of the founders of the American Constitution, as De Tocqueville proceeds to show, was allowing the re-election of the President. The result of this has been to make the chief magistrate of the Republican easy tool in the hands of the majority. He adopts its likings and its animosities, he hastens to anticipate its wishes, he forestalls its complaints, he 'yields to its idlest cravings, and, instead of guiding it, as the legislature intended that he should do, he is ever ready to 'follow its bidding.' One of the most moderate American newspapers-the New York Evening Post-describes the policy of Mr. Pierce in terms which show how clearly M. de Tocqueville foresaw the evils likely to arise from this defect in the American constitution:

"The great ambition of Mr. Pierce,' says the Post, 'during his term of public service, has been to be nominated and elected to the Presidency a second time. It was for this that he violated pledges

solemnly taken; it was for this that he pressed through Congress, by purchased votes, a measure (the Nebraska Bill) which broke faith between the North and South, and made them bitter enemies; it was for this that he became an accomplice in the conspiracy to introduce slavery into Kansas by fraud and bloodshed; it was for this that he has made his name a term of scorn among two-thirds of the population of the United States.'

In return for all this wretched truckling to the slave power, the Democratic Convention, which assembled at Cincinnati a few months ago, to nominate a pro-slavery candidate for the Presidential chair, threw Mr. Pierce overboard in the most unceremonious manner, and resolved to support Mr. Buchanan, on the ground that he is favourable to the extension of slavery and the annexation policy. Not that the present occupant of the White House differs a single jot from the Cincinnati nominee on either of these two questions. His treacherous conduct with reference to the civil war in Kansas, and his promulgation of the Monroe doctrine in his Message to Congress, at the opening of last session, show that, whatever misgivings he may have had at one period, he is now willing to devote himself, body and soul, to the service of the slave power. But, in carrying out the despotic policy of the South, he had excited a most formidable amount of hatred against the Government. A sacrifice was required to propitiate the respectable business-men of the North, and therefore Franklin Pierce, after serving the purpose of his employers, was flung aside.

Ordinary newspaper readers, who have not taken the pains to make themselves acquainted with the position of parties in the United States, can hardly form a definite notion of the wide difference between American and English politics. They find the terms Whig and Democrat employed to denote the two great sections into which the active politicians of America were divided, up to a recent period, and they very naturally suppose that the Whigs must hold opinions of a much more aristocratic character than those entertained by their opponents. The truth is, that both parties are what we should call democratic; indeed, it is many years since the remnant of an aristocratic party disappeared from public view. Previous to the Revolution there was a territorial aristocracy in the free states of the Union, which exercised a powerful conservative influence on public opinion. But the abolition of the English law relating to the transmission of property soon produced a change. At the beginning of the present century the estates of the landed gentry began to be parcelled out, and since then they have been so thoroughly subdivided, that this class has nearly all commingled with the gene

Timid and Selfish Policy of the Wealthy Classes. 193

ral mass of the community. As for the wealthy classes, who have made their fortunes by trade, manufactures, or other methods, they take no part in the management of public affairs. Even at the time when De Tocqueville visited the United States, they had fairly given up the field to the triumphant democracy.

At the present day,' says the author of Democracy in America, 'the more affluent classes of society are so entirely removed from the direction of political affairs in the United States, that wealth, far from conferring a right to the exercise of power, is rather an obstacle than a means of attaining it. The wealthy members of the community abandon the lists, through unwillingness to contend, and frequently to contend in vain, against the poorest classes of their countrymen. They concentrate all their enjoyment in the privacy of their homes, where they occupy a rank which cannot be assumed in public; and they constitute a private society in the State, which has its tastes and its own pleasures. They submit to this state of things as an irremediable evil, but they are careful not to show that they are galled by its continuance; it is not uncommon to hear them laud the delights of a republican government, and the advantages of democratic institutions, when they are in public. Next to hating their enemies, men are most inclined to flatter them.

'Mark, for instance, that opulent citizen, who is as anxious as a Jew of the middle ages to conceal his wealth. His dress is plain, his demeanour unassuming; but the interior of his dwelling glitters with luxury, and none but a few chosen guests whom he haughtily styles his equals, are allowed to penetrate into this sanctuary. No European noble is more exclusive in his pleasures, or more jealous of the smallest advantages which his privileged station confers upon him. But the very same individual crosses the city to reach a dark counting-house in the centre of traffic, where every one may accost him who pleases. If he meets his cobbler upon the way, they stop and converse; the two citizens discuss the affairs of the State in which they have an equal interest, and they shake hands before they part. But beneath this artificial enthusiasm, and these obsequious attentions to the preponderating power, it is easy to perceive that the wealthy members of the community entertain a hearty distaste to the democratic institutions of their country. The populace is at once the object of their scorn and of their fears. If the mal-administration of the democracy ever brings about a revolutionary crisis, and if monarchical institutions ever become practicable in the United States, the truth of what I advance will become obvious.'

The class of timid capitalists whom De Tocqueville describes in this passage, is chiefly composed of the merchants and manufacturers of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and other large towns in the North. These are the men whom Theodore Parker calls the Money Power,' and to their betrayal of the cause of freedom he ascribes the recent daringly aggressive policy of the

NO. XLIX.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »