« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
gage the respect of mankind? The habits of the world are not too strong to be controverted and corrected. But there is another point on which I intended especially to insist. There is one habit of the world, signalizing more than any other the present age, which, if it continues to gain strength, is almost certain to effect, sooner or later, the abolition of war; and that is the habit, which the people of all civilized countries are now acquiring, of looking soberly and steadfastly to their own real interests. Let them look at these, and resolutely pursue them, and they must, ere long, banish the horrible custom which, every century, costs the lives of millions, and brings distress and anguish upon millions
War may be the interest of ambitious rulers, but it never can be the interest of the body of the people.
In connexion with this point, let it be distinctly considered, that public opinion is becoming the grand and paramount law of nations. It has always had great force. It has had great force even in the most despotic states. But what distinguishes the present crisis is, that public opinion is becoming the absolute and universal law. The aim of all liberal minds, everywhere, is to make government the very expression of an enlightened public opinion. So it ought to be. They ought to be represented by a government; their feelings and wishes ought to be respected, whose interests, whose life, and property, and happiness, are entrusted to that government to be benefited or injured by it. They ought to judge, their opinion ought to prevail, who are themselves the parties interested. But, now, what is public opinion? Not the opinion of rulers, not the opinion of military men, nor the opinion of a few whose interest it might be, or rather who might think it their interest, to plunge a nation into war; but it is the collected opinion of the whole mass of a people ; it is an opinion to which both sexes contribute an influence, which springs from all the relations and endearments of society; it is an opinion, whose dwelling is the happy home, whose altar is the domestic hearth-stone. And is it possible, when this public opinion arrives at its proper ascendancy, that nations shall wish to lay open their peaceful villages and their happy homes to the invasion of fire and sword, and all the horrors of war? Is it possible, that they will choose to suffer all this to gratify an insane, unnatural, and merciless ambition, which builds itself up upon their destruction; whose monuments are heaps of the slain ; whose tower of pride is built of human bones, and cemented with the blood of brethren and the tears of widows and orphans; whose shrine of glory, like that of Moloch, for ever demands human—none but human victims? Can men, when once they begin to think, bear all this, and above all, can they bear it, when they see that it answers no useful purpose; when they find that negociation is just as necessary after the conflict as it was before ; when they find that nothing is gained for abstract justice, and everything is lost to social life, to vital prosperity, to domestic happiness. Look at two nations dwelling in amity with each other; each land filled with cities and temples, with smiling villages and peaceful dwellings, the homes of centuries. Behold the thousand paths of industry and enjoyment, whether upon the hill-side or upon the gliding river's bosom, thronged with the prosperous and happy. Hear the song of the reaper in the harvest-field, answering joyously to the call of the herdsman in the pasture; and if a sigh ariseth by the way-side, mark the ready ear of the kind and gentle to listen to
it. Survey, in short, the lot—and be it that it is the mingled lot—of life, joyous or sad, but ever dear and holy. Trace, in fine, the invisible boud of sympathy that binds home to home and heart to heart, and gaze upon the broad land and its many shores, where the light of peaco falls upon every field, and every wave, to hallow it, as it were, with the serenest and the sweetest smile of heaven. Now, I ask, if, for a controversy about a tract of land, or a contested right in a fishery, or an affront offered to an ambassador, the people of these countries—not their rulers as independent of them—but if the people, expressing their will through governments of their own choice, can be disposed to enter into war; to drive the ploughshare of ruin through all these peaceful and happy scenes ; to turn the joyous songs of ten thousand dwellings into sigling and wailing; to plant the bloody step on every green turf, and to thrust the violating hand into the retreats of every domestic sanctuary—it cannot be—men cannot be for ever so insane, as to treat their dearest interests in this manner. At any rate, if the tendencies of public sentiment, at this day, hold out any warrant, if the hopes of philanthropy and piety are not mere illusions, if the ways of God's providence are not darkened with a cloud that is never to clear up, the time must come, the time will come, when wars will cease.
As certainly as popular governments are to rise in the world, wars are to decline. And they are to rise: I say not in what form, but in some form by which they shall express the will of the people. If there ever was a tendency in human affairs, the tendency of all opinion, of all moral action, of all instruments and agencies in the world, is to this result: and when it is obtained, it may be relied on for the establishment of some new and more rational mode of settling national controversies. I say not what it may be in form ; it may be by arbitration, by resorting to umpires, or by creating a court of nations, but whatever be the mode, I look to an intelligent and moral public opinion for the fulfilment of that great prophecy, that men “shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.”
ON POLITICAL MORALITY.
PROVERBS xiv. 34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to
There is a branch of morality, seldom discussed in the pulpit, too seldom discussed out of it, which I shall propose for your consideration this evening: it is political morality. It will not be thought, I trust, that any apology is due from the pulpit for taking up this subject. If the duty which one man owes to another, then the duty which each man owes to a whole country, is worthy of the most religious consideration: and the more so, because it is not only an important but a neglected subject.
Indeed, one is tempted to ask—scarcely with irony—is there any such subject, any such thing, as political morality? There is a law of nations, binding them to perform certain duties to each other; there is a law of the land, binding upon the citizens of each particular nation; there is a law of morality, penetrating deeper into the life and heart than judicial law can go. But is there anything of this, or anything like this, applicable to politics? On the contrary, are not political relations entirely severed from the obligations of conscience? Into almost every part of a man's life conscience may look, ay, and with an eye of authority; but with the part which he acts as a politician, is it not true, that conscience has no business whatever?" As a man, he is bound to be a good man; and in that character he is amenable to the judgment of God. As a man, he is bound to be honest, candid, highminded, and true; but would it not be quite preposterous to demand this of him, as a president, a governor, a diplomatist, a party-man, an opposition-man? 'In a party conclave, you can easily conceive that questions may be discussed on grounds of policy; but would it not be quite surprising, if not ridiculous, for a man to get up and say, " Is this right? is it conscientious ? is it a high-minded course?” Would not the look of silent astonishment, in such a conclave, say, as plainly as anything can say, " that is another question”? “Speak not evil one of another,” is a holy precept; but can it be that it has any relation to newspapers ? Especially in a warm party contest, as in a battle, are not all laws of mutual forbearance and kindness abrogated; and is not the only consideration then, how to strike down an adversary? May not a man do things and avow principles then, which would disgrace him in the ordinary walks of life? May he not violate the law, by bringing minors and non-residents to vote? May he not give and take bribes? Nay, may he not lift his hand to heaven, and perjure himself in such a cause? In fine, will not the end sanctify the means? It is a very bad principle everywhere else; but will it not do in politics?
The great modern master of dramatic representation shows his nice observation of human nature, wlien, in a case of false swearing, he makes a man say, "I will swear to anything: all is fair when it comes to an oath ad litem.” That technical and, to him, unmeaning phrase, is probably introduced by the writer as serving the purpose of a salvo to his conscience; as helping to blind him to the iniquity of the trans.. action. And so it is with the technical word, politics. And men say, or act as if they said, “ all is fair when it comes to politics.” Even in case of the oath, wherewith a man perjures himself at the ballot; what is it that he says to himself, or that the partisan tempter says to him? “Oh! it is nothing but an electioneering oath." In other words, all is fair when it comes to politics.
A part of the reason here involved, doubtless, that is to say, a part of the reason why politics possess this morally loose character, lies in the vagueness of the term. The words, trade, bargain; or the words, charity, philanthropy, have a definite meaning affixed to them. But men cannot so readily tell what they mean by the word, politics; and to this subject, therefore, it is less easy to apply the principle of morality.
Another reason, having a similar tendency to blind the mind to the necessary moral discriminations in politics, is to be found in the unusual modes and forms devised for the expression of public opinion. If a man is false to his thought, when he professes to convey his thought in conversation, he at once feels that he is dishonest; he sees at once the contradiction between what he says and what he thinks. But when he gives his vote at the ballot-box, or causes it to be recorded in a legislative assembly, it is comparatively an artificial act, and he does not so clearly perceive its character and relations. He does, indeed, in that act, profess to declare an opinion—he does profess to declare his mind—but what is it, in form, to him? It is a vote, not an averment; it is saying, "yea,” or “nay,” not saying, “I believe,” I do not believe.”
There is another consideration to be stated, of the same general and dangerous tendency. The action of men in masses always lessens the sense of individual responsibility. Thus a mob will do things which no individual of that mob would ever think of doing alone: and this, not because he could not do it alone; for any man can break windows, or shoot down his adversary in the streets; the truth is, the man loses in the crowd the sense of personal responsibility; and so it is with political combinations. A private man, a merchant, or a lawyer, would feel degraded if he should offer a bribe to induce his neighbour to express a favourable opinion of him personally, or if he should threaten him with a loss of business for failing to do so; but he will resort to either of these methods for procuring the same expression of opinion towards some public man—some politician, or party man.
I have thus been led briefly to state some of the causes of that separation of morality from politics, which obtains to a fearful extent in the public mind. No more than a bare statement of them is necessary to show that they lack all proper grounds of justification for the result which they have produced. The way is open, therefore, for an attempt to settle some principles in the science of political morality.
Political morality may be considered in relation, first, to particular actions which it enjoins or forbids; and, secondly, to the general principles which it sanctions or disclaims.
Under the first head is to be ranked, the duty of giving a vote at the elections. I hold, that it is the duty of every legally qualified person in the country to vote. And let it not be thought, that this point is in any way well settled in the public mind. Expedient it may have been thought, in some party emergency, that every citizen should vote; and at such a crisis, that expediency may have been much talked of; but all this is a very different thing from a sense of duty, which pervades all times. The emergency passes, and this shallow feeling of expediency passes away with it. It is the bond of duty to which I appeal.
There are reasons for it, founded in the very nature and meaning of the action. Suffrage is the very basis of our government. The government in this country is committed to the whole people; every man has a share in it; every man exerts an influence upon it, either by his action or by his neglect. Can this be a case, then, in which a man is allowed to stand neutral ?
In theory, the government here represents the whole people. The practice should conform to that theory. To every man among us, a certain political trust is committed. Every man should acquit himself of that trust. If the administration of our affairs is corrupt or incompetent, the people are to blame—the whole people: the blame is to be shared among them all; but especially does it attach to those who say that the government is bad, and will do nothing to make it better. “Why stand ye idle all the day?” may it well be said to such. Why stand ye idle all the election-day? When, on such a day, ye see the thousand and the million contributions that are made to swell the mighty stream of public opinion and government, why stand ye idly gazing upon it, as if it did not concern you? As well might ye stand idly gazing upon the streams collecting in the hills above your dwelling, which at any moment may come down, and sweep its foundations from
If it be said that that is unlikely to happen, then let me say in turn, and to keep the figure for a moment, that those streams will come down, either to fertilize or to waste the land; and they shall be the power, either good or bad, to grind the very corn that feeds your families and your neighbourhoods. If government does not make the corn grow, yet it touches everything that affects its value_labour, price, manufacture—yes, it touches the very staff of life; and that by many means, by many statutes, besides corn-laws.” Government, then, is something that comes near to us. We greatly err, if we suppose, as many seem to do, that it is something factitious and far off. It comes near to us—to our warehouses and our fire-sides, to our granaries and our kneading-troughs. Revenues and tariffs, bankinglaws and the monetary system—these terms may sound like a strange speech to the mass of the people; but they represent, and they vitally affect, their daily and home-bred interests.
And these interests, I say again, are committed to the whole people. They are directly affected by legislation certainly; and legislation comes from the whole people. It is not with us as if our rulers were hereditary. Then we might fold our arms, and say, “it is none of our concern. And why? Because in that case, we should not be the governors; but now we are the governors of the country. And if any portion of us—if, for instance, a tenth part of our population, refuse to