« ПредишнаНапред »
It is unnecessary (he says) to expatiate on a fact established by the experience of all history; namely, that whenever the lower orders of the community are generally corrupted in their morals, the death-warrant of their civil and religious liberties is already signed. And if such an event has uniformly taken place in the governments of the old world, where the people are not suffered to exercise any great share of political power, or enjoy any great portion of political rights and previleges, how much more certain and speedy must be the desolation in the United States, all of whose governments have their foundations laid broad and deep on the popular sovereignty, and all of whose institutions rest, ultimately, upon the basis of popular opinion? It requires no prophetic inspiration to foretel the rapid dissolution of a government, planted in the soil of universal suffrage, when once its electors have become deaf to the calls of duty, by the long continued habit of iniquity, and when the mere sale of their votes to the highest bidder may be considered as one of the least dark in the long catalogue of their accustomed crimes.'
During the thirty-five years which have elapsed since the recognition of their independence, the population of America has advanced from two and a half to nearly eight millions: a great increase; but considering the vast emigration caused by the tempestuous state of Europe and her settlements, not so rapid as that which preceded their independence. The increase of the slaves and people of colour appears to have been in a much greater proportion than that of the white population, and it is not improbable that in a few generations the negro race will exceed the whites in all except the eastern states. The number of slaves in the United States is now above two millions, and, including the free negroes, the black population of America constitutes more than one fourth part of the whole. This is weakness, not strength; for, besides deducting their own numbers, some portion of the effective power of the community must ever, in war, be employed in watching and guarding them. Mr. Bristed remarks,
Whilst the slave-holding system exists, the division of the negroes, the vigilance of the overseer, the fear of the driver's lash, and the horrible torments inflicted upon servile contumacy, may prevent the blacks from uniting and exterminating their masters. Although Mr. Randolph on the floor of Congress, declared, that even now, whenever the midnight bell tolls the alarm of fire in any of the towns or cities of Virginia, every mother clasps her infant to her bosom, in agonizing expectation that the tocsin is sounding the cry of a general negro insurrection; and warning the devoted victims of the near approach of indiscriminate pillage, rape, murder and conflagration.'-p.390.
• The free blacks, (he adds) which swarm in our northern and middle states, are generally idle, vicious, and profligate, with no sense of moral obligation. For some winters past a gang of free blacks used to amuse themselves in the city of New York, by setting fire to whole rows of houses, for the purpose of pilfering amidst the confusion and horror of
the flames. In the winter of 1816-17 a negro was hanged for this crime, and fires have been proportionally scarce ever since. A hint this, which might be rendered profitable,' (in other countries besides America) if our state legislators would strengthen the criminal code, and recommend our house-breakers, highway-robbers, and forgers to the gallows, instead of providing them with a comfortable domicile in the state prison for a season, and then letting them out to renew their depredations upon the public.'
With all this, however, Mr. Bristed pronounces that the American people possess the materials of moral greatness superior to those of any other country'! We know that wherever there are human beings, Providence has furnished materials for happiness to those who erect a tirın foundation, and use those materials with skill and judgment. Whether the Americans are likely to do so, it will be early enough to inquire when the following important objects,' which, with many others, (notwithstanding the superabundance of building natter,) their panegyrist enumerates as still wanting to perfect this paramount structure of moral greatness,' shall be erased from the list of desiderata.' 1.' To augment the power of the general government.' 2.. To tighten the cords and strengthen the stakes of the federal union.' 3. "To organise a judicious system of national finance.' 4. "To provide for the more general diffusion of religious worship.' 5. To enlarge and elevate the system of liberal education: and, 6. To increase the dimensions, and exalt the standard of their literature, art, and science. How this is to be accomplished we are not told, and we cannot comprehend. It strikes us, however, that with such a formidable catalogue of indispensable requisites'—to the supply of which (by his own admission) the selfishness, vanity, ignorance, and profligacy of the people oppose the most invincible obstacles, Mr. Bristed might, without much peril to his consistency, have adopted a more modest, tone in vaunting of the superior materials for moral greatness possessed by the Americans.'
Possessing an extensive territory, with an insufficient quantity of capital to occupy it, America must necessarily be an agricultural country until labour shall become more abundant than land; a period not likely to arrive for some centuries. The tide of population, at present, is rapidly extending itself towards the banks of the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Missouri; there it spreads over a vast surface, and finding sufficient to satisfy the animal wants, it increases the numbers, without adding much to the disposable wealth of the community, and still less to the strength of the gorernment.
In the rude state of husbandry in which the explorers of new lands are placed, little is raised, from even the most fertile soil, beyond what suffices for their immediate
demands, and that little, from the distance of other consumers, and the difficulties of access to them, becomes of small value in exchange. We may calculate how trifling the surplus produce of the labour of a family can be, when so great a portion of it is consumed in those operations which in civilized life require but little exertion. Birkbeck tells us of a farmer who was obliged to carry his corn fifty miles to a mill to be ground, and compelled to wait there some days till his turn for grinding arrived. In such a country, the mere addition of labour beyond that which is demanded in a more improved condition of society, is an expense which amounts to as much as the rent paid in more advanced districts. But these pioneers of civilization, or rather of cultivation, as they proceed farther into the wilderness, leave behind them improvements which a better class of successors take up; thus gradually peopling the deserts with inhabitants, who in process of time become equally removed from the habits and the controul of the governing power, which, fixed beyond the Alleghany mountains, at the distance of many hundred miles, can neither enforce laws, collect imposts, nor restrain crimes. *
A population thus scattered over a very extended surface may, from that circumstance, be tolerably powerful for defensive war. The scarcity of provisions, the difficulty of transport, and many other obstacles, may prevent the success of an invading army; but it is utterly incapable of making great efforts in offensive operations. We have seen this most clearly illustrated in the war recently ended. Canada was one of the great objects for beginning the contest. The United States were at its door, their troops and stores could be conveyed thither with comparatively little expense, the population from which ihe troops were to be collected vastly out-numbered the inhabitants of the country to be conquered; but after every effort, a force could not be brought to bear effectually on any of the various assailable points: and after several campaigns, the assailants, far from achieving the conquest which at the commencement they considered certain, were kept in check within their own territory by a body of militia, and a small regular army, though commanded by a general whose military talents have been more
* The post office in America is, like our own, under the direction of government; and intended to be a source of revenue ; but so little is the correspondence of that extensive country that it scarcely does more than defray the expense of collection. In the year 1816 the net revenue amounted only to 35,2751. in the year of war 1814. it netted only 7301.: in no year before that had it produced 25,0001. and on the average of ten years, only 16,4251. The population of Great Britain and Ireland is little more than double that of the United States, and yet such is the activity of correspondence, which is one of the surest indications of national wealth, that without a higher rate of postage than is paid in America, the revenue accruing froni it has amounted to fifteen hundred thousand pounds!
than questioned. Prussia, whose population does not exeeed that of the United States, leaving at home a sufficient force for domestic defence, has brought into the field an army ten times more numerous and better disciplined than all the regular troops which America could muster. Portugal, a small but compact state, with less than half the population of North America, marched through Spain into France a much greater force than the United States have ever been enabled to bring into the field, though its territory had been previously ravaged by the French army, and its coffers emptied by their exactions.
The successful manner in which America fitted out a few ships of war during the late contest, may have induced some persons to give credit to her extravagant boasts, and to suppose that she will at no remote period become a great naval power, and, perhaps, dis-, pute with us our superiority on the ocean. This topic merits some attention. The formation of a pavy must depend on the quantity of commercial shipping, in which sailors can be previously trained in the knowledge and practice of their profession. America at present has an abundant supply of sailors, but that abundance is unnatural and principally owing to causes which have now ceased to exist, and they have become burthensome rather than beneficial to the community. The extensive war, which for more than twenty years raged in Europe, and in which all the naval powers were in turn involved, raised the mercantile navy of America to a height which it would never have otherwise attained, and which it will never reach again. At a very early period of that war, the colonies of the enemies of England could neither transmit their productions to the mother country, nor receive the necessary supplies but through neutrals; and America in that character enjoyed almost the whole carrying-trade of continental Europe. The fisheries were in their hands; and in our islands they were allowed to trade to a greater extent than perhaps was politic even at that period. All this gave a wonderful impulse to the American shipping, and increased its tonnage from 700,000 tons, the amount in 1792, to 1,350,000, the amount when the war with England commenced.
The alteration of circumstances has already diminished, and will yet more diminish the mercantile navy of America. . The rate of pay in American ships in time of peace must be regulated, not by the wages of labour within the states, but by the wages which other nations pay to their sailors; if it were otherwise, the freight of goods by American ships would be much higher than by those of other countries. In a period of peace the Americans have no adyantages in the carrying-trade, since they can neither build, victual, nor navigate ships cheaper than the nations of Europe. Our northern philosophers liave recently discovered, among
other rapid advances which the United States have made, that their foreign commerce has increased, and that already their mercantile .navy is within a few thousand tons of our own;' and have grounded upon this notable discovery the prophecy,'' that in two or three years they must overtake and outstrip us.'* We have stated the tonpage of the merchant ships of America at 1,350,000 tons; but Mr. Pitkin, an acute statistical writer and a member of Congress, observes that of this amount only 1,250,000 were actually navigated, which employed about 62,000 men. This was the highest point to which the mercantile navy ever rose. Since the return of Europe to a state of peace, it has rapidly declined. The foreign tonnage has been reduced half, and the domestic, which includes the fisheries, sensibly diminished.
Whilst the mercantile pavy of America has been thus dwindling down to that natural state which its limited capital and small surplus of productions will support, that of Great Britaiu has increased with unexampled rapidity. In the year 1811, it amounted to 2,474,774 tons, and employed 162,547 men and boys to navigate it: within the seven years which have since elapsed, a great accession has taken place, and the tonnage now amounts to '2,783,940, navigated by 178,820 men. Whilst America, in the most flourishing state of her commerce, could only draw supplies for a fighting navy from 62,000 men, we have 178,000 from which to obtain the requisite recruits, without taking into our calculation the numerous maritime inhabitants who are employed in the smaller craft, which are unregistered; in the fishing boats which surround every part of our coasts; and in the boats, barges, and lighters, which conduct the commercial lading from the sea to the interior.
As the deficiency of seamen, and of the power to obtain the service of such as they have, for the navy, is an obstacle to any formidable increase of the maritime power of America, financial reasons will also be found equally to obstruct a great or rapid progress. The annual average expense of maintaining the naval force of Great Britain, during a war, may be taken at eight or ten millions sterling. To create such a force, to accumulate stores of all kinds sufficient to keep it up to its high standard, to construct arsenals, docks, and machinery, and fortifications for its defence, must far exceed any
* Edinburgh Review, No. LIX. p. 137.
+ It appears from the declaration of Mr. King, member for Massachusetts, that in January 1817 more than half the shipping which had prosecuted foreign commerce was
dismantled at the wharfs and literally rotting in the docks, and that many of their seamen were reluctantly compelled to seek employ in foreign countries. Their shipcarpenters, destitute of employ, are obliged for a living, to go into the British provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, there to cut timber, for the royal navy of England, and to build vessels to carry it to Great Britain. This is more than sufficient to encou. rage us to hope that in the next edition of the journal just mentioned, for' within a few thousand tons of our own,' we shall be directed to read within a few million."