Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

and dignified, much less tumultuous or arbitrary and more eloquent than in Europe. Continual changes of the political representatives, afford not less than ten thousand individuals spread throughout the United States, practically familiar with the forms and principles of legislation, who, through the vivid medium of a free press, constitute, as it were, an auditory greatly superior to that of any other nation. A large proportion of this great number of practical legislators, are qualified by the habits of discussion incident to such employment, and perfect freedom, to deliver their sentiments in public speaking ; which, being in greater request, of greater efficacy, and at greater liberty in America than in Europe, is naturally more prevalent and powerful here than there. It is a striking view of the ideas of legislation in Europe, that within the last thirty years, France and Spain have waged destructive wars for legislatures, consisting of single assemblies; a constitution, which, in America, would not be thought worth so much bloodshed.

• The much abused French revolution has given to that country a Legislature of two houses, and a press of considerable freedom. But the peers are lost in the secresy of their sessions; and the deputies can hardly be called a deliberative assembly. Few speak, inasmuch as most of the orations are read from a pulpit ; and still fewer listen, amidst the tumults that agitate the whole body. To crown these frustrations of eloquent debate, when it becomes intense and critical, as it must be, to do its offices, the proceedings are sometimes closed by an armed force, marched in to seize and expel an obnoxious orator. This is certainly not the philosophy of legislation.

• In Great Britain, an excessive number is crowded into an inconvenient apartment, where but few attempt to speak, and few can be brought to listen ; and where both speakers and hearers are disturbed by tumultuous shouts and unseemly noises, not, according to our ideas, consonant with either eloquent or deliberative legislation. In theory, the House of Commons contains nearly 700 members; in practice the most important laws are debated and enacted by sixty or fifty. Owing to the want of personal accommodation, when the house is crowded, its divisions to be counted are attended with great confusion. Most of the bills are drafted, not by members, but by clerks hired for that purpose; to which is owing much of the inordinate tautology and technicality of modern acts of Parliament. In theory and principle there is no audience, and in fact, bystanders are not permitted but occasionally, under inconvenient restrictions. Reports and publications of the debates are unanthorized, and of course imperfect, notwithstanding the exploits of stenography, Although Parliament is omnipotent, yet a member may not publish abroad what he says in his place, without incurring ignominious punishment as a libeller ; which punishment was

New Series, No. 17. 22

actually inflicted not long ago on a peer, proceeded against by information, for that offence. In France, the press is, in this respect, freer than in England. The publication of speeches in the Legislature is considered an inviolable right, which, among all the revo cations of the present government, has never been molested or called in question. By a perversion of the hours, unknown, I believe, in any other country or age, most of the business of Parliament is done in the dead of night, to which, probably, many of the irregularities now mentioned are ascribable. The great popular principles which have preserved the British Parliament, while every other similar attempt in Europe has failed, or nearly so, and its brilliant political performances, have recommended it to admiration, notwithstanding these disadvantages; and indeed sanctioned them as part of the system. But unprejudiced judgment must allow, that all these are imperfections which have no place in Congress. Hence it is, that there are not now, and probably never were at any one time, more than two or three members of Parliament actuated by the great impulses of oratory; and that the talent of extemporaneous and useful eloquence always has been much more common in Congress.'

Some of these views are accurate and philosophical, but whether the author's admiration of the excellent political system of his own country, does not tinge the colors of his pencil a little too deeply in portraying the defects of European legislation, our readers can judge. The number of lawyers in the United States is supposed to be more than six thousand; the author thinks that these, as well as the judges, have a greater reverence for decisions under the laws of the mother country, than is consistent with the different principles on which the two governments are founded, or with our character as an independent and self controlling people. In reference to the English law books of the day, he deplores the colonial acquiescence with which they are adopted too often without probation or fitness, and predicts, that our system of jurisprudence will not acquire the level to which it is entitled by the education, learning, and purity of those, by whose administration it is formed,' till we shall cease to prefer British adjudications to our own. In some of the states, possibly all the new states, which have been carved out of the old, a great question is in agitation whether the English common law is their inheritance. Being a scheme of traditional precepts and judicial precedents, that law requires continual adjudications, with their reasons at large to explain, replenish, and enforce it. Of these reports, as they are termed, no less than sixty four, consisting of more than two hundred volumes, and a million of pages, have already been uttered in the United States; most of them in the present century, and in a ratio of great increase. The camel's load of cases, which is said to have been necessary to gain a point of law in the decline of the Roman Empire, is therefore already insufficient for that purpose in the American.' Speaking of the improvements in the jurisprudence of the United States, the author says,

Jury trial, the great safeguard of personal security, is nearly universal, and ought to be quite so, for its invaluable political influences. It not only does justice between the litigant parties, but elevates the understanding and enlightens the rectitude of all the community. Sanguinary and corporal punishments are yielding to the interesting experiment of penitential confinement. Judicial official tenure is mostly independent of legislative interposition, and completely of executive influence. The jurisdiction of the courts is far more extensive and elevated than that of the mother country. They exercise, among other high political functions, the original and remarkable power of invalidating statutes, by declaring them unconstitutional; an ascendancy over politics never before or elsewhere asserted by jurisprudence, which authorizes the weakest branch of a popular government to annul the measures of the strongest. If popular indignation sometimes assails this authority, it has seldom if ever been able to crush those who have honestly exercised it; and even if it should, though an individual victim might be immolated, his very martyrdom would corroborate the system for which he suffered. Justice is openly, fairly, and purely administered, freed from the absurd costumes and ceremonies which disfigure it in England. Judicial appointment is less influenced by politics ; and judicial proceedings more independent of political considerations.

We would gladly follow Mr Ingersoll through his review of medical science in this country, and the comparative state of the different religious denominations, but our limits forbid. A few of the facts, which his industry has brought together, must suffice.

* There are about ten thousand physicians in the United States, and medical colleges for their education in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. There are also two medical universities in the state of New York, one in Pennsylvania, one in Maryland, one in Massachusetts, and one in Kentucky; containing altogether about twelve hundred students.? • The doctrine of non-contgion in pestilential distempers, should it be established, must also enjoy great credit as a triumph for humanity. The most distressing prejudices concerning contagion, are not yet extirpated in Europe. I am not authorized to consider a disbelief in this shocking aggravation of any malady, as a point in which the medical profession of America is quite unanimous with respect to yellow fever; but a foreign physician, who lately collected their opinions, ascertained the ratio of non-contagionists to be 567 to 28 contagionists. A late French ambassador in this country, who was bred a physician, has publicly claimed the merit of the discovery of non-contagion for another French physician, who was in practice in this city in 1793, and is now in the service of the king of France. But in a treatise on the yellow fever by Dr Hillary, published sixty years ago, its contagion is explicitly denied by the unqualified declaration, that "it has nothing of a pestilential or contagious nature in it.” That this is not the sentiment prevalent in France, would seem to be inferrible from recent events. A French army was stationed at the foot of the Pyrennees, as a sanitory cordon, to prevent the passage of contagion over those lofty, and frost crowned mountains. Whatever may be the theories or reveries of a few, therefore, it is a remarkable proof of the actual state of the public intelligence on this subject, not only in France, but throughout Europe, that all inquiries concerning the cause of this apparently warlike demonstration were silenced, by assurances that its design was to repel contagious disease; under which assertion the wisdom of Europe rested, till the plans thus masked were ripe for execution.'

Mr Ingersoll enlarges on the condition and prospects of what he calls the American church, in a manner which manifests equally his tolerant spirit, and practical estimate of the influence of laws on religion.

"Segregation from political connexion, and toleration, are the cardinal principles of the American church. On the continent of Europe, toleration means, where it is said to exist, catholic supremacy suffering subordinate protestantism. In the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, it means a protestant hierarchy, abetted by dissenters, excluding catholics from political privileges, and subjecting them to double ecclesiastical impositions. France, Italy, Ireland, and Spain, have been desolated by contests between church and state. Toleration has won at least part of these bloody fields. But a segregated church does not appear to have made any advance in Europe. In the United States, both of these principles are not only fundamental political laws, but ancient, deep seated doctrines, whose bases were laid long before political sovereignty was thought of, when Williams, Penn, and Baltimore, by a remarkable coincidence, implanted them in every quarter, and in every creed. American toleration means the absolute independence and equality of all religious denominations. American segregation means, that no human authority can in any case whatever control or interfere with the rights of conscience. Adequate trial of these great problems, not less momentous than that of political selfgovernment, has proved their benign solution. Bigotry, intolerance, blood thirsty polemics waste themselves in harmless, if not useful controversy, when government takes no part. We enjoy a religious calm and harmony, not only unknown, but inconceivable in Europe. We are continually receiving accessions of their intolerance, which is as constantly disarmed by being let alone. Our schools, families, legislatures, society find no embarrassment from varieties of creed, which in Europe would kindle the deadliest discord.'

* There are upwards of seven hundred congregational churches in the New England states alone, and nearly that number of clergymen of that denomination, including pastors, unsettled ministers, and licensed preachers.'

• The Presbyterian church in the United States, in addition to the congregational, contains about nine hundred ministers, one hundred and thirty five licentiates, one hundred and forty seven candidates, more than fourteen hundred churches, and last year administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to a hundred thousand communicants. It has theological seminaries in the states of New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee.'

· The Methodist church of America contains three diocesses, eleven hundred itinerant clergy, exclusively clerical, and about three thousand stationary ministers, who attend also to other than ecclesiastical occupations. They reckon twelve conferences, and more than twenty five hundred places of worship. By the report to the Baptist convention, which sat in June last, at Washington, the places of worship of that persuasion are stated at more than two thousand three hundred; and they reckon a very large number of ministers. There are three theological seminaries of the Baptist church, one in New England, one in the interior of the state of New York, and one at the city of Washington.

• The Universalists have one hundred and twenty preachers, two hundred separate societies, and eight periodical publications. The Lutheran, the Dutch Reformed, and Associate Reformed, the Moravians, the Friends, in short, almost an innumerable roll of creeds, have their several seminaries of education, their many places of worship, numerous clergy or preachers, and every other attribute of secular, as well as spiritual, religion in prosperity.'

• The Church of England in the United States has expanded to ten bishoprics, with three hundred and fifty clergymen, about seven

« PredošláPokračovať »