Letter from Marcellus to Daniel Webster

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Printed pamphlet of an anonymous letter as written to Daniel Webster.

This is a scanned version of the original document in the Abernethy Collection at Middlebury College.

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opinion that a sure remedy and the only remedy for the evil is to be found in a republican form of government.

Both these opinions, carried to the extent, are incorrect. The governments in the civilized parts of Europe, with kings at the head of them, are not tyrannies. So far from it, that the citizens in those countries consider themselves as free as they wish to be, and perfectly well protected in their rights. I leave out of this representation the oppression which the people of England suffer from old establishments and monopolies, which had their origin in ages of ignorance; for these are, in many cases, extremely oppressive. But to the form of the government, to royalty, and to the general administration of the laws, the people have no objection. On the other hand, they are strongly attached to them, and would by no means exchange the form of the government for any other.

Equally incorrect is the opinion, that a republican government is of course a free government, or one that of course will secure to the citizens all their just rights. So far is this from being true, that democracies and republics may be, and have often been, as tyrannical as monarchies.

The principle that our statesmen have universally adopted and proclaimed that the people in a state or community are the only legitimate source of power, is just; all government ought to have its origin in the will of those who are to be governed. But in the application of this principle, our theorists and statesmen have overlooked, or not sufficiently regarded one important fact, that in framing a constitution, it is as necessary to guard against the tyranny of the people as it is to guard against the tyranny of kings and nobles.

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How could those distinguished men overlook the fact, that all men are made with like passions; that men of all classes, whether kings, nobles, priests, or working men, have the same love of power and property, the same ambition, the same selfishness, the same jealousies; in short, the same disposition to rise above their fellows, by advancement in wealth and power, and the same depravity or want of good principles to control their passions? All history testifies that the people, when they possess uncontrolled power, often use that power as tyrannically as kings and nobles. Their tyranny, if not as steady, is usually more violent and inexorable than that of kings, as their passions are under less restraint from honour, education, or responsibility, and exasperated or stimulated by numbers.

From an inattention to this truth, that all men would be kings if they could, and tyrants if they durst, our patriotic fathers, while they have fortified the constitution against the introduction of kings and nobles, have not sufficiently guarded it against an abuse of power by the people. Hence the frequent outbreakings of popular tyranny; the people, or portions of them, rising in multitudes, above all law, and violating the rights of property, and personal safety.

In connection with this subject, we may advert to a remarkable example of the influence of names or words, on the mass of people who have not discriminating or just views of men, and of the nature and tendency of political measures. The use of the word republican has, by its own magic, revolutionized public sentiment in this country. So popular is a republican government in this country, that the man who aims at office, or the printer who aims at ex-

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tensive patronage, takes the name of a republican, as a sure passport to his object. This practice proceeds in general from honest views; but in the demagogue, it is often assumed to cover the most dangerous designs. The name, however, has its effect, and an artful popular man may, with this passport, travel to a throne, before the mass of a nation discover his views. Among a people jealous of power, the only way by which an ambitious man can gain superior and unequal power, is to make the people believe him to be the friend of equal rights and equal power.

It is admitted, on all hands, that the senate in the American constitutions, was designed not only to give to legislative proceedings a more full discussion of important questions, but to check and control any violent, rash and precipitate measures of the more numerous branch of the legislature. This purpose it has often accomplished. But there appears to be a defect in the mode of constituting this body, which may frustrate the design. This defect is in the election of senators by the same constituents as the representatives of the other branch. Now, the way to render the senate an inefficient check upon the house of representatives, is to bring the body of constituents to have the same views of public men and measures, and they will elect men of similar views to both houses. In this case, there is no check of one house upon the other. In many cases of legislation, this would be no evil. But in times of party violence, the want of this check, or the loss of the proper balance in the constitution may endanger the very existence of the government; or when this consequence does not follow, it may derange the operations of the government, by giving to the executive an improper exercise of power, and utterly defeating the purposes of impeachment.

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The most obvious method of preserving a proper balance in the constitution, and creating an effectual check of one branch upon the other, is, to place the election of the two branches in different hands. In this country, where there are no distinct orders or ranks of men, and none can be admitted, this constitution of the two houses by different electors, may be the only mode of securing the separate independent action of the two branches.

The people of the United States do not consist of two distinct orders of men, nobles and commonalty, as is the case in England. But the distinction of rich and poor does exist, and must always exist; no human power or device can prevent it. This distinction produces jealousies, different interests and rivalship, which, if not effectually controlled by the government, may agitate the state or even overthrow it. Both classes of citizens are to be protected in their rights, and each class must have power to defend its own rights against the invasions of the other. The poorer class must be as effectually secured against the power of the rich, as the rich are against the turbulence of the populace. How this object is to be effected in this country, where there is no distinction of rank, is a problem not easily solved. But it must be solved ; the two classes must be equally secured in their rights, and each have a complete check upon every attempt of the other to invade its rights ; or there can be neither harmony nor durable tranquillity in the state.

This great object of making each class of men so independent of the other in government, as to allay jealousy

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accomplished by constitutional provisions. It must not be left for each party to seek its share of power and influence by intrigue, corruption, or the influence of the press. This mode will excite perpetual feuds, engender evil passions, and incessantly agitate the public mind. The mode of preventing all such strife and agitation, must be by definite constitutional provisions.

To effect this object, the most simple process would be to separate the electors into two classes, the qualifications of one of which shall be superior age, and the possession of a certain amount of property ; while the other class of votes shall comprehend those who have not the same qualifications. These two classes may be independent of each other in elections, and their representatives compose different houses, each with a negative upon the acts of the other.

Some provision of this kind will probably be found indispensable to the due protection of the rights of the different classes of citizens ; and universal suffrage, without some such provision, will destroy that equality of rights which our constitution was intended to maintain.

To understand the operation of universal suffrage, we must consider that there are two kinds of rights to be secured by government--the rights of person and the rights of property. The rights of person are equal, in all classes of men. The protection of the person of the poor man is of as high a nature, and of as much importance in a code of

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