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in which the laws need to be altered. These we cannot now discuss; but it will suffice to say in relation to them, that there are cases in which the safety of the community ought to be regarded, irrespective to some extent of the degree of responsibility and guilt of the prisoner.
There is still another object that we have had in view in noticing this trial. We wish to call the attention of our readers to the marked influence of irreligion and immorality in producing insanity. If insanity exists in the mind of Clark it is the result, for the most part, of these causes. And therefore in a world of retribution, according to the immutable principles of justice, he will be held responsible for the consequences of his insanity. There may be, it is true, mitigating circumstances, which will be allowed to lessen the full penalty; but they cannot wholly remove it.
It is well to note the circumstances under which the causes just alluded to are apt to produce insanity. They are not apt to do so when they appear in the unintellectual. The besotted, uneducated votaries of vice are not particularly liable to insanity. Mental activity is commonly a necessary element in the production of this result. It is in those therefore that are elevated intellectually by some degree of education that irreligion and vice are apt to cause insanity. A sentimental immorality, as we may term it, such as is consistent with and is often produced by the reading of the unnatural and immoral fictions so abundant at the present time, has a much greater influence than is commonly supposed in unsettling the mind, and therefore in causing mental disease. And in conjunction with this influence often comes in another agency, a disposition to doubt the plain truths of religion-an agency, which, by withdrawing the mind from all rational and stable views in regard to the mysteries around and within us, sets it afloat without chart or compass, only to make shipwreck, we know not where, it may be in insanity.
Whether we regard Clark as committing a sane or an insane act in killing Wight, both of the causes to which we have just alluded were the chief agencies that led to the deed, acting more directly if he was sane, but not the less effectually if he was insane. Once he was the quiet and obedient pupil, with one of his counsel, Mr. Harrison, and the assistant of the attorney for the state, Mr. Keese, as schoolmates. Why is it that, while they occupy stations of honor and usefulness, he is now in prison for this homicide? However much may be made out of the testimony adduced to show that there was in Clark an hereditary taint of insanity, we must look to his vicious habits of thought and feeling and action, and his infidel
and gross materialism, as the agencies without which he would never have committed this deed. When he was a very young man he left the employment of the venerable Dr. Croswell, who thought much of him, to enter upon an agency for some publisher of trashy and vile publications. He became an inveterate devourer of novels, soon a skeptic, then an avowed infidel and materialist, and, as the developments of the trial show, a thoroughly vicious man. The downward tendency was constant, and the final sad result should be held up as a warning in regard to those agencies, so extensively at work at this time, corrupting the morals and unsettling the minds of the unwary, the results of which, if not distinctly seen, as in the case before us, in this world, will be most fully developed in another.
safeguards against the free application of the popular will to the control of the government.
It has been well said, that all real life is a continued struggle against antagonist tendencies to decay and death. And it is as philosophical as it is lamentable, that Democracy, as the vital izing element of political freedom, confirms in its experience the universality of the dogma. In all ages it has gained nothing but by its own energy, and has preserved itself only by incessant vigilance and unshaken determination. American Democracy, as the truest and most consistent development of this form of political institutions, has hitherto gained nothing by the voluntary concessions of its opposers, but has owed everything, ander the benignant favor of an overruling Providence, to its possession of a power which could not be resisted any longer.
It is a subject of just congratulation to our country and to posterity, that so true a devotee of Democratic principles as Colonel Benton, one who has shared so largely in their vindication, and witnessed so gladly the results of their application, has been spared to fulfill in part, the most worthy design of recording, for the benefit of other generations, the thoughts and experiences of his long and honorable political life. Others of our statesmen have written and published books, often eloquent and learned and popular books, on political subjects; but these have generally been of the class of men who fear and distrust Democracy, and who have borne the double disappointment, first of failing to secure the adoption of their favorite measures, and then of witnessing the wonderful advancement of the country in prosperity and glory in the face of their gloomy predictions. How little of true or careful wisdom can the young patriot, or the student of political science, gain from the perusal of such writings as those. Senator Benton is able to fill his book with the record of a succession of double triumphs, that his great measures have been approved by the people, and that the country has held on in a career of unprecedented prosperity under their operation. Were we instituting a comparison between the writings of two classes of practitioners in medicine, instead of practitioners in politics, there could be no doubt as to which would furnish the most useful studies—those who had been successful, or those whose methods had always failed. Nor could any elegance of style, or profoundness of speculation, or abundant display of learning, give authority to writings that had never wrought conviction, or methods that had never cured disease. Nor do men habitually resort to the lawyer who always loses his case, or the shipowner who never made a successful voyage. These considerations are sufficient to commend Colonel Benton's book to the profound attention of all who wish to understand the real working of the American government, and the true sources of our domestic tranquillity, and of our unparalleled advancement in all that contributes to national greatness.
The public life of Mr. Benton commenced with the admission of the state of Missouri to the Union, when he was chosen the first senator of the infant state, and was continued in the same office, by continued reëlections, for the full period of thirty years. It is difficult to say which is the most strange, that a man so stiff and uncompromising should have retained the constant support of his constituents so long, or that he should lose it after so protracted and cordial a continuance. In promising a “History of the Working of the American Government" during those “ Thirty Years," he has made his title-page more comprehensive than his design, which seems to have been, not so much an actual “history," but rather a contribution towards the history of his times, by presenting the course of events chiefly as they stood related to himself and to General Jackson's administration. He very properly introduces the work with a succinct “ Preliminary View" of the war of 1812, and the political condition of things which followed it during the intervening period, 1815–20. He holds that the war achieved in effect its avowed and leading object, the immunity of our seamen from impressment, in fact though not in form; so that “henceforth, we hold exemption from impressment, as we hold our independence, by right and by might, and now want the treaty acknowledgment of no nation on either point." The great political questions which sprung up after the war, related to the national bank, protection of American industry, internal improvements by the federal government within the states, the boundaries of the treaty-making power, the right of secession of a state from the Union, the benefit of a public debt, and SLAVERY. The financial condition of the country at the opening of this history was that of general distress. Col. Benton's description is graphic and impressive in the highest degree, and should be quoted here :
The Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816; and before 1820, had performed one of its cycles of delusive and bubble prosperity, followed by actual and wide-spread calamity. The whole paper system, of which it was the head and the citadel, after a vast expansion, bad suddenly collapsed, spreading desolation over the land, and carrying ruin to debtors. The years 1819 and '20 were a period of gloom and agony. No money, either gold or silver: No paper convertible into specie : No measure or standard of value left remaining. The local banks, (all but those of New England,) after a brief resumption of specie payments, again sank into a state of suspension. The Bank of the United States, created as a remedy for all these evils, now at the head of the evil, prostrate and helpless, with no power left but that of sueing its debtors
and selling their property, and purchasing for itself at its own nominal price. No price for property or produce. No sales but those of the sheriff and the marshal. No purchaser at execution sales, but the creditor or some hoarder of money. No employment for industry, no demand for labor, no sale for the product of the farmer, no sound of the hammer, but that of the auctioneer knocking down property. Stop laws, property laws, replevin laws, stay laws, loan-office laws, the intervention of the legislature between the creditor and the debtor: this was the business of legislation in three-fourths of the states of the Union-of all, south and west of New England. No medium of exchange but depreciated paper: no change even, but little bits of foul paper, marked so many cents, and signed by some tradesman, barber or innkeeper: exchanges deranged to the extent of fifty or one hundred per cent. DISTRESS, the universal cry of the people: RELIEF, the universal demand, thundered at the doors of all legislatures, state and federal. It was at the moment when this distress had reached its maximum, 1820-21, and had come with its accumulated force, upon the machine of the federal government, that this VIEW of its working begins. It is a doleful starting point, and may furnish great matter for contrast or comparison, at its concluding period in 1850. pp. 5, 6.
It is not inappropriate to this extract to place along side of it another passage, in which he briefly describes the condition of things at the close of General Jackson's administration, the period he has chosen for the termination or his first volume. It is in his reply to some of the misapprehensions of M. de Tocqueville, put forth in his truly able work, Democracy in America. Mr. Benton says of General Jackson :
He found the country in domestic distress, pecuniary distress, and the national and state legislation invoked by leading politicians, to relieve it by empirical remedies; tariffs to relieve one part of the community by taxing the other; internal improvements to distribute public money; a national bank to cure the paper money evils of which it was the author; the public lands the pillage of broken bank paper, depreciated currency and ruined exchanges; a million and a half of unavailable funds in the treasury; a large public debt; the public money the prey of the banks ; no gold in the country, only twenty millions of dollars in silver, and that in banks which refused, when they pleased, to pay it down in redemption of their own notes, or even to render back to depositors. Stay laws, stop laws, replevin laws, baseless paper the resource in half the states to save the debtor from his creditor; and national bankrupt laws from Congress, and local insolvent laws in the states, the demand of every session. Indian tribes occupying a half or a quarter of the area of the Southern states; and unsettled questions of wrong and insult with half the powers of Europe.
Such was the state of the country when General Jackson became Presi. dent; what was it when he left the presidency! Protection tariffs and federal internal improvement discarded; the national bank left to expire upon its own limitation, the public lands redeemed from the pillage of broken bank paper, no more unavailable funds, and abundant gold and silver currency, the public debt paid off, the treasury made independent of banks, the Indian tribes removed from the states, indemnities obtained from all foreign powers for all past aggressions and for new ones committed, several treaties obtained from great powers that never would treat with us before, peace, friendship and commerce with all the world, and the measures established which, after one great conflict with the expiring Bank of the United States, and all her affiliated banks in 1837, put an end to bank dominion in the United States, and all its train of contractions and expansions, panic and suspension, distress and empirical relief.' pp. 112, 113.