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rights; but they would have possessed no constitutional means of effecting their wishes. Clearly then, in surren. dering to their representatives al power, the people have reserved to themselves too little. But what powers soever the people may choose to reclaim, the Convention in its wisdom must decide ; but should they desire no more than to be consulted whether they will forego public improve. ment or be taxed to procure them, the reservation is only what each man expects when his wife wants to benefit him by painting his house, or his neighbors want to benefit his children by a tax to increase the district library. The cases seem different, because in our domestic expenditures we are accustomed to a liberty of choice, and therefore prize it, while in our State expenditures we have never enjoyed a voice, and therefore feel not its value; we may even reject it when offered, as a bird enured to his cage will refuse to fly when the door is accidentally (as in our case) opened for the recovery of his lost freedom.*
ARISTOCRACY AND NATIVISM. An impression has pervaded society in all ages, that the rich require some guarantees against the encroachments of the poor, who are assumed to possess an appetite for property in proportion to their lack of it, and with an instinct like that of ravening wolves, needing legal chains, bars, and bolts to restrain them from seizing by violence what is denied them by fortune. The Constitution and laws of every people bear sad evidence of this belief; and to it, rather than to any absence of humanity, we may attribute the property qualifications, which even our Constitution (so
• The restriction was in the new Constitution.
slow is the progress of liberal principles) yet requires in senators and governors, but which at our next election we shall be permitted to expunge forever. Providence has not, however, performed its task so lamely in the structure of man as to render oppression a necessary bond of society ; on the contrary, the exercise of benevolence is made not merely our duty, but our interest—the poor being endued with a humility (springing spontaneously from their necessities) that requires to be counteracted by incitements rather than increased by legal depression, would we call into full activity, for the general benefit, all the powers the poor possess. Such is the invariable course of Providence. Where the wind cannot be attempered to the shorn lamb, (as it cannot be in the case of the poor,) the lamb is attempered to the wind; or, as the proverb expresses the same idea, every back is shaped to bear its own burden. So well known is the humility of the poor, that to treat them with ordinary courtesy is stigmatized as courting them; and so often is such conduct practised for sinister purposes, that we can hardly avoid viewing it suspiciously, as the ladder by which ambition is seeking to mount into power.
Notwithstanding this rooted impression, that property needs special protection, history furnishes no instance of an organized attempt by the poor to oppress the rich; and when we require an example thereof we usually resort to fiction, and adduce the Jack Cade of Shakspeare. The anti-rentism which, unfortunately, is afflicting a portion of our State, may be thought an example of the aggressive spirit in question; but so habitual with us is respect for law, even when it chances to be oppressive, that we may well suspect some great provocation as the origin of antirent combinations. The highest authority proclaims that the tree shall be known by its fruit; bad indeed, therefore,
must be the tenure that in our country yields such fruit. But while we have no concern with this question, are we sure in our indignation against the ungentlemanly mode of cheating practised by anti-renters, that their hard-fisted resistance of exactions, however exorbitant, (and against which, for themselves and their posterity for ever, they are led to expect neither judicial nor legislative redress,) involves so total a moral depravity as to prove that the poor cannot be trusted with an equality of privileges ? The character of actions must be sought in the motive; and, thus estimated, are not men who are without legal redress against oppression some little excusable for attempting illegal redress?
If we examine other causes of alleged encroachments by the poor upon the rich, we shall find usually that they are only attempts made peaceably to reduce legal inequalities. The time is, however, arrived with us when we may reasonably hope to see inscribed in full on our new Constitution, that property shall possess no special privileges, and the want of it shall constitute no disqualification for any public office of honor or emolument, of trust or confidence. Then will be abolished the more than absurd (for it is useless, and therefore wicked) stigma on the poor, which is found in our present jury system. To be either a grand or petit juror, the law requires that a man must possess “a fair character, sound judgment, be well informed, and of approved integrity.” If these qualities should be found associated with poverty, one might reasonably hope that even policy would teach us to reward the conjunction, to look approvingly on the tree that yields good fruit, despite its bleak exposure. But not thus argue our laws; for though -jurymen are not drawn casually from the mass of our citi. zens, but are selected, for their intellectual and moral
fitness, out of the inhabitants of every town, by its clerk, supervisor, and assessors; or out of the body of the whole county, by the supervisors thereof-all persons not possessing a given amount of property are excluded from the honor (such it is, though burthensome) of performing jury functions; and what is worse, the poor, who, as a class, need instruction more than any other, are thus excluded from obtaining, by the easy access of the ear, the legal knowledge, whose obtainment is inseparable from the performance of jury duties, and one of the chief advantages of the institution.
Our conduct towards the poor, in withholding from them honorary trusts, contrasts disadvantageously with our conduct toward them in imposing burdens. Our Bill of Rights guards the rich man's possessions by an interdict against taking his property for public uses without due compensation ; but the poor man's labor, which constitutes his only wealth, receives no such guarantee ; and, consequently, knowing that we may at some indefinite time need his service to protect our wealth, we exact from him, without compensation, that he shall not merely keep himself armed and equipped, but that he shall set aside whole days in every year to make himself expert in military duties. If we endeavor to soften this injustice by claiming that militia , service is a general tax, levied alike on rich and poor, we only shift the injustice, without removing it ; for on what equitable principle should the tax of a poor man be equal, as in this case, to the tax of the richest ? Und especially is the grievance of the poor enhanced when necessity requires a promiscuous draft from the militia ranks to quell domestic violence. True, in such a contingency, we may, after much legislative entreaty, dole out, as recently, a pecuniary pittance for their service; but have the poor no
reason to complain that remuneration for their property (the energy of their bones and muscle) is less especially secured to them than the cattle and grounds of a rich man are secured to him.
Kindred to the vulgar error, that the poor are hostile to the rich, is the opinion that adopted citizens are hostile to natives, and hence not to be entrusted in important political offices; this too, in opposition to the experienced faithfulness of such citizens in all our wars and dangers ; in opposition, also, to the clearest impulses of human nature, which forbid that a man who expatriates himself, with all his substance, should sacrifice the country he has voluntarily chosen, for the country he has voluntarily forsaken. Still, our Constitution adopts the error, and, to give it efficacy, curtails the freedom of native citizens, by prohibiting them from electing to the office of Governor an adopted citi. zen.* The effect of the prohibition, practically, on the liberty of the people is small; for with all the prejudices on the subject, that exist but too spontaneously, the power to elect an adopted citizen would rarely, if ever, be exercised; and this only makes our prohibition less excusable. Like the red cap which the Greeks were, till lately, compelled to wear when they sojourned in Turkey, the only effect of an exclusion is to gratuitously degrade, and therefore to debase, those whom by every principle of policy we ought to elevate ; for if foreigners are worth receiving as citizens, the better citizens we can make them the greater is our gain. Who, that sees the meliorating influence of our institutions on the rude and rough people (grotesque often in their dress and language) who arrive upon our shores, and scatter themselves over our country, with their wives and little ones, would remore from their newborn hopes one vision of future bliss ? Who would pro
• The new Constitution remedied this.