« AnteriorContinuar »
telegraphic communications, the transactions in one part of Europe are immediately made known in another, even those that are most distant ; so that the different nations of Europe, for this as well as for other reasons, have begun to assume the appearance of a single and closely connected family.
But perhaps a more satisfactory illustration of the connection existing between improvements in the sciences and arts and political melioration, may be found in the invention and the progress of the art of printing. It is owing to this wonderful and blessed art, that whatever is said, beneficial in its consequences and worthy of being repeated, is immediately circulated through the world. The channel of communication, furnished by the press, has in fact become a great and curious ear of Dionysius, through which the conversations in the extremities of the world, and even the slightest whispers, are collected and rapidly reverberated to our own firesides and homes. In many respects England in particular, and France, and Italy, and the Germanic states have become a common country with ourselves. In consequence of the increased facilities for printing and for the circulation of what is printed, we are enabled to listen to their debates, to take an interest in their discussions, to become acquainted with their discoveries, and to examine their plans for the promotion of the public good. In these respects, and in others, we are beginning to be one.—The separating tendencies of a difference in clime and in language are yielding to the affinities of intellect and the gentle attractions of the heart, which have resumed, in some degree, their natural and appropriate influence in consequence of the intercommunications of the press. And it must be evident on the very slightest reflection, that such a state of things is exceedingly favorable to the proposed Congress of nations. Their
power, supposing such a body to be constituted, will be essentially of a moral kind ; moral power depends upon the communication of truth ; and this communication depends upon the press.
III,-—A third favorable circumstance is the extension of the representative principle and the establishment of representative governments. This favorable circumstance has already been incidentally alluded to, in the remarks on the increased power of the people at the present day. In a large majority of the written Constitutions which have been recently established, the representative principle is recognized, although it is sometimes subjected to unnecessary restrictions. The principle of representation, as it is put in practice in France, and Great Britain, and particularly in the United States and the other American republics, may politically be regarded as the grand discovery and the prominent characteristic of these later times. When it shall become a little more extended and be more fully brought into action, it seems destined to operate a change in the policy of nations, in the highest degree favorable to the welfare of the people. That part of the representation, which is drawn directly from the people, will feel it a duty to become acquainted with their wants, sufferings, prejudices, and just claims. Operating in this way, and virtually introducing the people themselves to a direct share in the government, the right of representation will prove of vast benefit. The policy of nations has hitherto been essentially belligerent; but popular representation will be adverse to this policy, and in the same proportion will be propitious to the great objects which, a Congress of nations proposes to secure. It is not true and it cannot be satisfactorily shown, that the great mass of mankind are at all disposed to promote those ruinous contests, which have blighted and cursed the earth. They have the feelings of men,
and they cannot see the reasonableness of persecuting and putting to death those who bear the same image. And it certainly does not tend to remove their impressions of the absurdity of these measures, when, as a consequence of them, they find their children bleeding and perishing, and their substance eaten up with taxation. The people, therefore, may confidently be set down as entertaining feelings favorable to pacific policy, commercial intercourse, and light taxation; and the principle of representation, when fully developed, will not fail to give vast expansion and influence to their wishes.
IV,--Another favorable circumstance of great importance, is, that the public mind is, in some degree, prepared for the establishment of a Congress of nations.—Every great political movement requires a preparation of public sentiment; and if such preparation be necessary in the establishment and changes of a single nation's internal administration, it must be equally necessary to effectuate the institution of a supervisory administration, destined to embrace all nations. Without the favor of public sentiment, it could not possibly be done.-We do not say, there is a complete preparation in this respect; we know it is otherwise ; but we do not hesitate to assert, that public opinion is setting in the right direction, and that there is an approximation to the standard, which we wish it to establish. Many circumstances have led to this approximation. Civilized nations are already familiar with the name and the general nature of a Congress, established for international purposes. For two hundred years they have witnessed the sessions of such assemblies ; and although the subject is presented in a new form, it does not come arrayed in perfect novelty. They have seen the effects of these assemblies in their measures, and with some undoubted exceptions, have looked upon them as beneficial.
Furthermore, as far as Europe is concerned, there is a basis laid for a permanent Congress, not only in a favorable public sentiment, but especially in the condition of the European States, considered in relation to each other. The nations of Europe, closely united together by other circumstances than that of mere proximity, have the appearance of a single commonwealth. Differing greatly in extent and power, the smaller States naturally cling to the more powerful for protection ; and these last are so situated, and so equally balanced against each other, that one cannot move greatly out of its accustomed orbit, without disturbing the equilibrium of a long established system. This peculiar and complicated state of things, which historians have imperfectly indicated by the phrase balance of power, extending over numerous watchful and rival millions, and checked and controlled in its operations in a multitude of ways, evidently requires, in order to be kept in action and its proper position, the constant practice of consultation, supervision, and advice. The history of the past all tends to warn against supineness and want of watchfulness. The unchastened ambition of princes often leads them into measures at variance with the dictates of reason, justice, and prudence. At one time, the equilibrium, so essential to the safety of all the States of whatever grade, is put at hazard by the arms and the policy of a Charles the Fifth ; at another time by the ungovernable ambition of a Napoleon, who aims to unite principalities and kingdoms in his own person, and to plant the pillars of an universal monarchy. The necessity of constant circumspection and intercourse, for the purpose of maintaining the appropriate arrangements or adjusting them when out of order, necessarily gives frequent occasion for international assemblies, justly entitled to the character of Conferences or Congresses.
V, A fifth favorable circumstance is the marked change which has taken place in the sentiments of all classes on the subject of war.- Previous to the commencement of the present century, a decided expression, adverse to the continuance of war, and in favor of the prevalence of peace, could scarcely be made by any one, without his incurring the imputation of weakness and folly, unless perchance it was met by utter indifference. The right, and even the utility of war were scarcely considered open and debateable questions, since they were found to be so universally patronized by those in high places, no account of course being made of the lower and middle classes, on whom the curse fell with every possible variety of infliction. But the principle of representation has given to these classes the power of speech; and the power of speech has called into exercise the power of inquiry, reflection, and reason; and a voice, unheard before, has come up, as if from the vast depths, loud and terri. ble, that war shall be no more. It is not merely the suffering multitude, the millions who bear the toil, the burden, and the blood, that begin to speak out on this all important subject. We have now, in opposition to the practice of war, the opinions of men high in authority, placed in elevated stations, rich in this world's wealth, and rich too in the treasures of learning and prudence. They have heard the groans of their fellow-beings, and the heart of sympathy has been moved within them. The open and avowed advocates of peace, in the various classes of society, have increased an hundred-fold, and the increase of boldness, intellectual power, and consistent zeal has corresponded to the augmentation of numbers. And why should we not expect it to be thus, when any considerable body of men is brought to reflect on the subject ? What source of misery, which is under the direction and control of man himself, can be compar