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of polity and modifications of humanity, has arisen a complex order of society, of which the disorders and anomalies are as complex as its own structure. now summoned to the combat, not with material difficulties, nor yet with oppressors nor with priests, but with an imperfect and drwcased condition of that social world of which we form a part; with pains and evils appalling in their magnitude, bafiling in their subtlety, perplexing in their complication, and demanding far more clear insight and unerring judgment, than even purity of purpose, or commanding energy of will. This conflict may be said to date from the first French Revolution; and it has been increasing in intensity ever since, till it has reached to a vividness and solemnity of interest, which surpasses and overshadows the attractions of all other topics, &c. &c.” *
“ England's rapidly accelerating decline is a very remarkable and mournful phenomenon; it is a mortal sickness for wbich there is no remedy. I liken the English of the present day to the Romans of the third century after Christ." +
The analogy might be extended to nearly all of modern civilization.
“Tremendous catastrophes have come to pass, and there is no resistance; not a semblance of great men, no joy or enthusiasm, no hopes for the future, except that the time will one day come, when by means of mutual instruction every peasant boy shall be able to read. The
* Westminster Review, No. CXI. Art. III. Jan. 9. 1852. + Niebuhr. Life and Letters, p. 506.
truth of the thing is the unveiled destitution of the populace, who are resolved to bear it no longer, and this again paves
the way for a revision of property; which is not, indeed, something new under the sun, but has been unheard of for centuries past, and even now seems quite inconceivable to our politicians, who have set property, in the place of God, in the Holiest of Holies, &c, &c."*
We cannot venture to extend our extracts, though we have the materials before us to increase them ten-nay, twenty-fold. We contribute these merely as a confirmation of Mr. Fitzhugh's position, that, really and confessedly, Free Society has proved a calamitous and irreniediable failure in the principal communities of Christendom.
* Niebuhr, Ibid. p. 528. See also, p. 525.
THE REFORMATION—THE RIGHT OF PRIVATE
The Reformation, like the American Revolution, was originated and conducted to successful issue by wise, good and practical men, whose intuitive judgments and sagacious instincts enabled them to feel their way through the difficulties that environed them. Wise men know that there is too much of complexity in the tangled web of human affairs, to justify the attempt at once to practice and philosophise, to act and to reason. Fools and philosophers too often mar the good works of such men, by pretending to see clearly, and to define accurately, the principles of action which have led to those works. A Washington, a Peel, or a Wellington, never " writes himself down an ass pealing to abstract principles to justify measures which are rendered necessary by a thousand minute and peculiar circumstances of the hour, which common sense and experience instinctively appreciate, but which philosophy in vain attempts to detect or to generalize. Common sense never attempts “to expel nature," but suggests and carries through a
by apthousand useful reforms by recurrence to and comparison with the past, and by cautious experimentation.
Common sense sometimes errs by excess of conservation; but it is better to err with Pope, who thought “Whatever is, is right," than with Jefferson, whose every act and word proves that he held that 66 Whatever is, is wrong.
The Reformation was not the thought and the act of Luther, Calvin, Cranmer and Erasmus; but the thought and the act of society—the vox Populi, vox Dei. Popes and cardinals are not infallible, but society is. Its harmony is its health; and to differ with it is heresy or treason, because social discord inflicts individual misery; and what disturbs and disarranges society, impairs the happiness and wellbeing of its members.
This doctrine of the infallibility of society, is suggested, though not expressed, in the maximSalus populi, est suprema lex. The Puritans, in the early days of New England, acted it out; and if they hung a few troublesome old women, the good that they achieved was more than compensated for by any errors they may have committed. Liberty of the press, liberty of speech, freedom of religion, or rather freedom from religion, and the unlimited right of private judgment, have borne no good fruits, and many bad ones. Infidels, Skeptics, Millerites, Mormons, Agrarians, Spiritual Rappers,
Wakemanites, Free Negroes and Bloomers, disturb the peace of society, threaten the security of prop
, erty, offend the public sense of decency, assail religion, and invoke anarchy. Society has the right, and is in duty bound, to take care of itself; and when public opinion becomes powerless, law should intervene, and punish all acts, words, or opinions, which have become criminal by becoming dangerous or injurious.
We would rejoice to see intolerance of error revived in New England. Laxity of rule and laxity of public opinion is sin of itself, and leads to thousands of sins. New England is culpable for permitting Parker and Beecher to stir up civil discord and domestic broils from the pulpit. These men deserve punishment, for they have instigated and occasioned a thousand murders in Kansas; yet they did nothing more than carry into practice the right of private judgment, liberty of speech, freedom of the press and of religion. These boasted privileges have become far more dangerous to the lives, the property and the peace of the people of this Union, than all the robbers and murderers and malefactors put together.
The Reformation was but an effort of Nature the vis medicatrix naturæ—throwing off what was false, vicious, or superfluous, and retaining what was good.
The great men of the day but show larger por