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country, that to the Federalists we seemed enlisted as a people on the side of despotism, and fated to sink under its yoke. That they had cause for fear, we think. That they were criminal in the despondence to which they yielded, we also believe. They forgot, that great perils call on us for renewed efforts, and for increased sacrifices in a good cause. That some of them considered the doom of the country as sealed, we have reason to believe. Some, disappointed and irritated, were accustomed to speak in bitter scorn of institutions, which, bearing the name of free, had proved unable to rescue us from base subserviency to an all-menacing despot. The Federalists as a body wanted a just confidence in our national institutions. They wanted that faith, which hopes against hope, and which freedom should inspire. Here was their sin, and it brought its penalty; for, through this more than any cause, they were driven from power. By not confiding in the community, they lost its confidence. By the depressed tone with which they spoke of liberty, their attachment to it became suspected. The taint of anti-republican tendencies was fastened upon them by their opponents, and this reproach no party could survive.
We know not in what manner we can better communicate our views of the Federal party, of its merits and defects, than by referring to that distinguished man, who was so long prominent in its ranks; we mean the late George Cabot. If any man in this region deserved to be called its leader, it was he, and a stronger proof of its political purity cannot be imagined, than is found in the ascendency which this illustrious individual maintained over it. He was the last man to be charged with a criminal ambition. His mind rose far above
office. The world had no station which would have tempted him from private life. But in private life, he exerted the sway which is the worthiest prize of a lofty ambition. He was consulted with something of the respect which was paid to an ancient oracle, and no mind among us contributed so much to the control of public affairs. It is interesting to inquire by what intellectual attributes he gained this influence; and, as his character now belongs to history, perhaps we may render no unacceptable service in delineating its leading features.
We think, that he was distinguished by nothing so much as by the power of ascending to general principles, and by the reverence and constancy with which he adhered to them. The great truths of history and experience, the immutable laws of human nature, according to which all measures should be framed, shone on his intellectual eye with an unclouded brightness. No impatience of present evils, no eagerness for immediate good, ever tempted him to think, that these might be forsaken with impunity. To these he referred all questions on which he was called to judge, and accordingly his conversation had a character of comprehensive wisdom, which, joined with his urbanity, secured to him a singular sway over the minds of his hearers. With such a mind, he of course held in contempt the temporary expedients and motley legislation of commonplace politicians. He looked with singular aversion on every thing factitious, forced, and complicated in policy. We have understood, that by the native strength and simplicity of his mind, he anticipated the lights, which philosophy and experience have recently thrown on the importance of leaving enterprise, industry, and com
merce free. He carried into politics the great axiom which the ancient sages carried into morals, "Follow Nature." In an age of reading, he leaned less than most men on books. A more independent mind our country perhaps has not produced. When we think of his whole character, when with the sagacity of his intellect we combine the integrity of his heart, the dignified grace of his manners, and the charm of his conversation, we hardly know the individual, with the exception of Washington, whom we should have offered more willingly to a foreigner as a specimen of the men whom America can produce.
Still we think, that his fine qualities were shaded by what to us is a great defect, though to some it may appear a proof of his wisdom. He wanted a just faith in man's capacity of freedom, at least in that degree of it which our institutions suppose. He inclined to dark views of the condition and prospects of his country. He had too much the wisdom of experience. He wanted what may be called the wisdom of hope. In man's past history he read too much what is to come, and measured our present capacity of political good too much by the unsuccessful experiments of former times. We apprehend, that it is possible to make experience too much our guide; and such was the fault of this distinguished man. There are seasons, in human affairs, of inward and outward revolution, when new depths seem to be broken up in the soul, when new wants are unfolded in multitudes, and a new and undefined good is thirsted for. These are periods, when the principles of experience need to be modified, when hope and trust and instinct claim a share with prudence in the guidance of affairs, when in truth to dare is the highest
wisdom. Now, in the distinguished man of whom we speak, there was little or nothing of that enthusiasm, which, we confess, seems to us sometimes the surest light. He lived in the past, when the impulse of the age was towards the future. He was slow to promise himself any great melioration of human affairs; and, whilst singularly successful in discerning the actual good, which results from the great laws of nature and Providence, he gave little hope that this good was to be essentially enlarged. To such a man, the issue of the French Revolution was a confirmation of the saddest lessons of history, and these lessons he applied too faithfully to his own country. His influence in communicating skeptical, disheartening views of human affairs, seems to us to have been so important as to form a part of our history, and it throws much light on what we deem the great political error of the Federalists.
That the Federalists did at one period look with an unworthy despondence on our institutions, is true. Especially when they saw the country, by a declaration of war against England, virtually link itself with that despotism which menaced the whole civilized world, their hearts sunk within them; and we doubt not, that, in some cases, their mixed anger and gloom broke forth in reckless speeches, which, to those who are ignorant of the workings of the passions, might seem to argue a scorn for the confederation and for all its blessings. So far they failed of their duty; for a good citizen is never to despair of the republic, never to think freedom a lost cause.
The political sin of the Federal party we have stated plainly. In the other great party, examples of unfaithfulness to the Union might also be produced. Who
ever reverts to the language of Virginia on the subject of the alien and sedition laws, or to the more recent proceedings and declarations of Georgia in respect to the Indian territories within her jurisdiction, or to the debates and resolutions of the legislature of South Carolina at its last session, will learn, that a sense of the sacredness of the Union and of the greatness of its blessings, is but faintly apprehended, even by that party which boasts of unfaltering adherence to it.
In closing this article, we are aware that we have said much, in which many of our fellow-citizens will not concur. Men of all parties will probably dissent from some of our positions. But has not the time come, when the vassalage of party may be thrown off? when we may speak of the past and present, without asking whether our opinion will be echoed by this or that class of politicians? when we may cease to condemn and justify in the mass? when a more liberal and elevated style of discussion may be introduced? when we may open our eyes on the faults of our friends, and may look at subjects which involve our country's welfare, in the broad, clear light of day? This style of discussion we are anxious to promote; and we feel, that whoever may encourage and diffuse it, will deserve a place among the most faithful friends of freedom.