The American Republic
MAN is a dependent being, and neither does nor can suffice for himself. He lives not in himself, but lives and moves and has his being in God. He exists, develops, and fulfils his existence only by communion with God, through which he participates of the divine being and life. He communes with God through the divine creative act and the Incarnation of the Word, through his kind, and through the material world. Communion with God through Creation and Incarnation is religion, distinctively taken, which binds man to God as his first cause, and carries him onward to God as his final cause; communion through the material world is expressed by the word property; and communion with God through humanity is society. Religion, society, property, are the three terms that embrace the whole of man’s life, and express the essential means and conditions of his existence, his development, and his perfection, or the fulfilment of his existence, the attainment of the end for which he is created.
Though society, or the communion of man with his Maker through his kind, is not all that man needs in order to live, to grow, to actualize the possibilities of his nature, and to attain to his beatitude, since humanity is neither God nor the material universe, it is yet a necessary and essential condition of his life, his progress, and the completion of his existence. He is born and lives in society, and can be born and live nowhere else. It is one of the necessities of his nature. “God saw that it was not good for man to be alone.” Hence, wherever man is found he is found in society, living in more or less strict intercourse with his kind.
But society never does and never can exist without government of some sort. As society is a necessity of man’s nature, so is government a necessity of society. The simplest form of Society is the family – Adam and Eve. But though Adam and Eve are in many respects equal, and have equally important though different parts assigned them, one or the other must be head and governor, or they cannot form the society called family. They would, be simply two individuals of different sexes, and the family would fail for the want of unity.
Children cannot be reared, trained, or educated without some degree of family government, of some authority to direct, control, restrain, or prescribe. Hence the authority of the husband and father is recognized by the common consent of mankind. Still more apparent is the necessity of government the moment the family develops and grows into the tribe, and the tribe into the nation. Hence no nation exists without government; and we never find a savage tribe, however low or degraded, that does not assert somewhere, in the father, in the elders, or in the tribe itself, the rude outlines or the faint reminiscences of some sort of government, with authority to demand obedience and to punish the refractory. Hence, as man is nowhere found out of society, so nowhere is society found without government.
Government is necessary: but let it be remarked by the way, that its necessity does not grow exclusively or chiefly out of the fact that the human race by sin has fallen from its primitive integrity, or original righteousness. The fall asserted by Christian theology, though often misinterpreted, and its effects underrated or exaggerated, is a fact too sadly confirmed by individual experience and universal history; but it is not the cause why government is necessary, though it may be an additional reason for demanding it. Government would have been necessary if man had not sinned, and it is needed for the good as well as for the bad. The law was promulgated in the Garden, while man retained his innocence and remained in the integrity of his nature. It exists in heaven as well as on earth, and in heaven in its perfection. Its office is not purely repressive, to restrain violence, to redress wrongs, and to punish the transgressor. It has something more to do than to restrict our natural liberty, curb our passions, and maintain justice between man and man. Its office is positive as well as negative. It is needed to render effective the solidarity of the individuals of a nation, and to render the nation an organism, not a mere organization – to combine men in one living body, and to strengthen all with the strength of each, and each with the strength of all – to develop, strengthen, and sustain individual liberty, and to utilize and direct it to the promotion of the common weal – to be a social providence, imitating in its order and degree the action of the divine providence itself, and, while it provides for the common good of all, to protect each, the lowest and meanest, with the whole force and majesty of society. It is the minister of wrath to wrong doers, indeed, but its nature is beneficent, and its action defines and protects the right of property, creates and maintains a medium in which religion can exert her supernatural energy, promotes learning, fosters science and art, advances civilization, and contributes as a powerful means to the fulfilment by man of the Divine purpose in his existence. Next after religion, it is man’s greatest good; and even religion without it can do only a small portion of her work. They wrong it who call it a necessary evil; it is a great good, and, instead of being distrusted, hated, or resisted, except in its abuses, it should be loved, respected, obeyed, and, if need be, defended at the cost of all earthly goods, and even of life itself.
The nature or essence of government is to govern. A government that does not govern, is simply no government at all. If it has not the ability to govern and governs not, it may be an agency, an instrument in the hands of individuals for advancing their private interests, but it is not government. To be government, it must govern both individuals and the community. If it is a mere machine for making prevail the will of one man, of a certain number of men, or even of the community, it may be very effective sometimes for good, sometimes for evil, oftenest for evil, but government in the proper sense of the word it is not. To govern is to direct, control, restrain, as the pilot controls and directs his ship. It necessarily implies two terms, governor and governed, and a real distinction between them. The denial of all real distinction between governor and governed is an error in politics analogous to that in philosophy or theology of denying all real distinction between creator and creature, God and the universe, which all the world knows is either pantheism or pure atheism – the supreme sophism. If we make governor and governed one and the same, we efface both terms; for there is no governor nor governed, if the will that governs is identically the will that is governed. To make the controller and the controlled the same, is precisely to deny all control. There must, then, if there is government at all, be a power, force, or will that governs, distinct from that which is governed. In those governments in which it is held that the people govern, the people governing do and must act in a diverse relation from the people governed, or there is no real government.
Government is not only that which governs, but that which has the right or authority to govern. Power without right is not government. Governments have the right to use force at need, but might does not make right, and not every power wielding the physical force of a nation is to be regarded as its rightful government. Whatever resort to physical force it may be obliged to make, either in defence of its authority or of the rights of the nation, the government itself lies in the moral order, and politics is simply a branch of ethics – that branch which treats of the rights and duties of men in their public relations, as distinguished from their rights and duties in their private relations.
Government being not only that which governs, but that which has the right to govern, obedience to it becomes a moral duty, not a mere physical necessity. The right to govern and the duty to obey are correlatives, and the one cannot exist or be conceived without the other. Hence loyalty is not simply an amiable sentiment, but a duty, a moral virtue. Treason is not merely a difference in political opinion with the governing authority, but a crime against the sovereign, and a moral wrong, therefore a sin against God, the Founder of the Moral Law. Treason, if committed in other countries, unhappily, has been more frequently termed by our countrymen patriotism and loaded with honor than branded as a crime, the greatest of crimes, as it is, that human governments have authority to punish. The American people have been chary of the word loyalty, perhaps because they regard it as the correlative of royalty; but loyalty is rather the correlative of law, and is, in its essence, love and devotion to the sovereign authority, however constituted or wherever lodged. It is as necessary, as much a duty, as much a virtue in republics as in monarchies; and nobler examples of the most devoted loyalty are not found in the world’s history than were exhibited in the ancient Greek and Roman republics, or than have been exhibited by both men and women in the young republic of the United States. Loyalty is the highest, noblest, and most generous of human virtues, and is the human element of that sublime love or charity which the inspired Apostle tells us is the fulfilment of the law. It has in it the principle of devotion, of self-sacrifice, and is, of all human virtues, that which renders man the most Godlike. There is nothing great, generous, good, or heroic of which a truly loyal people are not capable, and nothing mean, base, cruel, brutal, criminal, detestable, not to be expected of a really disloyal people. Such a people no generous sentiment can move, no love can bind. It mocks at duty, acorns virtue, tramples on all rights, and holds no person, no thing, human or divine, sacred or inviolable. The assertion of government as lying in the moral order, defines civil liberty, and reconciles it with authority. Civil liberty is freedom to do whatever one pleases that authority permits or does not forbid. Freedom to follow in all things one’s own will or inclination, without any civil restraint, is license, not liberty. There is no lesion to liberty in repressing license, nor in requiring obedience to the commands of the authority that has the right to command. Tyranny or oppression is not in being subjected to authority, but in being subjected to usurped authority – to a power that has no right to command, or that commands what exceeds its right or its authority. To say that it is contrary to liberty to be forced to forego our own will or inclination in any case whatever, is simply denying the right of all government, and falling into no-governmentism. Liberty is violated only when we are required to forego our own will or inclination by a power that has no right to make the requisition; for we are bound to obedience as far as authority has right to govern, and we can never have the right to disobey a rightful command. The requisition, if made by rightful authority, then, violates no right that we have or can have, and where there is no violation of our rights there is no violation of our liberty. The moral right of authority, which involves the moral duty of obedience, presents, then, the ground on which liberty and authority may meet in peace and operate to the same end. This has no resemblance to the slavish doctrine of passive obedience, and that the resistance to power can never be lawful. The tyrant may be lawfully resisted, for the tyrant, by force of the word itself, is a usurper, and without authority. Abuses of power may be resisted even by force when they become too great to be endured, when there is no legal or regular way of redressing them, and when there is a reasonable prospect that resistance will prove effectual and substitute something better in their place. But it is never lawful to resist the rightful sovereign, for it can never be right to resist right, and the rightful sovereign in the constitutional exercise of his power can never be said to abuse it. Abuse is the unconstitutional or wrongful exercise of a power rightfully held, and when it is not so exercised there is no abuse or abuses to redress. All turns, then, on the right of power, or its legitimacy. Whence does government derive its right to govern? What is the origin and ground of sovereignty? This question is fundamental, and without a true answer to it politics cannot be a science, and there can be no scientific statesmanship. Whence, then, comes the sovereign right to govern?