« ZurückWeiter »
THE RELATIONS OF
AMERICAN AND ENGLISHI LIBERTY
THE events of 1848 have placed in the hand of Russia no barren sceptre. It is not the unmeaning bauble that decorates the feeble hands of other princes-but a mace of crushing weight, lifted by a giant arm, in a cause where aggression is the only defence, in a contest which cannot be declined, and where the existence of the combatants is staked on the issue.
It is of vital moment to this Republic to ascertain if she do not stand in the line of its destructive descent.
It is in no spirit of vain bravado, nor at the dictation of a blind fanaticism, nor from any capricious hostility to liberal improvements, that the Autocrats of Russia have freely poured out their treasure and the blood of their soldiers in the defence of despotism. They feel that they are fighting their own battle, and that it is one which is inevitable.
They have calmly, deliberately, and justly come to the conclusion that popular sovereignty is absolutely incompatible with royal sovereignty; that there cannot be two co-equal sovereign powers in one state; that the claim of the people has pushed them to the wall; and that they are driven to elect between a popular constitution and their absolute power.
They have elected in favor of absolute power in their own hands.
Experience has also convinced them that liberal ideas are contagious. They have ascertained that to encourage or to tolerate them is fatal-so congenial are they to the mind of man, so rapid is their spread, so vigorous is their working, so suddenly do they pass from speculation to action, from the mind to the field of battle. If, therefore, despotic power be incompatible with popular sovereignty, and if popular sovereignty be the legitimate fruit, the universal and necessary product of liberty of thought, of speech, and of action—of any participation in the high acts of government by the people-it is only consistent, wise, and logical, to war down and exterminate every thing that looks like, or leads to, or advocates popular government. The despotic powers of Europe— triumphant over the revolt of 1848-have every where shewn the utmost resolution in acting on those views. They tolerate nothing that savors of liberty.
But it is the peculiarity of liberty that it tends to spread. It radiates like light from a centre, and destroys darkness within its reach. Its influence does not stop at the lines of foreign states. Regardless of laws and of limits, it spreads like an ethe
rial essence, in spite of political and legal barriers. It shines into the heart of man wherever he may be, and finds a congenial reception. It wakes the slumberer from the incubus of despotism, and breathes life into the dead in slavery. So long as a spark of it exists any where, it is ready to break into a flame.
It is not enough to extinguish the spirit of liberty at home. It is almost as dangerous in a neighbor. It spreads across the bounds, and flashes conviction into benighted minds, and nerves the soul to high thoughts and daring deeds. If therefore the despots will maintain their power intact and undivided over their own subjects, it directly concerns them that their neighbor be as despotic as themselves. This is the foundation of the Holy Alliance. This it is which rouses the Czar to such strenuous hostility against every step towards liberty in any neighboring country. It is the great law of self-preservation logically applied to the destruction of a principle, unquiet, aggressive, propagandist, by its very nature-always tending to stir up the people to war against despotism, and if left to itself absolutely sure of success.
If Germany could be free, if Hungary could be a republic, without disquieting the subjects of Nicholas, assuredly we should not have seen Russian armies crossing the Carpathians. If Spain could have enjoyed the blessings of constitutional liberty and her example had not tended to make France restive under the fraudulent mockery of her charter, we should have been spared the expedition to Cadiz. If Italy could be free and raise no longing after freedom in the Austrian people, Metternich would hardly