Thursday, December 12, 2002

"Our own government, in its origin and constitutional form, is not a democracy, but, if we may use the expression, a limited elective aristocracy. In its theory, the representative, within the limits prescribed by the constitution, when once elected, and during the time for which he is elected, is, in his official action, independent of his constituents, and not responsible to them for his acts. For this reason, we call the government an elective aristocracy. But, practically, the government framed by our fathers no longer exists, save in name. Its original character has disappeared, or is rapidly disappearing. The Constitution is a dead letter, except so far as it serves to prescribe the modes of election, the rule of the majority, the distribution and tenure of offices, and the union and separation of the functions of government. Since 1828, it has been becoming in practice, and is now, substantially, a pure democracy, with no effective constitution but the will of the majority for the time being. Whether the change has been for the better or the worse, we need not stop to inquire. The change was inevitable, because men are more willing to advance themselves by flattering the people and perverting the constitution, than they are by self-denial to serve their country. The change has been effected, and there is no return to the original theory of the government. Any man who should plant himself on the Constitution, and attempt to arrest the democratic tendency, - no matter what his character, ability, virtues, services, - would be crushed and ground to powder. Your Calhouns must give way for your Polks and Van Burens, your Websters for your Harrisons and Tylers. No man, who is not prepared to play the demagogue, to stoop to flatter the people, and, in one direction or another, to exaggerate the democratic tendency, can receive the nomination for an important office, or have influence in public affairs. The reign of great men, of distinguished statesmen and firm patriots, is over, and that of the demagogues has begun. Your most important offices are hereafter to be filled by third and fourth-rate men, - men too insignificant to excite strong opposition, and too flexible in their principles not to be willing to take any direction the caprices of the mob - or the interests of the wire-pullers of the mob - may demand. Evil or no evil, such is the fact, and we must conform to it."
-Orestes Brownson, OCTOBER, 1845 see also

No comments: