Page images

in the whole reign of George the Third ;... as criminal as any of those acts which led Charles the First to the scaffold."*

Even so early as the year 1768, according to John Richard Green,

“George the Third had at last reached his aim .. In the early days of the ministry" (which began in that year) “his influence was felt to be predominant. In its later and more disastrous days it was supreme; for Lord North, who became the head of the ministry un Grafton's retirement in 1770, was the mere mouthpiece of the king. 'Not only did he direct the minister,' a careful observer tells us, 'in all important matters of foreign and domestic policy, but he instructed him as to the management of debates in Parliament, suggested what motions should be made or opposed, and how measures should be carried. He reserved for himself all the patronage, he arranged the whole cast of the administration, settled the relative place and pretensions of ministers of state, law officers, and members of the household, nominated and promoted the English and Scotch judges, appointed and translated bishops and deans, and dispensed other preferments in the church. He disposed of military governments, regiments, and commissions, and himself ordered the marching of troops He gave and refused titles, honors, and pensions'. All this immense patronage was steadily used for the creation of a party in both houses of Parliament attached to the king himself George was, in fact, sole minister during the fifteen years which followed ; and the shame of the darkest hour of English history lies wholly at his door.”+

Surely, until these tremendous verdicts of English history shall be set aside, there need be no anxiety in any quarter as to the historic soundness of the two great accusations which together make up the principal portion of the Declaration of Independence. In the presence of these verdicts also, even the passion, the intensity of language, in which those accusations are uttered, seem to find a perfect justification. Indeed, in the light of the most recent and most unprejudiced expert testimony, the whole document, both in its substance and in its form, seems to have been the logical response of a nation of brave men to the great words of the greatest of English statesmen, as spoken in the House of Commons precisely ten years before :

“This kingdom has no right to lay a tax on the colonies. I Sir, I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.''ş

VI. Thus, ever since its first announcement to the world, and * Lecky, "A History of England in the Eighteenth Century," iv., 457-458.

A Short History of the English People," 736, 737. "The Celebrated Speech of a Celebrated Commoner," London, 1776, p. 5. Š Ibid., 12.

down almost to the present moment, has the Declaration of Independence been tested by criticism of every possible kind-by criticism intended and expected to be destructive. Apparently, however, all this criticism has failed to accomplish its object.

It is proper for us to remember, also, that what we call criticism is not the only valid test of the genuineness and worth of any piece of writing of great practical interest to mankind : there is, in addition, the test of actual use and service, in direct contact with the common sense and the moral sense of large masses of men, under various conditions, and for a long period. Probably no writing which is not essentially sound and true has ever survived this test.

Neither from this test has the great Declaration any need to shrink. As to the immediate use for which it was sent forth-that of rallying and uniting the friends of the Revolution, and bracing them for their great task—its effectiveness was so great and so obvious that it has never been denied. During the century and a quarter since the Revolution, its influence on the political character and the political conduct of the American people has been great beyond calculation. For example, after we had achieved our own national deliverance, and had advanced into that enormous and somewhat corrupting material prosperity which fol. lowed the adoption of the constitution and the development of the cotton-interest and the expansion of the Republic into a trans-continental power, we fell under an appalling temptationthe temptation to forget, or to repudiate, or to refuse to apply to the case of our human brethren in bondage, the principles which we had once proclaimed as the basis of every rightful government. The prodigious service rendered to us in this awful moral emergency by the Declaration of Independence was, that its public repetition, at least once every year, in the hearing of vast throngs of the American people in every portion of the Republic, kept constantly before our minds, in a form of almost religious sanctity, those few great ideas as to the dignity of human nature, and the sacredness of personality, and the indestructible rights of man as mere man, with which we had so gloriously identified the beginnings of our national existence. It did at last become very hard for us to listen each year to the preamble of the Declaration and still to remain the owners and users and catchers of slaves ; still harder, to accept the doctrine that the righteousness and

prosperity of slavery was to be accepted as the dominant policy of the pation. The logic of Calhoun was as flawless as usual, when he concluded that the chief obstruction in the way of his system was the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. Had it not been for the inviolable sacredness given by it to those sweeping aphorisms about the natural rights of man, it may be doubted whether Calhoun might not have won over an immense majority of the American people to the support of his compact and plausible scheme for making slavery the basis of the Republic. It was the preamble of the Declaration of Independence which elected Lincoln, which sent forth the Emancipation Proclamation, which gave victory to Grant, which ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

We shall not here attempt to delineate the influence of this state paper upon mankind in general. Of course, the emergence of the American Republic as an imposing world-power is a phenomenon which has now for many years attracted the attention of the human race. Surely, no slight effect must have resulted from the fact that, among all civilized peoples, the one American document best known is the Declaration of Independence, * and that thus the spectacle of so vast and beneficent a political success has been everywhere associated with the assertion of the natural rights of man. “ The doctrines it contained,” says Buckle, “ were not merely welcomed by a majority of the French nation, but even the government itself was unable to withstand the general feeling."“Its effect in hastening the approach of the French Revolution

was indeed most remarkable." I Elsewhere, also, in many lands, among many peoples, it has been cited again and again as an inspiration to political courage, as a model for political conduct; and if, as the brilliant historian just alluded to has affirmed, “that noble Declaration. ought to be hung up in the nursery of every king, and blazoned on the porch of every royal palace,"g it is because it has become the classic statement of political truths which must at last abolish kings altogether, or else teach them to identify their existence with the dignity and happiness of human nature.

Moses COIT TYLER. * The editor of the latest edition of "The Writings of Thomas Jefferson," i., Introd. XXV., does not sbrink from calling it." the paper wbich is probably the best known that ever came from the pen of an individual." 7 "History of Civilization in England," 846.

Ibid., 847. i Buckle, History of Civilization in England," 846.



THE stiff Oriental and sacerdotal pomp of the protracted coronation ceremonies in Moscow is over. The sixteen hundred churchbells of that semi-Asiatic city no longer sound together in honor of the monarch who spent a million pounds sterling in hollow festivities. People naturally ask themselves now: What will be the future foreign and home policy of the young “ Imperator” ?

Under this title, Czar Nicholas II. has been crowned, or rather has crowned himself. As usual, we have heard once more on the present occasion, that Peter the Great for the first time assumed the Imperial dignity in 1721. This is an erroneous statement, however, though made by not a few distinguished historians, and repeated some years ago in Parliament by Lord Beaconsfield (then Mr. Disraeli) in one of his speeches on the Royal Titles bill. As a matter of fact, the title of “ Emperor” was claimed and borne at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century by Muscovite rulers. This claim was connected with an old ambition of theirs towards the possession of Byzantium or Constantinople. Owing to the dynastic and civil wars which ravaged Russia after the death of the last descendant of Rurik, the Imperial title fell into disuse under the earlier monarchs of the new princely house of Romanoff. It was Peter I., called the Great, who resumed it in 1721. Before him, Michael Romanoff had declared himself “ Autocrat of all the Russias.” On this principle of arbitrary self-rule all his successors, male and female, have acted ever since.

As“ Autocrat and Imperator," Nicholas II. has now been anointed, at the Cathedral of the Assumption, on the forehead, the eyelids, the nostrils, the lips, the ears, the breast, and the

VOL. CLXIII.-NO. 476. 2

head, in accordance with the proper traditions of Holy Russia. With the chrism conferred upon him he has received what is called “the seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost,” being thus endowed with a kind of divine grace and a supernatural sacramental character. It is true, this holy unction has not prevented many a predecessor of his from meeting with a tragic and ghastly fate. Hence the old saying that “ a Czar walks with his father's murderers before, and his own murderers behind him."

The military measures taken at Moscow for the security of the Emperor were on so gigantic a scale as to show what apprehensions had been felt in high quarters in the midst of all the gorgeous festivities. An army large enough for a great power to begin a war of first-rate magnitude with was gathered about the ancient capital, albeit its citizens are the least inclined to political opposition. Nicholas II. is a very young man, just turned twentyeight. His reign forms, as yet, a white, unwritten page. So, at least, those say who would fain still hope for liberal measures from him. His wife, Princess Alix of Hesse—who, however, according to strict Russian dynastic customs, had to change her name into Alexandra Feodorovna, and her religion from Protestantism to that of the orthodox Eastern Churchis held to be progressively inclined. Nevertheless, such an enormous mass of soldiers were ordered to Moscow as if a foreign invasion had to be repelled by superior force.

This fact is all the more extraordinary because of late the socalled “Nihilist " conspiracies have scarcely given any sign of life. The French Republic, thanks to the new alliance between the Phrygian cap and the knout, has done its best to make its soil insecure for those who fled from the tyranny of Czardom. Among Russian exiles living at Zurich, Geneva and Lausanne, spies have latterly been introduced even in the guise of alleged lady students of the same nationality. In England alone proscribed Russians are free, and in England, partly in consequence of their contact with the quiet operation of parliamentary institutions, partly on account of a change of feeling among the cultured classes of their own country, men like Stepniak, the author of “Underground Russia" and kindred works, who once had a hand in the fierce active fight against Autocracy by all available means of irregular warfare, have gradually ceased to be connected with the organization of so-called terroristic attempts. Their London monthly

« PreviousContinue »