Posted by: Democratic Thinker | October 9, 2009

How to Destroy a Free Society—Taylor

John Taylor of Caroline observes that a free government can not survive if it loses its moral base—without which, it falls naturally into factionalism.


The Folly of a Foolish People

John Taylor of Caroline.

Election in the United States becomes more contemptible than in England, when degraded by a legal power of regulating wealth and poverty, into a whig or a tory, a Pitt or a Fox, if it is seduced by a worthless maxim to commit the crime, for which the English parliament are wise enough to obtain a valuable consideration. It appoints the prime minister of our sovereignty. If like the corrupted English interests, which govern the appointment of theirs, it was well paid for its work; or if like the king by whom this appointment is nominally made, it was lavishly endowed without expense to itself: it might boast of having sold its conscience and understanding for something solid; but to give away both, for a hollow notion of adhering to a party, that it may be fleeced and not bribed, would be an act of self abasement demonstrating that it was unable to distinguish between good and bad principles, and was of course flattered, despised and cheated. A sovereignty, popular or monarchical, ignorant of the principles by which it is preserved or destroyed, is first a cypher, then a tool, and finally the victim of its own servants. The folly both of a foolish people and a foolish king, consists in suffering the attention to be diverted from the moral nature of the acts and laws of their servants, to the frivolous names and treacherous professions of contending parties and rival courtiers.

The evil moral qualities of human nature, as natural to parties as to man, constitute the evidence in favour of restraining them by good moral principles, and evince the absurdity, in every case, of losing these principles in a career after names, to be equivalent to that of shutting the eyes for the sake of substituting confidence for seeing. The political party which brought Charles the first to the block, made sundry good laws for checking the regal, hierarchical, and titled parties of interest, from which the petition of right for repairing the usurpations of his two sons, extracted all its merit. Yet it soon degenerated into a fraudulent and oppressive party of interest itself. This case teaches us, that legislation can change the nature of a government, without changing its form; that the numerical analysis, being unable to discern such changes, describes a government by the same name, after it has undergone a material change; that without understanding the moral principles of laws, nations can neither foresee nor regulate revolutions; and that neither party principles, merits nor names, are a good security for the continuance of party patriotism.

Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States, “The Legal Policy of the United States” (1814).