The Founders of the American Republic : a History and
a Biography; with a supplementary chapter on Ultra-Democracy. By Charles Mackay. (William Blackwood and Sons.)—The founders of the American Republic, according to our author, are Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison. The version of their biographies with which he presents us is written in good English, and has doubt- less been compiled with care; but as there is nothing new in Mr. Mackay's treatment of his subject, neither is there anything striking in his reflections, while the supplementary chapter on the dangers of ultra- democracy,—which he evidently considers his chef d'ceuvre,—bristles with absurdities that are to be matched only in Alison's " History of Europe" or the political articles of Blackwood's Magazine. A true democracy, he says, never did and never will exist in any age or country, and no form of government can be established or main- tained without large restrictions. "In other words, a democracy is really an aristocracy." The necessity of restriction lies almost in the nature of things ; but as to their nature and extent, there is room for a wide difference of opinion, and if democracy be in effect only aristocracy under another name, Mr. Mackay should give us a chapter on the dangers of a disguised aristocracy.. In truth, no form of government is theoretically perfect, and the best system that the wisest of men could devise would utterly fail were its powers wielded by dishonest or incompetent agents. A Government, like every other organisation, must be judged by its results; and that constitution is the best whieh most effectually fulfils the end of its existence,—the happiness and prosperity of the governed. Tried by this test, we may safely affirm that the United States are at least equal to the monarchies of Europe. " Ultra-Democracy," says Mr. Mackay, "has twice elevated to the Presidential Chair in the United States an Ulysses Grant and an Andrew Jackson, whose principal, if not only pretensions, to the support of their countrymen, were derived from their military achievements." Well, European States are continually elevating to the throne, individuals whose only pretension to the support of their people is that they have taken the trouble to be born, and Jackson and Grant will compare not unfavourably, either in point of morals or intellect, with any of oar fear Georges, or the later legitimate kings of France. But the drollest charge brought by Mr. Mackay against the United States is their greed of territory. Forty years ago they made war on Mexico and annexed California! That war, it may be remarked, was the work of the slave power whom; downfall our author regrets ; and this is the only forcible annexation made by the States since the Declaration of Independence ; Louisiana and Alaska having been acquired by purchase, while Texas joined the Union by its own free will. But how much territory has monarchical and aristocratic England annexed during the period in question ? About a hundred Californias, to say nothing of such unconsidered trifles as the Fee,* Islands, Borneo, Cyprus, Aden, and Port Hamilton. Mr. Mackay asserts that the "pampered and unappeased appetite of the American Democracy will shortly turn to weak and unoffending Mexico," and that Cuba is also destined to be swallowed by the same Republican monster. When a man seta up as a prophet, all that we can do is to disbelieve him. Confutation is impossible. Yet we may hazard the opinion that if these things should ever come to pass, Mexico and Cuba will gain by the exchange, and find in it abundant reason for thankful- ness. Neither civilisation nor California has lost by the latter's change of masters, and we may be quite sure that absorption in the Union would be an excellent thing for both Mexico and Cuba. We greatly doubt, however—Mr. Mackay to the contrary, notwithstanding—whether the States would take them as a gift ; for Americans neither want, nor are in a condition to assimilate, a tropical island inhabited by Spaniards and negroes, nor a neighbouring Republic peopled by half-civilised Indians, ignorant of English, and professing the Roman Catholic religion. But an anther who gravely imparts to his readers the pro- found observation that, if the Southern States had freed their slaves and marshalled 200,000 of them in arms, the Confederacy would have won its independence, and that the dangers which most imperil the peace and liberty of the American people are "the growing last of dominion, and the tendency to the concentration of political power at the expense of the free local Governments," is past reasoning with. Mr. Mackay can only be likened to the traditional Frenchman who, when told that the facts were against him, triumphantly replied, Tant pis plur lee faits.