43. The Worcester Speculator VI
Worcester Magazine, 1 November 1787

There is no circumstance which so unanswerably proclaims the imperfections of human nature, as the necessity of transferring our natural liberty to some foreign power, thereby to create an additional obligation to perform our duties, as moral and social beings. That government is made necessary by the constitution of human nature, is a truth highly evident to every rational member of civil society.

However agreeable in speculation, yet there is not a greater inconsistency in the moral world, than a particular form of government which can operate equally, or even be maintained, under the progressive stages of civilization. Hence moral necessity, or civil policy, has introduced as many forms, as there are gradations from the highest stages of refinement down to the rude state of barbarity. A government calculated to controul the turbulent passions of the uncultivated sons of nature, could but with wretched policy be transferred to the inhabitants of a civilized age. It is not, therefore, the enquiry of politicians, what mode of government may best be established as a general standard—but what form will best conduce to the happiness of society in any particular stage of civilization.

Whoever frames to himself an idea of a perfect republican government, must necessarily consider the inhabitants in the highest stages of refinement, possessing the moral and social virtues in the highest perfection. The farther any nation recedes from this standard, the nearer it approaches to slavery. For a proof of this, we need take but a slight survey of the European nations. There we trace the various stages from slavery to freedom. From these observations we deduce the following political truth—that the more enlightened any people are, the more perfect and equitable is their government.

Whoever can trace the connexion between cause and effect, will be convinced, that if the people are corrupt, the government will of necessity be so. If the spark of emulation is extinct, if their sentiments are servile, they are the fit subjects of an absolute monarch. In old and established nations, we may invariably determine the form of government from the temper and manners of the people; and with the same degree of certainty we trace the genius of the people in their constitution and government: But in new formed governments this rule becomes defective—witness the present situation of Massachusetts. Was our character reflected from our constitution, we might cease to deplore the frailties of human nature—instead of being stigmatized for our want of private as well as publick virtue, we should be esteemed as a race of superiour rank, sent to polish and refine the world.

That our constitution is not suited to the disposition of the people, has of late been sufficiently proved. Before half the determined period of its existence is accomplished, we find it attacked by the lawless hands of faction.

Perhaps there is not a people on earth better instructed than the inhabitants of this state: But our stage of refinement is the most unfavourable to political tranquillity—did we know more, we might govern ourselves—did we know less, we should be governed by others. If America would flourish as a republick, she need only attend to the education of her youth. Learning is the palladium of her rights—as this flourishes her greatness will encrease.

It is true, those who are busied in the humbler walks of life need not the aid of literature to become proficients in their occupations: But in a republican government, learning ought to be universally diffused. Here every citizen has an equal right of election to the chief offices of state. I would not insinuate that every man ought to aspire at the chief magistracy—this would throw a community into great confusion. But every one, whether in office or not, ought to become acquainted with the principles of civil liberty, the constitution of his country, and the rights of mankind in general. Where learning prevails in a community, liberality of sentiment, and zeal for the publick good, are the grand characteristicks of the people.

The members of a republick are mutual guards upon each other’s conduct: Should a few, from ambitious motives, endeavour to subvert the constitution, or aggrandize themselves at the publick expence, the community at large would take the alarm, and with united efforts frustrate their designs. While learning expands the heart, and is the sure basis of a republican government, ignorance, by an opposite tendency, is the only foundation of a monarchical. Let us for a moment examine the state of those nations where monarchy presides; there we find the common people but little superiour to the untutored herd. It is the interest of this kind of government to keep them in total ignorance of their national rights, to cramp their minds, and bend them to servitude.

France is pointed out as the residence of despotism: There ignorance pervades the populace, who, never having enjoyed the genial rays of liberty, endure its extinction with slavish insensibility. From their infancy they are so accustomed to dependence, that the heavenly spark, which nature has implanted into the breast of every man, fires them not to noble actions, but soon becomes extinct.

If we would maintain our dear bought rights inviolate, let us diffuse the spirit of literature: Then will self interest, the governing principle of a savage heart, expand and be transferred into patriotism: Then will each member of the community consider himself as belonging to one common family, whose happiness he will ever be zealous to promote. But, should we neglect the education of our children—should we transmit to them our rights and possessions, without teaching them their value, they would soon become a prey to internal usurpers, or invite the attention of some foreign power.

Fair Education bends the pliant mind;

She bids it traverse regions unconfin’d.

From this pure source our choicest blessings flow:

This makes us angels while we’re here below.