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1.—Manual of Political Ethics; designed chiefly for the Use of Colleges and Students at Law. Part II. Political Ethics Proper. By FRANCIS LIEBER. Boston: C. C. Little and James Brown. 1839.
THE first part of this work was reviewed in the forty-first number of our journal (April, 1839), and the second part brings this elaborate work to a conclusion. The second part is more extended than the first, and is divided into five books, and it will be found an equally important and valuable gift to the politician and the statesman.
The third book (which is the first book of the second part, the first part having been comprised in two books) commences with some observations on the importance of a thorough acquaintance with our ethic relations in politics, derived from a consideration of the character of our race, the spirit of the age in which we live, and the direction which has been given to political studies. Private morality is of the highest importance to the well-being of the state, for the best laws will be inoperative without a corresponding sense of duty and virtue. “There are certain virtues, as well as vices, which are of peculiar importance to the state, because they either prompt more frequently to public acts, or come more often than others into play in political life.” These form a proper subject of discussion, before proceeding to consider those important situations, in which the citizen is called upon conscientiously to act, although not guided by any law.
After these preliminary observations, the remaining portion of the first chapter of the third book is devoted to the virtue of justice, a most indispensable one to the state, and even constituting its very essence. In connection with this portion of his subject, the author treats of the question, Whether a citizen is in conscience allowed to do all that the laws permit; which he decides in the negative.
The second chapter treats of the kindred virtues of fortitude, perseverance, calmness, firmness, and consistency. “That the citi
says Mr. Lieber, “honestly and firmly persevering, requires that his purpose be good, his cause just, that he adapt his means to the purpose, and his purpose to his means; that he concentrate his means for the one great object in view, that he be ever mindful that repeated and uninterrupted action may compensate for the absence of great power, and that in cases of the greatest trial, when the struggle comes at the last between nearly balanced powers, a trifle must decide.” In connection with these virtues, he also treats of the want of calmness, in four effects, namely, fretfulness, discontent, inconsistency, and obstinacy, the counterfeit of perseverance. He remarks upon the obvious injustice of accusing a statesman of inconsistency, on account of a single act or measure.
“It will appear evident, from the meaning which we have attached to the word consistency, which is not to be judged of by the form or sign of the action, but by its spirit, that to be truly consistent, the minor consideration must give way to the greater, and finally all considerations to the ultimate end of all government, the welfare of the people; so that a citizen may with perfect consistency and conscientiousness adopt, support, or defend a measure today, which he strenuously opposed at an earlier period, if circumstances have essentially changed, not to speak of an improved insight into the subject. Lord Wellington and Sir Robert Peel long opposed catholic emancipation; let us suppose both to have been honest in doing so; if so, they cannot be charged with inconsistency for having carried that measure, in 1829, if the duke, then at the head of the administration, was equally honest in declaring, on that occasion, that he must choose between emancipation and civil war of the worst description.”
The third chapter discusses the virtues of moderation, freedom from excitement, passion, and the impulse of revenge, and the evils to states and governments, which spring from the opposite defects; also honesty and veracity in politics, and whether the duty of speaking the truth is subject to any exceptions, or not. He also examines the subject of honesty as applied to moneyed value, as deserving especial attention in political ethics. The desire of wealth is a general passion and salutary in its influences, unless carried to an extreme. Pecuniary independence is of the last importance to a statesman. He cannot act boldly and honestly, if he be encumbered with debt or under pecuniary obligations to others. The evils of peculation, of fraud upon the public revenue, of smuggling, &c., are strikingly illustrated. The fourth chapter commences with an animated defence of ambition, when well regulated and restrained within due limits. Political apathy is a most serious evil; also, political ingratitude. Ambition is not inconsistent with modesty, and is not to be confounded with vanity, which is content with the symbol without the reality, the title or distinction without the power. Some beautiful observations follow upon the subject of friendship, and upon its importance as an element in the social order, and upon the extent to which the feeling of friendship may be carried by a politician. Favoritism in politics is a very different thing from friendship, though frequently borrowing its name and garb. This is one of the most dangerous vices of governments; as is also nepotism, or an unjust and excessive partiality to the members of one's own family. In the fifth chapter, gratitude and ingratitude are fully discussed. Gratitude is not to be confounded with popularity. Popularity itself may be sudden, founded upon momentary caprice ; or permanent, founded upon esteem. . Undue love of popularity is a pernicious weakness in a statesman; it should come spontaneously, and not be sought after. Liberty finds a formidable enemy in excessive personal popularity.—Some eloquent passages are devoted to a defence of monuments, statues, and other testimonials of public respect. Mr. Lieber urges upon the public man, in striking terms, the duty of attention, of observing the signs of the times and narrowly watching the phenomena around him. We should study attentively the history of our country and its institutions, and espe
cially the more brilliant portions of its history. Even newspapers should not be deemed unworthy the attention of public men. In the sixth chapter are shewn the mischiefs which result to political society from the vice of licentiousness, which undermines the family, the primary foundation of society. The evils of a want of chastity, both among the higher and lower classes, are forcibly delineated. Political society is deeply interested in the subject of religion, which is wholly opposed to religious fanaticism, which he defines to be all perversion of our actions by undue application or influence of religious doctrines in spheres which are not strictly religious. His remarks on this subject are manly, bold, and just. Persecution is opposed to the spirit of religion; and, besides, we have no right to use political power and authority for religious persecution, because political power is a power arising out of the state, which is the society of right, and right has nothing to do with matters of faith. Indirect and social persecution on account of disagreement in religious opinions, promotes hypocrisy and desecrates religion. In the seventh chapter the subject of patriotism is examined. A distinction is traced between the patriotism of antiquity and that of modern times. Patriotism is not to be confounded with national self-conceit or that narrow feeling of sectional preference which sometimes counterfeits its aspect. True patriotism is a generous and noble passion, without which no free state could for a moment exist. It is also inconsistent with a jealous distrust of foreigners. Public spirit is a term which has often been used for patriotism, but is not identical with it. “By patriotism,” says our author, “we designate perhaps more specifically that sacred enthusiasm which prompts to great exertions, and has the welfare, honor, and reputation of the country at large in view; by public spirit, a practical disinterestedness and cheerful readiness to serve the community and promote its essential success in every way. A perfect stranger to a country might still show much spirit.” Some remarks follow on veneration for antiquity; how far it is just and necessary, and under what circumstances it becomes injurious. The age of action is under forty ; the conservative element, which is essential to true liberty, characterizes those who have advanced beyond that age. The common notion, that times grow worse and worse, is a fallacy. A law or institution is not to be retained simply because it is old ; and, on the other hand, it is not to be sacrificed unless it is shewn to be productive of evil. The above chapter brings us to the close of the third book. The first chapter of the fourth book treats of the all-important subject of education. The author's plan is not consistent with a sketch of a perfect system of education, but only with some general hints and observations. Civil society has the deepest interest, not only in promoting education among the poor and in diffusing elementary education among large masses, but also in the highest possible degree of literary and scientific culture. Thus, scientific expeditions, libraries, and museums, become of great national importance in an industrial, moral, and patriotic point of view. Every member of society should receive an industrial education; that is, be trained to some employment. Indolence and want of occupation are the fruitful parents of crime. “Besides the habit of industry,” says Mr. Lieber, “the four following are of much importance in education applied to politics, the habit of obedience, of independence, of reverence, or whatever it be called, but by which I wish to express that earnestness in contemplating things, which strives to know their real character and connection, and the absence of arrogant forwardness and self-sufficiency, which considers every thing silly, useless or unmeaning, because not agreeing with its own views or not showing its character at once to the superficial observer; and lastly the habit of honesty.” Ancient history and gymnastics should form part of every complete education. The relations to the state, which grow out of the distinction of the sexes, pass next under review. Upon the subject of the duties and position of woman, our author is a stanch conservative, and not disposed to adopt the new-fangled notions of the day. The difference in temperament and organization prescribe different duties, and forbid woman to mingle in the harsh encounters of politics. His views on this subject are entitled to the candid attention of all. The second chapter discusses the subject of obedience to the