against it. "All . . . will bear in mind this sacred principle," he said, proclaiming a truth more honored in the breach than in the observance, "that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression." Madison, too, rejected the popular superstition that the government of the majority must be synonymous with wisdom and justice. "Wherever the real power in a government lies," he wrote, "there is danger of oppression. In our government, the real power lies in the government of the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of the government contrary to the sense of the constituents, but from acts in which the government is a mere instrument of the major number of constituents. This is a truth of great importance," he added, disclosing a state of the popular mind that the experience of a century has not bettered, "but not sufficiently attended to." As is well known to the students of American history, the Federalists, who now take high rank among the saints of democracy, were even more distrustful of it than Jefferson and Madison. "General Hamilton," says Morris, presenting that statesman in a light that must make his socialistic worshipers feel that they have been burning incense to a false god, "hated republican government because he confronted it with dernocratical government, and he disliked the latter because he believed that it must end in despotism and be in the meantime destructive to the public morality." The vehement indictment of bluff old John Adams is worthy of Carlyle himself. "If," he writes, "you give more than a share in the sovereignty to the democrats—that is, if you give them the command or preponderance in the sovereignty, that is, the legislature—they will vote all the property out of the hands of you aristocrats, and if they let you escape with your lives, it will be more humanity, consideration, and generosity than any triumphant democracy ever displayed since creation."
Men possessed of such views of democracy as a political power were not likely to frame a government based upon the deification of the majority. Never having steeped themselves in the mysticism of political romance and speculation, they did not dream that the state could be wiser and more virtuous than the people that composed it. Nor could they think of it as a beneficent power, exhaustless in expedient and resource, that could, like a fairy, turn their footsteps from every pitfall and, by the wave of a wand, shower upon them all the blessings of existence. What they conceived it to be was
- Van Buren Political Parties in the United States, p.80.
- Works, vol. vi, p. 516.