« ZurückWeiter »
visionary. Unless it were expressly provided in the constitution, that each different occupation should send one or more members, the thing would never take place in practice. Mechanics and manufacturers will always be inclined, with few exceptions, to give their votes to merchants, in preference to persons of their own professions or trades. Those discerning citizens are well aware, that the mechanic and manufacturing arts furnish the materials of mercantile enterprise and industry. Many of them, indeed, are immediately connected with the operations of commerce. They know that the mer. chant is their natural patron and friend ; and they are aware, that however great the confidence they may justly feel in their own good sense, their interests can be more effectually promoted by the merchant than by themselves. They are sensible that their habits of life have not been such as to give them those acquired endowments, without which, in a deliberative assembly, the greatest natural abilities are for the most part useless; and that the influence and weight, and superior acquirements of the merchants, render them more equal to a contest with any spirit which might happen to infuse itself into the public councils, unfriendly to the manufacturing and trading interests.
These considerations, and many others that might be mentioned, prove, and experience confirms it, that artizans and manufacturers will commonly be disposed to bestow their votes upon merchants and those whom they recommend. We must therefore consider merchants as the natural representatives of all these classes of the community.
With regard to the learned professions, little need be observed : they truly form no distinct interest in society ; and according to their situation and talents, will be indiscriminately the objects of the confidence and choice of each other, and of other parts of the community.
Nothing remains but the landed interest; and this, in a political view, and particularly in relation to taxes, I take to be perfectly united, from the wealthiest landlord, down to the poorest tenant. No tax can be laid on land which will not affect the proprietor of thousands of acres, as well as the proprietor of a single acre. Every landholder will therefore have a common interest to keep the taxes on land as low as possible ; and common interest may always be reckoned upon as the surest bond of sympathy. But if we even could suppose a distinction of interests between the opulent landholder, and the middling farmer, what reason is there to conclude, that the first would stand a better chance of being deputed to the national legislature than the last? If we take fact as our guide, and look into our own senate and assembly, we shall find that moderate proprietors of land prevail in both; nor is this less the case in the senate, which consists of a smaller number, than in the assembly, which is composed of a greater number. Where the qualifications of the electors are the same, whether they have to choose a small or a large number, their votes will fall upon those in whom they have most confidence; whether these happen to be men of large fortunes or of moderate property, or of no property at all.
It is said to be necessary that all classes of citizens should have some of their own number in the representative body, in order that their feelings and interests may be the better understood and attended to. But we have seen that this will never happen under any arrangement that leaves the votes of the people free. Where this is the case, the representative body, with too few exceptions to have any influence on the spirit of the government, will be composed of landholders, merchants, and men of the learned professions. But where is the danger that the interests and feelings of the different classes of citizens will not be understood or attend. ed to by these three descriptions of men ? Will not the landholder know and feel whatever will, proinote or . injure the interests of landed property ? and will he not, from his own interest in that species of property, be sufficiently prone to resist every attempt to prejudice or encumber it? Will not the merchaut understand and be disposed to cultivate, as far as may be proper, the interests of the mechanic and manufacturing arts, to which his commerce is so nearly allied ? Will not the man of the
learned profession, who will feel a neutrality to the rivalships among the different branches of industry, be likely to prove an impartial arbiter between them, ready to promote either, so far as it shall appear to him conducive to the general interests of the community ?
If we take into the account the momentary bumours or dispositions which may happen to prevail in particular parts of the society, and to which a wise admioistration will never be inattentive, is the man whose situation leads to extensive inquiry and information less likely to be a competent judge of their nature, extent, and foundation, than one whose observation does not travel beyond the circle of his neighbours and acquaintances ? Is it not natural that a man who is a candidate for the favour of the people, and who is dependent on the suffrages of his fellow citizens for the continuance of his public honours, should take care to inform himself of their dispositions and inclinations, and should be willing to allow them their proper degree of influence upon his conduct? This dependence, and the necessity of being bound himself, and his posterity, by the laws to which he gives his assent, are the true, and they are the strong chords of sympathy between the representative and the constituent.
There is no part of the administration of government that requires extensive information, and a thorough knowledge of the principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The man who understands those principles best, will be least likely to resort to oppressive expedients, or to sacrifice any particular class of citizens to the procurement of revenue. It might be demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will always be the least burthensome. There can be no doubt that, in order to a judicious exercise of the power of taxation, it is necessary that the person in whose hands it is, should be acquainted with the general genius, habits, and modes of thinking of the people at large, and with the resources of the country. And this is all that can be reasonably meant by a knowledge of the interests and feelings of the people. In any other sense, the proposi