Our subject is GOVERNMENT AND MAN. We proceed to consider it in a three-fold aspect, inquiring
I. What is good government?
II. What constitutes rebellion against such government?
III. What is the duty of each citizen when rebellion exists?
I. What is a good government?
No citizen looks for an absolutely perfect form of nationality—of law. But we have a right to ask for good government. We have been accustomed to think that it depends more on administration than on principle; and the line of the poet, “That which is best administered, is best,” is a proverb, to the sentiment of which we too freely yield. No doubt a government with bad statutes and wrong laws, may be so administered as to produce a tolerable degree of national comfort and development for a season; while a Constitution perfect in its theories and principles, may be so maladministered as to corrupt and distract, impoverish and demoralize, a people. And yet, I agree with an old patriot of the past century who said, “There is no foundation to imagine that the goodness or badness of any government depends solely upon its administration. It must be allowed that the ultimate design of government is to restrain the corruptions of human nature; and, since human nature is the same at all times and in all places, the same form of government which is best for one nation is best for all nations, if they would only agree to adopt it.”
There is a deep thought in this remark. We often say, for example, “France is not fit for a republican form of government,” and it is true; but that is not to say, “A republican form of government is not fit for France,” if the population would agree to adopt and preserve it. Man, in his fallen state, is not fit for the holy government of God; but that holy government is, nevertheless, the only one that is fit for man as a moral being; and it is man’s ignorance and folly, his guilt and ruin, that he does not adopt it. It is owing to the ignorance and wickedness of the world that it is not fit for a representative government; and that all do not choose Christ to be their King.
Were a score of the professional politicians of our land to frame a Constitution for us in full accordance with their own schemes and choice, we would soon find ourselves under an oligarchy of schemers, who cared for the Republic only so far as to secure from it their own fame and emolument. Were as many brokers or merchants to make and administer our laws, without regard to other industrial interests, we should have an oligarchy of trade. Were as many husbandmen, or mechanics, or lawyers, to have full control of our legislation and government, we would have one interest towering above all others, and true equalization, true brotherhood, just representation, healthful nationality would be impossible. Or, were we dependent on