CHAPTER XVI. CONCLUSION.
In judging of the success or want of success of any political institutions or of any form of government, we should be guided, I think, by the general results, and not by any abstract rules as to the right or wrong of those institutions or of that form. It might be easy for a German lawyer to show that our system of trial by jury is open to the gravest objections, and that it sins against common sense. But if that system gives us substantial justice, and protects us from the tyranny of men in office, the German will not succeed in making us believe that it is a bad system. When looking into the matter of the schools at Boston, I observed to one of the committee of management that the statements with which I was supplied, though they told me how many of the children went to school, did not tell me how long they remained at school. The gentleman replied that that information was to be obtained from the result of the schooling of the population generally. Every boy and girl around him could read and write, and could enjoy reading and writing. There was therefore evidence to show that they remained at school sufficiently long for the required purposes. It was fair that I should judge of the system from the results. Here, in England, we generally object to much that the Americans have adopted into their form of government, and think that many of their political theories are wrong. We do not like universal suffrage. We do not like a periodical change in the first magistrate; and we like quite as little a periodical permanence in the political officers immediately under the chief magistrate; we are, in short, wedded to our own forms, and therefore opposed by judgment to forms differing from our own. But I think we all acknowledge that the United States, burdened as they are with these political evils - as we think them - have grown in strength and material prosperity with a celerity of growth hitherto unknown among nations. We may dislike Americans personally, we may find ourselves uncomfortable when there, and unable to sympathize with them when away. We may believe them to be ambitious, unjust, self-idolatrous, or irreligious; but unless we throw our judgment altogether overboard, we cannot believe them to be a weak people, a poor people, a people with low spirits or with idle hands. Now to what is it that the government of a country should chiefly look? What special advantages do we expect from our own government? Is it not that we should be safe at home and respected abroad - that laws should be maintained, but that they should be so maintained that they should not be oppressive? There are, doubtless, countries in which the government professes to do much more than this for its people - countries in which the government is paternal; in which it regulates the religion of the people, and professes to enforce on all the national children respect for the governors, teachers, spiritual pastors, and masters. But that is not our idea of a government. That is not what we desire to see established among ourselves or established among others. Safety from foreign foes, respect from foreign foes and friends, security under the law and security from the law, this is what we expect from our government; and if I add to this that we expect to have these good things provided at a fairly moderate cost, I think I have exhausted the list of our requirements. I hardly think that we even yet expect the government to take the first steps in the rudimentary education of the people. We certainly do not expect it to make the people religious, or to keep them honest.