Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XVIII / What Constitutes a State? >> Page 441

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Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription TIlE STATE. 441
years, past and future, constituting a moral which is to be saved
from the caprices of the people. People change daily, and in
their daily change, filled with novel hopes and expectations, and
urged on by eager passions and desires, would easily forego a
thousand absolute possessions which no people at any one time
sufficiently values. In truth, it is only when we tremble at the
onward and reckless course of a majority, that we are awakened
to the fact that there are some things which they have no right
to sacrifice. It is then that we see that the possessions and ac-
cumulations of the past are not an inheritance, but a trust ; and
we who occupy only a moment of time, in the general progress
of the ages, are taught by this fact that we have no absolute
rights over possessions which belong to generations yet untold
in the future, and but partially recorded in the past. To guard
the state from the people, we resort to a thousand devices, such
as constitutions, bills of rights, &c., none of which is satisfactory
for the sufficient reason that the subject is one of singular subtilty
which escapes practical definition. It is, however, within our
instincts, and these work in a thousand ways, and in spite of us,
for its preservation. When these fail us, the state is gone, and
the people soon follow. They are then without God or country.
The French revolution was an instance of the sacrifice of the
state�that vague and vast idea, growing out of the gradual ac-
quisitions of thousands of years of a common fortune in the fam-
ily, or race by a mere generation just passing off the stage.
Look at the summary in France to-day. Where is the liberty,
the equality, the republicanism, which were all their avowed
objects ? What is left them of sacred tradition, of past loyalty
and acquisition, of moral security�which must precede if it
would maintain physical�of all that was deemed certain in the
characteristics of the race ? The guardian securities and virtues
of a people lie in that social ideal which is embodied in the no-
tion of the state as a thing permanent, contradistinguished from
a mere generation or government�things which contemplate
only passing necessities, and continual fluctuations, and are re-
quired to contribute in passing only a certain portion of capital
to that grand stock which has been already put away safely
within the securities of the ideal state. The state is a guardian
ideal, and the conservative check upon the caprices of time.