Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> An Oration Delivered Before the Two Societies of the South Carolina College, on the 4th of Dec., 1849 >> Page 226

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Page 226

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 226
other. Yet men still continue anxious seekers after
office. The noblest intellects and purest characters
are still seduced by the idea that office confers power
in proportion to its importance, and that by this
means, " the servant of fame " may take a great and
glorious part in promoting the welfare of his race.
This has indeed happened, and may sometimes, though
rarely, happen yet. But, wherever our civilization
has shed its full light, public station, even if heredi-
tary, and the possessor can be divested of it only by a
revolution, enables him under ordinary circumstances,
to exercise but a small portion of real power. Most
of the Kings of Europe are now-a-days the merest
cyphers ; and hereditary legislators have become the
foot-balls of the commons. And whoever holds office
by the suffrage, and at the sufferance of that com-
mons, has usually undergone such drudgery, and in-
curred such obligations, in rising into place, that he
has neither strength, nor time, nor means to do more
than prevent his own " downfall and eclipse," and may
be esteemed most fortunate if he succeeds in that. In
fact it is scarcely ever possible for him to sustain him-
self in office for any length of time against the storms
which envious adversaries, self-seeking demagogues,
and his own inevitable errors will surely raise against
him, unless he seeks refuge in some faction, sinks the
statesman in the partisan, and, instead of controlling
and leading the people to a higher state of civiliza-
tion, prostitutes himself to their caprices. But were
it possible for an individual to attain high office with-
out corruption or deception, and hold it without con-
cessions—could he, like Macchiavelli's model patriot,
consolidate all authority in his own hands the power