REVOLUTION

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REVOLUTION, and INSURRECTION. We shall not here go into the question of the great changes wrought in the condition of society by political revolutions, which seem necessary to its progress, but shall confine ourselves to a few remarks on the right of insurrection against established governments. There has been much speculation on the subject whether citizens, under any circumstances, are allowed to take up arms against established authorities, and, if so, under what circumstances, &c. Without being able to enter here into all the arguments on this subject, the question may be briefly considered thus: If governments are instituted merely for the benefit of the people, it is clear that, if they have failed to answer their end, and will not submit to such changes as the people consider necessary, the people have the right, nay, are even under obligation, to overturn the existing system by force, on the general principle that all rights may be maintained by force when other means fail. The principle is so evident that it would never have been disputed, had it not been for monarchs and their supporters, who dreaded its application. In extreme cases, it is admitted by all. None, for instance, would have denied the Arabs in Egypt, or the Berbers in Barbary, the right to rise against what was called their governmenta band of cruel and rapacious robbers. But at what point does this right of insurrection begin ? This point it is impossible to fix in the abstract. A treatise not confined to narrow limits, like this article, might make a full statement of cases imaginary or real, and point out what was demanded in each; might hold up to view the evils of a bad government on one side, and of civil war on the other, and endeavor to show under what circumstances it was better to endure the one or to hazard the other; but it could not lay down any general rule but the vague one already given. The character of insurrections, which, while they present some of the brightest and some of the foulest spots in history, always derange the framework of society, is such, that they will not, generally speaking, be lightly entered into. Fanatics may sometimes take up arms from slight causes; but, generally speaking, that principle in human nature which leads men to endure the evils of established systems as long as they are endurable, will be a sufficient security against the abuse of the indefinite rule which we have stated. But while we maintain the right of insurrection, under certain circumstances, from the inalienable rights of mankind, we also admit that it can never be lawful in the technical sense of the word, because it is a violation of all rules of positive law. All the rights which a citizen, as such, enjoys, emanate from the idea of the state; and the object of an insurrection is the destruction, at least for the time, of that order which lies at the basis of the state, by the substitution of force for law. The right of a citizen, as such, to rebel, is a contradiction in terms, as it implies that the state authorizes its own destruction. An insurrection becomes lawful, in the technical sense of the word, only when it has become a revolution, and has established a new order in the place of the old. We speak, of course, of insurrections against established governments. An insurrection to oveithrow an usurpation is of a totally different character, as its object is the restoration of the established order, which has been arbitrarily interrupted. While, therefore, the right of insurrection is inherent in man, it can never be rationally admitted as a principle of any constitution of government; and it was equally unphilosophical and inexpedient for one of the early French constitutions to give the right of opposing by force the exercise of unlawful power; but, from the constitution of human society, it hardly seems possible to avoid the occurrence of forcible changes in political systems. Nothing in this world can last forever; institutions established centuries ago, to answer the demands of a state of things which has long ceased to exist, frequently become extremely oppressive, from their inconsistency with the new tendencies which have sprung up in society. Sometimes the evil may be remedied without bloodshed ; sometimes happy accidents facilitate a change; at other times, however, the old order of things assumes a tone of decided hostility to the new tendencies; and this is what must be expected in a large proportion of cases. Then it is that revolutions break out, and eventually establish a new order, from which new rights and laws emanate. While, therefore, the philosopher and historian acknowledge the necessity, and even obligation, of insurrections, they will, nevertheless, not fail to utter a solemn admonition against resorting rashly to this extreme remedy for violated right. There is a solidity, an authority, a completeness, in a political system which has acquired maturity by slow degrees and long struggles, that can never belong to any new system suddenly substituted in its stead. There can be no security for permanent liberty till the civic element has become developed, and men have become attached to a given system of social connexions. The common principle, therefore, of weighing the evil to be risked against the good to be gained, by a political revolution, needs to be strongly impressed upon every people in a state of political excitement.