Page images

of government, but even amongst the various ranks of which society is composed. It would not signify, were the springs of a political system to be relaxed, if that relaxation did not occasion the dissolution of the social body, and the ruin of those associated. The cries of the human race, in the fields of battle and in tumultuous assemblies, appeal to Heaven against those inconsiderate and blind legislators who have thought they could with impunity make trials of chimerical institutions. All the nations on earth have sought after liberty, some by arms and others by laws, passing alternately from anarchy to despotism, or from despotism to anarchy; but very few have been satisfied with moderate attainments, or adopted constitutions conformable to their means, nature, and circumstances.

Let us not attempt what is impossible, lest, by endeavouring to rise too high in the regions of liberty, we fall into the abyss of tyranny. From absolute liberty there is always a descent to absolute power, and the medium betwixt the two extremes is supreme social liberty. Abstract ideas give rise to the pernicious idea of unlimited liberty. Let us so act that the power of the people be restrained within the limits pointed out by reason and interest; that the national will be curbed by a just authority; and that the civil and criminal legislation, analogous to our constitution, govern imperatively the judicial power; in which case an equilibrium will exist, and those differences and discords avoided which would embarrass the concerns of state, as well as that species of complication which shackles instead of uniting society.

To form a stable government, a national feeling is required, possessing an uniform inclination towards two principal points, regulating public will, and limiting public authority, the bounds of which are difficult to be assigned; but it may be supposed that the best rule for our direction is reciprocal restriction and concentration, so that there may be the least friction possible betwixt legitimate will and legitimate power.

Love of country, laws, and magistrates, ought to be the ruling passion in the breast of every republican. Venezuelans love their country, but not its laws, because they are bad, and the source of evil; and as little could they respect their magistrates, as the old ones were wicked, and the new ones are hardly known in the

career they have commenced. If a sacred respect does not exist for country, laws, and constituted authorities, society is a state of confusion, an abyss, and a conflict of man with man, and of body with body.

To save our incipient republic from such a chaos, all our moral powers will be insufficient, unless we melt the whole people down into one mass; the composition of the government is a whole, the legislation is a whole, and national feeling is a whole. Unity, Unity, Unity, ought to be our device. The blood of our citizens is various, let us mix it to make it one; our constitution has divided authority, let us agree to unite it; our laws are the sad remains of all ancient and modern despotisms, let the monstrous structure be demolished, let it fall, and, withdrawing from its ruins, let us erect a temple to justice, and, under the auspices of its sacred influence, let us dictate a code of Venezuelan laws. Should we wish to consult records and models of legislation, Great Britain, France, and North America, present us with admirable ones.

Popular education ought to be the first care of the congress's paternal regard. Morals and knowledge are the cardinal points of a republic, and morals and knowledge are what we most want.

Let us take from Athens her Areopagus, and the guardians of, customs and laws; let us take from Rome her censors and domestic tribunals, and, forming a holy alliance of those moral institutions, let us renew on earth the idea of a people not contented with being free and powerful, but which desires also to be virtuous. Let us take from Sparta her austere establishments, and form from those three springs a reservoir of virtue.

Let us give our republic a fourth power, with authority to preside over the infancy and hearts of men, public spirit, good habits, and republican morality. Let us constitute this Areopagus to watch over the education of youth and national instruction, to purify whatever may be corrupt in the republic-to impeach ingratitude, egotism, lukewarmness in the country's cause, sloth, and idleness, and to pass judgment on the first germs of corruption and pernicious example.

We should correct manners with moral pain, the same as the law punishes crime with corporal, not only what may offend, but

[ocr errors]

what may ridicule; not only what may assault, but what may weaken; and not only what may violate the constitution, but whatever may infringe on public decency.

The jurisdiction of this really sacred tribunal ought to be effective in every thing regarding education and instruction, and only deliberative as to pains and punishments; and thus its annals and records, in which will be inscribed its acts and deliberations, and the moral principles and actions of citizens, will be the registers of virtue and vice: registers which the people will consult in their elections, the magistrates in their determinations, and the judges in their decisions. Such an institution, however chimerical it may appear, is infinitely easier to realize, than others of less utility to mankind established by some ancient and modern legislators.

Legislators! by the project of the constitution, which I respectfully submit to your consideration, you will discover the feeling by which it was dictated.

In proposing the division of our citizens into active and passive, I have endeavoured to excite national prosperity by industry's two great springs, labour and knowledge. Stimulated by those two powerful causes, the greatest difficulties may be overcome, and men made respectable and happy.

In imposing equitable and prudent restrictions on the primary and electoral assemblies, the first barrier is opposed to popular licentiousness, and thereby those injurious and tumultuous meetings avoided, which at all times have given rise to prejudicial consequences in the election, and which have of course been entailed on the magistrates and the government, as the primordial act is generative of either the liberty or slavery of a people.

By increasing in the balance of power the weight of the congress, by the number of legislators and the nature of the senate, a fixed basis is bestowed on this primary body of the nation, and it is invested with great importance for the exercise of its sovereign functions.

In separating distinctly the executive from the legislative power, it is not intended to sow division betwixt those supreme authorities, but to unite them with those bonds of harmony which proceed from independence.

In investing the executive with a power and authority much exceeding what it hitherto possessed, it is by no means intended to enable a despot to tyrannize over the republic, but to prevent deliberative despotism becoming the immediate cause of a round of despotic changes, in which anarchy would be alternately replaced by oligarchy and monocracy.

In soliciting the independence of judges, the establishment of juries, and a new code, the security of civil liberty is requested, the most estimable, the most equitable, the most necessary, and, in one word, the only liberty, as, without it, all others are a nullity. An amendment is asked of the lamentable abuses in our judicature, and which derive their origin from the filthy sink of Spanish legislation, collected in various ages, and from various sources, equally from the productions of folly and of talent, equally the fruit of good sense and of extravagance, and equally the memorial of genius and of caprice. That judicial encyclopedia, that monster with ten thousand heads, which has hitherto been a rod of punishment to Spanish nations, is the fiercest calamity the anger of Heaven ever permitted that unfortunate empire to be afflicted with.

Meditating on the most efficient mode of regenerating the character and habits which tyranny and war have given us, I have dared to suggest a moral power, drawn from the remote ages of antiquity, and those obsolete laws, which for some time maintained public virtue amongst the Greeks and Romans; and although it may be considered a mere whim of fancy, it is possible, and I flatter myself, that you will not altogether overlook an idea, which, when meliorated by experience and knowledge, may prove of the greatest efficacy.

Terrified at the disunion which has hitherto existed, and must exist amongst us, from the subtle spirit characterizing the federative system, I have been induced to solicit you to adopt the concentration and union of all the states of Venezuela into one republic, one and indivisible. A measure, in my opinion, urgent, vital, and saving, and of such a nature that, without it, the fruit of our regeneration would be destruction.

It is my duty, legislators, to present to you a just and faithful picture of my political, civil, and military administration; but to

do so would tire your valuable attention too much, and rob you at this moment of time equally precious and pressing; and the secretaries of state will therefore give an account to the congress of their various departments, and exhibit at the same time those documents and records necessary to illustrate every thing, and to make you thoroughly acquainted with the real and actual state of the republic.

I will not notice the most momentous acts of my command, although they concern most of my countrymen, and will call your attention only to the last memorable revolution. Horrid, atrocious, and impious slavery covered with her sable mantle the land of Venezuela, and our atmosphere lowered with the dark gloomy clouds of the tempest, threatening a fiery deluge. I implored the protection of the God of nature, and at his almighty word the storm was dispelled. The day-star of liberty rose, slavery broke her chains, and Venezuela was surrounded with new and with grateful sons, who turned the instruments of her thrall and bondage into arms of freedom. Yes! those who were formerly slaves are now free, those who were formerly the enemies of our country are now its defenders.

I leave to your sovereign authority the reform or repeal of all my ordonnances, statutes, and decrees; but I implore you to confirm the complete emancipation of the slaves, as I would beg my life, or the salvation of the republic.

To exhibit the military history of Venezuela would be to bring to our recollection the history of republican heroism amongst the ancients; it would show that Venezuela had made as brilliant sacrifices on the sacred altar of liberty. The noble hearts of our generous warriors have been filled with those sublime and honourable feelings which have ever been attributed to the benefactors of the human race. Not fighting for power or fortune, nor even glory, but for liberty alone; the title of Liberator of the republic has been their highest recompense; having, in forming an association of those gallant heroes, instituted the Order of Liberators of Venezuela. Legislators! to you it belongs to confer honours and decorations, and it is your duty to exercise that act of national gratitude.

Men who have given up all the benefits and advantages they

« PreviousContinue »