« PreviousContinue »
once irritating and degrading. It involved his country in una righteous wars; it stained his country with wrongful acquisitions; it taught him to hector abroad, and dragged him through mean compliances at home. He was painfully conscious that it soiled the honour and morals of his nation, and authorised other nations to point at it the finger of scorn. He felt himself unequally yoked together with a housemate whose principles he loathed, but whose conduct he was powerless to control. Therefore we cannot hesitate to pronounce that all Northerners who really loved their native land—its true interest and its honourable fame—should have welcomed that secession which set them free from slavery, with all its clinging pollution and all its appalling possibilities, as one of the most signal blessings ever vouchsafed by Providence to a sorely tried and sorely menaced people. For this they ought to have been willing to endure much loss and much humiliation; to forego many gorgeous dreams of empire, to submit to many unmerited affronts and many mortifying wrongs. Nay, if they could only read the dispensation rightly (though it would be unreasonable to expect them so to do), these very humiliations and enforced foregoings are so many grounds for gratitude and gratulation. The lesson might be severe; but no nation ever needed it so much. For generations they had revelled in the unwholesome and perverting contemplation of their own grandeur, and the one sentiment that filled their hearts had been that of the Babylonian despot: “Is not this the great Babylon that I have built, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty ?". Under this demoralising influence they had grown aggressive, overbearing, and unjust; Truth and Right had become dim and feeble in their sight before the pagan worship of a gigantic strength and a Titanic will; external greatness had blinded them to the progress of domestic degeneracy, and they had grown daily prouder and more imperious as they grew less and less worthy of imitation and command. They had lacked deplorably, though without the faintest consciousness of the want, the controlling and compressing influence of some antagonistic power; of impassable boundaries; of natural, cogent, but invisible restraints; of barriers that compelled respect, but did not awaken irritation. Henceforth they will possess the double blessing -if only they know how to value it and use it—of emancipation from a fatally injurious connection, and of subjection to salutary conditions of national existence. Their lawless volitions will be compelled to a decent consideration of the claims of others; while, at the same time, their policy will be free from any necessity to obey other dictates than those of conscience. Apart from feverish and unrighteous dreams of boundless empire
and inordinate dominion, they ought to be at least as anxious for separation as the slaveholders.
But besides all this, the disruption of the Union gives them the occasion, and almost forces upon them the duty, of revising a most faulty constitution. Its errors have been laid bare by the experience of more than seventy years, and the extent to which these errors may damage the character and endanger the permanence of their nation, both socially and politically, has been shown most startlingly by the recent crisis. Some changes must be made; and why not make all desirable changes at once? It is seldom that such a golden opportunity of recovery and amendment is afforded to a nation ; but, alas, it is still more seldom that a Democracy voluntarily retraces its own steps, rectifies its own mistakes, restricts its own power, guards against the excesses of its own liberty and its own might. Otherwise, as we pointed out in our last Number, there are many defects, both of theory and of practice, in the existing Constitution, which cry out for correction in language too plain to be misunderstood, and too loud to be unheard. That unhappy temper—the very essence of despotism—which makes a people impatient under whatever institutions curb their own arbitrary will, and delay the instant supremacy of their own transient passion or caprice, is, if permitted to have its way, fatal alike to dignity, to justice, and to sound and steady policy. Hitherto all restraints upon this arbitrary volition have been gradually in process of destruction. It is not too late to replace some of them. Let the judges once more be made irremovable, well paid, and non-elective and justice may again become honoured, because honourable and pure, and law be again rendered paramount over popular violence or prejudice. Let the infamous and fatal practice of dismissing all officials at every change of government be denounced and formally abandoned, -and men of character and experience will once more find it possible and worth while to serve the State, and political conflicts will cease to be so acrimonious and convulsing as they are at present. Let the constituent bodies be purified and raised by excluding from them all who are not really and permanently citizens, and who have not given some proof of social or moral fitness for the suffrage. Let the President be elected for a longer term, and not be reëligible and the chief magistrate may then again become a statesman like Jefferson, instead of an electioneerer like Jackson or like Pierce. If the Northern States will take advantage of the crisis to introduce these and some other reforms into their institutions (as the South have already done in part), the Republic may once more recover the respect of Europe and its own. If they do not, we believe that no rate of progress
no plethora of wealth, no reach of prosperity and power, can save them from continued deterioration and frequent disturbances.
In the fourth place, we must not deceive ourselves by putting the controversy between North and South, even in imagination, upon a false issue. It is not directly, whatever it may become, a question of slavery or no-slavery. The South has not seceded because it either dreaded or resented direct interference with its Negroes, and disavows, truly or falsely, its intention of reopening the African slave-trade. The North is not resolute to prevent secession, because it either desires or designs to terminate slavery, and to promote emancipation. With the exception of an active, growing, and respectable party, the Northerners are neither generally philanthropists nor specially abolitionists. It is very true that the republican party in the North, with President Lincoln at their head, are and have long been desirous to prevent slavery from spreading into the unsettled territory. It is equally true that the Southerners are most pertinacious in sending advanced posts of slaves into the unsettled territory, and in asserting their right to do so. But this is because this territory is rapidly being populated to the extent which empowers it to demand admission into the Union as new States, and because the North is anxious to prevent, and the South is anxious to promote, the formation of new Slave States. It is a struggle, and has long been so, on both sides, not for Negro emancipation, but for political preponderance. Ambition, not humanity, has been the guiding and inspiring passion of the strife. The thousand variations rung upon the terms of compromise proposed by the North and rejected by the South showed this plainly enough. They all assumed that slavery was to be sanctioned and supported where it existed, and to be suffered under certain conditions to spread in a southerly and westerly direction,—that is, if the territories, when erected into States, should themselves desire it. The truth is,-and it is useless to hoodwink ourselves about the matter, the vast majority of the citizens of the free States desire the abolition of slavery as little, and shrink from the enormity and difficulty of the problem as much, as the Southerners themselves. It would derange their regular commerce, it would imperil the property on which their advances and mortgages are secured, it would place a race they instinctively loathe on a footing of nominal social equality with themselves, or at least they fancy it would do all these things; and all these things they deprecate and detest. But, on the other hand, their views, their sentiments, their principles, and, to some extent, their interests, are different from those of the planters and rowdies of the South. They believe they are more enlightened, they know they are
more numerous and wealthy, and they conclude they are more powerful; and they are determined, and think they are entitled, to say that the free States, with their energy and education, and not the slave States, with their stagnation, ignorance, and barbarism, shall henceforth rule at Washington, and direct the destinies of the Republic. The slave States, nearly equal in number, though far inferior in diffused instruction and in mere population, as well as in means, to their Northern brethren and rivals, have hitherto contrived to rule the Union, partly by more definite purpose, partly by more trained political capacity. As long as they could multiply States out of territory where their favourite institution was already domiciled, they could continue to command the Senate, and possibly to guide the commonwealth; but the last election showed that the dominion they had so long exercised had finally gone from them. They saw that henceforth the power of the Federal Government, such as it was, would be unfavourable to that boundless extension of conquest and of empire, in their direction, which, ever since the profligate days of Jackson, had been the one glorious vision which flattered both their ambition and their greed; and that if this vision were still to be carried out, and for their own behoof, it must be done by themselves as a separate Southern Confederation. No doubt the mere pecuniary passion for virgin soils, to which their slaves could from time to time be removed, so as always to be employed with profit, entered largely with the great planters into the motives for annexation and extension ; but this was rather a future than an immediate need, for within their own limits vast quantities of new and fertile land still remained unoccupied. The predominant, the passionate sentiment at the hearts of the respective combatants was this, and it broke out in every speech and document:- The Northerners were wild at the idea that the grand empire of which they were all so proud, and whose magnificent extent and resources might well inflame the coldest fancy, should be split into fragments just at the moment when they had in fair civil conflict conquered the right to wield its destinies. The South were vehemently determined that the sceptre just wrested from them should pass entire and undimmed into no other hands; and that, if they could no longer govern the old Imperial Commonwealth, they would have a Commonwealth and an Empire of their own.
Observe, we are by no means saying that slavery had not a most powerful bearing on the very condition of the issue raised. On the contrary, it was the institution of slavery more than any other cause that created the distinction between North and South, and has arrayed them into two hostile camps. Indirectly, perhaps, it, may be regarded as the causa sine quâ non of the
into no othperial Com of their own saying that
strife: the causa causans it is not. Even without slavery we are inclined to think political disruption between the distant sections of so vast a territory must have come. What we wish to make perfectly clear is, that now, whatever may the case in time, the belligerents are fighting, not to perpetuate or to abolish slavery, but to decide which shall rule the young empire of the West, and what empire there shall be to rule. Hereafter the issue may become different: interest, exigency, exasperated passion, may shift the ground to the most fearful one imagination can conjecture; fury may do what philanthropy has not done, and make the strife one between Negro slavery and Negro emancipation. But this is not yet. And in the mean time, we repeat it, the fight is for power, not for beneficence. If the quarrel had been compromised, it would have been upon the ground of the solemnly sanctioned continuance and the conditional extension of the baneful institution. If the North should conquer, and compel the South to return to a nominal allegiance, we have no confidence that slavery would be honestly and effectually circumscribed, and we are sure it would not be abolished. If the seceding States should make good their ground, and establish a distinct sovereign confederacy of their own, we confess we are unable to feel certain that the slaves will multiply faster, or their chains be more galling or more eternally riveted upon their race, than if the old régime had been preserved.
It is on this account that England finds herself unable to sympathise heartily with either rival. She cannot regret the disruption; she can scarcely desire either the exulting triumph or the utter subjugation of the South ; she can only deplore and deprecate an aimless and sanguinary war. She is certain to suffer during its continuance; she can hardly be benefited by either termination. Whether America is to be one Republic, or two, or several, she will probably continue as commercially valuable to us as she has been, and can never be as politically troublesome. For purposes of external aggression she must, under any circumstances, be less powerful, and therefore probably less unjust, less encroaching, and less cantankerous than was her wont. The effect of secession, however secession may end, cannot be undone. So far, good. But we cannot be very zealous for the North; for we do not like her ambition; we are irritated by her insolence; we are aggrieved by her tariffs ; but still we have much feeling of kinship and esteem. We cannot be at all zealous for the South; for though she is friendly and free-trading, she is fanatically SLAVE, and Slavery is the object of our rooted detestation. The strict neutrality, therefore, which policy prescribes to England in this unnatural strife is the real dictate of
toither term several, she has bee of externerful, apentanke