Page images

Martineau, are pretty nearly to the same effect. "Through the whole prodigious expanse of this country," said Miss Martineau, in her volume. on "Society in America," "I saw no poor men, except a few intemperate ones. I saw some very poor women. I saw no beggars but two professional ones, who were making their fortunes in the streets of Washington. I saw no table spread in the lower order of houses that had not meat and bread spread upon it. Every factory child carried his umbrella, and drivers wear spectacles." The Earl of Carlisle says: "In America they really have no poor amongst them; a beggar is what you never see."

All through the free States of America there is an absence of that visible wretchedness and degradation to be everywhere seen mingled with the wealth and splendour of European cities. The whole mass of the working classes are better dressed, and appear more cleanly in their persons and attire. As far as the necessaries of life and even material comforts are concerned, even the backwoodsman is in circumstances of comfort amid the affluent solitudes of nature. And these remarks apply with still greater force to personal acquirements. Having mostly to live by their own exertion, and debarred from expensive pleasures, the lower classes are induced to improve themselves with unremitting assiduity; and for this they possess the most ample opportunities.

In a word, the United States have hitherto been a country in which every human being has been profitably employed in business and not in the destruction of human life. His energies have been stimulated by requited labour, every branch of industry has flourished, and every industrious man has had it in his power to be prosperous and happy. Everywhere, till recently, were heard, in her cities and remotest villages, the joyful sounds of enterprising industry, the ringing music of the workman's tools and the anvil, and the ceaseless hurry of commercial occupation.

Nor has the progress of this great country been exclusively of a material character. Benevolent and philanthropic societies have increased; literature and education, and the means of religious teaching, have advanced step by step with the progress made in commerce and in national wealth. Most of those institutions, indeed, by which the civilisation of the Old Country is distinguished, exist also in the New; they have their Sabbath observance societies, their societies for the abolition of war and promotion of universal peace and brotherhood, their Bible and tract societies, their temperance and anti-tobacco societies, their home and foreign missions, their asylums, schools, and hospitals, but the result has been pretty nearly the same as elsewhere, and nothing is left at present but hope for the future.

The causes of the rapid advancement and prosperity of the United States up to the present time may be traced to the qualities of government, freedom of commerce, of speech, and of action, religious as well as civil and political liberty, exemption from old habits and prejudices, superior enterprise and energy of her people, freedom of institutions, facilities of locomotion, stimulus applied to agricultural labour, number of small proprietors, superior domestic economy, general self-reliance and independent spirit of the people, great economy of the government, prevalence of education, the character of the first settlers, the general diffusion of Protestant Christianity over the land, and the prevalent conviction of the

final evangelisation of America, or, in other words, the strong religious spirit on the national character.

Almost all these advantages, all these great and praiseworthy grounds of progress and advancement, have for the time being been sacrificed before the withering, blighting curse of slavery. When President Lincoln devotes the major portion of his address at an extra session of congress to prove that there is no such thing as Sovereignty of States, that the Union existed before the States, or the body before its members, and that it is not in the power of one State to separate from another, he breaks with the past, and dissipates with the wand of a budding despotism all the traditions and legends of American independence, however much he may be justified by the necessity of circumstances. The time has come when every patriot must feel that the Anglo-American must rise or fall by the Union. But President Lincoln himself attests to the shallowness of the reasons upon which this necessarily despotic mode of procedure is founded, by averring that there is not, he believes, a majority of the legally qualified voters of any State, except, perhaps, South Carolina, in favour of disunion.

There is much reason to believe that the Union men are the majority in many, if not in every other one of the so-called seceded States. The contrary has not been demonstrated in any one of them. It is ventured to affirm this even of Virginia and Tennessee, for the result of an election held in military camps, where the bayonets are all on one side of the question voted upon, can scarcely be considered as demonstrating popular sentiment. At such an election all that large class who are at once for the Union and against coercion would be coerced to vote against the Union.

Thus in one paragraph he denies the right to secession, and in another he would concede the right to a majority of voters, by denying that that majority has been fairly tested.

That the movement forced upon the government of the United States by the disruption of the South is of a despotic tendency, is still more strongly evidenced by the president's own words: "Must a government of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence ?" There is no sophistry here; President Lincoln openly avows what has long been foreshadowed of the American government, that it is not strong enough to coerce the people, and that it must be stronger in order to enforce the Union and to maintain its own existence !

Nothing but the imperious force of circumstances, which historically rules all things, could justify the free States going to war with the slave States, in order to force them into union with them. But such coercion must be put in force, or the whole Union breaks to pieces, and with it all its existing and much-vaunted institutions, and hence it is that war became a justifiable and imperious necessity. But coercion having once taken the place of liberty of action, it is not at all likely that, notwithstanding the president's assurances to the contrary, the executive once strengthened, once armed, once victorious, and once habituated to trample upon law, institutions, and precedents, will ever return precisely to what it was. The chief causes of the rapid advancement and prosperity of the United States, the qualities of her government, freedom of action, civil and political liberty, exemption from old habits and prejudices,

economy of governments, and freedom of institutions, are all placed in jeopardy by a curse that was sure eventually to entail a retributive punishment-the upholding of slavery on one hand, and its toleration on the


There are many who have long regarded the so-called United States as an aggregate of inharmonious parts, brought together by chance, without any organised centre-a confederacy founded on principles necessarily producing the wild convulsions of popular fanaticism-a mode of government deemed impracticable in the present imperfect state of human society by many even of its friends.

To this it has been answered, that the republic of the United States, as it exists, is a Union of several States for mutual advantage and strength, each possessing the most ample and absolute power within itself to regulate every particular relating to mere local necessities; and no new State loses its distinctiveness, it may be said its "nationality," by joining the Union, but that, however weak the new comer into the Federal family, the other States, for their own sake, protect its independence. Thus, while all enjoy the benefit, no partiality exists; while each pays but a mite, as it were, towards the general good, the good is enjoyed in common. The interest of each is, therefore, so interwoven with the prosperity of the commonwealth, that none would willingly attempt the injury of the smallest part. "The individuality of the States is the very life of the Union." "If ever this principle of admission to a perfect equality of privileges, and to a complete participation of government, is replaced by the subjection of conquered or voluntarily annexed territories to the whole Federal Union, or to one particular State, or even by the least subservience to the parent republic, then, indeed, serious danger would arise."

There cannot be the least doubt as to the truth of the last prophecy. If one portion of the Union was to conquer another, a permanent subjection, if possible, would be intolerable, and it would at the same time be utterly incompatible with the existing form of government. The very principles laid down as those upon which that government was formed, and as constituting the vitality of the Union, have been already superseded by the statement that the States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the constitution, no one of them ever having been a state out of the Union!

The original States (quoth President Lincoln) passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence, and the new ones came into the Union directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas; and even Texas, in its temporary independence, was never designated as a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the old ones in and by the Declaration of Independence. Therein the United Colonies were declared to be free and independent states. But even then the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another or of the Union, but directly the contrary, as their mutual pledge and their mutual action before, at the time, and afterwards, abundantly show.

The express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen States, in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual, is most conclusive, having never been States either in substance or in name outside of the Union. Whence this magical omnipotence of state rights,



asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the sovereignty of the States; but the word, even, is not in the national constitution, nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a sovereignty, in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it, a political community without a political superior? Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, was a Sovereignty; and even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union, by which act she acknowledged the constitution of the United States, and the laws and treaties of the United States, made in pursuance of States which have their status in the Union, made in pursuance of the constitution, to be for her the supreme law. The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this, they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not the States separately, procured their independence and their liberty, by conquest or purchase; the Union gave each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and in fact it created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and in turn the Union threw off their old dependence for them, and made them States such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course it is not forgotten that all the new states formed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union. Unquestionably, the States have the powers and rights reserved to them in and by the national constitution. But among these, surely, are not included all conceivable powers, however mischievous or destructive, but at most such only as were known in the world at the time as governmental powers. And certainly a power to destroy the government itself had never been known as a governmental or as a merely administrative power. This relative matter of national power and State rights, as a principle, is no other than the principle of generality and locality. Whatever concerns the whole should be confined to the whole general government; while whatever concerns only the State should be left exclusively to the State. This is all there is of original principle about it. Whether the national constitution, in defining boundaries between the two, has applied the principle with exact accuracy, is not to be questioned.

The principles here expounded are diametrically opposed to all that has ever been understood of the constitution of the United States. The form of government had its origin in the principle of the sovereignty of the people, which predominates over the whole of society in that portion of America. Hence arose the so-called Sovereignty of the States, even if the word is not in the constitution. There are twenty-four small "sovereign nations," says De Tocqueville, "whose agglomeration constitutes the body of the Union." "Whenever," says the same writer, "the political

laws of the United States are to be discussed, it is with the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people that we must begin." "In America, the principle of the sovereignty of the people is not either barren or concealed, as it is with some nations; it is recognised by the customs and proclaimed by the laws; it spreads freely, and arrives without impediment at its most remote consequences. If there be a country in the world where the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people can be fairly appreciated, where it can be studied in its application to the affairs of society, and where its dangers and its advantages may be foreseen, that country is assuredly America." "I have already observed that, from their origin, the sovereignty of the people was the fundamental principle of the greater number of British colonies in America." It therefore existed before they cast off their British colonial independence. "The American revolution broke

out, and the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people, which had been nurtured in the townships, took possession of the state; every class was enlisted in its cause; battles were fought, and victories obtained for it, until it became the law of laws." It existed, therefore, before the Union; and it is absurd, therefore, to assert that the Union gave to each of the States whatever of independence and liberty it now has.

"To examine the Union," says De Tocqueville, "before we have studied the States, would be to adopt a method filled with obstacles. The form of the Federal government of the United States was the last which was adopted, and it is, in fact, nothing more than a modification or a summary of those republican principles which were current in the whole community before it existed, and independently of its existence. Moreover, the Federal government is the exception; the government of the States is the rule." "The great political principles which govern American society at this day, undoubtedly took their origin and their growth in the State." Alluding again to the consolidation of the States at the time of the War of Independence, De Tocqueville says: "No sooner was peace concluded than the faults of legislation became manifest, and the State seemed to be suddenly dissolved. Each colony became an independent republic, and assumed an absolute sovereignty." That at the first constitution of the Federal government the government of the states remained the rule, and that of the Confederation became the exception. (See the Amendment to the Federal Constitution; Federalist, No. 32; Story, p. 711; Kent's Commentaries, vol. i. p. 364.) "The powers delegated by the constitution," says the Federalist (No. 45), "are few and defined. Those which remain in the state government are numerous and indefinite."

It is amusing, but it is not surprising, to hear President Lincoln, in defiance of all past facts connected with the history of the Declaration of Independence, the formation of the Federal Union, and the adoption of the constitution framed by Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Jay, and others, of which the independence and sovereignty of the government of each State constitutes the essential basis, declaring that the States have no legal status except in the Union, that they have no liberty or independence save in the Union, and that there is no such a thing as sovereignty of the people or of the States. This leads us to anticipate that we may some day hear where sovereignty does lie!

It has been the fashion with some to appeal to the history of the ancient republics as confirmatory of their prophecies of the impracticable character of the government of the United States. This, again, has been met with by pointing out that there is an important distinction between the material of American strength and that of the republics of old. Those republics, unlike America, had neither sufficient territory nor large enough population to give them a permanent existence. They were more particularly destitute of an agricultural population, the class most essential to permanent power. Lastly, it has been said that the tendency of society in the ancient world, even in republics, was to personify itself in great despotisms; whilst the tendency of society in America has ever been towards equality of rank and power among its members. But what is here declared to be an element of permanent strength, has by others been looked upon as a source of weakness; and the immense

« PreviousContinue »