Page images

"Astonishing deeds throughout the world," says Bancroft, "attended these changes. Armies fought in the wilderness for rule over the solitudes which were to be the future dwelling-place of millions. Navies hunted each other in every sea, engaging in battle, now near the region of the icebergs, now amongst the islands of the tropics. Inventive art was summoned to make war more destructive, and to signalise sieges by new miracles of ability and daring."

By this struggle the Confederate States released themselves from the exactions of a distant dominancy; they gained not only their independence but their liberty. And though the whole country was impoverished, the Union dissolving, its seaports desolate, its ships decayed, and the flower of its youth withered in the prison-ship or on the battlefield, it awoke to an almost instantaneous and marvellous display of enterprise and energy, and suddenly sprang into the rank of the mightiest of the nations, shining, till the fatal moment of disseverance and civil war, as a star of the first magnitude in the constellation of earthly kingdoms, and almost sharing with her former mistress the dominion of the sea.

Though England, in her contest with the United States, had neither the support of popular sympathy nor the dignity of military success, she retired from the field of her disasters with some consolation. She had laid the broad foundation of a nation gifted with her own courage, intelligence, and enterprise, an imperishable population, however divided or subdivided, or however ruled, possessing her arts, her morals, her literature, and her religion; and although it was severed from her dominion, men of experience soon began to see that future commercial intercourse with the States would be more advantageous to the mother country than it could have been if they had remained in colonial subjection.

It has, indeed, been now long since shown that the States have infinitely more benefited England by becoming independent, in consuming the manufactures of the parent State, than could ever have been the case had she continued a colonial appendage. The importations of English products into the States are more than equal to those into all the colonies of Great Britain put together.

The census of the United States, published in 1851, estimated the entire population at 25,000,000; of which about one-third were slaves, Indians, and free persons of colour. The Free States were found to contain between 13,000,000 and 14,000,000, the Slave States between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 free, and about 3,000,000 slaves. The population may be now estimated, according to its great average ratio of increase, which has been of 3,929,827 in 1790, to 23,191,876 in 1856, at 28,000,000; but the relations of the populations as between the Free States and the Slave States may be supposed to have remained the same. The growth of the population is without a parallel in the history of man. The emigration from Europe was calculated at 1000 per day. In 1850 Lord John Russell showed that 223,078 had sailed from the mother country for the States in that single year. Full 2,500,000 of the population of England, it is estimated, have gone within the last forty years to swell the population of the States.

The Irish emigrants settle in the commercial towns and along the great thoroughfares; the Germans settle mostly in the country; the English in the neighbourhood of towns, on cultivated lands; the Scotch largely

in New England and New York; the French in cities; and the Welsh in the neighbourhood of woods and mines.

In whatever direction you proceeded, from the centre of every city or town to its various outlets, rows and piles of new buildings were in progress of erection, and green fields and fruitful gardens were being rapidly converted into streets and squares, with magnificent edifices. The flood of population, doubling itself every twenty years, has swept over the Alleghanies, crossed the blue Ohio and the father of waters, has followed the shores of the Great Lakes, has rolled up the Missouri to the far west; its advancing tide has already enlivened the coasts of Florida and Texas, settled in New Mexico and the Utah wilderness, and pushed across the Rocky Mountains to the shores of California and Oregon, the very lines by which the Atlantic was to be united to the Pacific had been laid down, when this great Anglo-Saxon empire was by the fiat of Providence in all human probability broken up for ever.

The particular form of government of the United States was, as is well known, a federative republic, or representative democracy, designated "the Congress of the United States," and, like the constitution of England, it provided for three branches of government, only that these branches were all elective, and that by a widely diffused suffrage. Such a government assured to the people the grand principles of freedom, liberty of conscience in matters of religion, liberty of the press, trial by jury, and the right of choosing and being chosen to office. Democracy was in the United States a palpable existence in full operation-an active principle, demonstrating man's capability to govern himself, and to determine between right and wrong, in all political as well as civil and religious affairs.

But every Federal system contains defects which baffle the efforts of the legislator. De Tocqueville, in his well-known work on "Democracy in America," long ago pointed out the relative weakness of the government of the Union as a defect inherent in the Federal system, that the sovereignty of the separate States was apparently weaker, but in reality stronger, than that of the Union, and that, above all, war was the main peril of confederations.

"The most important occurrence which can mark the annals of a people," said De Tocqueville, "is the breaking out of a war. In war a people struggles with the energy of a single man against foreign nations, in the defence of its very existence. The skill of a government, the good sense of the community, and the natural fondness which men entertain for their country, may suffice to maintain peace in the interior of a district, and to favour its internal prosperity; but a nation can only carry on a great war at the cost of more numerous and more painful sacrifices; and to suppose that a great number of men will of their own accord comply with these exigencies of the state, is to betray an ignorance of mankind. All the peoples which have been obliged to sustain a long and serious warfare have, consequently, been led to augment the power of their government. Those which have not succeeded in this attempt have been subjugated. A long war almost always places nations in the wretched alternative of being abandoned to ruin by defeat, or to despotism by success. War, therefore, renders the symptoms of the weakness

of a government most palpable and most alarming; and I have shown that the inherent defect of Federal government is that of being weak." If this was the case with regard to foreign war, still more so would it be the case in civil war. The Federal system was not only deficient in every kind of centralised administration, but the central government itself was and is imperfectly organised, and this would just as much be an influential cause of incapability when opposed to another batch of confederated States nearly similarly circumstanced, but united for purposes of self-defence or opposition, as it would when opposed to other countries which might be governed by a single authority.

The revenue of the general Federal government has been hitherto derived almost exclusively from the sale of lands, and from duties on imports and tonnage, or foreign merchandise; and it could create no other. The necessity for direct taxation and internal levies on the people, now rendered so imperiously necessary, may be borne for a time under the impulse of excitement, but can scarcely be expected to last without entailing new relations between the governing power and the people. There are no tithes, no church-rates, no poor-rates, yet under such a system the receipts into the treasury had increased from 26,000,000 to over 49,000,000 dollars, and the Californian trade-the commercial phenomenon of this commercial age-has also added 100,000,000 dollars to the national commerce, and more than any event in the last forty years, has invigorated the navigating interest of the country, exerting a powerful influence over the commercial marine of the world by swelling the internal trade of the United States, and enabling her to own more than two-fifths of the tonnage of the world. The government has hitherto extracted nothing more from the pockets of the people than has been absolutely necessary to meet the expenses. It, above all, extracted nothing from the miseries of the people. Expenditure was reduced to the utmost, without detriment to the public service. No taxes were levied on local manufacturing industry. The practice seemed to accord more with the theory of Sismondi than with that of Adam Smith. The restriction of cash payments having proved fatal to the progress of the doctrines of the latter, they have viewed political economy as a science of proportions; they appear to have recognised the principle that income must increase with capital, that population must not go beyond the income upon which it has to subsist, that consumption should increase with population, and that reproduction should be proportioned to the capital which produces and to the population which consumes it. The form of government has been objected against, repudiated, and even ridiculed by Captains Marryat, Hall, and others, on account of its admitted deficiencies and evils; but although it has never pretended to be a standard of pure integrity and uncorrupted political principle, it has hitherto eminently subserved the security of property, honesty, and public feeling (with some few exceptions, more especially latterly) in public functionaries, the sanctity of moral obligation, and the faithful execution of simple and equitable laws. Above all, it made no invidious distinctions: there was little or no partiality-no respect of persons. Its spirit and genius have been hitherto those of perfect political and civil equality. Always excepting its monstrous and anomalous treatment of the slave

population and of people of colour, the natural punishment for which it is now first beginning to feel, and its mania for territorial aggrandisement, government has been hitherto ever based on principles of equal rights and privileges.

Although, however, equality among its citizens was so universally recognised and enjoyed under the laws of the United States, it must not be understood that it is equality of property and power; it must not be supposed that there were no gradations in society. The equality was not so much equality of social position as of political, civil, and religious right. From the settlement of the republic, notwithstanding the abjuration of all aristocracy, there has been an upper, a middle, and a lower class. There are distinctions of property, diversity of condition, subordination of rank, and a variety of occupations. Equality before the law is no more synonymous in the United States of personal independence than in any other country. The annals of the world conclusively demonstrate the impossibility of perfect social equality, or of complete personal independence in communities of human beings. So there has also existed for now some time back in the United States, two parties-the Federal or Aristocratic, and the Democratic. "One party," said Jefferson, "fears most the ignorance of the people; the other, the selfishness of rulers independent of them."

Strange that in a government so constituted its advantages should be invidious and partial. While the roar of her cannon on every anniversary of her independence was heard from a thousand hills, and the air was filled with her shouts and huzzas for liberty, three millions of her subjects were denied the precious boon, and doomed-themselves and their posterity-to drag out their lives in perpetual bondage. Though Congress had solemnly declared, in the face of the world and before the God of Heaven, that freedom was the rightful inheritance of every son and daughter of Adam, yet have they continued in the true spirit of Pagan tyranny to withhold it from those upon whom the wickedness of their ancestors riveted the fetters of slavery.

The "domestic institution," as it is called, has been at the bottom of everything questionable in the policy of the government-everything wicked, everything foolish, everything impolitic, everything mischievous, done by the Congress of the United States for a long course of years. Every political change, every unaccountable new law, must be studied by the baleful light of this institution, and all will be intelligible. It is an institution-itself a disastrous remnant of barbarism-that has made the whole nation barbaric in many of its aspects. Events long foreseen have been brought to a crisis by the abominations of the Fugitive Slave Law and by the insatiate ambition of the South for increased slave domination by adding two other slave States, Kansas and Nebraska, to the number of the stripes and stars, and a long-tolerated evil has worked out its necessary results of corrupting the whole body politic and involving the whole confederation in internecine strife and war, the upshot of which it would be difficult at the present moment to predict.

In public, as in private matters, there is no possible, durable, permanent and ultimate success where all principle, morality, and uprighteousness are set at nought. De Tocqueville, among others, foreshadowed the results of slavery as upheld by democracy long ago. After making the

remark that the dangers which threaten the American Union do not originate in the diversity of interests or of opinions, but in the various characters and passions of the Americans, and after pointing out the differences which climate and slavery have gradually introduced between the British settler of the Southern States and the British settler of the North, he goes on to say that the greatest peril to which the Union is exposed by its increase arises from the continual changes which take place in the position of its internal strength. The city of Washington was founded in 1800, in the very centre of the Union; but such are the changes which have taken place, that it now stands at one of the extremities, and the delegates of the most remote Western States are already obliged to perform a journey as long as that from Vienna to Paris.

All the states have been borne onwards at the same time in the path of fortune, but they have not all increased and prospered in the same proportion. To the north of the Union, the detached branches of the Alleghany chain, which extend as far as the Atlantic Ocean, form spacious roads and ports, which are constantly accessible to vessels of the greatest burden. But from the Potomac to the Mississippi the coast is sandy and flat. In this part of the continent, and which constitutes the territory of the confederated Southern States, the mouths of almost all the rivers are obstructed, and the few harbours which exist amongst these lagunes afford much shallower water to vessels, and much fewer commercial advantages, than those of the North. The North is, therefore, superior to the South both in commerce and manufacture; the natural consequence of which is, the more rapid increase of population and of wealth within its borders. But, again, the States situate upon the shores of the Atlantic are already half peopled. These districts cannot, therefore, receive so many emigrants as the Western States, where a boundless field is still open to their exertions. The valley of the Mississippi is far more fertile than the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. This reason, added to all the others, contributes to drive Europeans westward. It is found that the sum total of the population of all the United States has about tripled in the course of forty years; but in the recent States adjacent to the Mississippi the population has increased thirty-one-fold within the same space of time.

The relative position of the central Federal power is thus continually displaced. Forty years ago the majority of the citizens of the Union was established upon the coast of the Atlantic, in the environs of the spot upon which Washington now stands; but the great body of the people has been now some time past advancing inland and to the North, so that in De Tocqueville's time that writer was enabled to predict that the majority would, in twenty years' time, be unquestionably on the western side of the Alleghanies. This is precisely what has occurred, and, more than that, the extreme north-west provinces, which by their character and position are more hostile to slavery than the north-east provinces, or even the central north, have been able to determine the presidential election, and thus sway for a time, at all events, the fortunes of a country for which we have not any precise name, but which was lately the United States in North America.

"If the Union goes on to exist," De Tocqueville also predicted, "the basin of the Mississippi is evidently marked out, by its fertility and its extent, as the future centre of the Federal government." But any pro

« PreviousContinue »