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stitutions, that always accompany those never-ending declarations of independence which Americans of every degree imagine themselves entitled to fling in the face of the universe, and especially in the face of England. No Englishman believes that George III. was a reckless and cruel tyrant who wished to reduce his colonies to slavery. Nobody who is not an American believes that the Republic shows at all points a resplendent superiority to the English monarchy. People may even be found, on both sides of the Atlantic, who doubt whether the States of America ever enjoyed such true freedom and happiness as under British rule, and who, judging from the course of American history and English history since the establishment of independence, see in that event no special cause for congratulation. It is precisely because we do not share the admiration of America for her own institutions and political tendencies that we do not now see in the impending change an event altogether to be deplored. In those institutions and tendencies we saw what our own might be if the most dangerous elements of our Constitution should become dominant. We saw democracy rampant, with no restriction on its caprices. We saw a policy which received its impulses always from below. We saw the wisdom and moderation of the nation tossed like weeds upon the popular surges. It is sufficient that we listened without anger to the boastings, which perhaps may have been considered by the more sensible and reflective of those who uttered them as conducive to the sentiment of nationality, and so far politic, if not true; and that we have sought to meet the aggressive and arbitrary acts of American diplomacy in a conciliatory spirit. But we can feel no special interest in the maintenance of a union whose origin was in the violent overthrow of British supremacy, nor need we affect particularly to lament the
Nothing can be clearer than that this union, as well as the confederation which it superseded, was formed from motives of pure and simple expediency. States that had always been independent of each other, found that they had common interests which union would foster, and common difficulties and defects which union would remove. They had proved that separate existence, even in the modified form of a league or alliance, was full of inconvenience. They were not numerous or extensive enough to render more than one confederacy desirable, and they took refuge in the alternative of union. No great principle was involved in this measure, nor did the Convention claim to be guided by any loftier impulse than the desire to escape from what Mr Motley, in his recent valuable pamphlet, calls the darkest period of their history. And granting, of course, that this motive for union was excellent
and sufficient, we would ask the most enthusiastic Unionist whether he sees in it anything especially sacred or holy. There are constitutions whose origin must for ever be interesting and admirable to mankind. In the re-union of a forcibly dismembered and once glorious nation-in the confederacy of kindred states against a common and formidable oppressor-in the sudden rise of a crushed people from debasement to self-direction and self-control, we see causes for respect and sympathy. But years had passed since the American States had achieved their independence. Their liberties were not threatened-they had never been united except by the temporary tie of a common revolt and their bond, necessary and judicious, was as prosaic as the establishment of a mercantile firm. Yet we are now called on to mourn as if some celestial light were about to vanish from earth with the American Constitution, and to look on those who have sundered it as enemies to humanity.
It was natural that a people whose chief boast was the unanimity and promptitude with which they had revolted from the shadow of oppression, should, in framing their Constitution, provide against the possible supremacy of any power of the state. They accordingly took such pains to guard against this contingency, that the weakness of the executive power strikes at once the most superficial inquirer into the nature of the Constitution. The President has the command of the army-but that army is raised and supported by Congress, and is too insignificant in force either to threaten liberty or to support the state. Relying only on the popular pleasure for re-election, the President is little more than a weathercock to indicate the direction of the popular will, and he holds office for too short a period to hope greatly to extend his personal influence. The sovereignty of the people being the basis of the Constitution, popular impulse is the great motive
power, and occasionally assumes even the direction of the administration of the laws; while, in other cases, territory has extended so far beyond the grasp of the executive power, that it has been found expedient to supply the absence of law with the rude and summary justice of self-elected judges and executioners. Men accustomed to live under such conditions bring back with them into civilised life a certain lawlessness, with which they leaven society; and in no great country is life so insecure, violence so common, and the right of private quarrel and revenge so undisputed, as in America.
Yet, notwithstanding the inefficiency of the executive and the turbulence of the population, it is not to be wondered at that for a time the Constitution answered its purpose. The machinery of each state worked better than before, because there were no longer serious points of collision, and it worked to a common instead of a divergent end. The credit of the Union was established abroad, while no causes of internal danger were apparent. The lower classes had already all the political power they could desirein a system of universal equality they saw nothing above them to excite their envy-and the most dangerous elements of the population found safe vent in the vast fields of enterprise open in the prairies and backwoods. Thus intestine troubles were obviated, and the Government were secure against foreign foes; for, though the power of the President would probably have been insufficient to obtain from the people materials for a long and sustained aggressive war with a great power, yet, for all purposes of defence, the spirit of the population, the nature of the country, and its geographical position which rendered an attack by an overwhelming European army almost impossible, were sufficient assurances. But there was one defect to which a confederation of this kind was especially liable. Formed from mo
tives of common interest, and held together by the precarious band of mutual consent, divergent interests might at any time dissolve it. Against the contingency of a formidable secession no provision was intrusted to the chief magistrate. External pressure on the arch of the Constitution would only unite it more firmly, but a blow from within would loosen the entire fabric. Accordingly, we have seen that, for a time, the nation went on expanding respectable in the eyes of the world, and admirable in the sight of itself. No convulsions shook it, no danger from without menaced it; its commerce increased enormously, its territory grew to vastness, and, in proportion, its voice was raised in bluster, aggression, and self-glorification. But a shrewd glance might perceive that the Constitution, framed with a view to common interests and to existing necessities, no longer fulfilled its purpose. The interests of the original consenting parties had ceased to be common-had even become hostile; and the necessities which the Union had been intended to provide for, had long ceased to be felt. New states, with different climates and different products, had been joined to the original framework; but while dominion increased, and with it the difficulty of reconciling contending interests, the power of the Government remained as before. It was clear that the Confederated States had outgrown the institutions which united them, and out of the territory sufficient for half-a-dozen kingdoms, it was now sought to form a separate dominion. In so natural a desire, it is impossible for any but an enthusiastic admirer of the Union to find anything to condemn. It is not difficult for a true friend of the American people to find in it much to approve.
The grudge between North and South is of old standing. Nearly thirty years ago, South Carolina sought to secede, but was forcibly retained in the Union. Amidst the
mutual bitter feeling that has constantly increased, North and South vied with each other in lauding the star-spangled banner that typified their fraternity. Their praises of it had become so habitual, the truth of them was so unquestioned, that to consider the Union as the perfection of human wisdom, was the first article of the national creed; and the strange spectacle was exhibited of the two great territorial divisions of the Republic expressing for each other the most bitter hatred, yet exalting to the skies the Constitution that united them. And now we behold the still stranger spectacle of the North exchanging with the South virulent defiance, yet preparing by force to retain it in the bonds of brotherhood. Jonathan entertains the worst possible opinion of the recusant David, yet, in the most opprobrious and exasperating terms, persists, sword in hand, in recalling him to his embrace. This position of affairs has something puzzling to a disinterested spectator. We can all understand why frowning Austria should wish to retain her hold on scowling Venetia-why Naples should have desired to coerce revolted Sicily; but it is by no means so self-evident why the North should press this thorn so fervently to her bosom. There was indeed a time when it might be thought a duty of the Government to take immediate steps to stop secession. It was when South Carolina stood alone-when it was believed that the revolt had originated in a faction that could not claim to represent the real opinion of the South, or of the single state, and that the majority of South Carolinians, surprised into temporary acquiescence, were only awaiting deliverance to declare for the Union. It was believed, too, that the real cause for secession was the intolerable assumption by the South that, unless an advocate of Southern views should always be elected to the Presidency, she would withdraw and declare herself independent. But it is evident that the election
of Mr Lincoln only precipitated a long-concerted plan, and that the South is at least as unanimous for secession as the North is for coercion.
We said that no attempt has been made to prove that secession menaces in any way the true interests of the American people. Let us suppose that a separation has been peaceably effected, and a rival independent government established. It cannot be pretended that the commerce of either will be on a worse footing than at present. Cultivation, manufactures, exchange of commodities, will go on as before -the traffic with foreigners will continue to increase. Each will be formidable for defence against a foreign enemy; and though the Union will certainly be vitiated by secession, whether violent or peaceable, yet a new confederation may be formed not less binding than the former, of extent more commensurate with the federal power, and with better promise of stability. The influence of the States thus partitioned will certainly be diminished. They will no more retain their former importance than the halves of a split diamond will bear its original value. But in the lament of the Federalists for their lost prestige we cannot join. We shall feel as we do towards a friend whose loss of importance is to him a real gain in the beneficial influence which it exerts on his character, and whom we may well congratulate on exchanging a pernicious elevation for a more safe and suitable position. The main source of the less pleasing points of American character has been their undisputed supremacy on that great continent. Amongst the great powers of Europe courtesy and forbearance have become essential attributes of their constant intercourse. The necessity for defence against formidable neighbours has armed governments with the power to assert law and order in their own territories. The web of foreign politics and diplomacy that is created by their rivalries, jealousies, and common inte
VOL. XC.-NO. DXLIX.
rests, gives full employment to the men among them of the best intellect and the highest honour. Thus, those who are the rightful leaders of opinion find full scope for their energies, the character of statesmanship is raised, and with it that of the nations who look to these leaders for guidance. But in America the best minds are not employed in the service of the State. The sovereignty of the people, always the dominant element in the Constitution, has gone on increasing. The country being exposed to none of the vicissitudes and contests that keep the kingdoms of Europe on their guard, the class that engrosses political power has never felt the need of the guidance of superior minds, but contents itself with the service of those who are most ready blindly to do its will. No one who knows America can be ignorant that her upper classes contain as large a proportion of excellent, high-principled, well-informed, sagacious men as are to be found in any country; but neither can any one who knows America be ignorant that these have but an inadequate and insignificant share in the direction of her affairs. Men who will not stoop to cajole a mob, or to scuffle for a place, naturally stand aloof from an arena where Ulysses counts for no more than Thersiteswhere Achilles, sprung from the gods, is lost in the crowd of the Myrmidons. Their opinions respecting the institutions of America would scarcely be more indulgent than our own, because it is the working of these institutions which has robbed the men of whom we speak of their just influence in the State; and we should lament no change that brought these men into their proper position, and rescued American politics and statesmanship from the tumultuous control of the populace. And, with a rival government on the frontier, with vital interests to be guarded, with great principles to be not vapoured about but put to the proof, we should probably see
the natural aristocracy rise from the dead level of the Republic, raising the national character with its own elevation; and the great men that America still owes to the world would appear in number and degree commensurate with her natural advantages, and with the reputation of the race from whom her people sprung.
While we believe, then, that a rival dominion on the continent would be thus wholesome for America, without diminishing her material prosperity, we are no less confident that her relations with foreign states will be infinitely more agree able than before. The salutary check of a neighbour who may become an enemy, will produce there, as in Europe, a courteous and considerate diplomacy. We shall no more have forced on us the unpleasant alternative of admitting arrogant pretensions or engaging in a senseless quarrel. Urged by the dominant class, which cannot be expected to appreciate or to practice courtesy or moderation, American statesmen are generally ready to enforce their diplomacy with the threat of war. It is to no purpose to remember that we have nothing to fear in a war with a nation whose warlike powers are so insignificant compared with our own. Though we should never doubt the issue of such a contest, yet victory would bring us no benefit, not even glory, and the loss of commerce and expenditure would be incurred for a barren result. Thus America is always secure of the forbearance which prudent strength must accord to recklessness in matters not of vital importance. But these relations are not good for either nation; and diplomacy will gain immensely by a change which promises to reduce such statesmen as Seward, and such officers as Harney, to their proper level.
principle of right. A great principle was involved in the late struggle in Naples. A great principle is involved on each side of the question whether Italy or Austria should hold Venetia. But the only element of general interest in the present quarrel is the question of Slavery. It has been insinuated that in not siding with the North we are false to our own principles, and are, in fact, suppporting that institution which we have professed ourselves so anxious to abolish. But, to make this charge good, it must be shown that slavery is the actual ground of quarrel, that the continued existence of the Union would have suppressed or discouraged it, and that Secession will foster and extend it. Not only is all this without proof, but it is contrary to evidence. We will quote on this point the testimony of the New York Times, which calls the southern men conspirators, and their secession " great crime against humanity." Enlarging on the absence of provocation for the separation, and on the benefits which the Union has conferred on the South, it says,—
"In no solitary instance have their rights been infringed, their liberties abridged, or their interests invaded by the Government of the United States. On the contrary, they have known that Government only by the blessings it has conferred upon them. It has fought their battles, enlarged their area, paid for their postal service, augmented their power and consideration abroad, and shielded their peculiar institution from the hatred and hostility of the civilised world. But for the Union, and the protection which it has afforded them, they would long since have sunk under the weight of their own evils, or been crushed by the enmity of hostile powers. During the whole period of their connection with the Union they cannot point to a single instance of hostile or unfriendly action on the part of the United States. Not a single law has ever been passed interfering with slavery
Seeing, then, in secession, no menace to the best interests of America, and to ourselves only advantage, we have only to consider whether it contravenes any great