JOHN STUART MILL.
IN the early part of last year I went out to America as special correspondent of Macmillan's Magazine and the Spectator newspaper, and returned last autumn, after the failure of the Peninsular expedition. Accidental circumstances have delayed the appearance of this work; but the course of events since I left America has only confirmed the views which I formed during my residence there. The facts and reasons on which these views were formed I have endeavoured to relate in these volumes. Portions of the following pages have appeared already in the above-named periodicals. So much, however, has been added to them, and so much revised and re-written, that it is the writer
viiialone who must be considered responsible for any statements of fact or opinion contained therein.
If anything that I have written should jar upon the feelings of my friends on either side the Atlantic, I can only beg them to believe that I have stated simply what I conceive to be the truth, in the earnest hope that, by so doing, I might render some little service towards creating a more friendly feeling between the two great English-speaking nations of the world.
OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE CLUB,
Out at Sea.
IT was not my purpose on going to America to write a book of travels. I did not intend, in other words, to republish my own diary. Everybody judges of the public by himself, and I own that, to me, the perusal of any other person's diary is singularly uninteresting. In an unknown country, the daily record of the traveller's adventures may possess a real value. On a journey such as mine it was not probable that a traveller would meet with any greater personal adventures than rough quarters, bad inns, and stormy weather. It would be a matter of little interest to the public, or, indeed, to myself, to record whether on such a night, in such a month, I slept at Philadelphia or at Baltimore, and whether I found the Girard House better
2than the Continental, or vice versa. A fellow-passenger, on board the good ship Africa, kept a careful log of the vessel's progress, and kindly presented me with a copy. I always wonder, when I think of it, what conceivable satisfaction he expected to derive hereafter by the knowledge that, on one day during that weary, dreary blank which a sea voyage forms in human life, we were in longitude 42° 15', and the next in longitude 46° 38'. There is no disputing about tastes; but, as far as my experience goes, the taste for statistical information is not a common one. The great majority of mankind (and, I confess, I agree with them) are perfectly content to travel by railroad without knowing, or caring to know, how many revolutions the wheels make per minute, and how many tons of coal are consumed at a given speed. It is for Gallios on such matters that I write.
Of my voyage, therefore, I shall say but little. It was in the depth of winter, immediately after the settlement of the Trent affair, that I sailed for the New World. What with the storms at sea and the storms in the political ocean, our complement of passengers was of the scantiest; and yet, scanty as it was, it formed a strange epitome of the new country we were hurrying to. Most of us were men who had seen something of the world. We had amongst us an ex-colonial governor; the son of an English earl, now a member of the Canadian parliament; a quondam man about town, settled in
3the Far West, to whom the prairie and Pall Mall were alike familiar; a Frenchman, whose home was in New York, but whose heart lay in Paris; a Swiss officer of distinction; a Scotch lawyer, who had married in America; a number of New York and Boston dry-goods men; and a young Englishman, travelling for pleasure, to visit his relatives in the States. With the exception of myself, perhaps, every one of us had his fortunes more or less connected with both hemispheres.
Politics were dangerous subjects of conversation; and we avoided them as much as possible. We had strong pro-Union New Englanders amongst us, Government agents, Southern secessionists, and an unhappy bagman, who (I believe entirely on the strength of a somewhat forbidding cast of features) was regarded as a spy. The promotion, therefore, of mutual good fellowship put a check on political discussions; and even without this, we were not intellectually equal to them. In fact, what struck me most amongst the novelties of a long sea voyage, was the extraordinary lassitude of mind produced by it. It is a mystery to me still how we ate so much, slept so long, and did so little. We tried very hard, at times, to amuse ourselves, and failed lamentably. We told the same stock stories, heard the same stock jokes, and played at the same stock games. Being at sea, we did as sea-travellers do. We were first absurdly stiff, then unreasonably familiar, then personally offensive to each other, and finally
4quarrelsome. We had hardly any ladies amongst us; but we talked as much gossip, and spread as much scandal about one another, as if we had been a crew of old maids. In short, we were dull — drearily dull.
Our passage was, I suppose, much as other passages are — of the water, watery. We had the regular experiences. We had a storm, and got blocked amongst the ice, and were enveloped in a fog off the banks of Newfoundland. We were followed by the sea-gulls from the Mersey to the Narrows; sighted a ship or two; saw, or fancied we saw, an iceberg; and were visited by a sparrow in the middle of the Atlantic. These are the sole outward incidents of our voyage I can call to mind. Of the remarks made by any of us during that period of intellectual trance, there is but one, I think, worth recalling, less for its intrinsic value, than as a word of recollection to my fellow-passengers, in case any of them should come across this book of mine. It was during the height of our one great storm. The waves were rolling, foaming, surging round us, as only Atlantic waves can do; the ship staggered, careened, and reeled, as wave after wave came thundering on her; the wind roared howling round us; and sea and sky seemed fused together in one watery mist of foam and spray. At last, a monster wave struck us dead upon the larboard side (I hope that is the correct nautical term), broke the stout beams of the deck-cabin as though they had been
5tinder, carried afloat chairs and tables, and flooded the berths below with a sea of water. A small party were playing faro at the time, clinging to the table with one hand, and clutching their cards with the other, when the wave washed both players and tables away to the end of the cabin. One of them, a friend of mine, sprung up with his cards in his hands, and staggering across the cabin, groaned, amidst the howling of the tempest and the shrieks of the female passengers, "I wish Columbus had been crucified!" That such a saying should have been the brightest I can remember on our voyage, will give the reader a fair impression of the mental imbecility to which sea sickness and dulness had reduced us.
With this much of mention, I am content to lot my outward voyage float out of memory. I do not like to contemplate the possibility of a state of existence in which it will hereafter be a pleasure to remember it.
IT was on the brightest of bright winter days that I entered New York. Morally, it was about the gloomiest period of the Federal fortunes, the darkest of the night before the break of day so soon to follow. The pilot, who hailed us off Sandy Hook, brought us as the only news a rumour that Burnside's expedition had been half destroyed by a storm at sea; and our American fellow-passengers received the intelligence gloomily. Still, the charm of seeing land again was enough to make us forget all political troubles; and, apart from that, the approach through the Narrows into the landlocked bay of New York will remain in my mind as one of the loveliest scenes that I have ever looked upon. Out of the cold chill grey dawn, as I stood shivering on deck, watching for the first glimpses of the New World, the sun rose in a mass of fire, as I had last seen it rise some six months before, far away across the gulf of Spezia. The dim haze rolled slowly away,
7and the sky grew clear and blue, like an Italian sky when the Tramontana wind is blowing southwards from across the Alps; and were it not that the hill-slopes which hemmed in the bay on either side were covered with white sparkling snow, and that my fingers tingled with a chill numbing cold, I might have fancied myself back in Italy. But the brightness of the air and the glitter of the sunshine neutralized the depression which cold always exercises on my appreciative faculties; and, even at the risk of frost-bitten toes, I lingered upon deck to gaze at the view. Past Sandy Hook Fort, where the stars and stripes were floating gaily; through the winding Narrows; close beneath the wooded banks of Staten Island, where villas of wood, villas of stone, villas with Doric porticoes, villas with Italian campaniles, Swiss cottages, and Grecian mansions seemed to succeed each other in a never-ending panorama; we floated onwards, towards the long low black line which marked the city of New York. The waters of the bay were calm and blue, like those of a Southern sea; and against the banks great masses of snow-covered ice lay huddled closely — while loose blocks, sparkling in the sunlight, came floating past us out to sea with the ebbing tide. The fairy pilot-boats, with their snow-white sails, darted across our path; vessels bearing the flag of every nation under the sun were dropping down with the flood; English, French, and American men-of-war lay anchored in the bay, where all
8the navies of the world might ride at pleasure; and the quaint Yankee river steamboats, which look as though, in an excess of sea sickness, they had thrown their cabins inside out, and turned their engines upside down, glided around us in every direction. So we steamed slowly on till the Empire City — a sort of Venice without canals — lay before us, half-hidden by the forest of masts, which, palisade-like, girds in its quays, and we were on land at last.
It seemed hard to realize, save for the sunshine, that I had come into a foreign country. Like the traveller of Horace, I had crossed the sea, and had changed nothing but the sky. Everything around and about me looked so like the Old Country. There were neither soldiers nor gendarmes, not even a policeman, waiting to receive us on landing. The passports with which I, in common with my fellow-passengers, had provided myself, were uncalled for; and we left the ship on our several errands without a question being asked of any one of us. Indeed, up to the hour when I quitted the States, I had never occasion to show my passport, except once, to a banker in the West, to whom it luckily served as a proof of my identity. Irish porters seized upon my luggage, as they would have done at the Tower steps in London. Street news-boys pestered me with second editions of English-printed newspapers. An old-fashioned English hackney-coach carried me to my destination, through dull, English-looking streets,
9with English names; and the driver cheated me at the end of my fare, with genuine London exorbitance.
It is not my purpose to describe New York — its sights, and streets, and monuments. The description has been given a score of times before, probably better than I could do it. Those who may wish for a detailed account, I would refer to "Appleton's Hand-book," the very model, in my mind, of all books of travels. Why, I wonder, does not somebody write a hand-book for Europe after the fashion of "Appleton"? Here, instead of the some dozen volumes which Murray would make on such a subject, you have a guide-book to all North America in one single volume. You have no poetical quotations, it is true — no artistic disquisitions, no specimens of fine writing — but you have all a traveller wants to know, and, what is more important, you have nothing that a traveller does not want to know.
However, I must admit, as a necessary qualification to the praise due to "Appleton," that all American cities have one peculiarity, not altogether displeasing to a somewhat blasé sight-seer, and that is, that they have few, if any, sights to show. New York is no exception to this general rule. There is a picture-gallery; there are a few public buildings, which are supposed to possess architectural merits; and there is the Croton Aqueduct, interesting to engineers. Still, with all deference to my New York friends, I hardly think that a European traveller need go far out of his way to visit any of these
10curiosities. I plead guilty to not having seen them, and have as little intention of describing them — possibly less — than I had of visiting them.
It is the general aspect alone of the city, the impression it left upon my mind, that I wish to convey in these pages. New York is not a show-place, and, architecturally, possesses but little claim to distinction. The plan of the city is, in itself, too simple for variety, and is easy enough to understand. The Island of Manhattan, on which New York is placed, is very like the shape of a sole. Now, if you suppose that the skeleton of a sole had a network of cross-bones, parallel as well as perpendicular to the backbone, you will have an exact idea of the plan of New York. The backbone is Broadway; the parallel cross-bones are the avenues, numbered from east to west; and the bones at right angles to the spine are the streets, numbered consecutively from the sole's mouth to its tail. This arithmetical nomenclature of the streets, which seems so barbarous to us in Europe, is really of great practical convenience. The system is not perfect, because the streets in the old parts of the town have names of their own; but still it is sufficiently so, to enable anyone to tell, given the name of a street, whereabouts it is situated, and how to get to it. The corner end of the island, corresponding to the sole's mouth, is the commercial part, the City of New York, of which Wall-street is the Cornhill. Broadway is the great thoroughfare,
11where all the chief shops and stores are situated; and Fifth Avenue, with the streets running across it, is the fashionable quarter, the resort of the Upper Ten Thousand, the Belgravia of the town. Across the middle of the island stretches the Central Park, and beyond that are large, straggling suburbs, whose streets stand high up in the multiplication table, and which threaten, in a few years, if New York should grow at its present rate, to cover the whole island of Manhattan. Across the Hudson and the East River, which join at the city end of the island, lie the great suburbs of Jersey City and Brooklyn — Birkenheads, so to speak, to the New World Liverpool. So much for the topography of New York. The general effect of the "Empire City" is to me disappointing. Simple magnitude is never very striking to anyone accustomed to London; and, except in magnitude, there is not much to impress you. Broadway is, or rather ought to be, a very fine street; and its single stores are as grand as anything can be in the way of shop-front architecture. But a marble-faced palace, of six stories high, has a cast-iron store, with card-paper-looking pillars, on one side, and a two-storied red-brick house on the other. There is no symmetry or harmony about the street, so that it lacks grandeur, without having irregularity enough to be picturesque. The rows of stunted trees on either side give it, in parts, a French look; but still, when I had once heard a candid American describe it as a "one-horse bouleyard,"
12I felt he had produced a description which could not be improved upon. Fifth Avenue is symmetrical enough; but its semi-detached stone mansions, handsome as they are, have not sufficient height to justify its American name of the Street of Palaces; while its monotony is dreadful. The other streets of the fashionable quarters are inferior editions of the Fifth Avenue, and suggested to me, just as our own districts of Tyburnia and Belgravia always do, two invariable reflections — firstly, what an enormous amount of wealth there must be in a country where such vast numbers of people can afford to live in such houses; and, secondly, how little artistic taste there must be amongst a people who, with such incomes, are content to live in dwellings of such external unattractiveness. The poorer streets, towards the banks of the island, have no architectural pretensions; and their prototype, the famous Bowery, bears the strongest family resemblance to the Walworth Road or to Mile-end Gate. The churches, with their towers and tall taper steeples, relieve the uniformity of the city; but, like all our modern style of ecclesiastical architecture, they are not vast enough to be imposing. In fact, if you could transpose New York to England, it would be externally as uninteresting a city as Manchester. But here, in this crisp clear air, there is a sort of French sparkle about the place which enlivens it strangely.
With the exception of the climate, there is far less
13of a foreign look about New York than I had expected. Statistics tell you that over one-half of the population of the city was born in the Old World; and it is also true, that there are only three German cities in the world — Vienna, Berlin, and, I believe, Hamburgh — which contain more German inhabitants than New York. But, somehow or other, the stout English kine seem to have swallowed up so completely the lean foreign kine, that there is little trace left outwardly of their existence. All the shop-notices, and all the thousands of placards, which are stuck upon every wall, with an utterly English disregard of artistic proprieties, are in English, and addressed to English customers. Announcements in the shop-windows that, "Ici on parle Français" and "Hier spricht man Deutsch," are but few; while the number of persons you meet speaking any language but English is smaller, I should say, than in London or in Liverpool. There are quarters in the town which Irish, French, and Germans more especially frequent; but Ratcliffe Highway is as much Irish, Whitechapel is as much German, and Leicester Square is as much French, as any corresponding district in New York. The German population evidently retains the strongest individuality of any foreign class; and the fancy for bright inharmonious colours, so common here amongst the women of the lower classes, coupled with the custom of wearing knitted woollen caps, instead of bonnets, gives rather a German look to the people
14in the poorer streets. There is a German newspaper too; and two or three German theatres, which the Germans have tried unsuccessfully to obtain leave to open on the Sunday. Indeed, the dulness of New York on Sunday is so pre-eminently British, that it is hard to persuade oneself one is not in London or Glasgow.
The physiognomy of the population is not English; but it is very difficult to state why, or in what respect, it is not so. The difference I take to be chiefly, that instead of the twenty varieties of form and feature you observe in an English crowd, one English type of face, and one only, the sallow, sharp-featured, straight-haired one, is reproduced indefinitely. An American friend of mine, who, I must add, is a firm follower of Mr. Buckle, has a theory, that the Red Indian is the type of face created by Nature for America; and that there is an irresistible tendency in each succeeding generation of Americans to approximate more and more to the natural Red Indian type. I give no opinion as to the value of the theory; but it is certainly a curious fact, how, in spite of the constant infusion of fresh foreign blood, one uniform type of face appears to be spreading itself through the American people. The coloured population in New York is not numerous enough in the streets, to give a foreign air to the crowd, as it forms little over one per cent, of the whole. At the hotels, and in wealthy private houses, the servants are frequently black, but in the streets
15there are few negroes visible. Here, as elsewhere, they form a race apart, never walking in company with white persons, except as servants.
There is a popular delusion in England, that New York is a sort of gingerbread-and-gilt city; and that, contrasted with an English town, there is a want of solidity about the whole place, materially as well as morally. On the contrary, I was never in a town where externally, at any rate, show was so much sacrificed to solid comfort. The ferries, the cars, the street railroads, and the houses, are all so arranged as to give one substantial comfort, without external decoration. It is, indeed, indoors that the charm of New York is found. There is not much of luxury, in the French sense of the word — no lavish display of mirrors, and clocks, and pictures — but there is more comfort, more English luxury, about the private dwelling-houses than I ever saw in the same class of houses at home. The rooms are so light and lofty; the passages are so well warmed; the doors slide backwards in their grooves, so easily and yet so tightly; the chairs are so luxurious; the beds are so elastic, and the linen so clean, and, let me add, the living so excellent, that I would never wish for better quarters, or for a more hospitable welcome, than I have found in many private houses of New York. All the domestic arrangements (to use a fine word for gas, hot water, and other comforts) are wonderfully perfect. Everything, even more than
16in England, seems adapted for a home life. From the severity of the winters, there can be no outdoor amusements during a great portion of the year; but, under any circumstances, there appears to be not much of public life. There are no cafés; and the nearest approach to any places of public resort, the hotel bar-rooms, are not places where you can sit down, or find any amusement, as an habitué, except that of drinking.
Undoubtedly, out of doors, you see evidences of a public equality, or rather absence of inequality, among all classes, which cannot fail to strike an inhabitant of the Old World. In the streets, the man in the hat and broadcloth coat and the man in corduroys and fustian jacket never get out of each other's way or expect the other to make way for him. In the cars and omnibuses ladies and washerwomen, gentlemen and labourers, sit hustled together without the slightest mutual sense of incongruity. In the shops and from the servants it is your own fault if you are not treated with perfect civility — but with civility as to an equal, not as to a superior. In the bar-rooms there is no distinction of customers; and as long as you pay your way, and behave quietly, you are welcome whatever your dress may be. No doubt the cause of this general equality is the absence of the classes brutalized by poverty whom you see in all our great cities. There is a great deal of poverty in New York, and the Five Points
17quarter — the Seven Dials of the city — is, especially on a bitter winter's day, as miserable a haunt of vice and misery as it was ever my lot to witness in Europe. Still, compared with the size of New York, this quarter is a very small one; and poverty there, bad as it is, is not helpless poverty. The fleeting population of the Five Points is composed of the lowest and most shiftless of the recent foreign emigrants; and in the course of a few years they, or at any rate their children, move to other quarters, and become prosperous and respectable. From these causes, and from the almost universal diffusion of education, there is no class exactly analogous to our English idea of the mob. The fact that well-nigh everybody you meet is comfortably dressed seems to disprove the existence of those dangerous classes which always attract the notice of a foreigner in England. There are few beggars about the town, and of those few, all are children. For an Anglo-Saxon population, there is very little drunkenness visible in the streets; and with regard to other forms of public vice it is not for an Englishman to speak severely. The Broadway saloons, with their so-called "pretty waiter-girls," and the Lager Bier haunts in the low quarters of the town, whose windows are crowded with wretched half-dressed, or undressed women, formed, indeed, about the most shameless exhibition of public vice I have ever come across, even in England or Holland; and I am glad to say that, since I left New York, the
18State Government, under a republican as opposed to a democratic legislature, has taken means to suppress these social nuisances. But in the streets at night, there are few of the scenes which habitually disgrace our own metropolis.
The great quiet and order of the city are in themselves remarkable. There is an air of unsecured security about New York I never saw equalled out of England. There are no soldiers about, as in a continental capital; and the policemen — nearly as fine a body of men, by the way, as our London police — appear to devote their energies to preserving Broadway from being utterly jammed up by carts, and to escorting ladies across that most treacherous of thoroughfares. The people seem instinctively to keep themselves in order. How a row would be suppressed if there was one, I cannot say; I only know that, during my stay in New York, I never saw anything approaching to a disturbance in any public place or thoroughfare.
But, in truth, everything there is so different from what one would expect it to be in theory. Under a democratic republic like that of New York State where, practically, the suffrage is universal, one would expect that in all social matters the convenience and interests of the individual would be sacrificed to of the public. The very contrary is the fact. The principle of vested rights — the power of every individual to consult his own inclinations in defiance of his neighbour's
19convenience — is carried there to a perfect absurdity. Anybody may build his house after his own fancy, in total disregard of the architectural style of the houses by which it is surrounded. Anybody may stop his cart or carriage where he likes; and I have seen Wall Street in its busiest hours blocked up by a stoppage caused by some brewer's dray, which chose to stand still at the side of the narrow street. Anybody has a right to get into the cars or omnibuses so long as he can squeeze his way in; and thus the cars — in themselves the most comfortable street conveyances I have ever travelled in — are rendered at times almost insufferable by the fact that the broad space between the seats is crammed with extra passengers, standing on, or in dangerous proximity to, the toes of the seated travellers. Cheap comfortable cabs are the one great luxury in which New York is deficient, and a cab company would probably be the most profitable of speculations; but the old hackney-coach proprietors, who possess the most rickety of two-horse, tumble-down vehicles, and who charge any price they like, from a dollar upwards, for any distance, have always, by their vested interests, contrived to thwart the introduction of cabs. The illustration, however, of this state of public feeling which most strikes a stranger is the state of the public streets in winter-time. It has been my fortune, or misfortune, in the course of many years of travel, to ride over a good number of bad roads of every kind of badness;
20but no road I have literally, as well as metaphorically, stumbled across, is to compare with Broadway during last winter's snows. When it froze hard at night, the street next day was a succession of Montagnes Roses, up and down which the carriages slid wildly. Over the pavement lay a coating of some three or four feet of snow, indented with holes and furrows and ridges of most alarming magnitude. Whenever there was a temporary thaw, this mass of ice and snow became a pond of slush — a very slough of despond. Without exaggeration, crossing the main-streets was a work of danger. Falls of foot-passengers were things of constant occurrence, while the struggles of the floundering horses to drag the carriages out of the ruts and crevasses were really painful to witness. I believe the state of the streets was somewhat worse that year than usual; but every year there is more or less of the same sort of thing. The one cause of all this obstruction is, that the contractor who has undertaken to keep the streets clean has failed to fulfil the spirit, if not the letter, of his contract. Everybody grumbles — just as we do in London when a gas company stops up the Strand for the sake of tinkering its pipes — but nobody proposes to interfere and insist on the nuisance being summarily removed. The vested rights of the individual contractor override the rights of the public.
On only one occasion did I see a mob in New York, and that was on the outbreak of a fire. It was towards
21mid-day, and, to my surprise, every clock near Wall Street, down which I was passing at the time, began striking seven solemnly and slowly, like our passing bell in a country parish. I inquired the meaning from a passer-by, and learnt that it was the signal that a fire had broken out in the Seventh Ward. I turned in the direction pointed out, and soon a fire engine rattled past me, dragged by a string of boys and men through, rather than over, the uneven, broken snow-drifts. Then in a few minutes another followed, and another; and by the time I had reached the scene of the fire, not a quarter of a mile away, half a dozen engines were at work, though I had heard the first signal of the fire given but a few minutes before. A store of Kerozene oil had caught fire, and the volumes of flame which shot out of the roof and windows seemed to threaten the whole street with destruction. But the engines were too hard at work to give the fire a chance; the river lay fortunately near at hand; and there was a perfect crowd of volunteers ready to work the pumps with might and main. There was nobody to keep the dense throng of spectators who crammed the neighbouring streets in order, but of themselves they obeyed the instructions of the firemen, and made way readily whenever space was required for the engines or the pipes to pass. The firemen worked with a will, and seemed utterly regardless of danger. Some were dragging the water-pipes right under the walls of the burning house,
22which looked every minute as if they were about to fall; others were standing on the parapet of the flaming roof, hanging over the street in a way that made one dizzy to look at, and shouting out orders to the men below; others, again, were perched on ladders fixed against the house on fire, and cutting down the shutters with axes in order to let out the flames. It was a service of real danger, and one poor fellow lost his life by falling off an engine; but one and all these firemen were unpaid volunteers, who expected no reward for their services. The engines are supplied by the State, but the whole expense and labour of the service are borne by the men themselves. There is a great esprit de corps amongst the different companies, and admission into them is sought for eagerly. At every engine-house a certain number of the men always remain on duty, turn and turn about; and the moment the signal-bell is heard over the city, the members of the company leave their homes and their business, whatever it may be, to perform their duty as firemen. I have seen great fires in many European countries, but I never saw a fire extinguished so promptly or so courageously as by these volunteer firemen. Indeed, the existence in New York of such an organization as that of the fire-brigades is enough in itself to make one somewhat sceptical as to the truth of our common impression about its democratic lawlessness.
I had left England at the time when the fortunes of
23the Federal cause seemed the lowest, and when New York was popularly believed to be on the brink of ruin and revolution. It was, I own, a surprise to me to find how little trace there was of either. An incurious stranger, not given to enter into conversation, or to read the newspaper, might almost, I fancy, have lived there for weeks at that time without discovering that the country was involved in a civil war. There were forts being thrown up rapidly along the banks which command the Narrows; but of late years we have learnt in England not to associate the construction of expensive fortifications with any idea of immediate war. The number of uniforms about the streets was small — not so large as it used to be in London before the volunteer movement was heard of. A score or so of tents were pitched upon the snow in the City Park, and at the Battery, but rather for show than use. In the Broadway and the Bowery there were a few recruiting offices, in front of which hung huge placards tempting fine young men, by the offer of a hundred dollars' bounty (to be paid not down, but after the war), and the promise of immediate active service, to join the Van Buren light infantry or the New York mounted cavalry. It was rare to hear a military band; and in the shop windows I noticed at that time but few pictures of the war, or portraits of the war's heroes. I saw regiments passing through the town on their way to the South, and yet only a few idlers were gathered to
24see them pass. In fact, the show-time of the war had passed away, and it was become a matter of sober business.
So, too, I was present at New York when the news came of Roanoke Island, and Bowling Green, and Fort Donaldson — of the first of that long uninterrupted series of victories which checked the progress of the insurrection. Our English reception of the tidings of the great battles which gave the death-blow to the Indian mutiny was not more reserved or calm. There were no proclamations, no addresses to the people, no grandiloquent bulletins as there would have been under like circumstances in a Continental country. A small crowd collected round the newspaper offices — a few extra flags hung out of shop windows — a notice that Barnum's Museum would be illuminated in honour of the Union victories, by the patriotic proprietor — and a salute of cannon from the battery; such were about the only outward symptoms of public rejoicing. There was no want of interest or feeling about the war. In society it was the one topic of thought and conversation. If you heard two people talking in the street, or in the cars, or at the church doors as you came out of service, you would be sure to find they were talking of the war. The longer I lived in the country, the more I learnt how deep the feeling of the North was; but it was like all English feeling, and came slowly the surface.
There was as little look of public distress as of popular excitement. The port and quays were crowded with shipping. Broadway was daily rendered almost impassable by the never-ending string of carts and omnibuses and carriages, which rolled up and down it for hours. Splendidly-equipped sable-covered sleighs were to be seen at every turning; and, on a fine day, the pavements were thronged with ladies, the expensiveness of whose dresses, if questionable as a matter of taste, was unquestionable as a matter of fact. New stores and streets were still building, and notices of "houses to let," or of sales by auction, were very few. Though the banks had suspended specie payments, yet, by one of those mysteries of the currency I never hope to see explained, their notes passed at full value, and were exchanged readily for coin — at least, in all such small transactions as come under a traveller's notice. There was, I have no doubt, much mercantile distress; and the shopkeepers, who depended on the sale of luxuries to the wealthy classes, were doing a poor trade. But work was plentiful, and the distress, as yet, had not gone down deep. There were few balls or large parties, and the opera was not regularly open, partly because public feeling was averse to much gaiety; partly, and still more, because the wealthy classes had retrenched all superfluous expenditure with a really wonderful unanimity. Residents often expressed their regret to me that I should see their city under so dull an aspect. But I know that,
26on a bright winter day, when the whole population seemed to be driving out in sleighs to the great skating carnivals at the Central Park, I have seldom seen a brighter or a gayer-looking city than that of New York.
The American Press.
IT is from the press of America, or rather from the press of one portion of America, that English opinion on American affairs is principally derived. It is the source, too, from which even English travellers in America draw their observations, largely if not chiefly. I am far from saying that opinions thus formed are necessarily erroneous. In many respects, the press is a fairer exponent of American feelings than the tone of society. However excellent a stranger's letters of introduction may be, they inevitably throw him among one class, and that the wealthy and educated class; and the newspapers are addressed to the great public, of whom he inevitably sees little more than a single section. After all, too, private acquaintanceships, however valuable, only give you individual, and often interested opinions. Now, wherever there is a free and unsubventioned press, you may be sure of one thing, that, on the whole, and in the long run, the newspapers do express the opinions and prejudices of their readers. No trade goes on for long
28manufacturing goods which don't suit the public taste; and the press is a trade like any other. I have always felt it to be a singularly weak line of argument when I have heard either Americans or Englishmen trying to explain away any offensive remark in the newspaper organs of their respective countries by the common remark, "It is only the press says so;" it is only the utterance of the Times, or the New York Herald. It is all very true, but the question still remains — Why is it that the readers of the Times, or the Herald, like such remarks to be made? You have proved that the elephant stands upon the tortoise, but what does the tortoise stand upon? Take it all in all, then, I admit freely that the American press, if you judge it correctly, is a tolerably fair — probably, the fairest-exponent of American opinion.
That if, however, is a very great one. Supposing a foreigner were to read the Times, and half a dozen other English newspapers, daily for years, his knowledge of English life and politics would still be extremely incomplete and erroneous, unless he had actually lived enough in England to have acquired what may be called the key to the English press. Anyone who, like myself, has lived at times long out of England, must, I think, have been often struck how very soon the tone, as it were, of English papers becomes strange to you. Thus, for example, I was absent from England during the whole of the volunteer era; and, though I spent
29more time than I like to think of in reading through daily every English newspaper I could come across, I was never clearly able to ascertain how much or how little of earnestness and reality there was about the whole invasion panic and its developments. My object in making these remarks is to point out how very liable Americans are to make mistakes in judging of England from our press, and how much more liable, for special reasons, we are to make like mistakes in taking the American press as the standard of America. The Hieroglyphics contain the history of Egypt, but, to understand the history, you must be able to read the characters.
To a great extent, London is England; and to a still greater extent is the London press the press of England. There is nothing of this kind in America. The capital is a nominal one, and there is no metropolis. Americans, with their wonted love for big phrases, are apt to talk of New York as the metropolitan city; but it is big talk only. New York is the most wealthy, the most powerful, and the most important of the many capital cities which the Union possesses. New York stands to Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, or New Orleans, much in the same relation as Liverpool does to Hull, Birmingam, and Southampton. She is a more important city than any of them, but in no sense whatever is she circulation capital. The New York papers have a wider circulation than those of any other town out of their
30own district, out in no part of the Union, except in New York, are they the newspapers of the place. If a foreigner wished to study the politics of the agricultural counties, I should recommend him to read the Morning Herald, or some other metropolitan organ of bucolic conservatism. I should never think of advising him to take in the Somersetshire Sentinel, or the Suffolk Standard. But if you want to learn the politics of the Eastern, or Western, or Southern States, the last place you would look for them would be in a New York journal. From the facts that New York is the great port of departure for Europe, that the commercial relations of the Old and New Worlds are chiefly carried on through New York, and that the New York papers contain the latest news, its journals are, naturally enough, the only ones which reach Europe. But an Englishman, who reads the New York press alone, knows as much and as little about the sentiments of the other parts of the Union as an American would know about the politics of Kent and Cambridgeshire who read nothing but the Liverpool Albion.
The absence of a metropolis, and of a metropolitan standard of thought and refinement, tells upon the American press much as it tells upon American literature and education and refinement. According to my view, it tells unfavourably on the individual, but favourably upon the average. The New York press, which is the nearest approach to a metropolitan one, is most
31decidedly inferior to the English, but then the local press is superior in much the same proportion. Thus, when the low standard of the New York press is taken, not altogether without reason, as a proof of the absence of high mental culture in the United States, the relatively high standard of the local press ought fairly to be taken as evidence of the extent to which education is diffused.
Before, however, I enter on the general characteristics of the American press, I must speak of the New York press, by which alone America is unfortunately judged abroad. And first, then, on the principle of honour to whom honour is not due, of the New York Herald. I have no doubt myself that the Herald, in spite of many assertions I have heard made to the contrary, has far the largest circulation of any American daily paper. Away from the North, it is the only New York paper that you come across frequently; and I have seen two people reading the Herald for one I have observed reading any other newspaper. Each of its rivals admits it to be the second in circulation. It contains, too, always all that class of advertisements which are intended to catch the eye of the million; and advertisers are pretty sure to know what is the best channel for their advertisements. One week, when there was unusually stirring news, the Herald boasted that their circulation reached 113,000; and therefore I suppose its average sale would be 100,000. What its political influence may be, it is more difficult to
32ascertain. Every educated American you speak to on the subject rejects indignantly the idea that it has any political influence whatever; but still, I find they all read it. I saw enough of political life in America to convince me that all public men, to say the least, preferred its friendship to its hostility. I remember on one occasion, which, for obvious reasons, I do not wish to specify, I was invited to a small half-political, half-military reception, given by an officer, with whom I happened to be acquainted. The party was a very select one; but, to my surprise, I met there the correspondent of the New York Herald with his family. The cause of my surprise, I need hardly say, was not at a newspaper correspondent being present — in truth, there is no country where any sort of literary repute is more honoured than in America — but simply, that I knew the gentleman in question was not received into any kind of society at the town where he was stationed; and that I myself had been cautioned by a resident against being seen in his company. The cause of his presence I discovered afterwards. He had asked for a ticket, and our entertainer being anxious to rise in public favour, was afraid of being attacked by the Herald in case of refusal. This incident I only mention in illustration of a well-known fact. The Herald is a power in the country; and though it can do little to make or mar established reputations, yet it has great opportunities of pushing a new man forward in public life, or of keeping him back;
33and such opportunities as it has, it uses unscrupulously. It made its first start in journalistic life by levying black mail on public men, through threats of private exposures, and the old informer spirit still clings to it in the days of its comparative respectability. The real cause, however, of the Herald's permanent success, I believe to be very simple. It gives the most copious, if not the most accurate, news of any American journal. It is conducted with more energy, and probably more capital; and also, on common topics, on which its prejudices or its interests are not concerned, it is written with a rough common sense, which often reminds me of the Times. It has too, to use a French word, the flaire of journalism. Mr. Raymond, the proprietor of the New York Times, once remarked, half laughingly and half in earnest, to a gentleman who told me the story, "It would be worth my while, sir, to give a million dollars, if the devil would come and tell me every evening, as he does Bennett, what the people of New York would like to read about next morning." The story hints clearly enough at the true cause of the Herald's success.
The politics of the Herald have fluctuated constantly. There are but two principles to which it has always proved faithful; one is to support the existing administration; the other is to attack and insult the country of Mr. Bennett's birth. Wherever Mr. Bennett's character is known, the opinions of the paper carry no
34weight whatever; and his character, like that of all public men in America, is known and commented on in New York to a degree which an editor's private character could never be subjected to in England. Still it is impossible that any large proportion of the hundred thousand purchasers of the Herald can know or care much about the character of James Gordon Bennett; and therefore I have no doubt the influence of the Herald, pandering, as it does, not without real ability, to the prejudices and vanity of the American people, is no unimportant element in the political world.
As to Mr. Bennett's social position, all parties are agreed. The Herald is a very valuable property; and its net profits are said to vary from Å20,000 to Å30,000 annually. With the one virtue, too, that a Scotchman can never get rid of, Mr. Bennett is not personally extravagant, and is reputed to be now a man of very large fortune. Still, in New York society, he is not received, or even tolerated. Not long ago, at a watering place, near New York, where he took up his abode, the inmates of the hotel he had honoured with his company told the landlord that he must choose between Mr. Bennett's custom and theirs — and Mr. Bennett left. Probably, just as the devil is painted blacker than nature, so the editor of the Herald may possess some redeeming qualities; but, as yet, the New York world has not discovered them. The result of Mr. Bennett's
35social disrepute, whether deserved or not, is that respectable literary men do not like being connected with the Herald; and its writers are generally men who, for some cause or other, are not on good terms with society; and even they, as far as my observation went, are not proud of the connexion.
Of the utter unscrupulousness of the Herald, I will only quote one example, which happens to have some slight independent interest of its own. Mr. Russell, during his stay in America, was the object of the most rancorous abuse, on the part of the Herald; partly, because he had given personal offence to the editor, by declining his invitations; still more, because he had given offence to the American public. There happened to be some private theatricals given at the British Embassy, in which Mr. Russell played the part of Bombastes Furioso. The next day, the following account appeared in the Herald: —
"During the representation of Bombastes Furioso, one or two amusing incidents are said to have occurred. After the delivery of the lines by Bombastes, (LL. D. Russell), (lies like the deuce, was, by the way, on another occasion the Herald's interpretation of these letters) —
Short cut or long — to us is all the same.’
A wag on the back benches, audibly added: —
36Sensation, and a general turning round of heads to detect the interpolator. He was non est."
"After the tremendous apostrophe to Distaffina —
Risks of all shapes, from bludgeon, sword, and gun;
By the great bunch of laurels on my brow’—
Renewed agitation. Suspicious glances directed towards a rollicking-looking clerk in one of the departments. Big drops of perspiration chased each other down the face of the perplexed Bombastes.
When he came to the passage —
There my own hands shall dig a spacious grave;
Then, all unseen, I'll lay me down and die,
Since — ’
‘All my prophecies events belie,’
This put the climax to Bombastes' troubles. The well-bred audience could no longer restrain their merriment. So discomforted by it was the burly warrior, that he could scarcely muster strength enough to attach his boots — his gage of battle, to the tree. His tormentor took pity on him, and let him gurgle out in peace his last adieus to the world."
Now this story was not put in as ben trovato, but as a deliberate, serious narrative of fact. From beginning to end, it was a lie, with not one single word of truth in the whole story, except that Mr. Russell acted Bombastes, — and, for that matter, acted it very well too.
Day after day there is a sort of triangular duel between the editors of the Herald, the Tribune, and the Times, in which personalities or, what in any other papers would be considered, gross libels are freely bandied to and fro. In this warfare the Herald, being utterly, instead of only partially, unscrupulous, comes off an easy victor. As a specimen, I can only spare the space to quote one short leader in the Herald, which struck me as a gem in its peculiar class of journalism. It is headed "Poor Greeley playing Jacobin," and runs thus: —
"Poor old silly Greeley cries out for a traitor, weeps salt tears for a traitor, howls like a hyena for a traitor, shouts for all the universe to bring him a traitor. What does he want of a traitor? Why, Greeley wants to be blood-thirsty — he wants to be a little Robespierre. He wants to hang a traitor with his own hands. Let him come down to our office, and we'll give him a shilling to buy a rope — since the Tribune is so poor — and then he may hang himself to the nearest lamp-post, and thus at once satisfy his desire to hang a traitor, and greatly gratify the loyal public."
In the advertisement department the Herald has one or two specialities of its own. Like almost all American papers, its columns are disfigured by "catch the eye" advertisements. Every variety of inversion and perversion of which type is capable, is adopted to attract notice. There was one advertisement constantly repeated, which used to impress me as a triumph of genius. The words were short and simple enough — "Buy Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, with all the news of the war." It would puzzle an ordinary English compositor how to make this extend in small type over the whole of one column, but like Columbia's method for making an egg stand on one end, the solution of the puzzle was wonderfully simple, and consisted solely in dividing the advertisement into three paragraphs. Buy Frank Leslie's — Illustrated Newspaper — with all the news of the war — and repeating each paragraph, line below line, some score of times in all. The Broadway saloons, where "the prettiest waiter-girls in the world afforded intellectual recreation to the customers," were especial patrons of the Herald, and showed a peculiar fondness for this sensation typography. The Herald, too, was the organ of the astrologers, and of searchers after matrimony. In one copy I happened to take up at hazard, I picked out the following specimens. Under the heading "Astrology" the list was unusually small, and only contained seven advertisements, of which two samples will be enough.
"Astrologists. Great excitement — Read! read!! The beautiful Madame Henri, whose wonderful and exquisite mode of reading the future destinies of thousands are (sic) daily creating the wildest furor. This lovely young lady is, without exception, the most accomplished in her line of business. She will write the name you marry, show their likeness, give good luck, and her lucky numbers are sure to draw a prize. Her rooms are at 80, West Broadway, corner Leonard, name on the door."
Again. "Astonishing Madame Morrow, seventh daughter, has a gift of foresight, tells how soon and how often you will marry, and all you wish to know, even your very thoughts, or no pay. Lucky charms free. Her equal is not to be found. Her magic image is now in full force, 184, Ludlow Street, below Houston. Price 25 cents. Gentlemen not admitted."
The matrimonial column, on the other hand, was fuller than usual and contained half-a-dozen offers of marriage, of which, for the sake of gallantry, I will only quote two from ladies.
"A young widow lady, with means to support herself, wishes to make the acquaintance of a gentleman with a view to matrimony. None but persons of intelligence and refinement need address Mrs. E. Harland, Station A, Spring Street."
The next lady is suspiciously silent as to means,
40but more positive as to age. She says that "a young lady not over twenty-five years of age would like to open a correspondence with some gentleman possessed of an affectionate disposition, and a fair share of the world's goods, with a view to matrimony. One who can appreciate a woman's good feelings may address Jennie Edwards, Station G, Broadway."
Moreover, the Herald has, or rather used to have when I first came to the States, a column headed "personals," of a most extraordinary character. To judge from a perusal of it, you would suppose that whenever a gay Lothario met a soft-hearted Duleinea in the streets, it was the etiquette not to address her personally, but to publish an advertisement in next day's papers, expressive of admiration and the desire for further acquaintance. In plain words, assignations, which charity alone bids one suppose were virtuous, were daily made in the columns of the Herald. The way in which the "personals" were extinguished is a curious comment on the principles by which the Herald is guided. In one day's paper there appeared an advertisement even more flagrant than usual, purporting to be from a lady making an assignation to meet a friend at the reception room of a well-known hotel. The Tribune got hold of this, and in a bitter article pointed out how the advertisement, besides its intrinsic immorality, was calculated to injure the character of the hotel, and
41would therefore expose the publisher of the paper to an action for libel. No reply was made to this attack, and no formal notice was taken of it, but from that day forth the "personals" were discontinued or confined to bonâ fide inquiries for absent friends. There are two peculiarities about the Herald, which might be copied with advantage by our English press. The first is, that all advertisements are carefully classed under headings, so that you always know where to look for what you want; the second is, that after every military movement plans of the locality in which the movement occurred are published on the front page. They are very roughly, often very inaccurately drawn, but still they are sufficient to make the accounts of the movements intelligible to the reader.
With all its faults, the Herald is the most readable of the New York papers. The New York Times is, in a literary point of view, a feebler edition of the Herald, without its verve. It is the organ of the moderate Republican party, of whom Mr. Seward and Mr. Thurlow Weed are the leaders in the State of New York; and as this party has never yet been able to look the slavery question boldly in the face, their organ shares in their indecision, and their consequent want of vigour. It is supposed to be more or less favourable to England, and so, perhaps, it is relatively to the other papers, but, actually, I should say that the less pre-dominated over the more. It labours, too, under the
42general stigma of jobbery, which hangs over the whole Seward-Weed Republican party in the State politics of New York.
The Tribune carries more weight by its individual opinion than any paper in the city. Whatever Mr. Greeley's faults may be, he has the reputation of personal honesty; and even the exposure of the Cumming and Cameron contract jobs, in which undoubtedly the Tribune party were mixed up, did not suffice to shake public belief in the integrity of the Tribune, as long as Greeley conducts it. It is better printed, more thoughtfully written, and more carefully got up than any of its cotemporaries. Moreover, the simple fact, that it both knows and dares to speak out its own mind on the slavery question, gives its writings the force which attends strong conviction. But there is a doctrinaire tone about its articles which makes them heavy reading, and when it takes to invective, as it does frequently, it is scurrilous without being pointed.
So much for the only three American newspapers whose names are at all known in England. As you change your district you change your paper; and, in every district, you will find some one or more leading papers, which are in their own district what the Herald is in the district of New York. The Boston Post, the Philadelphia Enquirer, the Cincinnati Gazette, the Louisville Journal, and the Chicago Tribune, have
43each the leading circulation in the States of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois respectively.
In truth, the most remarkable feature about the American press is its quantity rather than its quality. The American might be defined as a newspaper-reading animal. I have never been into any American town where there was not more than one daily paper. Even in the quietest of towns, boys run about the streets hawking newspapers. In every railway train there is a lad, who passes through the cars constantly with newspapers to sell; and in every hotel a newspaper stand is as acknowledged a part of the establishment as the bar. In its broad characteristics, the American newspaper, like almost every other American institution, is fashioned on the English, not on the Continental model. It resembles our newspapers in the unwieldy size of the sheets, in the immense quantity of news given, in the great space occupied by advertisements, and in the fact, that the leading articles are practical comments, not abstract essays. Here, however, the resemblance between the American and the London press ceases. An American paper is a sort of cross between a county newspaper and a penny journal. Reading is so universal an acquirement here, that a far larger, also a far lower, class reads the newspapers than is the case with us; and, therefore, the degree of education found in the newspaper-reading public is probably lower
44than in Great Britain. Thus (I am not speaking now of a few class journals, but of the ordinary newspaper,) you never meet, in an American paper, with literary or scientific reviews of any research, or with any article which evinces much reading on the part of the writer, or pre-supposes much on the part of the reader. On the rare occasions, when a French quotation is made, it is generally printed wrong, and always accompanied with a translation. You seldom, if ever, come upon an article which might not have been written right off without any reference to books or authorities. It is obvious, too, that the public, of even the best American papers, has not passed beyond that stage of intellectual development in which the mind takes pleasure in a column of varieties. The editor of the Louisville Journal, Mr. George D. Prentice, is supposed to have a special talent for manufacturing facetiae, and as the Prenticeiana are quoted throughout the Union papers, I shall give the reader a fair impression of what American varieties consist of, by quoting half-a-dozen of his facetiae, which lie in the paper next at hand to me while I write, I pick out the ones about the war, as having something of more permanent interest: —
"A man was arrested in London lately for stealing a picture from a dealer. When caught going out of the door, with the article under his arm, he said he was an admirer of the fine arts, and only wanted to take the picture home to examine it more closely. When
45Floyd is caught, the ingenious rascal will have some similar plea in abatement of his debts."
"The Atlanta (Ga) Confederacy quotes the confession of a surgeon in the Confederate army, that they ‘are whipped on all sides,’ and ‘hell is to pay.’ Walk down to the counter then, and pay your indebtedness."
"The Charleston Mercury thinks that the Cotton States have a right to cry aloud when all their slave property is at stake. No doubt it is a case of great cry and a good deal of wool."
"A correspondent says that Beauregard made a very good moral address to his army the other day. Probably, he thought his troops so demoralised, that they needed a little moralising."
"Beauregard certainly surprised us at Shiloh, on the first day of the fight; but we surprised him a good deal more on the second."
"We guess the New Orleans Picayune (penny) feels now as if it were hardly worth its name,"
And so on. But if the reader is not tired of reading Prenticeina, I am of copying them.
An immense proportion of the American papers are sold by the street newsvendors. It is on this chance circulation, that the newspapers mainly depend; and out of a given number of copies sold, a very small percentage, indeed, is sold to regular subscribers. The inevitable consequence of this condition of things is to
46encourage the sensation system of newspaper-headings and paragraphs, which offends our taste so constantly. There is a carelessness about the writing, which to me is indefensible. Apparently, leaders are written without the proofs being revised. Constantly one stumbles on sentences which do not construe; while clerical errors are allowed to pass, for not correcting which, the reader of any respectable English newspaper would be dismissed on the spot. Then, again, all the news is broken up into short paragraphs, with appropriate headings in large capitals, in a way which, though convenient to readers in a hurry, is almost fatal to good writing. Both paper too and type are usually very inferior to our own.
There are two popular impressions as to the American press, prevailing in England, both of which I think erroneous. The first is, that it is a very cheap press; the second, that it is a very scurrilous one. To subscribers it is undoubtedly cheap; and you can, or rather could, get any daily paper in the United States by subscription, for somewhat under a penny a day, excluding delivery. But it is not so with casual purchasers. In New York alone can you buy the Herald, for instance, in the streets for two cents. In Washington its price was five cents; and in the West, you are charged ten cents. The price of a single copy of any local paper is always five cents, except in the very large towns, where it sinks to four or three cents. Thus as the vast majority of readers
47buy their papers from day to day, the price they pay varies from two pence to three pence, and upwards. In fact, if you take into account the quantity of matter you get in an English paper, the English high-priced press is in reality a cheaper one than the American, and the penny press is immeasurably so. In all probability, the new taxes, to be imposed on newspapers, will raise their prices still higher — even if the hopes of the Herald are not realized, and the whole cheap press crushed for good.
Perhaps my next assertion may appear even stranger, and that is, that one great merit of the American press is its comparative freedom from private personality. The virulent and discreditable invectives with which Bennett and Greeley besmire each other and themselves in the Herald and Tribune are not fair illustrations of American journalism. It is of the essence and nature of one local paper to attack another, but in all the American papers I have met with, I have never seen personal attacks from one editor to another, equal either in virulence or bad taste to what I have seen in English country papers. It is true, that public characters of any kind are attacked politically, with a vehemence we can hardly appreciate; but this is due to the nature of political life in America, of which I shall speak elsewhere. The American papers have not learnt yet the difference between declamation and strong writing, and, therefore, their attacks on political enemies
48are perfectly astonishing to us, from the violence of their invective. But, still, if you examine closely, you will see, that even, in declamations against public men, allusions to their private relations are but rare. On the other hand, attacks on individuals in private life are almost unknown. It is a curious fact, which I never saw noticed in any account of America, that the accounts of law cases and police reports which appear in all the American papers are infinitely more curt and meagre even than those in French journals. The names of the parties to a suit, and the result of the trial, is given, but, except in cases of great public interest, rarely anything more. In England, if you are unfortunate enough to get involved in any case, either as principal or witness, which involves any disgusting details, or any ridiculous episodes, your name is hawked about the country, and you are stamped for ever, with having been connected with some queer trial or scandal. If you object to the hardship of an innocent man being subjected to a moral pillory, you are told that the freedom of the press demands the sacrifice. Now here, in a perfectly free country, with a free press, there is nothing of the kind. Public opinion is opposed to raking up the private affairs of individuals for the amusement of newspaper readers; and the newspapers do not publish the gossip of the police courts, simply because the public does not wish for it. In cases of great interest, like the Sickles affair, or the Webster murder,
49full details are given, but in ordinary daily life, the newspapers exercise much less social tyranny than they do with us.
I have spoken freely about the faults of the American press; but still, in Yankee phrase, it is a great institution. The individual developments do not rise to so high a standard as our own, but the average development is higher. In every town and village where you travel you find a press, which gives news copiously, and, on the whole, fairly; which treats of practical questions with shrewd good sense and fair writing; and which discusses national topics as much, or more, than local ones. When you consider that this press is read by the whole neighbourhood, and is the organ of the class which, in England, would consist of agricultural labourers and over-worked mechanics, you realize more than in any other way the general education of the American people. It is something, too, that this people's press should be perfectly unobjectionable in a moral sense, and should be free from petty personalities; that, in fact, if it cannot soar, it also does not grovel.
Of course, if I chose, I could pick out hosts of eccentricities, and what we should call absurdities, in American journalism. But, after all, whether you spell traveller with two "l's" or one, whether you call a leader an editorial, and whether you talk of "posting up a bill" instead of settling an account, are all questions
50of taste, about which there is no use disputing. The larger and, I hold, the truer view is, to look upon the American press as a vast engine of national education, not over-delicate in its machinery, but still working out its object. As such, it is, indeed, the press of a great and a free people.
New York to Washington.
IT was always a trouble to me in America, choosing where I should go next. It was not the embarras de richesse, but the embarras de pauvreté. One place was so marvellously like the other, that it was hard to decide why you should go to one place in preference to another. I always have had the keenest sympathy for the ass in the fable, who was unable to make up his mind between the two bundles of hay that hung on either side of him. Hay is excellent food and well deserves eating; but when bundle of hay number one is the exact counterpart of bundle number two, how is an irresolute ass to decide which best deserves munching? This was my own state of mind, I confess frankly, with regard to my route in America. The country is well worth seeing — how well worth seeing I never knew till I had travelled over it; but still, one American town is just as well worth seeing as its neighbour, and not more. Columbus (Ohio) is extremely like Springfield (Indiana), and both are the very counterparts of Lafayetteville
52(Missouri). All are worth visiting, but why should you give the preference to Springfield over Columbus, or to Lafayetteville over both? This is a dilemma which I could never get out of, and whose solution perplexed me from the day I entered the States to the day I left them.
The first time the problem presented itself to me in all its difficulty was on leaving New York. I had intended to go from thence to Boston; but the question was propounded to me, whether it was not better to go to Washington first instead. If the solution had been left to my unassisted powers of decision, I should probably be residing at this present moment in the Everett House, New York, making up my mind where to go next. Happily, I had two motives which decided the course of my journey. In the first place, it was cold — bitterly cold — in New York. Most European travellers visit America in the summer, and therefore their books convey no impression of the cold which prevails in winter. The winter of 1862 was an unusually mild one — so, at least, I was told by everybody; and New York, from its vicinity to the sea, is a comparatively warm city. All I can say is, that, till I came to New York, in the January of 1862, I never knew what cold was. The houses were beautifully warmed; but the contrast between the heat indoors and the frost out of doors only made the cold more painful. As to sleighing, experto crede, it is a mere mockery of pleasure. If you want to experience it, as an American writer said, you have only to stand
53for an hour in a draught, with your feet in freezing water, and your numbed fingers tinkling a string of bells. At any rate, it requires a warmer-blooded being than myself to enjoy the pleasures of an American winter. New York was too cold for me already, and I dreaded the notion of a place like Boston, where New York was counted warm by comparison.
Moreover, the advance of the Grand Army of the Potomac was expected daily. It did not take place till weeks after I arrived in Washington; but, at that period, I had been too short a time in America to make allowance for the difference between promise and performance; and when I read, day after day, that the army was on the move, I was seized with a fear that I should be too late to catch a glimpse of the war.
So, from all these causes, I travelled southwards instead of northwards. It is not my intention, as I have said before, to write a diary of my journeys. And of this journey in particular I have little to say, except of one adventure that befel me, illustrative in many ways of American habits. I started by the mail-train for Philadelphia, where I arrived at two o'clock or thereabouts on a cold winter morning. With an English-man's dislike to parting with my luggage, I had kept my baggage cheques with me instead of consigning them to the care of the freight agent who collects them en route.Whether I was sleepy — whether I had not made up my mind which hotel I should go to — or why, I forget; but
54so it was. My impression is, that knowing nothing of the town, I had resolved to go to the hotel which sent up the best omnibus to the station. When I arrived, there was no omnibus, no private carriage of any kind, nothing but the street railroad car, waiting to convey passengers across Philadelphia to the Washington railroad. It is not the custom for passengers to look after their own luggage on American railroads, and it was with the greatest difficulty I got my trunks together in time to get a seat on the step of the car. I asked the conductor to recommend me to an inn, but found that the car did not pass any hotel on its route. The man was civil, as all American conductors are, but he could do nothing for me as he had to keep with the car; so he set me down at the corner of a street, and told me that if I followed it for four blocks, I should find an hotel. I don't know that I ever felt a more helpless individual than on that winter morning, at two o'clock, in the streets of Philadelphia. I had a most indistinct notion of which way I was to go. Whether four blocks meant four, or four hundred, or four thousand yards, I was unable to guess. There was not a soul about the streets, and I had a huge portmanteau, two large carpet-bags, a bundle of heavy wraps, and an umbrella, to transport with me. I sat upon my trunk for some time looking at my bags in the hopes that somebody might appear, but in vain. There was no hope, and so I roused myself to exertion. Necessity is the mother of invention. I carried my trunk
55ten yards, then left it and returned for the bags, then for the wraps and umbrella as a light easy task, and so on ad infinitum. My rate of locomotion was extremely slow; and all along I was haunted by an equal fear of meeting a thief or a policeman. The former might have robbed me with the most perfect security; the latter would have arrested me for a thief who had stolen the luggage I was dragging about. However, in the main street of Philadelphia at two A. M., I met neither thief nor policeman, nor living soul; and after an hour's labour I reached an hotel, considerably the wiser in the art of American travel by the night's experience.
But while I am speaking of travelling in the States, let me say, once for all, what I have to say of railway travelling in America. Some lines are better than others. As a rule, the Western lines are inferior to the Eastern ones; and the Southern to either. Still, in their broad features, they are very much alike. The through fares are cheap. Thus, you can go from New York to Chicago, a distance of upwards of one thousand miles, for four pounds; but the way-fares are three-halfpence a mile. The arrangements about luggage are exceedingly good. As soon as you arrive at the station, you show your ticket to the luggage-master; he takes off a string he holds in his hand a number of leather straps, attached to brass plates about the size of a crown piece, on which the name of your destination and a number is inscribed. These straps he
56passes through the handles or cordings of your luggage, fastens them by passing the strap again through a slit in the plate, and hands you plates, which are the counterparts of the ones attached to your luggage. You keep these counterparts, and, in exchange for them when produced, receive your luggage at the end of your journey. For all main stations, however, you will find it more convenient to give them up to the luggage agent, who comes round to collect them. After that, you have no more trouble in the matter, but are sure to find it at any hotel you mention, almost as soon as you can get there yourself. But, of course, this entails an extra charge of a shilling or so a package. Practically, a foreigner gains nothing by trying to look after his luggage himself; and Americans are wonderfully careless about small expenses, so that they care little for the additional charge.
These arrangements are common to all American lines; and so, too, day after day, the company you meet with in the cars, and the incidents of your journey are much the same. You take your seat in a long, open car, about the length of two English railroad carriages fastened together, and with all their compartments knocked down. The seats are comfortable enough, with leather or horsehair cushions, and backs of a like texture. It is wearisome, however, especially night, to have no back high enough to lean your head upon; but, what is a real luxury in a long journey, you
57can move from one carriage to another at any time, and can walk up and down in the broad passage between the seats. As to the sleeping cars, I can express no opinion. I have travelled in them when the night was cool and the passengers were few, and have found them most comfortable. I have travelled, also, when the passengers were many and the night hot, and have been glad to sacrifice my money and escape from them as I would from Pandemonium. If you are not particular as to fresh air, you will find them comfortable enough. If, like myself, you would sacrifice anything to pure air, you had better save your money and pass the night in the ordinary cars, even at the risk of spraining your neck if you do happen to fall asleep.
The daytime goes by not unpleasantly. Every half-hour or so a boy passes through the car with a can of iced water, out of which you can have a drink for nothing, if you don't mind drinking out of the public glass. At other times he brings apples, oranges, and sweets for sale, together with bundles of the latest papers and magazines. It is an odd trait, by the way, of the national character, that if the sale of the news-boy's wares is flat, he will come and lay down a copy of his magazines or illustrated papers alongside of every passenger in the car, and leave it with him for half an hour or more. You may read it meanwhile, and if you return it to the boy on his coming round again he will thank you all the same. Most of the passengers, of
58course, return their copies, but, every now and then some one, who had no intention of purchasing beforehand, becomes interested in a story he has taken up, and buys the book or paper. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to hinder any one from appropriating the work without paying for it. But in this, as in other matters, it is the custom to repose great confidence on the average honesty of the public, and that confidence is rarely found to have been misplaced. Indeed, all the arrangements for taking tickets, letting passengers in and out, and for loading and unloading luggage, are more simple and perfect than those in use on any of our European railroads, all of them being based very much on the assumption, that, as a rule, the passengers don't find it worth while to cheat the conductors, and the conductors don't find it worth while to cheat the company.
At the intermediate stations you only stop for a few seconds. The system of breaks is so excellent — one break being applied to every wheel — that the train is stopped without difficulty; and the instant, almost, the train has stopped, you hear the standard cry of "All on board!" and then again the train is in motion. Three times a day at some roadside station you are summoned by sound of gong to a meal, which is called breakfast, dinner, or supper, according to the hour, but which is the same everywhere and at all times. You eat plentifully of beefsteaks, broiled ham, poached eggs, pastry
59without end, and cakes; drink milk, or tea, or water — never beer or any spirituous liquors; are waited on by neat, clean-looking girls; liquor afterwards at the bars, if you are so inclined; pay two shillings invariably for your repast, liquor not included; and then take your seat again, and sleep, or read, or talk, till the next feeding time arrives. So the day passes on.
Every traveller in every foreign country must have remarked how very like, at first, everybody you met was to everybody else. In America, I think, this feeling wears off less rapidly than in other lands. Especially in the Western States, the uniformity in the dress and appearance of your fellow-passengers is wonderfully striking — nobody is shabbily dressed, very few are handsomely dressed, and everybody is dressed respectably. If you took a railway excursion train in England, filled it almost wholly with second-class passengers, suppressed the first and the third class, increased largely the proportion of commercial travellers, and of that class we hear so much of, and see so little of, at home — the "intelligent mechanic," eliminated utterly everybody who looked poor, according to our English ideas of poverty, and added an unusual number of lovely young girls and faded, middle-aged women, you would form an average car's company in America. I don't mean to say — far from it — that you never meet people in the trains who might ride without comment in our English first and third classes; but there are two classes of
60people whom you never meet, or think of meeting, at home, except in a first or third class carriage, respectively. To these classes there is nothing corresponding in the living freight of an American car. I do not know that a railway journey in America is a very lively operation; there is not much conversation, the carriages are too noisy, and there is too little privacy for confidential communications. Moreover, the Americans are not, to my mind, a communicative people in travelling. Throughout the whole of my travels in the States, I never recollect making an acquaintance with a fellow-passenger, of the kind I have made hundreds of in Europe; and on the only occasions on which I can recall a passenger having commenced a conversation with me without my speaking first, I discovered that my interlocutors were settlers from the Old World. Everybody, however, in the railway cars, almost without exception, is quiet, well-behaved, and civil; and there is little or nothing of that offensive selfishness so often exhibited amongst English travellers in the attempt to make oneself comfortable at the expense of everybody else's discomfort. The universal politeness, too, shown to women is very remarkable. If a woman enters the car, and the car is full, some gentleman or other is sure to get up and make room for her. It is no matter whether she is young or old, pretty or ugly, richly or poorly dressed, she is a woman, and that suffices. If I were asked whether I consider railway travelling in
61America as comfortable as in Europe, my answer would be, that that depends on circumstances. An American car is not equal to an English first-class carriage in luxury, or cleanliness, or society. On the other hand, it is comfortable as compared with our second-classes, and luxurious as compared with our third. Indeed, I should say about American railways as I should about most American institutions: — If you are able to drive about in hansom cabs, to travel always in first-class express trains, and to give a shilling to the porter at the station, then, as far as comfort of locomotion goes, you had better stop at home. If, on the contrary, you belong to the great public, to whom sixpences and shillings are an object, who rarely travel first-class, except in an excursion train, and who have been known, under the rose, to go third-class in parliamentary trains, then you are better off, far better off, in American travelling than you are in English. The million, in fact, fares better in the New World than it does in the Old.
Of the country through which my route lay, I say little. In the first place, I travelled through most of it at night; in the second, I shall say what I have to say of American scenery when I come to my journeyings in the West, where the characteristics peculiar to American scenery are infinitely more marked than in the East. The whole country, indeed, of Pennsylvania reminded me more than anything of England run to seed. The fields were more sprawling, the houses were more
62loosely built, the roads were rougher, and the towns were more straggling; but otherwise the resemblance was very close. If you can conceive our midland counties flattened out, magnified indefinitely, and diffused loosely over an area of tenfold their own, you will picture Pennsylvania to yourself.
It was upon the banks of the Susquehanna river that I came first upon the track of the war. Between Pennsylvania and Maryland, between the free North and the slave South, the great deep river, wider than the Rhine at Dusseldorf, rolls as a frontier line. The top-heavy looking steam-ferry, which, in defiance of all one's preconceived ideas of the laws of equilibrium, carries train, cars, rails, passengers, luggage and all, with scarcely a break of continuity, from one bank to another, transports one not only into a new State, but into a new country. The whole aspect of the scenery changes: the broad, thriving, cheerful expanse of carefully tilled fields, dotted over with the villa-like farm-houses, gives place to long, straggling, red-brick towns, half villages, half cities; to broken-down fences; to half-ploughed, hopeless-looking fields, where the negro labourers are toiling listlessly; to dreary tracks of mud, which stand where roads ought to be; and to wide stony spaces of meagre brushwood. The restless activity I witnessed everywhere north of the Susquehanna was exchanged for a sort of fussy idleness. By the house doors, and in the streets through which the train passed slowly,
63there stood men hanging about idly, loitering languidly, with their hands deep-buried in their trouser-pockets, watching tumble-down carts struggling spasmodically across the deep-rutted roads, and loafing visibly.
In this dull winter-time, too, Maryland looked all the drearier for the traces of the war, visible on every side. I passed along the same line again in the first burst of the early summer, when the war had moved on far away southwards; and, except for the look of poverty and decay, which even the rich summer foliage could not hide, I should scarce have recognised it for the same country. Hitherto I had hardly been able to realize, from the outward look of things, that the Union was in the midst of a civil war; but here in Maryland the evidence was only too palpable. At Havre de Grace, the river station on the southern side of the Susquehanna, we passed the first camp, and the dingy greyish blue-coated Federal soldiers came running alongside the train to ask for stray papers from New York. Then, at each station as we passed further south, the train became fuller and fuller with soldiers, and the small roadside camps grew more and more frequent. In Baltimore the streets swarmed with troops, and south of this again, on to Washington, we seemed to pass through a conquered country. In the grey glimmer of the evening we could see the white tents of the camps pitched on the hill-slopes that overhang Baltimore. Every roadside station was occupied with troops; at
64every bridge and crossing there were small outposts stationed; and along the line at short distances there were sentinels at watch to protect the rails. The nearest forces of the enemy lay some fifty miles away across the Potomac, and with the vast Federal army before Washington, it could not be against the Confederates that these precautions were taken. It is true that the maintenance of this single track of rails, the one means of communication between New York and Washington, was of vital importance, and, therefore, no precaution was too great to take, if necessary. On the other hand, the maintenance of the same line north of the Susquehanna was of equal importance, and yet there it was left unguarded. The inference is a very obvious one — Pennsylvania is a Free State, and loyal; Maryland is a Slave State, and therefore disloyal.
It was thus, as I entered Washington, that the bearing of the slave question upon the war was practically brought home to me. Before, then, I speak of Washington, it is time to say something of that great issue.
The Free Negro.
IT is strange to me, looking back on my sojourn in the States, to think that I could have written some sixty pages without coming on the question of the everlasting Nigger. It was the fashion amongst English critics, at the time I left England, to state that the whole Secession question had no direct bearing on, no immediate connexion with, the issue of slavery. As to the letter, there was some small truth in this assertion; as to the spirit, there was none. Many of my readers, probably, have visited at some time or other a friend labouring under a mortal disease. Neither he nor you, perhaps, spoke of it; every allusion to illness of any kind was studiously avoided; you talked, and laughed, and gossiped, as though the idea of death had never crossed your minds; and yet both you and he felt all along that this idea was ever present — that it was the key to every word you uttered, the burden of every spoken phrase and unspoken thought. When the cholera was raging in Venezuela, the panic-stricken half-breed
66Governor had a notice placed in every room of his palace — "No one is to mention here the name of cholera;" but I suppose the Venezuelans thought and talked of little else notwithstanding. So, after a like fashion, this negro question was the one thought which pervaded everything throughout the whole of the Secession period. Officially, no doubt, the connexion between slavery and secession was sometimes denied — more often kept studiously out of sight; but, in society of all kinds, in the press of every shade and colour, from the pulpit of every sect and denomination, you heard of nothing but secession and slavery. You might as soon have ignored the existence of secession as ignored the existence of the slavery question. I am not writing now a work on slavery — I had not the opportunity for doing so had I wished it: I am seeking rather to convey the impressions left upon me by my sojourn in the North during the Southern insurrection. If I succeed in conveying those impressions faithfully, the question of slavery must crop up in these pages at all times and all places, in season and out of season.
Before entering, therefore, on this question, it will be well to say a few words on my own feelings with regard to the "peculiar institution." Morally, I do not look on slavery, nor even on the slave trade, as being a sin apart or different from all other sins. Whether you work men to death in a tailor's slop-shop; whether you burn Arabs alive, as Bugeaud did in Algeria; whether you degrade
67men to the level of beasts, as the Bourbons did in Naples; whether you shoot Hindoos from the cannon's mouth, in order to add the prospect of everlasting damnation to the pangs of death, as we did in India; whether you drill human beings into soldier-slaves, like that modern hero-god of Mr. Carlyle's worship; or whether you kidnap negroes, sell them by auction, deny them the rights of men, and scourge them with the lash, like the planters of the South, you are, in my judgment, sinning about equally against the moral law of God. Slavery, however, has one peculiar guilt, which few, if any other, of the hundred modes of human cruelty and oppression can be justly charged with. It is a gigantic, almost an isolated, attempt to reduce oppression to a system, and to establish a social order of which the misery of human beings is to be the fundamental principle. It is for this reason that every honest man, who hates cruelty and loves justice, is bound to lift up his voice against slavery as an accursed thing. It is thus that I think of it, let me say once and for all; and thus, as far as lies within my power, that I mean to write of it.
Let me add also, as I am now, in American parlance, "entering my record," that it is a conviction that the existence or the downfal of slavery was inevitably connected with the success or failure of Secession, which created my deep sympathy with the Federal cause. I admit freely, as i shall endeavor to show ere long, that besides slavery there were many great issues
68depending on the struggle between North and South. I believe that, putting slavery out of the question, the cause for which the North was fighting was the cause of freedom, of national existence, and of the world's progress. Still, I hold strongly to the American confession of faith, "that a people possesses an inalienable right to choose its own form of government;" and therefore, madly mistaken as I believe the South to have been in separating from the Union, I should yet have hesitated, had it not been for the issue of slavery, as to whether the North was justified in attempting to reconquer the seceding States. If Earl Russell had modified his famous dictum by saying that the North was fighting for empire (and freedom), while the South was fighting for independence (and slavery), he would have uttered a whole truth instead of a sorry half one. Such, at any rate, is my belief; and, having confessed it, the reader will understand better much that I have to say.
Having this keen interest in the whole question of slavery, the position of the Negro in the Free States was a subject which I was anxious to investigate. To an Englishman, it is a new sensation, almost the only new sensation in America, to enter for the first time an hotel where one is surrounded by negro servants. I recollect well the first evening that I dined in the New World. It was at the Everett House in New York, one of the best hotels — let me add, in recollection of my
69friend Mr. White of that ilk — in the States. I was seated waiting for my soup, in that calm state of enjoyment which every well-organized human being must feel after a long sea-voyage in sitting at a table which does not rock, when the folding-doors leading from the kitchen to the dining-hall were flung open, and a troop of negro waiters marched in together, two abreast, paced up the rooms in step, bearing the soup tureens aloft, solemnly parted to the right and left, deposited their burdens, and then took each his appointed station, in order to lift up the lids of the tureens at one and the same moment on a given signal. This was my first experience of negrodom. Trivial as the incident may seem, there was in it a love of stage effect, a sort of dramatic talent, which belonged to a far other race than that Anglo-Saxon one of ours. So, throughout my stay in America, I could never look upon a negro face without a strange attraction. The coloured people form so marked a contrast to everything and everybody you see around you. Living, as one does, in a bustling, toiling, sallow, washed-out world of men and women, it is pleasing to the mental as well as to the physical eyesight to turn to the negro folk, with their unwonted complexion, varying from the darkest ebony to the faintest tinge of saffron, with their strange passion for gaudy colours, assorted somehow with a touch of artistic feeling, with their deep, wistful, melancholy eyes, and, above all, with their indescribable air of physical
70enjoyment in the actual fact of life. If I were an American painter, I would paint nothing but the peculiar people. No doubt this feeling wears away. If gipsies were an institution in England as negroes are in America, if we had a gipsy camp squatted down in every village, we should, as a nation, see very little romantic or picturesque in the Romany race. Negroes, like gipsies, are all very well as isolated figures in the social landscape, but they are out of place as a perpetual background. Still, with all this, I have often wondered at how very little the Americans I met with seemed to know about the negroes who lived amongst them. I tried frequently to obtain information from persons interested in the negro question, as to the prospects and position of the free negroes, but without much success. The truth is, the negroes, slave or free, are a race apart, in both North and South. A black Ruth might say to a white Naomi, "Thy God shall be my God;" but the promise that "Thy people shall be my people" would be uttered in vain.
Everywhere and at all seasons the coloured people form a separate community. In the public streets you hardly ever see a coloured person in company with a white, except in the capacity of servant. Boston, indeed, is the only town I visited where I ever observed black men and women walking about frequently with white people. I never by any chance, in the Free States, saw a coloured man dining at a public table,
71or mixing socially in any manner with white men, or dressed as a man well to do in the world, or occupying any position, however humble, in which he was placed in authority over white persons. On board the river steamboats, the commonest and homeliest of working men has a right to dine, and does dine, at the public meals; but, for coloured passengers, there is always a separate table. At the great hotels there is, as with us, a servants' table, but the coloured servants are not allowed to dine in common with the white. At the inns, in the barbers' shops, on board the steamers, and in most hotels, the servants are more often than not coloured people. Anybody, I think, who has travelled in America, will agree with me in saying that they are the pleasantest servants in the country, and that he would always go by preference to a house where the attendants were negroes. But where there are black servants, you hardly ever find white ones also, except as overseers. White servants will not associate with black on terms of equality. I recollect a German servant-girl telling me that she had left a very good situation in New England, because she had been desired to take her meals with a coloured servant, and she "felt that that was wrong." I hardly ever remember seeing a black employed as shopman, or placed in any post of responsibility. As a rule, the blacks you meet in the Free States are shabbily, if not squalidly dressed; and, as far as I could learn, the instances
72of black men having made money by trade in the North, are very few in number.
I remember one day in travelling through the State of Ohio (Ohio, let me add for the benefit of English critics, is a Free State), that I was seated by one of the shrewdest and kindliest old farmers it has been my lot to meet. He had been born and bred in Ohio State, and dilated to me as a stranger, with not unnatural pride, on the beauty and prosperity of that rich garden country: — "There is but one thing, sir," he ended by saying, "that we want here, and that is to get rid of the niggers." I was rather surprised at this illiberal expression of opinion; for my friend, though a staunch Union man, had been talking with unwonted good sense and moderation about the folly of adopting extreme measures of vengeance towards the South; and I questioned him about the reasons of his antipathy towards the coloured people. I was answered by the old story. The free blacks did not work, and preferred doing nothing. Half the thefts and crimes in the State were committed by free negroes. Not content with having schools of their own, they wanted to have their children admitted to the free white schools; and, for his own part, he shrewdly suspected that the schoolhouse of his town, Lebanon, which had just been mysteriously burnt down, had been set on fire by free negroes out of spite. But the great grievance seemed to his mind to be that, in defiance of the laws of Ohio, there had been recently
73some few intermarriages between white men and black women. "It don't answer, sir," he concluded by saying; "it isn't right, you see, and it isn't meant to be."
These sentiments express, undoubtedly, the popular feeling of the Free States towards the free negro. Like most popular feelings, it has a basis of truth. In every Northern city, the poorest, the most thriftless, and perhaps the most troublesome part of the population, are the free negroes. Give a dog a bad name, and he will not only get hung, but he will generally deserve hanging. The free negro has not a fair chance throughout the North. The legislation of the country is as unfavourable to the status of free blacks, as the social sentiment of the people. It is a much-disputed point, what were the ideas of the authors of the American institution with regard to the negro. The most probable solution seems to me to be, that though, undoubtedly, they contemplated the possibility of the negroes becoming freemen, they never admitted the idea of their becoming citizens of the United States. There is no distinct statement in the Constitution as to what constitutes American citizenship; but you see clearly that the Indians, though born under the American Government, were never designed to become citizens, and, in like manner, the strong presumption is that the negroes were not either. Certainly, as a matter of fact, a free negro citizen does not enjoy the full rights of citizenship. No coloured man can hold any
74Government appointment, however humble, under the United States. During the last session, a bill of Mr. Sumner's was passed through the Senate, allowing the Government to employ coloured men as mail-carriers; but even in a Republican House of Representatives, the bill was rejected by a large majority. About State legislation, with regard to the free negro, there is no ambiguity whatever. In three States alone, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire, are coloured men allowed to vote on an equality with white citizens. In New York, where there is manhood suffrage as far as white men are concerned, a man of colour must possess a freehold estate of not less value than Å50, clear of all debt, before he can exercise the right of voting. In no other State can a coloured citizen vote at all; and under no State government are black men practically allowed to hold office of any kind. The free schools of every State are closed to coloured children; and in the district of Washington, under the direct authority of the national government, free blacks were taxed till the other day to support the free schools for white children. In the Eastern States, intermarriage between blacks and whites is permitted by law, but in few, if any, of the other States. In several of the Western States, free negroes are forbidden to settle within the limits of the State; while in the border Slave States of the Union, proposals have been made recently to expel the free negro population altogether.
75Under such conditions, it would be strange if the free negroes were, as a class, an industrious or a respectable part of the Northern population. That a proscribed pariah people, forbidden to mix on terms of equality with the ruling race, should not afford by their conduct some excuse for their treatment, would be an unexampled fact in the world's history.
As far as the North is concerned, the free negroes form too small a part of the population to be a source of real trouble. According to the census of 1850, in which the free coloured population was classified separately from the white, the whole number of free coloured persons in the then United States was, in round numbers, 435,000. Of these, only 198,000 were settled in the Free States. New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the great commercial and manufacturing States, had 127,000; Ohio and Indiana, the two frontier States of the North, 37,000. The New England States, the headquarters of the Abolitionists, held about 23,000; while the whole of the North-western States only contained 11,000 in all. As the white citizens of the Free States numbered 13,324,914, in 1850, the proportion of free men of colour would have been barely one-and-a-half per cent. No doubt, these numbers had increased actually during the ten years up to 1860; but the relative proportion of coloured men to white had decreased considerably. From these figures some very obvious conclusions may be drawn. From choice or
76necessity, a very large majority of the free negroes remain in the Slave States, after emancipation. In the free North, it is only in the great cities that they can find occupation or a living — for there is no question that New York, Jersey City, and Philadelphia, contain some ninetenths of the coloured population in the States to which they respectively belong. New England seems to be unsuited for the negro race, probably from the length and severity of its winters. Ohio and Indiana owe the large numbers of their black population to the immediate proximity of the Slave States. And practically, either from natural causes or from adverse legislation, the North-western States afford no home for the free negro. Somehow or other, the climate, or the social conditions of the free North, are not favourable to the increase of the coloured race. In 1790, in the seven States of New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, in which at that period slavery existed, there were 40,370 slaves, to say nothing of free men of colour, while the white population numbered 1,452,828. In 1850, the free coloured population of these States, in which slavery had been gradually abolished, amounted to 139,206, while the white population had reached 6,909,826. Thus, while the whites in sixty years had more than quadrupled their numbers, the men of colour have increased little more than threefold.
It is a charge very commonly brought in England
77against the Free States, that when they abolished slavery, they sold their slaves to the South. It is possible this may have been done in individual instances, but it is obvious that it cannot have been in any sense a State measure, from the fact that the census in every State shows an increase in the number of coloured people, in the years immediately succeeding the act of emancipation. The explanation, therefore, for the comparative unproductiveness of the negro race in the North, must be sought in natural causes. Poverty, hardship, and disease, have checked successfully the natural fertility of the race. Mr. Seward, in talking over this subject, told me that when he was a child in his father's house, there were as many black as white people in the household. Circumstances had enabled him to keep a record of all the inmates of the household whom he had known as a child; and now, after some fifty years, while the members of the white family were numbered almost by hundreds, he could count on the fingers of one hand, the descendants and the living members of the black people. This testimony was corroborated by all Americans in the North I had the opportunity of speaking to. The majority of the slaves in the North were household servants, and were kept as articles of luxury, not of profit. In truth, north of Mason and Dixie's line, the negro is an exotic, and can be kept in existence only by an artificial system of culture.
It is impossible to obtain any statistics as to the amount of intermarriages which have taken place in the Free States between blacks and whites. It is the universal belief amongst Americans that such intermarriages are rarely fertile, and are invariably productive of similar consequences, to those which attend the repeated intermarriage of near relatives. How far this belief is based on physiological evidence, or how far the fact, if fact it be, may not be accounted for by the climate of the North being unfavourable to the development of the mulatto, are questions concerning which I could never satisfy myself. It is certain that if the mixed race were a productive one in the North, the proportion of quadroons ought to be much larger by this time than that of mulattoes; whereas the barest traveller's observation will convince you that such is not the case. For every quadroon you meet, you see two or three mulattoes. The actual number of mixed marriages I gather to be very small. Amongst the higher classes, the relative social position of blacks and whites, quite apart from the question of colour, would be a bar to intermarriage; while amongst the poor, and amongst persons of the same average rank of life, as the free negro, the prejudice against colour is naturally even more violent and unreasoning than amongst men of education. The connexions, legal or illegitimate, which arise between the two races, are almost, without exception, between white men and coloured women. Even in the lowest houses of
79ill-repute in the Free States, no coloured man is allowed to enter. Unfortunately, perhaps, the white male sex is more catholic in its tastes; and of the mixed race, a very large proportion are the illegitimate offspring of white fathers and coloured mothers. Of late years, however, such connexions are grown less frequent, partly from an advance in public morality, partly from an increased repugnance amongst the white race to any idea of amalgamation with the black.
Now, without wishing for one moment to justify this state of feeling in the Free States, I have my doubts, whether we English are, of all people in the world, the best entitled to condemn it. Wherever our Anglo-Saxon race has spread itself, it has shown an uniform intolerance of an inferior race. The treatment of the native Irish by the English settlers, of the Chinese in Australia, of the New Zealanders by the colonists, and of the Hindoos under the Company's rule, are all developments of the same national instinct. That this impatience of an inferior existence is a low trait in our national character, I admit freely and fully; but then I am somewhat of a sceptic as to the truth of the Yankey and Kingsley creed, and plead guilty to occasional doubts, as to whether our Anglo-Saxon race, in the Old World and in the New, is altogether and in all respects the finest, and grandest, and noblest on the face of God's earth. All I state is, that however inconsistent the facts may seem, a great portion of the
80Northern people do unite a very genuine dislike to slavery, and a readiness to make great sacrifices for Abolition, with an extreme distaste to any kind of connexion or amalgamation with the free negro. You must take the good in this world with the bad; and I own I must doubt whether, under like circumstances, the masses in England would take a much more humane or liberal view of the negro question than the masses do in America. The longer I lived in the States, the more I became convinced that America was, to use a mathematical metaphor, the complement of England. The national failings, as well as the national virtues of the New World, are very much those of the mother country, developed on a different and a broader scale.
In these remarks, I have assumed throughout that the negro belongs virtually to an inferior race to that of the white man. Many abolition friends of mine, whose opinions I value highly, consider this assumption erroneous, and repudiate it indignantly as forming some excuse for slavery. The force of this argument was always unintelligible to me. If the negro was as much below the white man in intellectual development as he is above the Australian savage, this is absolutely no reason why he should be bought and sold like a chattel, forced to labour and then robbed of the fruits of his own labour, scourged like a dog at the caprice of his owner, denied the right of education, or marriage, or liberty, and reduced at the
81very best to the level of a well-pampered beast of burden. The weaker the negro is by nature, the less able he is to help himself, the more he needs the enjoyment of law and civil freedom, which form virtually the sole protection in this world of the feeble against the strong. Such at any rate is my belief. Even if this belief is mistaken, there is still no good in refusing to acknowledge facts. No candid observer can, I think, fail in coming to the conclusion, from his own observation and the universal testimony of impartial critics, that the negro is not intellectually, possibly not morally, as highly developed as yet as the white man. The Uncle Tom school of Abolitionists have injured a great cause by throwing over it a veil of romantic unreality. The evils of slavery are not exposed by an attempt to prove that "the black man is as good as the white man, and better too." The Abolition Party would have had far more power if they had accommodated their theory about slavery to the facts, instead of moulding facts to suit their theory. No cause in the world, not even so good a one as that of emancipation, is strengthened by a suppressio veri.
The Slave-Trader Gordon.
ON the 21st February, 1862, for the first time in the annals of New York State, and I believe for the first time in the annals of the United States, a slave-trader underwent the penalty of death for having been engaged in the slave-trade. The case was a remarkable one in itself — remarkable still more as an illustration of the change in public feeling which had passed over the popular Northern mind since the outbreak of Secession. At the period of my first visit to New York, it was the great incident of the day. In the opinion of those best competent to judge, this execution was one of the severest blows yet struck against the whole system of slavery. It is on this account that I have recorded its general outline.
It is now more than forty years ago — if I am not mistaken, in the year 1818 — that the prosecution of the African Slave-trade was declared an act of piracy by the Federal Government, and, as such, punishable by death. Practically, the Government contented itself with this abstract enunciation of principle, and never
83endeavoured to turn theory into practice. It is only just to state that the slave-trade had been, of late years, an unimportant item in the commerce of North America. Partly owing to the absence of a home-market, partly to the vigilance of the British cruisers, and still more to the obloquy which attended any person supposed to be engaged in the traffic, the trade had been, relatively, but little prosecuted. It is just also to admit, that such slave-trading as there was, was carried on by Northern and not by Southern men. The North had far greater material facilities than the South for engaging in the traffic. The interests of the slave-breeding States were steadily opposed to any importation of African slaves, and also with the South, it was a point of honour to have nothing whatever to do with the slave-trade. It is to the credit of human nature, if not of human consistency, that most individuals or nations addicted habitually to any sin, have some peculiar development of that sin on which they look with exaggerated aversion. Slavery was the sin the South had a mind to: for the slave-trade they were not inclined, and damned it accordingly. Be this the right explanation or not, it was by Northern Yankees that the trade was mainly carried on, and New York was the headquarters of the traffic. The whole affair was kept very secret. There were in New York a certain small number of mercantile houses, surmised, rather than suspected, to be engaged in the African Slave-trade — perhaps a score
84or so in all; and every year a few vessels sailed from the port to trade with Africa, nominally for produce, but in reality for slaves. The Anti-slavery Party, to their credit, kept a keen look out for all vessels engaged in the trade, and resolved that the law against slave-trading should not be allowed to fall into disuse for want of protest. Whenever their agents could ascertain that a vessel was about to sail on this errand, they gave information to the State authorities, but always without effect. Under the "rowdy" Government of the Woods and Kennedys — which, till within the last few years, disgraced New York — the police were notoriously venal, and it was worth a slaver's while to bribe liberally. The more respectable authorities of the State all belonged to the extreme Democratic Party, and were unwilling to do anything which might offend the pro-slavery interest, or, still more, strengthen the hands of the Abolitionists. More than all too, public opinion was not in favour of vigorous measures. There was a general though unexpressed conviction that the slave-trade between Virginia and the South differed only in name, not in substance, from the slave-trade between Africa and Cuba; and that the country which recognised the former as a "peculiar institution," could hardly be very severe in suppressing the latter. lndeed, the connivance of the North in the slave-system of the South had so demoralised public feeling on the whole subject, that the refusal to allow British cruisers
85to stop vessels engaged in the slave trade whilst sailing under the American flag, was regarded as a national triumph. The result of this state of things was that slavers were generally allowed to escape unarrested; and even if they were brought to trial, either the juries refused to convict, or else the punishment inflicted, on the plea of insufficient evidence or of extenuating circumstances, was extremely light.
Impelled by the remonstrances of Foreign Powers, rather than by any pressure of public feeling at home, the United States Government, towards the end of Mr. Buchanan's Presidency, had begun to employ a little more activity in suppressing the African trade; and in the autumn of 1860 a slaver, loaded with a cargo of nine hundred slaves, and commanded by Captain Gordon, was seized off the coast of Africa by an American man-of-war. The slaves were landed in Monrovia, and the captain of the slaver was sent to New York — the port from which he had sailed — for trial. The case was a very bad one. The negroes had been packed with more than usual disregard for life, and treated with more than common inhumanity. Of the nine hundred and odd shipped on the "Erie," three hundred died before the vessel reached Liberia. No excuse could be made for the captain personally: he was a New-Englander from Maine, of a very respectable Presbyterian family, and a man of education. This was the fourth slave-trip in which he had embarked, and in two out of the
86four he had made enormous profits. At the time of his seizure he hoisted British colours, and subsequently alleged that two Spaniards found on board the "Erie" were the real owners of the ship, on which he was only a passenger. But there was no doubt as to his real guilt. Still, when he was brought to trial in New York, in October, 1860, little idea was entertained that the legal penalty would be inflicted. The State Prosecutor's district-attorney, Mr. Roosevelt, actually stated, in his speech for the prosecution, "that if the prisoner was found not guilty — which was highly probable — of piracy, or even if the jury found him guilty, such an outside pressure would be brought to bear upon the President as would compel him to pardon him. In either case, the prisoner would go scot free." There is little doubt that this statement, however extraordinary a one for a prosecutor to make, was substantially correct: and Gordon would have escaped had not his counsel tried to quash the case on a technical objection, that formal notice of the pleadings had not been given by the United States Government to the State authorities. The objection was not admitted as fatal, but the trial was postponed in order that the error might be rectified. Meanwhile, Buchanan was succeeded by Lincoln; the Democratic officials were replaced by Republican ones. The Secession Movement broke out, and popular feeling in the North generally, and in New York especially, became Anti-slavery instead of Southern
87and Pro-slavery, as it had been hitherto. This change proved fatal to Gordon. The new district attorney took up the case, and pushed it on vigorously. At first a conviction seemed hopeless, as the officer in command of the "Erie" when sent as a prize-ship to New York, on whose evidence the whole case against the prisoner rested, had joined the insurgents in the South. However, for once, the prosecution was in earnest. The sailors who had served under Gordon were traced out, and, by their evidence, the fact of his having been the virtual commander of the vessel while engaged in the slave-trade was clearly established. There could be no reasonable doubt as to the evidence. The jury brought him in guilty of piracy, and the court sentenced him to death.
Still, little apprehension was felt, either by the condemned culprit or his partisans, that the sentence would be really executed. It was believed that the long delay in the trial, the fact that the law had never yet been put into force, and, above all, the supposed unwillingness of the Government to take any step which would place them in direct opposition to the slaveholding interest, would prove adequate grounds for the remission of the capital sentence. The prisoner was not wanting in powerful friends: and the whole influence of the slave-trading community was exerted vigorously, though unobtrusively, in his favour. But public sentiment proved too unanimous to get up any popular demonstration in
88his behalf. Not a New York paper of any weight could be found to advocate his cause; and even the Herald only dared to support him by passing the whole matter over in suspicious silence. The prisoner's counsel wont to Washington, and employed every argument that could have weight with the Government; but, after a careful consideration of the case, the President refused to interfere with the action of the law, on the ground that the case was clear, and that it was his duty to see the laws executed. I have reason, too, to know that Mr. Seward did his best to support Mr. Lincoln in this determination. Speaking to me about the case shortly afterwards, the Secretary of State remarked, emphatically, that the Republican Administration would have merited the condemnation of every honest man if, whatever else it had left undone, it had not put a stop to the slave trade; and in this, as in every other instance, the resolution was acted up to. With a mercy which, at best, was a very doubtful one, a reprieve of a fortnight was granted, in order that the prisoner might prepare for death. During this fortnight the President was exposed to the most influential and painful solicitations from the friends and relatives of the prisoner for a commutation of the punishment; and a last appeal was made to him at a time when he was distracted by grief at the approaching death of his youngest and favourite child. On this occasion, however, Mr. Lincoln, in his own language, had "put his foot down," and exhibited a
89resolution which it would have been well if he had displayed in other matters.
When this appeal failed, the prisoner's counsel started a technical objection to the execution, on the ground that by the State law of New York, no condemned culprit could be executed till he had been imprisoned for a year after judgment was passed upon him; and that therefore Captain Gordon, though an United States prisoner, tried and sentenced by the Federal law-courts, could not be executed in the State of New York by the State authorities, except in accordance with the State laws. The objection was an ingenious one, and two years before would probably have stayed the execution, but at that time the whole doctrine of State rights was out of favour: and the judges before whom the application was made, decided that if this appeal were correct, it would follow, as a logical consequence, that the sentences of the United States courts could never be carried out in any State, unless they were in accordance with the local legislation of that State — a consequence which manifestly would not be admitted — and that therefore the appeal must be dismissed. After this, as a last attempt, an endeavour was made to summon a mass-meeting in New York, to protest against the sentence being carried out. The following placard was posted during the night all over the city: — "Citizens of New York, come to the rescue! Shall a Judicial murder be committed in your midst,
90and no protesting voice raised against it? Captain Nathaniel Gordon is under sentence of execution for a crime which has been virtually a dead-letter for forty years. Shall this young man be quietly allowed to be made the victim of fanaticism?" The placard ended with a summons to the people to attend a meeting in the afternoon, at the Merchants' Exchange. The police were ordered to remove this document by the civic authorities, as tending to bring the Government into disrepute; but a sufficient number of the placards was left upon the walls, either purposely or through carelessness, to make the fact of the meeting generally known. I was present at the hour appointed, and barely a couple of hundred people were assembled. A good number were obviously idlers like myself. Several whom I knew personally were strong anti-slavery men, who had come to protest against the meeting in case it seemed likely to be influential; and the majority were rowdies, with a lot of very ill-looking Greek and Portuguese merchants. No signature was affixed to the requisition, and no one volunteered to preside at the meeting. After about an hour's delay the assemblage had dwindled down to some hundred persons, and then an unknown stranger got up, without giving his name, and stated that he had never heard of the meeting till a quarter of an hour before, but that he was opposed to staining this glad season — when Washington's birthday and the late Union victories were on the eve of
91celebration — by a public execution. This appeal elicited no response, and the meeting broke up.
With this fiasco the last hope was gone, and the unhappy prisoner made up his mind that the end was come. Every precaution had been taken to hinder him from committing suicide; but, by some means or other, he procured cigars loaded with strychnine, and attempted to kill himself by smoking them: the poison, however, did not act rapidly enough, and he was unable to conceal his agony. Remedies were applied, but towards morning his strength began to fail. The execution had been fixed, by his own wish, for two o'clock, but it was feared he would not live till then; and, in obedience to their duty, the authorities of the gaol had him executed in the courtyard of the Tombs Prison, at noon. Very few persons were present: and when I passed the prison an hour afterwards, there was no sign of excitement, except the collection of a small crowd of Irish, who were waiting to see the body carried out.
The story is a painful one, and the circumstances of the execution still more so. Horrible as the man's crime was, it is impossible to feel pity for him: yet, the fact that a slave-trader was hung in New York, the headquarters of the American Slave-trade, and hung admist the approbation of the public, was a gain not only to America, but to the world at large.
IT was with an odd sensation of being for the first time in a strange society, of dwelling in a slave-owning city, that I became acquainted with the metropolis of the United States.
To a stranger, Washington must be a quaint residence, even in ordinary days. Had it progressed at the rate of ordinary Northern cities, it would have been by this time one of the finest capitals of the world; as it is, it was built for a city of the future, and the future not yet been realized. It is still, as it was once the city of magnificent distances. On two low hills, a couple of miles apart, stand the white marble palaces of the Houses of Congress and the Government Offices. At their feet stretches the grand Potomac, just too far off to be visible as a feature in the town; and across the low, broken, marshy valley between them runs the long, broad, irregular Pennsylvania Avenue, a second-hand Broadway out at elbows. On either side hosts of smaller streets branch out for short distances, ending
93abruptly in brick-fields or in the open country; and that is all. If the plan of the city had ever been carried out, the Capitol would have been the centre of a vast polygon, with streets branching out from it in every direction. But owing to a characteristic quarrel between the Government and a private landowner, which could never have occurred except in an Anglo-Saxon country, the plan was abandoned; the city sprawled out on one side only of the intended polygon, and left the Capitol stranded, so to speak, at the extremity of the town. So Washington has not the one merit of American architecture — symmetry. The whole place looks run up in a night, like the cardboard cities which Potemkin erected to gratify the eyes of his imperial mistress on her tour through Russia; and it is impossible to remove the impression that, when Congress is over, the whole place is taken down, and packed up again till wanted. Everything has such an unfinished "here for the day only" air about it. Everybody is a bird of passage at Washington. The diplomatic corps is transitory by its very nature. The senators, representatives, and ministers, reside there for two, four, possibly six sessions, as the case may be; and the fact of their being in Congress or in office now is rather a presumption than otherwise, that they will not be so again when their term expires. The clerks, officials, and government employés are all, too, mere lodgers. The force of necessity compels each Administration to reappoint a few
94of the subordinate clerks who understand the business of the office; but still, every official may be turned out in four years at the longest, and most of them know that they probably will be dismissed at the end of that period. There are no commercial or manufacturing interests to induce merchants or capitalists to settle here. The growth of Baltimore, and the filling-up of the Potomac, have destroyed what small prospect of commercial greatness Washington may ever have indulged in. There is nothing attractive about the place to make any one, not brought there by business, fix on it as a place of residence. With the exception of a few landowners who have estates in the neighbourhood, a score of lawyers connected with the Supreme Court, and a host of petty tradesmen and lodging-house keepers, there is nobody who looks on Washington as his home.
Hence nobody, with rare exceptions, has a house of his own there. Most of the members of Congress live in hotels or furnished lodgings. The wives and families of the married members (whose names are marked in the Congressional Directory, with a row of crosses corresponding to the number of womankind they bring with them) come to Washington for a few months or weeks during the session, and for the time of their stay a furnished house is taken. In consequence, there is no style about the mode of living. The number of private carriages is very few; and people are afraid of bringing good horses to be ruined by the rut tracks (for they are
95not worthy of the name of roads) which serve the purposes of streets in Washington. Public amusements of any kind are scanty and poor. There is a theatre about equal in size and merit to those of Margate or Scarborough in the season; at the Smithsonian Institute (the barbarity of whose designation I am afraid is due to its English benefactor) there are frequent lectures, which, when they are not political demonstrations, are about as interesting, or uninteresting, as lectures on the Glaciers and the Tertiary Formation, et hoc genus omne, are at home; and there are occasional concerts, dramatic readings, and pictorial exhibitions. But this, with the visit of an occasional circus, is all.
The city, in fact, is an overgrown watering-place. The roads appear to have been marked out and then left uncompleted, and the pigs you see grubbing in the main thoroughfares seem in keeping with the place. The broken-down ramshackle hackney-coaches (or hacks, as they are called), with their shabby negro drivers, are obviously brought out for the day, to last for the day only; the shops are of the stock Margate watering-place stamp, where nothing is kept in stock, and where what little there is is all displayed in the shop-windows. The private houses, handsome enough in themselves, are apparently stuck up anywhere the owner liked to build them, just as a travelling-van is perched on the first convenient spot that can be found for a night's lodging.
The grand hotels, too, which form a striking, if not an
96imposing feature in most American towns, are wanting in Washington. Even according to the American standard, there is not a decent hotel in the whole place. Willard's and the National are two huge rambling barracks where some incredible number of beds could be run up; but it is hard to say which is the shabbiest and dirtiest internally; and externally, neither of them have any pretensions to architectural grandeur. Of the lot, Willard's is the best, on the principle that if you are to eat your peck of dirt, you may as well eat it in as picturesque a form as possible. The aspect of this hotel during the time that the army was encamped before Manassas was indeed a wonderful one. At all times Willard's is the house of call for everybody who has business in Washington. From early morning till late at night its lobbies and passages were filled with a motley throng of all classes and all nations. With the exception of the President, there is not a statesman or general, or man of note of any kind, in Washington, whom I have not come across, at different times, in the passages of Willard's. Soldiers in every uniform, privates and officers thrown together in strange confusion; Congress-men and senators, army contractors and Jews; artists, newspaper writers, tourists, prizefighters, and gamblers, were mixed up with a nondescript crowd of men, who seem to have no business except to hang about, and to belong to no particular nation, or class, or business. In the parlours, there was a like
97confusion. Half a dozen rough-looking common soldiers, with their boots encased in deep layers of Virginia mud, would be dozing with their feet hoisted on the high fenders before the fire. At the tables gentlemen, dressed in the mouldy black evening suits Americans are so partial to, would sit all day writing letters. Knots of three or four, belonging apparently to every grade of society, would be standing about the room shaking hands constantly with new comers, introducing everybody to everybody — "more Americano" — and adjourning, at intervals, in a body to the bar. Upstairs, on the floor above, splendidly-dressed ladies were strolling at all hours about the passages, chatting with friends, working, playing, and flirting with smartly-bedizened officers and gay young diplomatists.
In fact, barring the presence of the ladies, an ingredient we had little of there, I was constantly reminded of Naples in the Garibaldian days, and, notably, of the Hotel Victoria. There was the same collection of all sorts of men from every country, the same Babel of languages, the same fusion of all ranks and classes, the same ceaseless conversation about the war, the same preponderance of the military element, the same series of baseless contradictory rumours, and the same feverish restless excitement. Constantly, too, I came across well-remembered faces, and was saluted by acquaintances whose names I had forgotten, but whom I recollected at the camp before Capua, and more frequently still about
98the cafés, of Naples. What were they doing here? why they were employed here? what their rank might be? were all mysteries I did not care to fathom. I was content to answer by the expressive Italian formula of Chi lo sa? It is good, I suppose, fishing in troubled waters.
As to the public buildings of Washington, they add little to the splendour of the town. Of the Capitol, I shall speak presently. The Treasury, a sort of white marble Madeleine, would be magnificent if it were finished. The White House is beautiful on a moonlight night, when its snowy walls stand out in contrast to the deep blue sky, but not otherwise. As to the Post Office, Patent Office, Smithsonian Institute, and the unfinished pedestal of the Washington monument, I must refer the curious to any handbook of travel I am ashamed to say that I never visited either the curiosities of the Patent Office or of the Smithsonian; and I am still more ashamed to add that I do not regret my shortcomings. Stock sight-seeing is an amusement that, from some mental defect, I have an invincible aversion to.
Possibly this description does not do full justice to Washington. On a fine bright spring day, when the wooded banks that line the south side of the Potomac were in their early bloom, I have thought the city looked wondrously bright; but on nine days out of every ten the climate of Washington is simply detestable. When
99it rains, the streets are sloughs of liquid mud; and, by some miraculous peculiarity I could never get accounted for, even in the paved streets, the stones sink into the ground, and the mud oozes up between them. In a couple of hours from the time the rain ceases, the same streets are enveloped in clouds of dust. In spring time, the contrast between the burning sun and the freezing winds is greater than I ever knew it in Italy; and in summer, the heat is more dead and oppressive than in any place it has been my lot to dwell in. I had many friends in Washington, and my recollection of the weeks I spent there is a very pleasant one; but, as a place of sojourn, Washington seems to me simply detestable.
I recollect Mr. Hawthorne saying, that his impression on leaving Washington was, that if Washington were really the keystone of the Union, then the Union was not worth saving; and in this opinion I cordially agreed with him.
THE one fact which redeems Washington from the imputation of being the ugliest capital in the world is the presence of the two grand white marble palaces of the Treasury and the Capitol, frowning at each other like old German castles, from the summit of the two hills that inclose the valley of the quondam Goose Creek and present Tiber. Still, in its external shape, as a matter of bricks and mortar, it was a constant wonder to me that the Houses of Congress were not grander than they are. The position, design, and material of the Capitol are all magnificent, and yet, somehow or other, it is not, to me at any rate, one of those buildings which, like St. Peter's, or York Minster, or the Madeleine at Paris, stand apart in a traveller's memory. The grand, half-finished front facade is turned away from the city, owing to the fact that the building was planned before the town was built. So, as a matter of fact, nobody enters, or ever will enter, by the front entrance except to see the facade; and all persons on
101business approach the Capitol by the back door. The completion of the edifice is suspended for the present, because funds are short and the architect is away at the war. The whole building has still an untidy, unfinished, almost tumble-down, appearance. The immense iron dome, which will vie in magnitude with that of St. Peter's, and which, like the Roman cupola, you can see for miles and miles away, rising grandly over that hilly campagna country, is still a bare framework of beams and girders, surmounted by a crane, ominously resembling its brother of Cologne Cathedral. Blocks of unhewn marble lie on every side, scattered about the pleasant grounds which lead from the Capitol to the foot of the steep hill on which it stands. The niches are still without their statues, and the grand entrance without its giant doors, which visitors to Rome must remember so well in Mr. Rogers' studio; while, in many parts, the staring red-brick walls are still without their marble facings. Even when the building is completed, I think the effect inside will always be disjointing. Vast as the Capitol is, there is a want of great, open spaces in it; and you wander through endless passages, and richly-roofed corridors, and stately staircases, without coming across one point of view which leaves a strong, definite impression on your mind. There is, too, a characteristic absence of artistic propriety about the whole arrangements. The great centre circular hall is blocked up with a scaffolding, on which
102a number of second or third-rate historical pictures are exposed to view, some of them for sale. Amongst them, by the way, there used to be a portrait of President Buchanan; but when the troops were quartered here, at the outbreak of the war, for the defence of the Capitol, a Western regiment destroyed the portrait by squirting tobacco juice over it, leaving the other pictures untouched. "And a vile indignity, too, sir," said an Abolitionist, who told me the story, "that was for the — tobacco juice." Again, in the main passages fruit-stalls are allowed to stand, where apples, and nuts, and lager beer are sold to the outside public who have not the right of entrée to the Congress refreshment-rooms, at which brandy cocktails and Bourbon whisky are administered to thirsty orators. In another hall there is a stand for the sale of guide-books, maps of the buildings, and commemorative medals; and farther on there is a little bazaar of Indian bead-work and mocassins. In spite of these defects of taste, the arrangements of the building are wonderfully comfortable; and the rooms and passages, though less gorgeous than those of our own Houses of Parliament, are, I think, in reality, more convenient and luxurious. Show is entirely subordinate to comfort, in a way it is not with us. Like everything in America, the whole building is new, painfully so; and the one relic of antiquity is found in the old Senate Chamber, where the Supreme Court now holds its sittings. This was about the only part of the
103old Capitol which was not burnt down by our troops in 1814; and in the mantel-pieces and cornices you still see the friezes of the consul in his car, and the lictor with his fasces, which marked the classic French taste of the early Republican era. Otherwise, the whole edifice looks as if it had been opened yesterday. There is one constant charm, however, about the Capitol, that, from its shape and its elevated position, every room faces to the light, and commands most lovely views of the Potomac and the hills that gather in round Washington on every side.
So much for the outer building. With regard to Congress itself, one's first impression is inevitably unduly favourable. To any one who has experienced the dreary waiting in the gallery of our own House with a member's order, and the still more dreary discomfort when at last you do make your way into the close, inconvenient pen, the mere facility of access is enough to put you into good humour. I cannot conceive any intelligent being, arrived at years of discretion, subjecting himself to the annoyance of a visit to our own Houses of Parliament except as a matter of business; and I should think little of the intelligence of anybody curious in such matters who did not go constantly to the debates in Washington. Without any one to stop you or ask you your business, you go up the long staircases, and pass through folding doors into the public gallery, where, I should think, there must be room enough for some
104thousand persons, and where you sit as luxuriously on stuffed benches with padded backs as if you were a favoured inmate of our own Speaker's Gallery. It is true the company you find around you, like that of all places of public resort in America, is mixed in its composition. Irish workmen, with ragged coats, will be sitting next to Broadway swells, in the most elaborate of morning costume; and by the side of officers, in the brightest of uniforms, you will see common soldiers, in their grey serge coats, with the roughest of beards and the muddiest of boots. If you are fastidious, however, you can easily, supposing there is no great crowd in the house, get admission into the ladies' gallery, where you have choicer company and a better view. For my own part, however, though I was kindly given the right of entrée into the reporters' gallery, which is an admirable one for hearing, I preferred the public ones, because you could change your scats from one part of the long galleries to another, and so always get a full view of the speaker, in whatever portion of the house he might happen to be standing. The company, too, like every crowd I ever met with in the North, was perfectly civil and well behaved. Indeed, during many visits which I made to Congress, I never heard the least disturbance or breach of order on the part of the gallery. If there had been, however, I hardly know how it would have been suppressed.
With an Englishman's feeling about the relative
105importance of the two Houses of Parliament, his first visit will probably be to the House of Representatives. The room is rectangular in shape, with sides of an unequal length; rather low in height for architectural effect, and surrounded on every side with galleries, supported on light iron pillars. With the exception of the two small compartments set apart for the press and the diplomatic corps, the whole of this gallery is open to the public. In the body of the house the seats of the members, with desks placed before each of them, are arranged in semicircular rows round the raised platform, on which the Speaker's chair is placed, and in front of which the clerks of the House are seated. The defect of the arrangement, as far as the public is concerned, is, that as the speakers turn towards the Chair in speaking, it is difficult to get a front view of their faces, and it is by no means an easy thing to follow a speaker whose back is turned towards you. Moreover, the constant buzz of conversation amongst the members makes it difficult to hear a speaker who does not happen to be near the place in which you are seated.
My first impression was that there was a want of life about the whole concern, compared with our House of Commons. It recalled rather a meeting of the House of Lords on a full night, when a dull speaker is on his legs, and the peers are anxious to divide and get home. In the old days, before Secession, as a matter of custom,
106the Democratic members sat on the right of the Chair, and the Opposition, whether they were Whig, Federalist, Know-nothing, or Republican, on the left. Since the Southern Democrats seceded, and the remaining fractions of the old parties had become merged, more or less, in the great party which supported the Government and the Union, this custom has fallen into abeyance; the seats have been set further apart to cover the spaces left empty by the members of the seceding States, and the representatives sit in any part of the hall, where the number assigned to them by ballot may happen to place them, without much regard to party. This absence of any line of division between the members, and the fact that no expression of applause or dissent is permitted, give a dull air to the assembly. The scene looks like a lecture-room where the class is paying no attention to the lecturer. Some of the members, not many, have their legs sprawling over the desks; some are sleeping in their chairs; and the majority are writing or reading, or talking in low voices to their neighbours. The representatives have their hats off and are dressed, for the most part, in the seedy black suits Americans affect so much. The majority are men advanced in life; young boyish legislators, of the "Dundreary" type, are things unknown here. The House seems composed of business men, slightly bored at an unprofitable waste of time. Thus the ordinary demeanour of the assembly is more staid, if not more
107dignified, than that of our Parliament. The only distinct sound which interrupts the somewhat droning tones of the orators' voices is the constant clap-clap of the members' hands, as they summon the boy-pages to run on errands. These boys are, indeed, an institution of the place. They come and go with wonderful quickness; and when nobody wants them, with that sans-gÄne so peculiar to all American servants, they sit upon the steps of the Speaker's platform, or perch themselves on any member's desk that happens to be vacant.
With regard to the merit of the oratory it is difficult to judge. There is not a single speaker of great eminence in either house at present, and there was no debate, while I happened to be at Washington, of especial interest. In truth, a debate in our sense of the word, is hardly known there. There being no Ministry to turn out — or rather there being a Ministry which has no direct connexion with the discussions, and which cannot be turned out — the peculiar interest which attaches to a great debate with us, where the fate of an Administration depends on the issue, is altogether wanting. Speeches are delivered to be printed and circulated amongst constituents, rather than to influence the audience to which they are addressed; and, indeed, the newspaper summaries are ordinarily so meagre, that any member who wishes for a full report, is obliged to have his speech reprinted. Probably, in consequence of this, the custom of reading speeches, or referring constantly
108to memoranda, is very common, and mars the effect of the discussions. There is an amount, too, of unimpressive gesticulation which becomes painfully monotonous. I saw one member, who during a speech of an hour, kept advancing and retreating constantly up an open space of some twelve feet in length, like the Polar bear at the Regent's Park gardens; another, who always sidled from one desk to another; a third, who swung his arms up and down with the regularity of a windmill; and a fourth, who kept turning like a teetotum towards every part of the house in turn. The constant accentuation, too, of unimportant words, and the frequent misplacement of the right emphasis to the wrong place, makes long listening to an American debate wearisome to an Englishman. Still, the one remarkable feature is the marvellous fluency of the speakers. Everybody has the gift of speaking — the power, at least, of stringing words together without a hitch. I never heard an American member of either House stutter, or hem and haw, as nineteen-twentieths of our speakers do when in want of a word. And this is not solely because the speeches are prepared beforehand. I have constantly heard members interrupted in their speeches, and unexpected questions put to them, yet they always replied with the same perfect self-possession, and almost fatal fluency of language. Whether this arises from the fact that, "unaccustomed as I am to public speaking," is a phrase no American out of his
109teens could use with truth, or whether, as I think, it is due to some characteristic excitability in the race, which supplies words at command, I cannot say. The fact is certain, that though I never heard anything in the way of American parliamentary oratory which rose to the height of eloquence, I never heard so much average good speaking in any English assembly.
I was told by persons qualified to judge, that I saw the Houses of Congress under unfavourable circumstances, and that, in happier times, I should have heard much of keen discussion and sterling eloquence. It is true that the interest of the nation was fixed upon the army, not upon Congress, as in former days; and that Congress suffered, as all popular assemblies will do, from the absence of public interest in its proceedings. It is true, also, that the fusion of all parties into the one great one, which supported the Government, rendered the debates comparatively tame and colourless. Still, with all this, I doubt whether, even in the palmy times of the American Congress, in the days of Clay and Webster, and Douglas and Calhoun, an Englishman would not have experienced the same sense of unimpressiveness about Congress. I defy any rational being to take much interest in cards unless he is playing for money; and American parliamentarism always seemed to me a sort of playing for love at politics. The stake with us is the power of changing the Ministry, but where a division leads to no practical result, as far as
110the speakers are concerned, there must inevitably be a certain tameness about the proceedings. Having made this confession, I must state, on the other hand, that judging from my own experience, I should say the American House of Representatives (as I saw it when cleared of the Southern members) was a very quiet and orderly one. The English notion that it is a public bear-garden, is a mistaken one. Mutatis mutandis, making allowance for the absence of high culture which prevails in a new country, I should say that Congress relatively stands high in moderation and decorum. However, it is fair to mention one or two incidents which occurred during my stay.
Senator Wade, of Ohio, had made a hustings' speech attacking the democratic party in these words: —
"I accuse them of a deliberate purpose, to assail, through the judicial tribunals, and through the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, and to overawe, intimidate, and trample under foot, if they can, the men who boldly stand forth in defence of their country, now imperilled by this gigantic rebellion. I have watched long, I have seen it in secret, I have seen its movements ever since that party got together with a colleague of mine in the other House, as Chairman of the Committee of Resolutions, a man who had never any sympathy with this republic, but whose every breath is devoted to its destruction, just as far as his heart dare permit him to go."
The colleague alluded to was a Mr. Vallandigham, of Ohio, the leader of the small, democratic, forlorn hope in the lower House, who had lately presided at a meeting, the object of which was to reconstitute the party. This gentleman not unnaturally resented the imputation, and two or three days after, the following scene occurred in the House of Representatives: —
"Mr. Vallandigham (after quoting the above passage): I am here in my place in this House, and as a representative, I denounce, and I speak it advisably, the author of that speech as a liar, a scoundrel, and a coward.
Mr. Blake (Ohio) wished to note a personal explanation in reply to Mr. Vallandigham. He understood the latter to say that the remarks quoted were not made in the Senate, and therefore his colleague had denounced Senator Wade as a ‘liar, scoundrel, and coward,’ under false pretence.
Mr. Vallandigham asked that the words be taken down by the clerk.
Mr. Blake would modify his language to the following effect: — ‘His colleague uttered his remarks under a false declaration, that they were not made with reference to a member of Congress.’
Mr. Vallandigham asked that that language should be taken down by the clerk.
Mr. Blake wanted Mr. Vallandigham's words taken down, with a view to subsequent action. Both his
112colleague and Senator Wade were well known in Ohio, and where the latter was known his character needed no defence from the remark of his colleague.
Mr. Vallandigham replied that he, too, was well known in Ohio, and referred to the fact, that the verdict of the city in which he lived was recently returned in his favour by a change of vote, since last October, of 640. He was ready to meet his colleague elsewhere or anywhere.
Mr. Blake wished to know what he meant by elsewhere? This was the place to settle disputes; he knew of no other.
Mr. Vallandigham replied: In the district of Columbia, Ohio, anywhere outside of this House. He had read from a printed speech a foul and infamous libel on his character. He did not mention Wade as a senator, but as an individual. He had been branded for years past, and he threw himself back firmly and decidedly on his rights. When Wade recalled his words, then he (Vallandigham) would take back his.
Mr. Blake replied: He felt that Ohio was shamefully insulted by his colleague's remarks, and further, he believed three-fourths of the people of that State would speak of Vallandigham as Mr. Wade had.
Mr. Hutchins (Republican, of Ohio), offered a resolution, setting forth the offensive language used by Mr. Vallandigham of Mr. Wade, characterizing it as a violation of the rules, and a breach of the decorum of the
113House, and concluding by declaring Clement L. Vallandigham is deserving of, and is hereby censured by, the House.
Mr. Sheffield (Democrat, of Rhode Island,) moved that the House adjourn, as the attendance was thin.
Pending the resolution, the House adjourned."
Nothing came of the matter, either here or elsewhere. Mr. Blake and Mr. Vallandigham, when the night's reflection had brought coolness to their heated blood, confessed that their language had been over hasty, and that they had only called each other liars in a parliamentary sense, and there the quarrel ended.
About the same time there was another personal quarrel on a point of order. No speaker in the House of Representatives is allowed to speak more than an hour, unless the House consent unanimously to an extension of the time. The objection, therefore, of any one member is sufficient to veto the extension. It is needless to say that in the middle of an impassioned harangue it is provoking to be pulled short up by the striking of the clock; and, as a rule, members are allowed to finish their speeches. On an occasion when Mr. Roscoe Conkling, of New York, was speaking on the Tax Bill, a dispute of this kind arose, of which I quote the printed report: —
"Mr. Conkling asked the Speaker what time remained to him?
The Speaker replied, eighteen minutes.
Mr. Dawes, (Republican, of Massachusetts): The time will be extended to the gentleman.
Mr. Washburne, (Republican, of Illinois): I object to that.
Mr. Conkling: I knew that. And do you know how I knew it? Because the member for Illinois is the only man in this House surly enough to interpose objections in such a case.
Mr. Washburne rose to reply, when Mr. Ashley called the member to order.
Mr. Washburne, (excitedly): I call the creature to order.
The Speaker demanded the preservation of order.
Mr. Conkling: The member from Illinois understands the rules of the House, and must understand that this is not the place for personal altercation. He knows the proper place for that is outside these walls.
Mr. Washburne, (excitedly): Yes, sir, and I am ready for it.
Mr. Conkling: No individual in this House better knows than the member from Illinois that I stand by what I say, until I am convinced that I am in error; and, therefore, there is no necessity for any interruption here."
This affair also ended in smoke, moral, not actual. The above were the two most glaring specimens of brawls in Congress while I was there; and it would be difficult to match them by incidents which have
115occurred not so long ago in our own Parliament. The fact is, and it is worth noting, that the rowdy element disappeared from Congress with the secession of the slaveholding Democrats.
So much of the House of Representatives. The Senate is more interesting to a stranger, from the simple fact that you can hear and follow readily what is going on, which you cannot do in the Lower House. In shape and arrangement, the building is the counterpart of the representative chamber, only smaller. With so scant a number of members at its fullest — diminished as it is now by the absence of the seceding senators — and with the widely-parted rows of arm-chairs, fronted by the small mahogany tables, the aspect of the Senate is not a lively one. It seems impossible that with such an audience any actor could work himself into a passion; and the whole look of the scene is so very staid and decorous, that it is hard to realize the stormy, passionate discussions which have taken place within these walls; harder still to imagine that bludgeons and fire-arms could ever have been wielded amongst men so sober and respectable-looking.
To me it was a surprise to learn how very much of the business of both Houses is conducted secretly. On all executive questions, that is, on questions of the appointment or dismissal of public officials, &c., the discussions are held with closed doors. Then too the real business of both Houses of a deliberative character is
116carried on in the committee rooms, where no strangers or reporters are admitted. Whenever leave has been granted to bring in a bill, it is referred, before discussion, to the standing committee appointed to investigate the class of subjects on which legislation is proposed. If the committee reject the bill, their vote is not final; but the rejected bill is laid upon the table, and it requires a two-thirds' majority to remove it from the table, or, in other words, to resume its consideration. This, of course, is rarely done, and, practically, the framework and substance of every measure is discussed in the committee rooms, not in the open House. The party in power in either House manages the selection of the committees, so that one of the party should always occupy the chairmanship, and that the majority of the members should belong to their own side. It is in the committee rooms that the real work of legislation is done; and members go into the House, as I have often heard Congress-men declare, to deliver speeches, or write their letters. With all this, with the early hours (generally from noon to five), with the fresh air and easy seats, the position of a member of Congress must be, to my mind, a more comfortable one than that of an English M. P., not to mention the 600l.a year of salary, with the mileage, stationery, and franking perquisites.
Constitution of The United States.
I RECOLLECT talking about the Constitution of the Union, not long after my arrival, with an old diplomatist from one of the Scandinavian kingdoms. He had lived for some fourteen years in the States, and was as shrewd as northern diplomatists generally are. "I suppose," he said to me, "I have studied the Government of this country as much as most men; and yet, to the present day, whenever I disagree with an American on any question of politics, he always settles the argument by telling me that a stranger can never understand the institutions of his country." Subsequent experience proved to me that the remark was a just one. Amongst all Americans, even the most intelligent and impartial, there is a settled conviction that, just as the knowledge of the books of Veda is confined to the Brahmins, so the power of interpreting the mysteries of the American Constitution is reserved to the native-born American. Yet, judging Å priori, the subject would not seem to be surrounded with extraordinary difficulties. There is
118no unwritten constitution, as with us. A hundred clauses or so, written in the clearest and most forcible of English, describe and define the powers and limits of the Government. There is no hazy past, no dim tradition about American history; while, as to the manner in which the theory of the government has been reduced into practice, we have the evidence, not only of written records, but of men still living, whose recollections date back almost to the days of the Revolution.
That the American Constitution is very imperfectly understood abroad, I admit freely. That it is so frequently misunderstood I believe to be, in great measure, the fault of the Americans themselves. From the time of Washington to the present hour, every political struggle in the States has been based upon contending interpretations of the Constitution; and a very simple subject has been obscured by the rancour of rival factions. Though the letter of the Constitution has been seldom, if ever, violated, its spirit has been constantly modified, if not disregarded; and a very casual perusal of its contents shows that the practical development of the system has been very different from what its authors intended it to be. Moreover, there is a tendency in the American mind to surround the founders of the Republic, their acts and their works with an unreasoning and, I think, an exaggerated respect. As the ablest of living American novelists once said to me, "We are always struggling painfully to
119create a past;" and so, just as over-zealous divines obscure the simplicity of the Bible by trying to find too much in every word, American commentators on the Constitution endeavour to invest it with the attributes of an almost inspired wisdom, and, by so doing, render it unintelligible. That the Constitution was a compromise of wonderful ability, and that, on the whole, it has been attended with extraordinary success, no candid inquirer can venture to deny; that it was a work of high abstract merit, or of great legislative sagacity, may reasonably be doubted. Having pleaded guilty to this heresy, let me endeavour to give such an outline of the American Constitution as may render my view of it intelligible to the English reader.
How it arose that such differences existed in customs, laws, and policy, between the different States which formed the original Union, is a question of history, and of obscure Colonial history, into which I need not enter. The broad fact is obvious, that at the time of the Revolution the thirteen States which succeeded in establishing their independence were distinct and independent communities, anxious to extend rather than curtail their individual freedom. It was the pressure of necessity, not any abstract desire for unity, which caused the formation of the first Confederacy. In the words of Justice Storey, the Revolution "had nourished a spirit of resistance to all external authority; and (the States) having had no experience of the want of some general
120Government to superintend their common affairs and interests yielded anything reluctantly, and deemed the least practicable delegation of power quite sufficient for national purposes."
121utmost freedom and variety of government in internal matters was to be united with perfect unity of government in external relations. The same Constitution which, on the one hand, deprived the States of certain sovereign powers, had, on the other, to confirm them in the possession of powers almost equally sovereign. Added to all this, the framers of the Constitution had no power whatever, except that of persuasion, to enforce the adoption of any system they framed on the States which were to be subject to it. Such a system, therefore, must be devised as would not only conciliate the interests, but also not offend the prejudices of thirteen distinct and almost rival States. Given these conditions, it is a marvel that the problem was solved at all — not that it was solved, as I hold, but imperfectly.
If you once realize this idea, that the Constitution of the United States was a compromise, the apparent contradictions contained in it become intelligible.
122States, broadly speaking, surrendered the rights they had not enjoyed under the old system of Colonial government, and, therefore, attached little value to; while they retained jealously every privilege they had either held, or had conceived themselves entitled to, as Colonies. In the celebrated Declaration of Rights, issued in 1774, there is hardly a single power claimed for the States from the British Government which is not reserved to the different States intact by the Constitution; while the powers exercised by the United States Government are almost identical with those which, by implication, this document concedes to the Imperial authority. In all our Old World communities, the Constitution rests upon the basis of certain rights, ceded either by force or choice, from the Government to the
123governed. In America the exact converse has taken place, and the Constitution exists by virtue of certain rights ceded by the governed to the Government. With us the presumption, to say the least, is, that any power, not expressly ceded to individuals or corporations, belongs to the Government; while here it is not a matter of presumption, but of certainty, that any undefined power does not belong to the Government, whosoever else it may belong to. According to an amendment to the Constitution, passed very shortly after its formation, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People."
The limits upon the powers of the different States are indeed, so few in number, that it is worth while to quote them.
With regard to foreign relations the restrictions are positive: — "No State," it is provided, "shall enter into
124any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; or, without the consent of Congress, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace; or enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign Power; or engage in war unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay."
With respect to internal government the only restrictions actually laid down are — "that no State shall coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility." Again, no State shall, without the "consent of Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws; and the net produce of all duties and imposts laid by any State on imports or exports shall be for the use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress."
These are all the express restrictions on State authority. Besides these, however, there are others implied, if not expressly stated, by the Constitution. The United States guarantee to each State in the Union a republican
125form of government,
Subject, then, to these restrictions, the power of each State within its own jurisdiction is unlimited at least in theory. To what an extent this authority has been wielded in practice, I shall examine in a following chapter. For the present, I wish to speak only of the powers conferred by the States on the Central Government; but, as a broad principle, it should be borne in mind throughout what I have to say, that just as the capital of Washington was chosen and built to suit the country, instead of the country being arranged to suit the capital,
126so the Constitution was designed to suit the States, not the States to suit the Constitution.
The powers, such as they are, allotted to the Supreme Government, are jealously defined. The executive, legislative, and judicial departments are perfectly distinct, and vested in the hands of distinct though not independent bodies. Every member acts as a check on, and is checked by, some other member. The Constitution thus recognises four "estates," to use an analogous English word: the President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court. The different functions of Government are distributed amongst these different "estates." For full and precise details, I must refer the reader to any copy of the Constitution, or, if he desires a more careful research, to the works of Mr. Justice Storey and Mr. Hickey. The outline that I can give him here must obviously be of the scantiest.
The executive power, then, is divided between Congress (by which name the Senate and the House of Representatives are properly termed when acting jointly), the President, and the Senate. Thus Congress alone can make war, raise taxes, coin money, raise loans, and perform several other executive functions of minor importance. The President has no power to interfere with the execution of any of these functions, except by interposing a veto, which veto becomes null and void in case the measure vetoed is passed
127again in Congress by a majority of two-thirds. The one single power the President can execute, propriomotu, is that of pardon. He is also Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, though with a limited power of appointing his subordinate officers. The powers of making treaties, appointing ambassadors, ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and officers, rests, as a rule, between the President and the Senate. The President has the right of initiative, and proposes the appointment or dismissal of any official, or the formation of any treaty; but no appointment is valid unless it receives the sanction of the Senate.
The distribution of the legislative functions is more simple. The President has nothing to do with law making. He may recommend measures to Congress, and he may require a measure to be reconsidered, by refusing to sign it after its first passing; but this is all. The subject measures on which Congress is allowed to legislate are, taxation, national debt, currency, naturalization, foreign trade, postal regulations, copyright, offences on the high seas, war, army and navy supplies, rules for the regulation of the services, and dealings with the Indian tribes. On all such subject measures, "Congress has power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." Moreover,
128Congress has powers to make any laws whatever on any subject with regard to the district of Columbia, or to the forts or arsenals which are the property of the United States.
These powers may appear ample enough, but a little consideration will show that the number of subjects on which Congress cannot legislate is enormous. On questions of religion, education, railroads, poor laws, slavery, and social reform, it has no power to legislate, because they are matters which do not come within its province. On the social life of the country it has no powers of legislation; on the political life but few; and in short, broadly speaking, the national life of the country is the only one which comes under its jurisdiction. Even in matters on which Congress is competent to legislate, its powers of legislation are not unlimited. No law passed by Congress is valid, if it violates the compact entered into by the Constitution between the United States and the several States; and whether any law is a violation of this compact or not, is a question on which the Supreme Court has to decide. For example, if, after the suppression of the insurrection, Congress were to pass a law decreeing that import duties should be levied on all goods entering the port of Orleans, such a measure would be simply null and void according to the Constitution, as no State can be taxed separately.
The judicial functions are not so much divided in
129their allegiance. The Senate has the sole power of trying cases of attainder; but, with this exception, the jurisdiction over all cases, both in law and equity, arising under the Constitution, the laws, and the treaties of the United States, belongs to the Supreme Court alone. The judges hold their office during good behaviour; but they can only be removed at the proposal of the President, and with the sanction of the Senate.
The position of the Ministers is singularly undefined. They are very much what our heads of departments would be, supposing we had no Cabinet. The President may require them to report to him on any subject within their department, but can issue no instructions to them, except in as far as his nominal Commandership in Chief may give him power to do so. With Congress, they have no direct connexion; while with the Senate, their only official connexion is, that the sanction of the Senate is necessary to their appointment or dismissal. While in office, they are practically independent in the exercise of their powers, subject to the laws and the Constitution. They are responsible to nobody except the law, and have no account to render. The power of appointing their subordinate officers rests with themselves, or with the President, as Congress may determine.
Each State has two senators, holding office for six years and a larger or smaller number of representatives,
130according to the relative size of its population. Each representative is elected for two years only. The Legislature of each State elects its senators; but on what conditions, and subject to what qualifications, are matters within the decision of each individual State while the members of the House of Representatives are chosen directly by the electors of each State, according to the electoral qualification adopted in that State. The President is still nominally chosen by a double election. Each State appoints, in any way it thinks fit, a number of electors equal to the total number of its senators and representatives, and these electors select the President. Practically, however, these electors are mere delegates, and have only to nominate the candidate already chosen by their own State. The result of this system of nomination is that the election of the President depends upon the choice of the majority of the population, not upon the choice of the majority of the States. Thus, in the Presidential elections, the vote of the single State of New York would neutralize those of the five States of Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, and North and South Carolina. Yet, in the Senate, the vote of any one of the States would counterbalance that of New York. Supposing there had been no Secession after Mr. Lincoln's election, there would have been a President, representing the population of the United States, opposed to slavery, while the Senate, representing the States, would have
131had a pro-slavery majority, or, at any rate, a minority so numerous as to paralyze all action. If, as is probable in this event, the President and the Senate had come into open collision, it is difficult to see how the Executive Government could have been carried on.
This hypothesis illustrates what I conceive to be the vital defect of the American Constitution. The system is so carefully poised and counterpoised that any disturbance in the political machinery stops its working; and when the disturbance occurs, there is no undefined authority to deal with unforeseen accidents.
132constitutional monarchies, others despotisms, and others oligarchies, there is no abstract reason why the Government of the United States should not remain almost unaltered, and, possibly, work better. The safety of the system lay in the conflicting interests, in the variety of Governments of the different States. Gradually State lines have grown to have less social importance, while, politically, they have become more and more powerful. Railroads, commerce, and intercourse have broken down the isolation of the separate States. From community of interests, of position, and of institutions, the New England, the Western, the Pacific, and the Southern States have severally become welded together, but every tendency to union amongst the parts promotes, for a time at least, disunion in the whole. The centripetal force which could keep one State from flying out of the orbit is not adequate to keep within its attraction masses of States. The central force must be increased; but the necessity for this change is more easily pointed out, than the mode of accomplishing it. One fact is certain, that the work of unification, essential to the maintenance of the Union, can never be carried out permanently while North and South are divided by the fatal question of slavery.
To repeat, then, what I stated before, the Constitution of the United States is, in my judgment, neither more nor less than a compromise of great ability — a political make-shift of wonderful success. The
133duration of the Union is due not so much to the merits of the Constitution as in the practical wisdom with which it has been worked. In France, the logical absurdity of the compromise would have been demonstrated in a month, and its existence terminated in a year. In America the good sense and moderation of the people has enabled the compromise to work without breaking down for three generations. The proud boast of the "Esto perpetua" is not likely, I think, to be realized in the letter, but it may well be in the spirit. The grand preamble which heads the Constitution — "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution" — has a purport deeper than the compromise it prescribes. Such words as these are not written upon sand.
THE study of the American State Constitutions is not in itself an interesting one. A government, debarred from the exercise of all imperial functions, loses the dignity which the possession of supreme power confers in itself. One defect of the whole American system of government appears to me to be, that the prizes and opportunities of State politics are not sufficiently grand to secure the services of the highest class of politicians; and yet the powers wielded by the State Governments are so enormous as to require almost the very highest class of legislators for their due execution. Moreover, the relations between the systems of the State and the Central Governments act not altogether beneficially towards the latter. Every member of Congress must, in accordance with the Constitution, "be an inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen." Whether rightly or not, the word "inhabitant" has always been interpreted as identical with citizen. Thus, if you want to enter Congress, you must enter it as
135senator or as representative from the State of which you are a citizen. Two consequences result inevitably from these conditions. A man who desires to enter on public life must make his name known as a local politician — must rise to Congress through the ante-chamber of local State politics; and, even after he has obtained entrance to Congress, must study the politics of his State as the condition of his political existence. This necessity for every national politician to be also a State politician undoubtedly deters many men of education and position from entering on public life. The talents fitted for the great arena of the National Assembly are not always those best qualified to succeed in the petty struggles of local legislatures. Again, the second and more hurtful consequence is, that a public man has no career before him, unless his politics are those of the majority of his own State. A pro-slavery man, who happened to be a citizen of Massachusetts, or an anti-slavery man of Maryland, would have no possibility of being returned to Congress. Take a case like that of Caleb Cushing, Mr. Pierce's Attorney-General. Here is a man of really remarkable ability, of great energy, and long experience of public life. So much even his most bitter enemies — and he has many — will allow. Yet General Cushing has practically little more chance of being returned to Congress than the writer of these pages. He would be the very best representative for a State like Maryland, by which, I mean, that even in the
136view of his antagonists, he would be the most moderate and most desirable kind of representative that Maryland, at present, is ever likely to return. Yet he cannot be a member of Congress for any State but Massachusetts; and his democratic opinions and antecedents disqualify him from election in Massachusetts as long as the Republican party is in power. So, for the best years, probably for the remainder, of his life, the United States have no chance of obtaining General Cushing's services. Of course, he, or any man in a like position, might emigrate to another State, and begin his political career anew, but there are few men who, by the time they have obtained public distinction, are either able or willing to start life again on a new platform. In truth, the State is an "imperium in imperio" in the system of the United States. Absolute powers on all questions of life and death, law-making, taxation, regulation of religion, social relations, and political institutions, are conceded to it within its own limits. The diversities in the Constitutions of the several States are as great as in their climates. Subject to the restrictions I mentioned in the preceding chapter, the power of the States is unlimited. If New York chose to restrict the qualification of an elector to persons possessed of a million dollars, and to reduce the Government to an oligarchy; if Massachusetts declared marriage void and illegal; if Louisiana confined the franchise to Roman Catholics; or if Wisconsin passed an agrarian law, the Federal
137Government would have neither the right nor the power to interfere. Of course, these are extreme cases, but if you wish to appreciate the real condition of the United States, you must realize, first of all, the extreme abstract independence enjoyed in all internal government by the several States, and, secondly, the real extent to which this independence has been asserted.
The features of resemblance are very numerous. The Constitutions of the original thirteen States were all adopted about the close of the War of Independence, before the Constitution of the United States was in existence. At that period, in the first triumph of success, there was probably more unity of sentiment throughout the States than has ever existed either before or since. In those days, too, the reaction in favour of classical republicanism, which ushered in the French Revolution, was at its height in America. Like all French theories, it was an exotic in an Anglo-Saxon country, and a very short-lived one; but, for a time, it operated powerfully, and has left its impress on the external forms of the State Constitutions, as well as in the names of Capitol and Senate. Moreover, seventy years ago there was no foreign element worth speaking of in the original States; and, therefore, under this superficial coating of French classicalism, there lay a deeper and more uniform ground-work of British traditions and British prejudices than you would find at the present day. Quaintly enough, as it seems at this moment, one of the favourite topics
138of invective against the British Government in the revolutionary days is their employment of German soldiers. From all these causes the outward forms of the different State Constitutions are much more alike than they would have been if founded some years later; and, naturally enough, the new States, as they became incorporated with the Union, adopted a similar form of Constitution to that which existed in the older States.
In every State, then, the outline of the Constitution resembles closely that of the United States. There is a Governor, a Senate, and a House of Representatives; and the executive, legislative, and judicial functions are divided much in the same way. In each existing State, trial by jury, the habeas corpus, freedom of speech, freedom of petition and of the press, are guaranteed as a Bill of Rights by the Constitution. In no State as yet is there a State religion established by law. Whether a State can legally do so is a question which will come up to a practical issue when Utah demands admission as a State, and as far as the letter of the Constitution goes, there is little doubt that she may.
To show how the system of separate State Governments works, I will choose out a few prominent questions of government, and show how they are dealt with by the Constitutions of six States: Massachusetts, Ohio, and New York as free States; South Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky as slave States.
Take, for instance, the electoral qualification. In
139Massachusets to be an elector you must have resided one year in the State, have paid some local tax or other assessed within two years of the date of election, and be able to read and write. In New York there is manhood suffrage obtained by one year's residence in the State. The same is the system adopted in Ohio, Louisiana and Kentucky. In South Carolina, the property qualification was removed by an amendment to the Constitution passed six years ago; but a non-resident elector has still a right to vote in any electoral district where he holds a freehold property of not less than fifty acres. In Massachusetts, coloured people vote on an equality with white citizens. In New York a coloured voter must possess property of the net value of 50l., and must have been resident in the State for three years. In Ohio, and, of course, in the three Slave States, the blacks have no votes at all.
There is the same difference with regard to the qualifications necessary for being a member of either house of legislature in the several States. In all the States I am speaking of, with the exception of South Carolina, any elector may be a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives, supposing him to have resided in the State for a stated period, varying from one to five years, In South Carolina, on the other hand, every senator must own a freehold estate of the value of 300l. clear from debt; and every representative must possess "in his own right, a settled freehold
140estate of 500 acres of land, and ten negroes, or of a real estate of the value of 150l. clear of debt." The duration of the Senates varies from two to five years, and of the Houses of Representatives from one to two years.
The modes of election for the executive and judicial offices are various, both in form and principle. In Massachusetts the governor is elected by select men elected themselves by all citizens qualified to vote, and the judges are nominated by the governor, and hold office during good behaviour. In New York, Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana, both governor and judges are elected for a stated period, and directly by the State electors. While in South Carolina, the executive and judicial officers are chosen by the joint vote of both houses of the legislature.
Each of these several States has a series of provisions in its constitution peculiar to itself. In Massachusetts there is a council elected to assist the governor with their advice, consisting of nine senators, chosen jointly by the Senate and the House of Representatives. Till the year 1820, every person who held office under the constitution was obliged to swear that he believed in the Christian religion. In New York the State may never, except in the case of war, contract debts or liabilities exceeding one million of dollars; the credit of the State may not be loaned to any person or undertaking; and, subject to the provisions of the constitution, the common law of England is distinctly declared to be in force.
141In Ohio, both lotteries and duels are expressly forbidden by the constitution, while the administration of justice is to be provided for "by an uniform mode of proceeding, without reference to any distinction between law and equity." Every officer in the State of Kentucky is required to take an oath on assuming office, that he has never been engaged in a duel, either as principal or second. The Assembly also is expressly denied any power of emancipating slaves without the consent of their owners, and is bound to pass such laws as shall be requisite for hindering free coloured people from emigrating into the State. In Louisiana, lotteries, duels, and divorces are interdicted by the constitution. All laws are to be promulgated both in French and English; and for all elections by the people, vote is to be taken by ballot. Finally, in South Carolina, ministers of any religious denomination are disqualified, while exercising their ministerial functions, from sitting in the assembly, and the legislature is formally required "to pass laws for the abolition of the right of primogeniture, and for giving an equitable distribution of the real estate of intestates."
These are only a few instances of the varieties in the constitution of the different States picked out at hazard; and some of the States, such as Maine, Wisconsin, and Kansas, would furnish more striking examples. Still, these will serve to give the reader an adequate impression. The real differences in the institutions of the
142States are found not so much in their several constitutions themselves, as in the laws passed under these constitutions. Thus the law of divorce in the different States varies from a complete prohibition, as in Louisiana, to a power of separation by mutual consent, as in Wisconsin. A man may be legally married in one State, while this very marriage would subject him to punishment for bigamy if performed in another. It is possible for a man who has changed his State to have two families in two States, each of whom is illegitimate by the laws of the other.
One State has no legal, or political, or commercial connexion with another, except in as far as all the States are connected together in these respects by their common allegiance to the United States. A New Jersey writ does not serve in New York; debts contracted in Pennsylvania cannot be recovered, unless by special contract, on property belonging to the debtor in Delaware. A deserter from the state militia of Indiana cannot be claimed when he has crossed the Ohio into Kentucky. The famous fugitive slave law may seem a contradiction of this rule, but it is in reality an illustration of its force; it is expressly provided by the Constitution, that "no person held to service or labour in one State under the laws thereof, and escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such
143labour or service is due." Were it not for this provision, a Maryland slaveowner would have no more right to recover a fugitive slave in Maine, than he would have to arrest a runaway debtor. If a murder is committed in one State, and the murderer effects his escape into another, he cannot be put on trial for the offence as long as he remains out of the State in which the offence is committed. Extradition compacts, however, exist between the different States, and the legal difficulty is evaded by the police officers of the State in which the criminal has taken refuge, conducting him to the frontier, where he is delivered to the officials of his own State; but if any State refused to deliver up fugitive criminals from other States, there is no power by which delivery could be legally enforced. Indeed, during the rowdy government which disgraced New York some years ago, it was notorious that the police would, for an adequate bribe, give any offender time to leave the State, before executing their warrant for his arrest. A writ of the United States runs through the whole of the Union; but a murder or felony committed in one State of the Union is not a matter of which the United States Court has power to take cognizance. It is true that in the famous "John Anderson" case, the United States government applied for his surrender from the Canadian authorities on the charge of his having murdered in the act of escape a citizen of (I believe) Virginia, but this was
144because by the Constitution the power of the Supreme Court extends to controversies "between a State or a citizen thereof, and foreign States."
From these considerations it is not difficult to form a general impression of the extreme and manifold complications that may arise between the rights of the several States and the rights of the Union. The Slavery question has been for many years the prominent and all absorbing one in this country; and therefore foreigners are apt to look upon it as the only one at issue between the States. But the truth is, it is only one of many questions; and if it could be settled to-day, by to-morrow there would be some other vital question on which the conflicting and inconsistent principles of the Supreme Government and
145State sovereignty would come again to issue. If this civil war should be so settled as to give a final death-blow to the States' Rights doctrines, the necessary changes in the governmental system of the States may be carried through without difficulty. If, on the other hand, it is patched up without deciding whether the Central or the State principle is supreme, the whole question will, after the lull of a few years, be again brought to trial.
Constitution of the Territories.
COMPLICATED as the whole governmental system of the United States is through the anomalous and often antagonistic rights granted by the Constitution to the States and to the Supreme power, there is a still further element of disturbance added by the question of the Territories. The whole slavery struggle has been so intimately mixed up with this Territorial question; and the whole future development of the Union will depend so much on its solution, that this brief exsposé of the American Constitution would be incomplete unless I tried to make this question of the Territories intelligible to the reader.
Even before the Constitution was formed, the Territorial difficulty had already made its appearance. When the original colonies were formed, the interior of North America was almost a terra incognita; and by their original charters, many of the States claimed that their territory extended to the Far West, and was, in fact, bounded only by the Pacific Ocean. Virginia and North Carolina in particular, laid claim to almost
147boundless possessions towards the West. Probably, as a matter of sentiment, the States which had no such claims to establish, would have cared very little at that time to whom belonged the nominal authority over remote and unknown forest lands; but even as early as 1780, the ownership of the frontier districts had become a source of wealth. Virginia especially had sold grants of her Western territory to emigrants, and carried the proceeds to her own exchequer. The States which had no unknown territory to sell, contended, with some reason, that the profits derived from these Western territories, which had been rescued from the British dominion by the common efforts of the thirteen States, ought to be devoted to their common use. Indeed, several of the States refused to subscribe the Articles of Confederation till some arrangement was made as to the limits of the undefined territories. Maryland was especially prominent in her opposition to the claims of Virginia. In the instructions given by her Assembly to the delegates appointed to the Congress of the United States in 1778, she put forward strongly the evils that would ensue from admitting the right of Virginia to dispose of her undefined lands. "Virginia," it is stated, "by selling on the most moderate terms a small proportion of the land in question, would draw into her treasury vast sums of money, and in proportion to the sums arising from such sales would be enabled to lessen her taxes. Lands
148comparatively cheap, and taxes comparatively low, with the lands and taxes of an adjacent State, would quickly drain the State thus disadvantageously circumstanced of its most useful inhabitants. Its wealth and its consequence, in the scale of the Confederated States, would sink of course. A claim so injurious to more than one-half, if not to the whole of the United States, ought to be supported by the clearest evidence of right." The report then proceeds to inform the delegates that they will betray their trust if they accede to the Confederation without having this question previously decided on an equitable footing, and adds a prophecy, which reads strangely now in these days of Secession, "Although the pressure of immediate calamities, the dread of their continuance from the appearance of disunion, and some other peculiar circumstances, may have induced some States to accede to the present Confederation, contrary to their own interests and judgments, it requires no great share of foresight to predict that, when these causes cease to operate, the States which have thus acceded to the Confederation, will consider it no longer, binding and will eagerly embrace the first occasion of asserting their just rights, and securing their independence."
Happily for the Union a spirit of conciliation prevailed, and in order to induce the outstanding States to enter the Confederation, New York, Virginia, and North Carolina, consented to have their respective
149territories defined, and to cede all lands lying beyond their western frontiers to the United States. In 1787, shortly previous to the adoption of the Constitution, the famous Ordinance was passed for the government of the Territories north-west of the Ohio River. By this, which has always been considered as a part of the Constitution, an arrangement was made, whose terms, broadly speaking, were as follows: — In the first instance, the Territory was to be governed by authorities appointed by and responsible to Congress, whose power, as far as the territory was concerned, was absolute. As soon as the territorial district numbered five thousand free male inhabitants, these inhabitants were to have the right of electing an Assembly. Every elector, however, was to possess fifty acres of freehold land, and every representative two hundred. The Legislative Council was to be elected by the legislature, on the plan that two members were to be elected to fill every vacancy, and of these two nominees, Congress was to choose one. The Governor was still to be appointed by Congress; and he was to have a veto on all laws passed by the Council and Legislature. All legislation too, by the Territorial Assembly, was subject to certain limitations. The equal division of property amongst the heirs of intestates, freedom of religion, trial by jury, writ of habeas corpus, and equal representation, were rights guaranteed by Congress to the territories, and all legislation of the Territorial Government
150inconsistent with these rights was ipso facto null and void. By an amendment of Jefferson's, slavery was also expressly prohibited in the North-West Territory; and therefore it was not in the power of the local government, so long as the district remained a territory, to establish it by law.
Whenever any of these territorial districts had a free white population of 60,000 males, it was to have the right of claiming admission into the Confederacy "on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever." It was to be at liberty also "to form a permanent constitution and State government, provided the constitution and government so formed shall be republican and in conformity to the principles contained" (in the ordinance).
This ordinance was not incorporated into the Constitution of the United States. The wording of the Constitution simply gives power to Congress to dispose of, and make all needful laws for the regulation of, the United States' territory; and also gives power to Congress to admit new States into the Union. Practically, the new States have been admitted in accordance with the general principles laid down in the ordinance; but the great questions still remain unsettled, whether a Territory which contains the due number of inhabitants, and accedes to the above conditions, has a right to
151claim admission into the Union? and, further, supposing Congress to refuse its consent, what is the political status of the Territory in question?
At the time when the Union was formed out of the thirteen original States, Massachusetts was the only one in which slavery did not exist, though in New Hampshire and Rhode Island the number of slaves was so small as to be of little account. At that time, therefore, the slave-owning interest was the predominant one in Congress. Slavery, however, was a decaying institution in the Northern and Eastern states; and, though abolition was an idea hardly broached at that period, there was great jealousy between the Southern and Northern States, on the subject of taxation. The Constitution, in its nature of a compromise, shirked every dangerous question that could be avoided, and nowhere defined what were the political relations of a slave to the State. Representation and taxation were to be proportioned to population, and so at once the dilemma arose, whether slaves were to be regarded as population or not. At last a compromise was come to — the most illogical of any recorded in political history — by which a slave was to be counted for purposes of taxation and representation as three-fifths of a white citizen. The compromise, like most compromises, satisfied neither party. The North justly considered that the South was undertaxed; the South, not without reason, considered the
152North had more than its due share of representatives. This grievance was not long in coming to a practical issue on the territorial question.
By 1820, the whole relations of the Slave and Free States had entirely changed. Of the old States, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania had altogether abolished slavery; while, in New York and New Jersey, slavery was abolished prospectively. Of the new States admitted to the Union, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Maine were free; and Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were slave-holding. By this year, too, the growth in population of the Free States had completely outstripped that of the Slave States. The population of the Free States was 5,143,476 to 4,371,921 in the Slave. Thus, the Free States had already a decided majority in the House of Representatives, with the certainty that this majority would increase year by year. In the Senate there were twelve Free States to eleven Slave; and, therefore, it became of immense political importance to the South to counteract the inevitable predominance of the North in Congress, by increasing the number of Slave States.
The "irrepressible conflict" between Slavery and Freedom came for the first time to an open issue in this year of 1820, when the Territory of Missouri claimed admission as a State. The House of Representatives passed a bill introduced for the purpose, coupled with
153an amendment, that Missouri should be a Free State, but the Senate rejected the bill on account of the amendment. The difficulty as usual was got over by a compromise, which established no principle. Missouri was admitted, with permission to adopt slavery or not, as she chose. And, in order to reconcile the Free State party to this concession, slavery was declared illegal in all Territories of the United States north of latitude 36° 30'. If slavery was morally wrong, it was as much wrong in latitude 37° as in latitude 35°. If it was politically objectionable in northern latitudes, the degree of latitude was strangely chosen, as Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, lay entirely north of the forbidden line. In fact, the Missouri compromise always reminded me of the story of the drunkard who promised to take the pledge on condition that the abstinence society would supply him brandy for a week's debauch. Still, for a few years, the compromise staved off the dissension. It was not till 1840 that the old quarrel burst forth again, on the proposed admission of California.
In spite of every effort of the South, its relative inferiority in population had still further increased during these thirty years. Of the new States admitted since the Missouri compromise, and in accordance with its provisions, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas, were slave-holding; but Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, were free. The number of the Slave and Free States was
154still exactly equal; and as the South was always more politically united than the North, its influence in the Senate was still the predominating one. But the populations of the Free and the Slave States were now respectively 13,342,327 and 9,612,969; so that, in the House of Representatives, the South was in a decreasing minority. Minnesota and Oregon had both been admitted as Territories; and as they both lay north of the Missouri line, they were certain to claim admission very shortly as Free States. The supremacy of the South was threatened in the Senate, and it was at this moment that California demanded admission under a free constitution. There can be little question that, according to the spirit of the Missouri compromise, California could only be admitted as a Free State, for but a very small portion of her territory, and that almost uninhabited, lay south of latitude 36° 30'. On the other hand, the South felt that the compromise had not fulfilled her expectations; that, in fact, it was a losing bargain. The truth is, the South has never been able or willing to admit the fact — that the reason of her want of prosperity, as compared with the North, is due solely to those natural causes which make free labour more productive than slave; and has, in consequence, constantly endeavoured to rectify the laws of nature by artificial legislation. In 1820, it was believed that the Missouri compromise would restore the balance of power, and make the Slave States
155as influential in the Union, as they had been in 1790. By 1849 the error of this calculation had been discovered; and the South now believed that it was the existence of the Missouri compromise which marred the development of her prosperity. The Southern members, therefore, opposed the admission of California as a Free State, and threatened secession in case of her admission, probably with more sincerity than was then imagined. At any rate, the North was alarmed, and a new compromise was come to, after months of angry dispute, even more illogical than the Missouri one. By this, the Clay compromise, California was admitted as a Free State; but Utah and New Mexico, both north of latitude 36° 30', were admitted as Territories without any inhibition of slavery; while, in the same spirit of giving with one hand and taking with the other, the slave trade was abolished in the district of Columbia, and the fugitive slave laws were enacted.
This further concession to the South only patched up a peace for four years. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska bill roused the old feud. The South insisted that in violation of the Missouri compromise, Kansas should be a Slave State, and only gave way when Douglas proposed a third and final compromise, that Congress should relinquish any power of determining the conditions on which a new Territory should be admitted into the Union, but should leave it to the
156people of each territory "to regulate their own affairs in their own way."
Up to the time of the outbreak of the insurrection, no new State had claimed admission to the Union, and the principles on which territorial legislation are to be based still remain unsettled. Had it not been for the war, the question would ere this have been brought up again by the demand of Utah for admission as a State. According to the Douglas compromise, the fact that she chooses to regulate her own affairs with regard to polygamy in her own way, is no more reason for opposing her admission than that she chooses to regulate her affairs with regard to slavery in her own manner. So, too, if the Union should be consolidated again, it is certain that Mexico and probably Cuba will come under its dominion. It is difficult to see by what extension of the territorial system these new acquisitions could be governed. They could not be admitted as States, and there is no power in the Constitution to hold them as Colonies. I cannot doubt that, even without this war, the "manifest destiny" would very shortly have led to an alteration in the relations between the United States and its Territories; or, in other words, to an alteration of the Constitution.
IT was on an icy-cold night that I first heard Wendell Phillips. I mention this fact not for its intrinsic importance, but because it serves to show that I entered his lecture-room under unfavourable circumstances. For some days before, Willard's Hotel and Pennsylvania Avenue had been placarded with notices that Wendell Phillips was to lecture at the Smithsonian Institute. I had made up my mind to go, but in the evening I had gone in to the house of some kind friends of mine where the cigar-case was always ready, and the flask of monongahela was always full. Sitting there over the fire, talking politics, as was our custom, I felt less and less inclined to go out into the bleak, rainy night to hear what I expected was the harangue of a mere "sensation" orator. Amongst the company was Caleb Cushing, the most anti-abolitionist, perhaps, of Northern Democrats; I happened to mention to him that it had been my intention to go and hear Wendell Phillips, if it had not been for the inclemency of the weather. His answer
158to me was (and for that as well as for many pleasant evenings I shall always feel grateful to President Pierce's late attorney-general), "it is an opportunity you ought not to lose." This remark, coming as it did from an old political antagonist of the anti-slavery orator, induced me to alter my resolution, and through the dark, ill-lit, ill-paved streets of Washington I groped my way, in spite of the snow and rain, to the Smithsonian Institute.
This building, which, by the way, was founded by an Englishman, is about the chilliest and most cheerless of scientific institutes that it has ever been my lot to enter. It was full early when I reached the place, but the hall was crammed so that it was with difficulty I could find standing room. Upon the platform there was Vice-President Hamlin, looking in the half-light as if the Southern story was true, and his dusky complexion really bore traces of negro origin. There was there also Charles Sumner, resting his head as usual upon the stick grasped between his knees; half-a-dozen members of Congress, the two secretaries of the President, Mr. Hay, and Mr. Nicolay, and a good number of the minor Washington notabilities. The audience itself contained a large proportion of women, but the majority, I should say, were young men. Amongst the crowd, too, I observed a fair sprinkling of coloured persons seated side by side with the white hearers. I may mention that I was present at several other lectures at the
159Smithsonian, and that on this occasion alone was there anything approaching to a crowd.
The orator was introduced by Professor Pierpoint, the President of the Institute, in a half-apologetic tone, requesting a lenient hearing for the speaker, if he should say anything calculated to shock the feelings of his audience.
After this address, Wendell Phillips came forward — a spare, slight man, with scanty, greyish hair, dressed in colours of almost quaker-like sombreness. My first impression was that he looked like a cross between a dissenting minister and a country doctor. His air was that of a man old before his time, worn out by anxiety and disappointment: the one sign of genius was the high, narrow forehead, and the one attractive feature was the wonderful sweetness of his smile. It was in a low, hesitating tone that he began to speak. Gradually his voice acquired volume, and somehow or other, without an apparent effort, or without raising his voice above the tone of ordinary conversation, he seemed to fill the room. A very few sentences convinced me that I was listening to no ordinary speaker. I have heard many orators, in many countries, but I can truly say that Wendell Phillips is the only one whom I could have listened to, standing, for two hours, without a sense of weariness. His speech, as I noted it at the time, and as I gathered from the summary of it published afterwards, ran as follows: —
"My friends, I have not come here to bring you anything worthy of the journey, I have only come here, as I sincerely believe; to say ‘amen’ to the brave words which have of late been uttered in yonder Capitol. I do not make any pretensions as a speaker. I have talked a little on anti-slavery, but, as Dr. Johnson remarked on a similar question, I have only been able to do decently well what nobody else considered worth doing at all. But I have come here to-night very willingly, because, if a word of mine, or any number of words, any amount of effort, could add one atom of possibility to the chance that this war should carry comfort to the hovels of Carolina, I should deem my whole life an abundant success. I have no other object in life, as far as I know, than to make this Union, which I have sought honestly to sever, mean justice to nineteen millions of people, and who, I think, at this moment are willing it should be so. If any effort that I could make to-night would contribute toward that result, I would make it with more than cheerfulness — with the utmost enthusiasm."
"Well, gentlemen, as an abolitionist — and I am little more — devoted for thirty years towards having the negro recognised as a man in these thirty-four States, I confess to having no other interest in politics than that this Union should do the negro justice, should do itself the credit, to show it is educated up to the point of doing that justice."
"I repeat, as an abolitionist, I have no great interest in this war — that is, I take no interest in the choice of paths by which the Government shall lead us, because, as far as I am able to study events and results, I honestly believe that whatever this convulsion does, or fails to do, one thing no man, no party, can prevent its doing, and that is, shaking off the chains of every negro on the continent. I do not mean that any man intends it, for I don't care what man intends. When a person gets into the rapids of Niagara it doesn't matter much what he intends; he will go over. (Loud cries of ‘That's so.’) In my view, the system of bondage in these States has received its death-blow at the hands of its friends. I do not believe that slavery can survive the effects of this convulsion. As an abolitionist simply, I feel just as much at ease in looking at this war as I do when looking at Rarey with ‘Cruiser’ in his hand. No matter for the red eyes and panting sides of the brute, he will go down. So, I know all the brutes south of us will go down to destruction; and I base my opinion on two or three very patent facts. In the first place, the plea that has been thrown in our teeth for the last ten years is, that Cotton is king. The overseer made his whip longer so as to extend over the Senate of the United States."
"And now as to the political question. It was the North at the feet of the South. I have no wonder that the South despised her; she never met in yonder Capitol
a man from the North who had a backbone until within a few years. She had cause, indeed, to despise us. Despising us, she tried an experiment in miniature. Missouri pitted herself against Kansas. The South threw down the gauntlet of a single State, and the North responded with a single State also. She sent her peasants, her farmers, west of the Mississippi. They went as peasants and as farmers. The civilization of the North, which means ploughshares and schoolhouses, took the field in a Territory against bowie-knives and bludgeons, which represent the South. They were fairly matched. John Brown, the most influential American in aiding our civilization (hisses and counter-cheers), John Brown went to Kansas, a farmer with the best stock, and owner of the best orchard west of the Mississippi. He carried, as pledges of a good citizen, the prizes he had won in the agricultural fairs of Ohio. He didn't even own a gun or a fowling-piece. He planted his trees, advertised his stock, and it was not until Missourians came across the border and destroyed his orchard, and stole his cattle, that the old man went out and bought a musket. The history of Kansas since is written too patent to need repeating. She has crushed Missouri under her feet, and has taken her seat in the Senate of the United States as a representative of free life and free labour. What Missouri did to Kansas the South does to the North to-day."
"I trust, further, for the suicide of the slave system,
to the fact that the South has re-enacted Missouri, and the North is re-enacting Kansas to-day. Educated and understanding the slave power, educated and knowing how far and how much it must resist, and what must be its means of resistance, we should rise to the importance of the moment, and seize the golden opportunity for forever wresting our beloved land from the insidious influence of the slave propagandists. Every cannon fired to-day is a better anti-slavery lecturer than a thousand men like myself. Every cannon that Halleck has fired, or McClellan has heard — for he has never fired one
— is a better anti-slavery speech than was ever made in yonder Senate, or Faneuil Hall, for it teaches the Northern people the meaning of the crisis, and leads them up to the responsibility of the hour."
"But my hopes are based on another consideration. For the first time, the gates of the Holy of Holies have opened, and we have heard a voice from the sanctuary of God. From that Cabinet, before which, in impressive and utter confidence, the nineteen millions of the North bow to-day, we have heard a voice. It is the message of Abraham Lincoln to the Border States — (the audience here rose on their feet, and gave three cheers for the President) — a message of which I hold the practical amount to be this: ‘Gentlemen of the Border States, now is your time to sell; if you do not sell now, and the exigencies of the Government require your property in a
few months' time, don't say I did not give you warning.’ That is a very remarkable document, that message of the President. I am not practically acquainted with rail-splitting, but I am told that, in taking a large log, the first thing you do is to apply a small wedge. Well, this measure is a very small one, but it is a wedge for all that. The negro preacher said, ‘If I found in the Testament a command to go through that stone wall, I should go at it. Going at it is my part; getting through it is the Lord's.’ Well, now, I hold to this in some measure in regard to this emancipation. Going at it is the President's part, and getting him through it is the people's part. Now, if I am here for any peculiar purpose, it is to persuade you, my friends, to help the President through. In other words, seriously, as an abolitionist, I go back to the year 1823, when, in obedience to the request of Clarkson, Wilberforce, and others, George Canning sent out his celebrated resolutions to the legislatures of the West India Islands. That was the first voice from the English Government; for the first time the Government spoke. They said slavery ought to be ameliorated, and that they looked to the legislatures of the Islands to adopt the necessary measures. That was all they sought. A very tiny wedge! It went to the Islands, however, and stirred up a great deal of excitement; and hence came the martyrdom of John Smith, that thunder-bolt which Henry Brougham raised, and hurled across the Atlantic at the
slave system of Jamaica. It went down eleven years afterwards. I look upon this message of the President in the light of George Canning's resolution. It is the first voice from the Government — a very pregnant one."
"The anti-slavery sentiment, and I say it with all due respect, has conquered the Cabinet. You here think a great deal of your city of Washington, you have a right to. But I am one of the people — I come up here from the millions. I look upon you as a rebel camp, nothing more nor less. You are in rebellion against your former masters. The tyrants of slavedom have borne the sway here for forty years, and you have now rebelled and driven them out. Thus you are rebels, indeed! The question of the hour is, whether you have the ability, whether you have the knowledge of government which will enable you to take possession of the helm. Brownson said, with epigrammatic emphasis, ‘We do not want any more men on the Potomac ready to die; we want men there willing and ready to kill somebody.’ What I would say, in the same sense, is this: the North has given you 700,000 men ready to die; we do not want that. De Tocqueville said of a similar struggle to this — a struggle betwixt the nobles and the people (and this is exactly our attitude to-day) — ‘The nobles went down, not because they were not willing to die, but because they were not fit to govern.’ What the South is called upon to show to-day is, her fitness to govern, not her readiness to die; she has shown that already."
"Now, the reason why I think so much of the President's Message is, because I read in it fitness to govern. I do not think he has entered Canaan, but he has set his face Zion-ward. I love the Constitution; though I have cursed it a hundred times, and I shall curse it again if it does not mean justice. I have laboured nineteen years to take nineteen States out of this Union; and if I have spent any nineteen years to the satisfaction of my Puritan conscience, it was those nineteen years. The child of six generations of Puritans, I was taught at a mother's knee to love purity before peace. And when Daniel Webster taught me that the Union meant making white men hypocrites and black men slaves — that it meant Lynch law in the Carolinas, and mob law in Massachusetts — that it meant lies in the pulpit, and gags in the Senate — when I was told that the cementing of the Union was returning slaves to their masters, — in the name of the God I love, and had been taught to honour, I cursed the Constitution and the Union, and endeavoured to break it, and, thank God! it is broken now. But when last summer I saw, or fancied I saw, that this Union could not exist unless it meant justice; when I fancied I saw nineteen millions of people already drifting with a current as inevitable as that of Niagara, and when, to-day, I hear the voice of the President, as I believe, uttering the same sentiment, I cannot but accept the whole thirty-four States. I am a Yankee born, and will buy Union at any time at a fair price."
"The first line of the President's Message recognises this crisis. It says in effect — ‘Gentlemen of the Border States, release your slaves, we will pay you for them.’ The Constitution in peace gives him no warrant; the Constitution in war gives him an absolute warrant, even to pour out the treasury of the United States at the feet of Kentucky. He recognises the Constitution; he recognises the fact that in war-time the Constitution is the root of the power of the Government, but that its branches spread beyond all constitutional limits. When the emergency of the State requires it, he can do anything. He can interfere with slavery to any extent; he can trample it under his feet, or he can buy it out."
"The President, in his Message, has opened the door of emancipation a foot, and, if he holds out and continues in the right, I shall be able to drive right through with a coach and six, with William Lloyd Garrison as a driver; that is, the President recognises what I believe to be the constitutional right of the Government, to do anything to save the State. He recognises the right to throw the cargo overboard to save the ship. In other words, it was heretofore believed that he hadn't emigrated from Kentucky — that he hadn't got his eyes opened yet any wider than would enable him to see the limits of the States of Kentucky alone.
That Message proves that he takes in the whole Union; that he sees the necessity
of the hour. He says, virtually, ‘Gentlemen, it may be possible that we cannot conquer with the cannon; we shall have to conquer with emancipation; and I, Abraham Lincoln, announce that if that exigency comes upon me, I am ready to adopt it.’ He treads as far on the thin ice as he dares do; let us assure him that the ice is strong, and bid him go a-head. I value this Message, not because Mr. Lincoln speaks, for he can neither preserve slavery nor kill it. It does not lie in the power of any single individual to do either. It lies in the Government — in the public. What I desire is to impress you with a deep conviction of the responsibility which rests upon you as a part of the nineteen millions. You cannot expect the President to do this work alone. We are his right hand and his left. How much will you do? He has come out from the Cabinet, and held out his hand. To how much will the people respond? I, for one, say, ‘Go on, old man, I am with you.’"
"I think that we are too much accustomed to make light of the crisis. We think the South is broken and battered out: she doesn't draw much water. Donelson and Henry have been surrendered, and our troops are moving backward. We begin to regard them as powerless and foolish. Yes; for I used to read in the Herald and Tribune, in regard to the Merrimac, that she was so severely battered out and loaded down with iron, that she couldn't float. Southern folly had made the same mistake in science — so our
newspapers asserted — that she had in statesmanship. They tried to establish a Confederacy, but it wouldn't float, and now they had a vessel that was in the same condition. But one day she steamed down to Fortress Monroe, and frigates lay in wrecks on either side: what stayed her destructive progress? Being, so to speak, a soldier down in the trenches, I know but little of the doings of the Cabinet, but I think if we had depended solely upon the defence that was provided from the White House or the Admiralty, we should have been but badly off. But the people sent down the little Monitor. They got her up, and paid for her themselves to spite the Administration, and flung her right into the face of the navy. She went down and came out victorious. This is a significant fact, a representative fact. It is the people coming up with their impulsive, instinctive, and ready common-sense, making up for a deficiency of the Government; and, I believe, the anti-slavery sentiment of to-day is like the round-house of the Monitor, it spreads itself on all sides, and nothing can get out of reach: that is the meaning of the President's Message."
"So, to-day, as an Abolitionist, with this evidence of the willingness of the Government — with this response of the more than willingness of the people — with this rebuke of ‘Cotton is king’ — with this education of the North to the crisis, I believe that the back of slavery is broken. Whether you think that the stars
and stripes mean liberty or not, the slaves know that such is their meaning. The slave will recognise in that old flag the emblem of freedom, and, flocking to its standard, will refuse to be driven from beneath its folds. As an Abolitionist, therefore, I have no considerable interest in this war. The only interest I have is as a citizen; is as a man with some feeling of responsibility for the institutions of the nineteen States. It is as such that I survey the operations of Government, and count and scrutinize them in regard to their influence on the issues of this war. I think there are two paths leading out of it: one is the path of peace, radical, profitable, solid, and permanent; the other is the path of peace obtained through compromise, second-rate power, and, in the end, disaster."
"The action of the Government which to me is the most promising for the future of this Union is the restoration to command of John C. Fremont. The Herald, supported by the bankerdom of the North, indicted him for inefficiency and lack of integrity. The Grand Jury met at the White House, and wrote ignoramus on the indictment.
That I read, I think, in the act of the President in sending him to the mountains. If John Brown cannot have the mountain, I know of no one to whom its care would be better entrusted than John Fremont. My first choice would have been
John Brown, but I bow to the dispensation of Providence and Virginia, and take John Fremont. We have many bright spots on the battlefields of our history, but the brightest spot in our history is not on the battlefield. It was when a successful general, on the eve of victory a thousand miles from the Capitol, sheathed his sword at the bidding of the Government, and came back to submit in silence to gross suspicion. The charge of his bodyguard at Springfield was a gallant deed; but it falls before the Roman silence — the more than Roman submission — of the general. We may say now to the proud courts of Europe, ‘Democracy breeds heroes.’ Never, since Washington, has man been privileged by God to do such credit to republican institutions as that general at the height of his triumph, when he bowed his head and came back in silence. All hail, John Fremont! — we thank you for vindicating Democracy.
"As a citizen, not as an Abolitionist, I am anxious which path Government takes in this war. I care very little about the technicalities of the Constitution — very little indeed. I think Daniel Webster was a very bad lawyer, though a great statesman, when he said, "If one section of the Constitution is voluntarily broken, there is no obligation on the other to abide by it." He knew well that, in strict legal phrase, the sections were not parties to the Constitution; and he knew quite as well that one wrong does not justify another.
He was aware of the fact that the Constitution was no partnership — it was a Government resting upon the people; but he knew also that there did underlie this Constitution a great compact, a great compromise between rival institutions. He knew that in the time of 1787, the South, essentially a nobility, essentially an aristocracy — an aristocracy based on skin, an aristocracy based on race, based on money! — that they made a compact with the North, essentially a Democracy, and that that compact was virtually this: Slavery is a sin, slavery is an evil, slavery is a weakness; the country is in perilous circumstances; we, in fact, dare not trust God; justice seems to be a sin. Now we cannot believe that doing right is sinning — we cannot rise to the level of that Christianity of yours, but we make a compromise: If you let slavery be at peace, if you allow her to come under the normal and persistent influence of free ideas, if you will assimilate her among other institutions of the country, we grant you so much: we will advise the father to forget his children, the husband his wife, the mother to sacrifice her cradle — we will grant it all: and the compensation shall be, that you shall keep that system quiet under the broad influence of free ideas; and our reward shall be, that in the ultimate result, as an atonement for this temporary injury, our ideas may mould, assimilate, and gradually melt away this abnormal institution. That was the essential compact. Our fathers said — We can't
make justice the existing law of the land, but we will plant the seeds that shall produce it in the future. The South said — We will remain in, and we will keep quiet. The North said — We will trust to the inevitable, the irrepressible conflict of ideas. So we have gone along for thirty years. Now slavery breaks this bond. South Carolina takes her four hundred thousand bondsmen out of the reach of Massachusetts ideas: she breaks the pledge that she had made to Massachusetts. The Pilgrim State went down on her knees and returned Anthony Burns. What was the equivalent? The equivalent was, that if you leave slavery under our general influence it will melt away. Now South Carolina tries to take her four hundred thousand bondsmen out of the reach of this general influence. Well, last spring I said, ‘Go.’ I didn't then entertain the same opinion of the North as I do now, and that was the reason for my saying, ‘Go.’ And I think to-day, that unless this war result in liberty, it would be better if she had gone — infinitely better. Unless within twelve months, or twenty-four, Maryland, Delaware, and half Virginia are Free States, and we be enabled to look east and west of this marble Capitol on free-soil, would to God that that building with this City of Washington had been shelled to ashes! — for it is nothing but a bribe tending to keep the North quiet."
"And now I say, to all who are responsible for the future, the question is whether liberty or slavery shall
rule this great continent, and South Carolina knows it — she has the statesmanship to know it. She said to Massachusetts in 1835, ‘Abolish free-speech.’ What she really meant was that she could not live with free-speech, and she cannot. The real question is today as to what extent she can trample free-speech under her feet. The South is as sincere as we are in this struggle. Ten millions of people grapple twenty millions by the throat, and literally, enthusiastically, and from the bottom of their hearts believe they are fighting for an idea that holds the salvation of the world. I honour South Carolina for her sincerity — there is no doubt as to her believing what she says: she wants to have her ideas govern the continent. Our fathers fancied those ideas and our own could be moulded together. They tried it, and I am willing, for one, that they should have tried the experiment for two generations — perfectly willing. They tried, under the Constitution, to see whether Massachusetts and South Carolina could live together. They united us in a bond of parchment. They put powder and fire into a cannon, screwed up at the muzzle, and hoped thus to assimilate the two. Mr. Webster died supposing those ideas had been assimilated, but the convulsion has come and caused an explosion. We stand to-day amongst the pieces, and, almost till now, the Cabinet say, and the Democratic Party say, and the weak-kneed Republicans re-echo the words: Put the pieces carefully back in their places — put the
same powder, the same fire inside — say the Constitution backward instead of your prayers, and there will never be another convulsion. Now I don't believe it. It is no caprice. This war didn't spring out of the ground. It is nobody's fault — neither my fault nor John Calhoun's. It is the inevitable result of the seeds which our fathers planted seventy years ago. It is a struggle between the slaveholders and the people. Every nation has faced it once in its life. England faced it when the Cavalier and the Puritan came in contact at Naseby; France faced it nearly a hundred years ago, and it is not ended yet. We have begun it. This is its epoch of battle. The South comes up to the southern bank of your Potomac, without either men, munitions, or money — nothing but an idea; and the North goes up with men, munitions, money, and major-generals, and the only thing she lacks is an idea. This contest is one betwixt the slaveholders and the people; it never will or can cease. Yonder Congress may make what truces they please — the Democratic Party may intrigue what compromises they please; but it never will cease, any more than any other war of ideas ever did, until one or the other goes under."
"I do not believe that Democracy is on trial. What I believe is on trial to-day, is the effort of our fathers to have Aristocracy and Democracy dwell together in the United States. I believe they tried to mould into our Democracy an alien institution; and, for one, I thank
God that 1861 comes up to the record and says it is a failure — that the slave-clauses of the Constitution are buried beyond resurrection. I do not believe, however, that it is an experiment; I believe it is done and settled. Friends, let me say one thing further. You may ask me what I demand of Government: I will tell you. I am not going to criticise — it does not belong to me. I would not criticise the various schemes by which yonder Senate means to meet the ultimate result — they are all indifferent to me: whether the elaborate and, as I think, sound system of Mr. Senator Sumner, or the profound philosophical analysis of our situation which Mr. Conway of Kansas has given us, be adopted by Government (and they are identical in many respects), I don't care. And it seems to me that as slavery began this war — for without slavery it never would have been — the Government has a right, through the rebellion, to smite slavery to the dust. I want it done, I don't care what is the method. I thank God he created Beauregard (if He did); I thank every South-Carolinian who has come up to the southern bank of the Potomac, because, in my view, they have given Government a right to abolish slavery by law. Abraham Lincoln sits to-day surrounded by thunderbolts which South Carolina has forged for him. He has but to lift one and hurl it at the system, and it is a victory to-day and peace for ever. Now, therefore, if you will allow me a few minutes, I desire to tell you how I, one of the people, arrive at
this conclusion. I believe, with John Quincy Adams, that the Government has the power and authority to abolish slavery by the Constitution — I mean by the Constitution now."
"I cling to the Constitution to-day, because it has got into that position which means justice. It cannot live, in my opinion, unless it does mean justice: it has no other source of life but justice. It is a neck-and-neck race between Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, which shall get the negroes on his side. Davis is on the other side of the Potomac uttering his words, and the President is on this side, in Washington. I think Congress has the right to abolish slavery, while Congress has done away — or the Government, for I do not wish to make any distinction, any odious distinction; — I say while the Government has done away with my right of habeas corpus, I could be sent to Fort Warren for making this speech, and you for listening to it. The Government has put its hands into our pockets, and, by the legal-tender clause, has taken out ten dollars out of every hundred of the value of every acre in New England. That is a very despotic measure, but it is a good one: it saves the Union. The Government has allowed up to this moment every general of a division to return fugitive slaves, if he fancied it necessary. That, certainly, finds no warrant in the Constitution; still, I bow to the military despotism. The Government goes to Charleston, fills up the harbour with stones in the
service of the Union: I, for one, have no cause of complaint to utter. But if Congress has tampered with land, has tampered with habeas corpus, has tampered with our Southern ports, why can it not act in a similar manner in removing the causes of this rebellion? — why can it not tamper with the laws that bind the negro to his master? But I myself go further than this doctrine of the Constitution. I have very little respect for parchment. I remember that slavery has ruled this Government for sixty years. I remember that when Jefferson wanted the mouth of the Mississippi, he said, and John Quincy Adams concurred, ‘There is no right in the Constitution, but America needs it.’ He purchased it, and to-day it is the jewel in our Western Colonies. Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin will pour out their blood thicker than the waters of the Mississippi, before they would surrender it. And to-day the North has said, ‘We own down to the Gulf, and we will have it in spite of the Carolinas.’"
"When slavery believed she needed Texas, she stole it, and added it to this Union. And this is said to be constitutional! The weapon slavery has forged for me for seventy years, shall I not use it? Shall despotism do great things illegally for two generations, and liberty do nothing at all according to law? This constitutional maxim, which the South has taught me, and carried into execution, while she held me bound like a spaniel to her footstool, in order to build up the Union, have I no
right to take it, and forge it into a weapon in the service of justice? Is the Union all on one side? May the South fight with free feet and free hands, while we must go into battle with General McClellan having both feet and both hands bound? No! I say, all that the Constitution has given us for seventy years I claim to-day I claim it in behalf of the negro, who has been ground down for seventy years under its exercise. My fathers promised the 400,000 negroes of the Carolinas that they would not quit them until they saw them free. I don't intend to. They promised them the ultimate influence of Massachusetts ideas before they would let them go. I believe to-day in the rightful constitutional power, according to the strictest letter of the law and according to the repeated precedents of all administrations, that what the time finds necessary and what the future acquiesces in is law. I claim that to-day. Anything that a nation finds necessary, it is bound to adopt in order to save itself.
"Why, gentlemen of Washington, you have spent for us two million dollars per day. You bury two regiments a Month, two thousand men by disease, without a battle. You rob every labouring-man of one-half of his pay for the next thirty years by your taxes. You place the curse of intolerable taxation on every cradle for the next generation. What do you give us in return? — what is the other side of the balance-sheet? The North has poured out its blood and money like water; it has
levelled every fence of constitutional privilege, and Abraham Lincoln sits to-day a more unlimited despot than the world knows this side of China. What does he render to the North for this unbounded confidence? Show us something, or I tell you that, within two years, the indignant reaction of the people will hurl this Cabinet in contempt from their seats, and the devils that went out from yonder Capitol — for there has been no sweeping or garnishing — will come back seven times stronger: for I do not believe that Jefferson Davis, driven to the Gulf, will go down to the waters and perish, as certain brutes mentioned in the Gospel did. I believe that when he finds the battle won't serve him, he will accept compromise. I believe that it is possible that the Democratic Party of the North may work so far on public indifference, that even President Davis may consent to come back into the Senate of the United States. Yes, it is possible that even this convulsion may pass by and we reap nothing — that we may go through all this expense of blood and treasure, and, politically, may reap nothing. I do not mean that you can stop ideas. I think, however, you have lost the golden moment. When John Brown took possession of Harper's Ferry, and on that Sunday held it in his right hand — when the disheartened town believed that there were two thousand men in arms on the mountains, he might have gone to the hills, and there made his preparations, and then, instead of Virginia only trembling, the whole
South would have trembled. He sat down with Colonel Washington in endeavouring to conciliate friendly slaveholders. Monday's sun rose upon him, the golden hour of his actual purpose was gone, and God lifted him to a gallows that made him the most influential man of his generation."
"I think it possible that the Government may, in the same way, have lost its golden opportunity — that all we may gain from this war will be its influence on ideas, unless you will rouse the Government to a full sense of its responsibility. I never shall believe that the Government is aware of it until its organs use a different tone in regard to the black race. We are all looking and wanting to know about experiments with the blacks. The Government is said to hesitate what they shall do with the negroes. Well now, as an Abolitionist, all I want is that you shall fight. Go right down into the Slave States, encamp a hundred thousand white men in South Carolina, and I venture to say that one hundred thousand black men would rally to their assistance. The South, in despair, would initiate Emancipation, and thus Liberty would come. You see I believe in the blacks. All I want you to believe is that black men have the same feelings and are influenced by the same motives as white. The general opinion in reference to the negro is, that he is a very incomplete being, and that we have got to complete the creation — that we shall have to expend a whole treasury and
a vast amount of brains in taking care of him. All you are required to do is to leave the negro to look after himself. I am tired of hearing about the negro experiment. What I beg you to remember, citizens of this great Republic, is that we ourselves are an experiment according to the European standard. What the negro is among races, Democracy is among Governments. We are the negro of Governments."
"My text, then, is — seize your opportunity. All nations grow up by seizing their opportunities. All statesmen are great, not by honesty, but by ability. I don't doubt the honesty of the Cabinet: they mean well — they mean very well; and, meaning well, will save their souls up there, but it won't save the Union down here. We want ability — we want a policy. I don't believe in subjugating South Carolina. If Major-General McClellan could plant the stars-and-stripes either at Charleston, Montgomery, or New Orleans to-night, the work would only be begun. You have your elephant, what are you going to do with him? This is no short work. There are two things you cannot do. You can't save slavery, however much you try: you can destroy slavery with a very little indifference, but you cannot save the Union without long years of trouble. God demands of us an atonement commensurate with our sins. For seventy years we have planted unrighteousness — we have got to gather the harvest trouble. You cannot get out of this war without a
long and toilsome trial. All the virtue and statesmanship in the world won't save you; the poison has entered the whole public mind. The South is honest — honest to the backbone. I believe in her honesty to make up one portion of the effect of Emancipation. The South-Carolinian, who has come up to Manassas, leaving his wife and children to the care of his slaves, honestly believes that they, the slaves, would fight for them; he thoroughly believes it; it is the record of all slavery in all ages. In San Domingo, when the French Commissioners proclaimed Emancipation in order to avert invasion, a planter had armed his slaves, and trusted them, until that majestic word, liberty, was pronounced, and he saw them shrink from his side. He addressed them in an affectionate manner, asking them if it was possible that they, who had been in his family for upwards of thirty years, could now desert him? Their answer was, ‘Yes, massa; though we love you much, we love our freedom more.’ So it is. God has planted common-sense so deep that all slavery cannot reach down to root it out."
"If the North has any right to predominance in this Union, it is because she has the ability to show, and ought to show, that she loves justice and civilization. Standing in this position, when you conquer the Carolinas, you carry with you the seeds of conversion. Carolina can never be one with Massachusetts until you make her like Massachusetts. To save the Union,
don't conquer Carolina — convert her, change her ideas, apply a policy; and let that policy be the education of the ignorant, the relief of the oppressed, the instilment of a love for the Union into the breast of the deluded, and the emancipation of the slaves. Suppose Abraham Lincoln to-day should conquer South Carolina, what does he gain? He has not uttered a word that the blacks can respond to. The poor whites hate him; the slaveowners hate him, of course; in fact, there is no one in South Carolina that does not hate him. Will anything be gained, by conquering, on the policy pursued at present? But suppose, on the contrary, the policy of Emancipation should be adopted, the blacks will thank him from the bottom of their hearts, and render him all the assistance in their power. I would send 100,000 men into South Carolina, and force our Government into a policy: and when the yellow-fever of the South drove out our men, I would garrison the forts with acclimated negroes under white officers, and hold them against the world. The loyal slaveholder, if there be any such, would, no doubt, give us his sympathy and his co-operation. Better that he should be allowed to put his hands into the Treasury up to his elbows rather than that this money should be wasted on rascally contractors. As to the inveterate slaveholders, estimated at four thousand, let them be colonized rather than the four millions of slaves. I wish them no worse fate than this, for I am opposed to capital punishment."
"So you see that my policy includes all the elements. I should put conversion behind my cannonballs. In other words, I love Carolina: she has stood side by side with Massachusetts — she supported our fathers in the dark hours of the revolutionary struggle: God bless her! I would give all the brains that New England schools have given me, in order to keep the pledge of my fathers of Massachusetts. When the record of this Republic is written, I would have it said, that in 1862, in our struggle, she kept the promise of her youth; that she did justice to the negro, and to the white man of the South — giving to one liberty and to the other all the benefits of our republican institutions. Why should we not? Let us put Europe to shame."
"And now, at last, the golden hour on the clock of the century has struck. Up! men of ideas — up! children of the Puritans in the nineteen States! Seize the golden moment! Hurl at the system the thunderbolt the hour has given you! Proclaim justice to Carolina! bless her with liberty and prosperity! Have but one race from the Atlantic to the Pacific — one race for ever, as indivisible as the granite that underlies this continent, to rule this magnificent inheritance, and have no nation in Europe that dare dictate to us how we shall fill our harbours —".
I have given this speech somewhat at length, because it seemed to me the ablest popular statement of the views of the Abolitionist Party that I came across in America.
186Of all the anti-slavery men that I met with, Wendell Phillips was, in my judgment, the only one who faced the question logically, and was prepared to admit, even to himself, that if the Union could not be maintained without preserving slavery, then the Union was not worth maintaining. The majority of the party laboured under the fatal weakness, from their own point of view, that, holding slavery to be a national sin, they yet could not reconcile themselves to the conclusion, that the Union had been hitherto the stronghold of the very system they inveighed against. They were always seeking to serve both Freedom and the Union, and, seeking this, they failed to preserve either. I do not wonder at their weakness, but I wonder all the more at the mental independence of the few who, like Wendell Phillips, were able to rise above the influences, amongst which they were reared and bred.
The mere perusal of this summary, meagre and broken as it inevitably is, can hardly give the reader any impression of the effect produced by it on the audience. No doubt the circumstances under which it was delivered, the state of passionate excitement with which his audience were then hourly expecting to hear tidings from the army of the Potomac, had much to do with it. There was something impressive, too, in the reflection, which every one of the hearers must have made himself, that, twelve months before, the orator could no more have delivered such an address in the capital of
187the Union than a Christian could go into the Mosque of St. Sophia, and there preach against the doctrines of Mahommedanism. Even as it was, there was known to be risk of an assault upon the speaker; and the impression that, in some sense, he carried his life in his hands, amidst a population half of whom were interested in slavery, gave a somewhat similar excitement to the performance, to that which forms the real attraction of Blondin's exhibitions.
Still, with all this, even after the sensation had passed away, it seems to me that, as a mere oratorical display, the address was a very remarkable one. It was curious to notice how the audience warmed beneath its delivery. During the first few minutes, the speaker was interrupted with occasional hisses, but gradually he appeared to acquire the mastery over his hearers, and to be able to work upon their feelings as he chose. The political parts of his speech — the attacks upon McClellan, the eulogy of Fremont, the sneers at England, and, above all, the prognostications of the future of America — created immense enthusiasm, compared with that which greeted the purely anti-slavery portions of his speech; but, towards the end, the excitement had grown to such a height that there was nothing, I think, which Phillips could have said, which would not have been cheered enthusiastically. The charm of the speaker consisted in the perfect self-possession, the lucid fluency, and the never-faltering sequence with which his words
188were spoken. His delivery reminded me of that of the Bishop of Oxford, accompanied, however, with an apparent earnestness which I never was fortunate enough to see exhibited in any speech of the English prelate. How far the speech was absolutely impromptu, I was not able to satisfy myself. No notes were used, but then, with a speaker who, like Wendell Phillips, lectures perpetually on the same subject, it is impossible but that a great part of what he says one night should be a repetition of what he has said before. Much of it, however, must have been spoken for the occasion, and on the spur of the moment. I remember one passage, that I have not quoted in my summary, because I was not able to recall the order in which it was spoken, which created a great sensation. The bill for the abolition of slavery in the district of Columbia was at that time being passed through Congress, and, though its passage was certain, yet it had been delayed by the opposition of the Border State Democrats. Wendell Phillips was speaking of his personal hatred to slavery: "I have never," he said, "set foot on slave ground." There was an expression of disapprobation from the back benches, which recalled to his mind the fact that Washington was still a slave territory. "No!" he went on, "I am wrong; I have this day, for the first time, and, I hope, for the last, set foot on ground where my fellow-men are slaves, and for this, if for no other cause, I bear no love to the men whose
189obstinacy has caused me to forego the resolve of my life." Passages like these read tamely afterwards, but, at the moment, they produced an effect upon the audience which was absolutely startling; and when he finished speaking, after two hours or more, the audience still lingered in their seats, as though they were unwilling to break the spell.
The Proclamation and The Border States.
I HAVE often heard it asserted, and I have seen the statement constantly repeated in the English press, that slavery had nothing to do with the questions at issue between the North and South. I can only say, that during my residence in Washington, I heard little talked about except the question of slavery. At the time I arrived there, the chief discussion was, whether the President would or would not issue a proclamation advocating emancipation. At last, after much hesitation, Mr. Lincoln published the manifesto of the 6th of March, proposing gradual emancipation throughout the Slave States. The gist of that proclamation lay in the first paragraph. "The United States ought to cooperate with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by it in its discretion to compensate for the inconvenience, public and private, produced by such change of system." This step, unimportant as it
191may appear, was the first of that long series of measures which has culminated in the final decree of abolition. It is as such that I write of it.
I remember, at the time the proclamation appeared, speaking to Mr. Sumner upon the subject. He pointed out to me the imminent danger lest the state of feeling existing between England and America should sooner or later lead to a war between our two countries; and suggested, as the only hope he could see of escaping the calamity, that England should join America in crushing out what he then conceived were the last struggles of the insurgents. To this remark my answer was one which I conceive most Englishmen would have made, that, with our Government there was no possibility of such a step being taken, unless the country was strongly in favour of the North, and that the only way to rouse public feeling in England in favour of the North was to convince Englishmen that the war was being carried on for the bonâ fide abolition of slavery. Mr. Sumner's reply was, "Is it possible that England can fail to see that this war is being carried on for this object after the publication of the President's message?" Now there is no question that England did fail to see this. I suspect that most Englishmen, who, like myself, hate slavery, read this message at first with disappointment. "Is this all?" was my conclusion at its perusal. Here, at the crisis of a nation's fate, when, for the first time, the power is in the hands of the North; when the
192South, in popular opinion, was soon to be at the mercy of the victorious Union, the utmost that the Government proposed was, that the status quo should be restored as regarded slavery, coupled with an abstract resolution, that if any Slave State, of its own free will and good pleasure, chose to abolish slavery, the United States Government should assist it in its good intentions by pecuniary aid. Such, I own freely, was my first impression. But subsequent conversations with American politicians led me to believe that the Emancipation Message, as it was called at the time, was capable of a far higher and more hopeful construction. Subsequent events, I need hardly say, have convinced me that, in this instance, second thoughts were the best.
In the first place, then, this step was the furthest one which the President at the time could take consistently with the Constitution. The great mistake which foreigners appeared to me to make in arguing about America is the assumption that the Government, if it likes, can do everything. Assuming that the Crown, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, or, in other words, the Government of England, were agreed together, it is hard to say what measures they might not pass legally. And I observe that Englishmen generally assume that, practically, the American Government could do the same. Now, the vital defect of the Union seems to me to be that it exists by means of, and in virtue of, a written Constitution, and that by
193this very constitution the absolute as well as the relative powers of the different bodies in the State are so clearly defined, that, in cases not provided for by the Constitution, Government action is paralyzed.
The States which composed the Union, in the words of Justice Story, "yielded anything reluctantly, and deemed the least practical delegation of power quite sufficient for national purposes." This, to my mind, is the key to the whole American Constitution. The course of events, the progress of civilization, has gradually increased the practical power of the Central Government, but the legal rights of the component States remain unimpaired. Now, if there are two privileges clearly guaranteed by the Constitution to the different States, they are — the right of each State to regulate its domestic institutions, and the existence of the Fugitive Slave Law. To amend the Constitution requires a majority of three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions of the States composing the Union; and, therefore, if the Government of the United States wished to abolish slavery in the different States, they must either have declared that the consent of the insurgent States was not required, which was tantamount to confessing that the Union was at an end, or else they must have broken through the Constitution, in strength of which alone they had any legal existence. The State of New York might to-morrow re-establish slavery as an instituition consistently with the law, and, by the same law, the
194Federal Government can no more abolish slavery in Georgia, proprio motu, than it can place an export duty on any single article exported from any State in the Union. No doubt the war power might have covered, as it has since been made to cover, any breach in the letter of the Constitution, but at this period, both in the opinion of the President and the people, the time for the exercise of this ultima ratio had not arrived.
In ordinary years, before the Revolution, this excuse for inaction was valid enough; and I think now that we in England were unjust to the Government of the United States in throwing upon it the obloquy of upholding slavery at a time when it was absolutely powerless to deal with it in the Slave States, except by overthrowing the Union, or by trampling under foot the very Constitution in virtue of which it had its being. With the insurrection, however, a new state of things came in. If advantage was not taken of this opportunity, the blame, if blame there was, must rest with the American people, not with the United States Government. The Government throughout has followed, and not led. Had any man of genius arisen at this crisis, had there been a Cromwell, a Mirabeau, or a Jefferson, the result might have been far different. But neither Lincoln, nor Seward, nor, still less, McCellan, were men to shape a nation's destinies. The one principle which the President adhered to constantly, was, that he was placed in office to carry out the will of the people.
195It was with the people, and the people alone, that the real decision of policy rested. The national vote which brought Lincoln into power was a vote against the extension of slavery, not a vote against its maintenance. When the insurrection broke out in force, and the nation awoke to its danger at the attack on Fort Sumter, the popular cry was not to abolish slavery, but to preserve the Union. The preservation of the Union was the overwhelming national instinct. It was this instinct which attempted to suppress the insurrection, and which, if possible, will suppress it in the end. It is only by working on this instinct that any of the political parties in the States can hope to achieve their ends.
Both of the extreme parties have failed hitherto to achieve their object. The pro-slavery faction has one great argument with which they seek to work on public opinion. The secession movement (so they allege, and with justice) is due to a belief in the South, whether well or ill founded, that slavery was in danger from the abolition cry in the North. Renounce this abolition theory, convince the South that slavery is not in danger, and there is an end of secession. In the early stages of the insurrection, this party had great weight; but their policy was unsuccessful, partly because the pride and principle of the North refused to follow their counsels heartily, still more, because the South rejected madly the last overtures of conciliation. It was during their temporary success that the resolution
196of Congress, proposing still further to limit its own power with regard to legislation on slavery, was proposed and carried. The success of the abolitionist party, pur et simple, has hardly been more decisive. A sort of political John the Baptists, preaching in the wilderness, the number of their followers has fluctuated according to the apprehension of the coming danger. Their text is as simple as it is earnest. Slavery is the one cause of secession. Between the Free North and the Slave South there can never be union as long as slavery exists, and therefore, for the sake of the Union (not so much, remark, for the sake of the sin), slavery must be suppressed. Obviously the strength of such a cry varies inversely with the probabilities of simple military success. Whenever the fortunes of the North seemed lowest, the abolition cry has been most powerful. At the time when this proclamation was issued, and it seemed likely that the insurrection would be suppressed without any pronunciamento as to slavery, the abolition appeal had lost half its weight. The Union victories for the hour suspended the progress of the anti-slavery sentiment. "Six months ago," I remember a friend of McClellan's saying to me about this period, "we were all abolitionists, now we are all for the Union."
What the numerical strength of the pro-slavery and abolitionist parties was when secession broke out, it is impossible to ascertain accurately. I am convinced, however, that either of them formed a very small minority
197compared with what might fairly be called the great Union majority. That majority had no political organization, and was probably composed pretty equally out of the democratic and republican parties. We should be unjust of accusing it of any sympathy with slavery; we should be doing it more than justice in asserting that it had any deliberate purpose of suppressing slavery. To account for this almost universal acquiescence in the maintenance of the status quo, the following facts should be borne in mind: — The popular instinct, more acute and intelligent than we can conceive in Europe, taught the people that any outspoken decision on slavery would have alienated the loyal Slave States, and thus retarded, if not destroyed, the prospect of restoring the Union. Again, any vigorous action as to slavery was inconsistent with the Constitution; while the whole strength of the North, at the first outburst of the war, lay in the fact that it was upholding the Constitution. In England we have been accustomed to assert that during this insurrection — revolution as yet it is not — the Federal Constitution has been frequently violated. Whether this opinion is right or wrong in the abstract, it matters not: it is enough to say that it was not the opinion of the Americans themselves. To the written letter of the Constitution they clung with a, to me, surprising tenacity — partly, I fancy, because the national reverence for the founders of the Union is a matter of almost religious sentiment, partly because of
198a general conviction that strict, unswerving adherence to the Constitution is the one bar to a rule of unbridled democracy. It was for this cause that the chief opponents of any unconstitutional action on the subject of slavery were the native Americans, while the German emigrants were the staunchest supporters of Fremont and revolutionary measures. The fear of alienating the Border States, the dread of revolution, and the respect for the Constitution, were the great principles which then actuated, and still actuate, the policy of the majority. The Union before all, and above all, now and for ever, one, and indivisible, was their watchword and their rallying cry.
The question at issue, moreover, was not one of principle only, but of immediate action. The capture of Fort Donelson and the evacuation of Nashville had restored the Western portion and the capital of the State of Tennessee to the Union, before either people or Government had decided upon, or even dreamed of deciding upon, any policy with regard to the manner in which the seceding States should be dealt with after subjugation, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," has been throughout the one principle of national policy, and, possibly, it may prove a wise one. There is a story reported of Blondin, that when some one asked him how he ever had the nerve to proceed, when he reflected on the long stretch of rope over which he has to pass, he answered, "I never think of anything
199except how to take the step before me." So it has been with the North; and thus, when the condition of Tennessee called for some immediate action, there was no policy prepared. To re-establish the power of the Union was the one thing which a nation could see its way to, and so Andrew Johnson, a Tennessee slave-holder, was appointed Provisional Governor; all questions as to the domestic institutions of the revolted State or its relations to the Union were left to decide themselves; and the status quo was re-established.
It was hardly to be expected that a Government like that of the United States should do more than side with the decision, or rather the indecision, of the nation. This is what Mr. Lincoln did. His proposition, he stated explicitly, "sets up no claim of a right of a Federal authority to interfere with slavery within State limits." In other words, he recognised the constitutional existence of the revolted States, and their continued possession of a right, as States, to deal with their own domestic institutions.
The step, small as, at the time, it may have seemed to us, was a great step forward. For the first time in the history of abolitionism, a distinct, if not a feasible plan was proposed for the emancipation of the slaves. For the first time, also, in the history of the United States the expediency of Abolition was announced as a principle of Government. The delenda est Carthago was uttered, timidly and apologetically if you will, but
200still officially. On the eve of expected victory, the President called upon Congress to declare that the abolition of slavery was in itself desirable, and that the Central Government ought to aid in its extinction. A leading Abolitionist said to me at the time, "It has taken us two months' constant pressure to induce the President to issue this message." The sensation with which it was received throughout the States showed the importance popularly attached to its issue.
To understand the feelings with which the nation entered on this, the first step in the Abolition programme, it may be well to quote some expressions of the different organs of political opinion in the North upon this edict, uttered at the time of its appearance.
Let me quote, first, a paragraph from an article published at this period on the subject of the Message from the New York Tribune, the organ of the moderate anti-slavery party: — "No one who has not thoughtfully and carefully and earnestly considered President Lincoln's proclamation will be likely to realize how admirable and comprehensive are its suggestions, and how surely their adoption will conduce to national integrity and internal peace. Look for a moment at the question of negro expatriation, which is one of the chief difficulties of our position. There are many worthy and good men, and ten times more of the other sort, who hold, that whenever slavery is abolished the negro should be sent out of the country. We
201have much charity for this opinion, for we once held it, but we are now convinced that it is an error. That the negro race, wherever free, will gradually migrate southward, colonizing the less populous West Indies, Central America, and the adjacent portions of South America, we believe. Climate, soil, natural products, ease of obtaining a rude yet ample subsistence, and the ready fraternisation of blacks with the Indian and mongrel races who now exist in those regions, and who are nowise above our Southern negroes in the social scale, not even in their own opinion, will all attract them that way. But if slavery were ended tomorrow, we are confident that even South Carolina would be in no hurry to expel from her soil the most industrious and productive half of her people; that portion amongst whom drunkards and profligates are scarce, while its office-seekers, bar-room loungers, and pot-house brawlers have yet to be developed. A State can spare its idlers far better than its workers, and it is only from dread of their influence on the slaves that a slave-holding people ever desire the expulsion of their free blacks. Were slavery dead this day, even the Carolina aristocracy would prefer, as labourers on their plantations, the negroes to whom they are accustomed, and whose manners are respectful and submissive, to any immigrants by whom they could be promptly replaced. It is quite likely that in time white labour would demonstrate its
202superior energy and intelligence by driving out the black. But for the present the Carolina planters would generally hire their ex-slaves more satisfactorily to themselves than they could replace them from any quarter.
"The President's proposition leaves this whole subject to the respective States. If any State chooses to exile its negroes, it will do so. The nation will not meddle with the matter in any way. When slavery dies the national peril is averted, and the national concern ceases. All beyond is remitted to local discussion and control. So with regard to paying for slaves, the nation extends pecuniary aid to the States in order to rid itself of a great danger. But it has nothing to do with paying for slaves . . . Nor do we believe the payments to the States would be at all so heavy as seems to be generally supposed, though we trust it will be liberal; for it is just as certain as that air is lighter than water that the banishment of slavery from a State largely enhances the value of its land. The census shows that the arable soil of a Free State is worth double to treble that of a Slave State, there being no other ground of disparity; and it would be most unjust to ignore this fact in settling the cost of emancipation. . . In fact, were slavery abolished to-morrow, and three hundred million dollars fairly apportioned among the Slave States, in payment for their supposed losses by such abolition, they would
every one be richer and stronger next day — nay, they would sell for more at auction as soon as the country is quieted than they ever yet were worth. But we do not here raise the question of how much, nor consider how far, the compensation accorded is to be affected by rebellion. Let all such questions be decided in due time, while we improve the present in one unanimous and hearty rally around President Lincoln, for the speedy restoration of the Union, and the final overthrow and demolition of whatever can raise even a doubt of its perpetuity and internal peace."
Such being the judgment of the Abolitionists, let me now take an article from the New York Herald of the same date, as an exposition of the views of the pro-slavery democrats. It should be remembered that the Herald has always prided itself upon being an organ of the Administration for the time being. Thus, though the one political principle to which it has been uniformly faithful is a hatred to Abolition, yet the fact of its assumed Government connexion caused it to deal more tenderly with the President's edict than it would naturally have done.
The President's proposal is dismissed with the following lukewarm approbation: — "The measure will most probably prove agreeable to the Conservative feeling of the North and South alike, substituting, as it does, a moderate and practical view of the question of Emancipation in place of the extreme and impracticable
204views of the Abolitionists." This faint approval was designed by the Herald to give greater force to an attack it then proceeded to make in the following words on Senator Sumner's proposal to confiscate the slaves belonging to the revolted States, which was then before the Senate.
"The progress of the debate is developing the Conservative Constitution loving sentiment in Congress. It is a struggle of law and order against anarchy and revolution. The observations of Senator McDougall, of California, are well worthy of the attentive consideration of the whole people; and their indorsement by Mr. Cowan is a most gratifying evidence of patriotism amidst the fierce passions of party spirit. ‘Shall we,’ says the latter gentleman, ‘stand by the Constitution, or shall we open wide the field of revolution, and go back to the doctrines of feudal ages, and introduce feuds which centuries cannot quiet? This is what the bill proposes. The passage of such a bill will make the whole Southern people our enemies. The scheme of colonization is entirely impracticable.’ . ..
"This covers the whole ground; and what is Mr. Cowan's opinion about emancipation? He says: ‘I protest against that section of the bill for freeing the slaves, as an entire departure from the principles of the Constitution, and especially impolitic at this time: because we are in a war, we ought not to make a law which was unconstitutional before. What have the
negroes done to secure freedom at this time, when the course of their masters seems especially to invite them to strike for liberty? Nothing; they simply rely on their masters with a sort of blind instinct.’ This is the language of a patriot; and if all men in Congress had only so spoken and acted from the beginning, neither civil convulsion nor disunion would exist to-day. There is one great result produced by this war. The eyes of millions of men at the North are open to the real character of the negro, and they have discovered, from the experience of our troops and generals, what we have so long proclaimed to them in vain, the natural inferiority of the negro to the white man, which can no more be removed than the colour of his skin by any amount of legislation. It is the negro's nature to be the servant of the Caucasian race. ‘He relies on his master,’ says Mr. Cowan, ‘with a sort of blind instinct.’ It is evident, therefore, that that part of the bloody programme which contemplated servile insurrection is already exploded. The negro is happier and better off, physically and morally, socially, and religiously, under the mild, Christian servitude of his white master at the South, than he ever was in any other condition since the dawn of creation, or ever will be till the coming of the millennium. To leave the negro to himself, and put him into competition with the white man, is to destroy him as effectually as our civilization has destroyed the red man of the forest. Servitude is the
negro's normal condition. It is calculated to preserve the race from extinction, and to render it happy and, at the same time, subservient to the happiness of the white man. That white men should wage a war of extermination against white men, to change the condition of blacks for the worse, is an absurdity too great for the common sense of any people, and much more of the intelligent and practical people of the United States. Mr. Lincoln recognises the fact, and therefore, even if the fanatics in Congress should succeed in carrying their bill, it will be met with his veto.
It is evident, however, by the President's Message, that Mr. Lincoln thoroughly understands the whole question involved in this stormy agitation on the confiscation of property in the rebel States, and that he has taken a sensible and Conservative view of it, which, while it will undoubtedly provoke the indignation of the Abolition crew, will be received with satisfaction by the Conservative element both in the North and South."
Besides the Abolitionists and the Democrats, there was a third party of the more moderate Republicans, whose chief representative was Mr. Seward, and who were disposed to look very jealously on any proposition to interfere with the domestic institutions of the seceding States. Just at this time a great emancipation meeting was held at New York, at which Mr. Montgomery Blair was invited to attend. This gentleman,
207the Postmaster-General in Mr. Lincoln's Administration, is a Maryland man. By one of the political combinations so universal in American politics, he had been selected by the Republican party to fill this post on Mr. Lincoln's accession, not because he held anti-slavery views himself, but because it was believed that, out of personal connexions, he would support Mr. Chase, who did. The result, however, proved that on all questions connected with slavery he sympathised far more strongly with Mr. Seward than with the Abolitionist portion of the Cabinet. His dereliction of strict anti-slavery principles had long been surmised; and in his letter declining to attend the above-mentioned meeting, he stated very distinctly the grounds on which he differed from his more Republican colleagues. It was in the following words that he expounded his views: —
"No one who knows my political career will suspect that I am influenced by any indisposition to put an end to slavery. I have left no opportunity unimproved to strike at it, and have never been restrained from doing so by personal considerations; but I have never believed that the abolition of slavery, or any other great reform, could, or ought to be effected, except by lawful and constitutional modes. The people have never sanctioned, and never will sanction, any other; and the friends of a cause should especially avoid all questionable grounds, when, as in the present instance, nothing else can long postpone their success.
"There are two interests in slavery — the political and property interests, held by distinct parties. The rebellion originated with the political class. The property class, which generally belonged to the Whig organization, had lost no property in the regions where the rebellion broke out, and was prosperous. It was the Democratic organization, which did not represent the slaveholders as a class, that hatched the rebellion. Their defeat in the late political struggle, and in the present rebellion, extinguishes at once and for ever the political interest of slavery . . . It is not merely a question of constitutional law or slavery with which we have to deal in securing permanent peace. The problem before us is the practical one of dealing with the relations of masses of two different races in the same community. The calamities now upon us have been brought about, not by the grievances of the class claiming property in slaves, but by the jealousy of caste, awakened by the Secessionists in the non-slaveholders. It is this jealousy of race which is chiefly to be considered. Emancipation alone would not remove it. It was by proclaiming to the labouring whites who filled the armies of rebellion that the election of Mr. Lincoln involved emancipation, equality of the negroes with themselves, and consequent amalgamation, that their jealousy was stimulated to the fighting point. Nor is this jealousy the fruit of mere ignorance and bad passion, as some
suppose, or confined to the white people of the South. On the contrary, it belongs to all races, and, like all popular instincts, proceeds from the highest wisdom. It is, in fact, the instinct of self-preservation, which revolts at hybridism. Nor does this instinct militate against the natural law, that all men are created equal, if another law of nature, equally obvious, is obeyed also. We have but to restore the subject race to the same, or to a region similar to that from which it was brought by violence, to make it operative. And such a separation of races was the condition which the immortal author of the declaration himself declared to be indispensable to give it practical effect. A student, not living in a community where divers races are brought together in masses, may stifle the voice of nature in his own bosom, and, from a determination to live up to a mistaken view of his doctrine, go so far as to extend social intercourse, but few, even of such persons, would pursue their doctrines as far as amalgamation, and other legitimate consequences of their logic. Indeed, for the most part, such persons in our country, like the leading spirits in Exeter Hall, are so far removed by their circumstances from any practical equality with working people of any race, that they have little sympathy for them, and nothing to apprehend for themselves from the doctrine of equality. Not so with the white working-man in
a community where there are many negros. In such circumstances, the distinction of caste is the only protection of the race from hybridism and consequent extermination. That this jealousy of caste is the instinct of the highest wisdom, and is fraught with the greatest good, is abundantly attested by its effects on our own race, in which it is stronger than in any other. We conquer and hold our conquests by it. The difficult question with which we have to deal is, then, the question of race; and I do not think it is disposed of, or that our difficulties will be lessened by wholesale emancipation, even if such an act was constitutional. It would certainly add to the exasperation of the non-slaveholding whites of the South, and would unite them against the Government, and if so, they would be unconquerable. As matters now stand, we can put down the rebellion, because the people of the natural strongholds of the Southern country are with us. It is chiefly in the low-lands, accessible from the ocean, and navigable rivers and bays, that treason is rampant. The mountain fastnesses, where alone a guerilla war can be maintained, are now held by Union men, and they are more numerous, more robust, intelligent, and independent than the rebels. It is chiefly the more degraded class of non-slave holders, who live in the midst of slavery, who are now engaged against the Government. But the non slaveholders of the mountain and highland regions,
whilst for the Union, are not free from the jealousy of caste; and the policy I object to would, I fear, if adopted, array them against us. Nor could we succeed in our object, even if they were finally subdued and exterminated, if we had to leave the negros on the soil; for then other whites would take the country and hold it against the negros, and reduce them again to slavery, or exterminate them. I am morally certain, indeed, that to free the slaves of the South, without removing them, would result in their massacre.
But this antagonism of race, which has led to our present calamities, and might lead to yet greater if it continues to be ignored, will deliver us from slavery in the easiest, speediest, and best manner, if we recognise it as what it is — the real and invincible cause of trouble — and deal with it rationally. We have but to propose to let the white race have the land intended for them by their Creator, to turn the fierce spirit aroused by the Secessionists to destroy the Union to its support, and, at the same time, to break up the slave system, by which the most fertile lands of the temperate zone are monopolized and wasted. That is the result which the logic of the census shows is being worked out, and which no political management can prevent being worked out. The essence of the contest is whether the white race shall hold these lands, or whether they shall be held by the black race in the name of a few whites.
"The blacks could never hold them in their own name, for we have seen how quickly that race has disappeared when emancipated. Experience proves what might have been inferred from their history, that they have not maintained, and cannot maintain, themselves in the temperate zone, in contact and competition with the race to which that region belongs. It is only when dependent that they can exist there. But this service-relation is mischievous, and the community so constituted does not flourish and keep pace with the spirit of the age. It has scarcely the same claim to the immense area of land it occupies which the aborigines had; for, though the Indians occupied larger spaces with fewer inhabitants, they did not waste the land as the slave-system does. No political management or sentimentalism can prevent the natural overthrow of such a system in the end any more than such means could avail to preserve the Indian possession and dominion. This rebellion, like the Indian outbreaks, is but a vain attempt to stem the tide of civilization and progress. The treachery, falsehood, and cruelty perpetrated to maintain the possession of negros, scarcely less than that of the savages, mark the real nature of the contest. Nevertheless, I believe it might have been averted, if we had adopted Jefferson's counsels,
and made provision for a separation
of the races, providing suitable homes for the blacks as we have for the Indians. It is still essential, in order to abridge the conflict of arms and to fraternise the people when that is past, to follow out Jefferson's advice. This most benevolent and sagacious of states men predicted all the evils which it has been our misfortune to witness, unless we should avert them by this, the only means which, after the most anxious consideration, he could suggest. No statesman of our day has given the subject so much reflection as he did, or possesses the knowledge or ability to treat it so wisely. Let us, then, listen to his counsels; by doing
so we shall establish a fraternity among the workingmen of the white race throughout the Union, which never has yet existed, and give real freedom to the black race, which cannot otherwise exist. Nor is it necessary to the restoration of harmony and prosperity to the Union that this policy should be actually and compulsorily put in force. It is only necessary that it should be adopted by the Government, and that it be made known to the people that it is so adopted, in order to extinguish hostility in the hearts of the masses of the South towards the people of the North, and secure their co-operation in putting an end to slavery. No greater mistake was ever made than in supposing that the masses of the South favour slavery. They did not take up arms to defend it. The fact that they oppose emancipation in their midst is the only foundation for a contrary opinion. But the masses of the North would be equally opposed to it if the four millions of slaves were to be transported to their midst. The prohibitory laws against their coming, existing in all the States subject to such invasion, prove this. On the other hand, the intense hostility which is universally known to be felt by the non slaveholders of the South towards all negroes expresses their real hostility to slavery, and it is the natural form of expression under the circumstances.
It needs, therefore, but the assurance, which would be given by the mere fact of providing homes for the
blacks elsewhere, that they are to be regarded as sojourners when emancipated — as, in point of fact, they are, and ever will be — to insure the co-operation of non-slaveholders in their emancipation. Nor would it require any immediate, universal, or involuntary transportation, or that any injustice whatever be done to the blacks. The more enterprising would soon emigrate, and multitudes of less energy would follow, if such success attended the pioneers, as the care with which Government should foster so important an object would, doubtless, insure; and, with such facilities, it would require but few generations to put the temperate regions of America in the exclusive occupation of the white race, and to remove the only obstacle to a permanent union of the States."
These three views will give a fair impression of the state of feeling with which the North entered upon the question of Emancipation. I believe, myself, that a very large majority of the Northern people were represented fairly by Mr. Blair. I have entered elsewhere into the question of how far that antipathy to the negro race was reasonable or otherwise. As a matter of fact, the North, and Mr. Lincoln himself, dreaded the prospect of unconditional emancipation. The Tribune, which advocated emancipation on anti-slavery grounds, expressed the opinion of a small minority. The Herald, which supported the "peculiar institution" on pro-slavery arguments, represented a still smaller one. The
216general feeling of the North upon the subject was an equal desire to make an end of slavery, and to get rid of the negro.
But throughout all these different opinions one desire reigned predominant, and that was, the desire to maintain the Union, The Herald was ready to sacrifice slavery, Mr. Hair to give up deportation, and, I almost fear, the Tribune to forsake emancipation, in order to preserve the Union. It was by appealing to this national instinct that each party sought to carry out its ends; and if the Abolitionists have triumphed, or will triumph, it is solely in virtue of the fact that circumstances have given weight to their appeal. I remember at this time a leading Abolitionist saying, in the presence of myself and of several Republican senators, "My only hope for the abolition of slavery rests upon the wilful obstinacy of our opponents, not the resolution of our supporters." The event, I think, has justified his words.
Notabilities of Washington.
No man, we all know, is a hero to his own valet; and thus, whatever there may be of heroic amongst American public men, is hard to discern from the proximity at which you view them. American majesty has no externals to be stripped off, and you see her public men always en deshabille. Accessibility seems the especial and universal attribute of American statesmanship. There is never any difficulty about seeing anybody, from the President downwards. Of course, the overwhelming pressure of State business during the civil war rendered public men more chary of their time than they would have been otherwise. But even then, the readiness with which Washington politicians received insists from strangers, and the openness with which they discussed public questions and the characters of public men, were to me perfectly astonishing. No doubt, as would be the case everywhere, a well-accredited foreigner is treated with less reserve than a chance
218native visitor. But I was many times in the company of men holding high official positions in Washington, when strangers, not only to myself, but to most of the gentlemen in whose company I was, happened to be present, and yet the conversation was as unguarded as if we had been all friends, on whose discretion complete reliance could be reposed. And this state of things, I think, is due, not so much to the perfect social equality prevailing in the States, as to the general good-nature so common with Americans. In consequence of the total want of solidarité, to use a French word, existing between public men, everybody seems to stand on his own merits, to expect no support from, and to acknowledge no responsibility towards, his own colleagues, whether in office or in Congress. If a casual stranger were to ask Earl Russell whether he was really on cordial terms with Lord Palmerston, or if Mr. Gladstone were to state in a public room that he had absolutely no opinion of Sir Charles Wood, these remarks would hardly be stranger than many I have heard made of and by public man in America. With such a state of things, gossip is an institution of the country. Before you have been a week in Washington, you may learn the private history, friendships, and antipathies of every public man in the place, if you choose to listen to the talk you hear around you. With regard to the President himself, everybody spoke with an almost brutal frankness.
219Politically, at that time, Abraham Lincoln was regarded as a failure. Why he, individually, was elected, or rather, selected, nobody, to this day, seems to know. One thing is certain, amidst many uncertainties, that the North had no belief that his election would lead to the secession movement. Had this belief been entertained, a very different man would have been chosen for the post. Whether, under such circumstances, a Republican candidate would have been chosen at all is doubtful, but there is no doubt that Lincoln would not have been the man. As it was, the North desired to make a protest, and the name of Lincoln was as good a one to protest in as any other. It was for his negative, not his positive qualities that he was chosen, and the wonder is, that his positive merits have turned out as decided as they have done. A shrewd, hard-headed, self-educated man, with sense enough to perceive his own deficiencies, but without the instinctive genius which supplies the place of learning, he is influenced by men whom he sees through, but yet cannot detect. "An honest man" may be the "noblest work of God," but he is not the noblest product of humanity, and when you have called the President "honest Abe Lincoln," according to the favourite phrase of the American press, you have said a great deal, doubtless, but you have also said all that can be said in his favour. He works hard, and does little; and unites a painful sense of responsibility to a still more painful sense, perhaps, that his
220work is too great for him to grapple with. Personally, his aspect is one which, once seen, cannot easily be forgotten. If you take the stock English caricature of the typical Yankee, you have the likeness of the President. To say that he is ugly is nothing: to add that his figure is grotesque is to convey no adequate impression. Fancy a man six-foot high, and thin out of proportion, with long bony arms and legs, which, somehow, seem to be always in the way, with large rugged hands, which grasp you like a vice when shaking yours, with a long scraggy neck, and a chest too narrow for the great arms hanging by its side; add to this figure, a head cocoa-nut shaped and somewhat too small for such a stature, covered with rough, uncombed and uncombable lank dark hair, that stands out in every direction at once; a face furrowed, wrinkled, and indented, as though it had been scarred by vitriol; a high narrow forehead; and, sunk deep beneath bushy eyebrows, two bright, somewhat dreamy eyes, that seemed to gaze through you without looking at you; a few irregular blotches of black bristly hair in the place where beard and whiskers ought to grow; a close-set, thin-lipped, stern mouth, with two rows of large white teeth; and a nose and ears, which have been taken by mistake from a head of twice the size. Clothe this figure, then, in a long, tight, badly-fitting suit of black, creased, soiled, and puckered up at every salient point of the figure-and every point of this figure is salient — put on large,
221ill-fitting boots, gloves too long for the long bony fingers, and a fluffy hat, covered to the top with dusty, puffy crape; and then add to all this an air of strength, physical as well as moral, and a strange look of dignity coupled with all this grotesqueness, and you will have the impression left upon me by Abraham Lincoln. You would never say he was a gentleman: you would still less say he was not one. There are some women about whom no one ever thinks in connexion with beauty, one way or the other — and there are men to whom the epithet of "gentlemanlike" or "ungentlemanlike" appears utterly incongruous, and of such the President is one. Still there is about him a complete absence of pretension, and an evident desire to be courteous to everybody, which is the essence, if not the outward form, of high-breeding. There is a softness, too, about his smile, and a sparkle of dry humour about his eye which redeem the expression of his face, and remind me more of the late Dr. Arnold, as a child's recollection recalls him to me, than any other face I can call to memory.
On the occasion when I had the honour of passing some hours in company with the President, the gathering was a very small one, and consisted of persons with all of whom, except myself, he was personally acquainted. I have no doubt, therefore, that he was as much at his ease as usual, and yet the prevailing impression left upon my mind was that he felt uncomfortable. There was a
222look of depression about his face, which, I am told by those who see him daily, was habitual to him, even before the then recent death of his child, whose loss he felt acutely. You cannot look upon his worn, bilious, anxious countenance, and believe it to be that of a happy man. In private life, his disposition, unless report and physiognomy both err, is a sombre one; but, coupled with this, he has a rich fund of dry, Yankee humour, not inconsistent, as in the case of the nation itself, with a sort of habitual melancholy.
It was strange to me to witness the terms of perfect equality on which he appeared to be with everybody. Occasionally some of his interlocutors called him "Mr. President," but the habit was to address him simply as "Sir." There was nothing in his own manner, or in that of his guests, to have shown a stranger that the President of the United States was one of the company. He spoke but little, and seemed to prefer others talking to him to talking himself. But when he did speak, his remarks were always shrewd and sensible. The conversation, like that of all American official have ever met with, was unrestrained in the presence of strangers to a degree perfectly astonishing. It is a regard for English, rather than for American rules of etiquette, which induces me to abstain from the conversation that I overheard. Every American public man, indeed, appears not only to live in a glass-house, but in a reverberating gallery, and to be
223absolutely indifferent as to who sees or hears him. This much I may fairly say, that the President asked me several questions about the state of public feeling in England, and obviously, like almost all Americans, was unable to comprehend the causes which have alienated the sympathies of the mother-country. At the same time, it struck me that the tone in which he spoke of England was, for an American, unusually fair and candid. There are, perhaps, one or two Lincolniana which I may fairly quote, and which will show the style of his conversation. Some of the party began smoking, and Mr. Seward, who was present, remarked laughingly, "I have always wondered how any man could ever get to be President of the United States with so few vices. The President, you know, I regret to say, neither drinks nor smokes." "That," answered the President, "is a doubtful compliment. I recollect once being outside a stage in Illinois, and a man sitting by me offered me a cigar. I told him I had no vices. He said nothing, smoked for some time, and then grunted out, ‘It's my experience in life that folks who have got no vices have plaguey few virtues.’"
This reminds me, by the way, of the almost incredible manner in which stories are coined about Mr. Lincoln. Some time afterwards, in the West, I travelled with a gentleman, who professed to be an intimate personal acquaintance of the President. After telling me a number of anecdotes to illustrate his reputed free and
224easy manner, he told me that he had once been present in a Western law court, where Mr. Lincoln was engaged to defend a prisoner for murder. He came late, apologized to the judge for his detention, owing to his having over-slept himself, and then stated that he was never comfortable until he had smoked his morning cigar, and proposed, with the judge's permission, that they should have cigars all around. The permission being granted, he proceeded, with his cigar in his mouth, to defend his client. Now, unless I had had personal reason for knowing that Mr. Lincoln was not a smoker, I should certainly have recorded this with a variety of other similar anecdotes, as gospel truth, coming as they did on such apparently indubitable evidence. From all that I saw and heard myself, I have no doubt that Mr. Lincoln would say hosts of things which seem to us utterly undignified, but he is the last man to say anything which would seem undignified to himself. Unlike most Western politicians, he was noted for not being "hail fellow well met" with every bar-room lounger that he came across. He is a humourist, not a buffoon.
But to return to our interview. A gentleman present happened to tell how a friend of his had been expelled from New Orleans as a Unionist, and how, on his expulsion, when he asked to see the writ by which he was expelled, the deputation, which brought him the notice to quit, told him that the Confederate Government had made up their minds to do nothing unconstitutional,
225and so they had issued no illegal writ, but simply meant to make him go of his own free will. "Well," said Mr. Lincoln, "that reminds me of an hotel-keeper down at St. Louis, in the cholera time, who boasted that he had never had a death in his hotel. And no more he had, for, whenever a guest was dying in his house, he carried him out in his bed and put him in the street to die." At another time, the conversation turned upon the discussions as to the Missouri Compromise, and elicited the following quaint remark from the President: — "It used to amuse me some (sic) to find that the slaveholders wanted more territory because they had not room enough for their slaves, and yet they complained of not having the slave-trade because they wanted more slaves for their room."
While I am talking of these Lincoln anecdotes, which used to fill the columns of the American newspapers, let me mention a few which I have reason to believe authentic. Shortly after Mr. Cameron's resignation, an old acquaintance called upon the President, and, after American fashion, asked him point-blank why, when he turned out the Secretary of War, he did not get rid of the whole Cabinet. "Well, you know," was the answer, "there was a farmer, far West, whose fields were infested with skunks, so he set a trap and caught nine; he killed the first, but that made such an infernal stench that he thought he had better let the rest go." Again, at the first council of war,
226after the President assumed the supreme command-in-chief of the army, in place of McClellan, the General did not attend, and excused himself next day by saying he had forgotten the appointment. "Ah, now," remarked Mr. Lincoln, "I recollect once being engaged in a case for rape, and the counsel for the defence asked the woman why, if, as she said, the rape was committed on a Sunday, she did not tell her husband till the following Wednesday? and when the woman answered, she did not happen to recollect it — the case was dismissed at once." The wit, indeed, of many of these anecdotes is too Aristophanic to be quoted here, but there is one other which will bear repeating. When the rebel armies were closely beleaguering Washington, two gentlemen insisted, late one night, on seeing the President, in order to inform him of a plot they had discovered on the part of some government officials for communicating with the enemy by means of signals. The President listened attentively to their story, which was clearly of the gobemouche order, and on inquiring what remedy his informants proposed, was told, after some hesitation, that the best plan would be to replace the traitorous officials by loyal men like themselves. "Gentlemen, gentlemen," was the President's comment, "I see it is the same old, old coon. Why could you not tell me at once that you wanted an office, and save your own time as well as mine?"
Stories such as these read dull enough in print. Unless you could give also the dry chuckle with which they are accompanied, and the gleam in the speaker's eye, as, with the action habitual to him, he rubs his hand down the side of his long leg, you must fail in conveying a true impression of their quaint humour. This sort of Socratic illustration is his usual form of conversation amongst strangers, but I believe in private life he is a man of few words, and those simple ones. Let me close my description with one remark he made of a more reflective character, and which, though perhaps not of great value in itself, is curious as coming from a man who has achieved distinction. Speaking of the fluency of American orators, he said, "It is very common in this country to find great facility of expression, and common, though not so common, to find great lucidity of thought. The combination of the two faculties in one person is uncommon indeed; but whenever you do find it, you have a great man."
For very obvious reasons the public press of the North was, at this period, almost unanimously, in favour of Mr. Lincoln. The Republican papers could not criticize their own nominee — the champion of their first triumph without damaging their own party. The Democratic journals were afraid of driving the President into the arms of the Republicans, and therefore outvied their rivals in the ardour of their encomiums. From these
228causes, to judge from the language of the press, you might have supposed that the whole hope and confidence of the country was reposed in "Abe Lincoln." But the truth is, that the talk then current of proposing him for re-election was not a genuine one, and that when the President leaves the White House, he will be no more regretted, though more respected, than Mr. Buchanan. When Wendell Phillips described him as "a first-rate second-rate man," he uttered one of those epigrammatic sarcasms which stick to their victim for ever.
So much for Mr. Lincoln. At the time when I was in Washington, Mr. Seward did not stand high in popular favour. His career as Minister is curiously illustrative of the working of American politics. When Mr. Lincoln's administration was formed, Secession was not believed in as a serious contingency, and the ministers were selected by, or rather chosen for, the President, not as the fittest men to grapple with the situation, but in order to satisfy the conflicting sections of the political party which had carried the Presidential election: New York was the head-quarters of the moderate pro-slavery, or, more fairly speaking, un-antislavery Republicans, and Mr. Seward and Mr. Thurlow Weed were the leading politicians of the party in New York State; the latter gentleman being supposed to be the Moses, and the former the Aaron of the partnership. To satisfy this section — the most influential one of the Republicans, Mr. Seward was appointed Secretary
229of State; he was the one man of sterling ability and thorough energy amongst the ministers; and, partly by talent, still more by sheer self-assertion, became for a time almost a dictator in the Cabinet; he had, too, the merit of first recognising that the North was in earnest, and his passport system, his arrests, and his suspension of the habeas corpus, ill-advised, perhaps, as they may have been, were, at the time, welcome to the nation as a proof that the Government was in earnest also. If he could have kept from writing despatches, he would have remained invincible; but, after all, explain it as you will, the beau rôle in the Trent affair was not that of the United States, and the Americans are too sharp a people to be able long to delude themselves with the flattering unction that they had won a great diplomatic victory: hence the Secretary of State suffered, perhaps unjustly, as the scapegoat for the national humiliation. For a time, General McClellan became, practically, the chief person in the State and in the Cabinet; and on his comparative decline in popularity, Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War, directed the Presidential policy; but after every reverse, sooner or later, the Secretary of State has re-established his position by virtue of his intellectual ability.
My first reflection, I remember, at meeting Mr. Seward, was one of wonder that so small a man should have been near creating a war between two great
230nations — a man, I should think little over five feet and a half in height, and of some sixty years in age, small made, with small, delicate hands and feet, and a spare wiry body, scanty, snow-white hair, deep sunk, clear, grey eyes, a face perfectly clean shaved, and a smooth colourless skin, of a sort of parchment texture. Such were the outward features that struck me at once. He was in his office when first I saw him, dressed in black, with his waistcoat half-unbuttoned, one leg over the side of his arm-chair, and a cigar stuck between his lips. Barring the cigar and the attitude, I should have taken him for a shrewd, well-to-do attorney, waiting to learn a new client's story: you are at your ease with him at once; there is a frankness and bonhommie about his manner which renders it, to my mind, a very pleasant one. In our English phrase, Mr. Seward is good company. A good cigar, a good glass of wine, and a good story, even if it is tant soit peu risqué, are pleasures which he obviously enjoys keenly. Still, a glance at that spare, hard-knit frame, and that clear, bright eye, shows you that no pleasure, however keenly appreciated, has been indulged in to excess throughout his long, laborious career; and more that, no one who has had the pleasure of seeing him amongst his own family can doubt about the kindliness of his disposition. It is equally impossible to talk much with him without perceiving that he is a man of remarkable ability; he has read much, especially of
231modern literature, travelled much, and seen much of the world of men, as well as that of books. His political principles seem to me drawn from the old Whig school of the bygone Edinburgh Review days, and you can trace easily the influence that the teaching of Brougham, and Jeffreys, and Sidney Smith have had upon his mind. What struck me most in conversation with him was a largeness of view, very rare amongst American politicians. The relative position of America with respect to Europe, and the future of his country, are matters he can discuss with sense as well as patriotism. That his intellect is practical rather than philosophical, and that he is unduly impatient of abstract theories, I am inclined to suspect. In other words, he is a man of action rather than thought — a politician, not a reformer. The stories circulated over here so freely about Mr. Seward's being a man addicted to intemperance, I am convinced, are utterly unfounded. Conviviality has not gone so much out of fashion across Atlantic as it has with us, and the Secretary of State is a man not likely to be more rigid in his observance of social rules than the society he lives amongst; but whatever Mr. Seward's indulgences may be, or may have been, they are never of such a nature as to incapacitate him from the discharge of his public duties. It is reported that not long ago some politicians of influence and of strict Puritan principles urged the President to remove the Secretary of State on the
232ground of incompetency, to which application the answer was made that a man who worked three times as many hours, and did three times as much in one hour as any of his colleagues, could hardly be incompetent, whatever else might be his failings.
Mr. Seward's conversation is not epigrammatic, and, though pleasant and sensible, has not much in it which will bear repeating. He talked to me on one occasion for a length of time upon the possibility of re-constructing the Union, and the purport of his remarks resembled very closely the gist of Mr. Blair's letter, which I quoted in my last chapter — so much so, indeed, as to suggest to me that, in all probability, the speaker had dictated the document. The great point on which he laid stress was, that English critics failed to appreciate the difference between slavery as a social and slavery as a political institution. The two, in his opinion, were totally distinct. The effect of the present war — he was speaking then in last March — had been to destroy the political power of slavery. The Southern politicians had taken up the advocacy of "the peculiar institution," not for love of the system, but in order to establish their political predominance. When once it became clear that slavery was a decaying institution, no party, either North or South, would identify its fortunes with their own. The Democrats, or whatever new organization corresponded to the defunct Democratic party, would give up slavery, just as the English land-owners have given up protection. Henceforth, every
233man who wished to rise in political life, would profess anti-slavery opinions, for exactly the same cause as hitherto he might have professed pro-slavery ones. The rising generation would assume Christian antipathy to slavery as part of their political creed, and the support of the system would be confined to a small and decreasing minority. This view, of course, was based upon the idea that in a fair fight the power of the Slave States would have succumbed to that of the Free States, and that, therefore, the whole prestige of slavery would be gone. When once the supremacy of the North was clearly established, the South, so he held, would reconcile itself to its fate. People in this world do not continue long fighting for a cause that is absolutely hopeless; and, if it could be proved that the cause of slavery was hopeless, its adherents would fall away from it with marvellous rapidity. In America public opinion changes with a suddenness which older States can scarcely credit; and, therefore, the fact that at this moment the South appeared to be unanimous in favour of slavery, was no reason that, in a few months' time, the majority, even of the Slave States, might not have reconciled themselves to abolition. Of the future of the negro, he did not speak sanguinely. Right or wrong, he obviously shared the ordinary American opinion as to the impossibility of the black and white races associating on equal terms. By the action of the same laws, which had operated already in New York and New England,
234the negro would die out unless protected by the artificial legislation of the slave system. His own observation throughout life had led him to the conviction that the climate and habits of the North were fatal, in the long run, to the health and prosperity of coloured citizens. In his own house, he could recall, when a boy, half a dozen members of different negro families [emancipation did not take place in New York till 1820]; but at the present moment, though he had kept in sight the negroes of his father's household, and their descendants, he did not believe that there were three or four of them left; while the white members of the same household, whose history he had also followed, now counted the number of their descendants by hundreds. In the colonization project, as it appeared to me, he had little faith; and he obviously looked to the solution of the negro question by the gradual dying out of the black race, as soon as emancipation had really begun to work.
Probably the most striking-looking of the ministers is Mr. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury. His head would be a treasure to any sculptor as a model of benevolence. His lofty, spacious forehead, his fresh, smooth countenance, his portly figure, and his pleasant, kindly smile, all seem to mark the stock old philanthropist of the stage, created to be the victim and providence of street-beggars. One wonders how so kind-looking a man can find it in his heart to tax anybody; and I believe this much is true, that a man of less ability
235and sterner mould would have made a better financier than Mr. Chase has proved. Mr. Blair, though a Maryland man, is the only one of the ministers who has what we consider the characteristic Yankee type of face — the high cheek bones, sallow complexion, and long, straight hair. Of Mr. Gideon Welles, the Secretary for the Navy, who expressed such premature approval of Capt. Wilkes, there is little to be said, except that he wears a long white beard, and a stupendous white wig, which cause him to look like the heavy grandfather in a genteel comedy, and that there is such an air of ponderous deliberation about his face, that you ask yourself whether the "modern Rip-Van-Winkle," as the Herald used to style him, has ever clearly realized, in so short a time as one year, that America is in a state of civil war. Mr. Stanton was laid up with illness most of the time that I was in Washington, so that I saw but very little of him. In look, he is the least distinguished of any of the ministers, and the expression of his face is by no means a pleasant one. Mr. Bates, of Missouri, the Attorney-General, is a shrewd, quiet lawyer, very much like elderly legal authorities in other parts of the world.
Americans complain constantly that we know nothing of their public men. The complaint is hardly a fair one, as there are barely half a dozen English statesmen to whom Americans attach the slightest individuality; and the names of our minor celebrities, such as Lowe and Layard, would convey as little to American ears as
236those of Colfax or Conkling would do to us. Amongst men not in power at this period, the one, I own, that impressed me most was Caleb Cushing, known, and that not altogether favourably, to the English public as Attorney-General under President Pierce's administration, during the Frampton difficulty. From his connexion with the old Democratic party, and his reputed sympathy with the Secession leaders, he was out of favour with the country and the Government, and, above all, with his own State of Massachusetts, where a bitter personal prejudice exists against him. Having had the pleasure of meeting him frequently and intimately, I found him to be a man of extreme acuteness, and immense and varied reading, and, indeed, one of the pleasantest companions whom it has been my fortune to meet with in life. While the war lasts, he has little chance of re-entering public life. But I am much mistaken if a man of his power and ability does not, before long, play an important part in the politics of his country.
This record would be incomplete unless I were to say something of Mr. Sumner. He is too well known in Europe to need much description. Many of my readers are acquainted, doubtless, with that great, sturdy, English-looking figure, with the broad, massive fore-head, over which the rich mass of nut-brown hair, streaked here and there with a line of grey, hangs loosely; with the deep blue eyes, and the strangely
237winning smile, half bright, half full of sadness. He is a man whom you would notice amongst other men, and whom, not knowing, you would turn round to look at as he passed by you. Sitting in his place in the Senate, leaning backwards in his chair, with his head stooping slightly over that great, broad chest, and his hands resting upon his crossed legs, he looks, in dress, and attitude, and air, the very model of an English country gentleman. A child would ask him the time in the streets, and a woman would come to him unbidden for protection. You can read in that worn face of his — old before its time — the traces of a life-long struggle, of disappointment and hope deferred, of ceaseless obloquy and cruel wrong. Such a life-training as this is a bad one for any man, and it has left its brand on the senator for Massachusetts. There are wrongs which the best of men forgive without forgetting, and, since Brook's brutal assault upon him, those who know him best, say they can mark a change in Charles Sumner. He is more bitter in denunciation, less tolerant in opposition, just rather than merciful. Be it so. It is not with soft words or gentle answers that men fight as Sumner has fought against cruelty and wrong.
Mr. Russell and Mr. Stanton.
IT is one of the unfortunate elements in the relations between England and America that the Americans should combine such an almost morbid desire for English appreciation, with such a fatal ingenuity in offending English taste. There probably has been no action on the part of the American Government which created such disgust, and such reasonable disgust, throughout England, as the treatment of Mr. Russell. I am not going in any way to defend the conduct of the Washington Cabinet. I only wish to point out the facts which render the act less inexcusable than it may appear on this side the Atlantic. Let me say at starting, that I trust no word of mine will be understood as written in disparagement of Mr. Russell. It is superfluous to say that I have the highest admiration for his remarkable literary ability. To any one who knows him it is equally superfluous to add, that even a very slight acquaintance is sufficient to create a feeling towards him of genuine friendliness. My whole object
239is to state what I believe to be the true state of the case. The actual circumstances of the refusal on the part of the Government at Washington to allow Mr. Russell to accompany the Army of the Potomac were given in his own correspondence. Nothing could be more accurate or temperate than his statement which he published in the Times. There are some points on which, I consider, he does more than justice to his adversaries. The fact of his approaching departure to join the expeditionary force was, as I can testify, a subject of common conversation in Washington society for days beforehand, and it is incredible to me that the Secretary of War should not have been aware of the fact, and that, therefore, the delay in informing Mr. Russell that he could not be allowed to prosecute his journey till he was actually on board the steamer, which was to convey him down the Potomac, should not have been purposely intended as a petty slight. There is also, to my mind, something inconceivably small in the excuse put forward by Mr. Stanton. The order which professed to exclude all newspaper correspondents whatever, was simply issued in order to exclude Mr. Russell, and as soon as this object was accomplished, was rescinded, as far as American correspondents were concerned. That this explanation of the Secretary of War's conduct is the correct one, was proved by a statement in the New York Tribune, of April 6th, which at that period was Mr. Stanton's especial organ: — "It turns out," the Tribune
240wrote, "that the order from the War Department prohibiting all correspondents from accompanying the army was framed merely for the purpose of excluding Russell. . . . Secretary Stanton's order of prohibition has been revoked." Finally, I consider that the commonest courtesy to a stranger and a gentleman, required that Mr. Russell's repeated personal and written requests for an interview should at least have been honoured with an immediate reply from the War Department.
On all these points I should, if I had been subjected to the same treatment, have spoken more bitterly than Mr. Russell did at the time, or has done since. But, in justice to the Government, it should be understood that the act was Mr. Stanton's individual one, not the collective one of the Cabinet. The most extraordinary feature about the American Government in foreign opinion is the utter absence of any solidarité between its component parts. It is possible, and, from what I learnt privately, I believe certain, that Mr. Stanton's decision to deny Mr. Russell the right of joining the army was not communicated to, and still less sanctioned by, any other member of the Ministry. I have reason to that both the President and Mr. Seward expressed personal regret at the occurrence, though they admitted, reluctantly, that it was not a case in which they were justified in over-riding the judgment of their colleague. I know, too, that the influence of General McClellan,
241which at the time was rapidly on the wane in Washington, was exerted in Mr. Russell's favour. The credit or discredit of the act was due to Mr. Stanton, and Mr. Stanton alone. The slight, it is also fair to add, was a slight to Mr. Russell as correspondent of the Times, not as an Englishman. Mr. Russell himself repeatedly expressed his sense of the unvarying courtesy and consideration he had received in the North, both officially and privately. In common, too, with every other Englishman who has visited America during the war, I am certain he would join with me in bearing witness to the fact that, far from one's character as an Englishman exposing one to annoyance, it is, in itself, almost a guarantee for a kind and hospitable reception. Whatever animosity there exists towards England, does not extend, as yet, to Englishmen as individuals.
The motives which induced Mr. Stanton to take such a step were much canvassed at the period in Washington. The assigned reason was obviously a mere pretext. No letters of Mr. Russell could possibly have afforded valuable information to the enemy. Within a day or two of the date of this order Mr. Stanton stated publicly that the Federal army must be in Richmond before another fortnight, and therefore any intelligence communicated to the Confederates five or six weeks after date could not have been expected to be of damage to the Federal expedition. Moreover, the information received by the Confederates was so
242accurate and copious, that they had no need to look for it in foreign newspapers. The frontier-line between Secessia and the North is too long a one, and the sympathizers with the South in the Border Slave States are too numerous, for news to be kept from passing. A small circumstance came under my own observation which convinced me of this notorious fact. Just after McClellan had landed at Yorktown, a party of senators and their friends went down to Fortress Monroe; the fort stands on a peninsula connected with the mainland by a narrow strip of land, so that any unauthorized communication would appear to be impossible; yet on the morning following their visit, a full report of the party and their doings appeared in the papers published at Norfolk, which was then in the possession of the Confederates. Moreover, while the American newspapers were allowed to report progress day after day, it is absurd to suppose that the files of an English journal could add to the intelligence of the enemy's progress received by the Confederates. Mr. Stanton never obtained in his own country the estimate for ability which at one time was assigned to him by English critics. His sole claim to distinction was that he possessed, or rather was presumed to possess, resolution and energy. He owed his popularity to fact that he had acuteness enough to perceive that in revolutionary times the most determined party was certain to gain the upper hand, and that, perceiving
243this, he threw all his influence into the scale of the anti-slavery Republicans. There were, of course, all kinds of rumours as to the motives of his apparent animosity towards Mr. Russell; the common impression was, that he took offence at some comments on himself in the Times' correspondence. I was told, indeed, by one who moved much behind the scenes of political life at Washington, that the antagonism at this period between the Secretary of War and the Commander-in-Chief was much stronger in appearance than in reality, and that it was owing to some allusion as to the existence of a private understanding between McClellan and Stanton that Mr. Russell fell under the latter's displeasure. For my own part, I much doubt the truth of any of these stories; nor do I believe that the act was due to personal pique. Mr. Stanton was then bidding for the next Presidency, and the main object of Mr. Russell's expulsion was to gain popularity, and make political capital for the Secretary of War. That the step should have been a popular one is not altogether so unnatural as it may appear to us.
The impression formed in America of Mr. Russell's letters was based much more on general ideas than on actual perusal. Washington is the only capital I have ever lived in where there was not a single reading-room, or hotel, or coffee-house which took in an English newspaper. During the whole of my journey, New York and Boston were the only towns where I could
244get a sight of the Times. The American newspapers, during the latter part of Mr. Russell's sojourn, never copied the Times correspondent's letters in full. All that they gave from time to time were short, and often garbled, extracts, quoted with a view of exposing mis-statements of fact, or erroneous prophecies, which the editors believed they had discovered in Mr. Russell's correspondence. Most unjustly, too, he had the credit of inspiring, if not of writing, every ill-natured or disparaging remark that appeared in the Times on the subject of America. Moreover, the New York Herald pursued "Bull Run Russell," as it used to style him, with a virulence rare even in that journal. The stories daily circulated about him refuted themselves by their very inconsistency. Sometimes, he was stated never to have been near the battle-field of Bull Run at all; sometimes, to have seen the whole battle, and deliberately falsified his account; and, finally, to have caused the defeat by creating a panic through the rapidity of his flight before the battle commenced. Still, according to the old proverb, "if you throw mud enough, some of it is sure to stick;" and, undoubtedly, Mr. Russell was injured in popular estimation by the libels of the Herald. There was a general, though unfounded impression, among the American people, that his whole mission was to misrepresent their country, depreciate their victories, vilify their public men, and support, indirectly, the
245cause of disunion, by creating an unfavourable feeling towards the North throughout England. The removal, therefore, of Mr. Russell was, in itself, acceptable to the North; and with that confusion between braggadocio and courage so natural in an untried nation, which understands neither its true weakness nor its real strength, the manner in which Mr. Stanton contrived to dismiss the Times correspondent appeared to the popular Yankee mind rather a fine act of devil-may-care dignity. That this should be so, is not a pleasing or creditable trait of the American people. Still, in judging of it, we ought to remember — (what Englishmen rarely seem to me to remember at all) — that this is a civil war, and different in its whole nature from any war that we have known in our own country during modern times. Supposing, during the Indian Mutiny, there had been an American correspondent with the British army, whose letters created a sensation throughout the world, and who was supposed to take the side of the Sepoys, and to doubt the massacres of Cawnpore, or the justice of British vengeance; I ask any candid Englishman, how long he thinks that correspondent would have been allowed to remain unmolested?
I have expressed freely my views with regard to Mr. Russell, as I did at the time, at the risk of giving offence to my American friends; and, therefore, I may fairly add, that it is unjust if the opponents of the North argue from the fact of Mr. Russell's dismissal
246either that the Government of Washington was afraid of the truth being known, or that virtual freedom of the press did not exist during the civil war. The whole nature, indeed, of the censorship exercised over the press has been extremely exaggerated. Personally I hold an opinion, which is shared in by many Americans, that the censorship system was a fundamental mistake. It was impossible to hinder the enemy from obtaining information; and if the nation had known fully what the army was doing, I believe the increase in the national enthusiasm throughout the North would have more than compensated for any loss in military action. The war must be considered a popular volunteer war, not as a regular military contest — a fact to which the Government were then but gradually opening their eyes. It is only very slowly in America that, in every department, new modes of thought and action are developed, so as to suit the genius of the New World. The first tendency of the American mind is to try, in every case, the remedies and systems of the Old World. That a people's war might be conducted with a perfectly free press was too go-a-head an idea for an Anglo-Saxon country to grasp at once, and so, there being a war, it was supposed that there ought to be a censorship of the press as well.
At the accession of Mr. Lincoln, the telegraph office, like every other institution in the district of Columbia, was filled with Secessionists, and it was discovered that
247all messages sent by the Government were telegraphed, in duplicate, to the South; in consequence, the direction of the telegraph was taken into the hands of the War Department. When McClellan assumed command of the army, he sent for the correspondents of the different American journals, and informed them that their being permitted to remain at Washington was conditional on their not sending news of any military movements without authorization. It should be remembered that at this period the outposts of the Confederate army were within sight of the Capitol. There was no revision exercised over a correspondent's letters, but he wrote on parole, and at risk of dismissal. No despatch, however, could be forwarded by telegraph without previous perusal by the Government authorities; and this censorship was carried out with great rigour. It was found out after Mr. Stanton's accession to office that the Tribune was allowed free license to use the telegraph. The proprietors of the other American newspapers remonstrated in a body, and the right of telegraphing at all was removed, in consequence, from all correspondents of the press at Washington; so that no intelligence could be "wired," according to the American phrase, except such as the War Department considered fit to communicate. When the advance of the Potomac Army became imminent, Mr. Stanton stretched still further the limits of his authority, and required written despatches of correspondents to be submitted to Government
248approval before transmission. This rule, however, referred only to military matters; on political questions, and on the political bearing of military measures, there was perfect freedom of discussion, as far as the Government was concerned. On one or two occasions, some of the Ministers, including Mr. Seward, tried to suppress the publication of comments on political topics which were not in accordance with their own views; but the press always resisted the attempt, and with success. No doubt, on military movements, the censorship was absolute. For a fortnight after the Army of the Potomac had left Washington, and sailed down the river to Fortress Monroe, no distinct statement of the fact was allowed to appear in the New York papers. What possible use there could have been in not mentioning a circumstance known to every soul in New York, who had any interest in finding it out, and known at Richmond as soon as at Washington, is a question hard to answer; but any step which had the appearance of energy was very welcome at that moment to the American people.
Nobody who read the Northern newspapers could entertain any doubt as to their perfect freedom of speech, with regard to the institutions and statesmen of the country. In political matters there was a reckless license of discussion which sometimes made me regret the absence of a censorship. Whatever interference there was with the freedom of the press came
249from the tyranny of public opinion. How far a newspaper advocating openly secession views would have been tolerated in the North is a point on which it is difficult to form an opinion. At the outbreak of the war, Benjamin Wood's paper, the Daily News of New York, which was supposed to favour secession, was refused conveyance by the Government mails, a refusal which proved fatal to its existence. The only prominent instance of mob interference with the press was after the fall of Fort Sumter, when a mob collected round the Herald office, and were only prevented from pulling the place down by Gordon Bennett's coming forward and displaying the Union flag from his windows. I suspect the law would have gone hard with any editor who laid himself open to the charge of treason, by advocating secession outspokenly; and an American jury would probably have awarded slight damages for any assault on his person or property. Still, I feel that if there was an invasion of England, I would not give much for the safety of any newspaper which proposed submission to the French. When a free people is excited and almost unanimous, there never can be perfect liberty of opinion for a dissentient minority. It may be urged, with some reason, that though hitherto freedom of the press has been allowed in political matters, yet the censorship on military discussions is the first step to a general censorship. This question is connected with the wider one, as to the possibility of a
250military dictatorship, which should be discussed separately. Let me only say, that the safety of the country from this danger, if it exists at all, lies in the size of the army. The army itself is too vast to acquire the military esprit du corps. A Napoleon, with a compact force of one hundred thousand men, might be a source of peril to free government, but, in America, the volunteers have amounted to from six to seven times that number. They have been drawn from every class of society, and are connected with the several interests of every separate State, and, above all, they have never had a general abler than McClellan. "Freedom of the press," wrote Jefferson, "freedom of the person, under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected, are the principles which have guided our steps. Should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps, and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety." This, in spite of the eccentricities of Mr. Stanton, was, and is still, the creed of the great majority of Americans.
Glimpses of Slavery.
THERE are some things an author has a right to assume. I am perfectly justified in asserting, as a fact, that the earth moves round the sun, though, in company with nineteen-twentieths of my readers, I am utterly unacquainted with the grounds on which Galileo's discovery was established. So I do not consider it necessary to prove to my readers that slavery is a bad thing. If their knowledge of the world, and their experience of their own hearts, does not teach them what tyrants we should all be if we held irresponsible power over our fellow-creatures, let them study the records and evidence of the anti-slavery reports in the days before emancipation; and if they are not convinced that slavery is an evil to master as well as slave, I hardly know what to say to them. As to the people — if there be any such in England — who bonâ fide believe the stories such as I have read in Blackwood's veracious pages, of slaves with gold watches, and monies in the savings-banks, and intelligent preference for slavery, I can
252no more argue with them than with lunatics of any other description.
It is not necessary — at least, I hope and trust it is not necessary — to demonstrate the evils of slavery to the vast majority of my readers. During my residence in the States, I had neither opportunity nor inclination to make researches into the cruelties of the slavery system. The sight of misery one cannot in any way relieve is a very painful one; and personally I have such a hatred of slavery, that, while in the Slave States, I always preferred to give myself the benefit of the doubt, and try to fancy, as long as it was possible for me to do so, that the negroes I came across were free negroes, not slaves. I see little good in quoting the individual cases of cruelty or barbarity which I heard reported privately. I had not the power to trace out the truth of any particular instance, and I doubt the use of quoting exceptional instances. Like every traveller, however, who keeps his eyes open, and who is willing to see what passes before him, I caught some glimpses of the slavery system. Let me point out few which are matters of public notoriety, resting on unquestionable documentary evidence, not on hearsay report. There may be little, perhaps, of novelty them, but there are some facts which should be before the world in season and out of season; and of such, in my mind, are the facts about slavery.
Of course we all know, or if we do not know it is
253not for want of telling, that the slaves are contented and happy, and have no wish for freedom. It may be so; but if so, it is hard to explain why the papers of the Slave States are filled with advertisements of runaway slaves. Every day, for instance, in the Baltimore Sun, which I used to see constantly at Washington, there appeared a row of advertisements, of which the following may be taken as types: —
"3d March, 1862.
25 dollars (5l.) reward. Ran away, March 2d, from the farm of Mrs. S. B. Mayo, in Anne Arundel county, negro boy, John Stewart. He is 19 or 20 years of age; 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high; very prominent mouth and large front teeth; light complexion; has a stupid look when spoken to; his father lives in Annapolis. Any one who will arrest and secure him in jail can receive the above reward.
T. H. GAITHER, Howard Coy."
Mr. Gaither is the owner of John Stewart, of light complexion, and had hired him to Mrs. Mayo. Doubtless, on his delivery at home, the misguided lad would have the fatted calf killed for him, in honour of the prodigal's return.
"13th March, 1862.
200 dollars reward (40l.). Ran away from the subscriber, living in the upper part of Calvert county, in September last, my negro man Thomas, who calls
himself Thomas Jones. He is about 5 feet 6 to 9 inches high; dark chestnut colour; stout and well built; very likely; large white teeth; with full suit of hair (plaited when he left home); the whites of his eyes show very much when spoken to; had on white fuiled (sic) cloth peajacket, dark cloth pantaloons, and cloth cap. I have no doubt that he is in or about Washington or Bladensburgh, as he left a day or two before Colonel Cowdin's regiment left; or, if in Baltimore, he is with the Jones' or Kayes', his free relatives. I will give the above reward, if taken out of the State of Maryland or the district of Columbia; one hundred dollars if taken in the district of Columbia, or any county of the State except Calvert; and fifty dollars if taken in Calvert county. In either case, to be delivered to me or secured in jail, so that I get him again.
JONATHAN Y. BARBER,
Friendship A. A. Coy."
It is melancholy to reflect, that six months' absence from the delights of home should have failed to convince Thomas of his mistake. What can one expect of a human being valued at 40l. sterling, and provided with cloth pantaloons, who prefers the society of mean free men of colour to involuntary servitude, and who, reversing the example of Mr. Herbert of Clytha, has actually the audacity to appropriate the name of
255Jones? It is really pleasant to consider that Jonathan Y. Barber, of Friendship, does not yet despair of Thomas's repentance. It is not every slave who has been demoralized by permission to use a surname, as the next advertisement will teach us: —
"20th March, 1862.
180 dollars (36l.) reward. Ran away from the subscriber, near Bladensburgh, boy Anthony, commonly called ‘Toney.’ He is 5 feet 5 inches high; very black; short hair; grum countenance when spoken to; with a small scar over one of his eyes. Went away with a black jacket and United States' buttons on it, casinet pants, and yellow gauntlet gloves. I will give 180 dollars to any one who will bring him home to me.
Probably a short experience of the sorrows of freedom will amend "Toney's" moral nature, and teach him to look pleasant when spoken to by Fielder Magruder.
But to me the saddest of all these exhibitions of human depravity was contained in an advertisement which appeared for days together. It was as short as it was sad: —
"15th March, 1862.
Ran away from the subscriber, 13th March, negro woman, Ellen, aged about forty years, and her boy
Joe, aged seven years. They are both yellow colour. Ellen has a defect in one eye; Joe is bright yellow. I will pay a liberal reward for their arrest.
JOSHUA M. BOSLEY."
At last the advertisements stopped. Was the search given up as useless? or, was the liberal reward earned and paid? God knows.
Down in the Southern States, the course of proceeding was more business-like. In Utopia it is clear that it will be the finder of a purse, not the loser, who advertises it. If it were certain that we all followed the Christian precept of doing to others as we would that others should do to us, we should be aware that every one who found our lost property would leave no stone unturned to restore it to us. It is pleasing to find that in the chivalrous slaveholding South there is an approach to Utopian honesty. It is the finders of stray human property there, not the losers, who advertise the fact. There is an obvious economy of labour about this arrangement. It is much cheaper for the Post Office to publish a list of unclaimed letters, than for every person who expects a letter which has been misdirected to advertise for its discovery. So it is with slaves in the South. Any slave found straying is sure to be committed to jail; so that there is no necessity for a lost slave to be advertised for. Every slaveholder is always ready to do his duty.
So, in the Slave States, the number of advertisements for runaway slaves are few, but the number of advertisements of runaways committed to jail are plentiful. In Tennessee, I observed, in one day, in one paper, thirty advertisements of commitments to jail, which ran as follows: —
"Committed to jail of Davidson county, 21st April, 1862, a negro woman, who says her name is Lucinda, and belongs to William Donalson, of Davidson county. The said woman is about 28 or 30 years old, dark copper colour. The owner is requested to come forward and prove property, and pay charges as the law directs.
JAMES M. HINTON,
Sheriff and Jailor, D. C."
Of these thirty human chattels committed to the jail of Nashville till their owners could come forward and prove property, three were women, twenty-four were men, and the rest were, according to their own statement, free men of colour. This latter fact is worth noting. Read as follows: —
"Committed to jail of Davidson county, 4th April, 1862, a negro man, who says his name is Joe Bartlett: said boy claims to be a free man of colour; about 24 years old; says he lives in Henry county, Kentucky; light copper colour, scar on the right
side of the neck; weighs about 175 or 180 lbs.; 6 feet 1 inch high.
Sheriff and Jailor, D. O."
Now, this advertisement is dated 20th April. If Joe Bartlett's story was true, here was a free man, a native of Kentucky, no more subject to the laws of Tennessee than I am to the laws of Russia, imprisoned for sixteen days, on account solely of a light copper-colour." Truly a benevolent custom. If Joe Bartlett is a slave, he is restored to the tender care of a fond master; if he is free he remains in prison, in involuntary servitude, till he can prove his freedom; and when he does prove it, he has no claim for compensation, or redress for his captivity. On the contrary, he, Joe Bartlett, has to pay the costs which the State of Tennessee has incurred in imprisoning him; and, if he cannot, well then he is provided with an owner, who can pay for him, and, slave or free, he is sold back in slavery. It is a benevolent custom, startling perhaps in itself, but inevitable to the "peculiar institution." The necessity is obvious. There exists amongst slaves a peculiar malady called "drapetomania." In plain English, slaves are addicted to an inexplicable and unaccountable malady, which, without cause or reason, prompts them to run away from their masters. If slaves are to be of any value, as property, this disease
259must be remedied, if it cannot be cured. For the protection of the slave (and the slaveholder) any slave found at large suffering from this malady (of which absence from home without written authorization from his owner is the invariable symptom) must be confined in jail, by any good white Samaritan, who should find him in danger of falling amidst thieves. Granted this conclusion, a second follows. Another symptom of drapetomania is a tendency on the part of the sufferer to repudiate his home, to deny his lord and master, and to degrade himself by the assertion that he is a free man. There is no possibility of discovering the truth or falsehood of these statements by internal evidence. If the man of colour has not papers with him, to attest his freedom, he must, in the interest of runaway slaves, be treated as a slave. Here follows a third conclusion; that the captive, if free, must pay the cost of his own captivity. If the State had to pay the expenses, State authorities would be slow to commit men of colour to jail, who might prove to be free men, and hence drapetomaniacs might be allowed to carry out their madness to their own destruction. In a Christian state, this idea cannot be thought of. In all legislation somebody must suffer. It is better that one innocent free man should be sold into slavery, than that a hundred slaves should escape into freedom. Given the peculiar institution; the imprisonment of Joe Bartlett, and his sale into slavery for the expenses of
260his own imprisonment, is a logical and righteous consequence. "Qui veut le fin," says the French proverb "veut les moyens." Slavery may be a good thing; but if it is good, so are the many peculiar consequences, of which Joe Bartlett's case is one, which follow inevitably from the peculiar institution. Of the runaway advertisements, there is one trait worth recording. In no Free State is there a single newspaper, however pro-slavery in its politics, which will publish hue-and-cry advertisements of escaped slaves. In no Slave State is there a paper that will refuse to publish them. By the Fugitive Slave Law, a runaway slave may be captured in free Ohio, just as well as in slave Kentucky, but no Free State newspaper can be found to promote the practical execution of the very law, which, as a matter of theory, it may defend in its columns.
I have seen lately, in certain English pro-slavery journals, a statement based upon the evidence of intelligent and high-minded Southern gentlemen, that the separation of negro families by sale is practically unknown, and forbidden, if not by the letter of the law, by the moral sense of the community. The statement in itself is improbable. Anybody who chooses to think upon the subject must perceive, that for one purchaser who wishes to buy a whole family there must be dozens who want to purchase some one member of it, and that, therefore, far higher prices can be realized by selling slave family retail instead of wholesale. This being so,
261the temptation for a needy slaveowner to divide families must be enormous; and if division of families was really forbidden by the moral sense of the public, it is pretty certain that the possibility of public sensibility being outraged by the unscrupulousness of any embarrassed slaveholder would be removed by a law interdicting divided sales. In no Slave State does any such law exist. As to the evidence of candid, intelligent, and high-minded slaveowners, it must be taken for what it is worth. Where evidence is conflicting one must judge by inherent probabilities. Let me give two particles of evidence on the subject which came under my own knowledge. A friend of mine, by no means an Abolitionist, resided for some time in the Slave States. The subject of slavery was an unpleasant one, which he avoided; but on one occasion his host, a slaveowner, began to complain to him of the calumnies circulated against the South, and asserted that in the whole course of his experience he had never known an instance of a mother being separated from her children. My friend naturally enough believed the statement. On the very same day, however, it happened that some of the family began talking about a little negro boy of theirs who had been drowned a short time before, and describing how shocked they were when the poor child's corpse was carried up to the plantation. My friend asked whether the mother's grief was very terrible to witness? "Oh," answered his informant, "the child's mother
262belongs to Mr. —, who lives at the other end of the State, so that we know nothing about her." The fact seemed difficult to reconcile with his host's assertion of the morning; and so, prudently enough, he did not ask for an explanation of the inconsistency in the two stories. The accuracy of this story I can answer for; and it is corroborated by an incident which happened to myself. One day, after the retreat of the Confederate army from Manassas, I fell in, near Alexandria, with a party of runaway slaves, working their way northwards. They asked our party about the road, and we put a few questions to them in return. One of them, the least helpless-looking of the lot, was a young worn woman carrying a child of some three years old. She was going to Washington, so she told us, to look after her husband, who, she believed, was in service there, though it was two years since she had been parted from him. Of course I shall be told this case was an exceptional one; I only hope it was; but, somehow or other, all cases of cruelty are always exceptional.
If breaches of the law or of public sensibility are exceptional, it can hardly be assumed that the laws themselves are exceptional. I have before me the Maryland code of slavery, which, till last April, was in force at Washington. If you want to know what slavery is by law, note the following specimens of slaveowners' justice: — "No negro, or mulatto
263slave, or free negro, or mulatto born of a white woman . . . . . shall be admitted and received as good and valid evidence in law, in any matter or thing whatsoever depending before any magistrate within this province, wherein any white Christian person is concerned."
Again, in order to suppress the assembling of slaves, it is ordained, that in case the constable shall find at any house within his district any slaves not belonging to the house, and not authorized by his master to be present, then "it shall and may be lawful for the said constable," and he is by this act required, to whip every such negro on the bare back, at his discretion, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes.
264may be lawful, upon proof made thereof, either on the oath of the party so struck, or otherwise, before any justice of the peace, for such justice to cause one of the negro's or other slave's ears so offending to be cropt."
It was found, however, that the justices did not always pay due regard to these last provisions, and that the owners of slaves were shy of subjecting themselves to the loss of their property, and that, therefore, many guilty slaves escaped punishment through their masters neglecting to commit them to justice. It was, therefore, enacted, that in case any slave should be condemned to
265death, his value should be appraised by the court, and the amount due paid over at once to the owner, at the public expense.
These are some of the provisions of the so-called Black Code of Maryland, still in force in that State, and, till within a few months, in force at the Capitol. I am told that these provisions have fallen into disuse. Why, then, are they allowed to disgrace the statute book? And yet more, why did the Southerners in Congress always resist with success any attempt to modify the code on the part of the Anti-Slavery Party?
This legislation dates, undoubtedly, from Colonial days, when the whole of our English law was pervaded by a spirit of brutal ferocity. It was adopted, however, by the United States Government as the law for slaves in the District of Columbia, in 1801, and was never repealed till the abolition of slavery. The following, however, are somewhat later commentaries on its practical working, supplied by the legislation of the Washington municipality. By an act passed in 1827, for the better discipline of the coloured population, free blacks or mulattoes are prohibited from giving a party at their own house without permission, from gambling or being present at gambling, and from being at large without permission after ten o'clock at night, on penalty of being fined. All slaves found offending against these provisions "may be sentenced to receive any number of
266stripes, not exceeding thirty-nine, on his or her bare back."
By the same act, any negro or mulatto found at Washington, and who shall not be able to establish his or her title to freedom, shall be committed to jail as an absconding slave.
There is a still more recent act of slavery legislation. The act against assemblages of coloured people was found insufficient, and the following was passed: — "All secret or private meetings, or assemblages whatsoever, and all meetings for religious worship, beyond the hour of ten o'clock at night, of free negros, mulattoes, or slaves, shall be, and they are hereby declared to be, unlawful," under a penalty of six dollars fine for each offence, if the offender was a free man or colour, or of flogging on the bare back if the offender was a slave. By this law, therefore, passed only twenty-six years ago, eight years after we passed the Catholic Emancipation Bill, any female slave who attended a prayer-meeting of any kind after ten at night was sentenced to be flogged on her bare back, with any number of stripes not exceeding thirty-nine.
I need say no more. These are a few of the glimpses of slavery, which caught my eye, unwillingly, during my residence in slavedom. Thank God, that as far as Washington is concerned, I have been writing of the past!
England and America.
BEFORE I part with Washington, it may be well to say something now, once and for all, as to the feeling entertained by Americans towards England. In the metropolis of the Federal States this feeling is exhibited in its most rational and least offensive form. There is no mob at Washington, no strong commercial interest, and more of cosmopolitan sentiment about its temporary residents than is found in other parts of the North. There is no doubt, strange as it may seem to us, that the feeling against England is strongest in those parts which are most akin to the mother-country. In New England, and in Boston, there is far greater animosity expressed towards this country than in New York, or in the West; why this should be the case, I will speak of presently.
Let me state, first, without comment of my own, the case of America as against England, as I have often heard it given in substance by men of education, well acquainted with Europe. The sins, then, alleged
268against us, are rather of omission than commission. We are blamed, not so much for what we have done as for what we have left undone. The recognition of the Confederates as belligerents is believed, whether justly or not, to have inflicted incalculable injury on the North, by raising the hopes of the insurgents in foreign intervention, and thus giving the rebellion a tenacity of life, which it could not otherwise have acquired. But still, candid Americans do not profess to believe that this step was deliberately taken by our Government with a view to injure the North. The unfortunate precipitation with which our proclamation of neutrality was issued four-and-twenty hours previously to Mr. Adams' expected arrival, created, not unreasonably, a good deal of annoyance. It is a pity that an act which, whether well advised or not, could not fail to be offensive to a nation preparing to fight for its existence, should have been done in such a form as to give unnecessary offence. Our subsequent proceedings with regard to privateers are admitted by temperate critics to be the logical and inevitable consequence of our having once admitted the belligerent character of the South, while, with regard to the Trent affair, it is owned, though reluctantly, that England was in the right, even if she exacted her full right to the extreme letter. It is not for what we did, but for the manner in which we did it, that we are condemned. To understand this feeling, it is necessary
269to appreciate the estimate which the Americans form themselves of the history of the insurrection.
When secession first began (I am giving, let me repeat, the opinions I heard constantly expressed, without now endorsing them as my own), the country was utterly unprepared for war, disbelieved even in the possibility of war. The Government was still in the hands of men who supported secession, passively in all cases, actively in most. The North was divided among itself, and even in the Free States a numerous and powerful party looked with distrust and dread on the incoming Administration. The fall of Fort Sumter startled us, so Northerners would say, out of a dream. We had had no serious foreign war for half a century; the very idea of a civil war was as strange to us as it is to you — a soldier was almost unknown in our streets: what troops, and ships, and ammunition we had, were chiefly in the hands of the insurgents. We had few generals or statesmen, and of those we had, we could not tell who was faithful to our cause. Under these circumstances we claim it as a credit that we did not despair of the commonwealth. When the nation once awoke to the consciousness that the existence of the Union was at stake, and the Capitol itself in danger, there was neither delay nor doubt. From every portion of the North volunteers flocked to the defence of the country; from every class and state, men left their homes, forsook their businesses, and risked their lives at the call of
270duty. In four months' time we, who on the fall of Fort Sumter had not 12,000 available troops, had raised, without conscription or compulsion, 500,000 men in arms, undisciplined if you will, but still prepared to fight. Unused to war, and over-confident in the force of numbers, we pushed on to action hastily; fortune did not favour us. Partly from mismanagement, partly from ill-luck, still more from want of training, we endured a succession of repulses, inflicted in a manner most disheartening to the spirit of the people; still, not for one moment did the North despair — we were confident in our strength and in our cause. Throughout the long months of trying inaction, the country consented to bide its time; and even when things seemed darkest, there was no cry for submission or compromise; no voice heard except to demand resistance to the death. In the midst of our troubles we found ourselves in a position in which, whether from our own fault or not, we had to choose between a galling act of national humiliation, extorted from us by a foreign power, and the surrender of our hopes of restoring the Union. Here, again, there was no hesitation; we were ready to submit to anything, sacrifice anything, sooner than fail in maintaining the integrity of our country. This was the unanimous voice of the nation, and we acted on it; as we have begun, so we shall continue till the end. We may be mistaken in our views — the end we are fighting for may not be
271worth the struggle, but, right or wrong, the resolution of the North is a matter of which, as a nation, we are justly proud. When our trouble began, we reckoned confidently on the moral support, if not the actual aid, of England. Our resolution to stop the advance of slavery was the cause and occasion of the insurrection: we were fighting in such a war as England has waged many a time, in order to maintain our empire, to preserve our honour, and to establish free government. We believed that you, of our own race, and faith, and language, would judge us fairly, if no one else did, and would wish us God speed! We imagined that old grudges had been forgotten, on your side as well as ours, but we found ourselves mistaken. Not only did your Government make haste to disavow any appearance of sympathy with our cause, by recognising the South as belligerents with unwonted promptitude, but the people of England repudiated at once all fellowship with our cause. Every disaster of ours was magnified by your press, every success was derided, every effort refused acknowledgment; we were ridiculed in your public prints, treated as degenerate, held up by you to the contempt and laughter of the Old World, and offered counsels of submission, which you yourselves would have regarded as an insult. It was not only by the press of England that we were so treated: your statesmen, and writers, and politicians openly prognosticated the downfall of our country, and rejoiced in the prospect of our
272dismemberment. In your society sympathy was with the South from the beginning, and even the few public men and the few organs of popular opinion that advocated our cause, did so rather on abstract principles than from any avowed sympathy with a great people fighting in a cause which is great and noble. We have been taught a bitter lesson. It is by ourselves alone, against the wishes, if not in spite of the efforts, of England, that the Union will have to be saved.
How much in this estimate there is that is false and unreasonable, I need not dwell on. Unfortunately it is only too moderate an expression of the condition of American feeling at the present day, with regard to England. It is not, however, so unnatural a one as it may seem on this side the Atlantic. In the first place, the Americans, from their isolation, immensely overestimate the relative importance of their own affairs. That American politics are only one, and not the chief, of the many influences that operate on our Government and people, is a fact they can hardly realize. The general ignorance of Englishmen about American affairs, they believe to be either affectation or else wilful blindness. If you try to explain to them that English feeling has been, not unreasonably, outraged by the language of the New York Herald,by the series of slights, to use the mildest term, offered us by successive Federal Governments, they answer you, with truth, that the New York Herald does not represent
273American feeling, and that the slights offered to England were, invariably, the doing of Southern statesmen, for whom the North cannot justly be held responsible. But when you proceed to urge that it is not reasonable to expect the English nation should understand these explanations instinctively, or should appreciate the difference between different journals and conflicting parties, they obviously cannot believe that Englishmen are, as a class, unacquainted with the real working or private history of American politics. They look upon the popular opinions of England with regard to America, as if they were those of a community thoroughly conversant with American affairs, and caring for, or thinking of, little else. In fact, both in England and America, the extreme similarity between the two nations is, paradoxical as it may seem, the cause why they understand each other so little. With regard to a foreign nation, they would both make great allowances for different standards of thought and feeling. But two people so like each other can make little allowance for the points of unlikeness. When the Scotch laird thanked God that his French guests had left the room, "because they were no better than the brute beasts of the field, and never took a drop more than they wanted," he qualified the condemnation by the remark that, "perhaps, as Frenchmen, they knew no better." Had they belonged to an English-speaking nation, the excuse would not have been proffered so readily.
It is difficult also for Englishmen to appreciate the almost morbid anxiety which Americans feel for the judgment of England. The invariable question which every American asks you, before you have talked to him ten minutes, "how do you like the country?" is utterly unlike in tone to the manner in which a Frenchman might ask you a similar question, with a supreme conviction that it was morally impossible you should not like France; or to the mode with which an Englishman would ask it, with absolute indifference whether you liked England or not. The truth is — though I am afraid my Northern friends will dispute the truth of my remark — England is the real arbiter of opinion to whom educated America looks up. The affectation so common there of being like the French, is an affectation only. They speak less French, they read less French, they know less about France, than we do ourselves. More I cannot say. Their tone of thought is English, their literature is English, and their history is English also. Thus it is that even in spite of their avowed professions, the good opinion of England is a matter of so keen an interest to them. And thus it is, also, that they have felt so bitterly the coldness, to say the least, of English opinion on their behalf. "We could stand," I remember reading in the New York Tribune, "the railing, abuse, and systematic depreciation of the British journals. It is their affectation of candour, of impartiality, of sublime exaltation
275above such paltry matters as American discussions, that aggravates us. Such trifles are all remembered over here, and will, in due time, be requited." There is, I fear, too much truth in this outburst of hostility. In private life, as far as my experience goes, men resent real personal injuries far less bitterly than they do ill-natured speeches; and what is true of individuals, is true of nations also.
Moreover, this utterance of the Tribune confirms the fact, to which I have before alluded, that the greatest bitterness towards England is entertained by the Republican party. The abstract and somewhat sentimental hostility to slavery, which had been the fashion in England ever since the time of West Indian emancipation, and which rose to a climax in the days of the Uncle Tom mania, was appreciated in the North at more than its real value. The moral opinion of England had always been the great argument on which the Abolitionists based their cause, as against their own countrymen. In a war wherein slavery was at issue, they had always believed that they should have support of England, and had expressed their belief constantly and confidently. It was a cruel disappointment to them to find that these assertions were ungrounded, and that the great patron of the anti-slavery cause, whose example they had always quoted, and whose opinion they had taught others to reverence, stood aloof from them when sentiment
276had to be exchanged for action; and the reaction of feeling among this party was proportionate to the extent of their previous pro-English sympathies. I recollect a lady, who was a very strong Abolitionist, telling me that just before the secession of South Carolina, she was talking to Mrs. Jefferson Davis about the absurdity of the Secessionist scheme. On remarking that the Confederacy could have no hopes of support from England, on account of our known hostility to slavery, Mrs. Davis answered — "My dear Mrs. —, you don't know England as well as I do. She dislikes slavery very much, but she loves cotton a great deal more, and before six months are over, we shall have all England sympathizing with our cause." And my friend concluded by saying, "I never felt so much sorrow in my life as when I found that I was wrong and Mrs. Davis right." I quote this instance as illustrative of a state of feeling which is almost universal in the Abolitionist party; and I hardly think it is so monstrous as our English critics appear to assume, that men like Ward Beecher and Wendell Phillips should surpass other American orators in the vehemence of their feeling against England.
How far the existing and, I fear, increasing sentiment of hostility which the tone of England has, reasonably or not, produced, will prove a lasting one, is very hard to judge. For my own part, I believe and hope that the very susceptibility to the blame or depreciation of England, which has created such bitterness of feeling
277amongst Americans, will also render them, perhaps, unreasonably susceptible to any reaction of feeling on the part of the mother country; and if, at last, England begins to admit, what I feel more and more convinced is the truth, that amidst much exaggeration and absurdity, the struggle between the North and South is a grand cause grandly fought for, then there will be a return of the same kindly feeling as was exhibited, not three years ago, when the Prince of Wales visited America.
THE outlook for the future of America occupies far more attention amongst foreign observers than it does at home. The crew of a vessel labouring beneath a hurricane, are not likely to devote much attention to the consideration of what they are to do when they get safely into harbour; and so, in like manner, in the midst of this insurrection there is little time or care to think of anything but how it can be suppressed. After all, what is to be done, or rather what is to happen hereafter, is still a matter of abstract speculation; and the Americans, as a people, have an Anglo-Saxon distaste and incapacity for abstract speculation of any kind. The men by whom the country is ruled and represented are, as a body, shrewd, self-made men, with very little appreciation for the philosophy of government. Though the average culture of America is probably higher than that of any country in the world, yet, at the same time, any very high degree of intellectual culture is uncommon. There are no public
279men here of the class of Mill, Gladstone, or Lord Stanley; and if there were, their influence on the country would be very limited. It is a land of workers, not of thinkers.
Still, making all allowance for this, and for a natural reluctance to face the belief that the Union is not in itself a remedy for every evil, it seemed strange to me to observe how little thought there appeared to be in the public mind about the inevitable future. The future, too, was not only inevitable, but appeared so near at hand. The prevalent belief at this time was, that the South was at its last gasp. All the plans of the Government, during the spring of 1862 (and in saying this I am not expressing merely a private opinion, but an official conviction), were based upon the idea, that by the end of June, at the very latest, the insurrection would be so far suppressed as to present no further military dangers. At this time, a stop had been put to further enlistment, contracts for army supplies were curtailed, and sufficient funds had only been provided to meet the current military expenditure for some ten weeks more. Within three months it was expected that the Federal Government would have to re-organize its rule over the revolted States; and yet neither Government, nor Congress, nor people appeared to have any definite idea or prospect of how that re-organization was to be effected. The truth is, the country was drifting towards peace just as it drifted towards war. In
280order to understand the history of the crisis through which America was passing, it may be well to say something here of the political speculations which were rife at the period when the "Army of the Potomac" had set forth in its full pride and strength, and when the suppression of the insurrection was believed to be imminent.
The only political question towards which public attention had been directed, so far as to form any definite ideas regarding it, was that of the Negro. The subject, indeed, was an unwelcome one, but still it forced itself upon the public mind. Almost every day, amongst the petitions presented to Congress at this period, there was a request, from somebody or other, begging the House to leave the negro alone, and attend to business. There was something almost pitiable in the painful anxiety expressed by newspapers, and politicians, and the leaders of private society, to ignore the question of the everlasting negro. Abolitionists were unpopular, because they kept on thrusting the wrongs of the negro upon unwilling ears; pro-slavery men were unpopular, because they kept dinning the rights of negro ownership on an unsympathetic public; and the men who were popular were the prophets of the "Seward stamp," who spoke pleasant things, and who recommended the people to wait upon Providence (or, in stock phrase, "Not to interfere with its manifest interposition") for the ultimate solution of the Negro question. Still, the question cropped up at every
281moment. Runaway slaves came constantly into the Federal lines; large districts were deserted by their owners as the Northern armies advanced; and the plantations which could not be destroyed, together with the slaves who could not be removed, were left to the charge and embarrassment of the United States Government. "What shall we do with them?" was the question that everybody in the North was asking unwillingly, and to which nobody could find an answer. Meanwhile, it was growing daily clearer, that beyond the slavery question — difficult enough in itself — there lay the Negro question, almost more difficult to grapple with.
I am no great believer in Providence doing for anybody what one ought to do oneself; but still I think that, without much decided action on the part of the Government, there was, in the event of Northern success, a necessary solution to the mere slavery question. Either (and this was the view of the most far-sighted American politicians I met with) the insurrection would be speedily and hopelessly crushed, or else it would hold out for some time longer, with varying success. In the latter case, there would be an end to slavery at once — a rough and sharp one. The vindictiveness of the North would be roused, revolutionary measures would be required, and the first and chief of these would be compulsory emancipation. The result, I need not say, has justified these anticipations. In the former event, the
282decline of slavery would be less rapid, but not less certain. Hitherto, slavery had been the badge and cry of the great ruling political faction in the country. Any man who wanted power, and office, and success in public life, was obliged to put on slavery colours. With the election of President Lincoln the supremacy of this party was broken, and anti-slavery views became the political creed of the winning side, just as pro-slavery views had been formerly. As a political party, the slave-faction had lost its power, and it was the consciousness of this fact which impelled them to Secession. Still, if they had abided by constitutional measures, this party would always have possessed strength, from the fear that, if driven to extremities, the South might secede, and, under the influence of this fear, might possibly have recovered the reins of Government. Now, supposing the insurrection to be crushed, they will have played their last card, and failed lamentably. Henceforth there will be no terror for the North in the threat of secession. The South will not fight again a battle that has been fought and lost, and the slaveholders will be a small and declining faction in the State. Every ambitious politician, and every office-seeker who wants patronage, will profess anti-slavery views. With a free Government, such as the American, the influence of public opinion is overwhelming; and with the tide of public opinion set dead against slavery, State after State will throw off the degradation attached to the institution,
283and the system will fall to pieces by its own adherent weakness.
The objection to this optimist view is, that it does not take into account the extraordinary social influence of slavery. As long as slavery exists in a State, the pride of race makes the maintenance of the institution popular, even with the very classes who suffer most from its inevitable consequences. Not one white man, perhaps, in ten or twenty, even in the most populous of the Slave States, owns negro property; but then, every non-slaveowner looks forward to the possibility of enrolling himself amidst the privileged class. Moreover, the meanest and poorest of white citizens in a Slave State belongs to the ruling caste. He is the recognised superior of the whole coloured population, and the more wretched his own condition is, the more highly he values the one dignity belonging to him, as a white man, in a slave-country. Undoubtedly, the popular sentiment, even in the most loyal Slave States, was bitterly averse to any measure which could place the negro on an equality with the white man. Thus in Kentucky — the staunchest of the Border Slave States, and in which, within the last ten years, the white population has increased in a ratio of more than three to one to the slave — the State Legislature, in answer to the President's proposal of a scheme for voluntary and compensated emancipation, passed a resolution, "That any person who advocates the doctrine
284of the abolition or emancipation of slavery in the State of Kentucky, either directly or indirectly, or who sympathizes with the same, shall be disfranchised for life, and requested to leave the State within ten days." Happily, the majority of forty-eight to twenty-nine, by which this resolution was passed, was not sufficient to make it valid; but the fact shows the strength of the anti-abolition sentiment. Still, in spite of this and many similar indications, I think it probable that the view quoted above (which I know to be that of leading American statesmen) is substantially correct, and that, as a system, slavery is doomed, supposing always the insurrection to be finally suppressed.
But when slavery is abolished, what is to become of the slaves? There are three solutions possible for the Negro question: Amalgamation with the white race, emigration or enforced colonization, or settlement in the States where they are stationed at present, as a free population of distinct race. The first of these solutions is, at first sight, the obvious one to a philosopher. Unfortunately, instincts of race are too powerful to admit of its adoption. It is hard for an European to quite appreciate the intensity of American feeling about colour; but still, when an American asks you the usual question, whether you would like your sister to marry a negro? I own that candour would force most Englishmen to answer in the negative. A black brother can be tolerated, but a black brother-in-law is an idea
285not pleasant to the Anglo-Saxon mind. And if you plead guilty to this weakness in a hypothetical case, it is not difficult to understand the aversion with which, in real life, a proud hard race, like the American, regards the notion of any infusion of black blood in their veins. That a negro should ever sit in Congress, is to the Yankee intellect a sort of reductio ad absurdum — a moral anomaly, from the contemplation of which even the New York Tribune shrinks reluctantly. Moreover, even supposing this aversion to be removed, there seemed to be physiological objections to any amalgamation of the races. Those persons who have studied the subject most profoundly, all agree that the mixed race is not a healthy one. The intellectual capacity of the mulatto is very great, but his physical power is inferior to that of the pure white or black man; and with each successive intermixture, the race becomes feebler and, as a rule, dies out with scrofulous diseases. Physiology is a science which has been so little studied in America, and the whole subject of amalgamation has been obscured by such a variety of conflicting prejudices, that it would be unsafe to attach implicit confidence to the above assertions. As a practical matter, however, it is sufficient to say, that this belief as to the deterioration of the mixed race is universally entertained in the North, and thus any statesman dealing with the Negro question, has to assume this doctrine as an acknowledged truth.
Colonization on a large scale presents enormous practical difficulties in its execution. The expense of transporting or providing for four millions of people, is a gigantic task, which it must take scores of years before America is in a position to undertake. Moreover, the negroes, like most nations whose intellectual faculties are but imperfectly developed, have strong local attachments, and have absolutely no desire to quit the home of their birth, cruel as that home may have proved to them. There remains, then, as the sole alternative, the settlement of the black race, in the existing Slave States, as a free population. The political difficulties, of which the advocates of slavery talk so much, do not seem to me insuperable. There is no reason why, after emancipation, the several States should extend the franchise to the coloured population; and I fear there is little hope that the blacks would agitate to obtain political rights for themselves. With the exception of three or four of the Eastern States, coloured citizens have not the right of voting in any of the Northern States; and except as a matter of abstract justice and logical consistency, about which the Americans trouble themselves very little, the free negro might as well remain disfranchised for the present. The difficulty is a social one. In the Northern Hemisphere, the negro is an exotic, and does not flourish except under an artificial system. Now, though nobody is more adverse to slavery than I am, the logic of figures
287compels me to admit that, from the rapid increase of population in the Slave States, the slaves must, on the whole, have been kept in physical comfort. An amount of work was abstracted from them, which no inducement but force would urge them to undergo; and in return for this, they were, as animals, treated with consideration. Remove the necessity of bondage, and, in a northern climate, where his energies are deadened, the negro will not, as a rule, work enough to keep him in more than bare existence. I have my own doubts about the truth of our received English doctrines as to the dignity of labour, and as to work being the one essential end and aim of human existence. It seems to me possible that, even in this world, Lazarus, when the sun shone upon his rags and sores, and the crumbs thrown out to him were sufficient for the day, may have been as well off as Dives, with his hardly earned riches. Still, as a matter of fact, one cannot doubt that a people to whom work is naturally distasteful, cannot stand a chance, on the same soil and under the same conditions, with a race which works for the sake of work itself, as well as for gain. Supposing emancipation take place, the stigma to be removed from labour, and free white labourers to pour as they would into the Slave States, black labour would not, I think, stand the competition, and would gradually be driven out of the field. The probability seems to me that, in the event of abolition, the fate of the American Negroes
288will not be unlike that of the Indians. A portion will move gradually further south, till they reach a climate where white labour cannot compete successfully with their own. Those left in the existing Slave States will slowly die out, by a diminution of their prolific powers, and will disappear with more or less of suffering. It seems as though, by some inscrutable law of Nature, the white man and the black cannot live and work together, on equal terms, on the same soil. Where the white man comes, the black man has disappeared hitherto, and I fear that America is not likely to prove an exception to the rule.
The difficulties of the problem are indeed fearful, and I own that the abolitionist solution is the simplest if not the most philosophical. The Negro question — they say virtually, if not avowedly — is one with which we have nothing as yet to do. When it comes upon us, we must do our best to alleviate the working of natural laws, over which we have no control. Meanwhile, for the sake of any ulterior consideration, we have no right to maintain a system which is an outrage on the laws of God and man. The Negro question we must leave to Providence, but the Slavery question is one we can deal with, and are bound to deal with, for ourselves. And this, like all simple solutions, commends itself to the plain popular instinct.
The never-ending Negro question is only the most pressing, perhaps not the most difficult, of those the
289country has to deal with. Throughout almost all English speculations on American affairs, there runs a constant assumption that the United States Government resembles our Old World Governments, and possesses unlimited powers of action, if only it chooses to exert them. Now the truth is, that by the very nature of its Constitution, the powers of the Government are so strictly defined, that in all cases not provided for by the express letter of the law, it has no authorized means of action. Thus in Europe, the refusal of the Federal Government to recognise formally the fact that the Confederates were belligerents, appeared dictated by a childish reluctance to acknowledge an unwelcome truth. In reality, it was constitutionally impossible for the North to admit the belligerent character of the South. The Federal Government has power by the Constitution to suppress an insurrection in the supposed interest of the insurgent State — it has no power whatever to make war upon a State. In order to keep within the Constitution, it was essential for the Federal Government to assume the theory that the insurgent States still form part of the Union. Yet the adoption of this theory involves inconceivable difficulties in practice. If the States are still within the Union, they must be dealt with by the laws of the Constitution. Thus, to quote their simple instance, the insurgents must be tried in their own State, by a jury taken from the State; and no Southern jury would ever convict an insurgent
290of treason. Again, all taxes, by the Constitution, must be uniformly imposed on all the States. It would be therefore impossible, if the war was over, to tax the insurgent States, so as to make them bear the expenses of the war. These are no theoretical difficulties, but practical and pressing ones. During the height of the war, a cavalry officer with whom I was acquainted made an expedition into Virginia. He was in extreme want of horses to mount his men, and seized fifteen horses belonging to notorious rebels; but on reporting the fact, he received orders from headquarters to restore the horses at once, as there was no constitutional authority for seizing the property of insurgents: and yet at this time the Federal Government was purchasing horses right and left, at prices ranging from two hundred dollars and upwards. This scrupulous regard for the theory of the Constitution may seem inconsistent with the practical character of the American mind; but, in fact, the adherence to the letter of the Constitution is a matter of practical rather than abstract interest. If the broad principle is once admitted that the welfare of the Commonwealth overrides all State interests and justifies any stretch of power, then the doctrine of State rights is virtually defunct in the North as well as in the South — in the Slave States of the Union as well as in the Slave States of the Confederacy. The Border Slave States, therefore, fight against any recognition of this doctrine, which would
291be fatal to the existence of slavery; and even the Free States of the North are unwilling to do anything, or permit anything to be done, which may involve the loss of their separate independence. Added to all this, the whole nation has been taught, so long and so sedulously, that the Constitution is the great bulwark of their liberties — the grandest triumph of legislative power, that they cannot yet, and dare not yet, realize the truth, that this Constitution has been tried and found wanting.
Still, with all this, all Americans of reflective minds whom I have talked to, admitted that the nation would shortly have to deal with a work for which the machinery of its Government is not adequate. They allowed too, though generally with reluctance, that the machinery would have to be modified; but how, or in what direction, they could form little idea. The possibility of a military revolution, which was much canvassed in Europe, was not a contingency even thought of in America. You cannot live any time in the North, without coming to an instinctive conviction that a military despotism is not an event upon the cards. To any one who knows France, it would be impossible to prove, by any amount of arguments, that she was ever likely to adopt the government of an aristocratic oligarchy; and so you perceive, possibly without being able to state your reasons for it, that the whole nature and genius and development of the American people
292(I am speaking of the North) is opposed to military rule. The moral tendency of the present civil war has not been to create a prestige in favour of military rule. "The great lesson of this war," said an old American politician to me, "will be the power of self government. The people has done everything, the Government nothing; the people has led, and the Government has followed." Whether this view is altogether correct or not, it is the prevailing one, and will have its influence on the destinies of the nation. Then, again, this war has brought forth no Dictator, either political or military. As an old Polish exile, who had fought in every European revolution for the last forty years, remarked to me: "There is one good thing about this revolution, and that is, we shall have no fathers of the country, no saviours of society left when the war is over." The gigantic size of the army is in itself a protection for the future against an undue exercise of military power. As far as I could learn, of the 672,000 men who had been in arms up to last spring, under 100,000 belonged to the regular army. Amongst the volunteers the regular military spirit has not, and could hardly have, been developed. With officers chosen from amongst themselves, and in many instances by themselves, they are not likely to merge the volunteer in the soldier. The great majority of the volunteers look forward to returning to their former pursuits the moment the
293war is over. "And then," as one of the privates said within my hearing, "the first thing we shall do is to show our officers we are as good as they are." The regular army, with its strict discipline, poor pay, and slow promotion, will present little attraction to the disbanded volunteers, in a country where labour can command its own price; and the wild life of the Backwood States will attract those restless spirits who cannot live without excitement. Still, though the volunteer army will disband itself, yet its members will be scattered throughout the States, and their knowledge of war would present a strong obstacle to any attempt of the military power to encroach on the liberties of the country. Besides, the enormous extent of the territory of the United States is, in itself, a fatal bar to any military dictatorship. If France, with an area of 208,000 square miles, is presumed to require an army of half-a-million to maintain a military régime, what would be the force required to keep up a like system in America, with its 3,250,000 square miles of territory, where every institution and custom is opposed to centralization? I have often heard the Federal Government sneered at for the bulk of its unwieldy army; but the truth is, that the territory of even the Southern States is so vast as to require an enormous army to occupy it in any way. The English officers who came down to Washington to inspect the army were always very
294confident in their assertions that it would have no chance against a small force of well-trained troops. I agree with them so far, that I think it possible that a French army of 50,000 men might march from New York to New Orleans, and defeat every force it met on its path; but when that was done, no vital result would be produced; and with 50,000 men, it would be impossible to occupy more than a single State.
For all these reasons, I doubt the possibility of a military dictatorship being amongst the eventualities of the United States. Nor, as I before stated, is any apprehension of it entertained in America. The loose talk one reads in the New York Herald, and other papers of the same class, about military dictatorships and Napoleonic régimes, are of the nature of sensation paragraphs. The literary taste of America is not highly developed, and to the ordinary newspaper reader vehemence of language is identical with powerful writing. A skirmish is always either the most disastrous defeat, or the most heroic victory, ever witnessed in both hemispheres, and a discharge of cannon always shakes the earth to its very foundation. In the same way, a dictatorship is talked of when, in our more sober language, we should speak of an energetic Government; and the term is understood not to be used in its simple signification.
A more reasonable fear for the stability of Government, and one more generally entertained by
295Americans, is derived from the vast influx of the foreign emigration. It was to this fear that the short-lived Know-nothing Party owed its existence, and there is no doubt that the native Americans still look with fear on the strength of the foreign element. The new settlers are men who know neither Washington nor his works; who have, most of them, strong revolutionary traditions if not principles, and who have little respect for the Constitution in itself. The fact, however, that the powerful Know-nothing organization broke down by its own weakness, is a proof that this fear had no strong hold upon the country, and I think with reason. The power of the Anglo-Saxon element in absorbing the other foreign elements is something wonderful. Of those Americans who know the name of their grandfathers, a vast proportion will tell you that they have foreign blood amongst their ancestors; but by the third generation there is no trace left, except physically, of foreign parentage. The only two races who preserve a marked individuality are the Irish and the Germans — about the negroes I am not speaking now; and the children of Irish settlers born in the North soon lose every trace of Ireland, except an hereditary dislike to England. A friend of mine told me that a priest went once to an Irish neighbour of his, and asked him for a subscription to found Catholic schools in the parish. The Irishman, who was well-to-do, readily agreed; but when the priest added, that he
296hoped he would send his own children to the Catholic school, he refused point-blank. "They must go," he said, "to the public schools, for I can't have them learn to speak the brogue." This feeling is a universal one: and the natural desire of Irishmen that their children should become genuine Americans, operates strongly against the efforts of the Catholic priesthood to keep them apart from Protestant influences. The Germans, no doubt, keep their individuality much longer, especially in the outlying districts of the West. Still, they are an orderly, law-loving people naturally; and they have shown so little talent for organization at home, that it is not likely they will develop it in America. Moreover, the extreme disproportion, as yet, between the area and the population of the United States, has scattered the settlers so widely, that any combined action on their part is almost impossible. No doubt in New York and Philadelphia, where the lowest class of emigrants always take up their abode at first, the influence of the German and Irish population is very powerful, and in some respects alarmingly so. But as long as the State system endures, neither New York, nor Pennsylvania, nor any individual State or town, can rule the country; and the influence of a mob in any one of these cities does not extend, at the farthest, beyond its own State. The probability too is, that the present troubles will greatly check the tide of emigration, and thus give time
297for the existing foreign population to be thoroughly absorbed in the native one.
I do not believe, therefore, that the only two forces which could effect a revolution in the Government — the power of the army, or the influence of the foreign element — are likely to be called into action. Supposing the Union to be restored, the Government must be changed somehow; but the change would, I think, be an orderly and a gradual one. The difficulties of restoring the status quo in the insurgent States will convince the popular mind of the necessity of a more united and centralized Government. To secure this end, the States would have to surrender many of their individual rights. The one clearest result of this war has been to bring the people of the States together — to give them common recollections, common interests, and common dangers. This, in itself, must lead to a more real Union. Again, for years to come, the country must be subject to a heavy taxation. The inevitable necessity of keeping up a large standing army will cause a much heavier expenditure than has been the case hitherto. This taxation will create a far keener interest in the management of the Central Government throughout all the States: and probably the conviction will become general, that a system of thirty-four separate Sovereign Governments is a very expensive and cumbrous one. The tone of politics will be wider and more national; and with a higher tone, a higher class
298of men (morally, I mean, rather than socially) will be entrusted with the direction of State affairs. Such, at least, were the hopes of those Americans who seemed to me to judge most philosophically of the political future, and the results that the war would produce upon it.
I MAY say without vanity, that during my sojourn in the States I had considerable advantages in entering society. I was amply provided with letters of introduction: I came at a time when foreign travellers were rare; and also, from an impression that my sympathies were more Northern than those of the bulk of my fellow-countrymen, I was received with, perhaps, undeserved kindness. Still, my great passport to society consisted in the fact that I was an Englishman. That this should have been so, is a fact which throws a good deal of light on American Society. An American once said to me: "I always envy you to whom England is a home; but, then, I think you ought to envy us for our feelings when we visit England. To you, after all, it is only a country, more or less interesting, where you make and spend your money: to us it is a sort of enchanted land, where everything that is old to you is new to us. You look upon England as a husband looks on his wife; we see her as a
300lover sees his mistress." The words were spoken half-jestingly, but there was still a good deal of truth in them. The average of educated Americans know as much about English literature, and more, perhaps, about English history, than the average of educated Englishmen. Their language, their history, their literature are those of England. There are few who cannot remember relatives that have come from the Old Country — who do not know of some town or village in the United Kingdom in which they have something of a personal interest. A visit to Europe and, above all, to England, is the great dream of all Americans who have not crossed the Atlantic — the holiday-time, as it were, of life to those who have performed the journey. I always found there was no subject on which Americans talked so willingly as about the recollections of their foreign travels. No doubt this sentimental feeling about England grows weaker with each succeeding generation, and, like all sentimental feelings, it gives place to the action of interests and passions. I often fancied that those Americans who entertained the feeling most strongly, were the most hostile to England. Indeed, my chief fear of a war with America arises from the fact, that Americans care too much, not too little, about England. The existence, however, of this national feeling is strong enough to create a very kindly sentiment towards individual Englishmen: and probably there is no country in the world where an English traveller
301meets with so much kindness and so much cordiality, in virtue of his nationality, as he does in America.
Certainly, I found it so in my own case. I know that other English travellers tell a different story. Fellow-countrymen of mine have related anecdotes to me, of rude speeches and offensive remarks made to them purposely in the States, because they were Englishmen. I suspect, in most of such instances, the narrators were to blame. If you are offended because a waiter offers to shake hands with you, or a bar-keeper asks you to drink with him, or a labouring-man speaks to you without your speaking first to him — well, you had better not travel in America; but if you are willing to take people as you find them, you will get along very pleasantly. Speaking for myself, I can say that, during all my travels, I had never once an offensive or impolite remark made to me. The only occasion on which I ever met with anything like impoliteness, was in the smoking-room of a fashionable hotel in New York. A number of old gentlemen sitting round the fire were talking politics and abusing England; I was smoking silently, and it struck me they were talking at me. Now, I am by no means an enthusiastic believer in our English doctrine, that whatever England does is right; and, also, I made a rule to be a listener to, not a partaker in, political discussions. But still there is a limit to patience, at any rate to my patience; and at some remark about the mingled folly and knavery of English
302policy, I spoke out strongly and, I fear, somewhat rudely. At once I was answered by a polite expression of sincere regret, that anything should have been said in my presence that could have given offence; and, there-upon, the subject was dropped at once. The incident was trivial in the extreme, and the only reason why I remember it is because it was the sole instance of anything approaching to incivility I met with in the States.
To a stranger, there is something wonderfully pleasant about the first blush of American Society: the manners of your hosts appear to an Englishman so frank and cordial; people seem so glad to see you, and so anxious to make you feel at home. And I believe that the appearance is not assumed. Life, hitherto, has flowed very easily for the American people. The country is so large, that there is room for all and to spare: the battle of life is not an arduous one, compared to what it is in older countries. The morbid dread of poverty, which is the curse of English middle-class existence, is almost unknown in the New World. If the worst comes to the worst, and an American is ruined, the world lies open to him, and in a new State he can start afresh, with as fair prospects as when he set out in life. The desire to provide for one's children, and to secure them a similar position in life to that which the parent occupies himself, is almost unknown. Public opinion does not require
303father of a family to do more than give his children a good education. As a rule, the daughters can always marry, and the sons can make their own way. Equal division of property amongst the children of a family is enforced by custom, though not by law. In the New England States, it has become very common for any wealthy citizen to leave a considerable sum towards some public object; and any one who fails to comply with this custom is hardly considered to have acted correctly. The result of this state of things is, that saving is very uncommon amongst the middle classes in America. Everybody, as a rule, spends the full amount of his income, and, in consequence, there is much greater luxury in Northern households than would be seen in English families of the same amount of wealth. Hospitality, therefore, is given very readily, and the wheels of life run more easily than they do with us. I was struck constantly with the extreme good-nature of the Americans in their private and social relations. I attribute it, not so much to the national character — which, owing to the climate, is a somewhat irritable one — but to the comparative absence of the sordid cares and petty considerations which the fierceness of our struggle for existence, and the exorbitant value attached by us to the respectability of wealth, give rise to perpetually in a densely-peopled country like our own.
Paradoxical as the statement may seem, I think I
304have never known a country where money was less valued than in America. "The worship of the almighty dollar," which we are so apt to consider a characteristic of the Americans, cannot justly be charged to them in the sense in which we understand the phrase. The absence of all social distinctions, and the fact that there are no established positions to which birth, and rank, and station give an acknowledged entrance, render wealth the chief standard of distinction. In consequence, the natural ambition of every American is to acquire wealth, and thus distinguish himself in the only career which is practically open to the vast majority. Anybody who has known anything of Quakers will understand the working of the causes that I have attempted to describe. There is no body of men more liberal than the Society or Friends, and yet there is none more eager in the pursuit of money-making. So it is with the Yankee race. Money-making is the chief object of the nation; but they value the possession of the "almighty dollar" rather as a proof of success in life than as an end of existence. The mere ownership of wealth is less valued there than with us. The man who has made his own money is infinitely more respected than the man who has inherited it. Millionaires are rare in the second generation; and the bare fact of wealth gives a man fewer advantages in the North than in any Old World country.
I doubt, too, whether the accusation of extravagance,
305which is brought so frequently against the Northerners, is a just one. Money is spent freely, just as it is made; but, with the exception of New York, I was never in any American city where the style of living could compare for extravagance with that of the wealthy classes in the Old World. Americans in Europe are not, in this respect, fair specimens of their nation. They come over here for a holiday, and their expenditure is regulated on a holiday scale. But at home, the mode of living is in most respects remarkably simple. This is due, partly to the extreme difficulty of getting servants, and the impossibility of keeping a large household of domestics, but still more, I think, to a certain inherent simplicity of taste. Hours are much earlier than with us — equipages are few in number; and dwelling-houses, though eminently comfortable, very seldom possess any claim to splendour or magnificence. In the article of dress, and also in the dainties of the table, Americans will go to an expense that English families of the same rank in life never think of indulging in. In New York, especially, the ladies must spend what we should consider an extravagant amount on Parisian toilettes. I hardly ever remember to have been present at a dinner-party in America where champagne was not distributed almost as plentifully as malt-liquor would be with us; but in other respects, there is but little ostentatious expense visible to a stranger.
In a moral as opposed to a material point of view,
306the most striking feature about American Society is its uniformity. Everybody, as a rule, holds the same opinions about everything, and expresses his views, more or less, in the same language. These views are often correct, almost invariably intelligent and creditable to the holders. But still, even at the risk of hearing paradoxes defended, you cannot help wishing, at times, for a little more of originality. I believe that this monotony in the tone of American talk and opinion arises from the universal diffusion of education. Everybody is educated up to a certain point, and very few are educated above it. They have all learnt the same lessons under the same teachers, and, in consequence, share the same sentiments to a degree which it is difficult to an Englishman to appreciate beforehand. This monotony is infinitely more striking in the men than in the women. Ninety-nine American lads in a hundred go through exactly the same system of training. Up to eighteen or nineteen, they are carefully, if not very deeply, grounded in all the branches of a good ordinary English education. Then they go into business, and from that time their intellectual self-culture ceases. Unless they happen to travel, they have very little time for reading anything except the newspapers. The women pursue their education even after marriage, and are in consquence better read and more intellectual in their tastes than English ladies. In the long run, however, the national tone of mind is always derived from the male
307sex, and therefore the prevalent tone of America is not that of a highly-educated society. I do not mean to say, for one moment, that there are not hundreds and thousands of men of really first-class education in the Northern States. On the contrary, some of the most thoroughly-educated men it has been my lot to meet with have been Americans. I am speaking of the mass, not of individuals. This opinion of mine, if it is correct, explains a fact which otherwise would seem discouraging: I mean the small share taken by educated men — in our sense of the word — in American politics. The truth is, that if America were governed to any great extent by politicians of classical education, the country would not be fairly represented by its rulers. It is not the case, that the fact of a gentleman having received a refined culture is any disqualification to him in the eyes of the constituencies. On the other hand, it is a very small recommendation. I do not deny that this is, in itself, an evil; but the true nature of the evil is not that men of education are disqualified from entering a political career in America, but that they form so small a class that they possess no political influence. Just in the same way, there is no doubt that, relatively to the period, there were more highly-educated men in the Union half a century ago than there are now. The early settlers in any new country bring with them a higher degree of individual culture than they can impart to their children. In the same ratio, however, that the
308education of the individual decreases, the average education of the mass increases, and, on the whole, the general tone of the nation gains in consequence. My friend Mr. Holmes once said to me: "We should find it very hard to match five thousand American gentlemen with five thousand English; but we could match five million ordinary Americans against the same number of your countrymen, without fear of the result." This explanation I believe to be the correct one with regard to the intellectual development of America.
The truth is, the great mistake that we English make in judging of America is the assumption that the New World ought to be the reproduction of the Old Country. We expect our social system, our hierarchy of castes and rank, our forms of thought and feeling, to be repeated amongst a people growing up under conditions totally different from that in which we have been trained for hundreds of generations. Every departure from our own standard we consider to indicate moral degeneracy, while in reality it is only a symptom of development. No one who has lived in America can avoid coming to the conclusion, that the Anglo-Saxon frame is gradually modifying itself to a form suited to the new conditions of climate and temperature under which it is called on to exist. What is true in the physical is true also in the moral world. By degrees, the imported civilization and culture of the Old World are developing themselves
309into new forms and aspects. What will be the ultimate social system of America it is impossible to say. Never yet in history has a nation grown up under circumstances where all men have started equal, and where want and poverty have been practically unknown. That the product of these conditions will be a remarkable one, we are beginning to see already. I recollect a common Irishwoman I once travelled alongside of in the States, saying to me, when talking about her experience of her new home, "This is a blessed country, sir; I think God made it for the poor." And I have often fancied that this saying might be the clue to the future history of America.
I have been asked frequently, whether I should like to live in America? — and to this question my answer has always been, that that depends entirely upon circumstances. Men of highly educated tastes, used to the social pleasures of the Old World, will not find their wants gratified as easily and as fully in a new state of society as in an old. In fact, in plain English, if your tastes and your habits are those of men whose income is counted by hundreds, you had better stop where you are. But the man who has his living to earn is better off, in almost every respect, in America than he is in England. The very circumstances that render the United States unattractive as a residence for the man of wealth and refinement, are a positive boon to those who possess neither of the attributes; and I am
310afraid that in this world the latter class is larger and more important than the former.
These reflections on American Society would be imperfect if I said nothing as to the great charm which surrounds all family relations in the North. Compared with Europe, domestic scandals are unknown; and between parents and their grown-up children, there exists a degree of familiarity and intimacy which one seldom witnesses in this country. If family life is the foundation of all permanent good in the social system, then, in spite of its present defects and shortcomings, the outlook for the American society of the future is a very bright one.
The distinctive character of the Constitution can hardly, to my mind, be better defined than by the words of Mr. Madison, in advocating its adoption in the Virginia Convention: — "It (the Constitution) is of a mixed nature; it is in a manner unprecedented, . . . In some respects it is a government of a federal nature; in others it is of a consolidated nature."
Equally explicit, too, is the language of the Address in which Washington submitted the draft of the Constitution to the consideration of Congress: — "It is," he states, "obviously impracticable, in the federal government of these States, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all. Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstances as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the lines between those rights which must be surrendered and those which be reserved; and on the present occasion this difficulty was increased by a difference among the several States as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests."