« ElőzőTovább »
already spoken of the weighty decision made in behalf of republicanism at the outset, not distinctly acknowledged, but clearly felt, as a vital and momentous one. It is, however, in relation to slavery that the logic of the situation was most remarkable. Every one saw that slavery was the cause of the war, and felt that it must perish by the sword it had drawn. But every one saw, too, that it was only on the ground of nationality that the contest could be maintained, and that any attack upon slavery, except as a military necessity, would be of the nature of a crusade, and indefensible at this stage of the world's history. So all classes — Abolitionists, Republicans, old-line Democrats — united in waiting patiently for the working of Providence in the matter of this national sin, thanking God meanwhile that they had lived to see the great work begun.
We do not speak of the promptness and unanimity with which the nation rallied to defend the flag when it was first struck down. That might have been the passing enthusiasm of an excitable people. But we look with pride upon the steadfastness with which they have clung to their purpose through dark and sorrowful months, – rallying speedily after a moment's bewilderment at the unexpected defeat at Bull Run; waiting patiently and trustingly through long, weary, anxious months of preparation ; paralyzed for a while by the terrible disasters of last summer, but then rising with a majesty and determination infinitely nobler than that of the year before ; surrendering without a murmur the most precious lives to their country's cause; giving lavishly everything the government asked, and more than it asked ; unmoved by financial troubles, undisturbed by sneers and abuse ; turning to private association and enterprise, when the government was once well armed, and supporting the most gigantic and admirable charities by individual donations, – the Sanitary Commission, the Educational Commission, the Cooper's Shop, the Soldier's Home, hundreds of hospitals and Soldiers' Aid Societies. We do not believe that history affords a more heroic spectacle than this of the American nation in these sore calamities. We are told that the age of chivalry is past. But our chivalry is loftier than that of knights and princes. Every day we read
or hear told some new example ; every battle gives a mournful lustre to some new name. The zeal with which men pressed forward for the mere honor of serving their country in her hour of need ; their uncomplaining fortitude under suffering, their unwavering resolve, their intrepidity, their cheerful promptness, — these records cannot be surpassed by the tales of any age or country. All the world honors the names of Havelock, Hodson, and Headley Vicars; but our country claims the glory of scores of names as pure and noble as these, martyrs in the cause of Christianity and civilization.
We are not disposed to criticise our government too sharply for the failures it has made in a work of such difficulty. But it has never been in earnest as the people have been in earnest, never has appreciated the determination of the people, never has led the people. Never was a government so fully, so heartily, and so liberally supported by every class, as ours has been. When the magnitude of the financial problem became manifest, and public men were appalled, and credit began to fail, the people first called for direct taxation; and it was not until the demand became clamorous that Congress ventured to take up with the idea. When the extent of our disasters in the summer became fairly known, and it was seen that we must start again and do our work over again, the people first said, “ Draft”; and it was the President's wise and timely adoption of their suggestion that first renewed confidence and gave a fresh impulse to the national cause.
Even our friends in England, — and we wish John Bright, John Stuart Mill, and our other defenders, could know the affectionate gratitude they have won from a whole nation, even the friends of our cause have generally thought it necessary to except the Trent affair from their defence. We think no event has been more creditable to our community than this. When the news came of the arrest of the two traitors, there was honest and universal rejoicing, as was natural. But the question was asked at once, whether the seizure was legal, and the expression was almost universal that, if it was not, they would of course be given up. The very evening paper in which we read the news of their arrest contained an extract from Wheaton which seemed to make it clear that they
were lawfully taken.* Then followed discussion after discussion, examining the subject from every point of view; the effect of all which was, that the community had generally settled into the sincere belief that the act was justifiable, and the surprise was great and genuine at the blustering and indecent language of the English press. Then the sentiment was universal, - We believe we are in the right; and if so, we will go to war rather than yield; but if it be proved that we are wrong, let the men be given up. We do not think our government acted altogether frankly in the matter, but we congratulate ourselves that there was no such breach of good faith and common courtesy on their part as Earl Russell was guilty of in suppressing Mr. Seward's disclaimer, and suffering the English people to lash themselves into a fury, which a word from him would have calmed down. It is as easy to say that the ready acquiescence of the American people was owing to fear, as it was to say beforehand that their vindictiveness and unreasoning passion would never consent to the prisoners being given up. But we know that the temper of the community was such at that time that they were ready even to plunge into a war with England rather than abate one jot of their fair rights. They acquiesced because they were convinced that these rights were at best doubtful; and we will not deny that there was a general feeling of relief and congratulation that the matter was peaceably settled.
These qualities we have enumerated are just opposite to those we should have been told to expect. We need not be surprised to see the sudden enthusiasm spread all over the land swift as a prairie-fire; but to see it burn with such a steady and glowing heat, - that was the wonder. Democracies are called impatient; but we waited months and months with hardly a murmur. They are called turbulent; but we showed such ready submission under lawful authority, that the old charge would not answer any longer, and we were taunted with being mean-spirited and abject. They are called unjust; but when was people ever so tender and considerate to a de
* Why persist in calling Admiral Wilkes "a pirate,” after his modest and manly letter, showing the pains he took to inform himself as to the law of the case, and his full conviction that he acted legally?
feated general, through whose failure they had suffered such cruel and grievous disappointment, as the American people towards General McDowell, after Bull Run? They are called vindictive and fierce; but what insurrection was ever treated with such magnanimity, we can almost say weak mildness, as this has been? They are called fickle ; but when was a more constant and devoted — almost fanatical — fidelity shown to a personal leader, and through more trying circumstances, than in the adherence of vast multitudes throughout the land to the fame of Generals Frémont and McClellan, — who are at this moment, in spite of the cloud under which both are resting, perhaps the two most popular men in the United States ?
We have spoken only of the American democracy, because it is this which is most traduced, and because in the United States democracy has its fullest development. We need not, however, have confined ourselves to this country. European writers may study, at their own doors, the operations of an orderly, prosperous democracy in Switzerland, — the one country of Europe where an American feels most at home. The populace of France is not supposed to be especially fitted for free institutions; but listen to the testimony of an English writer,* who lays down the general law that “the more educated classes of a nation ought to bear rule,” yet who is “ obliged to confess, with surprise and mortification, that the French prolétaire and the Emperor, his nominee, seem capable of wiser instincts and nobler sentiments than either Orleanists, or Legitimists, or Republican statesmen, — than either Guizot, Thiers, Chateaubriand, or Cavaignac.” But he need not have looked across the Channel. If any people within this generation has surpassed the American in heroism, it is the operatives of England, whom the most terrible privations have not excited to disorder nor tempted to disown the claims of conscience. Nothing is more touching than their declaration that they are willing to suffer, if through their sufferings deliverance can come to the slave.f None of these people are politically educated. But it is proved that the popular instincts, even of French peasants and English operatives, may be the safest guide in national policy. The work-people of England might not have produced a great statesman, but they would not have committed the fatal blunder, by the craftiness of diplomacy, of alienating the one nation best fitted and best disposed to be a fast friend.
* National Review for October, 1862, p. 345.
† “ That the classes of England just low enough to be excluded from direct po. litical power sympathize with the North, wherever they have enough acquaintance with facts to know that the revolted South consists of Slave States, is clear from all ostensible facts..... In the manufacturing districts, four or five attempts have been made by sympathizers with the rebellious slave power to take advantage of the sufferings of the operatives, and get from them an address to the Ministers or Parliament, which should be interpreted as proslavery; but have failed in every case known to me. 'Amendments' have been carried, not indeed in word justifying the North, but equivalent to it. For when a people which is all but starving, which is selling and pawning its household furniture to get bread, and foresees in the coming winter the direst destitution, absolutely deprecates interfering in yoar war, when clever deceivers assure it that to do so will bring them plenty and prosperity, we may be sure that they have a conviction that the rebels have a wicked cause, and bravely refuse all connection with it, come what may." - Letter from Prof. F. W. Newman, Sept., 1862.
Democracy is the latest born of all principles of human government.* No nation before our own has had more than a glimmering of its truth and majesty ; even we only half understand it, and adopt it timidly and imperfectly. Just as the modern conception of liberty, as a natural right granted by the Creator to all men, has succeeded to the narrow and selfish idea of the ancients, with whom Freedom meant the special privileges which distinguished citizen, patrician, baron, from slave, plebeian, vassal ; so American democracy discards the false notions which have had sway under its name, and would have all men worthy, and all worthy men citizens. It is surely and steadily gaining in power. Either true democracy, which means order, religion, intelligence, morality, freedom, is to bear sway, or false democracy, that is, anarchy, slavery, corruption, the tyranny of the mob. America has made her choice, and we believe she will find strength to correct those disastrous errors she has made in time past, and build up her institutions on the sure corner-stone of democracy founded on religion and education.
* " Although a democratic government is founded upon a very simple and natu. ral principle, it always presupposes the existence of a high degree of culture and enlightenment in society. At first, it might be supposed to belong to the earliest ages of the world; but maturer observation will convince us that it could only come last in the succession of human history." — De Tocqueville, Vol. I. p. 270.