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bling others, but with this characteristic feature, that Chap. II. the mass of powers which in most countries is gathered into one hand or set of hands is there divided in unequal shares between a general Government, composed of a Legislature and an Executive, and many local and State governments respectively organized on the same model. Each of these authorities, the general and the local, has within its own sphere power to make and execute laws, in the exercise of which it is perfectly independent of the other.1 The apportionment limits the power of each, and therefore gives absolute sovereignty to neither. According to the Constitution, Congress could no more abolish slavery in Alabama whilst slavery existed there, or prohibit polygamy in any State which might think fit to allow polygamy, than it could establish slavery or polygamy in Massachusetts. Congress, therefore, is not sovereign or supreme in the precise sense of those words, and for the same reason those by whom Congress is elected are not sovereign or supreme. But behind both general and local authorities there is a power, intricate in respect of its machinery, and extremely difficult to set in motion, requiring the concurrence of three-fourths of the States acting by their Legislatures or in Conventions, which can amend the Constitution itself. This power is unlimited, or very nearly so. It could abolish slavery everywhere or establish it everywhere, and we have lately seen examples of its exercise. A proposed Amendment to the Constitution,
1 The language of the Supreme Court in Ableman v. Booth (Howard's R., xxi, 506) is accurate, if the word sovereignty be not taken in its strict sense-"The powers of the general Government and of the State, although both exist and are exercised within the same territorial limits, are yet separate and distinct sovereignties, acting separately and independently of each other within their respective spheres. And the sphere of action appropriated to the United States is as far beyond the reach of the judicial process issued by a State Judge or a State Court as if the line of division was traced by landmarks and monuments visible to
recommended by Congress early in 1861 but never ratified, purported to provide that no future amendment should authorize Congress to abolish slavery in any State. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery.
What are the effects of this peculiar limitation and distribution of powers? They have kept alive, as I observed in the preceding chapter, the spirit of local independence in the States, and local allegiance in the people of the States; they appear to have clouded and confused, more or less, the sense of allegiance to the sovereignty of the nation.1 By restricting also the powers of the general Government, they restrict the number of cases in which resistance to the general Government is unlawful. So far as regards the question we are now concerned with, they seem to have no other effects than these.
I have endeavoured to state, accurately and fairly, the
1 An American of the North will hardly acknowledge this, because he is hardly sensible of it; but it was clearly so in the South. The difference is well expressed in the following extract quoted by Mr. Greeley (American Conflict, p. 427) from a Charleston letter in the New York Herald of 9th November, 1860:
"It must be understood that there is a radical difference in the patriotism of a Northerner and a Southerner. The Northerner invariably considers himself as a citizen of the Union; he regards the Federal army and navy as his country's army and navy, and looks upon the Government at Washington as a great consolidated organization, of which he forms an integral part, and to which whatever love of country he may possess is directed. Beyond paying the State taxes, voting for State officers, and seeking redress primarily in the State Courts, he has very little idea of any special fealty being due to his own particular State.
"The Southerner, on the other hand, generally (and the South Carolinian always) repudiates this theory of consolidation. He feels that he owes allegiance to his own State, and to her alone; he is jealous of her rights and honour, and will never admit that any step taken in obedience to her mandate can involve the idea of treason. The Federal Government is, in his eyes, but the embodiment of certain powers delegated by the States from motives of policy. Let those motives be once removed or counterbalanced, and he holds that the State has no longer any reason for maintaining a connection which it was her right, at any time, to have dissolved."
only reasons which were ever alleged for secession. We Chap. II. are accustomed to associate in our minds the idea of revolt with that of grinding and intolerable oppression, or at the least of the privation of some rights, substantial in themselves, or dear to those who have been accustomed to enjoy them. But the people of the Southern States had suffered no oppression. They had been deprived of no rights. The internal government✔ of these States had been perfectly free. In the direction of the general Government, in the nomination of the Executive, in the making and administration of the laws, they had enjoyed a more than ample share. Their industry was prosperous, and, though unthrifty and precarious, yielded large returns. On the very question upon which the chief stress had been laid, no legislation, no action, either of Congress or of the Executive, could possibly take place, which would materially alter their condition or affect their interests. If any danger threatened the species of property which was so valuable to them, it was still remote and obscure. To the Republicans themselves the abolition of slavery had not become a definite aim; it could be reached only with the consent of the slaveholders, or by a subversion of the Constitution, and it was surrounded besides by difficulties of various kinds which appeared insurmountable. Those who avowed that they wished for it, with the exception of a small handful of zealous agitators, looked forward to the accomplishment of their wish by indirect and gradual methods, without disturbance of the rights of property, and at an indefinite distance of time. And the Republicans, though the dissensions of their adversaries had enabled them to carry their candidate, were a minority in the House of Representatives, a minority in the Senate, a minority in the Union. The next election would probably have sent a Democratic President to the White House. I see no reason to doubt that, if the South had accepted Lincoln as it accepted
Chap. II. Harrison and Taylor, slavery would at this moment have been as firmly established, and slave-industry at least as profitable, as they were ten years ago.
The orators and agitators of the South, however, reasoned otherwise. They insisted that the election of a President by a "sectional" vote-that is, by the votes of a majority composed of persons living north of a given geographical line-was an injury and a defiance to those who lived south of it; and they prophesied that the rights and institutions of the Southern States would soon be at the mercy of this majority. But the more ardent and plain-spoken among them frankly avowed that Mr. Lincoln's election was, in their eyes, only a favourable opportunity for the execution of a longcherished design. The interests of North and South, they affirmed, had become palpably divergent, and it was for the advantage of the South to cut herself adrift and form an independent Confederacy of her own. Independent, she would be safer, stronger, richer, than in union-richer when she had no longer to share the profits of her industry with Northern merchants and manufacturers, safer and more powerful when her institutions and her policy should be under her own exclusive control.
That arguments so frail and calculations so unstable as these should have been thought to warrant so tremendous a conclusion, may well appear unaccountable. But behind them lay the true moving causes-an increasing sense of insecurity, a profound estrangement of feeling, a temperament suspicious of insult and quick to take fire, and the irritation engendered by a long and obstinate struggle. No election could be more strictly constitutional than Mr. Lincoln's, or more irreproachably fair. But it had in reality pitted against each other not parties merely but portions of the Union, animated by conflicting interests and passions, and had brought them into the sharpest antagonism. This was the conjuncture
of circumstances which Jefferson had foreboded forty Chap. II. years before, consoling himself with the thought that he should not live to see his fears realized. The mastery. fell into the hands of the more eager and restless spirits —a mastery hard to resist in a country where popular feeling runs with so strong a current as in the United States. Prudent and cautious men yielded to the stream, or were swept away by it; and the mass of the people prepared, with a sanguine audacity which afterwards rose into obstinate courage, to defy the terrible risk of a civil war.2
1 "Although I had laid down as a law to myself, never to write, talk, or even think of politics, to know nothing of public affairs, and therefore had ceased to read newspapers, yet this Missouri question aroused and filled me with alarm. The old schism of Federal and Republican threatened nothing, because it existed in every State, and united them together by the fraternism of party. But the coincidence of a marked principle, moral and political, with a geographical line, once conceived, I feared would never more be obliterated from the mind; that it would be recurring on every occasion, and renewing irritations until it would kindle such mutual and mortal hatred as to render separation preferable to eternal discord. I have ever been amongst the sanguine in believing that our Union would be of long duration. I now doubt it much, and see the event at no great distance, and the direct consequence of this question, not by the line which has been so confidently counted on,—the laws of nature control this,—but by the Potomac, Ohio, and Missouri, or more probably the Mississippi upwards to our northern boundary. My only comfort and confidence is that I shall not live to see this."Memoirs and Correspondence, vol. iv, p. 331.
2 The Albany Evening Journal, a Republican paper, on the 30th of November, 1860, after speaking of the effect which Mr. Calhoun's influence had produced in South Carolina, described the feeling of the South in the following terms:
"The contagion extended to other Southern States; and, by diligence, activity, discipline, and organization, the whole people of the Gulf States have come to sympathize with their leaders. The masses are, in their readiness for civil war, in advance of their leaders. They have been educated to believe us their enemies. This has been effected by systematic misrepresentations of the sentiments and feelings of the North. The result of all this is, that, while the Southern people, with a unanimity not generally understood, are impatient for disunion, more than one half of them are acting in utter ignorance of the intentions, views, and feelings of the North. Nor will the leaders permit them to be disabused.