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Union” had been the talismanic word, that part which cared for nothing better than the Union as it was, with slavery and freedom mixed, supported Buchanan or Fillmore. The part that loved the Union as a means to justice and freedom were for Fremont.
The October elections in Pennsylvania and Indiana showed that the first Presidential battle was. lost. November confirmed that verdict. New England, New York, Ohio, Illinois, and the Northwest, had been outweighed by the South and its allies, and Buchanan was the next President. But never was defeat met with better courage or higher hopes for the next encounter. Some unknown poet gave the battle-song:
Beneath thy skies, November,
Thy skies of cloud and rain,
We close our ranks again.
Call the battle roll anew!
What may not four years do?
THREE TYPICAL SOUTHERNERS
In the group of leaders of public sentiment in the '30s and '40s, as sketched in Chapter V, some of the foremostClay, Webster, and Birney-were influential in both sections of the country. But in the next decade the division is clear between the leaders of the South and of the North. Let us glance at two separate groups.
Jefferson Davis was in many ways a typical Southerner. He was a sincere, able, and high-minded man. The guiding aim of his public life was to serve the community as he understood its interests. Personal ambition seemingly influenced him no more than is to be expected in any strong man; and, whatever his faults of judgment or temper, it does not appear that he ever knowingly sacrificed the public good to his own profit or aggrandizement. But he was devoted to a social system and a political theory which bound his final allegiance to his State and his section. After a cadetship at West Point and a brief term of military seryice, he lived for eight years, 1837-45, on a Mississippi plantation, in joint ownership and control with an older brother. In these early years, and in the seclusion of a plantation, his theories crystallized and his mental habits grew. The circumstances of such life fostered in Southern politicians the tendency to logical and symmetrical theories, to which they tenaciously held, unmodified by the regard for experience which is bred from free and various contact with the large world of affairs. Davis fully accepted the theory of State sovereignty which won general favor in the
South. In this view the States were independent powers, which had formed with each other by the Constitution a compact, a business arrangement, a kind of limited partnership. If the compact was broken in any of its articles, or if its working proved at any time to be unsatisfactory and injurious, the partners could withdraw at will. This theory found more or less support among the various utterances and practices of the framers of the Constitution and founders of the government. In truth, they had as a body no consistent and exact theory of the Federal bond. Later circumstances led their descendants to incline to a stronger or a looser tie, according to their different interests and sentiments. The institution of slavery so strongly differentiated the Southern communities from their Northern neighbors, that they naturally magnified their local rights and favored the view which justified them in the last resort in renouncing the authority of the Union if it should come to be exercised against their industrial system. State sovereignty was the creed, and the slavery interest was the motive.
To a man living like Davis on his own plantation, the relation of master and slave seemed a fundamental condition of the social order. Not only his livelihood rested on it, but through this relation his practical faculties found their field; his conscience was exercised in the right management and care of his slaves; there was a true sentiment of protection on his side and loyalty on theirs. His neighbors and friends were situated like himself. The incidental michiefs of the system, the abuses by bad masters, the ignorance and low morality of the slaves,—these things they regarded, let us say, as an upright and benevolent manufacturer to-day regards the miseries of sweatshops and the sufferings of unemployed labor. Such things were bad, very bad, but they were the accidents and not the essen
tials of the industrial system. They resented the strictures of their critics; they were apprehensive of the growing hostility in the North to their institutions; if the national partnership was to last they must have their rights under it; and one of those rights was an equal share in the national domain.
Davis entered into active politics when he was elected to Congress in 1844. Repudiation was then in favor in Mississippi, and he opposed and denounced it. He supported the Mexican War in the most practical way, by taking command of a volunteer regiment from Mississippi. He served with distinguished gallantry, and was severely wounded at Buena Vista. After the war he entered the United States Senate. He supported the compromise of 1850, regarding it as substantially a continuance of the truce between the sections, and not now sympathizing with those who threatened disunion. Later, President Pierce made him Secretary of War; in the Cabinet he was the leading spirit; and this, with a weak President, meant large power and responsibility. He showed the extent of his partisanship by supporting with the full power of the administration the Territorial government imposed on Kansas by a palpably fraudulent vote.
In 1856 he returned to the Senate, and came to be recognized as the foremost champion of the Southern interest. He was not a leader in any such sense as Jefferson or Clay or Calhoun; but he was a representative man, thoroughly trusted by his associates, their most effective spokesman, and going by conviction in the midstream of the dominant tendency. He had that degree of ambition which is natural and normal in a strong man. He was an effective and elegant orator. When secession came he was not its originator, but one of a set of men—on the whole the most considerate and influential men of the Gulf and
cotton States—who took the responsibility of leading their section into revolution, in the interest of slavery.
In this typical Southern leader, as in his class, were blended the elements of a disposition and will that would halt before no barrier to its claim of mastery. A slaveholder, accustomed to supremacy over his fellowmen as their natural superior; a planter, habituated to the practical exercise of such supremacy over hundreds of dependents; a member of an aristocracy, the political masters of their section, and long the dominant force in the nation; a theorist, wedded to the dogma of State sovereignty, and convinced of the superiority of Southern civilization; the self-confident and self-asserting temper bred by such conditions—here was a union of forces that would push its cause against all opposition, at the cost if need be of disunion, of war, of all obstacles and all perils.
By a natural exaggeration, at a later time the President of the Confederacy was regarded at the North as the very embodiment of its cause. To the unmeasured hostility on this account was added the opprobrium of deeds in which he had no part. He was charged for a time with complicity in the murder of Lincoln. He was branded with responsibility for the miseries in Andersonville and the other prison-pens in the war,—but without a particle of evidence. Admiration was yielded by the North to Stonewall Jackson even in his life-time; there was early recognition of Lee's magnanimous acceptance of defeat; but the bitterest odium was long visited upon Davis. It was heightened by the tenacity with which his intense nature clung to the lost cause
as a sentiment, after the reality was hopelessly buried. The South itself gave its highest favor to Lee, its most effective defender, and a man of singularly impressive character; while Davis's mistakes of administration, and his reserved and over-sensitive temper chilled a little