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that the danger to slavery from the election of Lincoln was not immediately pressing. He neither would have done nor could have done more than to prevent during liis four years of office any new acquisition of territory in the slave-holding interest, and to impose his veto on any Bill extending slavery within the existing territory of the Union. His successor after four years might or might not have been like-minded. He did not seem to stand for any overwhelming force in American politics; there was a majority opposed to him in both Houses of Congress; a great majority of the Supreme Court, which might have an important part to play, held views of the Constitution opposed to his; he had been elected by a minority only of the whole American people. Why could not the Southern States have sat still, secure that no great harm would happen to their institution for the present, and hoping that their former ascendency would come back to them with the changing fortunes of party strife? This is an argument which might be expected to have weighed with Southern statesmen if each of them had been anxious merely to keep up the value of his own slave property for his own lifetime, but this was far from being their case. It is hard for us to put ourselves at the point of view of men who could sincerely speak of their property in negroes as theirs by the “decree of the Creator "; but it is certain that within the last two generations trouble of mind as to the rightfulness of slavery had died out in a large part of the South; the typical Southern leader valued the peculiar form of society under which he lived and wished to hand it on intact to his children's children. If their preposterous principle be granted, the most extreme among them deserve the credit of statesmanlike insight for having seen, the moment that Lincoln was elected, that they must strike for their institution now if they wished it to endure. The Convention of South Carolina justly observed that the majority in the North had voted that slavery was sinful; they had done little more than express this abstract opinion, but they had done all that. Lincoln's administration might have done
apparently little, and after it the pendulum would probably have swung back. But the much-talked-of swing of the pendulum is the most delusive of political phenomena; America was never going to return to where it was before this first explicit national assertion of the wrongfulness of slavery had been made. It would have been hard to forecast how the end would come, or how soon; but the end was certain if the Southern States had elected to remain the countrymen of a people who were coming to regard their fundamental institution with growing reprobation. Lincoln had said, “This government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free." Lincoln was right, and so from their own point of view, that of men not brave or wise enough to take in hand a difficult social reform, were the leaders who declared immediately for secession.
In no other contest of history are those elements in human affairs on which tragic dramatists are prone to dwell so clearly marked as in the American Civil War. No unsophisticated person now, except in ignorance as to the cause of the war, can hesitate as to which side enlists his sympathy, or can regard the victory of the North otherwise than as the costly and imperfect triumph of the right. But the wrong side-emphatically wrong -is not lacking in dignity or human worth; the longdrawn agony of the struggle is not purely horrible to contemplate; there is nothing that in this case makes us reluctant to acknowledge the merits of the men who took arms in the evil cause. The experience as to the relations between superior and inferior races, which is now at the command of every intelligent Englishman, forbids us to think that the inferiority of the negro justified slavery, but it also forbids us to fancy that men to whom the relation of owner to slave had become natural must themselves have been altogether degraded. The men upon the Southern side who can claim any special admiration were simple soldiers who had no share in causing the war; among the political leaders whom they served, there was none who stands out now as a very
interesting personality, and their chosen chief is an unattractive figure; but we are not to think of these authors of the war as a gang of hardened, unscrupulous, corrupted men. As a class they were reputable, publicspirited, and religious men; they served their cause with devotion and were not wholly to blame that they chose it so ill. The responsibility for the actual secession does not rest in an especial degree on any individual leader. Secession began rather with the spontaneous movement of the whole community of South Carolina, and in the States which followed leading politicians expressed rather than inspired the general will. The guilt which any of us can venture to attribute for this action of a whole deluded society must rest on men like Calhoun, who in a previous generation, while opinion in the South was still to some extent unformed, stifled all thought of reform and gave the semblance of moral and intellectual justification to a system only susceptible of a historical excuse.
The South was neither base nor senseless, but it was wrong. To some minds it may not seem to follow that it was well to resist it by war, and indeed at the time, as often happens, people took up arms with greater searchings of heart upon the right side than upon the wrong. If the slave States had been suffered to depart in peace they would have set up a new and peculiar political society, more truly held together than the original Union by a single avowed principle; a nation dedicated to the inequality of men. It is not really possible to think of the free national life which they could thus have initiated as a thing to be respected and preserved. Nor is it true that their choice for themselves of this dingy freedom was no concern of their neighbours. We have seen how the slave interest hankered for enlarged dominion; and it is certain that the Southern Confederacy, once firmly established, would have been an aggressive and disturb. ing power upon the continent of America. The questions of territorial and other rights between it and the old Union might have been capable of satisfactory settlement for the moment, or they might have proved as
insoluble as Lincoln thought they were. But, at the best, if the States which adhered to the old Union had admitted the claim of the first seceding States to go, they could only have retained for themselves an insecure existence as a nation, threatened at each fresh conflict of interest or sentiment with a further disruption which could not upon any principle have been resisted. The preceding chapters have dwelt with iteration upon the sentiments which had operated to make Americans a people, and on the form and the degree in which those sentiments animated the mind of Lincoln. Only so perhaps can we fully appreciate for what the people of the North fought. It is inaccurate, though not gravely misleading, to say that they fought against slavery. It would be wholly false to say that they fought for mere dominion. They fought to preserve and complete a political unity nobly conceived by those who had done most to create it, and capable, as the sequel showed, of a permanent and a healthy continuance.
And it must never be forgotten, if we wish to enter into the spirit which sustained the North in its struggle, that loyalty for Union had a larger aspect than that of mere allegiance to a particular authority. Vividly present to the mind of some few, vaguely but honestly present to the mind of a great multitude, was the sense that even had slavery not entered into the question a larger cause than that of their recent Union was bound up with the issues of the war. The Government of the United States had been the first and most famous attempt in a great modern country to secure government by the will of the mass of the people. If in this crucial instance such a Government were seen to be intolerably weak, if it was found to be at the mercy of the first powerful minority which seized a worked-up occasion to rebel, what they had learnt to think the most hopeful agency for the uplifting of man everywhere would for ages to come have proved a failure. This feeling could not be stronger in any American than it was in Lincoln himself. “It has long been a question," he said, “whether any Government
which is not too strong for the liberties of the people can be strong enough to maintain itself." There is one marked feature of his patriotism, which could be illus. trated by abundance of phrases from his speeches and letters, and which the people of several countries of Europe can appreciate to-day. His affection for his own country and its institutions is curiously dependent upon a wider cause of human good, and is not a whit the less intense for that. There is perhaps no better expression of this widespread feeling in the North than the un. prepared speech which he delivered on his way to become President, in the Hall of Independence at Philadelphia, in which the Declaration of Independence had been signed. “I have never," he said, “had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that independence. I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept the Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of separation of the colonies from the motherland, it was the sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but I hope to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men."
2. The Progress of Secession. So much for the broad causes without which there could have been no Civil War in America. We have now to sketch the process by which the fuel was kindled. It will be remembered that the President elected in November does not enter upon his office for nearly four months. For that time, therefore, the conduct of government lay in the hands of President Buchanan, who, for all