Imágenes de páginas

till the passing of such laws as he contemplated. He spoke, however, only of an effort to pass them.

I write now "The Crisis." By and by-and I hope soon-somebody else will write "The Past Crisis;" and thus I connect the present with the past and the future.

By the beginning of the last century, under the reign of Queen Anne, when the struggle between Whig and Tory was most fiercely raging in England, Richard Steele, esquire, wrote a pamphlet styled also "The Crisis;" and Dr. Swift wrote another to make fun of it. I apprehend nothing of this. As I am not Steel, but only Iron, so it is not a Swift that might answer me, but only a Slow.

To secede from the Union, the slaveholding States invoked the Constitution. To prevent them from seceding, or compel them to re-enter the Union, the Free States invoke the Constitution.

Is it possible this Instrument contains the Yes and the No for the same thing? and such a thing! If it does, I hesitate not to affirm, the Constitution of the United States of America is good for nothing but mischief, and that would make it bad enough. If it does not-and surely it does not —then the fault or mistake must be found in its interpreters on the one or the other side. Now, which of the two is wrong? It is not possible they should be both right; although they might be both wrong. In many a contest, and especially in war, the two parties do fight unjustly, though not from the same causes. In the present instance, however, the wrong may indeed be common to both sides in regard to some contingencies, or incidental branches of the controversy; but with regard to its substance and the main thing, I believe one of them to be right-the other wrong, of course.

Let us state the terms of the case as they were in March, 1861, when several of the Southern States had already seceded; when the contending parties not yet had come to blows, but stood face to face with drawn swords in their hands, waiting only for the fatal sign to thrust them into

each other's body. The fatal sign we feared, has been given indeed, and not once only, but numerous, almost numberless times, and never in vain. For the present purpose, however, we must forget, if possible, all that has happened since that time, and think, not of the consequences, sad though they are, but of the principle whence they proceeded. We must begin with the beginning, if we wish to institute a reasonable inquiry into the matter, and judge of it with the conviction that our judgment rests upon solid ground.

The North wants to abolish Slavery; the South wants to keep it. Yet this is not the immediate cause of the present quarrel.

By words and facts, accompanied with circumstances of the most aggravating character, the North has for a long time constantly irritated the South to the very last extremity, and finally has brought her to that point which is past endurance. If the expression were proper, one might say she has driven her to madness. But in her career against the South she seemed to pause, and even move some steps backwards.

Confining her opposition within some bounds, she professed not to seek the abolition of Slavery any longer, but only to prevent its extension. She allowed it to remain as it was, where it was, in the old States, but contended it must go no farther: namely, it must not be introduced in the territories belonging to the Confederation which are as yet uninhabited, but whose several portions might, and probably would, have settlers, be formed into distinct communities, and in time be duly admitted as States into the Union. To these States in embryo, or expectation, she does now restrict her exclusion of Slavery, and says she has the right to exclude it thence by the Constitution.

True it is the Emancipation lately proclaimed by the President, although it is conditional and under certain limitations, might give one reason to suspect that, by moving some steps backwards, the North meant only to get a start

to spring ahead on a sudden, and reach at a greater distance forwards. But, first, that measure is perhaps disapproved by the bulk of the Republican party herself; in which case it would not represent her intentions; for it may have been forced, so to speak, upon the President by some few in that party, who are far from having the concurrence of the rest.

I may even suppose he has issued that proclamation in order to content those few, and thus get rid of their importunities; well knowing, however, in his own good sense, that it would have no effect, as is fairly presumed it will have none. Things of that sort are occasionally done by governments. Though announced with the greatest solemnity, and having all appearance of earnest, they are from the beginning intended to remain a dead letter nevertheless.

Neither is it impossible that measure has been suggested, as it were, by despair. Seeing that, after eighteen months' hard fighting, with such an immense loss of life and money, affairs presented no better-perhaps a worse-aspect than they did before, the President may have proclaimed that conditional emancipation as an extreme remedy, hoping by this means the Southern States might possibly come to

some terms.

I presume not to inquire into the merit, legality, or policy of such a measure. This emancipation, however, may be looked upon as a sort of confiscation, although the value of the confiscated property should not, as in ordinary cases, go into the government's coffers; which is owing to its destination as well as to the quality of the property affected. Had this been of a common kind, the President saw the confiscation would have been proclaimed to no purpose. The Southern States would have given our government the same answer which Proxenes, one of the generals in the army of the ten thousand Greeks, gave to Phalynus, when, after the battle of Cunaxa, in which Cyrus the Younger was slain, he brought them from King Artaxerxes the order to deliver up their arms: "Come and take them."

As the affected property, however, is of an extraordinary kind,—one that has understanding, and will, and legs, and therefore is able to run away by itself, if it chooses, or even turn against its owner, the President may have imagined that the people of the Southern States, rather than run the risk of such a loss, or worse, would prefer to desist from fighting. But perhaps there is no risk to run, as that property may have better reasons quietly to remain where it is, than attempt to avail itself of the great privilege tendered by the proclamation.

But laying these and other considerations, or conjectures aside, it appears that this emancipation,-it being of so recent a date, and a consequence of the war (for, otherwise, it should have been proclaimed soon after the secession had taken place),—cannot change the position which the Republican party occupied two years ago towards the South. And whether we regard her intentions, as expressed by other her representatives, or by Mr. Lincoln himself, every good rule obliges us to believe what they said in the beginning of 1861, and not what they may have said at the end of 1862, or any time afterwards.

This emancipation measure is apparently one of the effects of the war; the war is said to have been the effect of secession; and secession has certainly been the effect of something else. This something must needs be found in the position held by the North towards the South at the time when the secession took place. And as that is the real cause which has produced all these effects, so it is that we must try to ascertain, without regarding either the consequences of the war or the war itself.

During these twenty months last past, many and great battles have indeed been 'fought, with various success on either side; although, whichever party wins upon the field, the country is equally the loser,-she mourns her dead. And this fighting, besides the long train of its other evils, has also furnished new occasions, or pretexts, for reciprocal attempts and injuries calculated to make the already wide

estrangement of the parties still wider, and entangle matters so as to render any peaceable adjustment between them more difficult, if not wholly desperate.

Yet neither the fighting, nor the lamentable occurrences and incalculable losses of all sorts which it has occasioned, nor the mutually increased resentments consequent thereupon, have in the least altered the terms of the case. Most heavy, indeed, those evils are, and the largest portion of them is irreparable; but the point in controversy, the direct cause of the contest, does still remain at present in just the same condition in which it was when the South seceded.

Let, then, the contending parties willingly take, each on herself, that share of those evils which is commensurate to her own mistakes or faults; and, replacing themselves in the position they held towards one another in March, 1861, view now the cause of their quarrel in that same light in which they should have viewed it then.

This is what I shall endeavor to do in the following pages, wherein I regard the position of the parties as they respectively stood when Mr. Lincoln entered into office, and consider the cause of their dispute on principle, referring to the Constitution both the facts and the consequences that naturally flow from them. If in anything I am mistaken, which is very possible, I am also ready to acknowledge and confess my error as soon as it is shown to me that it is an


However, since the original point in question still remains unchanged, one should hope that, if in these pages there happens to be any useful thought or hint, it may even now be fitly submitted to the Public, and be, perhaps, as much available to-day as it might have been before the fighting began.

Cannot the parties stop fighting for a while to look their own work in the face without shrinking, and then act according to what their own interest shall at that sight counsel them? This seems both just and very possible for them to do, although it is rather hard, I confess, to look cool

« AnteriorContinuar »