« PreviousContinue »
It has been my purpose, in the preparation of this volume, to present at one view a history of the Republican party, a defense of its policy and the reasons which justify its continuance in power. I have not dwelt upon its errors and mistakes; it has committed errors, it has made mistakes, but those errors and mistakes have not interfered with its general policy nor affected in any sensible degree the good fortune of the country.
It accepted power when the industries of the country were insignificant in volume, limited in variety, and paralyzed by the constant and vigorous warfare upon every measure designed to foster labor or to add to the security of capital employed in manufactures and trade. The country was enslaved to the idea that agriculture might prosper while manufactures were neglected.
It accepted power when the country was on the eve of a gigantic war and when all the conditions and circumstances were unfavorable to its successful prosecution.
It has administered the government during a fourth part of its constitutional existence.
In that period the resources of the country have been so developed, its industries so multiplied and magnified that the era is marked as one of unexampled prosperity. In that period a new generation of men has come upon the stage, who cannot, out of their own experience, institute either contrasts or comparisons between the near and the more remote past.
I have sought to address myself to that class in the hope that I may enable them to see, as in one view, the beneficial changes that have been wrought by the Republican party in constitutional law, in public policy, in the educational and industrial condition of the people, and above all in the sentiment of nationality, which is better security for the preservation of the Union than can be had in statutes and constitutions.
GEO. S. BOUTWELL.
THE PROVISIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION IN RELATION TO SLAVERY AND THEIR FORCE IN THE POLITICS OF THE COUNTRY.
HERE were three provisions of the original Constitution of
conflict with the opinions and principles of the founders of the States of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.
The framers of the Constitution recognized the existence of the conflict, but they made no provision for its adjustment. As the formation of a more perfect Union was then a political necessity, there was, indeed, no possibility of an adjustment of the conflict between the system of slavery and the principles of human equality. In the presence of that necessity the advocates of Slavery achieved a decisive victory. It is not now important to trace the steps by which the victory was won, nor to know the names of members of the Convention who made motions or gave votes. It was then a higher duty to create a nation than to stigmatize or to shun an evil. But the victory was temporary, and in less than three-fourths of a century those provisions of the Constitution, which were designed to protect the system of Slavery, became the efficient if not the sole cause of its destruction.
By the Constitution the foreign slave trade was tolerated for twenty years, and thus the slave population was greatly augmented, the system was extended to new territories, and the number of persons interested, pecuniarily, in Slavery was largely increased.
By another provision of the Constitution the slave population was divided into classes of fives, and each class was counted as three free persons in the representation of the several States in the House of Representatives and in the Electoral Colleges for the choice of President and Vice-President of the United States. Thus it came to pass that by the importation of savage negroes from Africa, the South added to its political power in the government of the country,
and thus for seventy years was the increase in the number of ignorant and non-voting slaves set off against the votes of the educated, active, self-reliant, and enterprising freemen of the North.
As if it were a purpose to keep these impolitic and unjust provisions of the Constitution before the eyes of the people of the Free States, the duty of returning fugitives from service to their masters was imposed upon the National Government. In the performance of that duty Congress denied to the alleged fugitive the right of trial by jury, and confided to subordinate officers of the courts the authority to decide irrevocably the fate of every person arraigned as a fugitive from slavery.
The amalgamation of the races was one of the fruits of slavery, and as the child followed the condition of the mother, the system came to include, finally, many persons who had only a strain of African blood in their veins. And thus the surrender of persons apparently white was developed as an incident of the system.
From 1790 to 1860 the population of the North increased immensely. Following the lines of latitude it took possession of the Mississippi Valley north of the Ohio and the Missouri.
The love of liberty and a hatred of slavery were taught in all the schools and preached in all the churches, but with equal, if not with greater zeal the doctrine of obedience to the Constitution was taught also. Thus was the public sentiment of the North so wrought that it would concede to slavery whatever was stipulated in the Constitution; but it was ready, as well, to deny every fresh demand.
Under a system of intelligent, free labor, the tendency is to produce as much as is possible, and to consume only what is necessary. Hence wealth. Under the system of slavery the tendency is to produce as little as possible, and to consume whatever can be procured. This of the slaves, and hence poverty. The owners lived in idleness and indulged in prodigal ways. At the end the North was rich, relatively, and the South was poor. Slavery had exhausted the land, and the slave-owners had been impoverished by the habits born of the system. The slave-owners needed new lands for personal subsistence, and they needed new States for political power.
If the North had been indifferent to the system of slavery in a moral view of the subject, it would have resisted its appropriation of new territory, and upon the ground that it would not permit the constitutional system of political inequality to be extended and strengthened.