Page images

full enjoyment of their rights and sovereignty as they existed before the war broke out. But I know of no rule of constitutional law or of martial law by which the two objects can be accomplished, so as to render the body of the September emancipation proclamation at all consistent with its preamble. *

* This chapter was written before the promulgation of the President's message and the accompanying proclamation, dated December 8, 1863. I will consider hereafter in detail the President's plan of reconstruction, and its practical effects. It suffices to say, in this place, that the documents referred to contain a substantial confession of the impossibility of fulfilling the guaranty of permanent freedom to the slaves, contained in the emancipation proclamation, without revolutionizing the States by military power. For the President's proposition amounts simply to this, that one-tenth of those who would be voters under the existing State constitutions, shall form a State government with a new constitution, “ which shall recognize and declare their (the slaves) permanent freedom,” and that the United States Government will sustain the government so formed as the lawful government of the State. What is this but revolution ? Even if the coöperation of a majority of the voters was required, it would be revolution, though of course of a much less reprehensible character. But there is no substantial difference between the plan actually proposed, and one which should dispense altogether with the coöperation of any part of the citizens, except those who would fill the new offices. For there is no more consonance to the theory of republican government (the Constitution being entirely laid out of view) in allowing onetenth to erect a government over the other nine-tenths, than there would be to confer the same privilege upon one hundredth, one-thousandth, or even a smaller fraction.

I have intended to comment upon this inconsistency temperately and with the respect due to the Presi dent and his office, and thus to fulfil the pledge of moderation which I gave at the commencement of this work. But I will state a case, which is exactly parallel to the one before us, and which will give rise to no suspicion of bias, either for or against the person who represents the President, and let the reader decide it for himself. I will suppose that Great Britain had commenced a war with us to settle an international dispute—say respecting the construction of the extradition treaty-and, suspicions having been excited that she meditated to effect, by means of the war, a permanent conquest of a portion of the southern States or a forcible abolition of slavery, that she had solemnly pledged herself through her parliament, and by diplomatic communications to foreign courts, that the war was prosecuted for no other object than to obtain the delivery of the refugees, whose case had occasioned the dispute, and that it should cease when that object was effected. I will further

suppose that she had invaded the southern States; that her armies held a portion of those States; and that the queen should issue a proclamation, declaring that the war would continue to be prosecuted, as it had been for the sole object of procuring the surrender of the refugees; and that as a military measure, and as an act of justice, upon which she

invoked the considerate judgment of mankind and the favor of Almighty God, she declared -all slaves in the United States, whether within or without her military lines, " thenceforth and forever free," and would maintain their freedom with all the military and naval force of the British crown.

I turn the English government, in this supposititious case, over to my reader for judgment. Let him pronounce sentence, and then mete out the same measure of justice to his own.


How the Southern People were induced to Favor the Rebellion

Relations of the Slaveholders and of the Institution of Slavery to the Masses of the People—Theories of the Constitution and of Public Policy which were prevalent in the South—The Manner in which the Southern Union Party was Extinguished-Action of the Border Slave States.

I PROPOȘE to examine in this chapter, how much foundation there was for the opinion, which was so generally entertained at the North, that the southern people were forced against their own will into an attitude of rebellion, by the violence and usurpation of their leaders; to what extent a Union sentiment existed among them at the outbreak of the war; and in what manner it was stifled or extinguished in the course of the events which succeeded the commencement of hostilities. The object of my work cannot be accomplished without making this investigation, for it is impossible to form any reliable opinion concerning the effect of the policy which has been pursued, or to determine with any accuracy the probable effects of any policy which we may contemplate pursuing, without attaining, approximately at least, a correct understanding of

these subjects. Many extravagant theories to account for the unanimity of the southern people in carrying on the war have been broached, and have found ready credence at the North. It is not difficult, I think, to ascertain the truth, if we will discard passion and prejudice from our minds, and conduct our investigations by the light of our reason, our common sense, and our experience of the operations of human nature, aided by our knowledge of the political and social institutions of the South, and the theories of government, political economy, and constitutional law, which were prevalent among the southern people when the war broke out.

I shall say nothing concerning the leading southern statesmen—those I mean with whose names we at the North have been made familiar, as conspirators of more or less recent standing, against the integrity of the Union, because it would be impossible for me to do full justice to tlie subject without entering upon a discussion, the reasons for declining which I have stated in the Introduction. And it is not necessary for the elucidation of the subject, within the limits to which I have confined it, to comment upon their actions or their motives : for my concern is with the great body of the southern people, who were honest and patriotic in intention, and actuated by feelings, passions, and interests, very similar to those which actuate corresponding classes of our own people. Nor are they upon the whole less

« PreviousContinue »