Page images
PDF
EPUB

which I am compelled to ignore, except to a limited extent, for another reason-it is, what was the real couse of the war? By which I mean, not the ostensible subject of the quarrel, for that was the institution of slavery; nor the direct and immediate causes which made that institution the subject of a quarrel, for these may in general terms be stated to have been dislike and suspicion of the people of each section among the people of the other; but the means by which those feelings were aroused and the causes which led to them. If we could accurately ascertain the cause of the war, in that sense, we should have made considerable progress in discovering a remedy for our difficulties, and a basis of lasting pacification. I shall make the attempt to show how, when disunion was once determined upon by the leading politicians of the South, the masses of that section were induced to favor.it. But beyond that point the ground is too dangerous to tread upon, with the hope of producing any satisfactory results in a work of this character, till the excitement of the present shall have passed away. Among those who sincerely deplore the commencement of the war, and long for its termination, in such a manner as to secure future harmony and mutual good-will among all sections of the country there is the widest difference of opinion as to the degree of responsibility for its existence which attaches to particular men and particular factions.

The events are too recent, the actors in them are too closely connected with us in our every-day avocations, and the feelings which they have aroused are yet too keen, to permit of their being considered with the calmness with which I hope to be able to treat the subjects which I propose to discuss. All moderate men will concede that in both of the leading parties, at least in the North, there has been a sincere and unqualified attachment to the Union on ' the part of a vast majority; and that what has been done to destroy it, has been the result chiefly of passion, prejudice, ignorance, error, and timidity, and partly, but to a much less extent, of venality and unscrupulous ambition on the part of the leaders of public opinion, and the incumbents of public office. In what proportion these faults and errors are to be ascribed to particular factions or particular men, I shall not undertake to determine.

To that extent “ forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth to those things which are before," and asking my reader's forbearance and indulgence, if, as is probable in the present diversity of opinion respecting every measure of public policy, I shall fail to command his approbation in every particular, I invite moderate and thinking men to consider with me the all-absorbing FUTURE, and the mighty events which lie hidden beneath its veil.

CHAPTER I

State Sovereignty-Mr. Sumner's Attack upon it in “Our Domestic

Relations”—The Articles of Confederation-State Sovereignty under the Confederation—Origin and Theory of the Constitution —The Powers which it grants to Congress and denies to the States, compared with those granted and denied by the Articles of ConfederationThe Federalist on the changes made by the Constitution and on State Sovereignty—The question of Supremacy considered— Recognition of State Sovereignty in the Constitution-Constitutional and Legislative Provisions of New York and Massachusetts on that Subject-Its recognition in the proceedings of the two States and of Congress, relative to the Cession of Boston Corner to New York-Mr. Sumner's Opinion in 1855.

The doctrine of State sovereignty enters so largely into the discussion of all questions connected with the commencement or the termination of the war, that it is essential in a work of this kind, to have a clear understanding at the outset respecting its soundness and the results to which it leads. Had these pages been written a few months earlier, I should have assumed that the sovereignty of the States was so generally admitted by the public nien of the North, as well as of the South, that I could proceed at. once, without occupying the reader's time with a demonstration of its existence, to con

sider the consequences which legitimately flow froin it, and the perversions to which it has been subjected. But “the world moves," and it is not the least significant indication of the manner in which the passions generated and the new interests created by nearly three years of civil war, have upset all preconceived ideas of political science and of the theory of our Constitution, that many of my fellowcitizens are now questioning the soundness of a proposition, which but a short time ago, they would have treated as axiomatic. It is because this doubt exists, that I am compelled, much against my wishes, to defer the consideration of matters perhaps better calculated to interest the general reader, till I have completed the discussion of this question of constitutional law.

The most noticeable of the recent attacks upon the doctrine of State sovereignty, as well from its boldness and its elaborate character, as the reputation and position of its author, is to be found in an article in a recent number of The Atlantic Monthly Magazine, written by Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, and entitled “ Our Domestic Relations." I shall have occasion, in a subsequent portion of this work, to consider some of the other propositions which the author of that article has attempted to establish : at present I will confine my attention to that portion of his argument which aims to prove that State sovereignty has no existence under the

Constitution. As Mr. Sumner is beyond question the most distinguished of the champions of that doctrine, I presume that if I can successfully refute the reasoning contained in “Our Domestic Relations," I shall have overthrown the best argument which can be adduced in its support.

That part of “ Our Domestic Relations” which is devoted to the consideration of what it styles “ the miserable pretension of State sovereignty,” refers also to the “pestilent pretension of State rights," in terms (not merely the different adjectives) which lead me to conjecture that the author draws in his own mind some line of distinction between the two supposed political heresies. But as he does not explain that distinction in such a manner that I have been able to discover of what it consists, I am compelled to consider the two doctrines as identical, State rights being, as ordinarily understood, the right of the States to enjoy'unmolested that portion of sovereignty which the Constitution has not bestowed upon the Federal Government.

That no such right or no such sovereignty exists, is a conclusion which is announced in the article in question in the following words, succeeding a detailed statement of the origin of the Constitution and a recapitulation of its provisions respecting Congress and the States.

“ Thus, whether we regard the larger powers vested in Congress, the powers denied to the States

« PreviousContinue »