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SECESSION

1. The Case of the South against the Union. The Republicans of the North had given their votes upon a very clear issue, but probably few of them had fully realised how grave a result would follow. Within a few days of the election of Lincoln the first step in the movement of Secession had been taken, and before the new President entered upon his duties it was plain that either the dissatisfied States must be allowed to leave the Union or the Union must be maintained by war.

Englishmen at that time and since have found a difficulty in grasping the precise cause of the war that followed. Of those who were inclined to sympathise with the North, some regarded the war as being simply about slavery, and, while unhesitatingly opposed to slavery, wondered whether it was right to make war upon it; others, regarding it as a war for the Union and not against slavery at all, wondered whether it was right to make war for a Union that could not be peaceably maintained. Now it is seldom possible to state the cause of a war quite candidly in a single sentence, because as a rule there are on each side people who concur in the final rupture for somewhat different reasons. But, in this case, forecasting a conclusion which must be examined in some detail, we can state the cause of war in a very few sentences. If we ask first what the South fought for, the answer is: the leaders of the South and the great mass of the Southern people had a single supreme and all-embracing object in view, namely, to ensure the permanence and, if need be, the extension of the slave system; they carried with them, however, a certain number of Southerners who were opposed or at least averse to slavery, but who thought that the right of their States to leave the Union or remain in it as they chose must be maintained. If we ask what the North fought for, the answer is: A majority, by no means overwhelming, of the Northern people refused to purchase the adhesion of the South by conniving at any further extension of slavery, and an overwhelming majority refused to let the South dissolve the Union for slavery or for any other cause.

The issue about slavery, then, became merged in another issue, concerning the Union, which had so far remained in the background.

The first thing that must be grasped about it is the total difference of view which now existed between North and South in regard to the very nature of their connection. The divergence had taken place so completely and in the main so quietly that each side now realised with surprise and indignation that the other held an opposite opinion. In the North the Union was regarded as constituting a permanent and unquestionable national unity from which it was flat rebellion for a State or any other combination of persons to secede. In the South the Union appeared merely as a peculiarly venerable treaty of alliance, of which the dissolution would be very painful, but which left each State a sovereign body with an indefeasible right to secede if in the last resort it judged that the painful necessity had come. In a few border States there was division and doubt on this subject, a fact which must have helped to hide from each side the true strength of opinion on the other. But, setting aside these border States, there were in the North some who doubted whether it was expedient to fight for the Union, but none of any consequence who doubted that it was constitutionally correct; and there were in the South men who insisted that no occasion to secede had arisen, but these very men, when outvoted in their States, maintained most passionately the absolute right of secession.

The two sides contended for two contrary doctrines of constitutional law. It is natural when parties are disputing over a question of political wisdom and of moral right that each should claim for its contention if possible the sanction of acknowledged legal principle. So it was with the parties to the English Civil War, and the tendency to regard matters from a legal point of view is to this day deeply engrained in the mental habits of America. But North and South were really divided by something other than legal opinion, a difference in the objects to which their feelings of loyalty and patriotism were directed. This difference found apt expression in the Cabinet of President Buchanan, who of course remained in office between the election of Lincoln in November and his inauguration in March. General Cass of Michigan had formerly stood for the Presidency with the support of the South, and he held Cabinet office now as a sympathiser with the South upon slavery, but he was a Northerner. “I see how it is," he said to two of his colleagues; “you are a Virginian, and you are a South Carolinian; I am not a Michigander, I am an American."

In a former chapter the creation of the Union and the beginnings of a common national life have been traced in outline. Obstacles to the Union had existed both in the North and in the South, and, after it had been carried, the tendency to threaten disruption upon some slight conflict of interest had shown itself in each. But a proud sense of single nationality had soon become prevalent in both, and in the North nothing whatever had happened to set back this growth, for the idea which Lowell had once attributed to his Hosea Biglow of abjuring Union with slave owners was a negligible force. Undivided allegiance to the Union was the natural sentiment of citizens of Ohio or Wisconsin, States created by the authority of the Union out of the common dominion of the Union. It had become, if anything, more deeply engrained in the original States of the North, for their predominant occupation in commerce would tend in this particular to give them larger views. The pride of a Boston man in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was of the same order as his pride in the city of Boston; both were largely pride in the part which Boston and Massachusetts had taken in making the United States of America. Such a man knew well that South Carolina had once threatened secession, but, for that matter, the so-called Federalists of New England had once threatened it. The argument of Webster in the case of South Carolina was a classic, and was taken as conclusive on the question of legal right. The terser and more resonant declaration of President Jackson, a Southerner, and the response to it which thrilled all States, South or North, outside South Carolina, had set the seal to Webster's doctrines. There had been loud and ominous talk of secession lately; it was certainly not mere bluster; Northerners in the main were cautious politicians and had been tempted to go far to conciliate it. But if the claim of Southern States were put in practice, the whole North would now regard it not as a respectable claim, but as an outrage.

It is important to notice that the disposition to take this view did not depend upon advanced opinions against slavery. Some of the most violent opponents of slavery would care relatively little about the Constitution or the Union; they would at first hesitate as to whether a peaceful separation between States which felt so differently on a moral question like slavery was not a more Christian solution of their difference than a fratricidal war. On the other hand, men who cared little about slavery, and would gladly have sacrificed any convictions they had upon that matter for the sake of the Union, were at first none the less vehement in their anger at an attack upon the Union. There is, moreover, a more subtle but still important point to be observed in this connection. Democrats in the North inclined as a party to stringent and perhaps pedantically legal views of State rights as against the rights of the Union; but this by no means necessarily meant that they sympathised more than Republicans with the claim to dissolve the Union. They laid emphasis on State rights merely because they believed that these would be a bulwark against any sort of government tyranny, and that the large power which was reserved to the local or provincial authorities of the States made the government of the nation as a whole more truly expressive of the will of the whole people. They now found themselves entangled (as we shall see) in curious doubts as to what the Federal Government might do to maintain the Union, but they had not the faintest doubt that the Union was meant to be maintained. The point which is now being emphasised must not be misapprehended; differences of sentiment in regard to slavery, in regard to State rights, in regard to the authority of Government, did, as the war went on and the price was paid, gravely embarrass the North; but it was a solid and unhesitating North which said that the South had no right to secede.

Up to a certain point the sense of patriotic pride in the Union had grown also in the South. It was fostered at first by the predominant part which the South played in the political life of the country. But for a generation past the sense of a separate interest of the South had been growing still more vigorously. The political predominance of the South had continued, but under a standing menace of downfall as the North grew more populous and the patriotism which it at first encouraged had become perverted into an arrogantly unconscious feeling that the Union was an excellent thing on condition that it was subservient to the South. The common interest of the Southern States was slavery; and, when the Northerners had become a majority which might one day dominate the Federal Government, this common interest of the slave States found a weapon at hand in the doctrine of the inherent sovereignty of each individual State. This doctrine of State sovereignty had come to be held as universally in the South as the strict Unionist doctrine in the North, and held with as quiet and unshakable a confidence that it could not be questioned. It does not seem at all strange that the State, as against the Union, should have remained the supreme object of loyalty in old communities like those of South Carolina and Virginia, abounding as they did in conservative influences which

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