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THE unexampled prosperity of the United States of America has been pronounced one of the wonders of modern civilization. As the "Great Republic," it has stood apart and above all other Governments of Christendom. The vastness of its territory, the freedom of its laws, the extent of its intelligence, and the spirit of progress which animated its people, all have contributed to arrest a world's attention--to command a world's respect. Guaranteeing to every citizen liberty of conscience and speech-to every press the utmost freedom of expression--to every individual perfect protection of property and immunity from oppression of person or possessions-the Constitution of the United States had so grown in the esteem of Christian men, of all lands, as to be regarded in the light of a Gospel of Government. Animated by its spirit, guided by its system, secure under its allpervading powers, the country had so perfected in material greatness as to astonish economists, and to challenge the admiration even of Monarchs. Here. Liberty had its perfect embodiment. Here Humanity stood forth in its dignity and truth. Here Intelligence became the birthright of each and all. Here Peace reigned supreme; while, over boundless leagues of hills, vallies, plains, rivers, and lakes, the jubilate of a happy people went up ceaselessly. To be an American was an honor above titles of nobility or stars of an Emperor's approbation.
Circumstances, potent enough to change all this to dissever the bonds of union among the States-to repudiate a Constitution which embodied so much wisdom, and liberty, and happiness-to arrest the progress and paralyze the energy of the country-to banish peace, and sound the alarums of war throughout the land--to marshal twice five hundred thousand Americans on the field in fratricidal strife, might well excite astonishment in the dullest brain, and alarm the friends of liberal ideas throughout the world.
Never, since the revolt of Lucifer, has there been a more causeless rebellion against a justly-constituted and beneficent Government. Never has civilization known a more reckless abuse of its prerogatives to demoralize and cripple its own development. In the height of its prosperity, the "Great Democratic Experiment" is arrested by a mere faction of unscrupulous men, through whose efforts, aided by the weakness of a Chief Magistrate, the country is humiliated in its pride, abased in its glory, and made to feel a weight of woe which it will take generations to forget.
The circumstances of this gigantic conspiracy it will not take generations to fathom. Great revolutions, like those recorded of Europe during the fifteenth, and sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, had their origin in causes so remote, and their results were so ramified to society and Governments, that, even to this day, their story is not wholly told. But, in the American Pro-Slavery Rebellion, there are no long trains of circumstances, no widely diffused and deeply-seated causes of discontent, growing and developing through a series of years, until the final open resort to arms. Were it thus, its History could not now be written. It sprung up almost in a day, against the wishes, the demands, the hopes, of those
whom it most concerned. It was the scheme of a few daring leaders, and of a few led men blinded by their own passions, having for their Cause no foundation in truth, no defence, in law or equity, no justification, even if the ends proposed and promised had been attained. It came of the restless souls of restless spirits, and has no long-past history to be investigated in order to write the story of its drama correctly. The proceedings of the second session of the XXXVIth Congress contain all the legal facts necessary to form, at this moment, a perfectly just opinion and estimate of the entire revolution.
It is only required to reproduce the official records of the events of the winter of 1860–61, in order to place the reader in possession of means by which to arrive at correct conclusions regarding men and their acts. To lay the repository of facts before the people is the prime object of our present work. But, as the entire structure of the Republic has been,on trial, in the ordeal forced, we have, in defence of the Union, and of the policy pursued to sustain it, sought to cover the entire ground of the questions involved, viz.: the powers of the Constitution, the nature of the Federal consolidation, the powers of Congress, the relations of Slavery to the Government, the rights of the majority and the minority, the status of the States, &c., &c. In considering these varied and interesting questions, we have necessarily reproduced much of our past political history, have given the opinions of the fathers of the Constitution on that instrument, have adverted to such collateral and corresponding circumstances as would serve to throw light upon the whole subject.
We have sought to render our work, in spirit and in truth, such a narrative as the great events seemed to demand. The office of the historian is to record events as they are, not to become the counsel of one party in a controversy and seek to write down an opponent. Still, the historian must assume, to a great degree, the office of arbiter and judge. The great case has been laid before him; he has studied it in all its lights and shades; he has heard the arguments of able counsel and listened to the evidence of innumerable witnesses; and it remains for him, as a disinterested umpire, to give such a summary of facts, events, and opinions as will enable his jury, the public, to arrive at a correct verdict. Being a Northern man in feeling, and a Unionist in sentiment, our work, of course, will assume the stand-point of loyalty to the Federal Government as a sine quá non for its praise, and the contrary for its blame; but we desire and expect that the present and the future will submit all to the crucible of truth. If, in statements of opinion or dictums of judgment we shall err by too great devotion to our feeling of loyalty, we only challenge a successful contradiction, and will thus succeed in eliminating the truth. Truth should know no reserve; the historian who fears its revelations is unworthy to write for his countrymen to read.
Pending discussion of the merits and demerits of the new Constitution, two great parties sprang into full and spirited life, viz.: the "Federalists," sustained by Washington, and led by John Adams and Hamilton; and the "anti-Federalists," who afterwards as
IF, as Mr. Alexander H. Stephens asserts, | ing admirer of it as not to perceive it is tincour government is "one of the most beneficent tured with some real, though not radical, the world has ever known," it has not escaped defects." the fortunes incident to all governments-of fierce opposition and attempted revolutions. The Constitution of the Union was not adopted without extraordinary manifestations of opposition in the Convention, in Congress, in State Legislatures, and among the people. It was regarded in the various lights of "an ex-sumed the more distinctive appellation of periment,” a “consolidated tyranny,” a “centralization fatal to State independence," &c. Washington said of the instrument: "There are some things in it which never did and never will obtain my cordial approbation." Patrick Henry denounced it as inimical to the liberties of the people. Franklin said, in the Convention: "I consent to this Constitution because I expect no better." The attempt to construct a consolidated government out of States, diverse in interests, each jealous of its sovereignty, was "an experiment ;" and Washington's expression of surprise, that any arrangement had been made, was justified by the result eventually achieved in the adoption of the Federal compact. He said: "It appears to me little short of a miracle that the It is not, therefore, a matter of surprise that delegates from so many States, different from a government, ordained under such discordeach other in their manners, circumstances ant circumstances, should have retained some and prejudices, should unite in forming a sys- of its elements of discord, nor that each genetem of national government so little liable to ration should witness violent opposition, if well-founded objections;" uttering, however, not actual resistance, to the Constitution and in the same paragraph, his own qualified ac- the Laws, both by individuals and by States. ceptance of the instrument :-" Nor am I yet It is to be doubted, indeed, if the Federal such an enthusiastic, partial or indiscriminat- Government would have succeeded as a go
"Democrats," under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and others. The differences between those two parties were those of quality rather than of kind. Both wanted a Republican form of government; both favored a Union; both had in view the best mode of developing the vast resources of the country; both sought to guard the interests of the people; and it was the intense patriotism of both parties which rendered them such bitter partisans. Each sought to prove the other an enemy to good government; and, failing to reconcile their respective ideas, they became as irreconcilable in their animosities as the Whigs and Tories of the Revolution.