« PreviousContinue »
and institutions. He intends, besides, before completing his work, to visit us once more. How industriously he has collected and digested the material at his command, every page of his work bears witness. Americans will not all agree with him in his estimate of the great men who founded the Republic, nor in his view of questions which have been the subject of debate here from the very beginning. But that is not to be expected. Removed from the influence of party passion, he may have formed a more impartial opinion of their character than is possible to ourselves. What the American people need more than anything else at the present time, is to take an objective view of themselves, and that is best furnished them by foreign writers.
The present volume is only an earnest of those which are to come, and which will excite, we are confident, a degree of interest not inferior to that produced by De Tocqueville's Democracy in America.
STATE SOVEREIGNTY AND SLAVERY.
THE ORIGIN OF THE UNION, THE CONFEDERATION AND THE STRUGGLE FOR THE PRESENT CONSTITUTION.
The opinion is not uncommon in Europe, that American politics, up to the outbreak of the civil war, were exceedingly complicated and difficult to be understood. Such, however, is not the case. If we do not allow ourselves to be confused by matters of secondary consideration, and once get hold of the right thread, it soon becomes evident that the history of the United States, even as far back as the colonial period, is unusually simple, and the course of their development consistent in a remarkable degree.
Turgot' and Choiseul had very early recognized that the separation of the colonies from the mother country was only a question of time; and this irrespective of the principles which might guide the colonial policy of England. The narrow and ungenerous conduct which parliament observed towards the colonies in every respect, brought about the decisive crisis long before the natural course of things and the diversity of interests growing out of this had made the breach an inevitable necessity.
'1750. De Witt, Thomas Jefferson, p. 40.
'1761. Bancroft, History of the United States, IV., p. 399; DeWitt, 1. c., p. 42. Durand wrote in August, 1766: "They are too rich to remain in obedience."
To this circumstance it is to be ascribed that the colonists were satisfied that an amicable solution would be found to the questions debated between them and the mother country, long after England had given the most unambiguous proof that she would not, on any consid eration, yield the principle in issue. A few zealots like John Adams harbored, during the English-French colonial war, a transitory wish that the guardianship of England should cease forever. But, shortly after the conclusion of peace, there was not one to be found who would not have rejoiced in the name of Great Britain."
It was long before the ill-will, which the systematic disregard by parliament of the rights of the colonists had excited, triumphed over this feeling. Even in August and September, 1775, that is, half a year after the battle of Lexington, so strong was the Anglo-Saxon spirit of conservatism and loyalty among the colonists, that the few extremists who dared to speak of a violent disruption of all bonds entailed chastisement upon themselves and were universally censured. But the eyes of the colonists had been for some time so far opened that they hoped to make an impression on parliament and the king only by the most energetic measures. They considered the situation. serious enough to warrant and demand that they should be prepared for any contingency. Both of these things could evidently be accomplished in the right way and with the requisite energy, only on condition that they should act with their united strength.
The difficulties in the way of this, however, were not insignificant. The thirteen colonies had been founded in very different times and under very different circumstances. Their whole course of development, their political institu
1 Works of John Adams, X., p. 394.
2 American Archives, III., pp. 21, 196, 644, etc. See also Dickinson's course towards J. Adams, in the Works of J. Adams, II., p. 423.