A Sample of Consistency
MR. CALEB CUSHING,—“the Ajax of the Union,” as he has lately been styled, —for what reason we know not, unless that Ajax is chiefly known to the public as a personage very much in want of light,—Mr. Caleb Cushing has received an invitation to dine in South Carolina. This extraordinary event, while it amply accounts for the appearance of the comet, must also be held to answer for the publication by Mr. Cushing of a letter almost as long, if not quite so transparent, as the comet’s tail. Craytonville is the name of the happy village, already famous as “the place of the nativity” of Mr. Speaker Orr, and hereafter to be a shrine of pilgrimage, as the spot where Mr. Cushing might have gone through the beautiful natural processes of mastication and deglutition, had he chosen. We use this elegant Latinism in deference to Mr. Ex-Commissioner Cushing; for, as he evidently deemed “ birth-place ” too simple a word for such a complex character as Mr. Orr, we could not think of coupling his own name with so common a proceeding as eating his dinner. It may be sectionalism in us,—but, at the risk of dissolving the Union, we will not yield to any Southern man a larger share of the dictionary (unless it be Webster’s) than we give to a gentleman who was born at —we beg pardon, the place of whose nativity was—Newburyport.
Mr. Cushing has distinguished himself lately as the preacher-up of a crusade against modern philanthropy; and we do not wonder at it, if the offer of a dinner be so rare as to demand in acknowledgment a letter three columns long. Or perhaps he considered the offer itself as an instance of that insane benevolence which he reprobates, and accordingly punished it with an epistle the reading of which would delay the consummation of the edacious treason till all the meats were cold and the more impatient conspirators driven from the table. Or were those who had invited him negrophilists, (to use Mr. Cushing’s favorite word,) and therefore deserving of such retribution ? Not at all ; they were all leucophilists, as sincere and warm-hearted as himself. Or perhaps this letter expresses Mr. Cushing’s notion of what a proper answer to a dinner-invitation should be. We have no “ Complete LetterWriter” at hand, and consequently cannot compare it with any classic models; but, if we remember rightly, that useful book is not in as many volumes as the Catalogue of the British Museum is to be, and the examples there given must necessarily be denied so sea-serpentine a voluminousness. We suspect that the style is original with the Ex-Brigadier-AttorneyGeneral, but, while we allow it the merit of novelty, we think there are some grave objections to its universal adoption. It would be a great check on hospitality; for, by parity of reason, the invitation should be as tedious as the reply, and a treaty of dinner would take nearly as much time as a treaty of peace. This would be a great damage to the butchers, whose interests (to borrow a bit of political economy from Mr. Cushing’s letter) are complementary to those of the dinnergiver and the diner. Again, it would be fatal to all conversation, supposing the dinner at last to take place; for the Amphitryon, on the one hand, has already exploited everything he knows and does not know, from Sanconiathon, Manetho, and Berosus, to Dr. Hickok, — and the guests-but the thought of their united efforts is too appalling. In short, (if we may use that term in connection with such a subject,) we cannot believe, and certainly do not hope, that Mr. Cushing’s system will ever become popular. Even if it should, we think that an improvement upon it might be suggested. We subjoin a form of invitation and answer, which any of our readers are at liberty to use, if they should ever need them.
Punkinopolis, 28th 1858.
My dear N. N.,
I send, by the bearer, the Correspondence of Horace Walpole and Burke’s “Letters on a Regicide Peace,” which are, probably, as entertaining and eloquent as anything I could write. I send also Cicero “ De Amicitia,” Brillat-Savarin’s “ Physiologie du Gout,” the Works of Athenœus, and the “ Banquet ” of Plato. If, after a perusal of these works, you are not convinced that I entertain the most friendly feelings towards you, and that I wish you to dine with me on this day twelvemonth,
I do not know what further arguments to employ.
Baldeagleville, Feb. 10, 1859.
My dear &c. &c.,
The wagon, which accompanies this, will bring you a copy of the “ Encyclopædia Britannica." The reading of this choice morçeau of contemporary literature will suggest to you nearly all I have to say in reply to your interesting communication of the 28th September last. By reading, in succession, the articles Confucius, Fortification, Sandwich Islands, and Æsthetics, you will form some notion of the mingled emotions with which I remain
P. S. The amount of time required for mastering the Greek language, in order thoroughly to enjoy some passages of your charming note, alone prevents me from sending so full an answer as I should wish.
In these days, when everybody’s correspondence is published as soon as he is dead,-—or during his life, if he is unfortunate enough to be the Director of an Observatory, and there is a chance of injuring him by the breach of confidence,— we cannot help thinking that the forms we have given above are not only more compendious, but safer, than Mr. Cushing’s. If his method should come into vogue, posterity would be deprived of the letters of this generation for nearly a century by the time necessary to print them, and then, allowing for the imperious intervals of sleep, would hardly contrive to get through them in less than a couple of centuries more. We leave to those who have read Mr. Cushing’s reply to the Craytonville invitation the painful task of estimating the loss to the world from such a contingency. Meanwhile, the perplexing question arises,—If such be the warrior-statesman's measure of gratitude for a dinner, what would be his scale for a breakfast or a dish of tea ? Cæsar announced a victory in three words; but in this respect he was very inferior to Mr. Cushing, whose style is much more copious, and who shows as remarkable talents in the command of language as .the other general did in the command of troops.
On first reading Mr. Cushing’s letter, its obscurity puzzled us not a little. There are passages in it that would have pleased Lycophron himself, who wished he might be hanged if anybody could understand his poem. Dilution was to be expected in a production whose author had to make three columns out of “ Thank you, can’t come.” Even a person overrunning with the milk of human kindness, as Mr. Cushing, on so remarkable an occasion, undoubtedly was, might be pardoned for adopting the shift of dealers in the dearer vaccine article, and reinforcing his stores from a friendly pump. The expansiveness of the heart would naturally communicate itself to the diction. But, on the other hand, repeated experiments failed to detect even the most watery flavor of conviviality in the composition. The epistles of Jacob Behmen himself are not farther removed from any contamination with the delights of sense. Was this, then, a mere Baratarian banquet, a feast of reason, to which Mr. Cushing had been invited ? Or did he intend to pay an indirect tribute of respect to his ancestry by sending what would produce all the hilarious effect of one of those interminable Puritan graces before meat ? No, the dinner was a real dinner,—the well-known hospitality of South Carolina toward Massachusetts ambassadors forbids any other supposition, —and Mr. Cushing’s letter itself, however dark in some particulars, is clear enough in renouncing every principle and practice of the founders of New England. We must find, therefore, some other reason why the Ex-Commander of the Palmetto Regiment, when the Carolinians ask the pleasure of his society, gives them instead the agreeable relaxation of a sermon,—an example which, we trust, will not prove infectious among the clergy.
It occurred to us suddenly that the next Democratic National Convention is to assemble in Charleston. It is not, therefore, too early to send in sealed proposals for the Presidency; and if this letter is Mr. Cushing’s bid, we must do him the justice to say that we think nobody will be found to go lower. We doubt if it will avail him much; but the precedent of Northern politicians going South for wool and coming back shorn is so long established, that a lawyer like himself will hardly venture to take exception to it. Like his great namesake, the son of Jephunneh, he may bring back a gigantic bunch of grapes from this land of large promise and small fulfilment, but we fear they will be of the variety which sets the teeth on edge, and fills the belly with that east wind which might have been had cheaper at home.
If, nevertheless, Mr. Cushing is desirous of being a candidate, it is worth while to consider what would be the principles on which he would administer the government, and what are his claims to the confidence of the public. We are beginning to discover that the personal character of the President has a great deal to do with the conduct of the almost irresponsible executive head of the Republic. What, then, have been Mr. Cushing’s political antecedents, and what is his present creed ?
There are many points of resemblance between his character and career and those of the present Chancellor of the English Exchequer. Belonging to a part of the country whose opinions are to all intents and purposes politically proscribed, he has gone over to a party whose whole policy has tended to harass the commerce, to cripple the manufactures, and to outrage the moral sense of New England, and has won advancement and prominence in that party by his talents, contriving at the same time to make his origin a service rather than a detriment. Like Mr. Disraeli, he has been consistent only in devotion to success. Like him, accomplished, handsome, plucky, industrious, and dangerous, if unconvincing, in debate, he brings to bear on every question the immediate force of personal courage and readiness, but none of that force drawn from persistent principle, whose defeats are tutorings for victory. With a quick eye for the weak point of an enemy, and a knack of so draping commonplaces with rhetoric that they shall have the momentary air of profound generalizations, he is also, like him, more cunning in expedients than capable of far-seeing policy. Adroit in creating and fostering prejudice, acute in drawing metaphysical distinctions which shall make wrong seem right by showing that it is less wrong than it appeared, he is unable to see that public opinion is never moulded by metaphysics, and that, with the people, instinct is as surely permanent as prejudice is transitory. Like Mr. Disraeli, versatile, he is liable to forget that what men admire as a grace in the intellect they condemn as a defect in the character and conduct Gifted, like him, with various talents, he has one which overshadows all the rest,—the faculty of inspiring a universal want of confidence. As a popular leader, the advantage which daring would have given him is more than Counterpoised by an acuteness and refinement of mind which have no sympathy with the mass of men, and which they in turn are likely to distrust from imperfect comprehension. Ill-adapted for the rough-and-tumble contests of a Democracy, he is admirably fitted to be the minister or the head of an oligarchical Republic. We wish all our Northern Representatives had the boldness and the abilities, we hope none of them will be seduced by the example, of Mr. Cushing.
He is one of those able men whose imputed is even greater than their real mental capacity; because the standard of ordinary men is success,—and success, of a certain kind, is assured to those mixed characters which combine the virtue of courage with the vice of unserupulousness. An ambitious man, like Louis Napoleon, for example, who sets out with those two best gifts of worldly fortune, a face with nothing but brass and a pocket with nothing but copper in it, has a brilliant, if a short, career before him, and will be sure to gain the character of ability ; for if ambition but find selfishness to work upon, it has that leverage which Archimedes wished for. But time makes sad havoc with this false greatness, with this reputation which passes for fame, and this adroitness which passes for wisdom, with merely acute minds. When Plausibility and Truth divided the world between them, the one chose To-day and the other To-morrow.
To enable us to construct a theory of Mr. Cushing’s present position, we have two recent productions in print,—his Fourth of July Oration at New York, and his Letter to the Craytonville Committee. But he has seen too many aspirants for the Presidency contrive to drown themselves in their inkstands, and is far too shrewd a man, to elaborate any documentary evidence of his opinions. If we arrive at them, it must be by a process of induction, and by gathering what evidence we can from other sources. Mr. Cushing knows very well that the multitude, have nothing but a secondary office in the making of Presidents, and addresses to them only his words, while the initiated alone know what meaning to put on them. If, for example, when he says servant he means slave, when he savs Negrophilist he means Republican, and when he says false philanthropy he means the fairest instincts of the human heart, we have a right to suspect that there is also an esoteric significance in the phrases, Loyalty to the Union, Nationality, and Conservatism.
Had a constituent of Mr. Cushing, in the Essex North District, taken a nap ot twenty years,—(and if he had invited his Representative to dinner, and got such an answer as the Craytonville letter, the supposition is not extravagant,) —what would have been his amazement, on waking, to find his Member of Congress haranguing an assembly of Original Democrats in Tammany Hall ! Caius Marcius addressing the Volscian council of war would occur to him as the only historic parallel for such a rhetorical phenomenon. The one was an ideal, as the other is a commonplace example of the ludicrous contradictions in which men may be involved, who find in personal motives the justification of public conduct. That the chairman of the meeting should have had in his pocket a letter from the candidate of the Buffalo Convention, and that Mr. John Van Buren should have sat upon the platform, while the orator charged the leaders of the Republican Party with interested motives, were merely two of those incidental circumstances by which Fact always vindicates her claim to be more satiric than Fiction. But when Mr. Cushing speaks with exultation of the past and with confidence of the future of the Original Democratic Party, we can think of nothing like it but Charles II. taking the Solemn League and Covenant, with an unctuous allusion to the persecutions WE Covenanters have undergone, and the triumphs of vital piety to which WE look forward.
Mr. Cushing claims that the Democratic Party has originated and carried through every measure that has become a part of the settled policy of the government. This is not very remarkable, if we consider that the party has been in power during by far the greater part of our national existence, and that under our system the administration is practically a dictatorship for four years. Mr. Everett long ago pointed out the advantage we should gain by having a responsible ministry. As it is, the representative branch of our government is practically a nullity. What with his immense patronage, the progress of events, and the chance of luring the opposing party into by-questions, the Presidential Micawber of the moment is almost sure that something will turn up to extricate him from the consequences of his own incompetency or dishonesty. The only check upon this system is the chance that the temerity engendered by irresponsible power may lead the executive to measures which, as in the case of Kansas, shall open the eyes of thinking men to the real designs and objects of those in office. An opposition is necessarily transitory in its nature, if it be not founded on some principle which, reaching below the shifting sands of politics, rests upon the primary rock of morals and conscience. In such a principle only is found the nucleus of a party which the adverse patronage of a corrupt executive can but strengthen by attracting from it its baser elements. Such an opposition the Democratic Party seems lately to have devoted all its policy to build up, and now, confronted with it, can find no remedy but in the abolishment of morals and conscience altogether.
The Democratic Party, like the distinguished ancestor of Jonathan Wild, has been impartially on both sides of every question of domestic policy which has arisen since it came into political existence. It has been pro and con in regard to a Navy, a National Bank, Internal Improvements, Protection, Hard Money, and Missouri Compromise. Its leading doctrine was State Rights ; its whole course of action, culminating in the Dred Scott decision, has been in the direction of Centralization. During all these, changes, it has contrived to have the Constitution always on its side by the simple application of Swift’s axiom, “ Orthodoxy is my doxy, Heterodoxy is thy doxy,” though it has had as many doxies as Cowley. Sometimes it has even had two at once, as in refusing to the iron of Pennsylvania the protection it gave to the sugar of Louisiana. Pennsylvania avenged herself by the fatal gift of Mr. Buchanan. There is one exception to the amiable impartiality of the party,—, it has been always and energetically proslavery. In this respect Mr. Cushing has the advantage of it, for he has been on both sides of the Slavery question also. It must be granted, however, that his lapse into Negrophilism was but a momentary weakness, and that without it the Whig Party would have lost the advantage of his character, and the lesson of his desertion, in Congress. He is said to be master of several tongues, and it is therefore quite natural that he should have held a different language at different times on many different questions.
A creed so various that it seemed to be, not one, but every creed’s epitome, could not fail to be strangely attractive to a mind so versatile as that of Mr. Cushing; yet we cannot deny to his conversion some remarkable features which give it a peculiar interest. In some respects his case offers a pleasing contrast to that of the Rev. John Newton ; for, as the latter was converted from slave-trading to Christianity, so Mr. Cushing (whatever He may have renounced) scents to have embraced something very like the principles which the friend of Cowper abandoned,—another example of the beautiful compensations by which the balance of Nature is preserved. And his conversion was sudden enough to have pleased even Jonathan Edwards himself. Up to the ripe age of forty-two he had been joined to his idols. It is a proverb, that he who is a fool at forty will be a fool at fourscore ; yet Mr. Cushing, who is certainly no fool, had been blind to the beauties of Original Democracy for a year or two beyond that alliterative era. The Whigs had just succeeded in electing their candidates, and it seemed as if nothing short of an almost Providential interposition could save him. That interposition came in the death of General Harrison, which took away the last earthly hope of Whig advancement. It was what the jockeys call “ a very near thing.” But for that,—it is a sad thought,—Mr. Cushing might have been on our side now. This was the gratia operans. Mr. Tyler, who succeeded to the Presidency, had Democratic proclivities; this was the gratia coöperans: and finally we see the gratia perficinet in the appointment of our catechumen to the Chinese Commissionership. From the Central Flowery Kingdom he returned a full-blown Original Democrat. In 1853, Mr. Pierce, finding himself elected President for no other reason apparently than that he had failed to distinguish himself in the Mexican War, appointed Mr. Cushing his Attorney-General on the same benevolent principle, —consoling him for having to sheathe a bloodless sword by giving him a chance to draw the more dangerous Opinion.
We have alluded only to such facts in Mr. Cushing's history as are fresh in the remembrance of our readers; and it would not have been worth our while to allude even to these, if he had not seen fit to speak of the leading men of the Republican Party as “ dangerous, because they have no fixed principle, no stable convictions, no samples of consistency to control their acts ; because their only creed is what has been called the duty of success; and because their success—the successful accomplishment of a sectional organization of the government on the ruins of its nationality—would be the de facto dissolution of the Union.” In his Letter he says also, that “ it is a fact humiliating to confess that the cant of negroism still has vogue as one of the minor instruments of demagoguy in Northern States.” The coolness of such charges, coming from Mr. Cushing, is below the freezing-point of quicksilver. Shall we take lessons in fixedness of principle from the WhigAntislavery Member from Federalist Essex?—in stable convictions from the Tyler-Commissioner to China ?—in consistency from the Democratic AttorneyGeneral ?—in an amalgam of all three from the Coalition Judge? Shall we find a more pointed warning of the worthlessness of success in the words than in the example of the orator ? Since Reynard the Fox donned a friar’s hood, and, with the feathers still sticking in his whiskers, preached against the damnable heresy of hen-stealing, there has been nothing like this !
In China, they set great store by porcelain that has been often broken and mended again with silver wire, prizing it more highly than that which is sound and fresh from the hands of the potter. There is a kind of political character of the same description,—hollow-ware, not generally porcelain, indeed,—cracked in every direction, but deftly bound together with silver strips of preferment, till it is consistent enough to serve all the need of its possessor in receiving large messes of the public pottage. How the Chinese would have admired Mr. Tyler’s Commissioner, if they had known the exquisite perfection of crackle displayed in his political career! To be sure, the Chinese are our antipodes.
The imputation of inconsistency is one to which every sound politician and every honest thinker must sooner or later subject himself. Fools and dead men are the only people who never change their opinions or their course of action. The course of great statesmen resembles that of navigable rivers, avoiding immovable obstacles with noble bends of concession, seeking the broad levels of opinion on which men soonest settle and longest dwell, following and marking the almost imperceptible slope of national tendency, yet forever recruited from sources nearer heaven, from summits where the gathered purity of ages lies encamped, and sometimes bursting open paths of progress and civilization through what seem the eternal barriers of both. It is a loyalty to great ends, an anchored cling to solid principles, which knows how to swing with the tide, but not to be carried away by it, that we demand in public men,— and not persistence in prejudice, sameness of policy, or stolid antagonism to the inevitable. But we demand also that they shall not too lightly accept Wrong instead of Right, as inevitable; and there is a kind of change that is suspicious because it is sudden, —and detrimental to the character in proportion as it is of advantage to the man; and the judgment of mankind allows a wellfounded distinction between an alteration of policy compelled by events, and an abandonment of professed principles tainted with any suspicion of self-interest. We hold that a Representative is a trustee for those who elected him,’—that his political apostasy only so far deserves the name of conversion as it is a conversion of what was not his to his own use and benefit; and we have a right to be impatient of instruction in duty from those whom the hope of promotion could nerve to make the irrevocable leap from a defeated party to a triumphant one, and who can serve either side, if so they only serve themselves. It is this kind of freedom from prejudice that has brought down our politics to the gambling level of the stock-market; it is this kind of unlucky success, and the readiness of the multitude to forgive and even to applaud it, that justify the old sarcasm, Patibulum inter at statuam quàm leve discrimen !
It is not for inconsistencies of policy in matters of indifference that we should blame a man or a party, but for making questions of honor and morals matters of indifference. Inconsistency is to be settled, not by seeming discrepancies between the action of one day and that of the next, but by the experience which enables us to judge of motives and impulses. Time, which reconciles apparent contradictions, impeaches real ones, and shows a malicious satirical turn, in forcing men into positions where they must break their own necks in attempting to face both ways. Nor is it for inconsistency that we condemn the Democratic Party. There are no trade-winds for the Ship of State, unless it be navigated by higher principles than any the political meteorologists have yet discovered. But there have been mysterious movements, of late, which raise a violent presumption that our Democratic captain and officers are altering the rig and adapting the hold of the vessel to suit the demands of a traffic condemned by the whole civilized world. They are painting out the old name, letter by letter, and putting “ Conservative ” in its stead. They seem to fancy there is such a thing as a slave-trade-wind, and are attempting to beat up against what they profess to believe a local current and a gust of popular delusion. We think they are destined to find that they are striving against the invincible drift of Humanity and the elemental breath of God. It is an ominous consistency with which we charge the Democratic Party.
Mr. Cushing affirms, that the Republicans have no argument but the “ cry of Slavepwer ! "—which is as eloquent a one as the old Roman’s Delenda est Carthago, to those who know how many years of bitter experience, how many memories of danger and forebodings of aggression, are compressed in it. But he is mistaken ; Democratic administrations have been busy in supplying arguments, and we complain rather of their abundance than their paucity. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas policy, which even office-holders who had gulped their own professions found too nauseous to swallow, and the Dred Scott decision,-—if these be not arguments, then history is no teacher, and events have no logic.
Mr. Cushing adroitly evades the real matter in issue, and assumes that it is a mere question of the relative amount of federal office secured by the North and the South respectively. This may be a very natural view of the case in a man whose map of nationality would seem to be bounded North by a seat in Congress, East by a Chinese Embassy, West by an Attorney-Generalship, and South by the vague line of future contingency; but it hardly solves the difficulty. With characteristic pluck he takes the wolf by the ears. The charge being, that the power of the Slave States has been gaining a steady preponderance over that of the Free States by means of the federal administration, he answers it by saying that he has made it a subject of “ philosophic study,” and has found that Massachusetts has had a “pretty fair run of the power of the Union,”—whatever that may be. The phrase is unfortunate, for it reminds one too much of the handsome competence with which a father once claimed to have endowed his son in giving him the run of the streets since he was able to go alone. But let us test Mr. Cushing’s logic by an equivalent proposition, He is executor, we will suppose, of an estate to be divided among sixteen heirs; he pays A his portion, and claims a discharge in full. What would not Mr. Buchanan give for a receipt by which office-seekers could be so cheaply satisfied !
“ Philosophic study,” to he sure ! It may be easy for gentlemen, the chief part of whose productive industry has been the holding of office or the preparing of their convictions for the receipt of more, to be philosophic ; but it is not so easy tor Massachusetts to be satisfied, when she sees only those of her children so rewarded who misrepresent her long-cherished principles, who oppose the spread of her institutions, who mock at her sense of right and her hereditary love of freedom, and are willing to accept place as an equivalent for the loss of her confidence. The question, Who is in office ? may be of primary importance to Mr. Cushing, but is of little consequence to the Free States. What concerns them is, IIow and in what interest are the offices administered ? If to the detriment of free institutions, then all the worse that sons of theirs can be found to do that part of the work which involves (as affairs are now tending) something very like personal dishonor. It is no matter of pride to us that the South has never been able to produce a sailor skilful enough and bold enough to take command of a slaver.
Mr. Cushing affects to see in the history of the Slavery Agitation nothing but a series of injuries inflicted by the North on the South. He charges “ some of the Northern States” with acts of aggression upon the South “which would have been just cause of war as between foreign governments.” He prudently forbears to name any. Does he mean, that persons have been found in some of those States unnational enough, un-Original-Democratic enough, to give a cup of water to a hunted Christian woman, or to harbor an outcast Christian man, without first submitting their hair to a microscopic examination ? Does he mean, that we have said hard things of our Southern brethren ? Grose’s “ Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue ” is open to them as well as to us, and the Richmond “ South” is surely not in the habit of sprinkling the Northern subjects of its animadversion with rose-water. No,—what Mr. Cushing means is this,—that there are men at the North who will not surrender the principles they have inherited from three revolutions because they are threatened with a fourth that will never come,—who do not consider it an adequate success in our experiment of self-government that we can produce such types of nationality as reckon the value of their country by the amount of salary she pays,—who will not believe that there is no higher kind of patriotism than complicity in every violent measure of an administration which redeems only its pledges to a faction of Southern disunionists,-—who will not admit that slave-holding is the only important branch of national industry, because the profession of that dogma enables unscrupulous men to enter the public service poor and to leave it rich. Has any citizen of a Southern State ever failed to obtain justice (that is to say, in the language of Original Democracy. his nigger) in a Northern court ? Has Massachusetts ever mobbed an envoy or brutally assaulted a Senator of South Carolina? Has any Northern State ever nullified an article of the Federal Constitution, as every seaboard Slave-State has always done in respect to the colored citizens of the North ? When a man’s allowing himself to be kicked comes to be reckoned an outrage on the kicker, then Mr. Cushing’s notion of what constitutes a “just cause of war” will deserve as much consideration as Mr. G. T. Curtis’s theory that hustling a deputy-marshal is “levying” it. We can remember when the confirmation of an ambassador to England (where the eminent fitness of the nomination was universally conceded) was opposed by several Southern Senators on the ground that he had expressed an interest in the success of West India emancipation. If Original Democrats have their way, it will not be long before it is made constructive treason to have read that chapter of the Acts of the Apostles which relates the misguided philanthropy of Philip in endeavoring to convert, an Ethiopian into anything but a chattel.
We are inclined to think that a too amiable willingness to be kicked has been generally considered “just cause of war as between foreign governments,”—especially on the part of the stronger of the two. History seems to show this,—and also, that the sooner a nation gets over its eccentric partiality for this kind of appeal to its reasoning faculty, the more likely it is to avoid the risks of war. At any rate, the forbearance of the South has been such, that, in spite of the great temptation, she has hitherto refrained from sending her fleets and armies northward, and we are glad to find that Mr. Cushing is inclined to take a cheerful view of the permanency of our institutions. He tells us, it is true, in one place, that the success of the Republican Party would be “the de facto dissolution of the Union ” ; but in a moment of calmer reflection he assures us that there are thirty million Americans who stand ready “ to devour and swallow up” the “ handful of negrophilist Union-haters.” We have great faith in the capacity of the American people, yet we somewhat doubt whether any one of them could swallow up what he had already devoured, unless, indeed, he performed that feat which has hitherto been the opprobrium of Jack-puddings, and jumped down his own throat afterwards. However, a man of Mr. Cushing’s warmth of nature might well find himself carried beyond the regions of ordinary rhetoric in contemplating so beautiful and affecting a vision, and it is enough that we have the consolation of knowing that he either spoke with a disregard of the census, which we cannot believe possible in one so remarkable for accuracy of statement, or that he acquits every man, woman, and child in the country of any hostility to the Union. It is cheering to have this matter set finally at rest by so eminent an authority, and we are particularly glad that the necessity for so painful an experiment in swallowing is a great way off ; for, though a “handful” would not go far among so many, yet, if its components be as unpleasant as Mr. Cushing represents them, it would certainly give a colic to every patriot who got a bite. After so generous an exculpation of the American people from any desire to pull their own house about their ears, we are left to conclude that the only real danger to be apprehended, in case of a Republican success, is a de facto and de jure dissolution of that union between certain placemen and their places which has lasted so long that they have come to look on it as something Constitutional. When that day is likely to arrive, we shall see such samples of consistency, and such instances of stable conviction, in finding out on which side of their bread the butter lies, as cannot fail to gratify even Mr. Cushing himself.
But we must not congratulate ourselves too soon. In the interval between the fifth of July, when his oration was delivered, and the seventh of August, which is the date of the Craytonville letter, Mr. Cushing seems to have reviewed his opinion on the state of the Union. There is more cause for alarm than appeared on the surface ; but this time it is not because we have fallen out of love with the South, but that we have become desperately enamored of negroes. Nurses will have to scare their refractory charges with another bugaboo; for the majority of Massachusetts infants would jump at the chance of being carried off by the once terrible Ugly Black Man. Our great danger is from Negrophilism ; though Mr. Cushing seems consoled by the fact, that it is a danger to Massachusetts, and not to South Carolina. We think Mr. Cushing may calm his disinterested apprehensions. Me believe the disease is not so deep-seated as he imagines; and as we see no reason to fear the immediate catastrophe ot the Millennium from any excess of benevolence on the part of Mr. Cushing and his party toward white men, (whose cause he professes to espouse,) we are inclined to look forward with composure to any results that are likely to follow from sporadic cases of sympathy with black ones. There is no reason for turning alarmistIn spite of these highly-colored forebodings, it will be a great while before our colored fellow-citizens, or fellow-denizens, (or whatever the Dred Scott decision has turned them into,) will leave mourningcards in Beacon Street, or rear mulattohued houses on that avenue which it is proposed to build from the Public Garden into the sunset
It is adroit in Mr. Cushing thus to shift the front of his defence, but it is dreadfully illogical. It is very convenient to make it appear that this is a quarrel of races ; for, in such a case, a scruple of prejudice will go farther than a hundredweight of argument. In assuming to be the champion of the downtrodden whites against the domineering blacks, Mr. Cushing enlists on his side the sympathy and admiration which are sure to follow the advocate of the weak and the defenceless. He comes home to New England, finds his own color proscribed, and at once takes the part of amicus curiœ for the weak against the strong in the forum of Humanity. We do not wonder, that a gentleman, who has devoted so much ingenuity, so much time and talent, to making black appear white, should at last deaden the nicety of his sense for the distinction between the two, and thus reverse
the relation of the two colors; but we do wonder, that, in choosing Race as a convenient catchword, he should not see that he is yielding a dangerous vantageground to the Native American Party, whose principles he seems so pointedly to condemn. We say seems,—for he is carefully indefinite in his specifications, and hedges his opinions with a thicket of ambiguous phrases, which renders it hard to get at them, and leaves opportunity for future evasion. If a war of race be justifiable in White against Black, why not in so-called Anglo-Saxons against Kelts ? The one is as foolish and as wicked as the other, and the only just method of solution is the honest old fair field and no favor, under which every race and every individual man will assume the place destined to him in the order of Providence. We have a great distrust of ethnological assumptions; for there is, as yet, no sufficient basis of observed fact for legitimate induction, and the blood in the theorist’s own veins is almost sure to press upon the brain and disturb accurate vision, or his preconceptions to render it impossible. Gervinus reads the whole history of Europe in the two words, Teutonic and Romanic; Wordsworth believed that only his family could see a mountain ; Dr. Prichard, led astray bv a mistaken philanthropy, believed color to be a matter of climate; and Dr. Nott considers that the outline shown by a single African hair on transverse section is reason enough for the oppression of a race. If the black man be radically inferior to the white, or radically different from him, the folly of whitewashing him will soon appear. But, on the other hand, if his natural relation to the white man be that of slave to master, our Southern brethren have wasted a great deal of time in prohibitory and obscurantist legislation ; they might as well have been passing acts to prevent the moon from running away, or to make the Pleiades know their place.
It will be a blessed day for the world when men are as willing to help each other as they are to assist Providence.
The “ London Cotton-Plant,” a journal established to sustain the interests of Slavery in the Old World, is almost overpowered with acute distress for the Order of Creation, and offers its sustaining shoulder to the System of the Universe. “Fear nothing,” it seems to say, “glorious structure of the Divine Architect ! Giddings shall not touch you, nor shall Seward lay his sacrilegious hand on you!” “Who are ye?” murmurs the Voice, “ that would reedit the works of the Almighty ? ” “ Sublime, but misguided object of our compassion, we prefer to remain in the modest seclusion of namelessness, but we are published at Red-Lion Court, Fleet Street, and aresold for one shilling ! ” To judge from Mr. Cushing’s letter, he has studied this organ of the sympathizers with the Preestablished Harmonies,—certainly there is a singular coincidence in the sentiments of both, so far as we can make them out. Both call themselves conservative, both are anti-philanthropists, both claim that public opinion is tending in the direction of their views, both affirm that their cause is that of the white man, and both appear to mean by white man the same thing,— the owner of a slave.
But is not Mr. Cushing’S anxiety misdirected. and wilfully so, in seeking the material for its forebodings of danger to the Union in the Free States ? The only avowed disunionists of the North are the radical Abolitionists, whose position is the logical result of their admitting that under the Constitution it is impossible to touch Slavery where it exists, and who, therefore, seek in a dissolution of the federal compact an escape from complicity with what they believe an evil and a wrong,—with what, till within the last twenty years, was conceded to be such by the South itself. If Mr. Cushing be so greatan admirer of stability in conviction, he might have found in these men the subject of something other than vituperation. There are men among them who might have won the foremost places of political advancement, could they have sacrificed their princlples to their ambition, could they believe that public honors would heal as well as hide the wounds of self-respect. It is the South that advocates disunion, from sectional motives, and adds the spice of treason. The “London Cotton-Plant” says,——
“If site [the South] is denied ‘equality’ within the Union, she can have ' independence’ out of it. Already in European cabinets the possibility of this contingency is contemplated. We but perform a public duty when we tell Mr. Douglas that there is in Europe more than one power able and willing and prepared to take the Colton States of America, and, with them the other ' Slave ' States, socalled by free-negroists, under their protection, as valuable and desirable allies. . . . And more, he can say by authority that she [the South] has active and successful agents in every part of Europe preparing the way for equal existence, commercially as well as politically, so long as the Union exists, or the active support of powerful allies, if driven as a last resort to appeal to the civilized world against tyranny and oppression.” 1
But what does the “Cotton-Plant” understand by “equality”? Nothing less than the reopening of the slave-trade. Speaking of the chance that the captured slaves of the “ Echo” would be sent back to Africa, and resenting such a procedure as “a brand upon our section and upon our social condition,” it affirms that
“ This labor-question of the South does not depend Upon such miserable clap-trap as Kansas or the Fugitive Slave Law. It rests upon a full, open, and deliberate recognition of the rights of the Southern people; and the Senator from Illinois, by moving the abrogation of the so-called slave-trade treaty with England, allowing the South to supply herself with labor as she may see fit, would give, indeed, unquestioned assurance of his disposition and courage to follow the principle of the white-basis to its logical and constitutional consequence."
It declares that the sending home of the Africans would be “ a practical reversal of the Dred Scott decision,” and adds,—“We have no fear that our people will long remain passive under such an accumulating weight of inequality."2 Is not this explicit enough ? and does not the “white-basis” sufficiently explain what is meant by the systematic depreciation of the colored race in Mr. Cushing's letter?
The Democratic Party is the party of “Progress.” What is the direction of that progress likely to be? What is the lesson of the past? Hitherto this party has been the ally and the tool, not of the moderate, but of the extreme propagandists of the South. The Carolinians with their Scotch blood received also a strong infusion of Scotch logic. They felt that their system was inconsistent with the immortal assertion of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, and with the principles of the Revolution,—that its extension was a direct reversal of the creed and the policy of the men by whom our frame of government was established. They accepted the alternative, and assumed the aggressive. The principles of the Revolution must be crushed out, the traditions of the Fathers of the Republic repudiated,—and that, too, by means of the party calling itself Democratic, through which alone the South could control the policy of the government.
Accordingly, a reaction was put in motion and steadily pressed, precisely similar in kind to that organized by Louis Napoleon against the principles of the French Revolution, and supported by precisely the same warnings of the danger of civil commotion, and by appeals to the timidity of Property and the cupidity of Trade. The party which had so long vaunted the derivation of its fundamental truth from the Law of Nature was compelled to make it a part of its creed that there was nothing higher than an ordinance of man. The party of State-Rights was forced to proclaim that a decision of the Supreme Court was sovereign over all the rights of the States. The party whose leading dogma it is, that all power proceeds from and resides in the people, that all government rests on the consent of the governed, was driven into refusing to submit a constitution to the people whose destiny was to be decided by it. And all this has been done, not tor the security of Slavery where it exists, but to serve the truculent purposes of its indefinite extension. To acquiesce in the honesty and justice of such a course of policy as the last few years have shown, to assist in inaugurating a future that shall accord with it, is nationality and conservatism ! No wonder Mr. Cushing is charmed with the consistency of his new allies. Do they propose to steal Cuba?—they are the party who would extend the area of Freedom. Do they make Slavery a matter of federal concern by means of the Supreme Court? —they are the party who maintain that it is an affair of local law. Do they disfranchise a race ?—they are the party of equal rights. And the whole wretched imbroglio of creed which is the condemnation of their action, and of action which is the death of their creed, is dubbed Nationality. If sectionalism be the reverse of all this, we confess that we prefer sectionalism. It is a nationality which has no Northern half, a conservatism which abolishes all our heroic traditions.
If the Democratic Party has been urged to such extreme measures and such motley self-stultification by the pressure of the South, if every downward step has been only the more likely to be taken because it seemed impossible six months before, what are we not to look for, now that its leaders are emboldened by success, and its lieutenants are eager for more plunder at the easy price of more perfidy? Already, as we have seen, the reopening of the slave-trade is demanded ; already fresh enactments are called for, expressly to render it in future impossible for the people of a Territory to loosen the grip of Slavery, as those of Kansas have done. And to prepare the way for this, we are forced to hear continual homilies on the supremacy of law, on what are called “legal conscience” and “legal morality,”—phrases which sound well, but cover nothing more than the absurd fallacy, that everything is legal which can by any hocuspocus be got enacted.
The doctrine, that there is no higher law than the written statute, is but one of the symptoms of the steady drift of our leading politicians toward materialism, toward a faith which makes the products of man’s industry of more value than man himself, and finds the god of this lower world in the law of demand and supply. “Cotton is King!” say such reasoners as Mr. Cushing;—“ Conscience is King ! ” said such actors as the Puritans. To have a moral sense may he very unwise, very visionary, very unphilosophic; but most men are foolish enough to have one, and the enforcing of any law which wounds it is sure to arouse a resistance thoroughly pervading their whole being and lasting as life itself. The carrying away of a single fugitive 3 gave the Republicans a tenure of power in Massachusetts, as firm, and likely to be as enduring, as that of the Whigs was once. The propagandists of Slavery overreached themselves when they compelled the people of the North to be their accomplices. The higher law is not a thing men argue about, but act upon. People who admit the right of property a thousand miles off go back to first principles when the property comes to their door in the upright form of man and appeals for sympathy with a human voice.
Mr. Cushing represents Massachusetts to be a Babel of isms, so many square miles of Bedlam, from Boston Corner to Provincetown. Is this intended as a depreciation of our free institutions, by showing the results to which they inevitably lead ? Has a Rarey for vicious hobbies been a desideratum so long, and has such a benefactor of his species found his avatar at last in Mr. Cushing ? He tells us, however, that the delusion of Negrophilism, that is, Republicanism, is on the wane, and is destined to speedy extinction. The very extravagancies he speaks of as so rife and so rampant are to us evidence of the contrary. They prove the depth to which the religious instincts of the Northern people have been stirred upon the question of Slavery. Such extravagancies have accompanied every great moral movement of mankind. The Reformation, the great Puritan Rebellion, the French Revolution, brought them forth in swarms. A profound historical thinker, Gervinus, remarks, that the political enthusiasm of a nation is slow to warm and swift to cool, but that its moral enthusiasm is quickly stirred and long in subsiding. Thinking men will ask themselves whether the isms Mr. Cushing enumerates be not the external symptoms of such an enthusiasm,— and whether it be wise, under the names of “Nationality” and “Conservatism,” to urge aggressions to the point where it becomes the right and the duty of men to consider the terrible necessity of a change in their system of government; whether it be unpatriotic to resist the extension of a system which makes the mass of the population an element of danger and weakness in the body politic, as its advocates admit by their scheme for a foreign protectorate of their proposed independent organization,—a system which renders public education impossible, exhausts the soil, necessitates sparseness of population, and demoralizes the governing classes.4
The ethical aspects of Slavery are not and cannot be the subject of consideration with any party which proposes to act under the Constitution of the United States. Nor are they called upon to consider its ethnological aspect. Their concern with it is confined to the domain of politics, and they are not called to the discussion of abstract principles, but of practical measures. The question, even in its political aspect, is one which goes to the very foundation of our theories and our institutions. It is simply,—Shall the course of the Republic be so directed as to subserve the interests of aristocracy or of democracy ? Shall our Territories be occupied by lord and serf, or by intelligent freemen ?—by laborers who are owned, or by men who own themselves ? The Republican Party has no need of appealing to prejudice or passion. In this case, there is a meaning in the phrase, Manifest Destiny. America is to be the land of the workers, the country where, of all others, the intelligent brain and skilled hand of the mechanic, and the patient labor of those who till their own fields, are to stand them in greatest stead. We are to inaugurate and carry on the new system which makes Man of more value than Property, which will one day put the living value of industry above the dead value of capital. Our republic was not born under Cancer, to go backward. Perhaps we do not like the prospect? Perhaps we love the picturesque charm with which novelists and poets have invested the old feudal order of things? That is not the question. This New World of ours is to be the world of great workers and small estates. The freemen whose capital is their two hands must inevitably become hostile to a system clumsy and barbarous like that of Slavery, which only carries to its last result the pitiless logic of selfishness, sure at last to subject the toil of the many to the irresponsible power of the few.
It may temporarily avail tlie Party of Slavery-Extension to announce itself as the party of the white man, of the sacredness of property, and the obligation of law; it may draw to their ranks a few wellmeaning persons, whose easy circumstances make them uneasy,—a few leaders of defunct parties, with a general capacity for misdirection and nobody to misdirect; but it will avail the Republican Party more to claim and to prove that it is the party of Alan, no matter what his color or creed or race,—of the sacredness of that property which every human being has in himself,—and of the obligation of that law which outlives legislatures and statute-books, and is the only real security of all law. The cry of “ Conservatism ” may be efficacious for a season; but time will make plainer and plainer the distinction between the false conservatism which for its own benefit would keep things as they are, which smooths imminent ruin delusively over, as Niagara is smoothest on the edge of the abyss, and that true conservatism which works upon things as they are, to prepare them for what they must be,—recognizes the necessity of change, to forestall revolution with healthy development,—and believes that there is no real antagonism between Old and New, but only a factitious one, the result of man’s obstinacy or self-seeking.
- London Cotton-Plant, 21st August, 1858.↩
- Ibid, 18th September. 1858.↩
- It is a coincidence that the recapture of runaways did more than anything else to abolish villanage in England.↩
- See COBB on Slavery, (Philadelphia: T. & J. W. Johnson & Co., 1858,) where these admissions are made. (Introd. pp. 218-220.) This work, written by Mr. Thomas R. R. Cobb, of Georgia, is, considering the natural prepossessions of the author, singularly calm and candid. We commend it to our readers, as bringing together a great deal of information, and still more as showing the remarkable change which bus come over the Southern mind, even among moderate men, on the subject of Slavery. We shall take a future occasion to notice it more fully.↩