What We Are Coming To
IN the year 1745 Charles Edward Stuart landed in the wilds of Moidart and set up the standard of rebellion. The Kingdom of Scotland was then, in nearly all but political rights, an independent nation. A very large part of its population was of different blood from that of the southern portion of the British Island. The Highland clans were as distinct in manners, disposition, and race from their English neighbors as are the Indian tribes remaining in our midst from the men of Massachusetts and New York. They held to the old religion, the cardinal principle of which is to admit the right of no other form, and which never has obtained the upperhand without immediately attempting to put down all rivalry. They were devotedly attached to their chiefs. They represented a patriarchal system. They lived by means of a little agriculture and a great deal of plunder. They were bred to arms, and despised every other calling. The whole country of Scotland was possessed with an inextinguishable spirit of nationality, stronger than that of Hungary or Poland. They were traditional allies of France, the hereditary foe of England. Seven hundred years of fighting had filled the border-land with battle-fields, some of glorious and some of mournful memory, on which the Cross of Saint Andrew had been matched against that of Saint George. Some of the noblest families of the realm had won their knightly spurs and their ancient earldoms by warlike prowess against the Southron. Flodden and Bannockburn were household words, as potent as Agincourt and Cressy. Nor had the conduct of the House of Hanover been such as to conciliate the unwilling people. There was known to be a widespread disaffection even in England to the German princes. These had governed their adopted for the benefit of their native country. The sentiment of many counties was thoroughly Jacobite. A corrupt and venal administration was filled with secret adherents of the king over the water. One great university was in sympathy with the fallen dynasty. A large part of the Church was imbued with doctrines of divine right and passive obedience, of which the only logical conclusion was the return of the Stuarts.
Between the two countries there was an antagonism of customs, of manners, of character, more marked, more offensively displayed, and breeding more rancorous hatred than any which can now exist between the people of Boston and Charleston, between the Knickerbockers of New York and the Creoles of New Orleans. A Scotchman was to the South a comprehensive name for a greedy, beggarly adventurer, knavish and moneyloving to the last degree, full of absurd pride of pedigree, clannish and coldblooded, vindictive as a Corsican, and treacherous as a modern Greek. An Englishman was to the North a bullying, arrogant coward,— purse-proud, yet cringing to rank,— without loyalty and without sentiment, — given over to mere material interests, not comprehending the idea of honor, and believing, as the fortieth of his religious articles, that any injury, even to a blow, could be compensated by money.
Into an island thus divided the heir of the ancient family to whom in undoubted right of legitimacy the crown belonged, a young, gallant, and handsome prince, had thrown himself with a chivalrous confidence that touched every heart. There was every reason to suppose that the interests of England’s powerful enemy across the Channel were secretly pledged to sustain his cause. Scotland was soon ablaze with sympathy and devotion. The Prince advanced on Edinburgh. The city opened its gates. He was acknowledged, and held his court in the old Palace of Holyrood, where generation after generation of Stuarts had maintained their state. The castle alone, closely beleaguered, held out like our own Sumter in the centre of rebellion. A battle was fought almost beneath the walls of the Scotch capital, and the first great army upon which the English hope depended was ignominiously routed. A portion of the soldiery fled in disgraceful panic; those who stood were cut to pieces by the charges of a fiery valor against which discipline seemed powerless. The border fortress of Carlisle was soon after taken. Liverpool, not the great commercial port it now is, but of rising importance, and Manchester, were menaced. Even London was in dismay. Men like Horace Walpole wrote to their friends of a retreat to the garrets of Hanover. The funds fell. The leading minister had been a man of eminently pacific policy, whose chief state-maxim was Quieta non movere, and was taken by surprise. There are many historians and students of history who now admit, in looking back upon those times, that the fate of the established government hung upon a thread, and that the daring advance of the Pretender followed by another victory might have converted him into a Possessor and Defender. Had any one then asked as to the possibilities of a reconstruction of the severed Union, the answer would probably have been not much unlike the predictions of the croakers of to-day who clamor for acceptance of the Davisian olive-branch and an acknowledgment of the fact of Secession. Yet the strength of numbers, of means, and of public sentiment was altogether on the English side. Though paralyzed somewhat by the sense of private treachery, with the feeling that all branches of the public service were harboring men of doubtful loyalty, and the knowledge that a great body of " submissionists ” were ready to acquiesce in the course of events, whatever that might be, the Government prepared for an unconditional resistance. From the outset they treated it as a rebellion, and the adherents of the Stuarts as rebels. Time, the ablest of generals and wisest of statesmen, happened to be on their side. The Pretender turned northward from Derby, and on the field of Culloden the last hope of the exiled house was forever broken. Yet it would even then seem as if reconstruction had been rendered impossible. The Chevalier escaped to France, guarded by the fond loyalty of men and women who defied alike torture and temptation. While be lived, or the family remained, the danger continued to threaten England, and the heart of Scotland to be fevered with a secret hope. The old conflict of nationalities had been terribly envenomed by the cruelties of Cumberland and the license of the conquering troops. There was the same temptation ever lurking at the ear of Franco to whisper new assaults upon England. Ireland was held as a subjugated province, and was in a state of chronic discontent. To either wing of the British empire, alliance with, nay, submission to France, was considered preferable to remaining in the Union.
Thus far we have been looking at probabilities from the stand-point of their times. There is a curious parallelism in the essentials of that conflict with the present attempt to elevate King Cotton to the throne of this Republic. It is close enough to show that the same great rules have hitherto governed human action with unerring fidelity. The Government displayed at the outset the same vacillation ; the people were apparently as thoroughly indifferent to the Hanoverian cause as the Northern merchants, before the fall of Sumter, to the prosperity of Lincoln’s administration. The Russell of 1745, writing to the French court his views of the public sentiment of England and especially of London, probably gave an account of it not very dissimilar to that which the Russell of 1861 wrote to the London “ Times” after his first encounter with the feeling of New York. There were doubtless the same assurances on the part of confident partisans that the whole framework of the British government would crumble at the first attack. There were, too, the same extravagant alarms, the same wild misrepresentations, the same volunteer enthusiasm on the part of loyal subjects a little later on in the history. There was on the part of the rebels the same confidence in the justice of their cause, the same utter blindness to results, as in the devotees of Slavery. There was then, as now, an educated and cultivated set of plotters, moved by personal ambition, swaying with almost absolute power the minds of an ignorant and passionate class. It was the combat so often begun in the world, yet so inevitably ending always in the same way, between misguided enthusiasm and the great public conviction of the value of order, security, and peace.
The enmity seemed hopeless ; the insurrection was a smouldering fire, put out in one corner only to be renewed in another. If Virginia is a country in which a guerrilla resistance can be indefinitely prolonged, it is more open than the plains of Holland in comparison with the Highlands of that era. Few Lowlanders had ever penetrated them,—scarcely an Englishman. It was supposed that in those impregnable fastnesses an army of hundreds might defy the thousands of the crown. At Killiecrankie, Dundee and his Highlanders had beaten a well-appointed and superior force. Dundee had himself been repulsed by a handful of Covenanters at Loudoun Heath through the strength of their position. Montrose had carried on a partisan war against apparently hopeless odds. To overrun England might be a mad ambition, but to stand at bay in Scotland was a thing which had been again and again attempted with no inconsiderable success.
The rebellion failed, and there were several causes for the failure: Dissensions among the rebels, the want of efficient aid from France, the want of money, and the conviction of a large part of the Scots themselves of the value of the Union. The rebellion failed, and sullen submission to confiscation, military cruelty, and political proscription followed.
On Sunday, the 18th of June, 1815, not quite seventy years after, there charged side by side upon the élite of a French army, with the men of London, the Highlanders and Irish. A descendant of Cameron of Lochiel fell leading them on. The last spark of Jacobite enthusiasm and Scottish hatred of Englishmen had died out years before. Those who witnessed the entry of the Chevalier into Edinburgh lived to see the whole nation devouring with enthusiasm the novel of “ Waverley,”—so entirely had the bitterness of what had happened “sixty years since” passed from their minds !
We have thus selected two points of history as the short answer to the cry, “You can never reconstruct, the Union,” which History, the impartial judge on the bench, pronounces to the wranglers at the bar below. “Never” is a long word to speak, if it be a short one to spell. Events move fast, and the logic of Fate is more convincing than the arguments of daily editors. The “tout arrive en France” is true of the world in general, so far as relates to isolated circumstances. The very fact that a threatened disruption of our Union has been possible ought to forbid any one from concluding that reconstruction, or rather restoration, is impossible. Twenty years after the Battle of Culloden, Jacobitism was a dream ; fifty years after, it was a memory ; a century after, it was an antiquarian study.
The real question we are to ask concerning the present rebellion, and the only one which is of importance, is, What is it based upon ? an eternal or an arbitrary principle ? An eternal principle renews itself till it succeeds,— if not in one century, then in another. An arbitrary principle makes its fierce fight and then is slain, and men bury it as soon as they can. The Stuarts represented an arbitrary principle. They were the impersonation of unconstitutional power. Hereditary right they had, and the Hanoverians had not. According to Mr. Thackeray, and according to the strictest fact, we suspect the Georges were no more personally estimable than the Jameses, and they were far less kinglymannered. But they were willing to govern England according to law, and the Stuarts were determined to govern according to prerogative.
What is the present issue ? It is a contest, when reduced to its ultimate terms, between free labor and slavery. It is very true that this secession was planned before slavery considered itself aggrieved, before abolitionism became a word of war. But the antipathy between the slaveholder and the payer or receiver of wages was none the less radical. The systems were just as hostile. We admit that the South can make out its title of legitimacy. It has a slave population it must take care of and is bound to take care of till somebody can tell what better to do with it. It can show a refined condition of its highest society, which contrasts not unfavorably with the tawdry display and vulgar ostentation of the nouveaux riches whom sudden success in trade or invention has made conspicuous at the North. There is a fascination about the Southern life and character which charms those who do not look at it too closely into ardent championship. Even Mr. Russell, so long as he looked into white faces in South Carolina, was fascinated, and only when he came to look into black faces along the Mississippi found the disenchantment. The decisive difference is, that the North is purposing to settle and possess this land according to the law of right, and the South according to the law of might.
We say, therefore, that the issue of the contest need not be doubtful. The events of it may be very uncertain, but, from the parallel we have sketched, we think we can indicate the four chief causes of the Scottish failure as existing in the present crisis.
DISSENSIONS AMONG THE REBELS. These of course are hid from us by the veil of smoke that rises above Bull Run. But as between the party of advance and the party of defence, between the wouldbe spoilers of New York bank-vaults and Philadelphia mint-coffers, and the more prudent who desire “ to be let alone,” there is already an issue created. There are State jealousies, and that impatience of control which is inherent in the Southern mind, as it was in that of the Highland chieftains. There will be, as events move on, the same feud developed between the Palmetto of Carolina and the Pride-of-China of the Georgian, as then burned between Glen-Garry of that ilk and Vich Ian Vohr. There are rivalries of interest quite as fierce as those which roused the anti-tariff furor of Mr. Calhoun. Much as Great Britain may covet the cotton of South Carolina, she will not be disposed to encourage Louisiana to a competition in sugar with her own Jamaica. Virginia avill hardly brook the opening of a rival Dahomey which shall cheapen into unprofitableness her rearing of slaves. While fighting is to be done, these questions are in abeyance; but so soon as men come to ask what they are fighting for, they revive. There is selfishness inherent in the very idea of secession.
There is a capital story, we think, in the “ Gesta Romanorum,” of three thieves who have robbed a man of a large sum of gold. They propose a carouse over their booty, and one is sent to the town to buy wine. While he is gone, the two left behind plot to murder him on his return, so as to have a half instead of a third to their shares. He, meanwhile, coveting the whole, buys poison to put into the wine. They cut his throat and sit down to drinking, which soon finishes them. It is an admirable illustration of the probable future of successful secession. Something very like this ruined the cause of James III., and something not unlike it may be even now damaging the cause of H. S. I. M.,—His Sea-island Majesty, Cotton the First.
THE WANT OF EFFICIENT AID FROM ABROAD. WE are not yet quite out of the woods, and it behooveth us not to halloo that we certainly have found the path. But it is more than probable that the Southern hope of English or French aid has failed. Either nation by itself might be won over but for the other. He is a bold and a good charioteer who can drive those two steeds in double harness. Either without the other is simply an addition of x— x to the equation. If by next November we can get a single cottonport open, we shall have settled that Uncle Tom and the Duchess of Sutherland may return to the social cabinet of Great Britain, — and that being so, the political cabinet is of small account.
With the want of foreign aid comes the next want, that of MONEY. The Emperor of Austria has a convenient currency in his dominions, which you can carry in sheets and clip off just what you need. But cross a frontier and the very beggars’ dogs turn up their noses at the K. K. Schein-MÜnze. The Virginian and other Confederate scrip appears to be at par of exchange with Austrian bank-notes, — in fact, of the same worth as that “Brandon Money” of which Sol. Smith once brought away a hatful from Vicksburg, and was fain to swap it for a box of cigars. The South cannot long hold out under the wastefulness of war, unless relief come. “ With bread and gunpowder one may go anywhere,” said Napoleon, — but with limited hoecake and no gunpowder, even Governor Wise would wisely retreat.
But most certain of all in the long run is THE CONVICTION OF THE MEN OF THE SOUTH THEMSELVES OF THE VALUE OF THE UNION. It is said that the Union feeling is all gone at the South. That may be, and yet the facts on which it was based remain. Feeling is a thing which comes and goes. The value to the South of Federal care, Federal offices, Federal mail facilities, and the like, is not lessened. The weight of direct taxation is a marvellous corrector of the exciting effects of rhetoric. It is pleasanter to have Federal troops line State Street in Boston to guard the homeward passage of Onesimus to the longing Philemon than to have them receiving without a challenge the fugitive Contrabands. It is pleasanter to have B. F. Butler, Esq., argue in favor of the Dred Scott decision than to have General Butler enforcing the Fortress Monroe doctrine. Better to look up to a whole galaxy of stars, and to live under a baker’s dozen of stripes, than to dwell in perpetual fear of choosing between the calaboose and the drill-room of the Louisiana Zouaves. We have noticed that the sympathizers of the North are quoting the sentence from Mr. Lincoln’s inaugural to this effect, — What is to be gained after fighting ? We have got to negotiate at last, be the war long or short. This is a very potent argument, as Mr. Lincoln meant it. To men who must sooner‘or later negotiate their way back into the Union, it is a very important consideration how much fighting and how much money they can afford before negotiating. To us who cannot at any cost afford to stop until they are thus ready to negotiate, it is only comparatively a question. He says to the South, as a lawyer sure of a judgment and confident of execution to be thereafter satisfied might say to his adversary’s client, — “Don’t litigate longer than you can help, for you are only making costs which must come out of your own pocket.” To his own client, he says,— “They may delay, but they cannot hinder, our judgment.”
Meanwhile what shall we do with the root of bitterness, the real cause of antagonism ? That will do for itself. We probably cannot do much to help or hinder now. The negro and the white man will remain on the old ground, but new relations must be established between them. What those shall be will depend on many yet undeveloped contingencies. But when we reconstruct, it will be with a North stronger than ever before and a government too strong for rebellion ever to touch it again. Under a free government of majorities, such as ours, rebellion is simply the resistance of a minority. Secession has been acted out to the bitter end on a small scale ere now in this country. Daniel Shays tried it in Massachusetts ; Thomas Wilson Dorr tried it in Rhode Island. When they had tried it sufficiently, they gave in. We remember the Dorr War, and how bitterly the “ Algerines,” as they were called, were reviled. We doubt if a remnant of that hostility could be dug up anywhere between Beavertail Light and Woonsocket Falls. We have no doubt that men who then were on the point of fighting with each other fought side by side under Sprague, and fought all the better for having once before faced the possibilities of real war. When the minority are satisfied that they must give in, they do give in.
We do not purpose to debate now the question of the mode of reconstruction. When the seceded States return, though they come back to the old Constitution, they will come under circumstances demanding new conditions. The wisdom of legislation will be needed to establish as rapidly as possible pacification. What the circumstances will be none can now say. But we are better satisfied than ever of the impracticability of permanent secession. The American Revolution is not a parallel case. The only parallel in history that we can now recall is the one we have used so freely in this article. It is one in which the parallel fails chiefly in presenting stronger grounds for a permanent disruption. Scotland struggled against a geographical necessity. She did so under the influence of far more powerful motives than now exist at the South. She had far less binding ties than now are still living between us and our revolted States. A geographical necessity as vast and potent now links the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. The struggle is a more gigantic one, and in its fierce convulsions men’s minds may well lose their present balance, and men’s hearts their calm courage.
But everlasting laws are not to be put aside. The tornadoes which sweep the tropic seas seem for a time to reverse the course of Nature. The waters become turbid with the sands of the ocean’s bed. The air strikes and smites down with a solid force. The heaviest stones and beams of massy buildings fly like feathers on the blast. Vessels are found far up on the land, with the torn stumps of trees driven through their planking. Life and property are buried in utter ruin. But the storm passes, the sunshine comes back into the darkened skies, and the blue waves sparkle within their ancient limits. The awful tempest passes away into history,— for it is God, and not man, who measures the waters in the hollow of His hand, and sends forth and restrains the breath of the blasting of His displeasure.