Six Months in the Federal States


By EDWARD DICEY. In Two Volumes. London and Cambridge : Macmillan & Co.
THIS is a very gentlemanly book. Whatever excellence of commendation belongs to the adjective we have Italicized must be awarded to Mr. Dicey. And it is ill-adapted to the manufactures of most British tourists who have preceded him. For, to make no mention of the vulgar buffooneries of Bunn or Grattan, we hold that neither the exalted and irrepressible prosiness of Dr. Charles Mackay, nor the cleverish magic-lantern pictures of that good-natured book-maker, Mr. Anthony Trollope, would be perfectly fitted with this polite addition. It is no mean praise to say that the word gentlemanly naturally applies itself to a traveller’s work. And it is necessary to allow that the majority of Americans who have printed their impressions of a scamper over Europe have fallen as hopelessly below it as a few have risen far above it. Some word of deeper meaning must characterize the sterling sentences of “English Traits”; some epithet of more rare and subtile significance is suggested by those exquisitely painted scenes of foreign life with which Hawthorne is even now adorning the pages of the “Atlantic.” But after the manner in which such a well-informed, modest, humane man as we would emphatically credit as an American gentleman might speak of six months in England, so has Mr. Dicey spoken of his six months in the Federal States.
And, at this present time, far better than all curious delineations or “ stereographic ” descriptions are the sober testimonies concerning us which Mr. Dicey offers to his countrymen. To such loyal Americans as these volumes may reach they will give a heart not to be found in Dr. Russell’s pictorial neutrality, in the dashing effects of popular Mr. Trollope, nor even — making all allowance for the sanative influence of counter-irritation—in the weekly malignity of that ex-Moral Minstrel whom the London “ Times ” has sent to the aid of our insurgent slave-masters. For, instead of gloating over objections and picking out what petty enigmas may not be readily soluble, Mr. Dicey has a manly, English way of accepting the preponderant evidence concerning the crisis he came to study. He seldom gets entangled in trivial events, but knows how to use them as illustrations of great events. It is really refreshing to meet with a British traveller who is so happily delivered from the haunting consciousness of a personal identity. The reader is not called upon to bemoan the tribulations of temperance-taverns, the hardships of indiscriminate railroad-carriages, nor the rapacity of NewYork hackmen. There is scarcely an offence against good taste or good feeling in Mr. Dicey’s volumes; and whatever American homes may have been opened to him would doubtless reopen far more readily than to most publishing tourists from the mother-land.
Mr. Dicey clearly exhibits the bearing of the Rebellion upon the fate of the servile population of the South, and confesses that his deep sympathy with the Federal cause came from the conviction that the supremacy or overthrow of Slavery was intimately connected with the success or failure of Secession. In acknowledging the necessity that was upon loyal Americans of defending the fundamental law of their society, he is not disposed to adopt the lamentation of some of our foreign wellwishers who are troubled by the fear of a military despotism in the Free States. He has the sagacity to perceive that the genius and development of the graduates of Northern school-houses are totally opposed to a military rule. Mr. Dicey cordially recognizes the democratic idea which sanctifies our convulsion, and displays a careful observation in noting “ the selfrestraint, the moderation, and the patience of the American people in the conduct of the people’s war.” He is not over-disturbed because this same people loved law and order more than freedom itself, and with few murmurs committed high principles to the championship of whatever petty men happened to represent them. Indeed, one of the best sayings he reports is that of an old Polish exile, who congratulates himself that there will be no saviours of society, no fathers of their coun try, to be provided for when the war is over.
Throughout these two volumes British readers may discern something more than the barren facts of our struggle : they may catch glimpses of its energy and movement ; they may see it as reflected from the most generous American minds. For it seems to have been Mr. Dicey’s good fortune in this country to have gained admission to the society of men and women of high intelligence, in whom the religious sentiment was living and powerful ; and he appears to estimate the full weight of testimony such persons offered in sending their loved ones to Virginia to fall beneath the rifle of some Southern boor. It is this silent public opinion of the North which our foreign critics have generally failed to comprehend. They have been so long accustomed to parody the rhetorical elation of our third-rate political speakers, and to represent this as a universal American characteristic, that they signally failed to estimate the genuine emotion with which it is never connected. When the cherished barbarism of slaveholders arose and threatened our Western civilization, those who most felt and have best wrought for their country were cautious in their speech. They knew that the principle underlying the struggle must submit itself to the checks and counter-checks of constitutional law. While the fire of liberty burned at the heart of citizens of abiding loyalty, it seemed best, that, like the Psalmist, they should hold their peace even from good words. Many thought it an act of necessary self-restraint to dwell only upon the Union as a symbol of that universal freedom which they felt the Union must finally represent. The dread of overleaping the restraints of law, which, perchance, has prolonged the conflict, has been most creditable to the genuine democracy we have represented. We are proud to remember many intelligent soldiers who used no language of passionate denunciation towards the guilty institution which called them to the field, yet who knew the end when they gave their lives to a cause utterly antagonistic to its despotic claims.
By the representations of Secessionists encountered in the Free States, as well as from disloyal newspapers which the “Lincoln despotism ” never sought to suppress, Mr. Dicey was convinced that the sole purpose of the Rebellion was to get possession of the vast regions which lie west of the Mississippi, wherein to establish Slave States and Territories. “ The North,” he declares, “is fighting against, the South is fighting for, the power of extending slavery across the American continent; and if this was all that could be said, it is clear on which side must be the sympathies of any one who really and honestly believes that slavery is an evil and a sin.” But it is not here that Mr. Dicey rests the case of the North as appealing to the Christian sentiment of the world. He shows that the inexorable logic of facts must work the overthrow of slavery where it now exists. The suppression of the slave-trade, the recognition of Hayti, abolition in the District of Columbia, and finally the Proclamation of January have one tendency and can have but one result. We state these views as one more confirmation of the fact, that, whether agreeable to us or not, the sympathies of liberal men in Europe are to be had on the sole ground that ours is an anti-slavery war.
Mr. Dicey's predilections lead him to make a generous, although discriminating, estimate of those men who, in time past, have endeavored to serve their country by leaving the level commonplaces of respectable citizenship. It is no slight praise to say that his chapter upon the New-England Abolitionists is clear and just. Their points of disagreement with the Republican party are stated with no common accuracy. Careful sentences give the precise position of Garrison and his adherents : the intrinsic essence of the movement of these reformers is divested of the subordinate and trivial facts so often put forward to misrepresent it. Although Mr. Dicey endeavors not to commit himself upon the vital differences in the agitation of anti-slavery sentiments by the Abolitionists and by the Republican party, it is very evident that he inclines to the belief that the former, in their advocacy of disunion, acted not from a perverse and fanatical philosophy, but from the logical compulsions of a critical understanding, stimulated by an intense conviction of the national sin.
We have dwelt thus upon Mr. Dicey’s views of the war, and of the great moral question with which it is connected, because these portions of his volumes are most pertinent to us, as well as creditable to him. His sketches of public characters are good common - sense grasps at them, which generally get their externals, and occasionally something more. The description of the President is forcible, though a little too graphic for perfect courtesy. Caleb Cushing impresses the traveller as one of the ablest of our public men, and Wendell Phillips as by far the most eloquent speaker he ever heard. General Butler, however, is not to Mr. Dicey's taste. Indeed, he is hardly behind the “ Saturday Review ” in the terrible epithets he bestows upon the man who he acknowledges “ was associated with the grandest triumph of the Federal arms, and by some means or other preserved New Orleans to the Union with but little cost of either men or money.” It is rather late to renew discussion about the notorious order relating to the women of the subjected city. But Mr. Dicey chooses to express his belief in an infamous intention of General Butler at the time ot its issue, — though he declares that “ the strictest care was taken lest the order should be abused,” and that the “Southern ladies [?] were grossly insulting in their behavior to the Union soldiers, using language and gestures which, in a city occupied by troops of any other nation, would have subjected them, without orders, to the coarsest retaliation.” To which we have only to reply, that General Butler may be a villain, but that he is certainly not a fool. Nobody doubts that he has military or civil aspirations for the future, and, for such ends, if for nothing else, wishes the approbation of his loyal countrymen. Now Mr. Dicey testifies to “ the almost morbid sentiment of Americans in the Free States with regard to women ” : he tells us that “ it renders them ridiculously susceptible to female influences ”; also, that this same “sentiment” among us “protects women from the natural consequences of their own misconduct.” These characteristics of his countrymen are just as familiar to General Butler as they are patent to Mr. Dicey; and we hold it to be simply incredible that one who is at least a very shrewd politician used language which he intended should convey a meaning that must necessarily consign his future career to privacy and infamy. It is perhaps not wonderful that men who have deluged their country in blood, to propagate a system which consigns unborn millions to enforced harlotry, should put an evil interpretation upon the indignant stigma applied to acts which, in civilized States, come from one class of women, and are designed for one purpose. Neither is it very astonishing that such persons as have been employed to pump the New-York sewers into the cloaca maxima which sets towards us from PrintingHouse Square should share the sensitive chastity of the slave-masters whose work they are put to do. But it is passing strange that a gentleman so fair and reasonable as Mr. Dicey, one so appreciative of the moral tone which Northern society demands of its representatives, should join in an accusation whose absurdity is only lost in its infinite offence.
There are small inaccuracies, as well as occasional instances of carelessness or repetition, in these volumes, which, had circumstances allowed time for revision, might have been avoided. It would require the “ Pathfinder” himself to discover “Fremont Street” in the city where we write; the “Courier” is not “the most largely circulated of any Boston paper” ; and our Ex-Mayor “ Whiteman ” requires no fanciful orthography to free his name from the obloquy of an over-devotion to the interests of colored citizens. These are local illustrations of mistakes which are excusable in view of the commendable expedition with which the work was issued,—for, in the late crisis of our affairs, an Englishman who had any good words to give us fulfilled the proverb by giving twice in giving quickly. But, whatever trifling details might be subjected to criticism, the total impression of what Mr. Dicey has written bears honorable testimony to the accuracy of his observation, as well as to his powers of comparison and judgment.
As has been already remarked, we cannot be blind to the fact that our only supporters in England are those men who recognize at the heart of our contest that genuine principle of Liberty which is not to be limited to caste or to race. And it is only by hastening to justify their confidence that we can win to our cause the great people they address. If we cannot gain the national sympathy of England, we must do without the true sympathy of any nation. It was, indeed, remarked by De Tocqueville, that, “in the eyes of the English, the cause which is most useful to England is always the cause of justice.” But the rare insight of the philosopher assigns the phenomenon, not to a political Machiavelism, but to a “ laudable desire to connect the actions of one’s country with something more stable than interest.” The English have a peculiar gift of fixing their whole attention upon certain traits or single circumstances which they desire to see. We doubt not that a portion of their sympathy with the energy and endurance of those in arms against their country is estimable according to its light. But as the dignity of our mission in this struggle becomes more and more apparent, the moral intelligence of England will be forced to unite itself with the Government of the United States. Let that day come when it will, posterity will remember its obligations to those Englishmen who did so much to avert the hideous calamity of a war between the two liberal powers of the world. And to us of this present generation it is grateful to know that our brave and generous young men have not died wholly unrecognized in the land of their ancestors. Mill, Ellison, Hughes, — what need to name the rest? — have stood up to report them and their cause aright to the unsatisfied : in which roll of the honorable and honored we are glad to write the name of Edward Dicey.