Democracy and the Secession War

THE interest which foreign peoples take in our civil war proceeds from two causes chiefly, though there are minor causes that help swell the force of the current of feeling. The first of these causes is the contemplation of the check which has been given by the war’s occurrence to our march to universal American dominion. For about seventy-two years our “ progress,” as it was called, was more marvellous than the dreams of other nations. In spite of Indian wars, of wars with France and England and Mexico, of depredations on our commerce by France and England and Barbary, of a currency that seemed to have been created for the promotion of bankruptcy and the organization of instability, of biennial changes in our tariffs and systems of revenue, of competition that ought to have been the death of trade,—in spite of these and other evils, this country, in the brief term of one not over-long human life, increased in all respects at a rate to excite the gravest fears in the minds of men who. had been nursed on the balance-of-power theory. A new power had intruded itself into the old system, and its disturbing force was beyond all calculation. Between the day on which George Washington took the Presidential oath and the day when South Carolina broke her oath, our population had increased from something like three millions to more than thirty-one millions; and in all the elements of material strength our increase had far exceeded our growth in numbers. When the first Congress of the old Union met, our territory was confined to a strip of land on the western shore of the Atlantic, — and that territory was but sparsely settled. When the thirty-sixth Congress broke up, our territory had extended to the Pacific, on which we had two States, while other communities there were preparing to become States. It did seem as if Coleridge s “ august conception ” was about to become a great fact. “ The possible destiny of the United States of America,” said that mighty genius, “ as a nation of a hundred millions of freemen, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, living under the laws of Alfred, and speaking the language of Shakspeare and Milton, is an august conception.” To all appearance in 1860, there would be a hundred millions of freemen here, and not far from twenty millions of slaves, at the close of the nineteenth century; and middle-aged men were not unreasonable in their expectation of seeing the splendid spectacle. The rate of increase in population that we had known warranted their most sanguine hopes. Such a nation,— a nation that should grow its own food, make its own cloths, dig or pick up its own gold and silver and quicksilver, mine its own coal and iron, supply itself, and the rest of the world too, with cotton and tobacco and rice and sugar, and that should have a mercantile tonnage of not less than fifteen millions, and perhaps very much more, —such a nation, we say, it was reasonable to expect the United States would become by the year 1900. But because the thought of it was pleasing to us, we are not to conclude that it would be so to European sovereigns and statesmen. On the contrary, they had abundant reason to dread the accumulation of so much strength in one empire. Even in 1860 we had passed the point at which it was possible for us to have any fear of European nations, or of a European alliance. We had but to will it, and British America, and what there was left of Spanish America and Mexico, would all have been gathered in, reaped by that mowing-machine, the American sword. Had our rulers of that year sought to stave off civil war by plunging us into a foreign war, we could have made ourselves masters of all North America, despite the opposition of all Europe, had all Europe been ready to try the question with us, whether the Monroe doctrine were a living thing or a dirty skeleton from the past. But all Europe would not have opposed us, seeing that England would have been the principal suffrer from our success; and England is unpopular throughout Continental Europe, — in France, in Germany, and in Russia. Probably the French Emperor would have preferred a true cordial understanding with us to a nominal one with England, and, confining his labors to Europe and the East, would have obtained her “ natural boundaries ” for France, and supremacy over Egypt. The war might have left but three great powers in the world, namely, France, Russia, and America, or the United States, the latter to include Canada and Mexico, with the Slave-Power’s ascendency everywhere established in North America. It was on the cards that we might avoid dissension and civil strife by extending the Union, and by invading and conquering the territories of our neighbors. Why this course was not adopted it is not our purpose now to discuss ; but that it would have been adopted, if the Secession movement had been directed from the North against the rule of the Democratic party, we are as firmly convinced as we are of the existence of the tax-gatherer,—and no man in this country can now entertain any doubt of his existence, or of his industry and exactions.

When, therefore, our Union was severed in twain by the action of the Southern Secessionists, and the Confederacy was established, it was the most natural thing in the world that most European governments, and by far the larger part of the governing classes in most European nations, should sympathize with the Rebels : not because they altogether approved of what the Rebels avowed to be their principles, or of their scandalous actions in the cause of lawlessness ; but because their success would break down a nation that was becoming too strong to have any regard for European opinion, and the continuance and growth of which were believed to be incompatible with the safety of Europe, and the retention of its controlling position in the world. England was relieved of her fears with regard to her North-American possessions ; and Spain saw an end put to those insulting demands that she should sell Cuba, which for years had proceeded from Democratic administrations, — President Buchanan, in the very last days of his term, and while the Union was falling to pieces around him, persisting in a demand which then had become as ridiculous as it had ever been wicked, Austria and Prussia could have no objection to the breaking-up of a nation which had sympathized with Poland, Hungary, and Italy, and which, so far as it acted at all, had acted in behalf of European Liberalism. France, which would have been willing to act with us, had we remained in condition to render our action valuable, had no idea of risking anything in our behalf, and turned her attention to Mexico, as a field well worthy of her cultivation, and which our troubles had laid open to her enterprise and ambition. The kingdom of Italy was of too recent birth to have much influence; and, though its sympathies were with us, it was forced by circumstances to conform to the example, of France and England. Even Russia, though unquestionably our friend, and sincerely anxious for our success, probably did not much regret that something bad here occurred which might teach us to become less ready to prompt Poles to rebel, and not so eager to help them when in rebellion. Most of the lesser governments of Europe saw our difficulties with satisfaction, because generally they are illiberal in their character, and our example was calculated to render their subjects disaffected.

The feeling of which we speak is one that arose from the rapid growth of this country, and of the fears that that growth had created as to the safety of European States. It had nothing to do with the character of our national polity, or with the political opinions of our people. It would have existed all the same, if we had been governed by an Autocrat or a Stratocrat, instead of having a movable President for our chief. It would have been as strong, if our national legislature had been as quiescent as Napoleon I.’s Senate, instead of being a reckless and an undignified Congress. It owed its existence to our power, our growth, our ambition, our “ reannexing ” spirit, our disposition to meddle with the affairs of others, our restlessness, and our frequent avowals of an intention to become masters of all the Occident. We might have been regarded as even more dangerous than we were, had our government been as firmly founded as that of Russia, or had it, like that of France, the power that proceeds at once from the great intellect and the great name of its chief. A Napoleon or a Nicholas at the head of a people so intelligent and so active as Americans would indeed have been a most formidable personage, and likely to employ his power for the disturbance of mankind.

But in addition to the fear that was created by our rapid growth in greatness, the rulers of foreign nations regarded us with apprehension because of our political position. We stood at the head of the popular interest of Christendom, and all that we effected was carried to the credit of popular institutions. We stood in antagonism to the monarchical and aristocratical polities of Europe. The greater our success, the stronger was the testimony borne by our career against the old forms of government. Our example was believed to have brought about that French movement which had shaken the world. The French Revolution was held to be the child of the American Revolution ; and if we had accomplished so much in our weak youth, what might not be expected from our example when we should have passed into the state of ripened manhood ? Our existence in full proportions would be a protest against hereditary rule and exclusiveness. Imitation would follow, and every existing political interest in Europe was alarmed at the thought of the attacks to which it was exposed, and which might be precipitated at any moment. On the other hand, if our “ experiment" should prove a failure, if democracy should come to utter grief in America, if civil war, debt, and the lessening of the comforts of the masses should be the final result of our attempt to establish the sovereignty of the people, would not the effect be fatal to the popular cause in Europe ? Certainly there would be a great reaction, perhaps as great, and even as permanent, as that Catholic reaction which began in the generation that followed the death of Luther, and which has been so forcibly painted by the greatest literary artists of our time. This was the second cause of that interest in our conflict which has prevailed in Europe, which still prevails there, and which has compelled Europeans of all classes, our foes as well as our friends, to turn their attention to our land. “ The eyes of the world are upon us! ” is a common saying with egotistical communities and parties, and mostly it is ridiculously employed ; but it was the soberest of facts for the three years that followed the Battle of Bull Run. If that gaze has latterly lost some of its intensity, it is because the thought of intervention in our quarrel has, to appearance, been abandoned even by the most inveterate of Tories who are not at the same time fools or the hireling advocates of the Confederate cause. Intervention in Mexico, too, whatever its success, has proved a more ditficult and a more costly business than was expected, and has indisposed men who wish our fall to be eager in taking any part in bringing it about. It may be, too, that the opinion prevails in Europe that the Rebels are quite equal to the work which there it is desired should here be wrought, and that policy requires that both parties should be allowed to bleed to death, perishing by their own hands. If American democracy is bent upon suicide, why should European aristocrats interfere openly in the conflict ?

We admit that the inference which the European foes of freedom are prepared to draw from our unhappy quarrel would be perfectly correct, if they started from a correct position. If our polity is a democratic polity, and if the end thereof is disunion, civil war, debt, immense suffering, and the fear of the conflict assuming even a social character before it shall have been concluded and peace restored, then is the conclusion inevitable that a democracy is no better than any other form of government, and is as bad as aristocracy or pure monarchy, under both of which modes of governing states there have been civil wars, heavy expenditures, much suffering for all classes of men, and great insecurity for life and property. Assuredly, democracy never could hope for a fairer field than has here existed ; and if here it has failed, the friends of democracy must suffer everywhere, and the cause of democracy receive a check from which it cannot hope to recover for generations. As “ the horrors of the French Revolution ” have proved most prejudicial to the popular cause for seventy years, so must the failure of the American “ experiment” prove prejudicial to that cause throughout Christendom. Our failure must be even more prejudicial than that of France; for the French movement was undertaken under circumstances that rendered failure all but certain, whereas ours was entered upon amid the most favoring conditions, such as seemed to make failure wellnigh impossible. But we do not admit that the position assumed by our European enemies is a sound one, and therefore we hold that the conclusion to which they have come, and from which they hope to effect so much for the cause of oppression, is entirely erroneous. Whether we have failed or not, the democratic principle remains unaffected. As we never have believed that our example was fairly quotable by European democrats, even when we appeared to be, and in most respects were, the most successful of constitutionally governed nations, so do we now deny that our failure to preserve peace in the old Union can be adduced in evidence against the excellence of democracy, as that is understood by the advanced liberals of Europe. As there is nothing in the history of the French Revolution that should make reflecting men averse to constitutional liberty, so is there nothing in the history of our war that should cause such men to become hostile to that democratic idea which, as great observers assure us, is to overcome and govern the world.

If we have failed, if our conflict is destined to end in a “general breakdown,” so unhappy a close to a grand movement will not be due to the ascendency of democracy here, but rather to democracy having by us been kept down and depressed. Our polity is not a democratic polity. It was never meant that it should be a democratic polity. Judging from the history of the doings of the national convention which made the Federal Constitution, and of the State conventions which ratified it, we should be justified in saying that the chief object of “ the fathers ” was to prevent the existence of a democracy in America. Their words and deeds are alike adverse to the notion that democracy had many friends here in the years that followed the achievement of our nationality. What might have happened, had the work of constitution-making been entered upon two or three years later, so that we should have bad to read of Frenchmen and Americans engaged at the same time in the same great business, it. might he interesting to inquire, as matter of curiosity; but our government under the Constitution had been fairly organized some days before the last StatesGeneral of France met, and, much as this country was subsequently influenced by considerations that proceeded from the French Revolution, they did not affect our polity, while they largely affected our policy. Some eminent men, who were much under the influence of French ideas, and others who were democratically inclined by their mental constitution, did not altogether approve of the polity which had been formed and ratified, and they represented the extreme left of the country, — as others, who thought that polity too liberal, (too feeble, they would have said,) represented the extreme right. These men agreed in nothing but this, that the Federal Constitution was but a temporary contrivance, and destined to last only until one extreme party or the other should succeed in overthrowing it, and substituting for it a polity in which either liberty or power should embody a complete triumph. Probably not one of their number ever dreamed that it would have seventy-two years of unbroken existence, or that the first serious attack made on it would proceed from the quarter whence that attack was destined to come.

That our polity ever should have been looked upon as democratieal in its character, as well at home as abroad, is one of the strangest facts in political history. Probably it is owing to some popular expressions in the Constitution itself. “ We, the People of the United States,” are the first words of the instrument, and they are represented as ordaining and establishing the Constitution. Some of the provisions of the Constitution are of a popular character, beyond doubt; but they are, in most instances, not inspirations, but derived from English experience, — and it will hardly be pretended that England was an armory from which democracy would think of drawing special weapons. Our fathers, as it were, codified English ideas and practices, because they knew them well, and knew them to be good. The two legislative chambers, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the good-behavior tenure of judges, and generally the modes of procedure, were taken from England; and they are not of democratic origin, while they are due to the action of aristocrats. The English Habeas-Corpus Act has been well described as “the most stringent curb that ever legislation imposed on tyranny ”; and that act was the work of the English Whigs, the most aristocratical party that ever existed, and it was as dear to Tories as to Whigs. Democracy had no more to do with its existence than with the existence of the earth. No democratic movement has ever aimed to extend this blessing to other countries. In forming our judicial system, the men of 1787-’91 paid little regard to democracy, making judges practically independent. There have been but two Chief Justices of the United States for wellnigh sixty - four years, though it is well known that Chief-Justice Marshall was as odious to the Jeffersonians of the early part of the century as Chief-Justice Taney is to the ascendent party of the last four years. Mansfield did not hold his seat more securely in England than Marshall held his in America, though Mansfield was as emphatically a favorite of George III. as Marshall was detestable in the eyes of President Jefferson, who seems to have looked upon the Federal Supreme Court with feelings not unlike to those with which James II. regarded the Habeas-Corpus Act. Had he been the head of a democratic polity, as he was the head of the democratic party, President Jefferson would have got rid of the obnoxious Chief Justice as summarily as ever a Stuart king ridded himself of an independent judge. And he would have been supported by his political friends, —democrats being quite as ready to support tyranny, and to punish independent officials, as ever were aristocrats or monarchists.

The manner in which Congress is constituted ought alone to suffice to show that our polity is thoroughly anti-democratic. The House of Representatives has the appearance of being a popular body ; but a popular body it is not, in any extended sense. The right to vote for members of the House is restricted, in some States essentially so. As matters stood during the whole period between the first election of Representatives and the closing days of 1860, a large number of members were chosen as representatives of property in men, a number sufficiently large to decide the issue of more than one great political question. In the Congress that met in December, 1859, the last Congress of the old régime, one eleventh part of the Representatives, or thereabout, represented slaves! Could anything be more opposed to democratic ideas than such a basis of representation as that ? Does any one suppose it would be possible to incorporate into a democratic constitution that should be formed for a European nation a provision giving power in the legislature to men because they were slaveholders, allowing them to treat their slaves as beasts from one point of view, and to regard them as men and women from another point of view ? Even in the Free States, and down to recent times, large numbers of men have been excluded from voting for Members of Congress because of the closeness of State laws. At this very time, the State of Rhode Island—a State which in opinion has almost invariably been in advance of her sisters — maintains a suffrage-system that is considered illiberal, if not odious, in Massachusetts ; and Massachusetts herself is very careful to guard the polls so jealously that she will not allow any man to vote who does not pay roundly for the “ privilege ” of voting, while she provides other securities that operate so stringently as sometimes to exclude even men who have paid their money. Universal suffrage exists nowhere in the United States, nor has its introduction ever been proposed in any part of this country. The French imperial system of voting approaches much nearer to universality than anything that ever has been known in America; and yet England manages to get along tolerably well with her imperial and democratic neighbor. Perhaps imperialism sweetens democracy for her, just as democracy salts imperialism in France.

But our House of Representatives, as originally constituted, was a democratic body, when compared with “ the upper chamber,” the Senate. The very existence of an “ upper chamber ” was an invasion of democratic ideas. If the people are right, why institute a body expressly for the purpose of checking their operations? Yet, in making our Constitution, not only was such a body instituted, but it was rendered as anti - democratic and as aristocratical as it could possibly be made. Its members were limited to two from each State, so that perfect equality between the States existed in the Senate, though one State might have four million inhabitants, and its neighbor not one hundred thousand. How this worked in practice will appear from the statement of a few facts. The year before the war began, the three leading States of the Union, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, had, in round numbers, ten millions of people, and they sent six members to the Senate, or the same number with Delaware, Florida, and Oregon, which had not above a twelfth part as many. Massachusetts had seven times as many people as Rhode Island, and each had two Senators. And so on through the whole roll of States. The Senators are not popularly elected, but are chosen by the State legislatures, and for tire long term of six years, while Representatives are elected by the people, every two years. The effect was, that the Senate became the most powerful body in the Republic, which it really ruled during the last twelve years of the old Union’s existence, when our Presidents were of the Forcible-Feeble order of men. The English have Mr. Mason in their country, and they make much of him ; and he will tell them, if asked, that the Senate was the chief power of the American State in its last days. That it was so testifies most strongly to the fact that our polity is not democratic. Yet it was to the peculiar constitution of the Senate that the seventytwo years of the Union were due; and had nothing occurred to disturb its formation, we should have had no Secession War. There was no danger that Secession could happen but what came from the existence of Slavery ; and so long as the number of Slave States and of Free States remained the same, it was impossible to convince any large portion of the slaveholders that their beloved institution could be put in danger. But latterly the Free States got ahead of the Slave States, and then the Secessionists had an opportunity to labor to some purpose, and that opportunity they did not neglect. It was to preserve the relative position of the two “ sections ” that the Missouri Compromise was repealed in 1854, in the hope and expectation that several new States might be made that should set up Slavery, and be represented by slaveholders. Had this nefarious scheme succeeded, it would have saved us from the Secession War ; but it would have brought other evils upon the country, which, in the long run, might have proved as great as those under which we are now suffering. We were reduced to a choice of evils ; and though we chose blindly, it is by no means certain that we did not choose wisely. As in all other cases, the judgment must depend upon the event, —and the judges are gentlemen who sit in courts-martial.

The manner in which the President and Vice-President of the United States were chosen was the reverse of democratical. Each State had the right to cast as many Electoral votes as it had Representatives in Congress, which was a democratic arrangement up to a certain point; but as a score and upward of the Representatives owed their existence to the existence of Slavery, the equality of the arrangement was more apparent than real. Yet farther in the direction of inequality : each State was allowed two Electors who answered to its Senators, which placed New Jersey on a footing with New York, Delaware with Pennsylvania, and Florida with Ohio, in utter disregard of all democratic ideas. The simple creation of Electoral Colleges was an anti - democratic proceeding. The intention of the framers of the Constitution was that the Electors of each State should be a perfectly independent body, and that they should vote according to their own sense of duty. We know that they never formed an independent body, and that they became at once mere agents of parties. This failure was in part owing to a sort of Chalcedonian blindness in the National Convention of 1787. That convention should have placed the choice of Electors where it placed the choice of Senators, — in the State legislatures. This would not have made the Electors independent, but it would have worked as well as the plan for choosing Senators, which has never been changed, and which it has never been sought to change. The mode of choosing a President by the National House of Representatives, when the people have failed to elect one, is thoroughly anti-democratic. The voting is then by States, the small States being equal to the great ones. Delaware then counts for as much as New York, though Delaware has never had but one Representative, and during one decennial term New York’s Representatives numbered forty ! Twice in our history — in 1801 and in 1825 — have Presidents been chosen by the House of Representatives.

The manner in which it is provided that amendments to the Constitution shall be effected amounts to a denial of the truth of what is considered to be an American truism, namely, that the majority shall rule. Two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, or two-thirds of the legislatures of the several States, must unite in the first instance, before amendments can be proposed, or a convention called in which to propose them. If thus far effected, they must be ratified by three-fourths of the States, before they can be incorporated into the Constitution. The process is as difficult as that which awaited the proposer of an amendment to the legislation of the Locrian lawgiver, who made his motion with a rope round his neck, with which he was strangled, if that motion was negatived. The provisions of Article V. pay no more attention to the mere majority of the people than Napoleon III. would pay to a request from the majority of Frenchmen to abdicate that imperial position which he won for himself, and which it is his firm purpose shall remain in his family.

It would be no difficult matter to point out other anti - democratic provisions in our National Constitution ; and it would be easy to show that in the Constitutions of most of our States, if not in all of them, there are provisions which flagrantly violate the democratic principle, and of which European democrats never could approve. All through the organic laws of the Nation and the States there are to be found restraints on numbers, as if the leading idea of the Constitution-makers of America were aversion to mere majorities, things that fluctuate from year to year, — almost from day to day, — and therefore are not to be trusted. We are stating the fact, and it does not concern our purpose to discuss the wisdom of what has here been done. How happened it, then, that our polity was so generally regarded as purely democratical in its character? Partly this was owing to the extremely popular nature of all our political action, and to the circumstances of the country not admitting of any struggle between the rich and the poor. Because there was no such struggle, it was inferred that the rich had been conquered by the poor, when the truth was, that, outside of the cities and large towns, there were no poor from whom to form a party. Degrees of wealth, and of means below wealth, there were, and there were poor men; but there was no class of poor people, and hence no material from which to form a proletarian party. In all our great party-conflicts the wealth and talents of the country were not far from equally divided, the wealth and ability of the South being mostly with the democratic party, while those of the North were on the side of their opponents ; but to this rule there were considerable exceptions. Foreigners could not understand this; and their conclusion was, that the masses had their own way in America, and that property was at their mercy, as it is said by some writers to have been at the mercy of the democracy of Athens.1 We were said to have established universal suffrage, when in fact suffrage was limited in every State, and in some States essentially limited, the abuses that from time to time occurred happening in great towns for the most part. Most citizens were legal voters in the larger number of the States ; but this was owing, not altogether to the liberal character of our polity or legislation, but to the general prosperity of the country, which made tax-paying easy and intelligence common, and hence caused myriads of men to take a warm interest in polities who in other countries never would have thought of troubling themselves about politics, save in times of universal commotion. The political appearance presented by the country was that of a democracy, beyond all question. America seemed to be a democratic flat to the foreigner. To him the effect was much the same as follows from looking upon a map. Look upon a map, and there is nothing but flatness to be seen, the most perfect equality between all parts of the earth. There are neither mountains nor villages, neither elevations nor chasms, nothing but conventional marks to indicate the existence of such things. The earth is a boundless plain, on which the prairie is as high as Chimborazo. The observer of the real earth knows that such is not the case, and that inequality is the physical world’s law. So was it here, to the foreign eye. All appeared to be on the same level, when he looked upon us from his home; but when he came amongst us, he found that matters here differed in no striking respect from those of older nations. Yet so wedded were foreigners to the notion that we were all democrats, and that here the majority did as it pleased them to do, that, but a short time before his death, — which took place just a year before the beginning of the Secession movement,— Lord Macaulay wrote a letter in which he expressed his belief that we should fall because of a struggle between the rich and the poor, for which we had provided by making suffrage universal ! He could not have been more ignorant of the real sources of the danger that threatened us, if he had been an American who resolutely closed his eyes, and then would not believe in what he would not see. When such a man could make such a mistake, and supposed that we were to perish from an agrarian revolt,— we being then on the eve of a revolt of the slaveholders, — it cannot be matter for wonder that the common European belief was that the United States constituted a pure and perfect democracy, or that most Europeans of the higher classes should have considered that democracy as the most impure and imperfect of political things.2

The long and almost unbroken ascendency of the democratic party in this country had much to do with creating the firm impression that our system was democratic in its character, — men not discriminating closely between that party and the polity of which it had charge. Originally, some reproach attached to the word Democrat, considered as a party - name; and it was not generally accepted until after the Jeffersonian time had passed away. Men who would now be called Democrats were known as Republicans in the early part of the century. But the word conquered a great place for itself, and became the most popular of political names, so that even respectable Whigs did not hesitate to appropriate it to their own use. Whatever name it was known by, the democratic party took possession of the Federal Government in 1801, and held it through an unbroken line of Virginia Presidents for twenty-four years, The Presidential term of Mr. J. Q. Adams was no breach of democratic partyrule in fact, whatever it was in name, for almost every man who held high office under Mr, Adams was a Jeffersonian democrat. In 1829 the new democratic party came into power, and held office for twelve successive years. The Whig victory of 1840 hardly interrupted that rule, as President Harrison’s early death threw power into the hands of Mr. Tyler, who was an ultraJeffersonian democrat, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. Mr, Polk, a Jacksonian democrat, was President from 1845 to 1849. The four years that followed saw the Presidential chair filled by Whigs, General Taylor and Mr. Fillmore; and those four years form the only time in which men who had had no connection with the democratic party wielded the executive power of the United States. General Pierce and Mr. Buchanan, both democrats, were at the head of the Government for the eight years that followed Mr. Fillmore’s retirement. Thus, during the sixty years that followed Mr. Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, the Presidency was held by democrats for fiftysix years, President Harrison himself being a democrat originally, — and if he is to be counted on the other side, the counting would not amount to much, as he was President less than five weeks. Even in those years in which the democrats did not have the Presidency, they were powerful in Congress, and generally controlled Federal legislation. It was natural, when the democratic party was so successful under our polity, that that polity should itself be considered democratic. In point of fact, the polity was as democratic as the party, — our democrats seldom displaying much sympathy with liberal ideas, and in their latter days becoming even servilely subservient to Slavery. It is but fair to add, that down to 1854 their sins with respect to Slavery were rather those of position than of principle, and that their action was no worse than would have been that of their opponents, had the latter been the ruling party. But, as the democratic party did rule here, and was supposed to hold to democratic principles, the conclusion was not unreasonable that we were living under a democratic polity, the overthrow of which would be a warning to the Liberals of Europe.

Our polity was constitutional in its character, strictly so; and if it has failed, — which we are far indeed from admitting, — the inference would seem fairly to be, that Constitutionalism has received a blow, not Democracy. As England is the greatest of constitutional countries, our failure, supposing it to have occurred, tells with force against her, from whose system we have drawn so much, and not adversely to the cause of European democracy, from whose principles and practice we have taken little. To us it seems that our war bears hard upon no government but our own, upon no people but ourselves, upon no party but American parties. It is as peculiar in its origin as in its modes. It had its origin in the existence of Slavery, and Slavery here existed in the worst form ever known among men. Until Slavery shall be found elsewhere in combination with Constitutionalism or Democracy, it would be unfair to quote our contest as a warning to other liberally governed lands. We were a nation with a snake in its bosom ; and as no other nation is similarly afflicted, our misfortune cannot be cited in the case of any other community. Free institutions are to be judged by their effect when they have had fair play, and not by what has happened in a republic which sought to have them in an unnatural alliance with the most detestable form of tyrannical oppression.

  1. The bad character that is so commonly given to the Athenian polity by the enemies of popular government is by no means deserved, if we can trust the definition of that polity by Pericles, as reported by Thucydides, and translated by that eminent scholar and great historian, Mr. Grote. “ We live under a constitution,'’ says Pericles, in-the famous funeral speech, “such as noway to envy the laws of our neighbors,—ourselves an example to others, rather than mere imitators. It is called a democracy, since its permanent aim tends toward the Many and not toward the Few: in regard to private matters and disputes, the laws deal equally with every man: while looking to public affairs and to claims of individual influence, every man’s chance of advancement is determined, not by party favor, but by real worth, according as his reputation stands in his own particular department: nor does poverty, or obscure station, keep him back, if he really has the means of benefiting the city.” This wellnigh makes a political Arcadia of Athens. Yet there is no good reason, after making due allowance for the imperfection of human action, when compared with the theory of a given polity, for doubting the correctness of the picture.
  2. One of our English friends, a man of wellearned eminence, says that “ extracts from the contemporary literature of America seem to show, that, if the result of the Presidential election of 1800 had been different, separation would have come, not from the South, hut from the North.” (SeeRsittyson Fiction, by Nassau . Senior, p. ,‘3Q7.) Mr. Senior is mistaken, as much so as when he says that “ a total abstinence from novel-reading pervades New England, where there is more novel-reading than in any other community of the same numbers in the world. With the exception of “ the old Abolitionists,” there were not five hundred disunionists in all the Free States in I860; and the Abolitionists would neither fight nor vote, and, though possessed of eminent abilities, they had no influence. If Mr. Senior were right, we do not see how the South could be blamed for what it has done; for, if we could secede because of Mr. Lincoln’s defeat, it folIOAVS that (he South could secede because of his election.