The twenty-first Presidential election, which will take place in eight months, will be one of the most important elections that ever a great people were called upon to hold. It would, indeed, be no exaggeration to say that it will be the most important election that Americans ever have known, for they then will have to decide whether they will restore power to that party to whose selfishness and unprincipled ambition this nation owes the late civil war, and all the evils of its calamitous course. The canvass of 1864 was one of serious importance, but not of equal anxiety with that upon which the country is now about to enter; for in 1864 the people had given abundant proof that they would wage the war then going on till the Rebels should be subdued. Of President Lincoln’s re-election there was no doubt; but whether he would be re-elected by a large or a small majority in the colleges was a point about which men could not agree; and the small majority he received in the great State of New York showed that their inability to agree was based on knowledge of the political condition of the country. The heavy Union majorities given in many States in 1863—that was the year in which Mr. Vallandigham, the Democratic candidate for the office of Governor of Ohio, was defeated by a majority of more than one hundred thousand votes—made men confident of the good result of the next year’s national election; so that when that year opened they knew that before its close the peace party would be beaten, and that thus the Southern Confederacy would be dealt a more damaging blow than it had received either at Gettysburg or at Chattanooga. It was possible that the peace party might carry some influential States, but that it would be victorious was held to be possible by no loyal citizen. All loyal citizens voted under the full assurance of success on the 8th of November, 1864; and they labored throughout the campaign with the same assurance of success. Had there been anything like grave doubt as to the result, the effect would have been very disastrous, not only in a political sense, but in respect to military matters. In all probability, neither Grant nor Sherman nor Farragut would have been able to accomplish those deeds by which the Confederacy was made to know it was fighting in a hopeless contest. Why should soldiers have striven to destroy the “new nation,” when it was possible that voters would disown their work, and confide the national government to the charge of men who believed our armies were engaged in a cause that was unconstitutional, unjust, and unholy, and therefore to be condemned by statesmen, moralists, and Christians? Fortunately, voters and soldiers were of one mind, and worked to the same end. The soldiers were convinced that they could conquer the Rebels of the South, and the voters were equally convinced that they could overthrow the allies of Rebellion in the North. The result showed that these convictions were founded in reason. The people, whether armed with the ballot or with the bayonet, were true to their country; and, in consequence, the country was saved, and its foes were overthrown, though not slain, — conquered, but not destroyed. The re-election of Mr. Lincoln settled the fate of the Rebellion; but it left the Rebels and their allies in the land, and they have since done much to show that they have the power to disturb the country they were unable to destroy. At this moment they are completing their preparations for a political campaign which they hope will, through its decision, reverse all that was done in and through the war; and restore ascendency to that organized anarchy which aimed at the overthrow of the national government as soon as its own chiefs were deposed, although their deposition was effected in strict accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, and in no sense was made contrary to the requirements of law.
The circumstances under which this presidential canvass opens are very different from those that existed four years since. In 1865 the elections were favorable to the national cause. President Johnson had not then showed himself to be one of the basest of men, and his official influence was not arrayed on the side of the rebellious Democracy. The Democratic party was so enfeebled through the fall of Richmond, the surrender of Lee and Johnston, the capture and imprisonment of Mr. Davis, and other “returns” from the South, that it was not able to make a respectable show at the polls. Even Connecticut gave so large a Republican majority that the effect was injurious to the victors, and had much to do with their subsequent defeat in the land of unsteady political habits. By the time the elections of 1866 began, President Johnson had proved himself to be a renegade; and his language was so persistently violent that the impression became common that he was a most dangerous man, who could be kept from proving a greater nuisance to the country than President Buchanan had been only through vigorous popular action in opposition to his “policy.” Hence the heavy Republican majorities in most of the States in the autumn of 1866. What Mr. Johnson might have done, had there not been a popular demonstration against his purpose, no one can say. If he had a coup d’etat in contemplation, it never took the form of action. He contented himself with growling over the decision made by the people, while he avowed his adherence to what the people had condemned, and his belief that another appeal to them would be followed by a result more favorable to his opinions and projects.
Time and events have, partially at least, showed that the President was not altogether wrong in looking for a change in popular sentiment. Although nothing had occurred in relation to national politics that should have wrought a change in the political sentiments of any man who voted for Republican candidates in 1866, the results of the elections of 1867 were very disastrous to the Republicans. They were beaten in Connecticut, the Democrats electing their candidate for governor by a small majority. Their popular majorities were reduced in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine. Massachusetts gave a Democratic vote of more than 70,000. In Ohio, their majority was changed from more than 43,000 to less than 3,000. California went over to the Democrats by a respectable majority. In Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Kansas, there were Republican losses. New York’s Democratic majority was but little short of 50,000; Pennsylvania’s less than 1,000; and in Whig New Jersey the Democrats regained their old supremacy. These changes, and others that might be mentioned, are attributed to the temperance question, and to the colored-suffrage question, and to the discontent that has grown out of the evil working of our national financial system. Such causes for the popular action of last year would be entirely satisfactory as causes, were the two parties which contain most of our voters alike constitutionally disposed, and were it not certain than the Democratic party is a lawless and destructive faction, which has no more idea of upholding the Constitution of the United States than Louis Napoleon had of upholding the Constitution of the French Republic when he took the required oath so to do in 1848. Supposing the people dissatisfied with the want of comprehensive action on the part of the Republicans in regard to financial affairs, they would have done wisely when they gave victory to the Democrats, if the latter were loyal to the nation; but as the Democrats are not a loyal party, — as from the very beginning of their corporate existence they have been enemies of the political system under which this nation exists, and have acted steadily with the design to destroy that system whenever they should be excluded from power; as the selfish ambition was the immediate cause of the secession war, and as they still sympathize with the defeated Rebels, with whom they are renewing the old alliance existing for more than sixty years before that war broke out, — the people did not act wisely when they gave encouragement to a party which cannot be restored to power without imminent hazard to the country’s peace, and even its existence. We are not in the least disposed to underrate the importance of the subjects of finance and taxation, and we think the Republican party deserves censure for the want of statesmanlike action which has marked almost its entire treatment of these subjects; but before these subjects can be properly attended to, the political character of the government must be settled, and it should be made clear that the civil war is not to be renewed. Inspirited by what has taken place, the Democratic party is preparing with great energy for the Presidential contest; and it is certain that the soberest of its members believe its chances of success at least equal to those of the Republican party, while its masses are confident of success. This is a condition of mind which often creates the success which is anticipated. A year ago, no man supposed the Democracy could look for victory in the campaign of 1868. Now, Republican journalists are pointing out the States they believe their candidates are certain of carrying, and their columns of names and figures are by no means of those great proportions which they would have assumed had they been made six months earlier. That the Republicans will elect their candidates in November we have no doubt; but it is evident that the battle will be, as Cromwell said of Worcester fight, “as stiff a business” as ever was seen in this country. We trust that, like Worcester fight, it will be, not only “a very glorious mercy,” but a “crowning mercy.” Such will be the result of the contest if the people are desirous of repose, and if they will but reflect on the history of the Democratic party, which is full of facts showing it to be a destructive faction, — a rule of ruin faction, — which abhors peace, and which is resolved that that blessing never shall be known to this nation unless under a Democratic despotism. That it now calls itself conservative is only another proof of its destructive nature and intentions; for there never yet existed a conservative party which did not turn out to be as thoroughly devoted to destruction as if it had been animated by the sentiments of barbarians moving through a civilized country.
The Democratic party came into existence, more than seventy years since, when Washington was President. The material from which it was made had long existed, but some years passed before the party had a regularly organized existence. The nucleus of the organization was that part of the people who had opposed first the formation and then the adoption of the Federal Constitution. Around these men gathered most of the foreign adventurers who had been attracted to the country by its success in the war of the Revolution, or who had been forced to leave their own countries through their attachment to the cause of revolutionary France, and who thought, with Mr. Jefferson, that the American Constitution was not sufficiently democratical in its character. Then came all the men who were opposed to paying the debts contracted during the Revolution, — the predecessors of the Pendletonian Democrats of to-day, who would swamp the existing debt by an enormous issue of greenbacks. Then came the better portion of the party, — men who sympathized with the French in their struggles against the monarchs and aristocrats of Europe, and who thought the national government’s sympathies were with the enemies of France. The party that was formed out of these various materials began to make itself felt early in the second term of Washington’s presidency, and its temper was so rancorous and its action so unprincipled, that even the great President himself was occasionally moved to the use of indignant language when speaking of its course. Nor were overt acts wanting to show that violent opposition could be made to the administration of the Father of his Country. The Whiskey Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania, in 1794, was the work of Democrats, and meant something more than mere hostility to an excise duty. Even Mr. Jefferson, who was a friend to the rebels throughout, admits that “there was, indeed, a meeting [of rebels] to consult about a separation”; but he is careful to add, “but to consult on a question does not amount to a determination of that question in the affirmative, still less to the acting on such a determination.” Certainly not; but when men met, in 1794, “to consult about a separation” from the Union, their consultation showed what kind of spirit animated them. Considering that consultation by the light of recent history, we see how great was the danger to which the country was exposed in 1794. Had the President been a bad, weak partisan, — had he been a Buchanan, — 1795 would have been to 1794 what 1861 was to 1860. But George Washington was not the man to grasp nettles with a soft hand. He crushed the rebels at a blow. He summoned fifteen thousand men, who stamped out Democratic rebellion with their armed heels and so there came no civil war. Had Mr. Buchanan been as energetic in 1860, civil war would not have come upon us in 1861. The difference between the conduct of the two men is as the difference between their characters. Washington was a great statesman and a pure patriot; Buchanan, a pettifogging politician and a mere partisan.
So vehement, bitter, and unscrupulous was the conduct of the Democratic party in Washington’s time, that nothing short of the name and influence of Washington could have saved the Constitution from perishing even more rapidly than the Mexican Constitution perished not forty years later. John Adams, who succeeded him as President, not only had no such moral power as Washington possessed, but he was obnoxious as being a Northern man; for the Democratic party from the first day of its life exhibited that strong sectional character which it has steadily manifested throughout its entire existence; and in its youth as in its advanced years, it was the patron of slavery and the friend of slaveholders. Mr. Adams was doubly offensive to the Democracy, — offensive as a Northern man, and offensive as a constitutional Federal statesman. Mr. Jefferson though he was Vice-President of the United States, and might have been called upon at any moment to become President, was at the head of the opposition, and took the lead in action that looked to forcible resistance to the national government. He wrote in behalf of having Virginia pass a law that would have put the authority of the United States under the ban in the Ancient Dominion, and have punished any Virginian seeking justice in the national courts. He wrote the celebrated Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which, after being modified by Mr. George Nichols, were adopted by the Kentucky Legislature; while the same year the yet more celebrated Virginia Resolutions were adopted. These were from the pen of Mr. Madison, who stood next to Mr. Jefferson as a leader of the Democracy, but who was not a member of the government against which the resolutions were directed. These resolutions became the creed of the Democratic party, as well they might, for they contain the heresy of nullification, and declare that the Constitution is a compact between States; and it is not difficult to find the principle of secession plainly expressed in the Kentucky Resolutions, and it is implied in those of Virginia. The course of South Carolina in 1832 was in strict accordance with the “Democratic platform” laid down in 1798; and the reason why the Democrats were so hostile to the national cause during the late civil war is to be found in their adherence to the principles of their party as expounded by its two greatest doctors, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. No man who believes in the resolutions of ’98—and they have embodied the Democratic faith for sixty-nine years—can honestly say that he believes the American people were right when they coerced their government to begin and to complete the work of coercing the States that seceded. All parties are faithful to their original principles, when once those principles are fairly called in question; and in 1860-1865 the question at issue was between the national principle and the Democratic principle. The States that seceded after President Lincoln issued his first proclamation called for volunteers, did so because they believed he meant to compel the return of States that had seceded under the encouragement afforded to rebellion by the Buchanan administration, — the last Democratic administration the country has known, and the last it ever should know. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas were faithful to Democratic principles, and aflse to the country, when they joined the Confederacy; and the Democratic leaders of the North who were faithful to those principles when they upheld the proceedings of the revolting States, and did all they could to embarrass the national government throughout the civil war. The mob that held possession of most of New York City in July, 1863, was faithful to Democratic principles; and it acted under their influence, and would have converted a riot into a revolution, had not its action been postponed by the news from Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The “principles of ’98” led to rebellion, secession, and civil war, and to rioting and murder in the streets of our cities. Replace the Democratic party in power, and we shall see repeated all that followed from that party’s anger when the North refused to permit the introduction of slavery into all the free States. That was the specific end at which the Northern branch of the Democracy aimed in 1860, and they hoped to gain it by alarming that large class of useless citizens who are known as “timid men,” and who would have sold even their own small souls at less than that can be imagined, — rather than consent to make war on the slaveholders. It was fortunate for the country that this class of men, though numerous, became of no account, except to be taxed, as soon as a patriotic spirit was roused. The same cowardice that would have made them most useful instruments in the hands of the destructive Democracy, acting in accordance with the “principles of ’98,” caused them to side with patriots as soon as it was clear that the country was not to be destroyed without a fight for its preservation. The Democracy were cowed by the exhibition of popular feeling that followed from the taking of Fort Sumter, and had for the moment to abandon the open advocacy of their principles; and during that moment they lost the support of the “timid men,” never to regain it in full, though it was given to them again in part whenever the rebels made an unusually good hit in the field. Had the people eeen cold when the flag went down that had floated over Fort Sumter, nine tenths of the Democrats would have gone over to the enemy openly, as they were already with him in their hearts.
Virginia went almost as far in support of rebellion in 1798-99 as South Carolina went some sixty years later. She sought to obtain the co-operation of other States, to which she sent her resolutions of rebellion; and she “collected arms, and made other preparations to repel force by force,” her intention being to wage war against the general government. That she did not go as far as South Carolina saw fit to go, at the close of 1860, was owing to the fact that she received no such assurances of assistance as the latter obtained. The Old Dominion could get no promise that, if she would go over Niagara, there would be many fools to follow her. The Palmetto State was given to understand that her lead to destruction would be followed handsomely, — and over she went. Moreover, the men leading Virginia on the road to ruin soon saw that it was possible to obtain possession of the general government, which they could manage to their liking. As they were not fools, — as they did not bear any mental resemblance to those Democrats who threw away national power in 1860, — they resolved, before making treasonable things of their rebellious words, upon a vigorous effort to pull down Mr. Adams, and to place Mr. Jefferson in the Presidential chair. They succeeded in preventing Mr. Adams’s re-election, but the House of Representatives had to decide whether Mr. Jefferson or Colonel Burr should be his successor; and had that body made Colonel Burr president, the Southern Democracy would have resisted his government, though he would have been as legally elected to the national chief magistracy as Mr. Jefferson himself was elected in February, 1801. Not only was it necessary that the Democrats should triumph, if the country’s peace was to be preserved, but it was equally necessary that Mr. Jefferson should be made President. Yet it was to Colonel Burr that the party owed its victory. His peculiar labors secured for it the electoral votes of New York; the giving of which for the Federal party’s candidates would have secured Mr. Adams a second term, and bestowed the Vice-Presidency on Mr. Pinckney.
The success of the Democracy, in 1801, was final, as against the Federal party of the first generation of the Republic under the existing Constitution. For twenty-four years they held the Presidency, the Presidents being all Southern men and Virginians. Therefore they were under no temptation to resist the national government. Mr. J. Q. Adams became President in 1825; and he, being a Northern man, encountered a bitter and an unprincipled opposition, though his administration was one of the most constitutional character, no attacks being made on the States. But the Democracy had declared, through the mouth of one of their leaders, that Mr. Adams’s administration must be “put down, though it were as pure as the angels which stand at the right hand of God,” and they acted in accordance with this strong declaration. The celebrated Rufus King, then a Senator from New York, brought forward a resolution to provide that, after the payment of the public debt, the net proceeds from the sales of the public lands should be appropriated in aid of the emancipation of slaves and the colonization of colored persons, when such action should be allowed by the laws of the States. The Democracy, — at that time trying to make an arrangement with England for the return of slaves who should seek refuge in Canada, — took up this matter as if it were an attack on human liberty; and they made the administration responsible for what Mr. King had done on his own responsibility. The matter was also taken up by Southern legislatures, and as much was said about the meddling of fanatics with the local rights of Southern States as ever was said twenty years later, when Mr. Garrison had become a power in the land. Governor Tourp, who will be remembered by some of our readers as an insatiable fire-eater, spoke most fiercely on the subject in a message to the Legislature of Georgia, which body he entreated “to temporize no longer.” “I entreat you,” he proceeded to say, “most sincerely, now that it is not too late to step forth, and having exhausted the argument, to stand by your arms.” This message was referred to a committee of fire-eaters, who responded: “The hour is come, or is rapidly approaching, when the States, from Virginia to Georgia, from Missouri to Louisiana, must confederate, and as one man say to the Union: ‘We will no longer submit our retained rights to the snivelling insinuations of bad men on the floor of Congress,’ and to ‘the decision of judicial branches.’ ‘As Athens, as Sparta, as Rome was, we will be: they held slaves; we hold them.’” This inflammatory nonsense was greatly applauded by the Democracy, who were ever glad to see attacks made on the general government when it was not in the hands of their chiefs.
Governor Troup, with the approval of the Democracy, resisted the general government when it protected the Indians whose lands were sought by Georgians. He went to the very verge of treason, if he did not actually step over the thin line that separates the loyalist from the traitor. But government refused to be governed by the mad governor, and enforced its decrees, much to the disgust of all Democrats, whose creed it is that a State can do no wrong, — unless it be an anti-Democratic Northern State, which changes the moral and legal bearings of the question altogether.
During Mr. Adams’s term of service, the nullification movement began, and plots were formed in South Carolina for the dissolution of the Union. It originated in hostility to a protective tariff, and would have become important as early as 1828, ahd not Mr. Adams failed of a re-election that year. Supposing that General Jackson was more friendly to their views that Mr. Adams was, and expecting to have control of the national government after the General’s inauguration as President of the United States, the Carolinian leaders, most of whom were men of great talents, would not allow the question to proceed to extremities in 1828. President Jackson not only did not do what they expected of him, but he did many things adversely to them and their personal interests, that no one could have counted upon. He quarrelled with Mr. Calhoun, who had expected to be his successor in the Presidential chair. The quarrel precipitated rebellion. South Carolina prepared to nullify the laws of the nation, which differed in nothing essential from rebellion; and the President prepared to flog her back to her duty. His vast personal popularity made him the best possible champion of the national cause; and had he led the Democrats against the Carolinians, they would have had to pitch to the dogs State rights, and “the principles of ’98,” and all the rest of that budget of anarchical fancies which makes up what long has been known as “Democratic principles.” Those principles have survived all the attacks that have been made on them. They have outlived the defeats of 1840 and 1848, and also the far greater defeats they met with on the bloody battle-fields of 1861-1865; but they could not have survived the attacks that would have been made upon them by the Democrats themselves, had Andrew Jackson been permitted to lead his party against the nullifiers. Unfortunately, Mr. Clay was enabled to patch up a compromise, — the famous Compromise of 1833, — through the temporary success of which the inevitable quarrel was postponed for about twenty-eight years. This was exactly the worst thing that could have happened, for it was highly necessary that the Democratic party should be blooded in a war against Southern rebels. Then they would have become as good Federalists as even Washington could have desired to see them, — as good Federalists as James Madison himself could have wished to see them when, speaking of New York’s proposition to enter the Union with the reserved right to leave it whenever she should think proper to do so, he said, “The Constitution requires an adoption in toto, AND FOREVER,” — and that a State could not enter the Union as New York wished to enter it. Not only, however, was the Democratic party prevented from being placed in an attitude of intense hostility to its disorganizing dogmas by the success of Mr. Clay’s compromise, but from that time it began to show a fondness for Southern ideas that never had been known to the Jeffersonian Democracy. Beginning to change about 1835, it changed fast, and marched far in its desire to get out of sight and hearing of what it had done, under the grand lead of President Jackson, against traitors and treason. It was heartily ashamed of the best thing to be found in its history. In fact, it was not the Democratic party that put down nullification, but Andrew Jackson, who stands out as honorably and brightly in contrast with most of the Democrats of 1832-1833, as John Knox stands out in contrast with the Scottish reforming nobility of three hundred years ago. Had Mr. Adams been re-elected in 1828-29, nullification would have been a success; for the Democrats would have sided with the rebels, who did not go in the least beyond the doctrines laid down in “the resolutions of ’98.” As it was, almost the whole of the two opposition parties—the National Republicans and the Anti-Masons, — rallied to the support of President Jackson, by whom they had just been beaten badly in a great national contest. The leading champion of the Union cause, and as such peculiarly honored by President Jackson, was Mr. Webster, then at the height of his fame; and he spoke the Union sentiments of the opposition in words that will perish only with the language. Such is the difference between American parties. The Democracy sides ever with the enemies of the country, if it happens to be out of power, while men of other political views give their support to a Democratic government when it is assailed by traitors. Had there been a revolt at the beginning of Mr. Buchanan’s administration, he could have counted as surely on Republican support as on that of the men who had voted for him; how the Democrats bore themselves toward President Lincoln is matter of history. Their conduct was in strict accordance with the “resolutions of ’98,” the Democratic book of rebellion.
No opportunity was afforded for a Democratic revolt for many years after 1833. The Whigs came into power in 1841, but the early death of President Harrison placed the government in the hands of the South, in the person of President Tyler. Then came the Democratic administration of President Polk. An attempt was made to effect secession under the Whiggish administration of President Taylor, but that stern soldier soon let the secessionists know that they would find another Jackson in him. His death was a great misfortune, for he was prepared to stamp out rebellion; and his successor, President Fillmore, was a mere tool in the hands of the SOuth, though it is said he behaved with spirit toward South Carolina, who was as ready to secede in 1850 as she was ten years later. The administrations of Pierce and Buchanan, being of the ultra-Democratic order, were not troubled by the action of rebels. True, the secession Rebellion began while Mr. Buchanan was President, but he did nothing to prevent the success of the Rebels, though he might have reduced them to despair by the firm use of his constitutional powers. He bore himself as the head of the Democratic party, not as the chief magistrate of the Republic. Not what would be useful to the country, but what would be beneficial to the Democratic party, was that to which he gave his thoughts; and, whether such was his intention or not, his course was, in almost every respect, precisely what the Rebels would have dictated had he done them the honor to consult them in regard to their exact wishes. The Southern members of his Cabinet were regular conspirators, and deserved well of the Rebels, who never could have opened their “national” career so advantageously had they not had such powerful friends at court. Cobb, Thompson, and Floyd were three of the most expert rogues that ever conspired; and there is really something sublime in the audacity of their action, — cabinet officers taking the lead in destroying the government, of which they were the most prominent members after the President himself! The conduct of these men—the three greatest scoundrels that ever figured even in American politics—shows how loosely the sentiment of honor is held by the ruling Southern Democratic politicians. It was at one time supposed that Toucey, of the Navy Department, was as bad as either of the Southern men in Buchanan’s Cabinet; but time has made it clear that he was not the equal of even the least rogue of the three. His intentions may have been bad enough, but capacity and courage were wanting to make him perfectly useful to the Democracy. Poor old General Cass, who was seventy-eight when South Carolina rebelled, seems to have been the tool of his Southern Cabinet associates, and never to have suspected, till suspicion became useless, that they were in earnest when they talked treason. He thought it all a trick, a part of the political play. The entire picture is a shocking one, — the government of a mighty nation taking the principal part in the foul and treacherous business of destroying it; for such was the part of the Buchanan administration during the greater part of the last year of its existence. The very agency that was relied upon for protection against conspirators was itself in the conspiracy! Yet what was then seen is what the country must expect to see repeated, should the Democratic party now be restored to power, and should it afterward be found necessary to displace it because of its evil doing.
Mr. Buchanan has written a book to show that he ought not to be blamed for the occurrence of the Rebellion. He cannot be complimented on the success of his argument. He mentions that General Scott stated, on the 30th of October, 1860, that there were but five companies of Regulars (four hundred men) available for garrisoning the Southern ports. This was, indeed, a bad state of things; but it might have been worse, for if those five companies had been placed in the Charleston forts, and two or three small armed steamboats had been sent to Charleston Harbor, there would have been no Rebellion. Everything then depended upon the action of South Carolina, and that State would not have seceded had government thrown men into the Charleston forts, with orders to fire on all parties that should have attempted to raise works against those forts. As to the four hundred available men, it would have been easy to double their number by recruiting sailors, who would have been as useful as regular artillerists in the working of great guns. A thousand sailors could have been got in a day in our seaports. Not one of the Southern States would have seceded till South Carolina led the way; and South Carolina would not have led the way had government been firm with her, and made her understand that any action directed against the forts would be met by adequate resistance. This is the conclusion derived from her course. She did not secede till the 20th of December, 1860, more than six weeks after the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency, nor till she had received solemn and official assurance from President Buchanan that no opposition should be made to her action in seceding. On the 3d of December, 1860, Mr. Buchanan sent his last annual message to Congress, in which he discussed the state of affairs at length; and in course of the message occurs this remarkable passage: “The question fairly stated is, ‘Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State into submission which is attempting to withdraw, or has actually withdrawn, from the confederacy?’ If answered in the affirmative, it must be on the principle that the power has been conferred upon Congress to make war against a State. After much serious reflection, I have arrived at the conclusion that no such power has been delegated to Congress, or to any other department of the Federal government. It is manifest, upon an inspection of the Constitution, that this is not among the specific and enumerated powers granted to Congress; and it is equally apparent that its exercise is not ‘necessary and proper for carrying into execution’ any one of these powers. So far from this power having been delegated to Congress, it was expressly refused by the Convention which framed the Constitution.” This was a letter of license to South Carolina. It announced to her that she should not be molested while seeking the Union’s destruction, and that she might besiege the Charleston forts without drawing a shot from one of their guns. Accordingly, in seventeen days after the President of the United States had advised her of the vitally important fact that he should not offer opposition to any action she might take for the promotion of rebellion, South Carolina seceded; and soon had such works raised that it became difficult, if not impossible, to send men and munitions to the assistance of the feeble force in Sumter, the only fort over which the national banner was flying at the opening of the year 1861. The Democratic press approved of what the President had said in support of the position that government had no constitutional power “to coerce a State into submission which is attempting to withdraw, or has actually withdrawn, from the confederacy.” The Democratic party approved of it. They all—President, journalists, and party—acted in a perfectly consistent manner. The President had done no more than to set forth the old Democratic doctrine neatly and concisely. He expounded “the resolutions of ’98,” and he could have done no less, and retained his political position, unless he had remained silent; and that was scarcely possible, considering the state of things at the close of 1860. The facts are deeply interesting: because they show first, what is the logical consequence of the Democratic theory of government, namely, the right of any and every State to withdraw form the Union, with or without cause; and, secondly, what the American people would have to expect should the Democratic party regain that power which they so grossly abused in 1860. If South Carolina had the right to secede in 1860, because, as she said, slavery’s safety was threatened, she will have the right to secede in 1872, because slavery was abolished—violently abolished—by the national government; and should there be a Democratic President in December, 1872, he would act as Mr. Buchanan acted in 1860, and his conduct would be in strict accordance with Democratic principles. If the American people choose to organize anarchy, and make it permanent, they will restore power to the Democracy; if they wish for peace, they will take care to keep power and the Democracy forever apart.
The most convincing evidence in support of the assertion that the Democratic party is a destructive party, and that it will seek the overthrow of the national government, whenever it is not allowed to control it, is found in the political history of the year preceding the secession war, and in the history of the early part of that conflict. The Democratic party, deliberately and of settled purpose, prepared the way for civil war, and then, as coolly, plunged the country into the terrible gulf. There could have been no resistance made to the will of the American people constitutionally expressed at the national election of 1860, had not the Democratic party encouraged traitors to take up arms, and had it not so borne itself as to furnish to the Southern secessionists what they believed to be sufficient cause for resistance, and on the occurrence of which, they had long and often said, their States would “throw themselves on their reserved rights.” Had the Democratic party done merely its duty as a party, and yet entirely disregarded the duty of each and all its members to the country, that occasion for the Rebellion, which the secessionists asserted was fairly found in Mr. Lincoln’s election to the Presidency by Northern votes alone, never would have been afforded them; for up to the month of April, 1860, the Republican party had not even the remotest chance of succeeding in the nineteenth Presidential election, then so near at hand; and without the success of the Republicans at that election, not even South Carolina could have ventured upon rebellion, or, if she had rebelled, she would not have found one Southern State so mad as to follow her insane example. It was necessary, in order to carry out the conspiracy formed by the destructive Democracy, that the Democratic party should be beaten in 1860; and, as every well-informed man knew that it could not, if united, be beaten at the polls, ti was arranged that it should be divided, and its strength reduced to weakness, at the very opening of the political campaign. As it sometimes happens in war, that an army is purposely sacrificed in order that a particular diplomatic end may be effected; so was the Democratic party sacrificed in 1860, in order that a certain purpose of its leaders might speedily be accomplished. That those leaders did not achieve their purpose no more establishes their innocence than the loss of his stake by a gamester proves that he never risked it. Their intentions were the worst possible; but their power was not equal to their will, and, instead of accomplishing the specific end at which they aimed, they had to content themselves with causing the loss of half a million lives, the expenditure of six or seven thousand millions of dollars, the creation of an indefinite amount of trouble and sorrow and general misery, and the complete defeat of their Southern friends and allies in the field. They used everybody ill, but they used the slaveholders worst of all; and it is strange that the latter should be so ready to renew an alliance that once was the cause of their overthrow. We can account for their readiness to forgive the treacherous Democracy, — false alike to the North and to the South, — only be supposing they are anxious to revenge themselves on the men who overthrew them in war. Believing themselves to be an aristocracy, they feel themselves disgraced, not merely because they were beaten, but because they were beaten by mechanics, laborers, fishermen, pedlers, traders, and others of the “lower classes.” To be beaten may be the lot of the bravest and best men, they argue, and there have been very few of the greatest of soldiers, from Hannibal to Napoleon, who have not drank deeply of the cup of defeat; but to be conquered by “the rabble,” as they consider their successful antagonists, is doubly galling. They feel as the Austrian chivalry felt when it was beaten to the ground by the churls of Switzerland. They feel as that fierce patrician, Lord Ulswater, felt when, though mounted and armed, he had been done to death by the plebeian Wolfe, who was both on foot and unarmed. “O,” said the dying aristocrat, “slain! slain in a ditch by a base-born hind! O, bitter, bitter, bitter!” Such is the feeling that animates the slaveocracy, who would sell themselves to Satan for the chance of revenge; and who are ready to go even a step further, and once more ally themselves with the Democrats for the same purpose. We trust they will learn, when the knowledge will not be of much service to them, that they have made another of those blunders which form the chief illustrations of their crazy history of the last fourteen years, ever since they revived slavery agitation at the beginning of 1854. For if they are bent upon having revenge, the American people, who are much the stronger party of the two, are quite as resolute that they never shall sit at that banquet which is said to be too exquisite to be served up to anybody beneath the gods. They may be devoted to vengeance, but we of the North are not such sheep as to submit our throats to the teeth of wolves, no matter how hungry they may be, or how urgent is the necessity that they should have blood.
The Charleston Convention, being the last full Democratic national convention that met in that old Union which the Democratic party destroyed, assembled on the 23d of April, 1860. There was a fitness in its place of meeting which could not fail to be noted at the time, and the force of which was further felt when, a few months later, the regular working of Democratic principles led to the secession of South Carolina from the Union, and the city of Charleston was the scene chosen by the first Rebels for their first display of madness. Charleston had been named for the place of the convention long before, in order to show how thoroughly the Democracy had given themselves up to the rule of their masters, the slaveholders, all of whose demands they were not only ready to grant, but even to anticipate. It is probable that the Northern men who insisted on having the convention meet at Charleston did so because they believed it would be easier to bring over any doubtful delegates to the support of slavery on slavery’s own ground. If they thought the secessionists would be pleased with the compliment, and so softened with regard to their “ulterior intentions,” they were very hopeful, indeed, considering what sort of training they must have gone through in order to attain to distinction in the Democratic party.
There were four parties in the Charleston Convention. 1. The Southern secessionists, pure and simple, who sought the dissolution of the Union, and said so, distinctly, and who were, not the less, on the best possible terms with the leaders of the Northern Democracy. 2. The Southern Democrats who wished to see a Republican elected to the Presidency in 1860-61, but who as yet were not quite ready to dissolve the Union, reserving that as a great card, to be played on another day. These gentlemen were headed by Mr. Jefferson Davis, who expected, and desired, that Mr. Seward would become President of the United States on the 4th of March, 1861, — as did Mr. Seward himself. Mr. Davis was moved both by ambition and by hatred to the course he pursued. He wished to become President of the United States in 1865, and he knew that, were Mr. Seward elected in 1860-61, his own prospects would be greatly improved; and he hated Mr. Douglas, who was the favorite of the majority of the delegates, — and was resolute in the determination that he should not receive the nomination of a united Democracy. 3. The Douglas delegates, who were ready to do almost anything that would operate for the interest of their leader, but who, though in a majority, were cut off from success through the existence of the two-thirds rule. 4. A number of Northern delegates, who hoped that advantage would be taken of the prevailing troubles to bring about such changes, under the name of “compromise,” as should legalize slavery in all the free States, and in that way accomplish two things: first, the soothing of the South; and, secondly, the permanent ascendency of the Democratic party through its union with slaveholders. Had these delegates been patriots as well as partisans, they would, after the usual amount of wrangling, have stopped such child’s play, and gone seriously to work, in order to prevent the coming of civil war upon the country. They could not have sinned in ignorance, for they had said, ten thousand times, that the election of any Republican to the Presidency—Mr. Lincoln was not nominated till June, 1860—certainly would lead to a dissolution of the Union, and they could not have expected that that would be quietly allowed; and yet they took the only course that made the election of a Republican to the Presidency, and of Republican majorities in Congress, possible! They quarrelled among themselves as fiercely as if they had been a convention of old Whigs, or older Federalists, and not the flower of the Democratic party, — a party renowned for the astuteness of its management, a party which never before had allowed its representatives to do more fighting among themselves than was necessary for the promotion of pure fraternal feeling. Had they been wise men, and as such desirous of keeping their country free from the evils of war, they would have postponed their private disputes to a more convenient season, and, dropping their chief aspirants to the Presidency, would have nominated a new man, for whose support all the forces of their party could have been combined, and who would have been chosen by a far greater vote than that to which Mr. Buchanan owed his election four years earlier. Such was their duty, according to the views they were loud in promulgating; but their duty was the last thing they thought of doing. They quarrelled to extremity, and the Charleston Convention was purposely broken up, in order that the treasonable purposes of some Democratic leaders, and the ambitious purposes of others, might be promoted. As the secessionists were the most resolute and determined of these men, — the Jacobins of the Democracy, — they had their own way, and made use of the Democratic party and of the Democratic administration to help bring about a dissolution of the Union. The course of the men who composed the Charleston Convention—the representative men of their party—forcibly illustrates the position that the Democracy constitutes a destructive political organization, and therefore is unfit to be intrusted with the work of government. Hostile to the Union form its origin, and from the character of its principles, it should be relegated to the “cold shade” of opposition, and forbidden to concern itself with the business of administration. It is faithful only to itself, and such selfish fidelity compels it to be false to the nation in which for years it claimed to be the sole national and constitutional organization.
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