Mr. Rhodes's History of the United States

“FAILURE makes us the vassals of an arrogant people,” runs the appeal to the people by the last Confederate Congress, March 21, 1865. “Failure will compel us to drink the cup of humiliation even to the bitter dregs of having the history of our struggle written by New England historians.” Mr. Rhodes is not a New Englander, indeed, but he is the next thing to it, — a product of the Western Reserve, — and he has written “something very near to what time will prove to be the accepted story of the nation’s great struggle for self-preservation.” This includes, of course, the struggle of the Southern States for independence, which has here been treated, by the acknowledgment of a Southern critic, as fairly and judicially as any American can now treat it. This acknowledgment was made on the appearance of the fifth volume, which concludes the story of the Civil War. If the same Southern critic should pronounce judgment on the whole work, now that its history of the Reconstruction period is complete in the sixth and seventh volumes, he would surely be forced to modify, if not to recall, his assertion that “a sympathetic treatment of both sides is naturally impossible at present.”

For though in his first two volumes, describing the agitations of the slavery question which led up to war, Mr. Rhodes is so thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Webster as to be a strong nationalist, in the last two volumes, describing “the pitiless years of reconstruction,” he is no less thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Lincoln, so that his sympathies are unreservedly and warmly with the oppressed South; and in the three intermediate volumes, describing the Civil War, he is a model of rigorous impartiality. No Southerner could depict with a tenderer touch the heroic sacrifices and the appalling sufferings in the Lost Cause, none do finer justice to its brave soldiers and great leaders. “These wdth other circumstances show that men both at the North and the South were frequently better than their words. More than once each side was seemingly on the brink of retaliatoryexecutions which would have been followed by stern reprisals. From such shedding of blood and its bitter memories we were spared by the caution and humanity of Abraham Lincoln, General Lee, and Jefferson Davis.” A history of the struggle of the South written in the spirit of Lincoln, by one who holds that the evolution of the character of Lincoln was one of the main compensations for the fearful losses of the war on both sides, can never add to the bitterness of any “cup of humiliation.”


Mr. Rhodes has devoted nineteen of the best years of his life to this monumental work. From the beginning to the end he has “envisaged”—to use a rather too frequent word of his own — his subject in its entirety, and in its impressive dramatic unity. His sense of proportion is artistic, as well as his perspective. In one particular only has his initial purpose been modified. The original terminus ad quem which he set for Ms work was the return of the Democratic party to power by the election of Cleveland to the presidency in 1884. For this, on most convincing grounds, he has substituted the final restoration of Home Rule at the South after the election of Hayes in 1877. “The withdrawal of the United States troops from South Carolina and Louisiana, following upon the tacit consent of the North to the overthrow of the other Southern carpet-bag-negro governments by the educated and property-holding people of the several states, was proof that the Reconstruction of the South, based on universal negro suffrage, was a failure and that, on the whole, the North was content that the South should work out the negro problem in her own way, subject to the three constitutional amendments, which embodied the results of the Civil War; and subject, also, to the public opinion of the enlightened world.”

This distinct terminal point accepted, the great drama has for prologue the events leading up to the compromise measures of 1850; for complication of the action, the upsetting of this compromise and the triumph of a sectional party, 1850 -1860; for catastrophe, the Civil War, 1861-1865; and for exodus and close, the period of Reconstruction, 1865-1877. Mr. Rhodes devotes two volumes to prologue and complication; three volumes to the catastrophe, which Mommsen called “the mightiest struggle and most glorious victory as yet recorded in human annals;” and two volumes to the exodus and close. “ My subject has been varied and important, my materials superabundant; and, while conscious of my limitations, I have endeavored throughout this history of the great conflict to maintain such standards of research and judgment as should elicit the utmost of truth.”

Specialists in this field of history are practically unanimous in their testimony that Mr. Rhodes has maintained the very highest “standards of research and judgment.” His collation of published material, official and other, is abundant and almost exhaustive, while his special privileges in the way of access to invaluable unpublished material, and friendly intercourse with able and competent witnesses, have been rare. Of patient, tireless industry there is evidence at all points, and winning frankness where superabundance of material has proved overwhelming. “The material” — for discussion of the treatment on both sides of prisoners of war— “is enormous, and a year were none too much for an exact and comprehensive study of it. The desire to complete the task I laid out for myself in the first page of this work, the endeavor to compass what Carlyle terms ‘the indispensablest beauty in knowing how to get done,’have prevented me from giving more than a part of that time to the subject, and I shall therefore state with diffidence the conclusions at which I have arrived.”

Aside from the almost unexampled impartiality of judgment which the work displays throughout, its most striking characteristics to the lay reader will be found in its subordination of the literary to the judicial element, —its freedom, that is, from rhetoric; in its marvelous pen-portraits of the prominent actors in the drama; and in its apparently unconscious, and therefore all the more artistic contrasts of light and shade. Mr. Rhodes manages well the long pause at a dramatic point, — a supreme moment, as, for instance, when, after the account of Lincoln’s election, we are held in suspended expectation of the loosing of the dogs of war by the long twelfth chapter on the state of society in America during the decade of 1850-1860. Behind the gloom and disappointment at the North in consequence of McClellan’s failures, the form of the great conqueror, Grant, is made to loom like a portent. Amid the vague uncertainties which mark Lee’s earlier career, the reader is made to await eagerly the unfolding of that genius which should make men of North and South alike “look upon him as the English of our day regard Washington.” And when “the great captain of the rebellion” had been compelled to do what he would rather have died a thousand deaths than do, and the North was rejoicing with an exuberant joy, as it had never rejoiced before, — “ nor did it during the remainder of the century on any occasion show such an exuberance of gladness,”— the art is consummate with which the “horror and deep mourning” which was to follow" Lincoln’s death is made to cast its shadow before. So, too, it is just after we have been led to realize the great magnanimity of Lincoln, and his peculiar fitness to secure the compromises which must accompany any readjustment of the relations between North and South, that we are brought to Johnson. “Under Lincoln Reconstruction would have been a model of statecraft which would have added to his great fame. Of all men in public life it is difficult to conceive of one so ill-fitted for this delicate work as was Andrew Johnson.” Of course such artistic contrasts are made possible only by that “knowledge of the end,” which Mr. Rhodes well knows to be “one of the most dangerous pitfalls which beset, the writers of history;” but knowledge which results merely in the most effective grouping of events, and not in partisan judgment upon them, needs no elimination.

From beginning to end of the work, from Calhoun, Clay, and Webster, to Hayes, Lamar, and Tilden, the great actors in the drama are made to live and breathe before us by the writer’s wonderful power of portraiture. Almost everywhere in these portraits there is what the painter calls “modeling,” and that of a high order. For us too the world seems “lonesome” without Daniel Webster, though we know his failings well. In all of us, when Lee finally decided to serve Virginia rather than the national government, “censure’s voice upon the action of such a noble soul is hushed.” All of us feel as it were the loss of a right arm when Stonewall Jackson and Reynolds die. Exceeding keen is the analysis of such complex and impulsive characters as General Sherman or Alexander H. Stephens. Remorseless though charitable is the exposure of weakness in McClellan or Frémont. The varying weaknesses and greatnesses of Seward and Chase are clearly differentiated, — there is no blurring in the strokes. But most clearly of course, because most minutely portrayed, the features of the great leaders stand out. before us, Lincoln and Davis, Grant, and Lee. Lincoln bore the sorrows of the whole nation, and his soul expanded under the strain and agony; Davis bore the sorrows of a revolution, and his soul, unlike that of Lee, contracted under the strain of defeat and failure. After the minor issue of the war, that of slavery, has been decided, and the nobler major issue, that of independence and disunion, remains to be decided, none can fail to admire that indomitable hopefulness which made him, in spite of constant debility, “next to Lee the strongest individual influence in time of distress.” And yet, compared with Lincoln, he is but a bitter partisan. “I spoke always of two countries,” he said, after the Hampton Roads Conference. “Mr. Lincoln spoke of a common country. I can have no common country with the Yankees. My life is bound up with the Confederacy. . . . With the Confederacy I will live or die. Thank God I represent a people too proud to eat the leek or bow the neck to mortal man.” And yet Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston, with rare civic virtue, surrendered when the cause was lost. And Grant received Lee’s surrender with a magnanimity which we are called upon by the historian to remember, and do gladly remember, amid the scandals of his presidential administrations. But we cannot linger among these admirable portraits, — a national gallery. Through them, more than through any other feature of the work, “we breathe the atmosphere of the period itself, and share the doubts, the fears, and the deep solicitude of the actors in it.”

“Without a touch of rhetoric,” writes an English reviewer of Mr. Rhodes’s work. This is in the main true. That snare of the historian, ancient and modem, the temptation to lay less stress on what is told than on how it is told, Mr. Rhodes has avoided to a really wonderful degree. It is true that no period of our history has such dramatic unity or such dramatic intensity as the period he has chosen to portray. He has only to let events speak for themselves in the simplest way, and he is sure of the attention and interest of his reader. But it is nevertheless a great virtue in a historian to do this, — to hide himself and his style behind his material rather than to impress them on it, and Mr. Rhodes has apparently chosen for his model Gardiner’s history of the English Civil War. The best thing to be said about Mr. Rhodes’s literary style is that one seldom notices it at all. It is like the garments of a really well dressed man or woman, which attract no attention. In the main it is simple, straightforward, and unaffected, though not without a rugged vigor all its own. At very rare intervals the writer seems to say to himself, “Go to! I will be ornate a bit,” and the result is something stilted or involved. To one who knows the probable beverage of a Southern Senator when stumping Kansas in 1854, it seems far-fetched to speak of a speech of his as “made under the influence of the invisible spirit of wine.” But such minor blemishes are all the more noticeable for their rarity. Akin to them are the more frequent quotations for literary adornment which have the air of being lugged in by force, as when Tacitus and Thucydides are cited apropos of Sherman’s “War is Hell,” or the eleventh Æneid to rebuke the Democrats who, in 1863, believed that peace was possible without recognition of the Confederacy. On the other hand, such quotations are often admirably managed, as that from Shakespeare’s Julius Cœsar, when the tolling of the bells announced the death of Lincoln:

Men, wives and children stare, cry out and run
As it were doomsday.”

And no one questions for an instant the appropriation into the text, entire, of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! my Captain! ”

Like Lincoln, Mr. Rhodes often uses with apparent unconsciousness and without quotation marks whole phrases of King James’s Bible or of Shakespeare. On the death of a slave, “it was the loss of money that was bewailed, and not of the light which no Promethean heat can relume.” When Theodore Parker preached his sermon on the death of Webster, “ the preacher appeared to wish the good which Webster did interred with his bones and the evil to live after him.” When Seward saw the rising flood of enthusiasm for Frémont in 1856, “the reflection must have come to him that he, instead of one who only began to labor in the vineyard at the eleventh hour, might have been the embodiment of this magnificent enthusiasm.” Even so unconsciously did Lincoln write to Sherman of the great success at Savannah, “It brings those who sat in darkness to see a great light; ” and who can forget the efficacy of his “ A house divided against itself cannot stand ” ?

This suggests also Mr. Rhodes’s rare gift for citation from authorities of every sort, — reports, speeches, letters, debates, — so that the gist of matters is often given to the reader in the form of a smooth mosaic of original sources. Nor does his own style lack charm and lucidity. Often it rises to impressiveness, and issues in finalities of statement, many of which will live on in the citations of his successors. “Nor, if we suppose the Puritan to have settled Virginia and the Cavalier Massachusetts, is it inconceivable that, while the question would have remained the same, the Puritan should have fought for slavery and the Cavalier for liberty,” — a sentence which illustrates much besides the writer’s style. “Manifestly superior as had been the advantages of Davis in family, breeding, training, and experience, he fell far below Lincoln as a compeller of men,” — a judgment from which few will dissent, and which few could state more effectively. His study of the commercial intercourse between the South and the North during the war, so debasing to the participants on both sides, brings him to the conclusion that it was of greater advantage to the Confederacy than to the Union. “For the South it was a necessary evil; for the North it was an evil and not a necessary one.” In contrast to such qualities of dignity, clarity, and epigrammatic force, it is only very seldom that the reader is obliged to note the purely rhetorical quality, as when it is said that Buchanan’s policy “was guided by the thought of after me the deluge, and must be classed among the wrecks with which the vacillation of irresolute men has strewn the coasts of time.”

Now that the Macmillans have taken over the publication of these volumes, there is little left to be desired in the matter of typography except a unification of spelling. If not “simplified,” it should at least be consistent. The “u in honour ” is conspicuous by its absence in the first three volumes, and by its presence in the last four, so that we have “ coloured man ” in the narrative of Mr. Rhodes, and “colored man” in the citation from Governor Orr which immediately follows.


“After all,” says Professor Gildersleeve,1 our academic Southerner in our Peloponnesian War, “ the slavery question belongs ultimately to the sphere of economics. The humanitarian spirit, set free by the French Revolution, was at work in the Southern States as in the Northern States, but it was hampered by economic considerations.” The economic considerations of the South led to the fatal repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the aggressive Kansas-Nebraska act. The humanitarian spirit of the North led to the formation of the Republican party and the protestant election of Lincoln. The North, following Lincoln, rejected the Crittenden Compromise, and thus fulfilled Sumner’s prophecy on the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act: “It annuls all past compromises with slavery, and makes all future compromises impossible.” The South, following Calhoun rather than Clay, rejected the Seward Compromise and attempted to break the Union; the North, following Webster and Lincoln, attempted to save the Union, and war was on.

Mr. Rhodes does the fullest justice to the economic changes at the South which led there to the obscuration of its humanitarian objections to human slavery. He is not in sympathy with the earlier and more extreme Abolitionists. His characterization of the institution of slavery at the South is as just and impartial as can be given by one who believes in the moral wrong of slavery. But in this moral wrong, with Lincoln, he firmly and unequivocally believes. As to compromises with slavery, he stands with Webster and Clay, though he recognizes, with our necessary “knowledge of the end,” that all compromise must in the end have been futile. For the “gloomy fanaticism ” of John Brown he has little tolerance, or for his thought that “there was no way of destroying slavery except by killing slave-holders;” but he does not withhold his glowing tribute to the calm and heroic death of “the old terrifier,” who was sustained at the last by an unfaltering faith that he was to be a vicarious sacrifice for the sins and to the good of many.

Most gratifying to fair-minded men is Mr. Rhodes’s ample recognition of the grievances of the South in the tariff measures forced upon it by the North. An old-line Abolitionist has been heard to inveigh against the iniquity of the present tariff system with much of the moral indignation which once flamed against the institution of slavery. Nor is Mr. Rhodes in the least blind to the crimes and misdemeanors of antislavery agitators. With Spring, the historian of Kansas, he confesses it difficult to determine “ which faction surpassed the other in misdeeds.” The sectional character of the Republican party is freely admitted, and the coarse political chicanery of the Chicago convention of 1860 is not glossed over. When he tells how the Lincoln managers hired a Chicago man to lead their tumult, " whose shout could be heard above the howling of the most violent tempest on Lake Michigan,” the friends of the Father of History long to remind him of that night scene on the Danube when the spent army of Darius comes back from its aimless wanderings in Scythia to find its bridge apparently gone, “Now there was in the army of Darius a certain man, an Egyptian, who had a louder voice than any man in the world. This person was bid by Darius to stand at the water’s edge, and call Histiæus the Milesian. The fellow did as he was bid, and Histiæus, hearing him at the very first summons, brought the fleet to assist in conveying the army across, and once more made good the bridge.” But, with all its faults and excesses, the Republican party nevertheless stood for high moral principle. “Never in our history, and probably never in the history of the world, had a more pure, more disinterested, and more intelligent body of men banded together for a noble political object than those who now (1856) enrolled themselves under the Republican banner.” Nor is the ethical gulf which separated North from South bridged over in the least. The South, in 1859, was agitating the repeal of laws prohibiting the African slave trade; the North was eager for the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law. And the conclusion of the whole matter of the great drama’s prologue and complication is couched in these most significant and weighty words: “ The meaning of the election [of Lincoln] was that the great and powerful North declared slavery an evil, and insisted that it should not be extended; that while the institution would be sacredly respected where it existed, the conduct of the national government must revert to the policy of the fathers and confine slavery within bounds. . . . The persistent and emphatic statement by the opposition that the Republicans were the radical party had fixed that idea in the public mind; but in truth they represented the noblest conservatism. They simply advocated a return to the policy of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.”


“‘The war between the States,’ which a good many Southerners prefer, is both bookish and inexact. ‘Civil war’ is an utter misnomer,” says Professor Gildersleeve. “‘War of the rebellion,’ which begs the very question at issue, has become the official designation of the struggle, but has found no acceptance with the vanquished.” The last statement must be matter for charitable regret on the part of most Northern men, aware as they are that, “ while hardly a man at the North assented to the constitutional right of secession, all acknowledged the right of revolution,” and rebellion and revolution are synonymous terms. Our war of 1861-65 was called a rebellion merely to avoid confusion with our war of 1775— 83, which we had become accustomed to call a revolution. However, for better or worse, Mr. Rhodes, with most English writers, calls our war of 1861-65 the Civil War, nor can we think it an “utter misnomer.” For, in his neat parallels between the Peloponnesian war of 431-404 B. c. and our war of 1861-65 A. D., Professor Gildersleeve omits one important point of difference. “The Peloponnesian war,” he says, “like our war, was a war between two leagues, a Northern Union and a Southern Confederacy. The Northern Union, represented by Athens, was a naval power. The Southern Confederacy, under the leadership of Sparta, was a land power. The Athenians represented the progressive element, the Spartans the conservative. The Athenians believed in a strong centralized government. The Lacedaemonians professed greater regard for autonomy.” But the all-important point of difference is that the Southern Confederacy of Sparta had never been constitutional part and parcel of the Northern Union represented by Athens, a union cemented by mutual sacrifice and blood. When some of the parties to such a constitutional union try to break the union by force of arms, and other parties to it try to maintain the union by force of arms, the war is surely a civil war. But enough about names for the war; the colossal fact mocks at any and every name.

The military student will perhaps be disappointed in the military side of Mr. Rhodes’s history of the Civil War, not for many shortcomings in the details that are given, but for the lack of detail. But the general reader will be thankful that campaigns and battles are described only in their larger outlines, and that the political and social sides of the great struggle are given the greater prominence. This is true even for the first three years of the war, from which time on Mr. Rhodes professes and prefers to treat military affairs “only in a general way.” On both sides, before Grant and Lee learned their art of war and forged their way to undisputed leadership, presidents and cabinets directed the game, and the warfare was political rather than scientific. “It was not till after both Gettysburg and Vicksburg,” wrote General Sherman, “that the war professionally began.” Naturally the opening battle is given a larger share of description than the more important ones which follow it, but be the detail fuller or more meagre, the great outlines of the struggle are never obscured. We are grateful, in view of this saving fact, for any striking though strictly unessential detail with which we are indulged, like Lew Wallace’s description of General C. F. Smith’s charge at Fort Donelson; and are reconciled to the slighting of favorite episodes, like the struggle for Round Top at Gettysburg, or the battle “above the clouds” at Chattanooga. In lieu of such omissions we gain the more difficult and instructive tracings of the fluctuations of popular opinion about the war in England, in the Northern, and in the Southern States. Especially luminous where most is bright, is the elaborate Chapter XXII, on English sentiment towards our Civil War in 1862 and 1863, with its encomiums on that prince of diplomats, Charles Francis Adams. From Bull Run to Appomattox Court House the great story is so told that surviving participants in the struggle and their descendants on both sides can read it with mutual pride and sorrow. There are great shadows and high lights on both sides of the picture. The commercial malignity of Butler and Jacob Thompson contrast with the calm magnanimity of Lincoln and Lee. There are draft and conscription riots on both sides, on both sides a gradual passage from prevailing simplicity and frugality of life to ostentatious luxury and corruption. The fever of speculation rages on both sides among such as will speculate in the issues of life and death. Bounty jumpers and boughten substitutes on both sides lower the tone of army life and work. But on both sides there is deep religious zeal. “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God,” runs the greatest of presidential inaugurals, “and each invokes His aid against the other. ” Of how many men on how many fields can it be truly said, “No man died on that field with more glory than he; yet many died, and there was much glory! ” North and South alike could say with Pericles, “ Our youth have been taken off, as if Spring were taken out of the year.” “In many of our dwellings,” cried Mrs. Stowe, “the very light of our lives has gone out.” “It wrings the heart at a distance of more than thirty years, ' says Professor Gildersleeve, “to think of those who have fallen, and love still maintains passionately that they were the best. At any rate they were among the best, and both sides are feeling the loss to this day, not only in the men themselves, but in the sons that should have been born to them.”

Mr. Rhodes passes from the world’s anguish at the death of Lincoln, and from the details of the end of the war, to two patiently laborious chapters on Society at the North and South, which supplement most desirably his Chapter XII, on American Society in the decade of 1850-1860, and bring to view clearly the changes which accompanied and followed the greatest of revolutions. Those readers who have followed him thus far will experience a sense of relief and implicit confidence as he brings his “ even mind ” to bear on the vexed question of the treatment by both sides of prisoners of war. Here has too often been a renewed parting of the ways for old foes who were on the point of becoming friends again. But, all things considered, passion and hate and desire for vengeance all cast aside, there is no escape from the verdict of our righteous judge: “If we add to one side of the account the refusal to exchange the prisoners and the greater resources, and to the other the distress of the Confederacy, the balance struck will not be far from even.” “There was no intention on either side to maltreat the prisoners.”


The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won ;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

If ever the hope be realized that Northerner and Southerner alike may come to regard this monumental history as on the whole, within human limitations, the most impartial attainable, the result will be due more than all else to the last two volumes and their story of the Reconstruction of the Union. Now it is the South which saves the nation. The congressional plan of Reconstruction on the basis of universal negro suffrage, the result of Johnson’s failure to win the support of Congress in his adoption of the plan of Lincoln, was a crime. “ No law so unjust [as the Stevens Reconstruction Acts], so direful in its results, had passed the American Congress since the KansasNebraska Act of 1854.” “Douglas’ repeal of the Missouri Compromise . . . precipitated the Civil War; Stevens’ Reconstruction Acts . . . were an attack on civilization.” “ It was indeed strange that, within two years of that benevolent, mercy-compelling second inaugural of Lincoln’s, legislation so harsh should have been enacted.” “Arrogance passes from the South in 1860 to the North in 1865.”

There were faults and provocations on both sides, of course. But Lincoln had kindly pointed out the safe middle way in his letter to the newly elected governor of Louisiana. “You are about to have a convention, which, among other things, will probably define the elective franchise. I barely suggest for your private consideration, whether some of the colored people may not be let in, —as, for instance, the very intelligent, and those who have fought gallantly in our ranks. They would probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom.” And as early as 1863, science in the person of Agassiz had warned against extreme courses. “Let us beware,” he said, “of granting too much to the negro race in the beginning, lest it become necessary hereafter to deprive them of some of the privileges which they may use to their own and our detriment.” But the humanitarian sentiments of the North were artfully played upon by powerful politicians to further their partisan ends, and the Republican party of the North took into its own incompetent hands the solution of a problem which should have been left to the best men of the South. The best men of the South and North were at one. “Now that the Southern people were rid of the incubus of slavery, their moral standards were the same as those of the North; and they felt that they were amenable to the public opinion of the enlightened world.” “The proper remedy for the disturbances which existed was to place the burden of responsibility upon the Southern people who,”as Governor Andrew urged, '"had fought, toiled, endured and persevered with a courage, a unanimity and a persistency not outdone by any people in any revolution. Why not,’ he pleaded, ‘try the natural leaders of opinion in the South ? They are the most hopeful subjects to deal with in the very nature of the case.’” But it was Sumner and not Andrew who carried Northern opinion with him, and the scheme of reconstruction finally adopted “pandered to the ignorant negroes, the knavish white natives, and the vulturous adventurers who flocked from the North; and these neutralized the work of honest Republicans who were officers of State.” “Sumner lent his great influence to a policy of injustice to a prostrate foe, to a policy at variance with the political philosophy of Burke and the teaching of modern science, contrary to the spirit of Lincoln’s second inaugural and to his every pronouncement on reconstruction.” And so, instead of tolerance and patience and compromise, there was crime on both sides. “Without justifying any of the crimes committed to overthrow reconstruction, it is eminently proper that the historian who writes for future generations should point out the crime concealed in the socalled congressional plan itself.” The Republicans had thrown away the opportunity to build up at the South a party of okl-Iine Whigs and Union men, and built up instead a corrupt party, which thrust upon the world the spectacle of a society turned bottom side up, the pictures of which affect one like nightmares.

But slowly the better sense of the North awoke to its folly and withdrew support from its radical politicians. Slowly then did the better elements at the South bring order out of chaos, acting on Benjamin H. Hill’s maxim that “a black man who cannot be bought is better than a white man who can.” The effect of the long agony of Reconstruction was to unite all respectable men at the South in one party, but not the Republican party, as the Lincoln-Johnson plan would in all likelihood have done. And the negro lost what had been too suddenly bestowed upon him. “He had a brief period of mastery and indulgence during which his mental and moral education was deplorable and his worst passions were catered to. Finally ... he has been set back to the point where he should have started” — and would have started if Lincoln had lived — “ directly after emancipation. He is trying to learn the lesson of life with the work made doubly hard by the Saturnalia he has passed through.” Very significant, then, and wholly in the spirit of Lincoln, was Professor Hannis Taylor’s plea, in his oration at Johns Hopkins University on Washington’s last birthday, that suffrage be given the negroes “as they become qualified by education or property or both.”

The nation owes the South a debt that can never be paid,for its measureless forbearance and restraint under the outrages of the long Reconstruction period. The North postponed amnesty for the sake of negro suffrage; the South endured negro suffrage and postponed a second rebellion for the sake of amnesty. And after amnesty had come, a Lamar could pronounce his chivalrous eulogy over Sumner, and say in closing, “Would that the spirit of the illustrious dead whom we lament today could speak from the grave to both parties to this deplorable discord in tones which should reach each and every heart throughout this broad territory, ‘My countrymen, know one another and you will love one another.’” The South was greater in defeat than the North in victory.

The long strife is over, and even its echoes grow faint. A reunited country — reunited in spirit as well as in form — adjusts herself to meet new questions and bear new burdens. Great social and political problems press upon us for solution. To describe these problems and discuss their solution in a History of the United States since 1877, Mr. Rhodes assures us that he is trying to prepare himself. May he bring to the new task, along with new powers and acquisitions, also the old powers of sane and impartial judgment which make the history already written in truth a national treasure.

  1. Atlantic Monthly, September, 1807.