The American Republic
THE most marked political tendency of the American people has been, since 1825, to interpret their government as a pure and simple democracy, and to shift it from a territorial to a purely popular basis, or from the people as the state, inseparably united to the national territory or domain, to the people as simply population, either as individuals or as the race. Their tendency has unconsciously, therefore, been to change their constitution from a republican to a despotic, or from a civilized to a barbaric constitution.
The American constitution is democratic, in the sense that the people are sovereign; that all laws and public acts run in their name; that the rulers are elected by them, and are responsible to them; but they are the people territorially constituted and fixed to the soil, constituting what Mr. Disraeli, with more propriety perhaps than he thinks, calls a “territorial democracy.” To this territorial democracy, the real American democracy, stand opposed two other democracies – the one personal and the other humanitarian – each alike hostile to civilization, and tending to destroy the state, and capable of sustaining government only on principles common to all despotisms.
In every man there is a natural craving for personal freedom and unrestrained action – a strong desire to be himself, not another – to be his own master, to go when and where he pleases, to do what he chooses, to take what he wants, wherever he can find it, and to keep what he takes. It is strong in all nomadic tribes, who are at once pastoral and predatory, and is seldom weak in our bold frontier-men, too often real “border ruffians.” It takes different forms in different stages of social development, but it everywhere identifies liberty with power. Restricted in its enjoyment to one man, it makes him chief, chief of the family, the tribe, or the nation; extended in its enjoyment to the few, it founds an aristocracy, creates a nobility – for nobleman meant originally only freeman, as it does still with the Magyars; extended to the many, it founds personal democracy, a simple association of individuals, in which all are equally free and independent, and no restraint is imposed on any one’s action, will, or inclination, without his own consent, express or constructive. This is the so-called Jeffersonian democracy, in which government has no powers but such as it derives from the consent of the governed, and is personal democracy or pure individualism – philosophically considered, pure egoism, which says, “I am God.” Under this sort of democracy, based on popular, or rather individual sovereignty, expressed by politicians when they call the electoral people, half seriously, half mockingly, “the sovereigns,” there obviously can be no state, no social rights or civil authority; there can be only a voluntary association, league, alliance, or confederation in which individuals may freely act together as long as they find it pleasant, convenient, or useful, but from which they may separate or secede whenever they find it for their interest or their pleasure to do so. State sovereignty and secession are based on the same democratic principle applied to the several States of the Union instead of individuals.
The tendency to this sort of democracy has been strong in large sections of the American people from the first, and has been greatly strengthened by the general acceptance of the theory that government originates in compact. The full realization of this tendency, which, happily, is impracticable save in theory, would be to render every man independent alike of every other man and of society, with full right and power to make his own will prevail. This tendency was strongest in the slaveholding States, and especially, in those States, in the slaveholding class, the American imitation of the feudal nobility of mediÊval Europe; and on this side the war just ended was, in its most general expression, a war in defence of personal democracy, or the sovereignty of the people individually, against the humanitarian democracy, represented by the abolitionists, and the territorial democracy, represented by the Government. This personal democracy has been signally defeated in the defeat of the late confederacy, and can hardly again become strong enough to be dangerous.
But the humanitarian democracy, which scorns all geographical lines, effaces all in individualities, and professes to plant itself on humanity alone, has acquired by the war new strength, and is not without menace to our future. The solidarity of the race, which is the condition of all human life, founds, as we have seen, society, and creates what are called social rights, the rights alike of society in regard to individuals, and of individuals in regard to society.
Territorial divisions or circumscriptions found particular societies, states, or nations; yet as the race is one, and all its members live by communion with God through it and by communion one with another, these particular states or nations are never absolutely independent of each other, but bound together by the solidarity of the race, so that there is a real solidarity of nations as well as of individuals – the truth underlying Kossuth’s famous declaration of “the solidarity of peoples.”
The solidarity of nations is the basis of international law, binding on every particular nation, and which every civilized nation recognizes, and enforces on its own subjects or citizens, through its own courts, as an integral part of its own municipal or national law. The personal or individual right is therefore restricted by the rights of society, and the rights of the particular society or nation are limited by international law, or the rights of universal society – the truth the ex-governor of Hungary overlooked. The grand error of Gentilism was in denying the unity and therefore the solidarity of the race, involved in its denial or misconception of the unity of God. It therefore was never able to assign any solid basis to international law, and gave it only a conventional or customary authority, thus leaving the jus gentium, which it recognized indeed, without any real foundation in the constitution of things, or authority in the real world. Its real basis is in the solidarity of the race, which has its basis in the unity of God, not the dead or abstract unity asserted by the old Eleatics, the Neo-Platonists, or the modern Unitarians, but the living unity consisting in the threefold relation in the Divine Essence, of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as asserted by Christian revelation, and believed, more or less intelligently, by all Christendom.
The tendency in the Southern States has been to overlook the social basis of the state, or the rights of society founded on the solidarity of the race, and to make all rights and powers personal, or individual; and as only the white race has been able to assert and maintain its personal freedom, only men of that race are held to have the right to be free. Hence the people of those States felt no scruple in holding the black or colored race as slaves. Liberty, said they, is the right only of those who have the ability to assert and maintain it. Let the negro prove that he has this ability by asserting and maintaining his freedom, and he will prove his right to be free, and that it is a gross outrage, a manifest injustice, to enslave him; but, till then, let him be my servant, which is best for him and for me. Why ask me to free him? I shall by doing so only change the form of his servitude. Why appeal to me? Am I my brother’s keeper? Nay, is he my brother? Is this negro, more like an ape or a baboon than a human being, of the same race with myself? I believe it not. But in some instances, at least, my dear slaveholder, your slave is literally your brother, and sometimes even your son, born of your own daughter. The tendency of the Southern democrat was to deny the unity of the race, as well as all obligations of society to protect the weak and helpless, and therefore all true civil society.
At the North there has been, and is even yet, an opposite tendency – a tendency to exaggerate the social element, to overlook the territorial basis of the state, and to disregard the rights of individuals. This tendency has been and is strong in the people called abolitionists. The American abolitionist is so engrossed with the unity that he loses the solidarity of the race, which supposes unity of race and multiplicity of individuals; and fails to see any thing legitimate and authoritative in geographical divisions or territorial circumscriptions. Back of these, back of individuals, he sees humanity, superior to individuals, superior to states, governments, and laws, and holds that he may trample on them all or give them to the winds at the call of humanity or “the higher law.” The principle on which he acts is as indefensible as the personal or egoistical democracy of the slaveholders and their sympathizers. Were his socialistic tendency to become exclusive and realized, it would found in the name of humanity a complete social despotism, which, proving impracticable from its very generality, would break up in anarchy, in which might makes right, as in the slaveholder’s democracy.
The abolitionists, in supporting themselves on humanity in its generality, regardless of individual and territorial rights, can recognize no state, no civil authority, and therefore are as much out of the order of civilization, and as much in that of barbarism, as is the slaveholder himself. Wendell Phillips is as far removed from true Christian civilization as was John C. Calhoun, and William Lloyd Garrison is as much of a barbarian and despot in principle and tendency as Jefferson Davis. Hence the great body of the people in the non-slaveholding States, wedded to American democracy as they were and are, could never, as much as they detested slavery, be induced to make common cause with the abolitionists, and their apparent union in the late civil war was accidental, simply owing to the fact that for the time the social democracy and the territorial coincided, or had the same enemy. The great body of the loyal people instinctively felt that pure socialism is as incompatible with American democracy as pure individualism; and the abolitionists are well aware that slavery has been abolished, not for humanitarian or socialistic reasons, but really for reasons of state, in order to save the territorial democracy. The territorial democracy would not unite to eliminate even so barbaric an element as slavery, till the rebellion gave them the constitutional right to abolish it; and even then so scrupulous were they, that they demanded a constitutional amendment, so as to be able to make clean work of it, without any blow to individual or State rights.
The abolitionists were right in opposing slavery, but not in demanding its abolition on humanitarian or socialistic grounds. Slavery is really a barbaric element, and is in direct antagonism to American civilization. The whole force of the national life opposes it, and must finally eliminate it, or become itself extinct; and it is no mean proof of their utter want of sympathy with all the living forces of modern civilization, that the leading men of the South and their prominent friends at the North really persuaded themselves that with cotton, rice, and tobacco, they could effectually resist the anti-slavery movement, and perpetuate their barbaric democracy. They studied the classics, they admired Greece and Rome, and imagined that those nations became great by slavery, instead of being great even in spite of slavery. They failed to take into the account the fact that when Greece and Rome were in the zenith of their glory, all contemporary nations were also slaveholding nations, and that if they were the greatest and most highly civilized nations of their times, they were not fitted to be the greatest and most highly civilized nations of all times. They failed also to perceive that, if the GrÊco-Roman republic did not include the whole territorial people in the political people, it yet recognized both the social and the territorial foundation of the state, and never attempted to rest it on pure individualism; they forgot, too, that Greece and Rome both fell, and fell precisely through internal weakness caused by the barbarism within, not through the force of the barbarism beyond their frontiers. The world has changed since the time when ten thousand of his slaves were sacrificed as a religious offering to the manes of a single Roman master. The infusion of the Christian dogma of the unity and solidarity of the race into the belief, the life, the laws, the jurisprudence of all civilized nations, has doomed slavery and every species of barbarism; but this our slaveholding countrymen saw not. It rarely happens that in any controversy, individual or national, the real issue is distinctly presented, or the precise question in debate is clearly and distinctly understood by either party. Slavery was only incidentally involved in the late war. The war was occasioned by the collision of two extreme parties; but it was itself a war between civilization and barbarism, primarily between the territorial democracy and the personal democracy, and in reality, on the part of the nation, as much a war against the socialism of the abolitionist as against the individualism of the slaveholder. Yet the victory, though complete over the former, is only half won over the latter, for it has left the humanitarian democracy standing, and perhaps for the moment stronger than ever. The socialistic democracy was enlisted by the territorial, not to strengthen the government at home, as it imagines, for that it did not do, and could not do, since the national instinct was even more opposed to it than to the personal democracy; but under its anti-slavery aspect, to soften the hostility of foreign powers, and ward off foreign intervention, which was seriously threatened. The populations of Europe, especially of France and England, were decidedly anti-slavery, and if the war here appeared to them a war, not solely for the unity of the nation and the integrity of its domain, as it really was, in which they took and could take no interest, but a war for the abolition of slavery, their governments would not venture to intervene. This was the only consideration that weighed with Mr. Lincoln, as he himself assured the author, and induced him to issue his Emancipation Proclamation; and Europe rejoices in our victory over the rebellion only so far as it has liberated the slaves, and honors the late President only as their supposed liberator, not as the preserver of the unity and integrity of the nation. This is natural enough abroad, and proves the wisdom of the anti-slavery policy of the government, which had become absolutely necessary to save the Republic long before it was adopted; yet it is not as the emancipator of some two or three millions of slaves that the American patriot cherishes the memory of Abraham Lincoln, but, aided by the loyal people, generals of rare merit, and troops of unsurpassed bravery and endurance, as the saviour of the American state, and the protector of modern civilization. His anti-slavery policy served this end, and therefore was wise, but he adopted it with the greatest possible reluctance.
There were greater issues in the late war than negro slavery or negro freedom. That was only an incidental issue, as the really great men of the Confederacy felt, who to save their cause were willing themselves at last to free and arm their own negroes, and perhaps were willing to do it even at first. This fact alone proves that they had, or believed they had, a far more important cause than the preservation of negro slavery. They fought for personal democracy, under the form of State sovereignty, against social democracy; for personal freedom and independence against social or humanitarian despotism; and so far their cause was as good as that against which they took up arms; and if they had or could have fought against that, without fighting at the same time against the territorial, the real American, the only civilized democracy, they would have succeeded. It is not socialism nor abolitionism that has won; nor is it the North that has conquered. The Union itself has won no victories over the South, and it is both historically and legally false to say that the South has been subjugated. The Union has preserved itself and American civilization, alike for North and South, East and West. The armies that so often met in the shock of battle were not drawn up respectively by the North and the South, but by two rival democracies, to decide which of the two should rule the future. They were the armies of two mutually antagonistic systems, and neither army was clearly and distinctly conscious of the cause for which it was shedding its blood; each obeyed instinctively a power stronger than itself, and which at best it but dimly discerned. On both sides the cause was broader and deeper than negro slavery, and neither the pro-slavery men nor the abolitionists have won. The territorial democracy alone has won, and won what will prove to be a final victory over the purely personal democracy, which had its chief seat in the Southern States, though by no means confined to them. The danger to American democracy from that quarter is forever removed, and democracy ‡ la Rousseau has received a terrible defeat throughout the world, though as yet it is far from being aware of it. But in this world victories are never complete. The socialistic democracy claims the victory which has been really won by the territorial democracy, as if it had been socialism, not patriotism, that fired the hearts and nerved the arms of the brave men led by McClellan, Grant, and Sherman. The humanitarians are more dangerous in principle than the egoists, for they have the appearance of building on a broader and deeper foundation, of being more Christian, more philosophic, more generous and philanthropic; but Satan is never more successful than under the guise of an angel of light. His favorite guise in modern times is that of philanthropy. He is a genuine humanitarian, and aims to persuade the world that humanitarianism is Christianity, and that man is God; that the soft and charming sentiment of philanthropy is real Christian charity; and he dupes both individuals and nations, and makes them do his work, when they believe they are earnestly and most successfully doing the work of God. Your leading abolitionists are as much affected by satanophany as your leading confederates, nor are they one whit more philosophical or less sophistical The one loses the race, the otter the individual, and neither has learned to apply practically that fundamental truth that there is never the general without the particular, nor the particular without the general, the race without individuals, nor individuals without the race. The whole race was in Adam, and fell in him, as we are taught by the doctrine of original sin, or the sin of the race, and Adam was an individual, as we are taught in the fact that original sin was in him actual or personal sin.
The humanitarian is carried away by a vague generality, and loses men in humanity, sacrifices the rights of men in a vain endeavor to secure the rights of man, as your Calvinist or his brother Jansenist sacrifices the rights of nature in order to secure the freedom of grace. Yesterday he agitated for the abolition of slavery, to-day he agitates for negro suffrage, negro equality, and announces that when he has secured that he will agitate for female suffrage and the equality of the sexes, forgetting or ignorant that the relation of equality subsists only between individuals of the same sex; that God made the man the head of the woman, and the woman for the man, not the man for the woman. Having obliterated all distinction of sex in politics, in social, industrial, and domestic arrangements, he must go farther, and agitate for equality of property, But since property, if recognized at all, will be unequally acquired and distributed, he must go farther still, and agitate for the total abolition of property, as an injustice, a grievous wrong, a theft, with M. Proudhon, or the Englishman Godwin. It is unjust that one should have what another wants, or even more than another. What right have you to ride in your coach or astride your spirited barb while I am forced to trudge on foot? Nor can our humanitarian stop there. Individuals are, and as long as there are individuals will be, unequal: some are handsomer and some are uglier, some wiser or sillier, more or less gifted, stronger or weaker, taller or shorter, stouter or thinner than others, and therefore some have natural advantages which others have not. There is inequality, therefore injustice, which can be remedied only by the abolition of all individualities, and the reduction of all individuals to the race, or humanity, man in general. He can find no limit to his agitation this side of vague generality, which is no reality, but a pure nullity, for he respects no territorial or individual circumscriptions, and must regard creation itself as a blunder. This is not fancy, for he has gone very nearly as far as it is here shown, if logical, he must go.
The danger now is that the Union victory will, at home and abroad, be interpreted as a victory won in the interest of social or humanitarian democracy. It was because they regarded the war waged on the side of the Union as waged in the interest of this terrible democracy, that our bishops and clergy sympathized so little with the Government in prosecuting it; not, as some imagined, because they were disloyal, hostile to American or territorial democracy, or not heartily in favor of freedom for all men, whatever their race or complexion. They had no wish to see slavery prolonged, the evils of which they, better than any other class of men, knew, and more deeply deplored; none would have regretted more than they to have seen the Union broken up; but they held the socialistic or humanitarian democracy represented by Northern abolitionists as hostile alike to the Church and to civilization. For the same reason that they were backward or reserved in their sympathy, all the humanitarian sects at home and abroad were forward and even ostentatious in theirs. The Catholics feared the war might result in encouraging La RÈpublique dÈmocratique et sociale; the humanitarian sects trusted that it would. If the victory of the Union should turn out to be a victory for the humanitarian democracy, the civilized world will have no reason to applaud it.
That there is some danger that for a time the victory will be taken as a victory for humanitarianism or socialism, it would be idle to deny. It is so taken now, and the humanitarian party throughout the world are in ecstasies over it. The party claim it. The European Socialists and Red Republicans applaud it, and the Mazzinis and the Garibaldis inflict on us the deep humiliation of their congratulations. A cause that can be.approved by the revolutionary leaders of European Liberals must be strangely misunderstood, or have in it some infamous element. It is no compliment to a nation to receive the congratulations of men who assert not only people-king, but people-God; and those Americans who are delighted with them are worse enemies to the American democracy than ever were Jefferson Davis and his fellow conspirators, and more contemptible, as the swindler is more contemptible than the highwayman.
But it is probable the humanitarians have reckoned without their host. Not they are the real victors. When the smoke of battle has cleared away, the victory, it will be seen, has been won by the Republic, and that that alone has triumphed. The abolitionists, in so far as they asserted the unity of the race and opposed slavery as a denial of that unity, have also won; but in so far as they denied the reality or authority of territorial and individual circumscriptions, followed a purely socialistic tendency, and sought to dissolve patriotism into a watery sentimentality called philanthropy, have in reality been crushingly defeated, as they will find when the late insurrectionary States are fully reconstructed. The Southern or egoistical democrats, so far as they denied the unity and solidarity of the race, the rights of society over individuals, and the equal rights of each and every individual in face of the state, or the obligations of society to protect the weak and help the helpless, have been also defeated; but go far as they asserted personal or individual rights which society neither gives nor can take away, and so far as they asserted, not State sovereignty, but State rights, held independently of the General government, and which limit its authority and sphere of action, they share in the victory, as the future will prove.
European Jacobins, revolutionists, conspiring openly or secretly against all legitimate authority, whether in Church or State, have no lot or part in the victory of the American people: not for them nor for men with their nefarious designs or mad dreams, have our brave soldiers fought, suffered, and bled for four years of the most terrible war in modern times, and against troops as brave and as well led as themselves; not for them has the country sacrificed a million of lives, and contracted a debt of four thousand millions of dollars, besides the waste and destruction that it will take years of peaceful industry to repair. They and their barbaric democracy have been defeated, and civilization has won its most brilliant victory in all history. The American democracy has crushed, actually or potentially, every species of barbarism in the New World, asserted victoriously the state, and placed the government definitively on the side of legitimate authority, and made its natural association henceforth with all civilized governments – not with the revolutionary movements to overthrow them. The American people will always be progressive as well as conservative; but they have learned a lesson, which they much needed, against false democracy: civil war has taught them that “the sacred right of insurrection” is as much out of place in a democratic state as in an aristocratic or a monarchical state; and that the government should always be clothed with ample authority to arrest and punish whoever plots its destruction. They must never be delighted again to have their government send a national ship to bring hither a noted traitor to his own sovereign as the nation’s guest. The people of the Northern States are hardly less responsible for the late rebellion than the people of the Southern States. Their press had taught them to call every government a tyranny that refused to remain quiet while the traitor was cutting its throat or assassinating the nation, and they had nothing but mad denunciations of the Papal, the Austrian, and the Neapolitan governments for their severity against conspirators and traitors. But their own government has found it necessary for the public safety to be equally arbitrary, prompt, and severe, and they will most likely require it hereafter to co-operate with the governments of the Old World in advancing civilization, instead of lending all its moral support, as heretofore, to the Jacobins, revolutionists, socialists, and humanitarians, to bring back the reign of barbarism.
The tendency to individualism has been sufficiently checked by the failure of the rebellion, and no danger from the disintegrating element, either in the particular State or in the United States, is henceforth to be apprehended. But the tendency in the opposite direction may give the American state some trouble. The tendency now is, as to the Union, consolidation, and as to the particular state, humanitarianism, socialism, or centralized democracy. Yet this tendency, though it may do much mischief, will hardly become exclusive. The States that seceded, when restored, will always, even in abandoning State sovereignty, resist it, and still assert State rights. When these States are restored to their normal position, they will always be able to protect themselves against any encroachments on their special rights by the General government. The constitution, in the distribution of the powers of government, provides the States severally with ample means to protect their individuality against the centralizing tendency of the General government, however strong it may be.
The war has, no doubt, had a tendency to strengthen the General government, and to cause the people, to a great extent, to look upon it as the supreme and exclusive national government, and to regard the several State governments as subordinate instead of co-ordinate governments. It is not improbable that the Executive, since the outbreak of the rebellion, has proceeded throughout on that supposition, and hence his extraordinary assumptions of power; but when once peace is fully re-established, and the States have all resumed their normal position in the Union, every State will be found prompt enough to resist any attempt to encroach on its constitutional rights. Its instinct of self-preservation will lead it to resist, and it will be protected by both its own judiciary and that of the United States.
The danger that the General government will usurp the rights of the States is far less than the danger that the Executive will usurp all the powers of Congress and the judiciary. Congress, during the rebellion, clothed the President, as far as it could, with dictatorial powers, and these powers the Executive continues to exercise even after the rebellion is suppressed. They were given and held under the rights of war, and for war purposes only, and expired by natural limitation when the war ceased; but the Executive forgets this, and, instead of calling Congress together and submitting the work of reconstruction of the States that seceded to its wisdom and authority, undertakes to reconstruct them himself, as if he were an absolute sovereign; and the people seem to like it. He might and should, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, govern them as military departments, by his lieutenants, till Congress could either create provisional civil governments for them or recognize them as self-governing States in the Union; but he has no right, under the constitution nor under the war power, to appoint civil governors, permanent or provisional; and every act he has done in regard to reconstruction is sheer usurpation, and done without authority and without the slightest plea of necessity. His acts in this respect, even if wise and just in themselves, are inexcusable, because done by one who has no legal right to do them. Yet his usurpation is apparently sustained by public sentiment, and a deep wound is inflicted on the constitution, which will be long in healing.
The danger in this respect is all the greater because it did not originate with the rebellion, but had manifested itself for a long time before. There is a growing disposition on the part of Congress to throw as much of the business of government as possible into the hands of the Executive, The patronage the Executive wields, even in times of peace, is so large that he has indirectly an almost supreme control over the legislative branch of the government. For this, which is, and, if not checked will continue to be, a growing evil, there is no obvious remedy, unless the President is chosen for a longer term of office and made ineligible for a second term, and the mischievous doctrine of rotation in office is rejected as incompatible with the true interests of the public. Here is matter for the consideration of the American statesman. But as to the usurpations of the Executive in these unsettled times, they will be only temporary, and will cease when the States are all restored. They are abuses, but only temporary abuses, and the Southern States, when restored to the Union, will resume their rights in their own sphere, as self-governing communities, and legalize or undo the unwarrantable acts of the Federal Executive.
The socialistic and centralizing tendency in the bosom of the individual States is the most dangerous, but it will not be able to become predominant; for philanthropy, unlike charity, does not begin at home, and is powerless unless it operates at a distance. In the States in which the humanitarian tendency is the strongest, the territorial democracy has its most effective organization. Prior to the outbreak of the rebellion the American people had asserted popular sovereignty, but had never rendered an account to themselves in what sense the people are or are not sovereign. They had never distinguished the three sorts of democracy from one another, asked themselves which of the three is the distinctively American democracy. For them, democracy was democracy, and those who saw dangers ahead sought to avoid them either by exaggerating one or the other of the two exclusive tendencies, or else by restraining democracy itself through restrictions on suffrage. The latter class began to distrust universal suffrage, to lose faith in the people, and to dream of modifying the American constitution so as to make it conform more nearly to the English model. The war has proved that they were wrong, for nothing is more certain than that the people have saved the national unity and integrity almost in spite of their government. The General government either was not disposed or was afraid to take a decided stand against secession, till forced to do it by the people themselves. No wise American can henceforth distrust American democracy. The people may be trusted. So much is settled. But as the two extremes were equally democratic, as the secessionists acted in the name of popular sovereignty, and as the humanitarians were not unwilling to allow separation, and would not and did not engage in the war against secession for the sake of the Union and the integrity of the national domain, the conviction becomes irresistible that it was not democracy in the sense of either of the extremes that made the war and came out of it victorious; and hence the real American democracy must differ from them both, and is neither a personal nor a humanitarian, but a territorial democracy. The true idea of American democracy thus comes out, for the first time, freed from the two extreme democracies which have been identified with it, and henceforth enters into the understandings as well as the hearts of the people. The war has enlightened patriotism, and what was sentiment or instinct becomes reason – a well-defined, and clearly understood constitutional conviction.
In the several States themselves there are many things to prevent the socialistic tendency from becoming exclusive. In the States that seceded socialism has never had a foothold, and will not gain it, for it is resisted by all the sentiments, convictions, and habits of the Southern people, and the Southern people will not be exterminated nor swamped by migrations either from the North or from Europe. They are and always will be an agricultural people, and an agricultural people are and always will be opposed to socialistic dreams, unless unwittingly held for a moment to favor it in pursuit of some special object in which they take a passionate interest. The worst of all policies is that of hanging, exiling, or disfranchising the wealthy landholders of the South, in order to bring up the poor and depressed whites, shadowed forth in the Executive proclamation of the 29th of May, 1865. Of course that policy will not be carried out, and if the negroes are enfranchised, they will always vote with the wealthy land-holding class, and aid them in resisting all socialistic tendencies. The humanitarians will fail for the want of a good social grievance against which they can declaim.
In the New England States the humanitarian tendency is strong as a speculation, but only in relation to objects at a distance. It is aided much by the congregational constitution of their religion; yet it is weak at home, and is resisted practically by the territorial division of power. New England means Massachusetts, and nowhere is the subdivision of the powers of government carried further, or the constitution of the territorial democracy more complete, than in that State. Philanthropy seldom works in private against private vices and evils: it is effective only against public grievances, and the farther they are from home and the less its right to interfere with them, the more in earnest and the more effective for evil does it become. Its nature is to mind every one’s business but its own. But now that slavery is abolished, there is nowhere in the United States a social grievance of magnitude enough to enlist any considerable number of the people, even of Massachusetts, in a movement to redress it. Negro enfranchisement is a question of which the humanitarians can make something, and they will make the most of it; but as it is a question that each State will soon settle for itself, it will not serve their purpose of prolonged agitation. They could not and never did carry away the nation, even on the question of slavery itself, and abolitionism had comparatively little direct influence in abolishing slavery; and the exclusion of negro suffrage can never be made to appear to the American people as any thing like so great a grievance as was slavery.
Besides, in all the States that did not secede, Catholics are a numerous and an important portion of the population. Their increasing numbers, wealth, and education secure them, as much as the majority may dislike their religion, a constantly increasing influence, and it is idle to leave them out in counting the future of the country. They will, in a very few years, be the best and most thoroughly educated class of the American people; and, aside from their religion, or, rather, in consequence of their religion, the most learned, enlightened, and intelligent portion of the American population; and as much as they have disliked the abolitionists, they have, in the army and elsewhere, contributed their full share to the victory the nation has won. The best things written on the controversy have been written by Catholics, and Catholics are better fitted by their religion to comprehend the real character of the American constitution than any other class of Americans, the moment they study it in the light of their own theology. The American constitution is based on that of natural society, on the solidarity of the race, and the difference between natural society and the church or Christian society is, that the one is initial and the other teleological. The law of both is the same; Catholics, as such, must resist both extremes, because each is exclusive, and whatever is exclusive or one- sided is uncatholic. If they have been backward in their sympathy with the government, it has been through their dislike of the puritanic spirit and the humanitarian or socialistic elements they detected in the Republican party, joined with a prejudice against political and social negro equality. But their church everywhere opposes the socialistic movements of the age, all movements in behalf of barbarism, and they may always be counted on to resist the advance of the socialistic democracy. If the country has had reason to complain of some of them in the late war, it will have, in the future, far stronger reason to be grateful; not to them, indeed, for the citizen owes his life to his country, but to their religion, which has been and is the grand protectress of modern society and civilization.
From the origin of the government there has been a tendency to the extension of suffrage, and to exclude both birth and private property as bases of political rights or franchises. This tendency has often been justified on the ground that the elective franchise is a natural right; which is not true, because the elective franchise is political power, and political power is always a civil trust, never a natural right, and the state judges for itself to whom it will or will not confide the trust; but there can be no doubt that it is a normal tendency, and in strict accordance with the constitution of American civil society, winch rests on the unity of the race, and public instead of private property. All political distinctions founded on birth, race, or private wealth are anomalies in the American system, and are necessarily eliminated by its normal developments. To contend that none but property-holders may vote, or none but persons of a particular race may be enfranchised, is unAmerican and contrary to the order of civilization the New World is developing. The only qualification for the elective franchise the American system can logically insist on is that the elector belong to the territorial people – that is, be a natural-born or a naturalized citizen, be a major in full possession of his natural faculties, and unconvicted of any infamous offence. The State is free to naturalize foreigners or not, and under such restrictions as it judges proper; but, having naturalized them, it must treat them as standing on the same footing with natural-born citizens.
The naturalization question is one of great national importance. The migration of foreigners hither has added largely to the national population, and to the national wealth and resources, but less, perhaps, to the development of patriotism, the purity of elections, or the wisdom and integrity of the government. It is impossible that there should be perfect harmony between the national territorial democracy and individuals born, brought up, and formed under a political order in many respects widely different from it; and there is no doubt that the democracy, in its objectionable sense, has been greatly strengthened by the large infusion of naturalized citizens. There can be no question that, if the laboring classes, in whom the national sentiment is usually the strongest, had been composed almost wholly of native Americans, instead of being, as they were, at least in the cities, large towns, and villages, composed almost exclusively of persons foreign born, the Government would have found far less difficulty in filling up the depleted ranks of its armies. But to leave so large a portion of the actual population as the foreign born residing in the country without the rights of citizens, would have been a far graver evil, and would, in the late struggle, have given the victory to secession. There are great national advantages derived from the migration hither of foreign labor, and if the migration be encouraged or permitted, naturalization on easy and liberal terms is the wisest, the best, and only safe policy. The children of foreign-born parents are real Americans.
Emigration has, also, a singular effect in developing the latent powers of the emigrant, and the children of emigrants are usually more active, more energetic than the children of the older inhabitants of the country among whom they settle. Some of our first men in civil life have been sons of foreign-born parents, and so are not a few of our greatest and most successful generals. The most successful of our merchants have been foreign- born. The same thing has been noticed elsewhere, especially in the emigration of the French Huguenots to Holland, Germany, England, and Ireland. The immigration of so many millions from the Old World has, no doubt, given to the American people much of their bold, energetic, and adventurous character, and made them a superior people on the whole to what they would otherwise have been. This has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority of race or blood, but is a natural effect of breaking men away from routine, and throwing them back on their own individual energies and personal resources.
Resistance is offered to negro suffrage, and justly too, till the recently emancipated slaves have served an apprenticeship to freedom; but that resistance cannot long stand before the onward progress of American democracy, which asserts equal rights for all, and not for a race or class only. Some would confine suffrage to landholders, or, at least, to property- holders; but that is inconsistent with the American idea, and is a relic of the barbaric constitution which founds power on private instead of public wealth, Nor are property-owners a whit more likely to vote for the public good than are those who own no property but their own labor. The men of wealth, the business men, manufacturers and merchants, bankers and brokers, are the men who exert the worst influence on government in every country, for they always strive to use it as an instrument of advancing their own private interests. They act on the beautiful maxim, “Let government take care of the rich, and the rich will take care of the poor,” instead of the far safer maxim, “Let government take care of the weak, the strong can take care of themselves.” Universal suffrage is better than restricted suffrage, but even universal suffrage is too weak to prevent private property from having an undue political influence.
The evils attributed to universal suffrage are not inseparable from it, and, after all, it is doubtful if it elevates men of an inferior class to those elevated by restricted suffrage. The Congress of 1860, or of 1862, was a fair average of the wisdom, the talent, and the virtue of the country, and not inferior to that of 1776, or that of 1789; and the Executive during the rebellion was at least as able and as efficient as it was during the war of 1812, far superior to that of Great Britain, and not inferior to that of France during the Crimean war. The Crimean war developed and placed in high command, either with the English or the French, no generals equal to Halleck, Grant, and Sherman, to say nothing of others. The more aristocratic South proved itself, in both statesmanship and generalship, in no respect superior to the territorial democracy of the North and West.
The great evil the country experiences is not from universal suffrage, but from what may be called rotation in office. The number of political aspirants is so great that, in the Northern and Western States especially, the representatives in Congress are changed every two or four years, and a member, as soon as he has acquired the experience necessary to qualify him for his position, is dropped, not through the fickleness of his constituency, but to give place to another whose aid had been necessary to his first or second election. EmployÈs are “rotated,” not because they are incapable or unfaithful, but because there are others who want their places.
This is all bad, but it springs not from universal suffrage, but from a wrong public opinion, which might be corrected by the press, but which is mainly formed by it. There is, no doubt, a due share of official corruption, but not more than elsewhere, and that would be much diminished by increasing the salaries of the public servants, especially in the higher offices of the government, both General and State. The pay to the lower officers and employes of the government, and to the privates and non-com missioned officers in the army, is liberal, and, in general, too liberal; but the pay of the higher grades in both the civil and military service is too low, and relatively far lower than it was when the government was first organized.
The worst tendency in the country, and which is not encouraged at all by the territorial democracy, manifests itself in hostility to the military spirit and a standing army. The depreciation of the military spirit comes from the humanitarian or sentimental democracy, which, like all sentimentalisms, defeats itself, and brings about the very evils it seeks to avoid. The hostility to standing armies is inherited from England, and originated in the quarrels between king and parliament, and is a striking evidence of the folly of that bundle of antagonistic forces called the British constitution.
In feudal times most of the land was held by military service, and the reliance of government was on the feudal militia; but no real progress was made in eliminating barbarism till the national authority got a regular army at its command, and became able to defend itself against its enemies. It is very doubtful if English civilization has not, upon the whole, lost more than it has gained by substituting parliamentary for royal supremacy, and exchanging the Stuarts for the Guelfs.
No nation is a living, prosperous nation that has lost the military spirit, or in which the profession of the soldier is not held in honor and esteem; and a standing army of reasonable size is public economy. It absorbs in its ranks a class of men who are worth more there than anywhere else; it creates honorable places for gentlemen or the sons of gentlemen without wealth, in which they can serve both themselves and their country. Under a democratic government the most serious embarrassment to the state is its gentlemen, or persons not disposed or not fitted to support themselves by their own hands, more necessary in a democratic government than in any other. The civil service, divinity, law, and medicine, together with literature, science, and art, cannot absorb the whole of this ever-increasing class, and the army and navy would be an economy and a real service to the state were they maintained only for the sake of the rank and position they give to their officers, and the wholesome influence these officers would exert on society and the politics of the country – this even in case there were no wars or apprehension of wars. They supply an element needed in all society, to sustain in it the chivalric and heroic spirit, perpetually endangered by the mercantile and political spirit, which has in it always something low and sordid.
But wars are inevitable, and when a nation has no surrounding nations to fight, it will, as we have just proved, fight itself. When it can have no foreign war, it will get up a domestic war; for the human animal, like all animals, must work off in some way its fighting humor, and the only sure way of maintaining peace is always to be prepared for war. A regular standing army of forty thousand men would have prevented the Mexican war, and an army of fifty thousand well-disciplined and efficient troops at the command of the President on his inauguration in March, 1861, would have prevented the rebellion, or have instantly suppressed it. The cost of maintaining a land army of even a hundred thousand men, and a naval force to correspond, would have been, in simple money value, only a tithe of what the rebellion has cost the nation, to say nothing of the valuable lives that have been sacrificed – for the losses on the rebel side, as well as those on the side of the government, are equally to be counted. The actual losses to the country have been not less than six or eight thousand millions of dollars, or nearly one-half the assessed value of the whole property of the United States according to the census returns of 1860, and which has only been partially cancelled by actual increase of property since. To meet the interest on the debt incurred will require a heavier sum to be raised annually by taxation, twice over, without discharging a cent of the principal, than would have been necessary to maintain an army and navy adequate to the protection of peace and the prevention of the rebellion.
The rebellion is now suppressed, and if the government does not blunder much more in its civil efforts at pacification than it did in its military operations, before 1868 things will settle down into their normal order; but a regular army – not militia or volunteers, who are too expensive – of at least a hundred thousand men of all arms, and a navy nearly as large as that of England or France, will be needed as a peace establishment. The army of a hundred thousand men must form a cadre of an army of three times that number, which will be necessary to place the army on a war footing. Less will answer neither for peace nor war, for the nation has, in spite of herself, to maintain henceforth the rank of a first-class military and maritime power, and take a leading part in political movements of the civilized world, and, to a great extent, hold in her hand the peace of Europe.
Canning boasted that he had raised up the New World to redress the balance of the Old: a vain boast, for he simply weakened Spain and gave the hegemony of Europe to Russia, which the Emperor of the French is trying, by strengthening Italy and Spain, and by a French protectorate in Mexico, to secure to France, both in the Old World and the New – a magnificent dream, but not to be realized. His uncle judged more wisely when he sold Louisiana, left the New World to itself, and sought only to secure to France the hegemony of the Old. But the hegemony of the New World henceforth belongs to the United States, and she will have a potent voice in adjusting the balance of power even in Europe. To maintain this position, which is imperative on her, she must always have a large armed force, either on foot or in reserve, which she can call out and put on a war footing at short notice. The United States must henceforth be a great military and naval power, and the old hostility to a standing army and the old attempt to bring the military into disrepute must be abandoned, and the country yield to its destiny.
Of the several tendencies mentioned, the humanitarian tendency, egoistical at the South, detaching the individual from the race, and socialistic at the North, absorbing the individual in the race, is the most dangerous. The egoistical form is checked, sufficiently weakened by the defeat of the rebels; but the social form believes that it has triumphed, and that individuals are effaced in society, and the States in the Union. Against this, more especially should public opinion and American statesmanship be now directed, and territorial democracy and the division of the powers of government be asserted and vigorously maintained. The danger is that while this socialistic form of democracy is conscious of itself, the territorial democracy has not yet arrived, as the Germans say, at self consciousness – selbsbewusstseyn – and operates only instinctively. All the dominant theories and sentimentalities are against it, and it is only Providence that can sustain it.